In 2011, music fans witnessed the reign of Nicki Minaj, the rule of hip-hop kings Jay-Z and Kanye West, and the rise of rap’s wildest crew, Odd Future. With 11 months to go in the new year, Rap-Up.com shines a spotlight on this year’s most anticipated hip-hop and R&B releases.
Chris Brown is ready to reignite the clubs with Fortune, T.I. is cooking up more Trouble on his first album since prison, Nicki Minaj is unleashing her feisty alter ego Roman Zolanski on her sophomore set, and Kanye West has everyone on the edge of their seat waiting for the G.O.O.D. Music album.
From the return of veterans Nas, 50 Cent, and Missy Elliott to the great expectations of freshman Frank Ocean, here are 10 albums that are bound to make noise this year.
Chris Brown – Fortune
Chris Brown has been blacklisted by some, hated by many, and criticized by others, but at the end of the day, there’s no denying his talent. While he’s nominated three times at this year’s Grammys, the R&B crooner is gearing up for his fifth album, Fortune. The project has already spawned the scintillating single “Strip” featuring Kevin McCall and the dance floor-ready follow-up “Turn Up the Music.” With a collaboration with Nas and possible assists from Wiz Khalifa and will.i.am, Fortune is shaping up to be another winner for Breezy.
T.I. – Trouble Man
From joining America’s sweetheart Taylor Swift on stage to landing a VH1 reality show (“T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle”) once he ended a prison bid last year, there’s always something to look forward to when it comes to T.I. This year, he’ll deliver his eighth studio album Trouble Man, which comes 11 years after his debut, I’m Serious. Fans got a taste of what’s to come with his recent mixtape F*ck Da City Up, featuring collaborations with Dr. Dre, Young Jeezy, Pusha T, and B.o.B. Details remain scarce on who will join the guest list for Trouble Man, but count on a cameo from Trey Songz, who cut a “club anthem” with Tip and Rico Love.
Missy Elliott – Block Party
It’s been seven years since Missy Elliott released her last album The Cookbook, but she’s finally ready to return. The trailblazing femcee, who revealed a battle with Graves’ disease in 2011, is crafting her seventh effort, tentatively titled Block Party. Expect production from Timbaland and more funky and tripped-out beats reminiscent of her previous efforts Under Construction and Miss E… So Addictive. Though a release date has yet to be announced, early listeners including Ciara, Keri Hilson, and Busta Rhymes have praised the new material. Missy popped up on the remix to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and the rapper’s cameo in J. Cole’s “Nobody’s Perfect” video may just put her back where she belongs.
G.O.O.D. Music – TBD
Back in October, Kanye West sent Twitter into a frenzy when he revealed that his G.O.O.D. Music family would be dropping an album in the spring. While there was little else to go on except the under-140-character message, that was all Yeezy’s followers needed to start the countdown. Big Sean, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Pusha T, and Common are likely to appear on the compilation, but the boss has kept mum on details. R&B songbird Marsha Ambrosius recently revealed that not only did she travel to London to record with West, but so did Frank Ocean and Mannie Fresh. Hit-Boy and Mr Hudson are also stepping in to take the project from G.O.O.D. to great.
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
The Trinidad-born, Queens-bred MC unveiled a surprising twist when she dropped the title of her sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, last year. Not only would it be landing on Valentine’s Day, it would also feature her alter ego Roman Zolanski in a starring role. Like many hip-hop releases, the due date has since changed to April 3, but that hasn’t stopped the Best New Artist nominee from working around the clock after she delivered the buzz track “Roman in Moscow.” She recently debuted the Hype Williams-directed visuals for “Stupid Hoe,” and will perform a new song at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. Get ready for Roman’s invasion.
Frank Ocean – TBD
Frank Ocean has not let down listeners since he catapulted to fame last year. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter, who has written for Beyoncé and been called upon by Kanye West and Jay-Z to Watch the Throne, is this generation’s Al Green. The lyrics he pens are heartfelt, more than memorable, and work in most any setting. How’s that for versatility? As an Odd Future affiliate, he possesses the same bold qualities as his Golf Wang brethren, but without the foolery and antics of leader Tyler, the Creator. Critics hailed his stellar debut, Nostalgia, Ultra, and the New Orleans native is wasting no time readying the much-anticipated follow-up. He showcased new material including the Mary J. Blige-sampled “Super Rich Kids” during his brief solo tour last year, and is crafting more “sonic goodies.” Expect Ocean to make big waves this year.
50 Cent – TBD
The G-Unit rapper has been involved in a public battle with Interscope Records, taking to Twitter to bash his label home for providing lackluster support of his new music and even blaming them for leaking his single “Girls Go Wild” featuring Jeremih. He’s since apologized for the outbursts and is moving forward with plans to release his fifth album and possibly another one right after it. To get the buzz building, Fif dropped The Big 10 mixtape in December, an effort full of street-centric tracks reminiscent of his early career. The videos have been watched by millions, reasserting his status as a hip-hop powerhouse. One record that may make the album is the DJ Felli Fel-produced “Lighters” featuring Chris Brown. “It’s probably going to be the biggest record I’ve ever done,” teased the Los Angeles DJ.
Nas – TBD
Eighteen years after a rapper from Queens by the name of Nasty Nas made his debut, he stills remains one of the most respected lyricists in the game. Now 38 years old, Nas is set to deliver his 10th album on Def Jam this year. Anxious fans have been waiting since 2008 for fresh solo material, the last being his untitled album. A four-year wait may be discouraging, but Nas has kept his name relevant by collaborating with Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Common, and Mary J. Blige. God’s son returned to his roots in the video for “Nasty,” which was shot in the Queensbridge projects where he grew up. The Salaam Remi production reminded listeners of the realness of his rhymes, set over a classic boom-bap beat. If it’s any indication of what’s in store, hip-hop heads will not be disappointed.
Brandy – TBD
A Grammy winner with five albums under her belt, it was only a matter of time before veteran vocalist Brandy found her way into a new record deal. Her sixth album, due this May on RCA/Chameleon Records, promises classic R&B with a contemporary twist. She has parted ways with longtime collaborator Rodney Jerkins, who helmed 2008s Human, and called on today’s top hitmakers including Rico Love, Hit-Boy, Frank Ocean, Chris Brown, Bangladesh, and Tha Bizness. “I wanted to take this opportunity to really try to bring R&B back,” said one of her collaborators Sean Garrett. Kicking off the project is the Rico Love-produced “It All Belongs to Me,” a duet with Monica, which arrives 14 years after “The Boy Is Mine” topped the charts. That plus an assist from Drake may be just what Brandy needs to reclaim her glory days.
Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
Miami rap kingpin Rick Ross never leaves his fans without music for long. After releasing his fourth album, Teflon Don, in 2010, he dropped a collaborative LP, Self Made, Vol. 1, with his Maybach Music Group signees Wale and Meek Mill. Then there were countless remixes and joint tracks with some of hip-hop’s elite players like Lil Wayne and Drake, and finally the announcement that he was indeed debuting a fifth project, God Forgives, I Don’t. Initially scheduled for release in December, he pushed the album to this year, but not before showing off the Nicki-Minaj assisted “You the Boss” and the Just Blaze-produced “I Love My Bitches.” His new mixtape Rich Forever, which has spawned the Drake-assisted “Stay Schemin’,” dropped at the top of the year featuring everyone from Nas to Kelly Rowland. After a recent studio session in Miami with the legendary Dr. Dre, you can bet on 2012 being the year of the Bawse.