Top Songs of 2011
Every year has its own distinct soundtrack. There are the songs that mark moments, seasons, and stars. These days, with so much music flooding the ‘net and the airwaves, it takes something special to craft a song with staying power. Everyone has personal favorites; this particular list isn’t about best, though. Here, XXL looks back at the Top Songs of 2011: From inescapable songs of the summer to breakout singles to undeniable mixtape cuts that picked up momentum on radio and in the clubs, these are the tracks that helped to define 2011. —XXL Staff
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10. YC ft.Future “Racks” Racks Single
Official Release Date: April 5, 2011
This auto-tune smash introduced the world to these two Atlanta rhyme slingers, both of whom inked recording contracts this year. An onslaught of remixes kept “Racks” fresh throughout the year and with the Superbowl around the corner, best believe your favorite NFL player will toss a few thou up in the air for your favorite stripper’s favorite stripper’s favorite song.
9. Lil Wayne ft. Cory Gunz “6 Foot 7 Foot” Tha Carter IV (2011)
Official Release Date: December 16, 2011
For his first post-prison solo effort, Weezy recruited Bronx bomber Cory Gunz and the Young Money top dawg also proved he could still handle bars like a biker. Over Bangladesh’s rollicking production, a clean Lil Wayne didn’t let a lack of syrup stop him. The record didn’t top the charts or earn the Martian a Grammy nod, however, it heated him back up as it built anticipation for his chart-topping C4.
8. Big Sean ft. Chris Brown “My Last,” Finally Famous (2011)
Official Release Date: March 1, 2011
After making a name for himself in the mixtape circuit with his Finally Famous series, Big Sean made a splash on mainstream radio with an assist from Chris Brown. As the story goes, Sean penned the hook and originally planned to croon the chorus himself before Breezy heard the record and offered to lend his vocals. The pairing resulted in a bullet on Billboard’s Rap Songs chart as the track made its way to number one. Boyee.
7. Nicki Minaj “Super Bass,” Pink Friday (2010)
Official Release Date: May 13, 2011
Though initially released as a bonus cut, Nick’s syrupy single—the fourth release off Pink Friday—wound up becoming the Harajuku Barbie’s biggest hit to date. Peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song—which was certified triple platinum—spawned renditions ranging from kid ballerinas on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to emerging cover duo, Karmin, featuring The Roots’s Questlove.
6. Kanye West ft. Rihanna “All of the Lights,” My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Official Release Date: January 18, 2011
Immediately one of the fan-favorite’s on Kanye’s acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, “All of the Lights” became the project’s fourth and, ultimately, most successful, single. The feverish cut peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on both the Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. According to album credits, the song featured vocals from not only West himself, but also Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Tony Williams, The-Dream, Charlie Wilson, John Legend, Elly Jackson (of La Roux), Alicia Keys, Elton John, Fergie, Ryan Leslie, Drake, Alvin Fields, and Ken Lewis. The track was nominated for Song of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2012 Grammys. A remix featuring Lil Wayne, Drake and Big Sean hit the ‘net in March.
5. Jay-Z & Kanye West “Otis,” Watch the Throne (2011)
Official Release Date: July 20, 2011
Hov and ‘Ye introduced their collabo LP with a little too much bluster via the Lex Luger-powered “H.A.M.” But then Yeezy tapped on the MP a few times and chopped up Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” like he was a master chef and suddenly the duo were back in business. The back-to-basics track was cheered for tag-team delivery, high energy sample work and its lack of a traditional chorus. Despite it’s F.U. radio appeal, the song peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and eventually earned The Throne a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap song. Now that’s hard as a muthafu*ka!
4. Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes “Look At Me Now,” F.A.M.E. (2011)
Official Release Date: February 1, 2011
This rapid-fire song from early in the year steadily proved to have the staying power to last for months. With Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Busta Rhymes all spitting quick-tongued verses, the catchy, danceable cut soared to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on both the Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. The song spawned innumerable unofficial remixes, with everyone from rappers to singers to unknowns looking to flex their lyrical chops and keep up with the speedy precedent that Busta Rhymes set.
3. Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross “Ima Boss” Self Made, Vol 1. (2011)
Official Release Date: May 23, 2011
Ricky Rozay may be running things as evident by the crew he assembled on his MMG roster. But Philly rhyme slinger Meek Millie and his producer Jahlil Beats proved they got some serious mettle of their own with his potent track. Meek spits like his life is on the line and him delivering will be the only thing to get his ass in the big chair. Ross matches his recruit with casual cool in his verse and together they put the pressure on DJ Khaled’s “I’m on One” and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris” for banger of the year. Where’s the muthafu*king crown?
2. DJ Khaled ft. Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross “I’m On One,” We the Best Forever (2011)
Official Release Date: May 20
DJ Khaled earned his first Top 10 single courtesy of an addictive Drake hook and stellar verses from Drizzy, Rozay and Weezy. Produced by T-Minus and Noah “40” Shebib, the track spawned countless remixes, dominated clubs and radio throughout the summer and is still a mainstay on playlists nationwide six months after its release.
1. Jay-Z and Kanye West “Niggas in Paris,” Watch the Throne (2011)
Official Release Date: September 13, 2011
Hov and ‘Ye took balling to new frontiers on this unorthodox bouncy track produced by Hit-Boy. A club smash, the single recently cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts—currently standing at No. 8 without a video or much of a promotional push. The song’s been working itself. The Throne’s routinely been closing their Watch the Throne tour stops by performing the momentous song several times—recently treating Chicago to eight encores. “Paris” has also spawned its share of remixes and some of the track’s lines (what’s Gucci? and that sh*t cray!) have been added to hip-hop’s daily lexicon.