Pwelbs “Top 15” Chicago Records of 2011

Pwelbs “Top 15” Chicago Records of 2011 (@Pwelbs)

Here we have it – in no particular order here are my top 15 personal favorites from Chicago artists in the year 2011. A solid year for Chicago in my books. We saw major releases from Kanye, Lupe and Common. We finally saw the release of The Cool Kids debut album, Rockie Fresh up’d the ante for Rookie of The Year, LEP absolutely exploded, Jeezy chained Gibbs, we met King Louie and we got spoiled by a year of spectacular production from No I.D. and Blended Babies. But, when it’s all said and done, Kids These Days may have just set themselves up to be the biggest act out of Chicago for years to come.

I originally wrote this piece for Fake Shore Drive. To see Andrew, Ty Kidd and JSeyf’s picks head over to


Nico Segal & Vic Mensa (of Kids These Days) – Clear Eyes (Prod. by Blended Babies) – (DL Link)

Album: N/A
Producer: Blended Babies

I already knew Kids These Days was talented but tracks like this are further proof of how versatile this group can be. With production from Blended Babies, KTD’s, Nico Segal (trumpet), wrote a song that serves as the perfect soundtrack for walking the streets of Chicago on a crisp fall morning. With a guest feature from partner in crime and fellow KTD member, Vic Mensa, this one effortlessly lands on my Top 15 of the year.

Sidenote: I’ve really been enjoying Nico’s touch to “Get By” off Asher Roth’s latest mixtape, Pabst & Jazz.

Big shout out to Austin Vesely, whose direction with “Clear Eyes” might land it the best music video out of Chicago this year.

Nico Segal & Vic Mensa (of Kids These Days) – Clear Eyes [Music Video]


Rockie Fresh – Duckin N Dodgin feat. Casey Veggies (Prod. by Uncle Dave) – (DL Link)

Mixtape: The Otherside: Redux
Uncle Dave

I definitely kept Rockie Fresh’s The Otherside (2010) in rotation well into 2011. Rockie re-released The Otherside as a “Redux” with previously unreleased material (including “Duckin N Dogin”) in July of 2011. The golf outing video made this joint that much more fun too. With a XXL Freshmen ballot nomination andDriving 88 (out January 23rd) on the horizon – I can imagine a few Rockie Fresh tracks will land on my 2012 “best-of list”, as well.

Rockie Fresh – Duckin N Dodgin feat. Casey Veggies [Music Video]


Jay-Z & Kanye West – Otis (Prod. by Kanye West) – (DL Link)

Album: Watch The Throne
Kanye West

I feel like a shit head putting anything from Watch The Throne (let alone lead single “Otis) on my ‘Best of Chicago” list for 2011. But it must be done. “Otis” like Jay’s “D.O.A.” took several listens to grow on me. It’s hard for any track to live up the hype as the lead single to a Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration album. When it’s all said and done – “Otis” kicked off WTT mania and ended up being one of the most fun tracks to revisit off Watch The Throne. A Spike Jonze video full of cut up Maybachs, a Don C snapback and plenty of pyrotechnics was the icing on the cake. The energy Hov and Ye delivered is felt on this one and it shows in the video too. Hey – the track may forever be cemented as “Best Rap Song” of 2011 with a nomination for the 54th Grammy Awards….for what it’s worth.

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Otis [Music Video]


YP – Who I Be (Clap) (Prod. by Xtreme) – (DL Link)

Mixtape: Still Awake

YP kept the pedal to the metal all the way through 2011. YP sounded as comfortable as ever with rhyme after rhyme on “Who I Be (Clap)” off his highly acclaimed Still Awake mixtape. A certified banger with raw production from Xtreme puts this one on my Top 15 of the year. Just clap!

YP – Who I Be (Clap) [Music Video]


The Cool Kids – Penny Hardaway feat. Ghostface Killah (Prod. by Chuck Inglish) – (DL Link)

Album: When Fish Ride Bicycles
Chuck Inglish

When the tracklist for When Fish Ride Bicycles dropped early – anticipation grew even more for The Cool Kid’s long awaited debut album. The thought of Ghostface over Chuck Inglish beats will make any rap fan drool. The album turned out to be good, but it was a song like “Penny Hardaway” that was great. Hearing this song live to a blow-out crowd of fans at Lollapalooza this summer put this as my favorite Cool Kids joint of 2011.


Jay-Z & Kanye West – Gotta Have It – (DL Link)

Album: Watch The Throne
The Neptunes & Kanye West

Almost every song off WTT is worth noting; but, “Gotta Have It” has continued to stand out in my mind. I’m such a production nerd that a Neptunes and Kanye collaboration on one beat has me begging for more. How these guys managed to flip three separate James Brown samples* into the sounds of a Kung-Fu movie (circa 1975) is beyond me. There may be more obvious choices off WTT but this is my list god damnit!

*James Brown Samples: ‘Don’t Tell A Lie About Me & I Won’t Tell The Truth About You’, ‘My Thang’ and ‘People Get Up & Drive Your Funky Soul’


Pulled Over By The Cops feat. Nate Santos – Authority (Prod. by Blended Babies) – (DL Link)

Album: N/A
Producer: Blended Babies

I hope this isn’t the last time I write about supergroup Puller Over By The Cops (The Cool Kids, Freddie Gibbs & Chip Tha Ripper.) With rumors of multiple tracks completed and a project in the works – I was hoping we’d see at least another cut from the crew by year’s end. Simply put, it seems everyone just got to busy. The Cool Kids put out their solo debut, Gibbs signed to Jeezy and Chip continued his aggressive touring. “Authority” showcased this groups chemistry (plus Blended Babies production) but any future material seems up in the air. One song (well two if you count “Oil Money“) is better than zero.


Kids These Days – Summerscent (DL Link)

Hard Times EP (available on iTunes)

Where do I begin? The group appeared in the New York Times and Jay-Z’s blog; opened shows for Big Sean, Snoop Dogg and J. Cole; toured the nation (and some of Canada!); and, had perhaps one of themost unexpectedly large crowds at Lollaplooza 2011. Their set was dope, too! “My Days” and “Darling” are fantastic and refreshing but “Summerscent” has more plays in my iTunes than any other track off theHard Times EP.

The groups debut album Traphouse Rock couldn’t come any sooner. The reportedly free album (Save Money!?) is produced by Jeff Tweedy of popular Chicago band Wilco. The albums lead single “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” should see the light of day any day now.

Kids These Days – Summerscent [Music Video]


Common – Blue Sky (Prod. by No I.D.) (Additional vocals by Makeba) –  (DL Link)

Album: The Dream, The Believer
Producer: Prod. by No I.D.

As soon as I saw the title “Blue Sky” my gut told me that No I.D. had sampled Electric Light Orchestra’s, “Mr. Blue Sky.” The sample reminds me of my early days, crate digging through internet message boards. No I.D. managed to freshen it up for this obvious stand out track off Common’s ninth studio album The Dreamer/The Believer. In the end, it might not be the strongest cut off the album but it definitely left me hungry until the album’s release.

Common – Blue Sky [Music Video]


Kids These Days – Hard Times – (DL Link)

Hard Times EP (available on iTunes)

Yup, more Kids These Days. I’ve see a lot of the growth in the group since I first interviewed Vic Mensa on my radio show back in August of 2010. He called in live from a Kids These Days practice session. Little did I know how big that band would become. I booked the group a few months later for a Radio DePaul showcase and was blown away by the groups live performance. Again, a few months passed and I found myself at the (sold-out) Hard Times EP release party bobbing my head with hundreds of other fans. I remember the title track “Hard Times” more than others that night and the song continues to be a favorite long after the EPs release. The rhymes, chorus and instrumentation come together quite nicely on this one. A recent Asher Roth “remix” of this song is pretty cool too.


Cocaine 80s – Summer Madness (Prod. by No I.D.) – (DL Link)

Album: The Pursuit EP
Prod. by No I.D.

When this track first dropped, Andrew described it best, “Every now and again something special will appear that you just can’t explain.” That couldn’t be more true with this one. “Summer Madness” was an obvious favorite and the project’s mid-June release couldn’t have been more timely. It served as a perfect tune for a hot summer day in the Chi. This also served as a nice appetizer to The Dream, The Believerand was the first Common and No I.D. collab we could sink our teeth into in quite some time.


Lupe Fiasco – Out My Head feat. Trey Songz (Prod. by Miykal Snoddy) – (DL Link)

Album: Lasers
Miykal Snoddy

Lupe sure had an interesting year. Lasers wasn’t Lupe’s most critically acclaimed album but it was certainly his most commercially successful album to date. Although – “The Show Goes On” stole the show as a single – “Out of My Head” is the tune I was most fond of after listening to the album front to back. Considering all the label drama, I’m happy an album even dropped.And, I’m happy to see a few gems came out of it too. It’s always refreshing to turn on the radio and hear a respectable joint. The fact that it’s Chicago bred? Even better.

Lupe Fiasco – Out My Head feat. Trey Songz [Music Video]


King Louie – He’s On Fire (Produced by Chase N Doug)

Album: N/A
Chase N Doug

Could a track title be more reflective of an individual’s success? Louie exploded onto the Chicago scene this year. The humbled rapper, evident from his interview with Ernest Wilkins, shows lot’s of promise for 2012. Louie has plenty of material to sift through but this one stuck out to me off the bat. An NBA Hangtime sample? I’m sold. Dope & Shrimp couldn’t come any sooner. DRILL!

Check out this Chicago hip-hop article in the Tribune, too!

King Louie – He’s On Fire [Music Video]


Legit – A N**** In Northface

Album: Coloring Outside The Lines

Legit’s Coloring Outside The Lines mixtape is already a high quality project. But the honesty and courage to write about the turmoil surrounding an interracial couple is what makes this one stand out as one of my favorite Chicago tracks this year. I’m really glad the video dropped too, shouts to Young Wonder. Definitely keeping my eyes and ears out for more music from Legit.

Legit – A N**** In Northface [Music Video]


Sir Michael Rocks – Coochie Crook (Prod. by Ski Beatz) – (DL Link)

Album: The Rocks Report
Ski Beatz

The Rocks Report was one of my favorite Chicago mixtapes to drop this year. This Ski Beatz produced jam is a clear highlight. Sir Michael Rocks is calm, cool and collected. Mikey Rocks sure had one hell of a year, too. Jets fool!

Sir Michael Rocks – Coochie Crook [Music Video]

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