XXL breaks down the best hip-hop songs of 2011. Featuring tracks from Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Drake, and more, this is sure to be a party playlist for the ages.
It was a great year for hip hop. We saw the return of some of the genre’s biggest names, as well as the rise of a new generation of fresh talent. From Kendrick Lamar to J. Cole, 2011 was a year that will be remembered for its incredible music. Here are our picks for the best hip hop songs of 2011.
“Niggas in Paris” – Jay-Z and Kanye West
“Niggas in Paris” is a song by American rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West from their collaboration album Watch the Throne (2011). The song, produced by Hit-Boy, features additional vocals from American rapper T.I.. It was released as the third single from the album on September 13, 2011, following “H•A•M” and “Otis”.
“Niggas in Paris” peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Jay-Z and Kanye West’s third consecutive top five single. Additionally, it charted within the top 40 of almost every other country. A music video directed by Fonzworth Bentley was released on October 11, 2011. The video features footage of West and Jay-Z traveling to Paris for their The Throne Tour (2011), intercut with footage of a French man also traveling to various Parisian landmarks.
“Otis” – Jay-Z and Kanye West
“Otis” is a song by American rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West from their first collaborative album Watch the Throne (2011). The song posthumously features soul singer Otis Redding, whose version of “Try a Little Tenderness” is sampled throughout the track. The production was handled by West, Mike Dean, Sha Soul and Symbolyc One. The bassline uses a sample from “Send It On”, which was performed by D’Angelo for the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever (1991). “Otis” peaked at number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and topped both the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and US Rap Songs chart. The single has sold over 2 million copies in the United States alone.
“HYFR (Hell Yeah F***ing Right)” – Drake
Drake’s “HYFR (Hell Yeah F***ing Right)” was one of the best hip hop songs of 2011. The song features Drake’s trademark witty lyrics and catchy hooks, and is backed by a thumping beat that will keep head nodding throughout. Although the subject matter of the song is nothing new (rappers bragging about their wealth and success), Drake manages to make it sound fresh and exciting. “HYFR (Hell Yeah F***ing Right)” is a welcome addition to any hip hop fan’s playlist.
“Take Care” – Drake
“Take Care” is a song by Canadian rapper Drake, featuring guest vocals from Barbadian singer Rihanna. The song substitutes the sexual innuendos commonly found in hip-hop with a more sentimental message. The song is based on Drake’s relationship with former flame Rihanna. “Take Care” peaked at number 17 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Drake’s highest charting single as a lead artist and Rihanna’s eleventh top 40 hit on the chart.
“I’m on One” – DJ Khaled
Released in June 2011, “I’m on One” is a song by American rapper DJ Khaled, features Canadian rapper Drake, American rappers Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. The song peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song samples French disco group Magique’s 1977 song “Bouge ton corps”, which was also sampled in Nirvana’s 1992 song “Come as You Are”.
“She Will” – Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV was one of the most anticipated albums of 2011, and “She Will” was one of the best tracks on the album. The song features Lil Wayne at his lyrical best, and the production is top-notch.
“How to Love” – Lil Wayne
“How to Love” is a song by American rapper Lil Wayne, released as the third single from his ninth studio album, Tha Carter IV. The song peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top ten in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards.
“I Need a Doctor” – Eminem
“I Need a Doctor” is a song by American hip hop recording artists Eminem and Dr. Dre, taken from the latter’s album Compton. The song features vocals from Skylar Grey and was produced by Alex da Kid, with Eminem and Dre serving as the executive producers. “I Need a Doctor” received mixed to positive reviews from music critics, who praised Grey’s chorus hook and Eminen’s verses.
“Mirror” – Lil Wayne
“Mirror” is a song by Lil Wayne featuring Bruno Mars. It was released on December 13, 2011, as the fourth single from Wayne’s ninth studio album, Tha Carter IV. The song samples “Love on a Two-Way Street” by The Moments.
The song peaked at number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 24 on the UK Singles Chart. It was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold 3 million copies in the United States.
“Look at Me Now” – Chris Brown
“Look at Me Now” is a song by American recording artist Chris Brown, featuring American rappers Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne, released as the second single from Brown’s fourth studio album, F.A.M.E. (2011). It was written by Alexander “Fuego” Palmer, Jeremy “J-Skills” Stevenson, Christopher “Bruno Mars” Brown, Nawasha Herring, Ronnie Jackson and Ryan Buendia, while production was handled by Fuego and mainstream producers doorway. The song was released for digital download on February 1, 2011.
The song peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and also reached the top ten in Canada and the United Kingdom. The song received positive reviews from critics who praised its lyrical content and construction; some labeled it as one of the best tracks from F.A.M.E.. An accompanying music video was shot directed by Colin Tilley which features cameos from Timbaland, Bow Wow and Terry Richardson.
“Party” – Beyonce
“Party” is a song recorded by American singer Beyoncé for her fourth studio album, 4 (2011). The uptempo R&B and pop song contains elements of hip hop and was written by Getter Jaegar, Houston-based Knowles, Terius “The-Dream” Nash, and Christopher “Tricky” Stewart. Production was handled by Beyoncé, Stewart, and Chad Hugo. It was released as the third single from 4 on August 28, 2011.
In July 2011, “Party” was sent to urban contemporary radio in the United States as the album’s third single. The cover art of the single features a still shot of Beyoncé wearing a low-cut dress while she is surrounded by some partygoers. Upon its release to radio, “Party” received positive reviews from music critics who praised its production and Beyoncé’s vocal performance. The song peaked at number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and at number 11 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Internationally it topped the charts in Scotland and peaked within the top ten in Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Ireland, Japan all while also reaching the top twenty in Belgium (Flanders), France, Slovakia Slovenia and South Korea giving Beyonce her 28th Top 40 hit in those countries respectively .
The song’s accompanying music video was directed by Chris Robinson. In it Beyoncé is seen dancing with some female partygoers in various colorful dresses and swimsuits while clips of Jay-Z rapping are interspliced throughout. Praised for its vibrant visuals and Beyonece’s sexiness therein “Party” became Robinson’s highest viewed video on his VEVO channel amassing over 22 million views.
“Run the World (Girls)” – Beyonce
Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” was one of the best hip hop songs of 2011. The song was a huge hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is an empowerment anthem for women, with Beyonce singing about how girls run the world. The song has a catchy beat and is very addictive. It is one of Beyonce’s best songs, and it is definitely one of the best hip hop songs of 2011.
“Lighters” – Bad Meets Evil
The first single from Bad Meets Evil’s album Hell: The Sequel, “Lighters” features verses from both Eminem and Royce da 5’9”. The song became an instant hit, thanks in part to its infectious hook and the duo’s undeniable chemistry.
“The Show Goes On” – Lupe Fiasco
“The Show Goes On” is a song by American rapper Lupe Fiasco, released on October 26, 2010, as the lead single from his third studio album Lasers. The song, produced by frequent collaborator Kane Beatz, features additional vocals from Japanese-American singer-songwriter Verbal.
The song peaked at number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number two on the US Rap Songs chart. Internationally, it peaked within the top ten of the charts in Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards.
“Black and Yellow” – Wiz Khalifa
“Black and Yellow” is a song performed by American recording artist Wiz Khalifa, released on September 14, 2010, as the lead single from his first studio album, Rolling Papers. The song peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was his second single to top the chart, and spent fourteen non-consecutive weeks atop the chart. The track was produced by aboard Flight School and features a guest appearance from label mate Juicy J.
“Roll Up” – Wiz Khalifa
“Roll Up” is a song by American rapper Wiz Khalifa, released as the sixth single from his debut studio album, Rolling Papers. The song peaked at number 52 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
The song was produced by Cardo, and features a guest appearance from American rapper Snoop Dogg. The song samples “Minnie Riperton – Les Fleurs”, and contains elements of hip hop and electronic dance music.
“Roll Up” received positive reviews from music critics, who praised the song’s production and Wiz Khalifa’s lyrical performance. The song was included on multiple year-end lists of the best songs of 2011, including Pitchfork Media’s and Complex’s.
“No Lie” – 2 Chainz
“No Lie” is a song by American rapper 2 Chainz, released as the lead single from his debut studio album Based on a T.R.U. Story (2012). The song, which features Canadian rapper Drake, was produced by Mike Will Made It and written by 2 Chainz, Drake, and Songz.
It peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the US Rap Songs chart. The song’s accompanying music video was shot in black-and-white ath a beach in Los Angeles.
“Birthday Cake” – Rihanna
“Birthday Cake” is a song by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, from her sixth studio album, Talk That Talk (2011). The song features American rapper Chris Brown, and was released as the lead single from the album on January 24, 2012. On November 29, 2011, a extended play was released to iTunes containing “Birthday Cake” and “Cockiness (Love It)”. Critical reception of “Birthday Cake” was mixed: some critics praised the song’s composition and production by The-Dream and Kuk Harrell as being innovative and polarizing, but others criticize Rihanna for getting too personal about sex on her album.
The song peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also peaked at number two on both the US Rap Songs chart and US R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Internationally, “Birthday Cake” peaked inside the top ten in Finland, France, New Zealand and South Korea.
“We Found Love” – Rihanna
“We Found Love” is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna, from her sixth studio album, Talk That Talk (2011). The song was written and produced by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris; the song also features additional writing from Amber Coffman, Aubrey Graham, and Norma Jean Martine. Lyrically, the song is about taking control of a hectic life and finding happiness in love. The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for ten non-consecutive weeks, becoming Rihanna’s longest-running number one single on the chart and tied with Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” as the longest running number one by a female artist. “We Found Love” peaked at number one in over 25 countries and sold over 8 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling singles of all time.
The music video for “We Found Love” was directed by Melina Matsoukas and filmed in October 2011. The video serves as a tribute to late British fashion director Alexander McQueen. It depicts Rihanna as a troubled youth roaming around Belfast before eventually becoming romantically involved with another young man played by Irish actor Dudley O’Shaughnessy; throughout several segments, they are depicted experiencing extreme joy and violence. Critics praised the video for its narrative and visuals. UFC fighter Donald Cerrone used an extract from the song during his weigh-in for his welterweight championship bout with Jorge Masvidal at UFC on ESPN+ 27 on February 21st 2020; NFL player Shaq Barrett also used an extract during his post-Super Bowl victory speech to his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates on February 7th 2021.”We Found Love” won Video of the Year at both the BET Awards 2012 and MTV Video Music Awards 2012.”
Keyword: The Best Hip Hop Songs of 2011