Miami's best albums, EPs, and mixtapes of 2011
Welcome to Miami.
Here, you can't be the kind of music snob who listens to only The Velvet Underground & Nico, Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and Pitchfork's current playlist on repeat.
Sure, all that stuff is awesome. But when you're running wild in the streets of the 305, the soundtrack is just wrong without a shot of street rap, neo-freestyle, a little Latin fusion, two doses of swag, some classic soul, sweet indie tuneage, house beats, and a blast of garage fuzz.
Thus, we present an unranked, sprawling, end-of-year list of Miami's ten best albums, EPs, and mixtapes — from Ricky Rozay to Jacuzzi Boys.
Maybach Music Group: Self-Made, Vol. 1 (Warner Bros). Don't no one got grind like the Boss. When it comes to the postgangsta rap game, Rick Ross is the hardest-working man in show biz. His mantra is "Every day, I'm hustlin'." And big homey ain't kidding. He's even hustled so hard that he didn't sleep for five years, got supertired, and finally suffered a pair of seizures while trying to haul ass to Memphis in October. Our point: Just like their employer, Rozay's MMG crew members — Torch, Gunplay, Wale, Meek Mill, Teedra Moses, Pill, and Stalley — are constantly cranking at maximum speed. And that's the reason Self-Made, Vol. 1 is among the 305's best slabs of 2011. Tracks such as "Tupac Back," "600 Benz," and "Ima Boss" aren't stunningly original rap riffs. They're just extra-solid bangers that come so hard it's like getting hit by a motherfuckin' Maybach doing 1,000 mph. S. Pajot
Afrobeta: Under the Streets (Do It Entertainment). This album was five years in the making. In 2006, Tony Smurphio and Cuci Amador joined forces to bring a little brightness to Miami's indie music scene. It began with the saccharine cut "Nighttime," which led to more assertive tracks such as "Do You Party?" and "Play House" — all of which were given a 2011 reworking for Under the Streets. The real magic is that it all feels familiar — evoking Debbie Deb, Depeche Mode, New Order, Miami Sound Machine — without sounding even slightly derivative. These 13 stellar tracks prove Afrobeta's first full-length was totally worth the wait. Jose D. Duran
Spaceghostpurrp: Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6 (self-released). Spaceghostpurrp (AKA Muney Jordan) is a dark, blaspheming, postmodern motherfucker. Tracks off 2011's Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6 (or Blackland Radio 66.6) flaunt an arrogantly constructed alphabet, replacing vowels with v's and x's. Though he's produced other mixtapes, this one caught the ear of the West Coast before it hit the city that spawned it. Thanks to Syd tha Kyd of Odd Future playing his songs before shows, the L.A. scene gobbled up the Ghost before we even got a taste. Eat your fill with this best album of the year. Liz Tracy
Mr. Pauer: Soundtrack (Fabrika Music). After tirelessly toiling away for nearly two decades, Venezuelan-born DJ, producer, and all-around contributor to Latin culture Toto Gonzalez broke out in a big way this year, booking some major shows, such as L.A.M.C.'s Summer Stage and Calle 13's gig in Miami. But most important, he released his debut album, Soundtrack, which earned him a nomination at this year's Latin Grammy Awards. However, Grammy nods are small potatoes compared to hometown cred. And it's time Mr. Pauer got his due. Christopher Lopez
Rachel Goodrich: Rachel Goodrich (Yellow Bear Records). Loving Rachel Goodrich hasn't always been easy. Sure, she's the Magic City's ukulele-playing indie-pop princess, whose adorably twisted, intensely endearing ditties get stuck in your head like an extremely catchy case of brain worm. So what's not to love? But when Rachel suddenly split for Los Angeles last year, we were totally heartbroken. Luckily, her self-titled sophomore album arrived in the mail like an 11-part love letter, brimming with supersweet songs — especially 38-second sing-along "G-Dino" and bright, bouncy "Light Bulb" — that kept our totally out-of-control crush alive, even with Rachel all the way out on the West Coast. S. Pajot
Danny Daze: Your Everything/Fall Away From Love EP (Hot Creations). Despite the 305 being a transatlantic house and techno mecca during WMC, we hadn't really spawned any major local stars on that scene. But that changed in March, when a demo by local wunderkind Danny Daze (AKA Daniel Gomez) made it into the bags of the right DJs and earned instant, massive acclaim. That track, of course, is Daze's darkly sexed-up floor bomb "Your Everything," which along with its equally massive B-side "Fall Away From Love" rocketed to the top of the Beatport deep-house chart. Most important, though, it catapulted our homeboy Daze to the forefront of the international scene. Sean Levisman
O'Grime: O'Grime EP (self-released). Over the summer, swag tag team O'Grime — Nikolais Javan and L.Rey Reyes — spit, giggled, and screamed onto the 305's street-level rap scene toting a self-titled EP stacked with tracks all about "gettin' gwap and eating tacos." Whether copping "Kush Smoke and Pussy," chasing that "Almighty Dolla," or doin' "Domework," O'Grime is the real ish, a no-bullshit antidote to all that crappy ringtone rap about $30,000 watches. It's finally time to let our inner griminess shine. S. Pajot
Betty Wright: The Movie (Ms. B Records/S-Curve Records). Betty Wright's status as the queen of Miami soul has never been in question. Known for "Clean Up Woman," "Tonight Is the Night," and other gems from Florida R&B's '70s heyday, the amply-throated diva (whose "Girls Can't Do What the Guys Do" was sampled on Beyoncé's "Upgrade U") was more recently responsible for discovering Joss Stone and — ostensibly, at least — teaching J.Lo how to sing. On The Movie, her first LP in a decade (produced by Questlove, with musical backing from the Roots!), Wright proves that female R&B icons of a certain vintage can make comeback albums as good as the male ones do. Jesse Serwer
Pitbull: Planet Pit (Sony). If you grew up in Miami, it's absolutely impossible not to like Pitbull. Likewise, it's kind of hard to imagine what people outside the 305 think about our bareheaded, white-suit-wearing musical golden child. But it's pretty clear that, baby, they like it. For Planet Pit, his sixth release, Armando Perez (AKA Pitbull) paired his gruff, confident voice with other Florida stars such as Enrique Iglesias and T-Pain. And lyrically, the album is like a love letter to our city, complete with poking fun at our fake body parts and a shout-out to Miami's mamis. The 305 is in the house without a doubt. ¡Dale! Liz Tracy
Jacuzzi Boys: Glazin' (Hardly Art). Ever since releasing their 2009 debut album, No Seasons, to swooning reviews from the indie hipster blogosphere, the Jacuzzi Boys' Gabriel Alcala, Danny Gonzalez, and Diego Monasterios have seemed destined to ride a wave of blissed-out fuzztone straight into pop consciousness. And over the past year, they've hit the high seas aboard the Bruise Cruise, signed to Sub Pop sibling label Hardly Art, and dropped their sophomore slab, Glazin', a stellar collection of slightly stoned shout-along songs awash in sunny vibes and surfy riffs. So wax your board. Shave your legs. Glaze your face. The Jacuzzi tsunami is rising! S. Pajot
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