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10 Best Songs of 2011 (So Far)

At the halfway point in 2011, the year’s biggest hip-hop and R&B hits have already run the gamut from eccentric love anthems courtesy of Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa, to southern-tinged club bangers from Ace Hood and Rick Ross. Each of these songs commanded one ear to the stereo and one finger on the repeat button. Check out the 10 best songs of 2011, so far.

10

‘Novacane’
Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean‘s independently released debut ‘Nostalgia: Ultra’ took flight with some help from this captivating and off-kilter modern day love song. The L.A.- based singer-songwriter lays down rich vocals on a self-penned track about sordid affairs with a porn star and a tangle of drugs that result in a decidedly bittersweet love story. Besides the Odd Future member’s ingenious storytelling, the haunting and drawn out hook on ‘Novacane’ is hard to shake.

Wendy Redfern, Redferns

09

‘Hustle Hard (Remix)’
Ace Hood feat. Rick Ross & Lil Wayne

DJ Khaled‘s Florida-bred protégé Ace Hood infiltrated the clubs with this dirty South banger that reinforces an important message: to hustle is necessary. Over a signature Lex Luger production (not too distant from the beatwork on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s ‘H.A.M.’), Hood locked down an instant street anthem that brought on a Lil Wayne verse and as well as one from Rick Ross. The driving chorus — “Hustle, hustle, hustle hard” — sums it all up. This is simply the hustler’s anthem.

Rick Diamond, Getty Images for BMI

08

’9 Piece’
Rick Ross feat. T.I.

Rick Ross‘ larger-than-life persona and never-ending catalog of hits have been contributing factors to his current surge in popularity. This track, which originally appeared on his ‘Ashes to Ashes’ mixtape, featured T.I. and was revamped with a new verse from Lil Wayne to make a second go-around on his forthcoming album, ‘God Forgives, I Don’t.’ The classic Rick Ross Southern drawl, played out over a gritty, bass-heavy beat has become a no-fail formula for the Bawse.

Larry Marano, Getty Images

07

‘Racks’
YC feat. Future

To enjoy this cash-flaunting anthem from ATL rapper Young Chris, better know as YC — not to be confused with the Young Gunz rapper of the same name — listeners need only appreciate his passion for keeping track of stacks. He dubs them “racks” though, which are the equivalent of a stack of one thousand dollar bills. Just how many racks YC has amassed is hard to say, but according to the repetitive lyrics on this song, he’s collected enough racks, on racks, on racks, to score condos, cars and a closet-full of designer wear.

YouTube

06

‘Motivation’
Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne

The lead single from Kelly Rowland‘s third album, ‘Here I Am,’ is a sultry, bedroom ballad laid down over a hypnotic beat from Jim Jonsin, resulting in her sexiest solo track to date. Her sensual, come-hither vocals — “Go longer, you can last more rounds/ Push harder, you’re almost there now” — over the minimal but intoxicating beat are perfectly complemented by Lil Wayne’s teasing lyrics. All of that motivation also gave the former Destiny’s Child songstress her best chart-topper to date.

Chris Jackson, Getty Images

05

‘Super Bass’
Nicki Minaj

After Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez declared their love for this effervescent pop tune by reciting the lyrics in YouTube videos, it was destined to become another mega hit for Young Money’s first lady. Nicki Minaj‘s bubble gum boy anthem is a favorite amongst the girly set for its sugary sweet melody littered with some classic Barbie attitude. The video, appropriately, is an equal mix of sweet and sexy, with Nicki’s signature pastel colors and a lot of extra skin.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images for ABC

04

‘S&M’
Rihanna

For her fifth album ‘Loud,’ Rihanna turned up the volume with this erotic anthem. If the cheeky lyrics weren’t risqué enough (“Sticks and stones may break my bones/ But chains and whips excite me”) they were accompanied by rated-R visuals of RiRi engaging in scandalous behavior with a banana. The video was banned in 11 countries, but a Britney Spears assist on the remix led to a lip-lock between the two songstresses during their first live performance.

Jamie McCarthy, WireImage

03

‘Roll Up’
Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa dropped his marijuana-themed ‘Rolling Papers’ album in March, with the second single ‘Roll Up’ released just a month earlier. The breezy, sing- a-long track ushered in the first thoughts of warm weather, setting it up to be a perfectly mellow summer anthem. The catchy refrain of “roll up” doubles as an affectionate gesture toward a desirable girl, proving that Wiz has more than just green on the mind, once in awhile.

Dave Kotinsky, Getty Images

02

‘Give Me Everything’
Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo & Nya

Mr. 305 has remained true to this standard of churning out pounding, club-ready hits, continuing with his dance floor favorite. An energizing electronic beat is layered with Ne-Yo‘s smooth vocals and Pitbull‘s Miami-accented Spanish- English verses. The infectious beat, perfect for a celebratory night of drinking and debauchery, makes this a hit everywhere, from the U.S. to Australia. Side effects of listening to this song may include the urge to locate the nearest disco ball.

Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images

01

‘Look At Me Now’
Chris Brown feat. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne

Chris Brown had a few public wins and fails this year, but this one was a certified win — 61 million YouTube views don’t lie. For the second single from his ‘F.A.M.E.’ album, Breezy recruited Lil Wayne and more importantly Busta Rhymes to lay down his fast-balling, double-time flow over this eerie, otherworldly beat from Diplo and Afrojack. Busta might have stolen the spotlight on this feature, but Chris Brown still scored a runaway hit.

Dave Kotinsky, Getty Images

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