I have never done a BEST OF list before and I am not about to start.  It was once said, ‘Music is an ocean’  – there’s simply much too much.  But I wanted to share (and archive) some of the things that made me happy in 2011 and why.  Enjoy!

Nitty Scott, MC
Auntie Maria’s Crib (Prod by The Good Reverend Dr.)
“This ain’t beats…this is like, production.”  And with that we have Miss Nitty Scott.  Had the pleasure of booking her for a special one-off show at SOB’s this past August called, “Fresh, Bold, So Def Women: Live” featuring Ana Tijoux (Grammy-nominated French/Chilean emcee), downtown NYC’s flygirl DJ + emcee, Jasmine Solano, up and coming educator/emcee, Genesis Be and miss Nitty MUTHAFUCKING Scott. You can see some clips from Karmaloop TV here.  I fell in love with Nitty when I heard some clips on youtube and then J. Period’s ‘Femininitty’ tape where she raps over Missy, Lauryn Hill, Erykah beats.  I’ll never forget I heard her rap something about doing gymnastics; luckily I bumped into Nitty and her manager Gules on a fine Brooklyn day this summer and got to tell her that, haha! Definitely one of my favorite things to discover this year. The concert and panel in August was also one of my favorite moments of 2011. Viva la boombox!  Also, this is the last thing she tweeted – THIS IS WHO I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO LISTEN TO ONE DAY: “in 2012 and beyond, i promise to always use my position to UPLIFT you, and not mislead you.”

Danny Brown –  I Will
I have an awesome mujer in Texas working with me on some things and she’s just been soooo fresh, if you haven’t met her, follow Maribel.  She posted this on twitter, and it really speaks for itself.  I love me a good #PunannyMixtape entry.  Speaking of which, can someone compile all the best instructional/devotional rap odes to the p-u-s-s-y? Plus I read this piece in Rolling Stone recently; I salute weird.

Frank Ocean Swim Good
This is a run-on sentence: 2011 found me bringing in the new year deep in a New York blizzard, with Spring heralding wild Texas adventures into the end of March, where I was left to pack a 3-story house I cohabitated with (a now ex) boyfriend and best friend for 2 years in California and GET THE HELL OUT.  It sucks to see your life change so drastically, but it was humbling and a really positive to let go (of things both physical and mental).  In April, I held an amazing garage sale with my best friend on a hillside cul-de-sac in my beloved Northeast LA community, parting with things new and old.  Tears were shed, lessons were learned; I bid temporary farewell to my favorite LA joints and people, and fun was had.  During this crazy time, I went on a seaside drive with a nice boy and this song came on.  Could there be a better soundtrack set to driving towards the sea with your hair in the wind and all your possessions in enough bags you could carry yourself? “I’m gonna swim for something, bigger than me.”  Frank Ocean is an amazing pop star!!!!  And other songs from his ‘Nostalgia/ultra‘ grew on me months later as well, which is the sign of a timeless album in my book. Yes, I got this off his Tumblr:

Gloria EstefanLittle Miss Havana
Besides me having a shirt somewhere in the depths of bad-T-shirt-land that says ‘Little Miss Havana’ (THANKS MOM!), Gloria Estefan self-released an album this year that was produced entirely by Pharell.  You should hear it.  Read this review in Club Fonograma.  I wrote this piece for the homies at Large Up about how obsessed I am: THIS IS MY PUBLIC LOVE LETTER TO LA GLORI.  Not to mention the album art slays most pop album art.

Empire of the SunWe Are The People
I don’t care that this song is from 2009 (and got me through a breakup in 2010), the point is I saw Empire of the Sun a couple of times in 2011.  First at Coachella, where they played to a desert sunset and then on Governor’s Island Ball Music Festival, where actually, they also played a sunset set (coincidence?)  If you know me and have gone to a show with me, you understand how emotionally and physically invested I get when a song taps into that soul ‘unexplainable-with-words’ place.  I’m not shy about it.  This song absolutely does that for me and did in 2011.

PJ Harvey
“Let England Shake”
Zuzuka Poderosa and I are obsessed with this album.  On our Sunday breakfast meetings we dubbed #CWS this summer, we listened to this album on Zu’s amazing soundsystem and talked about humanity, war and love. PJ Harvey is a goddess.  Did you guys see that she made amazing short films for each one of the songs on ‘Let England Shake’?  This woman has balls and evolves – all we can want from not only the artists we come to love, but ourselves.

Quantic “Hip Hop En Cumbia”
Will Holland is a prolific producer who I could go on and on and on about, but just read this interview in National Geographic and learn something!  I am amazed I even have the chance to work with him.  So when he asked me to think of some melody-heavy hip-hop songs for him to translate into Cumbias in early 2011, I knew the world’s ears were in for a special treat.  Released by Serato in limited quantities and which sold-out during presales, as Amoeba Music said, it’s the “Best Usage Of World Music Without Being A World Music Album”.

Lykki Li
“Unrequited Love”
I watched her ‘I Follow Rivers’ video over and over.  Then I watched it over and over and over with friends.  Just like I listened to ‘Little Bit’ over and over in 2008.  This folksy number on Lykki’s ‘Wounded Rhymes‘ release hit me like bricks and can be found on my ‘Most Played Songs’ on iTunes; the only explanation of which could be, through all the gypsy-ing I did between May 2010 and when this was released, I never did properly mend a broken heart.  I guess this song reminded me to marinate in the pain, accept the loss and reflect on the things I can change.  One regret I have is not seeing her at Summerstage this summer, but I am sure will see her in 2012.  I LOVE THIS SONG!

DJ Javier Estrada + 3Ball MTY Movement
Saw Wayne & Wax tweet about the ‘Intentalo‘ video and how stylish it was, so I checked it out and was blown away at the standard of gloss and presentation of a movement for the world.  This is the year 3Ball MTY went to another level.  Everyone saw the VICE ‘Pointy Boot‘ video at some point. This is some serious future/past shit, contradictions everywhere, interconnectedness and self-expression across international fiber-optic channels, stylee GALORE!  And they are so young!  And built from the ground up themselves (and with the help of other hometown music hero, Toy Selectah)! And performed on the Premios Billboard Regional Mexican awards!  Awesome and bravo!  DJ Javier Estrada is another Monterey-based producer killing it, constantly putting out quality tracks with a unique voice.  Let’s hope this is the Mexico the world will see more of!  Speaking of mutants, one of my favorite books this year was Daniel Hernandez’s ‘Down & Delirious in Mexico City‘.  Here’s a still from the video, ‘Intentalo’:

DJ QuikLuv of My Life ft. Gift Reynolds
Living in California changed my life, and 2011 had me fully transitioning from the Cali sunshine I loved so much back to gritty New York City.  At one point during the back in forth of this past year, I was in Cali for a Los Rakas show at UCLA’s Reggae/Jazz Fest. I had the privileged of crashing my good friends, the Casey Bros, house in Happy Valley (who, by the way, win for ‘Best House Party With Garage & Hill To Kick It On’). They were working on a special video for DJ Quik (WATCH HERE); tons of Compton stories, googling and funk breaks later, I was hooked.  His sound permeates Cali – it’s so funky familiar how his influence is all over LA music you realize (especially if you weren’t born in Cali, this becomes obvious after living there some time).  Anyhow, nice to delve deeper into the depths of cosmic Cali ghetto funk.  He’s not quitting at funky either as evidenced by this 2011 release.  One regret I have this year is missing him at the Knitting Factory in BK this past June (but at least we can revisit it through the power of word).

Carla Morrison
I <3 Carla’s voice.  Not even sure how I stumbled upon her last year, but she’s getting really big in Mexico.  Her lyrics are super deep and gorgeous musings on love, loss, need, humanity, being lost…all that.  When she played Remezcla’s ‘The Spot‘ this past summer in NYC, I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear watching her sing.  I LOVE YOU CARLA!

Xi’an Famous Foods
Thank you friendo, Marlonious Funk, for introducing me to this eatery in 2011.  I have since taken at least 10 friends to eat there and they are now just as hooked as I am.  Xi’an specializes in Western Chinese cuisine and was started in the basement of a Queens mall.  Since, it has grown to 2 locations in the city – one in the East Village and one on East Broadway.  Not only is it cheap and delicious, but it is CHEAP AND DELICIOUS.  Learn more about this amazing Father-Son run business here and here – awesome story!  I seriously can not be within 10 blocks of this place without making the trek.  Bon appetite!


The RunawaysBorn to Be Bad
On other #CWS Sunday’s with Zuzuka, we discovered this track while playing The Runaways on vinyl.  I won’t forget how we were talking and then all of a sudden it was like ‘WAIT, REWIND THIS TRACK?’ We played the song 10 times in a row.  Then we invoked it constantly throughout the year – music is the medicine!  It’s fucking healing to hear these bad ass chicks proclaim they are BAD AS FUCK, and that there was nothing anyone could do about it.  This is Born to Be Bad – for 2012.

Cee-loFool For You
Cee-lo is cult to pop. And beautiful pop he makes. I try not to lose sight of just how much I love pop; the shit everyone can relate to.  Cee-lo is mad inspiring because of how much work he put in through the years to reach this level of influence on pop culture.  Anyhow, this made it on my #FoolsMusic playlist in 2011 (also this is total marriage playlist material, ha!) because it touches on deep themes of complex long-love. Steve Jobs (RIP!!) said: ‘Stay foolish’ – but when it rains it pours.  While soaking in those tender human moments of foolishness, who can’t relate to this song? Imagination. We are all foolish about some things, even the things we can’t recognize.  Also, I really liked ‘Bright Lights, Bigger City’ from the Lady Killer; quintessential for gotham-at-midnight walks, many of which were had this year.

Cee-lo at Coachella, who showed up late and barely played, BOO!

MimaEl Pozo
People waited 6 years for this album from Mima, an amazing Puerto Rican singer, guitarist, songwriter, composer, performance artist, alien songstress from outerspace who makes BEAUTIFUL MUSIC.  Along with her partner in sound, DJ Nature  (and collaborator, Rita Indiana), Mima self-released (on SPIK Records – <3) this soon-to-be-heralded classic, setting up memorable shows throughout Puerto Rico with orchestral arrangements, crazy set designs…bold bold shit.  She dares to continue creating, and I will continue to listen.  She should be playing alongside the best in the world: Bjork, Sia, Lykki Li, etc.  Live in Puerto Rico (foto by Adiela Marie):

Chancha Via CircuitoCumbin De Las Aves
Is your heart beating?  Are you alive?  Are you listening?  Rio Arriba from Chancha Via Circuito (ZZK) was released in 2010 in Argentina, and got a USA release in 2011. As this Cluster Mag piece calls the album, and I agree…it’s TRANSPORTIVE.

The Echocentrics
The Echocentrics is: Latin funk/soul/rock vintage vanguard producer/bandleader Adrian Quesada (of Brownout, Ocote Soundsystem, Grupo Fantasma and who knows how many other projects), Natalia Clavier (from Thievery Corporation) and Tita Lima (a Brazilian singer I used to song-stalk in the Myspace days).  They operate out of Texas and ‘Sunshadows‘ sounds like it; dusty, funky and just good ol’ rock & roll.  On the cover, two amps hover in the middle of a desert vibrating out sonic waves to the planet.  Righteous!

Systema SolarMalpalpitando
I. Love. This. Video.

Blitz the AmbassadorBest I Can
Such an honor to be affiliated and contribute to Embassy MVMT this year.  At the heart of it, is bandleader, composer, rapper, Blitz the Ambassador and video director, Terence Nance (besides directing the video for this song, he also co-directed Blitz’sNative Sun film).  The close of 2011 sees Blitz having played 130+ shows internationally to growing audiences and Terence’s first feature film, ‘An Oversimplification of Her Beauty’ be accepted to Sundance.  ‘The international vocabulary, you need subtitles, holla at me.  This the future, we salute ya.’  Not to mention I can probably rap both verses from memory so BOOYA! I feel the rays from #NativeSun and can only anticipate what the world will hear from Blitz in the future…G(RIOT)!

Bomba Estereo got together with La Blogotheque‘s Vincent Moon, etc and they made this amazing video of their live acoustic performance of ‘Pa Respirar’ in various scenes of Bogota!  Get lifted!

not all are 2011 (most are), but i heard and fell in love this year
Gaby Moreno – ‘Sing Me Life’
Azalea Banks
The Weeknd‘High for This’
Los Rakas‘Bien Ribetiao’
Owiny Sigoma BandDoyoi Nyajo Nam (Quantic Dub)
Clams Casino‘All I Need’
Raphael Saadiq‘The Answer’
Gloria EstefanSo Good
Wale Ft MiguelLotus Flower Bomb (DjSliinkRemix)
Das Racist – ‘Selena’
Drake ft. Andre 3000 + Lil Wayne‘The Real Her’
Das Racist ft Lakutis – Amazing
The Strokes – ‘Taken For a Fool’
Big K.R.I.T. – ‘Just Touched Down’
Sonnymoon – ‘Blast Off’
Quadron – Buster Keaton’
Lakutis – Ja Rule
Radiohead – ‘Codex
Jiggy Drama – Cerveza
Azalea Banks – L8R
Häzel – ft. Drake‘Share’
Raka Dun – Sueño Americano
Zuzuka Poderosa – Dona Sandra’
Rihanna – Cockiness
Los Rakas – Vengo De Panama
SBTRKT – ‘Hold On
Pernett – ‘La Rumba Bacana
Munchi – ‘Fuck This
MAKU Soundsystem – ‘Un Canto Negro
Bun B ft Drake – ‘Put it Down
Los Rakas‘Gucci Gucci’ remix
Outernational ft. Calle 13, Tom Morello – ‘We Are All Illegals
Nyle Vs. Naysayers – ‘To The Moon
Rita Indiana – ‘Flores de Fuego
Boogat (Prod by Geko Jones)‘Perfection’
Fat Freddy’s Drop‘Big BW’

Bomba Estereo at Coachella
PJ Harvey at Coachella
at Southpaw
Davila 666
at Knitting Factory (Brooklyn)
Los Rakas, Maluca, Zuzuka Poderosa at The Spot (Remezcla)

Raphael Saadiq at Webster Hall
Baloji at Weeksville (also during blizzard in Jan 2011, Harlem’s The Shrine)
Zuzuka Poderosa in San Antonio, Texas
Chancha Via Circuito at Public Assembly
Los Rakas at Tammany Hall (Manhattan)
Nightslugs Showcase at Public Assembly for BEMF
GHE20 G0TH1K at Sugarhill Disco
One Day As A Lion at Coachella
Rita Indiana at Gabbana Club (also SOB’s show excellent)
Blitz the Ambassador / Spoek Mathambo at Lincoln Center (NYTimes piece)
Little Dragon at 9:30 Club
Carla Morrison at Remezcla’s The Spot
Erykah Badu at Rock The Bells (NYC)
Francisca Valenzuela at Joe’s Pub
Michael Kiwanuka at Joe’s Pub
Blu & Exile at Rock the Bells
Los Rakas at the Fox Theater in Boulder, CO
Ana Tijoux, Jasmine Solano, Nitty Scott, Genesis Be at SOB’s
globalFEST at Webster Hall
Das Racist at Bowery Ballroom
Balkan Beat Box & Uproot Andy at Webster Hall
Nas & Damian Marley at Central Park Summerstage
Les Nubians at Yoshi’s San Francisco
Quantic at Nublu
Munchi at Santos Party House

natalia, the mutant swan


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