Watch the Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West
The most anticipated event-album of 2011 was a sound-the-trumpets supergroup record of a magnitude scarcely seen. What could have been a crash-and-burn anticlimax turned out to be as fun as any record in a dog's age. From the cinematic "No Church in the Wild" to the Stax-soul update "Otis," Throne testifies to Kanye West's genius for beats both iconoclastic and pop-savvy. Amid all the litanies of private jets and gold watches, politics creep in: The pair frame their rise as an African-American Horatio Alger story on the impossibly fierce "Ni**as in Paris."
4, Beyonce'The world's shrewdest diva turns on her star power full blast, indulges her oddball side and flaunts her mastery of seemingly every modern pop mode – from the riotous hiphop love ode "Countdown" to the sweet, faux-Stevie retrosoul ditty "Love on Top" to the futuristic stomper "Run the World (Girls)."
Read more: Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums of 2011