Label: Roc-A-Fella, Roc Nation, Def Jam
Producers: 88-Keys, Jeff Bhasker, Mike Dean, Hit-Boy, Jay-Z (exec.), Don Jazzy, Kyambo Joshua (exec.), Sham "Sak Pase" Joseph, Anthony Kilhoffer, Ken Lewis, The Neptunes, Q-Tip, Lex Luger, Gee Roberson (exec.), RZA, Swizz Beatz, S1, Kanye West (also exec.)
Features: Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, Beyonce, Otis Redding, Mr. Hudson,
Sales: 1.2 million copies

Two years ago, when Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne came out, and the Internet jerked its collective knee, it was one of those times when I hated everybody. (Not like, hated hated, but, y'know.) Post after post, some by writers and critics who I really liked and respect, slammed the album for its materialist bent. It was the summer of Occupy Wall Street, and the super-rich rappers' relentless flossing rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Hua Hsu dismissed the album as "an hour-long quest for the authority to rule from above, a justification to luxuriate." The thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the relentless focusing on the lyrics and the lyrics alone, and the the refusal to see beyond thematics—"They're just rapping about how rich they are," to paraphrase the general complaint—and see just how well they're rapping about how rich they are. And the fistful of politics inherent in the fact that two black millionaires were doing so in 2011. And, most of all, how just drop-dead awesome the music was. Funky, glittery, soulful, gorgeous, the album sounds as good as anything recorded in the past five years. Pure, exhilarating fun, front-to-back. You're not supposed to listen to music with your knees, jerks. You use your ears. —Dave Bry