Damn–can you believe it’s a friggin’ week from Thanksgiving ALREADY? 2011 has flown by. As the year wraps up (and folks start to get their asses in gear for holiday shopping), there are a handful of interesting albums still on the docket…enough that you might want to hold that “Best of 2011” list until the last possible second (or at least until the middle of December?)

If you’d told me 20 years ago that a half-Jewish Canadian that was once a star on “Degrassi” would even have the respect of the hip-hop community, much less be one of the genre’s biggest stars, I’d have split the seams of my overalls laughing at you. However, here we are in 2011 and Drake is one of the hottest dudes out there right now. It took me a while to get into him, but Thank Me Later actually holds up pretty well. Anticipation is high for his sophomore effort, Take Care, and Drake has been peppering the world with singles. Drizzy has the usual suspects on board for this one (Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna) and the album also features a guest appearance from Stevie Wonder. In other words–this one’s a guaranteed smash. But is it good? Find out a little later in the week when we review this bad boy.

It’s a good week for rapper/actors. Coming straight out of NBC’s “Community” is Childish Gambino, who you might know better as Donald Glover. He plays Troy on the hit sitcom, and his alter ego (taken from one of those Wu-Tang name generators)’s debut album, Camp, is out today. I had the pleasure of checking out Childish’s show a couple of weeks ago, and this dude is the real deal. This is no comedy rap.

Completing the blerd-rap threesome, Travie McCoy and Gym Class Heroes. The rap-pop-rock hybrid band references their most successful album with The Papercut Chronicles II. The album’s already spawned a huge hit with the Adam Levine-assisted “Stereo Hearts”, and McCoy has a way with a hook. This one could be a sleeper.

David Mead’s a name I’ve heard many, many times over the years. Tons of my friends (who have similar musical tastes) swear by this dude. I’ve just never bothered to check out one of his albums-until now. Thanks to the influence of Popdose‘s Grand Poobah Jeff Giles, I got a listen to his new album Dudes (funded via a Kickstarter campaign and released via that platform a couple weeks ago). Us plebeians are now able to get the record today. I dug what I heard, and I’m looking forward to exploring David’s catalog further.

Upset when R.E.M. called it quits a couple of months ago? Well, get one last opportunity to grab new music from the Athens, GA legends courtesy of the compilation album Part Lies, Part Truth, Part Heart and Part Garbage. Not only is this the first compilation to capture both their early hits on IRS Records and their later smashes on Warner Brothers, but it contains three tracks recorded earlier this year.

Elsewhere, The Roots prep for their new album Undun (out in just a couple of weeks) by backing soul veteran Betty Wright on her new album Betty Wright: The Movie. If you’re unfamiliar with Wright, her songs “Clean Up Woman” and “Tonight’s The Night” have been sampled on way too many songs to mention, most notably Mary J’s “Real Love” remix, Candyman’s “Knockin’ Boots” and Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up”. On the compilation tip, you can grab a second volume of Christmas carols from the “Glee” cast (yawn), as well as a holiday set from the Brushfire Records crew, led by Jack Johnson. Christmas in Hawaii with some ganja? Hell yes!! There are also soundtracks to some upcoming holiday blockbusters-“Happy Feet 2” and the latest “Alvin & The Chipmunks” movie, cleverly (?) titled “Chipwrecked”. Yeah, I’m groaning too.

Make sure you’re checking out Pause and Play for all the latest music news, including release dates.

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