Kendrick Lamar/ To Pimp a Butterfly
You had to know this was coming. My number one album of the year goes to the recording that was nominated for 11 Grammys: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.
Top 3 songs are “U,” “Momma,” and “Mortal Men.”
If you want to take time out of your day to listen to a movie for your ears and have the time to focus on art at its finest, take a listen to this masterpiece.
Drake/ If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late
My number two album of the year goes to Drake with his fourth studio album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. The album opens up with one my favorite tracks on the album, “Legend,” which is produced by PartyNextDoor, who are featured later on the album. Drake comes off more confident than ever with tracks like “Energy,” “10 Bands,” “6 God,” and “6 Man,” claiming the crown of rap over booming beats and no shortage of quotable lyrics. With tracks like “Know Yourself,” “Star67,” and “Now and Forever,” we get yet another glimpse at the more moody and introspective Drake we all have come to know and poke fun at. But even with these more emotional songs, Drake comes off as unapologetic and clear with his message. This is easily my favorite project from the rapper since So Far Gone way back in the day.
Top 3 songs are “Legend,” “6 Man” and “Jungle,” where he reflects upon an old flame. The song may make you drive to your ex’s house late on a Wednesday night.
Listen to this album at any time of day or night. Something for all types of moods.
Future/ 56 Nights
Full of absolute bangers, this album is a bomb in disguise. Almost entirely produced by Southside, a producer from ATL’s 808 Mafia group, this project will get your head bobbin’ and won’t let you stop till the last track. Future flexes his muscles on “Never Gon Lose” and “Now.” Of course, drugs are an ever-present influence on Future’s music, and he gives us drugged out anthems with “Purple Coming In” and “56 nights.” “Trap Niggas” is a fast paced hood anthem. The beat is infectious and has been covered many times by some of rap’s biggest names. Of course you can’t talk 56 Nights without bringing up “March Madness.” Easily one of the biggest highlights from the project, this is the closest thing to a socially conscious song you will get from Future. Over a synth-yet-rattling beat, he brings up “bogus cops” and the killings of young black youth that have become a regular headline in todays news. Overall this project honestly just goes too hard to ignore.
Top 3 songs are “Never Gon Lose,” “Trap Niggas” and “56 Nights.”
Listen to this to get the block jumping.
Dreamville Records/ Revenge of The Dreamers 2
The newest project out on my list, Revenge of the Dreamers II was an early holiday present to hip-hop fans everywhere. The project features J. Cole’s label mates and MCs Bas, Omen, and Cozz. It also doubles as the coming out party for new signees Lute, and singer Ari Lennox. Right away, Cole sets the tempo for the album with the track “Folgers Crystals,” where he spits about his experience as a black man in the music industry and society as a whole. Ari Lennox comes in with the soulful and sexy “Backseat” featuring Cozz, who also has a hard hitting, hoe-dismissing track featuring a verse from Cole called “Tabs.” In the middle of the album, there is a three track run started off by J. Cole and Omen on “Caged Bird.” Both MCs get on their conscious rap talking about the cage-like environment that they are still surrounded by, despite having transcended. Next, Omen recruits Chi-Town’s own Donnie Trumpet on “48 Laws” for a soothing, jazzy tune that the artists absolutely rip. Up next is Bas with “Housewives,” a reflection on the artist’s past woes with college and bad decisions, and where’s he gotten as an MC. Lute steps in on “Still Slummin” and impresses everyone with bars about struggling, hustling, and trying to get life right, leaving me very interested to see what he does in the future. Cozz finishes up the album with “Grow,” in which he talks about his growth as a rapper—the theme of the album. Any hip-hop head can appreciate this album.
Top 3 songs are “Folgers Crystals,” “48 Laws,” and “Housewives.”
Listen to this project if you need hip-hop inspiration or just want to hear good bars over good beats.
Future/ Dirty Sprite 2
With the release of three mixtapes that flooded the streets with bangers, it didn’t seem like Future could get much hotter. Boy, was I wrong. As soon as DS2 dropped and we hit play, Future had us dippin’ and dabbin’ in our Gucci flip-flops. Future hooks up with Metro Boomin on production to give us bass-heavy hits like “I Serve the Bass,” “Groupies,” and “Freak Hoes.” With only one feature on the album, Future recruited Drake to get on “Where Ya At.” A smash hit, the song gives both MCs a chance to reflect on where they came from and where they are now, while cursing those who didn’t stick by their sides. If you need a song to head bang to, look no further than the Southside-produced “Stick Talk,” or one of the hit singles, “Blow a Bag.” While it was hard for me to put two Future projects on my list, DS2 refused to be ignored with its in your face beats and tough rap by Future.
Top 3 songs are “Thought It Was a Drought,” “Lil One,” and “Blow a Bag.”
If you and your homies need music to bump in the whip, throw this on and get crunk in the Caddie.
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment/ Surf
In 2015, we were all looking forward to a new project from Chance The Rapper. Although we didn’t get quite what we wanted, we got something just as good. This album by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment (a Chicago-based group consisting of Donnie, Chance, Peter Cottontail, Greg Landfair Jr. and Nate Fox), mixes smooth, jazzy instrumentals with sharp guest verses from Chance and other guest MCs. Some of the best guest verses come from J. Cole and Noname Gypsy on “Warm Enough.” Chi-Town rapper Saba also comes through on one of the best tracks, “SmthnthIwnt,” where he spits about his desires in this cruel world. Donnie & The Social Experiment get to shine as well, with multiple songs focusing on the instrumentals and production such as “Windows,” “Nothing Came to Me,” and “Something Came to Me.” I would be a fool if I didn’t also mention “Sunday Candy.” The track is an upbeat tune full of the rich instrumental work we have come to expect from Chance and the rest of his gang. This album was a breath of fresh air in a year dominated by trap beats, and cemented the Social Experiment as a group that’s here to stay.
Top 3 songs are “Warm Enough,” “Something Came To Me” and “Miracle.”
Listen to this album while walking or driving to work to get the day started off on the right foot.
Travis Scott/ Rodeo
With Days Before Rodeo being so popular, Travis Scott had a lot of hype to live up to, and he fully delivered with Rodeo. Everything starts with the star-studded single “3500,” which features Future and 2Chainz. The track is followed up by one of the summer’s biggest hits in “Antidote,” in which Travis, aided by auto tune, croons about his party life style. While Travis shines on this album, big name features help make some of the best songs on the project. For example, there is the hard hitting, in-your-face “Piss On Your Grave,” in which Scott gets help from his mentor Kanye West to vocally slap the haters way. The Weeknd also makes an appearance on “Pray 4 Love,” and Justin Bieber gives listeners a nice verse on the previously released “Maria I’m Drunk,” which also includes Young Thug. One of the highlights has to be the two-part song “Oh My Dis Side,” featuring Quavo from the Migos crew. Travis and Quavo seem to click together seamlessly which we saw previously on Days Before Rode. Other highlights come in the form of “Nightcrawler,” featuring Swae Lee and Chief Keef. Overall, this project was a success and puts Travis Scott as a name to know and watch in the game.
Top 3 tracks are “Oh My Dis Side,” “Antidote” and “Apple Pie.”
This is a great listen during the summer or when you just want to vibe out to some great production and hard bars.
Jamie xx/ In Colour
This serves as the debut studio album of UK electronic and dance music producer Jamie xx. While most of the projects on this list are hip-hop based in some way, this album is much different in genre and sound. I was first introduced to Jamie when I heard the single “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” which features Young Thug rhyming over a colorful piano with crisp snaps and a great sample from the Persuasions song “Good Times.” The song also features Jamaican Dance Hall star Popcaan, who provides some vocals that truly complete the song. When the album finally arrived and I listened to it, I was blown away. The intro “Gosh” really set the mood with dark, booming bass over rattling drums and distorted, chopped vocals. On “Stranger in a Room,” Jamie calls upon his band member Oliver Sim to deliver vocals over a repeating synth with a haunting guitar, adding to the effect of the song. “Hold Tight” is a hectic track you can expect to hear boom in the clubs. On the other end of the spectrum, Jamie brings back the chill vibes with “Loud Places” and “The Rest is Noise,” an absolutely gorgeous song featuring some beautiful piano and an infectious beat.
Top 3 songs are “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” “Gosh” and “The Rest Is Noise.”
Listen to this if you need music to vibe out to while riding in the car, or even just hanging in your dorm room relaxing. While it should be listened to closely the first time, it’s also great as background music for cleaning your room or doing homework.
Lil Uzi Vert/ Luv Is Rage
My dark horse on the list goes to the Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert. This project is full of spacy, bass-heavy beats that will fill out your headphones. Uzi might not blow you away with his lyricism, but his ability to bring out the melody in a song with his flow will have you hooked. The first song I heard on the album was the Sonny Digital produced “Right Now,” where Uzi croons to a would-be lover. There are plenty of hits on the album, like “All Of My Chains,” and the crew anthem, “Top.” He grabs big name features in Young Thug for “Yamborghini Dreams,” and Wiz Khalifa for “Queso.” Another highlight is the two part, six-minute song, “Wit My Crew x 1987.” The first half of the track, we get a slowed down Uzi repping his crew, while the second half of the song ushers in a softer style instrumental that seems to transition us into the rest of the project. This project seems to have kick started Uzi’s career, with 2016 looking like his year to take off.
Top 3 songs are “Right Now,” “Top” and the high powered “Enemies.”
Listen to this during your crew’s smoke session.
Bryson Tiller/ T R A P S O U L
One of the biggest breakthrough artists of the year has to be Bryson Tiller. With the release of his debut studio album T R A P S O U L, Bryson gives us love ballads with the flair and edge of a trap artist. The hype for this record started when he released the only single, “Don’t.” Here, he finds himself trying to pull a fine dime away from her lame man over a dark, spacey, snare-heavy beat. The “Intro (Difference)” starts the project with a theme we see throughout the album of Bryson asking a girl to take him back now that he has changed. This leads into my personal favorite song on the album, “Let Em’ Know,” a smooth track in which Tiller announces to any other guys trying to get his old girl that he’s coming back for her. Tiller also flexes his rap muscles on songs likes “Ten Nine Fourteen,” and “Rambo,” where he puts snaps on haters with some of the better bars on the album letting them know he plays no games. Another memorable track is “The Sequence,” where he talks to his ex-girl who has stopped by for a quick smash, asking for her for a second chance, lamenting on his past mistakes and wanting a chance to prove he has grown.
Top 3 songs are “Let Em’ Know,” “Don’t” and “Been That Way.”
Listen to this project when you’re in your feelings or when you’re driving your significant other home.
Written by Worm.