2015 was a wild year for rap. There was almost too much music. Every week there was a new Future album or mixtape, almost everyday there was a new song featuring Young Thug & Meek Mill’s career came to a tragic end while Drake continued to flourish as only he can. With everything happening it was tough to pick favorites, but everyone loves lists. So here’s my list of the best albums of 2015, in no particular order.
SremmLife/ Rae Sremmurd
If you didn’t think this was one of the hardest albums of the year stop reading right now. Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy created the most energetic and fully charged project I’ve heard in years. These songs are made for Vine, you can layer these over any World Star video and the outcome will have thousands of views. At first that bothered me, then I stopped taking things so seriously and realized I loved this album. Writer Eric Zaworski wrote that “SremmLife sounds like how cheap vodka works — it burns a little, yeah, but it gets you there.” Pretty much spot on review of the album.
Listen to “No Flex Zone,” “Come Get Her,” “No Type” and “This Could Be Us.”
Listen to SremmLife while you’re pregaming or throwing a banger.
Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First?/ Father
In Father’s own words, this album is “32-mins of pure, unfiltered debauchery,” and he’s exactly right. Father had a big 2015. To be heard in Atlanta right now you’ve gotta be good, and Father is. His delivery is strictly his own, you won’t mistake a Father track for anyone else. For those of you who insist that the only reason he’s big is because Makonnen was on “Wrist,” please step off. The man has created his own, original aesthetic that looks as though it was influenced by everything from the early Odd Future days to tumblr to amateur porn. Every single one of the tracks on Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First? is addicting. As a white kid that’s not super musically talented I can rap along to this with no problem, and that makes me super happy. This isn’t “New Atlanta” or “that ATL sound” this is Awful Records at its best.
Best songs are “Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First?” “Spoil You Rotten” and “BET Uncut,” but honestly the entire album is beautiful and short, so listen to everything.
Listen to Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First? while you’re turning up, turning down or anything in between.
*Awful Record songstress Abra also gets a nod for her debut album ROSE, which was awesome and would definitely be on this list if it was top 20.
I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside/ Earl Sweatshirt
Earl isn’t one of my favorite artists, but I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside changed that for me. I think I listened to this album the most out of any on the list. This is the best piece of work that Earl has ever put out, much better than Doris. From the first song to the last it flows effortlessly. The moody, slightly dark (but not too dark) production is very similar from track to track and if you’re listening while doing something you may not even know the song has switched. As a whole, I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside is incredibly grim and to the point. This rap shit isn’t a game. Earl is finding himself and it sounds good, very good.
The best songs on the album are “Mantra,” “Faucet,” “Grief,” and “Wool.”
Listen to I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside when you’re deep in your feelings, but not on some Drake shit.
Summertime ’06/ Vince Staples
Vince Staples likes to joke on Twitter, but when it comes to rapping there’s nothing funny. Summertime 06 is scary, it’s honest, it’s dark and it’s straight to the point. Staples has always had a straightforward approach to rap and Summertime 06 puts that on display. The album has two discs, 20 songs and somehow comes out to a little less than an hour in total play time. No I.D. handled the production on the album and did a great job of telling the story alongside Vince. Harsh, distorted guitar strings and deep, empty synths paint a foreboding, dark image in the listener’s mind.
My favorite songs on the album are “Norf Norf,” “Summertime,” and “Dopeman.”
Listen to Summertime 06 while you’re hanging out with your homies or chilling by yourself. There’s a few turnup tracks but that’s not really what they’re made for.
From his smash hit “Tuesday” to his release of Drink More Water 5, to the present Makonnen has been growing steadily as an artist. ILoveMakonnen2 is the most mature project the singer/rapper/trapper has put out. His limited voice shines throughout. Each song has its own mood, ranging from melancholy to upbeat to hopeful. From rapping about talking to his plug on the phone (“Trust Me Danny”) or singing about wanting a second chance (“Second Chance”) Makonnen’s musical arsenal is on full display and every song is a hit. His voice isn’t for everyone, but everyone should give ILM2 a chance.
Some of the best songs are “Trust Me Danny,” “Second Chance,” and “Being Alone With You.”
Listen to ILoveMakonnen2 while you’re getting twisted in any way, shape or form.
GO:OD AM/ Mac Miller
From frat-rap nonsense that started a whole sub genre of white college aged rappers (horrible), to his experimental sounding album Watching Movies With The Sound Off (not that bad), to the ambitious 2014 release of arguably the best mixtape of the year in Faces (super good) Mac Miller has had a crazy career. The music has been changing steadily and so has Mac. Both he and the music are finally headed in the right direction. GOOD AM was the perfect follow up to Faces for Mac. This is a very large and involved album. You can tell there was a lot of time taken in choosing the final songs and who would be featured on it. While there is a lot of serious content on the album, especially concerning Mac’s drug problems and depression, it doesn’t sit on the listener in a heavy way. There’s something upbeat about the whole project. Mac is back, in a better place, refreshed and rejuvenated.
Standout tracks are “Brandname,” “100 Grandkids,” “Cut The Check” and “Time Flies.”
Listen to GOOD AM in any setting, not necessarily party music but definitely nice to throw on in the background.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late/ Drake
Do I even need to say anything about this? Honestly. Even your grandmother has heard a track off this. Drake is at some unprecedented levels of hot right now. Even that “Hotline Bling” video was hot and he looked like a suburban dad who had one to many Bud Lights tryna dance on the patio. That being said, IYRTITL was awesome, in every way possible. 17 tracks long and only three features (two of which were PND). It was all Drake in the best way on this.
My favorite tracks were “10 Bands,” “6 Man,” & “Star67.”
You can listen to this album at any time of day, in any mood, and it’ll still be relevant. Thanks Drake.
Wave[s]/ Mick Jenkins
Mick Jenkins has been my favorite artist to just sit and listen to since The Water[s] and Wave[s] was no exception. This project was a little more upbeat and less retrospective in many ways. Mick went out of his comfort zone, or perhaps made public his comfort zone for the first time. Going in over a variety of interesting beats produced by Kaytranada and ThemPeople that I’m not sure he would have sounded as good on just last year. Overall, Mick’s transition from The Water[s] to Wave[s] was flawless and left me wondering what THC will have in store for listeners.
Listen to “Piano,” “Your Love,” “Alchemy” and “Perception.”
Listen to Wave[s] while you think about life and love, or while you’re kicking it lowkey with a group of close friends.
Dirty Sprite 2/ Future
Man, I don’t know where to start with Dirty Sprite 2. From a musical standpoint I can’t stand Future. From a responsible humanist standpoint I can’t stand Future. But, despite everything, I found myself turning to DS2 all the time following the release. The whole codeine thing in hip hop really pisses me off. Especially with the death of YAM$ last year. Rappers know what it’s doing to their bodies and they know the influence they have on their listeners yet they continue to glorify it. Whatever though, thanks to Future it’s once again at the forefront of rap. Know that you know how I feel about all that let me just say that DS2 SLAPS, it’s one of the hardest projects of the year. If I threw a party I would just shuffle this album. “Throught It Was a Drought” had everybody wanting Gucci flip flops. Future did us all dirty with this one.
Listen to “Thought it Was a Drought,” “Real Sisters” and “Slave Master.”
Listen to DS2 while you’re lost in the dirty, facing a blunt or hanging out.
Samantha/ Toro Y Moi
Toro Y Moi came through with the most pleasantly surprising project of the year. One that I’ve found myself turning to countless times as I sit and blankly stare at my computer screen at midnight in the library or walk back to my dorm room slightly sauced on a Friday. Full of one or two-minute sketches and r&b/soul samples this project plays as more of a tv show, while everything else on the list is a movie. Kool A.D. and Rome Fortune both contribute to this album with some verses and provide a nice hint of rap. The overall feeling on the project is the struggle of being in love, which is showcased by Toro’s use of a lengthy sample from the movie The Notebook, a move that could have been VERY CORNY. This is my favorite project from Toro Y Moi in awhile, I’ll be playing this one deep into 2016.
Listen to “Stoned at the MOMA,” “Late” and “Late.”
Listen to this album while you’re studying or having troubles with your significant other.
Darkest Before Dawn/ Pusha T
If King Push—Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude is really just a prelude to King Push then I don’t think anyone is ready for what’s to come from the GOOD Music head honcho. Push is currently doing his best work since his Hell Hath No Fury days. Crazy, boisterous beats, raw flow, disgusting lyricism and an aesthetic that’s darker and crueler than satan himself, Push has been finetuning this for years. While most of Pusha’s would-be competitors have been living in the spotlight, be that on Twitter or beefing with others, Push has taken a backseat and watched the landscape spread out in front of him, waiting to play his card. Surrounded by a team that’s just as hungry and talented as he, King Push will be one of the best albums of 2016. Darkest Before Dawn came and went relatively quietly with it’s late release, however, it’s undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year. All hail King Push.
Top 3 songs are “Untouchable,” “MPA” and “Sunshine.”
Listen to this before you commit a crime… Just kidding, sorta.
Written by Jesse Wiles