Another year gone by and this one couldn’t end soon enough. 2016 managed to be the year that took out Muhummad Ali, Sharon Jones, Pat Summit, Alan Rickman, Prince, David Bowie, Maurice White, George Michael, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Florence Henderson, Chyna, Anton Yelkin and now Carrie Fisher. Not to mention we got a racist ass president. Sorry for the morbid aside.
Since then, we’ve also got to experience Atlanta, Insecure, Queen Sugar and Westworld. Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali have ensured we won’t suffer through another #OscarsSoWhite…but what about the music?
With no further ado, here are MY picks for top albums of the year*.
10. Isaiah Rashad [The Sun’s Tirade]
In the two years since Cilvia Demo, Isaiah Rashad has lived through what people never experience in their whole lives. He’s had another child, suffered from and found his path through addiction, and almost got dropped from TDE. You can’t help but think these topics linger on the rapper when the intro is literally a warning to turn his project in or else.
Though the 25 year old claims he can’t find a topic, The Sun’s Tirade finds him riding comfortably on whatever beat he picks. Zay’s delivery is reminiscent of a cup of lean with a jolly rancher at the bottom–that is, sweet and syrupy, his cadence goes from a flow to singing to damn near mumbling on tracks. Weird enough, it doesn’t take away from the music. It all blends perfectly…let the liquor tell it.
Standout Tracks: Wat’s Wrong (ft. Zacari & Kendrick Lamar), Park, AA
9. Mac Miller [The Divine Feminine]
Mac has surprised me in recent years. His potential shown on early projects began sticking and growing as the frat boy aesthetic and drug addiction faded. His last 4 projects have shown an increase in skill and his ability to craft hits. On this ode to his muse, Ariana Grande, Mac ventures into semi-pop territories and manages to stick the landing.
I’ve never had pussy so good I wrote an album about it, but Mac pulls it off effortlessly for one of his best albums here. He manages to rap and sing about love without it coming off as too corny. Somewhere along the middle of the album it gets a little steamy for some of the best moments of the album.
Standout Tracks: Cinderella (ft. Ty Dolla $ign), We (ft. Cee-Lo) and God is Fair, Sexy Nasty (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
8. Bas [Too High To Riot]
Being signed to a label brings major pressure to have singles all throughout the album and to sell a lot of copies out of fear of being shelved in the future. Over at Dreamville, Cole just lets his artists churn out the music they want to make without that boulder on their shoulders. Bas took that opportunity to create an album that’s both deeply reflective and optimistic.
On his second offering, Bas reflects on those left behind as he deals with what it takes to reach his dreams. Within a forty minute journey, Bas proves to his fans that he’s just getting started. While his beats are a bit more lively than his label head’s, Bas’ lyricism and flow stands out throughout the project. Hopefully it won’t take three years, but I’m already ready for the next one.
Standout Tracks: Methylone, Night Job (ft. J. Cole), Ricochet (ft. The Hicks)
7. Skepta [Konnichiwa]
“Who?!” It’s funny to think of hip-hop as a global phenomenon, yet only see it from our American POV. With that said, one of the globe’s strongest carriers of the international flag had to be Skepta. While he’s grinded his way to the top of Grime in the UK, he’s had his sight set on conquering the world akin to England throughout history. Personally, I find it ironic that the album cover is emblematic of going worldwide, but visa issues has kept mans out of the States.
Historically, people have said Grime sounds like noise and that English MCs don’t get much love because “how are you going to threaten someone sounding so polite?” But Konnichiwa benefits from Skepta’s experience of what works for his core crowd as well as his experimentation with more mainstream sounds. The result is an album that presents a more global vision of the come up. The skit on Corn on the Curb is worth the entire price of admission.
Standout Tracks: It Ain’t Safe (ft. Young L.O.R.D.), Numbers (ft. Pharrell), Shutdown
6. Solange [A Seat at the Table]
The old adage goes, “Hard work pays off.” Sometimes we can’t see that as we’re too close to a situation we’re working on to focus on the big picture. It took Solange seven years to craft this album. During that time, it’s said she almost suffered a breakdown. The close personal care in crafting this album pays off as it has quickly become her most popular and critically acclaimed record.
Meticulously crafted, this album could not come out at a better time. We’re at a crossroads with regards to race and gender and ASATT does a good job of marking a place for Black people…and more specifically Black Women. The album doesn’t get preachy and does have moments that are more bubbly than others. As accessible as it is, audience members would be remiss not to give thought to the messages beneath the music.
Standout Tracks: Cranes in the Sky, Don’t Touch My Hair (ft. Sampha), and F.U.B.U (ft. The-Dream and BJ The Chicago Kid)
To get the rest of the list, you’re going to have to tune into the Brothers From Another podcast later this week to hear our music roundtable. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Libsyn and Stitcher,
Lift Off - The Throne ft Beyonce
Ghost [Major Lazer Remix] - With You. ft Vince Staples
Sanctified - Rick Ross ft Kanye West & Big Sean
Strive - A$AP Ferg ft Missy Elliot
Bolo Tie - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft YG
R.I.P.C.D - Flatbush Zombies
Coming Back - Domo Genesis ft Mac Miller
Penthouse - Bas
untitled 07 levitate - Kendrick Lamar
Chains by Film The Future - Usher, Nas, Bibi Bourelly
Smoke Break (Interlude) - Flatbush Zombies
Roll Up - B.o.B ft Marko Penn
Pop Style - Drake ft The Throne
Sticks And Horses - George Maple ft GoldLink
Yeah, I Said It - Rihanna
SORRY - Beyonce
Show Me Love [Skillet Remix]- Hundred Waters ft Chance The Rapper, Moses Sumney & Robin Hannibal
THIS COULD B US - Prince
FREEDOM - Beyonce ft Kendrick Lamar
Drop - Chloe x Halle