Lee warned me in January so I know he’ll appreciate this shout out. He told me:
“Manny, 2016 is gonna be the best year in music in a long time. Probably most memorable in recent memory. I don’t remember a year in music that will be as good as the one we’re about to experience.”
In the first week of June 2016, I told Lee he was right. I was skeptical because I figured 2016 was just a year where the big names that didn’t drop in ‘15 would round out that amazing year. I won’t lie, 2015 was very impressive especially if you honorably include J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which dropped less that 20 days before 2015 officially started. Beginning with that album everyone dropped better than average, mainstream projects. My personal favs from 2015 would have to be
A$AP Rocky – A.L.L.A
Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$
Travi$ Scott – Rodeo
Kid Cudi – Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven
Justin Bieber – Purpose
Ty Dolla $ – Free TC
All solid projects, IMO of course. They were full of classic deliveries from the artists as well as a little fun and experimenting that always adds a nice touch. Well, except for Cudi, he hit us with a curveball in the shape of a kick ass grunge album a la Nirvana. Nonetheless, the first half of this year has been amazing. We’ve gotten long awaited releases from some of Hip-Hop’s (and music’s for that matters) biggest players. Here I let you all know which of these projects achieved artistic success so far: (click album titles for a listen!)
Released: April 22nd, 2016
Favorite Track: Let You Go
Harlem native and A$AP Mob’s own A$AP Ferg didn’t get the memo about the sophomore slump that dreads all up and coming artists. Ferg’s direct success from underground to mainstream with 2013’s Trap Lord set a precedent. He was expected to deliver on a main stage level. Ferg brought a different dynamic to the A$AP brand with the head banging hard hitting trap-rap that is usually only seen from the likes of southern rappers. But those who really connected with Ferg knew. They knew he had more up his sleeve. In his prologue mixtape, Ferg Forever, he demonstrated his versatility. We saw glimpses of what was to come. Despite this he lacked the one thing I always though Ferg needed in order to be taken seriously as an artist: content. On FF the production was all over the place drawing influences from everything from love songs to caribbean beats. But most of the songs were just rhyming and clever allegory. There was no story telling, there was no passion, it was just Ferg having fun. Well, he finally let his fans take a look into his life that involved more than trapping and being on tour. The content on Always Strive and Prosper is very rich, and he does it in a perfect balance of traditional rap, head banging, and all with sprinkles of experimentation. Ferg’s sophomore album also has an all star list of features with the likes of Skrillex, Missy Elliot, Future, Chuck D, his mother, Lil Uzi Vert, Big Sean, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign, ScHoolboy Q, Crystal Caines, and of course his A$AP cohort. He tells us intricate and detailed stories of growing up in Hamilton Heights, or Hungry Ham, in Harlem, NY. He tells us stories of how he looked up to his drug dealing, hustling uncle and how he inspired him a special kind of way on the track Psycho. He lets us into his mindset when he was working at Ben and Jerry’s and was ready to give up on life when he decided no more struggling and decided to follow his dream on the Missy supported house-trance sampling Strive. Ferg’s content really sticks here and I personally view him in a much more mature light. I hate that this album was dropped smack in the middle of Beyonce’s and Drake’s releases so it was indeed slept on. So now that those two artists’ hype has gone down a little (despite One Dance’s reign on the charts), take a step back and appreciate Ferg’s heartfelt story of inspiration, hardship, love, and excitement that brought him to where he is now: stardom.
Released: April 23rd, 2016
Favorite Track: Controlla
The long awaited follow up to 2013’s Nothing Was The Same was finally released over a year after the title was announced originally as Views from the 6. Now we all know that as much as Drake gets haters, he has A WHOLE LOT of people who genuinely love his music. With VIEWS, Drake tries to give us a look into the Toronto culture, that I for one was not really familiar with. He gives us a melting pot of Caribbean influences, Noah 40 (always improving), and the his most recently developed trap infused sounds as well. The worst thing about this album was it’s expectations. Many critical Drake fans expected his Magnus Opus, but – news flash – we already got it: NWTS. Drake took three years to give us a trial and error. He’s developed new sounds for sure but being that we’ve gotten two projects since NWTS, VIEWS is just Drake being Drake at this point. I appreciate the little Caribbean flavor sprinkled through the album, and that it wasn’t excessive. The world would’ve had a field day if we got a whole album of dancehall. Nonetheless, VIEWS has some very enjoyable tracks like Controlla, Child’s Play, Too Good, and Hype. The album is better than the general “mehh” Twitter gave the album. It does however lack overall lyricism and content. I think it’s okay though, because he’s gotten so successful he can put out whatever and the publicity will be there. It’s sort of like JAY-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail. The project had amazing production and delivery but lackluster lyrics. Now I’m not comparing the two different artists but Drake is making his case to be the new Hovito-like character in the game. Yeah he still has twenty years or so but Drake is getting comfy with his music and as long as the majority still streams his work he doesn’t feel the need to push his envelope like he used to between ‘06-’10. In closing: great album to play very loud with your friends in the car. Windows down optional.
Released: February14th, 2016
Favorite Track: FSMH Pt 1 & 2
I’ve already harped on this album earlier in the year. It’s damn good. Not Ye’s best but he sure damn let us know that he’s fully embracing music when he does so. Following up his “protest to music” which we know as Yeezus, he brought us another revolutionary sound. He infused gospel, rap, house, among other genres to bring us TLOP. Since its exclusive TIDAL release back in mid February, Kanye changed the meaning of an album by going back and editing every single track. After that he also added two tracks; Frank’s Song, which is just Frank Ocean’s verse from Wolves, and Saint Pablo a track he released afterwards featuring Sampha and sampling JAY – Z. He went back and made every song a little different, thanks to the digital world we live in it was possible. The new elements of his style mixed with some of the classic Kanye sounds great in my opinion. Like his big brother Jay, his lyrics kind of fell off a bit, but bars are sprinkled on tracks like No More Parties in LA and 30 Hours. Kanye haters keep hating because he’s still asshole Ye with shade thrown to the like of Nike, Ray J, and Taylor Swift. I hope you all know he doesn’t give a damn either. So to my fellow stans, let’s anxiously wait TLOP’s follow up Turbo Grafx 16, expected this summer. To the haters keep hating because he’s never going back to pink polo, backpack Ye. He’s damn near 40.
Released: February 5th, 2016
Favorite Track: R.I.P.C.D
After a couple of years of underground indie releases and rising to the forefront of New NY Hip-Hop, The Brooklyn Trio bring us a mainstream album. Right off bat, they didn’t sell out, they sold independently and boy it is a ride. We all know a full length album of pure rap from New York is hard to come by these days. Meechy, Architect, and Zombie Juice brought their A game. The intro track, The Odyssey has long trippy verses from each member. Much like their fellow New Yorkers with the likes of A$AP Mob, The Underachievers, and Pro Era, their music stays true to hard hip hop beats with trippy influenced tendencies. When you have music influenced by drugs such as LSD or mushrooms, you either get really weird music or really GOOD music. Thankfully, The ZOMBiES delivered. I’m happy that another group besides A$AP is releasing to wider audiences. For a while New York rap was on life support and my Flatbush brethren gave it another spark of life with this project. Tracks like R.I.P.C.D. and New Phone, Who Dis? comment on the life of fame and money on how much the music game has changed. On top of the we get your usual trippy journey songs like Bounce and Spike Lee joint. Solid project for sure and can’t wait to see what else is in store for this group.
Released: January 28th, 2016
Favorite Track: Consideration ft. SZA
The over three year wait Rihanna gave us for a full length project was well worth it. Rihanna is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of reinventing herself in music, vibe, and even in her business ventures. Her deal with Puma? Genius. Anyways, last we heard music from Rihanna we heard a little more of an indie sound when she collaborated with Sir Paul McCartney and Big Brother Kanye. While we did not see the entire album produced by Kanye or any more features from Sir McCartney, Rihanna hit it out of the park. Arguably one of the best albums of 2016 so far, Ri Ri gives us tales of love, angst, and just overall badassness. One of the smoothest tracks I can’t get enough of is James Joint, the 1:12 interlude, has provocative lyrics that literally put me in a trance the first time I heard it. I don’t usually pick the first track of an album as my favorite but goodness her and SZA were a match in heaven on Consideration. The hard hitting beat with their angelic singing was just perfection for me. Further down the tracklist we get the unbeatable chemistry with Drake on the amazing single Work. We hear innovative production just like we heard on 2012’s Unapologetic and I love it. The album takes a very alternative R&B sound and I love when artists, females especially, take their beautiful voices and mix their voices with unorthodox beats. It just sounds great. Rihanna definitely nailed it. So hopefully amid all the Puma collabs and touring, we won’t have to wait 3 more years for another Rihanna project!
Released: March 4th, 2016
Favorite Track: Dopamine Ft. Cozz
This album is one of the best rap albums of the year. Hands down. Bas is a lyricist that definitely deserves to be on J.Cole’s Dreamville label. Now, I did not hear of Bas until this album created widespread buzz all in spring music convos. At first listen, I could not stop, His jazz infused beats with the story he tells gives a it a real underground feel. The album hits best when you need time to yourself, like to meditate or a late night drive. The Queens rapper delivers with stories of leaving school, love, and loss of family. I like his content, his production, and his flow. He gives of a J.Cole type of vibe but with his own style for sure. The single track, Night Job, with J.Cole rides so hard. The verses he exchanges with his labelmate go hand in hand and we see a less political/conscious Cole which is always fun. One of the smoothest and more trancey songs, Ricochet featuring The Hics, resonates with me well. The duet on the opening minute sets vivid imagery of lovers sharing a blunt in a dim lit room. Great mixes of sounds. All across. I’m also grateful for getting introduced to Cozz on my favorite track Dopamine. It gives us “You’re never as low as you think.” Bas and Cozz comment on holding on through hard times. Things will get better. These messages are very important for people my age who may not be on par with their “successful” classmates or counterparts. Nonetheless, the topics are ear grabbing throughout the album and the wondrous production make this album a hit for me, hands down.
Released: May 12th, 2016
Favorite Track: Blessings (Reprise)
After Kanye introduced us to the beautiful product of combining rap, neo soul, and gospel on TLOP, Chance took the amazing sound and gave us a whole project. With the follow up to the undisputed best project of 2013, Acid Rap, Chance shook the music world yet again. Chance emerges from battles of drug abuse, depression, and the joy of his first child as a new man. The motifs throughout this project are loud and clear. Through his faith he overcame much hardship. Through the album we learn much about his journey and we also get a chance to learn about ourselves. The first time listening to was definitely an experience for me. Personally I am not the biggest gospel fan, but after this project I even explored further to see where he got the influences for most of the tracks. The music is truly uplifting and exerts positive vibes all throughout. The growth between his own projects is so evident for Chance. The message on tracks such as All We Got and both the Blessings tracks can make anyones day. His powerful verse combined with the Ty Dolla $ign led chorus on the reprise can be looped on my car stereo all day, no questions asked. While the gospel vibe is very evident throughout he still added tracks that stay true to his underground roots. Mixtape, Juke Joint, and Smoke Break all display impressive features with the likes of Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Justin Bieber, Towkio, and Future. I can’t help but notice the lack of true hip hop besides the one or two tracks compared to the musical experience that was Acid Rap, but it makes up for it with its positive message throughout the project. This mixtape was so well received that the Musical Academy added “stream only” projects for Grammy contention. Was this new “Chance Rule” make the rapper’s proclamation from his verse on Ye’s Ultralight Beam facts?
“Let’s make it so free and the bars so hard that there ain’t one gosh darn part you can’t tweet..”
Can Chance snag a Grammy from this critically acclaimed mixtape next year? Early guess? It’s between him and Big Brother Ye.
Released: June 17th, 2016
Favorite Track: Feasting on The Flowers
It goes without saying that I was caught off guard when I heard that the funk-rock legends (officially as of 2012) were working on new music. They haven’t really made airwaves since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium which is where a lot of people my age really got into the Chili Peppers. Little did they know they’ve been rocking out since 1984. After a lackluster release in 2011 with I’m With You, it seemed as though the band was fizzing out. Washed as we would say. After their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012, it seemed as though the windows were closing on the glory days. Then we get a summer vibe filled album with The Getaway. As a traditionalist by nature, I was skeptic when I heard the group dropped Rick Rubin as their longterm producer and went with the edgier more modern Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton. Well, I’m here to tell you First, we finally see the new guitarist Josh Kilnghoffer really come into form and mature with his chords and riffs. Then we see piano underlying tracks and even a co-write from Elton John on Sick Love. On top of all that we see samples and even trading instruments. So different is an understatement and a long ways from the 1989-2011 run of Rick Rubin and the Chili Peppers. As a long standing fan of the entire RHCP catalog, I like this album. There is an acceptance of maturity from the members that you hear when they take it back with some songs with a strange mix of modern samples and old school chill vibe. The whole album can be imagined on a chill summer night, a couple beers in and just relaxing with your buddies. The Chili Peppers keep their traditional funk bases with Danger Mouse’s pop punk schemes mixed in. Not to mention, we get less of Anthony Kiedis’ rap influenced onomatopoeia, and a lot of deeper content. On Feasting On The Flowers, Kiedis sings an ode to founding member and original guitarist to the band, Hilel Slovak. Although this isn’t the first song about him, the metaphors on the terrors of dying young on heroin overdose are real each time the band dedicates a song to the issue.
“26 a number much to small for someone’s golden years.”
So yeah, content is mixed in through the likes of breakups, trippy journeys, and good times. The unlikely duo of Danger Mouses pop roots and the Chili Peppers funk-rock created a beautiful sound. I’m here for it and I’m glad the band came back strong. Anyone down to catch a show when they get back from Europe?
So these eight aforementioned projects were my heavy rotation for the first half of the year. Some awesome projects that just joined my rotation are:
Still Brazy – Y.G.
There’s A lot Going On – Vic Mensa
Waves LP – Mic Jenkins
** Blank Face ** – ScHoolboy Q
COOLAID – Snoop Dogg
California – blink 182
And what’s to look forward to?
Good Charlotte (wheeet)
And possible JAY-Z
These might be in my second half of 2016 rotations so look for that post out later!
So yeah until then check out the works I’ve mentioned and if you have any dope suggestions let me know on social media!
Under promising and over delivering ,