TOP 10 ALBUMS
01. Earl Sweatshit – Some Rap Songs
After a three year hiatus, Earl finally released a new album and it isn’t anything like his previous work. Fifteen songs clocking in at just over 24 minutes total, Some Rap Songs, is a soup of fragmented samples, instrumentation, and thoughts. Earl’s production style has lost all of it’s amateurish qualities and has settled into a murky, cloudy, carefully constructed collage that allows him to weave his stream-of-conscious style into a cohesive whole, with emotionally potent lines emerging from the haze. While it might be Earl’s most difficult project to get into, it’s also his most rewarding.
02. Tom Misch – Geography
This album isn’t anything complicated. It’s just great danceable grooves, catchy melodies, and a carefree attitude that is tailor made for afternoon drives in summer time. While his J-Dilla-esque beat tapes got me into his work, it’s this bubble-gum for the NPR crowd that keeps me coming back.
03. Saba – Care For Me
Saba’s latest album is by far his best as he tells well crafted and deeply personal coming of age stories dedicated to his cousin who passed away. Not only are the stories compelling, but the melodies and production make it great on a purely sonic level. In a way the intimate production reminds me of Noname’s Telefone but with a darker edge. I hope Saba continues to make intimate and thought provoking music like this in the future.
04. Rhye – Blood
After five years, Rhye picked right up where it left off, recapturing the sound of it’s gloomy, somber R&B, pulling new melodies out of it. The new album is as quietly infectious as their 2013 Woman, but somehow feels more full and thought out without being overproduced. On the surface, this may sound like coffee shop fodder, but these songs will stick with you after just a few listens. I will happily wait another five years if we get another installment this good from Rhye.
05. Kali Uchis – Isolation
Kali Uchis really hit this one out of the park. With a little help from an all-star producing and songwriting team, she put together an album that is sonically diverse, yet grounded in her sleepy, yet entrancing singing style. It’s really great to hear a young artist sound so confident and comfortable on their debut commercial release and with a strong support system, she has a bright future ahead of her.
06. Anderson .Paak – Oxnard
Now fully under the wing of and endorsed by Dr. Dre, Anderson .Paak had a lot to live up to with his most recent release. Despite a few missteps, the singer-songwriter-rapper-drummer displays his versatility by complimenting his collaborators, playing off of and supporting their strengths. Despite a bigger spotlight and inflated expectations, .Paak is smooth, thoughtful, and delivers one of the most re-listenable albums of the year.
07. Noname – Room 25
While I don’t think this album will surpass what Noname made on Telefone, I’m thrilled that she’s taking risks on her latest release. She is more creative vocally, experimenting with new cadences and extending her range from whisper quiet to fast and furious. The music behind her is more organic, using a live band much more often, giving the album a sound closer to what her live show sounds like. I’m sure this album will translate much better live than her previous work, and will become an important part of her repertoire.
08. Pusha T- Daytona
Luxurious beats, gritty lyricism, and a narrow focus made Daytona one of the most compelling rap albums of last year. It’s the kind of album that I wouldn’t hesitate to throw on when fleeing a heist. Kanye and company’s sample-heavy production hits the perfect blend of soulful and forceful, and Pusha T rose to the occasion, bringing the kind of charisma and braggadocia that makes him one of the most dangerous rappers out there.
09. Phonte – No News is Good News
Phonte’s long-awaited sophomore album is a reintroduction of the rapper as a self-reflective and thoughtful middle aged rapper telling stories accompanied by well crafted, layered production. Hip Hop is still in a transitional period, as established rappers with longevity deal with adapting to their changing mindset as they mature. Songs like “Expensive Genes” are a standout because it finds a way to make health issues and genetic predisposition for disease compelling in the Hip Hop medium. Like Jay-Z’s 4:44, Phonte’s No News is Good News is a landmark album in Hip Hop’s growing up.
10. Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E.
Teyana Taylor’s second commercial release might have the best beat selection of any of the G.O.O.D. Music releases this year. This album’s sample-heavy blend of Hip Hop and R&B from Kanye any company is the perfect backdrop for a singer who is determined to show that singers can be just as aggressive and forceful as her testosterone-fueled label-mates.
TOP 10 SONGS
Just think ahead and you’ll be inspired / To reach higher and higher
Rest in peace to Screw / Tonight we take it slowly
I fought the current running just the way you would
I make mistakes / I know things break
Dear mister President it’s evident that you don’t give a damn
Why you emotional?
And you showin’ off, but it’s alright
Wherever you’re going / I’m going the same
You are hiding a child
A$AP Rocky & Tyler, The Creator
Chance the Rapper
Chris Dave & The Drumhedz
Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Dave Matthews Band
Kids See Ghosts
Tyler, The Creator