For many people, 2016 has been somewhat of disappointment for a lot of different reasons. We’ve all dealt with our own personal issues, as is the same with every year, but we’ve also lost icons like Maurice White, John Saunders, Phife Dawg and Muhammad Ali. On top of that, we’ve dealt with some not-so-stellar political news that has put many of us in a state of uncertainty.
So yeah, all in all 2016 has been a pretty rough year. It hasn’t been all bad though. In times like these, we’ll always have music to turn to; and thankfully, this year in hip-hop has been about as good as it’s ever been.
We’ve been treated to some posthumous albums, a few comeback albums, a couple of albums which will be revolutionary to the genre and we’ve even been shown just how powerful an indie rapper can become. So while the rest of the world grows further apart with their petty disputes, let us sane people sit back and enjoy our music. But one question does stand: Which albums stood above the rest? What were the top-10 albums of the year?
Each one of the albums slotted 10-6 were absolutely astounding for various reasons that have made each one their own individual pieces of art. They were all well produced, and carried a unique and unmatched sound that put them above almost every other album this year. Almost.
10.) Jon Bellion, “The Human Condition”
Jon Bellion’s, “The Human Condition,” absolutely took the music world by storm with its incredibly rare blend of R&B, pop and hip-hop beautifully mixed in Bellion’s own “Disney meets Dilla” style. He displays his absolutely amazing vocal range on an album that is entirely self-produced. Here’s hoping for a follow-up anywhere near as good as “The Human Condition,” and maybe even a hip-hop inspired Pixar score in the foreseeable future.
9.) Travis Scott, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight”
Travis Scott more than impressed with his second studio album, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” he astonished and amazed. Scott has found the perfect way to show growth without straying away from his unique sound. “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” is an incredible balance quality sound and it’s loaded with star powered features, i.e., Kendrick Lamar, Bryson Tiller, Andre 3000, 21 Savage and others.
8.) Kendrick Lamar, “Untitled Unmastered”
Is there any other athlete in the world who could convince one of the most prominent rappers to release a bunch of untitled tracks, like LeBron James did earlier this year? And is there any other rapper who could manage to make a bunch of their untitled tracks into pure gold, like Kendrick Lamar? I’m not entirely sure what the answer to either of those questions is, but I am sure that K Dot is the reigning king of hip-hop.
7.) Future, “Evol”
“Evol,” was released less after “Purple Reign,” and it was still somehow phenomenally good. I mean… seriously, Future is just incredible. In all honesty though, the majority of the tracks on “Evol,” are really hit or miss for most people; but whenever you feel like it’s a hit, you’d swear that Future knocked it right out of the park. What makes it even more crazy is that has only one feature on the whole album (The Weeknd on Low Life).
6.) Schoolboy Q, “Blank Face LP”
If Schoolboy Q was looking to take a step toward becoming one of the most notable rappers of his time, then he did just that with “Blank Face LP.” In fact, he took a huge step forward… one could even say he leapt. It may sound like an exaggeration, but that’s just how incredible this album was. Q has managed to keep his compelling rhymes we’ve seen in the past, but this time he added a consistent message between all of his tracks and you can’t help but jam every time you hear his voice.
Honorable Mentions: J Dilla, “The Diary”; Anderson .Paak, “Malibu”; Logic, “Bobby Tarantino”; De la Soul, “And the Anonymous Nobody”; DJ Khaled, “Major Key”
I think it speaks to how great this year was for hip-hop, that just about any of these albums would’ve easily taken the top position had they been released any other year. Even still, they’ve helped to make up a fantastic twelve months, and with J. Cole’s, “4 Your Eyez Only” releasing later this week there’s no telling just how greatly this year will be remembered.
5.) Kevin Gates, “Islah”
For his debut studio album, Kevin Gates went with the title, “Islah,” after his eldest daughter. According to Gates, it translates into arabic as “to inform, to improve, to make better.” That’s exactly what you can hear on just about every track on this album. He has grown so much since the release of “Make Em Believe,” -both as an artist and a man- and it definitely shows.
When you put on “Islah,” you can feel every emotion Gates’ chooses to channel, good or bad. He gives it everything he has and, just like always, he’s not afraid to cover some seriously dark and troubled subject matter. Even still, to call this album anywhere near depressing or saddening would be flat-out wrong. Gates has found the perfect formula for heavy content mixed with some melodic beats, to make up one hell of a debut release.
You could definitely say that Gates is an oddity in today’s game, and I’m pretty sure that in his case, that is a good thing. He’s an absolute star, with both his melodies and his emotional appeal, and that’s about all you can ask for in a musician. The fact that he has such a strong and compelling voice is honestly just a sweetener.
4.) Drake, “Views”
An ode to his hometown of Toronto, “Views,” takes on a noticeably different sound than Drake’s previous releases. It seems he’s decided to embrace the singer side of his rapper/singer label, and it actually kind of works. The album may have some issues with its sequence of sounds and may feel a little too long at times, but it carries some strong vibes overall.
He’s embraced his inner-pop feel, and that’s only helped him get closer to his end goal: being the most memorable rapper of his time. It seems like that’s what he could be, if he continues releasing tracks that appeal to just about every audience under the sun. Even with its flaws, “Views,” is still an undeniably hot album.
Look, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” may have been Drake’s apex form of artistry, but “Views,” showed just how much more he can grow as a cultural icon. Even though his newest release wasn’t as artfully curated, it still carried as much momentum as ever before for the Toronto-native. I mean… “Views,” did manage to go quadruple platinum in just over seven months. That should be proof enough for just how good it was.
3.) A Tribe Called Quest, “We’ve Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”
Since dropping their debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythms,” A Tribe Called Quest has made sure that every album they release both carries a progressive tone and challenges the art-form of hip-hop. The group did just that, and even more with “We’ve Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” which stands as their first release in over 18 years.
Just a few years ago it seemed that many fans doubted that another Tribe album would ever even come out, but now that it has we can’t get enough. They’ve reinstated their place in hip-hop’s beautiful history, and they’ve done so without pushing sounds of nostalgia. But what did you expect? The Tribe has never recycled their melodic approach to their music and that’s why they’re so adored by all.
“We’ve Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” already feels like one of those albums which we’ll always remember as being one of the best ever released by A Tribe Called Quest. It’s loaded with tracks that are about as timely as they’ll ever be (I’m referring namely to We The People…), and others that are incredibly thoughtful and inventive.
2.) Kanye West, “The Life of Pablo”
Say what you will about Kanye West, but he can make one hell of an album. We were three years removed from Mr. West’s last release, “Yeezus,” when he dropped “The Life of Pablo” on us and it can’t be understated just how much it was worth the wait. He added another album, with his unique and infectious energy which continues to challenge the game, to his resume.
As always, Kanye produced his tracks off of some of the most noticeable songs in the history of soul, and does everything necessary to make them his own. The whole album feels a little unfinished but it also somehow feels like he put more into it than he did for “Yeezus,” and oddly enough, that leaves us with a more complete overall sound. Thankfully, that sound is a mix of gospel, humor and artistry and probably making itself Kanye’s creative album since “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
“The Life of Pablo,” is absolutely loaded with its star-powered features including acts such as Desiigner, Young Thug, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Sia, Andre 3000, I mean the list goes on and on. Overall, this release is exactly what you’d want, and expect from one of hip-hop’s greatest stars of all time.
1.) Chance The Rapper, “The Coloring Book”
Every once in a while, there comes an album so powerful that almost everyone loves. There’s just something about those releases that, regardless of what genre you prefer listening to they still manage to lighten your soul with a touch of happiness. Well, that’s exactly what “The Coloring Book,” is.
Chance makes it clear from the very first track (All We Got), that his Chicago roots and gospel influences will be a strong presence on the entire mixtape. But that’s not the odd part about this release. The weird thing is that he produced it in such a way, that even atheists can vibe with it. There are solid features on just about every track, but they’re nowhere near unwanted or overused.
It’s just so fascinating how incredibly good this album is. It’s beauty is almost unlimited. It’s creativity is just about unmatched. For the first time since Kanye’s, “The College Dropout.” Honestly, if you haven’t listened to, “The Coloring Book,” from start to finish, then you’re really missing out because Lil Chano From 79th is the present, and the future.