Been a while since the last music post and that’s because finals week is approaching for school and I had to crunch for a bit. I’m winding down to the final days of the semester, so I have a little free time to talk about some of my favorite albums of 2016. Now there was a huge amount of amazing drops this year, and unfortunately my attention was mainly focused on the hip hop spectrum of the “musicsphere”. Granted, I did branch out a bit during the last week or so, and I’m glad to say a few albums along the way have given me some amazing first impressions. So here is my list of favorite albums of 2016 (In no particular order)
1. Kaytranada – 99.9%
Kaytranada has been one of my favorite producers for about 2 years now since my homeboy Chef Scoob put me on. The first remix I heard from him was the K-os Crucial remix he did and from there I was interested. On his soundcloud he’s got many remixes from Summer Madness, to Busta Rhyme’s What’s It Gonna Be?, to Pharrell’s Happy.
He’s got a strong work ethic and his “KaytraToDo” tape has one of my favorite songs of all time, “Club Bang”. Forever on rotation. So hearing him do a full tape this year was amazing news, and it is definitely my #1 favorite album of all time. Which is why I’m talking about it first ironically. Now this tape has a decent list of features including Vic Mensa, AlunaGeorge, GoldLink, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Little Dragon to list a few. And they do what they collectively do best, making this one of the most diverse electronic hip hop album this year. And I can appreciate diversity.
2. The Chainsmokers – Collage EP
I’ve heard of Chainsmokers on the radio during the summer and “Don’t Let Me Down” had a crazy beat during the chorus I was hooked. I normally don’t get attracted to radio music but luckily enough I caught onto this gem and didn’t have it shoved down my throat everyday during my summer camp job. It was popular but not popular enough for me to have recognized them by name. So I decided to pick them up months after summer had ended. Collage is a 5 track EP so it’s short and sweet and really showcases what this duo is about. They do an fantastic job with blending rock with smooth and active electronic beats and rhythm. Sprinkle a some melodic vocals and you got yourself a record worth listening to on repeat. Halsey’s feature on “Closer” even got a nominee for the Grammy’s next year so it’s worth checking out if that meant anything to you.
3. Dave East – Kairi Chanel
Another artist I put on my radar during summer camp. A guy who was working from another company that does props and carnival balloons and rides got in a music discussion with me and my cousin. And he mentioned Dave East since they’re both from Harlem and the name rang a bell from the 2016 XXL cypher. He was one of a the few people who showed up on that class that I thought could actually rap and that was enough for me to consider looking him up. And boy he’s got content for days. He’s got 9 mixtapes (not including Kairi Chanel) and 1 EP since 2010 and they are chock full of tracks the word pick and choose is an understatement.
But out of all of those mixtapes I found Kairi Chanel to have more fluid and professional sound then just getting some beat and spitting bars on it. Not that the mixtapes are horrible but they’re such a hit and miss it’s hard for me to recommend them. But this one is grounded with 14 tracks of what sounds like dedication and storytelling. We have a few note worthy features on here like 2Chainz, Benie Seigel, and Cam’Ron for starters but Dave shines the brightest on this tape among his peers. People debate on what happened to the “New York” sound, but East can silence those words and say hip hop has returned back to the city and it shines bright in Harlem.
4. A$AP Ferg – Always Strive and Prosper
Now A$AP Ferg has always been a hit and miss with me and I figured I’d pick up this tape ONLY because his singles really reeled me in. “New Level” was such a conscious celebration of finally becoming successful especially after Trap Lord that it was relateable and easily a banger in it’s own right. But after the “Let It Bang” video I was sold immediately. First by the sound of “Psycho” playing at the beginning of the video which brought me back to a old school sound of gritty hip hop with a more deeper tone of lyricism. And then the simple rap flow that followed by ScHoolboy Q’s amazing performance as a feature. Let It Bang is flawless and that is already 3 tracks off the album I was already ready to put on rotation well before the album release. The album remains consistent with it’s ability to drop bangers, remain trap heavy and yet conscious during the 2nd half of the tape. It shows that even Ferg has some political views on the world despite his need to talk about fame and women. And that shows character.
5. Anderson Paak – Malibu
Paak came out of nowhere in 2015 and had a few features on Dre’s “Compton” album and his name became more and more familiar as the year came closer to an end. And thus when his album dropped in early 2016 it was time to give him a try and what a delight it was. Malibu is a work of a musician and it shouldn’t be considered as nothing but art. It’s fluent in painting a picture and melting sounds together with his vocals that it’s like drinking a smoothie. It’s easy to absorb and it’s soulful, only using instruments pure and real mixed in with synths to make such a wonderful sound. Now why was he added to the 2016 XXL Class as a rapper? Who knows. He’s more musician than he is rapper and I’ll hold him to that esteem.
6. Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
Aesop has had a huge appeal on me since his track “None Shall Pass” graced me on a youtube Modern Warfare 2 montage by a professional video game player named Optic Hecz. Now 2009 through 2010 was a big on montages since it’s growth in popularity thanks to Modern Warfare 2 exploding onto the Youtube platform, and being an avid gamer I enjoyed watching the gameplay but I enjoyed the music choices even better. Loved Skelethon in 2012 and surprised by the Hail Mary Mallon drops especially “Bestiary”.
So this was a well received album for me, giving me all things I love about Aesop and then some. Plus he got to perform for the first time on a mainstream outlet (On the Stephen Colbert Show) which was cool to see.
7. Tycho – Epoch
Tycho has been a well appreciated artist I’ve discovered of the electronic variant with such a wonderful and unique sound. His incorporation of guitar and drums in Awake was phenomenal and his chill wave sounds in Dive were no pushover either.
But this time around he added drums to the sound and it was just the addition I needed in my life right now. I was quite frustrated with how late I was at discovering his release of this album, but I am definitely glad I caught it at all. And even better it got a Grammy Nomination for Best Electronic Album of the Year too so I’m putting my hopes on this project and Tycho.
8. 6LACK – Free 6LACK
6LACK was a wonderful surprise in my discovery for contemporary R&B. And boy is his first tape bass heavy. His voice is so low key and melodic as he barely seems to put any real strain to resonate with the music as he sings his disposition on topics like romance, trust, and moral expectations. Which is a good thing for an artist to discuss on such a platform, and he does an amazing job with collectively putting it together for a first tape for us to listen. Easily a recommendation for anyone looking for newer R&B sounds post artists like Bryson Tiller & Kehlani.
These were definitely the highlights of the year but I do got a few shout outs to give out for some amazing projects through the duration of 2016. These were easily interchangeable with being on the Top Favorite Albums of the year if I didn’t think this list needed to be more condensed.
Those shout outs include:
ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face
Logic – Bobby Tarantino
Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
Travi$ Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
Baauer – Aa
Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component
Zhu – Generationwhy
Chaz French – These Things Take Time
Snakehips – All My Friends
Royce Da 5’9 – Layers
Either way this year has been chocked full of really amazing content and more to come already in the works. J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyes Only is already sonically fabulous, and Ab Soul’s DTDW might be his best tape yet. Plus with the Hamilton Mixtape, Childish Gambino’s no rapping yet funkadelic Awaken, My Love!, Cudi on the rise and Yasiin Bey soon on the loose, we’re going to be quite busy and satisfied for a while. Granted we deserve this after what hell of a fallout 2016 turned out to be and can’t wait for the start of the new year.
Leaves the question of what were your favorite albums of 2016?