I’m not consistent at all when it comes to doing end-of-the-year recaps, and I don’t always review everything that comes my way, because you know, life gets in the way, but certainly that doesn’t mean that I’m above acknowledging the great music that has come out this year this far. Some projects (LPs, EPs or mixtapes) that have dropped this year, I’ve reviewed, but others I haven’t. In no particular order, here are 14 projects that you should have and why. Enjoy.
P.S – if a particular album or mixtape you like isn’t on here, it isn’t necessarily because I don’t like it, this is just what I’m feeling. I shouldn’t have to say this, but people get in their feelings. Proceed.
99.9% – Kaytranada
This is one of the best albums to come out this year, and I hate that there hasn’t been a lot of recognition for it. It’s probably a heavy hitter in the UK because of the House vibes that it brings, but from start to finish, there’s nothing but hit after hit, especially with features from Craig David (!!), Vic Mensa, and Anderson .Paak (who is having himself one hell of a year). Whether it’s in the car or in your home, there’s nowhere you can’t go where you pop this in and just vibe out.
Twenty88 – Big Sean & Jhene Aiko
Regardless of how you feel about them, their chemistry has been undeniable for a few years now, with their collaborations here and there. From Beware, I’m Gonna Be, and I Know being some examples of what they could do together (not to mention Jhene borrowing Sean’s main producer Key Wane for Mirrors) I was thrilled that they came together to not only drop an album (surprisingly), but accompanied it with their robotic love short film. It only added to their mysterious relationship, which they haven’t exactly come out and made official, but we all know wa gwan.
It Is – JMSN
I took a leave of absence in regards to JMSN’s music, because for the most part, it’s pretty damn dark, and where that’s usually something I gravitate too, he was on a different level. I will admit that I didn’t get a chance to listen to the Blue Album, but It Is (is) all around blissful. From the album’s cover being so vibrant, it is reflected in the music while still having spiteful tracks and he remains in his element of the heartbreak ballads that many know him to deliver.
SEPT. 5TH – dvsn
Man, listen, the Canadian content that has blessed us this year, has been fantastic, and is just an extension from what we’ve been providing in the music world for quite some time now. It’s just great that people are starting to become more hip to it. OVO, as we all know is an R&B label (just face it, it is), and dvsn has to be the best thing to happen to the label since The Weeknd (this is not a comparison, before you start). Too Deep, Hallucinations, Another One; you can really go top to bottom and find haymakers disguised as babymakers. This is a dangerous album, and if you’re one who is an R&B purist, this one is definitely for you. Hands down. The reception has been amazing, and I’m happy for the duo.
3001: A Laced Odyssey – Flatbush Zombies
This group right here, they’re on another level, I swear. They’ve somehow managed to float under the radar for a few years, and have made great music throughout, going back to D.R.U.G.S and following that up with BetterOffDEAD (which could have been better, but it was still dope). I didn’t expect 3001 to be so good, but it certainly was. It was definitely lost in the shuffle of the flurry of music that came out earlier in the year, but you definitely need to check this album out for the sheer fact that between production and lyrical delivery, it’s one of the best you’ll here this year. Straight out of ‘bush, New York’s evolved sound definitely needs to acknowledge the works of FBZ in contributing to that.
In My Mind – BJ The Chicago Kid
The way that I’ve been waiting forever for a BJ project to hit me like Pineapple Now-Laters hit me, this was the one to do it, do disrespect to The M.A.F.E Project, but the soul of BJ the Chicago Kid has been embraced since I first heard him in 2009 (thank you Diz Gibran) and since then with features with TDE. I really thought he was going to sign with them, but him being on Motown makes a lot of sense. I’m glad that he’s getting his shine because he deserves it & has earned it. The album’s standouts have features from some heavy hitters (Church, The New Cupid, Resume), but as a whole, you get the same element that holds true to his style, which is appreciated.
Too High to Riot – Bas
Dreamville has quietly been on a tear with J.Cole’s Forest Hills Drive getting success on all forms (platinum with no features though!), and even Cozz’s debut Nothin’ Personal having surprised me a little (honourable mention). Bas, I’ve popped in and out of listening to his music, but I know he’s always been consistent since hearing him on the Truly Yours projects and eventually getting into Quarter Water Raised Me. Night Job is the hit, but it isn’t the best song on the album. It’s personal and introspective that also gives you another vibe out of New York that wouldn’t resonate with you if you’re going with the boom bap variety (and in 2016, you really shouldn’t be).
Velvet Portraits – Terrace Martin
You can blame Kendrick Lamar for inspiring me to go into a Jazz binge since TPAB released, but I have no regrets. Terrace Martin has always been around, but I wasn’t always hip on his music individually until recently (3ChordFold specifically). Between this album, and The Epic by Kamasi Washington, the saxophone rings out with authority and put my mind at ease. Bringing the elements from the West Coast that inspired the likes of G-Funk and other sounds that we’ve come to know and love thanks to Snoop, Dr. Dre, etc., You can find all that and then some on this album. The features, while not abundant, fit in their places and are key contributors (Oakland & Patiently Waiting though – sheesh). If you’re looking for music that’s a little left field, this is a good one to go for.
untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar
You’re funny if you thought that I was going to make a list that wouldn’t involve Kendrick Lamar. He’s my favourite artist out, so deal with it. Moving on, I didn’t think this was going to be an album that would have seen the light of day because of the live performances that really gave them life. But new Kendrick music is always welcomed, and the fact that some of these songs were made as late as 3 years ago, it says something to the pedigree of his artistry. Untitled 05 is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, and it says another thing that an album of throwaways has a better structure than most albums that were released with “effort” (or lack thereof). Absolutely a must have.
Give Robyn Rihanna Fenty all the Grammy nominations because she came out with fire on this one. It was one of my favourite albums to review this year, and given the various styles that she brought to the table (Consideration, Kiss It Better, Same Ol Mistakes, Close To You), the favourite song changes often but the consistency stays the same. Out of all the albums she’s dropped, this was the first one I ever purchased with my own money. It was that worth it, and it’ll definitely be of no disappointment if you throw it in your music library.
The quickness that I’ve become a fan of this dude has been something serious ever since I heard Suede (which you can find on the Link Up & Suede EP). He’s been having a phenomenal year (which I’ve said before), and to drop this album to start off his run (outside of the features on Dr. Dre’s Compton) it’s been great to watch his ascension in the game and the respect grow. Parking Lot, The Bird, Am I Wrong, and literally countless others just shape that he’s not limited from any style, but really no one is out there doing it like him. It’s easy to project his longevity in music, because he’s very well rounded. You need this album in your life.
The Colour in Anything – James Blake
So basically this is the Frank Ocean album before the Frank Ocean album, and I mean that with the utmost respect for James Blake. He makes great music, and this is most definitely an example of that. If you want to be put in the feels for an extended period of time, look no further because this will grab your soul and twist it into an uncomfortable knot. My Willing Heart is probably one of the most beautiful songs you’ll hear this year, but there’s just so much on this album that it won’t be the only one that sticks to you (if indeed it does).
Detroit has been on one for their contributions to music well before I was born, and I absolutely have my love for some of the artists that call it home. Royce is one of them. Dropping the Trust the Shooter mixtape before the album was a great setup because I didn’t expect to enjoy the album as much as I do. He’s known for his approach of being an open-book with his life, so you get more in-depth with what’s been going on with him if you didn’t know his story to begin with. Filled with skits and great sequencing, it’s one of the more underrated albums to come out and deserve the recognition that I’ve seen it get online. A hidden gem for sure.
Plain and simple, it’s one of the best rap albums this year (I know it just came out, but still) and YG elevated from My Krazy Life to give himself a hard-hitting album from the jump. Given that he had his incident where he got shot, that gave him a new perspective on life, and he gets into that dealing with the paranoia of having people around, and the issue where Black men are known to disregard their mental health, he puts it into bars where it’s therapeutic for him and will certainly do the same for others. He also takes a political stand on the bonus tracks acknowledging his opinion on Donald Trump (accompanied by Nipsey Hussle), and also police brutality. It has a very 90s West Coast feel and for nostalgic purposes, it gets the stamp, but overall, his personal improvement as a rapper made this happen, and it’ll certainly be in the conversation when it comes to the Best-of-2016 lists at the end of the year.
There’s the list. There will definitely be disagreements, so throw in some comments or feel free to put me onto something that you think may get my attention to bring up later in the year. There’s a lot of great music that has come out in the first half of 2016, so this list wasn’t exactly easy to make. If I make a 2016 recap list, it may look different, but for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX