Where personally & professionally, I felt like I had a great year, when it came down to this blog, I feel like I did disappoint because I didn’t bring as much content to the forefront like I used to, and for that, I do apologize. Having been focused on growing within my art, I really treated the blog like a hobby, but it’s not going anywhere. The words will still come, and hopefully they’ll still stick with you guys & gals. For music, this was really a great year and many projects that jumped out (especially in the 4th quarter) happened to give me the positive notion that despite that happenings in mainstream music, there’s a shift in what the people want to hear and the tide is changing for the better heading into 2017 (or at least one can hope so). I certainly wrote up on a few of the gems that I listened to a on a regular (Malibu, Blank Face LP, A Seat at the Table just to name a couple), but I’m well aware that I didn’t give the same respect to albums that were very deserving, so allow me to drop some words on 10 projects that I should have earlier, if I may please. I wouldn’t call this a list, more like ‘The Honourable Mentions That Were Missed,’ if you’ll indulge me, here goes.
Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine
Right off the bat, I need to show love to the man who used to be “Easy Mac with the cheesy raps” (thank you Loaded Lux), because he dropped one of the best albums this year across the board, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed (despite which certain entities may tell you). I don’t know what type of love life Mac Miller has currently, but whatever & whomever inspired him to make this record, bless their souls. The groove from top to bottom having features with Bilal, Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar, and CeeLo Green switched up the expectations for this one, and overall it took me by (pleasant) surprise. Whether it’s Dang! with the two-step to glory, or the combination of Stay & Skin back to back, which still gives me goose bumps, there’s a courageous showing of strength when a man can openly express the love of a woman in a way where there’s no disrespect, and the narrative is pure. It’s an album I’m sure will age well over time, because there’s no timestamp on it. The only song that had to grow on me the most was Cinderella, because I’m not a huge Ty Dolla $ign fan, and it longer than it should have been, but outside of that, it’s a great album).
Travis Scott – Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
I’ve seen a lot of people call this album one of the best of the year, and I’ve seen more people say that this is Travis’ worst one yet (which I don’t agree with at all). Regardless of how you feel about it, there is no denying that this is a dope project all around. First of all, you put an Andre 3000 verse like the one he laid out on the ends on any album released in 2016, and it automatically elevates your product. Given the context how dark it is (Vanessa aka STDY MBBN from Gyalcast broke it down well in conversation), it not only set the tone of the album’s gloom & doom, but it also let people know (if they didn’t know already from his Solo verse on Blonde) that 3Stacks has never fallen off. Outside of the first song, to have features of CuDi, Kendrick, 21 Savage, and Quavo (I know Young Thug is on it too, but meh), there’s a healthy blend of sounds that still all funneled into Travis’ lane and that’s what made it stand out. Goosebumps, outside, sweet sweet, biebs in the trap, sdp interlude, and guidance (tantalization nation) lead the charge on my personal favourites, but I can listen to the album top to bottom with no effort. The lyricism of Travis Scott should not be one to overlook, because he can lay down bars, and as an artist as a whole, he’s truly provided influence in the game already and should be respected as such. This album is merely an example of his capabilities.
John Legend – Darkness & Light
It’s effortless for John Legend to do no wrong, and you can go all the way back to Get Lifted if you need proof. Love In The Future was a fantastic album that I think a lot of people either didn’t hear about or they simply overlooked it, but this is a solid follow-up, and usually there would be some drop off in doing so, but when you look at the fact that it’s been 2 years between albums and it popped up out of nowhere (like damn near every other album in 2016), it’s great to hear good R&B coming from somewhere. Penthouse Floor is the single, but it isn’t the best song (thankfully). If Right By You, the beautiful tribute to his daughter, doesn’t put you in your feelings and make you want to hold your child, Godchild, Cousin, etc., then I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t relate on an emotional level yet, but you’ll always wonder what your offspring will be like when they’re born. You have one job in their lives and it’s to guide them where they’re relatively free from harm’s way in a world that can be so cruel (again, like we’ve seen damn near all year). On the album overall, there are elements of Gospel, Funk, Blues, all wrapped up in a way where John delicately places it at our feet waiting for us to open in wonderment, and to that I say thank you.
The Weeknd aka Abel Tesfaye the Scarborough Legend – Starboy
Abel is King. Why? Because. End of review.
Alright, not really, but he’s not here for the play play ting, yuhzeeit. All wa gwan, you don’t even know that man like Abel are out here grimy, teefing out next man’s gyal and ting, and if he doesn’t rate you, you’re well lock off. Money game proper, whip game proper, like he doesn’t even see mans anymore. Man is out here dolo cutting off the plant that was on his headtop and was like yow, ‘ear wha, mi nuh inna di fuckry ting, unnastan?” And true say, I rate him heavy because although the man went all Pop & ting and bare people are like “yo is Abel good, like what is this shit?” I understand, but at the end of the day, he’s getting bare gwap, the gyaldem are still skinning out and doing lines in the bathroom at Lost & Found, and the man’s looking for a one gyal to hold him down and be like “yo don’t even worry fam, we’re Gucci.” Party Monster? Banger. Reminder? Dangerous. Sidewalks? Banger. False Alarm? NIZE DAT! I had to lock off the chune so swift, because 2 2s the video is wicked, trust me, but dat chune alone? Nah boom. Had to cut dat ASAP, a real ting. Regardless of how you feel like, more times we all know House of Balloons is the best thing he’s put out, seen? But in the post-Kissland phase of his career, and following Beauty Behind The Madness, which set off the new sound that drew him more & more unnecessary Michael Jackson comparisons, he’s gunning for the throne, and to have him repping the Borough while doing all that? It’s tun up. Straight goods.
A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
First and foremost, rest in peace Phife Dawg. We lost the legend early in 2016, and as a beautiful tribute to the contributions he made along with the Tribe over the past couple decades, ATCQ came through and dropped a genuine work of art. You start off with The Space Program, you throw in Solid Wall of Sound (my personal favourite), Kids… (hello Andre 3K again), the boom bap of Black Spasmodic & Ego, and have the audacity to end it on a high note that is The Donald? Ah beg, ATCQ, why you do this? A common trend that I am finding more appeasing is that many projects aren’t listing their features as much, so whenever you listen to the album as a whole, you’re greeted with a pleasant surprise. Kendrick Lamar & Anderson .Paak making appearances was dope in itself, but even if the album had no features and was just Tribe with the soul of Phife, it would have a been a magnificent stand out on its own. For those who are stuck in the 90s, or even those who embrace just having a heavy beat with a simple rhythm, there’s a lot to love about this album. The embracing of love & unity while still keeping it 100 and pointing out the social injustices that we face daily, it’s Hip Hop by definition, and it is us who is thanking them for their service to us. For providing music that will live on well after we pass away into the afterlife. A Tribe Called Quest will live forever.
Common – Black America Again
Having watched 13th and having embraced more Black literature this year, I personally felt like I grew more within my Blackness in my adult life, and I’m appreciative of that. I’m growing my hair out, I’m becoming more conscious, and I’m speaking out to advocate for more diversity everywhere; I’m doing my best, I should say. It’s always a continuing road for improvement. For the ones looking for a healthy word to push your forward in whatever range your militancy is with your Blackness, Common has proven to be a consistence voice of those people, and this album is a testament to his craft being put to work. I don’t know why I skipped over listening to Nobody’s Smiling, but I’m glad that I took the hiatus since The Dreamer/The Believer to refresh me of the good that Common can drop when he’s in his bag. It was great to hear the likes of BJ the Chicago Kid & Syd (not the kid anymore) on this album, because those are young voices that are coming into their own and getting the recognition from their older peers that they rightfully deserve. Common & Bilal are going to collaborate forever, obviously, and when John Legend lends a hand, it’s always something noteworthy of sitting down and listening to in any capacity. There wasn’t a lot of talk of this album, but it’s one that I’d recommend people going out to listening to, without a doubt.
Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
No word of a lie, I had the first paragraph written up for what was supposed to be a standalone review, open on another document, but I feel like I’ll be doing it justice if I drop some bars here. TDE is notorious for making the fans wait for the good music that they so effortlessly put out (These Days being the only lackluster project in recent memory), and even more so frustrating with Isaiah because when you come out with your debut as Cilvia Demo, the unexpected fire that it was, you just wanted more. 2 years later, we finally received, and it wasn’t what I expected because where Cilvia had more hits and ground-shaking sounds, Tirade was on the more mellow side, while at the same time introspective as Zaywop stepped into a new light personally; clean & sober. It was threatening not only his life, but his career as well, and I’m glad he received the necessary wake up call to make that change in his life. Did that have an effect on his music? We don’t know, but it was more laid back this time around, and it took more time for this one to grow as opposed to Cilvia, but only because he set the bar so high, which is never a bad thing. I was surprised was that Nelly & Smile weren’t on the album, because sonically, I felt like they fit and any one of the two could have replaced Don’t Matter, because although I appreciate the contribution by Lance Skiiiwalker, it threw off the sound of the album as a whole, just for that one. A lot grew on me, so if you asked me about a month ago, I would have taken that off too. The Southern flavour came out in full force, where you really had to take in the album as opposed to just casual listening. A great attribute to Isaiah’s skillset is that he’s able to layer up his rhymes to relate them to the everyday common man without having to dumb down anything. It’s simple, direct, and to the point. Production was golden above all. Bday, AA, Brenda (arguably the best song on the album to me), Dressed Like Rappers (a very close 2nd favourite) all leave a good feeling to your ear drums, and there are solid features for the TDE label mates, and also Syd, to make this one of the best projects to come out this year, hands down – 6:30.
NAO – For All We Know
Because, obviously I’m human and I miss things and it technically isn’t my job to look for new music and whatnot, there were definitely gems that I missed and caught up with late in the year (Ari Lennox’s PHO EP is another jewel worth mentioning). NAO’s debut album is one that I’m glad that I got around to listening before the end of the year, because I was definitely familiar with her voice and her work, so an LP from her should have been on my radar earlier. If you didn’t look her up on the internet, how the hell would you ever guess that she’s from London? One way would be the sound of her music. You can’t point to many artists, never mind female artists that sound like this in the Western Hemisphere, and it’s fantastic. They have been brewing hot fire across the pond for a while, and I’m glad that it’s starting to be noticed on our end, although there have been people in North America (I’ll just say Canada exclusively) that have been advocating for their top quality since the days of Craig David (who needs to drop a solo album, especially after his appearance on 99.9%). NAO’s voice sent me back to the days of 90s R&B, because it stands out in the brightest way, and the way the production just elevates it in way that you can get a mean two-step in (I know, I’m obsessed with music that makes me dance), there’s a lot to love about this album. The album itself is a demonstration of the hard work that NAO has put in to get to this point, which explains the Voice Memos that were thrown in to connect the rough drafts to the finished products; I liked that a lot. Adore You gave me a Miguel vibe as if she was responding to Adorn, and I would be down for the two to collar. Inhale Exhale & Bad Blood are older songs that were many people’s first introduction to her music, but they still hold up on the album that will catapult her into more conversations, especially as her debut grows over time. This is an underrated piece of music that a lot of lists from major publications overlooked. I slept – you don’t have to. Take it in.
Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
You want to talk about MVP candidates of 2016, Childish Gambino was already in the conversation for simply giving us Atlanta, but when he dropped this album out of the sky as well, it really put him in the category of ‘Best People of 2016’ with no hesitation. Random, is the only word that can be used when talking about how it all came about, but ‘amazed’ is the word I was left with when I finished my first listen. Questlove tweeting that he had to wake up D’Angelo at 4am to get him to listen to it, is one of the best reactions I’ve read to anything in a while, but it was very necessary. To open it up with Me And Your Mama, with such force and then end it off on a calming note to only get into the funk of it all, it wasn’t what anyone expected at all, and I think that was the best thing about it – the usher randomness of it all. Redbone is going into the BBQ/Cookout Hall of Fame, and it’s not even Summer in certain areas on Earth yet to enjoy it, but I’m putting my foot down on that already. Your face might screw up to paralysis because of the smoothness that oozes out for no reason. I don’t appreciate being caught off guard with these vibes. It awakens (ha ha) the soul, and spirits old & young can both enjoy this experience. Solange sung about things being for us, and with music this year from very notable people, a lot of the music was directly for us, and Black people would be that us that I refer to. It’s cinematic, emotional, empowering, and although one would call it being dated since it speaks to the George Clinton era of music, it’s appreciated that in a lot of music since To Pimp a Butterfly graced us with its presence, funk is reviving as a mainstay in music, and that’s something to be very excited about. Stand Tall is an emotional send off that capped off the greatness that not even a 4 year long wait for Frank Ocean could measure up. The messaging in that song alone gives you hope that people will look at life more as an opportunity for success than just an everlasting burden. Thank you, Gambino.
There were many choices for my 10th album to pick (Do What Thou Wilt by Ab-Soul, Rage & the Machine by Joe Budden, 4 Your Eyes Only by J. Cole, and even Yes Lawd by NxWorries), but I think the only album that came out late in the game gave me the urge to write about it off the rip.
Hodgy – Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide
He dropped the ‘Beats’ but kept the fire that was running inside of him the whole time going back to The Dena Tape in the old Odd Future days. I actually had no idea he was dropping an album until the night of, and I immediately rushed to listen to it. Boy, let me tell you something. There was a running debate as to who the best Rapper in OF was, for a long time. It was between Earl Sweatshirt & Domo Genesis for a while, but many people overlooked Hodgy. Hodgy was always nice, but because of a few duds that were the MellowHype projects, he was cast aside. When he went solo though, I think more people started to understand, or even when it was just tracks with him and Tyler. The point is, Hodgy has always held his own, and if you need proof, the Untitled EPs are good places to start. It’s great to hear Hodgy rapping again, and the production he spit over on this album gave life on the debut solo effort. Having solid verses from Busta Rhymes (did he grow his hair back or something?) and Lil Wayne (who’s been rapping inspired for a minute now) certainly elevate this product, and it’s one reason why I keep telling people to listen to this album. Final Hour, Laguna, Tape Beat, Dreaminofthinkin, and The Now are my picks to listen to, and that underdog title is hanging off his shoulder. It’s very exciting to see where Hodgy will go from here. We’re in a good place in Hip Hop, I believe it. Don’t be led astray by the temporary waves.
Like I said before, this are just a few albums from this year that I didn’t give the proper respect and I knew I wouldn’t have been able to get to everything I wanted to, so in 2017, you’ll see more reviews from at least projects released in December (Soulo & Cole will get their own reviews). I’m glad you stuck around for another year as this blog is about to turn FIVE! Can’t believe it. Thank you very much, but for now, and as always, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX