2015 was a strong year for artists, both on the charts and under the radar. I found something exciting to check out nearly every week. But who has the time to read a list of 25 or 50 dope records? I don’t have the minutes in a day to create one, and if we’re keeping to 100%, you don’t have the patience to get through it. Year-end lists are meant to create some dialog, some Twitter beef, some hate mail. So let’s get it. Here are my top 5 most influential records of 2015. Tweet, tweet, tweet.
Vince Staples- Summertime ’06
Staples created a haunting, sparse, cinematic soundscape of an emerging and progressive young West Coast with Summertime ’06, the most fascinating double offering of 2015. It’s packed with twenty bangers that should keep King Kendrick pushing his pen with real purpose to keep his crown. Staples provides a chilling glimpse of his world, which isn’t too different from urban youth across our country, yet his take is blatantly anxious and brimming with an urgency to get up, get out, and get something.
Yelawolf- Love Story
Yelawolf’s entire career has been plagued with a certain identity crisis. The Shady Records resident oddball isn’t quite a b-boy and is too street to be entirely country. So his decision to create a sprawling sophomore record to marry those styles while simultaneously clearing his head was a perfectly executed move. Love Story is a standout project from a man who is artistically capable of balancing a palate of sounds that runs the gamut from Outkast to Johnny Cash.
Pusha T- Darkest Before Dawn
I’m not putting numbers on the board, but if this list was ranked I’d be hailing King Push. Darkest Before Dawn is an apparent prelude to his upcoming 2016 efforts, and it still shits on the entire game. Push is a master chameleon. He’s able to adapt to the trends of hip-hop traffic without compromising for a second. Don’t search the project for a weak spot. Shots fired at all the rappers who’d rather be more famous than rich. Amen.
Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly
A stylized masterpiece of modern hip hop? A vanity project from the game’s most celebrated star? A clever play on the title of Harper Lee’s classic novel rooted in the historically racist south? Who knows. Chop it up how you want, but To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick’s coming out party. We knew he was more soul than a soldier, but this record is a flat out mind-bender of jazz, rap, funk, and straight up West Coast flavor. He continues to raise the bar with each release, creating a ceiling that’s going to be awfully hard to transcend.
Earl Sweatshirt- I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside
Earl is the perfect villain. The anti-rapper who’s a perplexing character with more natural feel on the mic than plenty of 20-year vets. I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside is a record Earl had to get out of his system. Stress, massive expectations, and Odd Future super-stans were all factors in a final product that shapes up as a dense, hyper-personal collection of thoughts and sounds. Play “Faucet” in a pair of headphones to peep where this kid’s head was at while writing the record. When it’s done, play it again. The youth of America.
Mac Miller- GO:OD AM
Mac has yet to find a foothold for a persona that will stick. He tried the stoner thing. He turned to trippy, drug-laced raps for a mixtape or two. But on GO:OD AM he returned to what turned our heads in the first place; clever wordplay and careful songwriting. His classic is still a project or two away, but it’s coming.
A$AP Rocky- At. Long. Last. A$AP
Rocky has always managed to captivate me with each release. He’s an NYC kid, a fashion killer, and a ladies man with a never ending blunt in hand. With At. Long. Last. A$AP he took his namesake (Rakim) to heart, unleashing his most rappity-rap shit to date. The record is packed with memorable moments but is ultimately weighed down by its pursuit of greatness.