2016 has been a crazy year for music; and, with a gross political divide and draining presidential campaign in the US, it was much appreciated. There were lots of huge projects this year, and an almost daunting amount of content that passed across my desk over the last 365, but I managed to narrow it down to the top 10 albums that graced my headphones. Honourable mention to J Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only, which more than lived up to the hype.
If you didn’t give these albums a fair shake, fire up Apple Music and press play!
Meek Mill — DC4
DC4 has crazy production, a-game contributions from the likes of Quavo, Thugger, Pusha T, and the late Lil’ Snupe — along with French Montana — on the mixtape Outro. If you didn’t like Milly before, you probably wouldn’t like him now, but I’m not sure he cares. For those who either have been fans for a minute or are impartial in all the alienating and distracting non-music nonsense, DC4Life is a dope listen. Check out my full review here.
ScHool Boy Q — Blank Face
Q is the product of the California sun-kissed, gang-ridden streets — and that always comes across in his music. But he’s also made it out and is in a position where he’s making serious cash alongside the biggest crew in the game. He’s making [his] world a better place for his daughter to grow up in. Blank Face is a lot of the same old ScHoolboy you’ve come to love — but with a dose of newfound retrospective [know better do better] sentiment in the mix. All in all, he’s made his growth apparent; It’s an excellent sequel to a noteworthy debut. Check out my full review here.
Smoke DZA & Pete Rock — Don’t Smoke Rock
I was made privy to the existence of this Smoke DZA and Pete Rock collabo while it was still in it’s early phases—and was highly anticipating an incredible record. It didn’t disappoint; it was a Pete Rock sounding as hungry as he did while making Petestrumentals, and Smoke DZA achieving super-seyan. It’s full blown NYC hip-hop at it’s finest, with an exciting cast of supporting characters. Check out my full review here.
A$AP Ferg — Always Strive & Prosper
I was a Ferg fan from the jump. Records like “Shabba Ranks,” “Work,” and “Dump Dump” were iTunes mainstays for me; but his new record, Always Strive & Prosper did more to open him up as an artist in my opinion. After three solid listens to the 18 song effort, I felt as though I was more into Ferg as a person; he gave listeners a chance to get to understand him a bit more clearly. From an ode to his block and professions of love to dealing with the loss of Yams—the record had a little of everything. Check out my full review here.
Hodgy — Fireplace:TheNotTheOtherSide
Hardcore fans were saddened to watch as their beloved Odd Future crumbled before their eyes—the nail in the coffin being the public fallout of Tyler and Hodgy Beats. Hodgy—who dropped the ‘beats’—decided to step out on his own, and the results were surprisingly dope. I walked the line with the OF catalog, but this album was focused, mature, and a fantastic debut for the (still) young emcee. Rumor has it he’s working on a collabo with Nelly Furtado next. Check out my full review here.
Kanye — The Life of Pablo
Kanye has had a roller coaster year, no matter how you slice it; however, he still managed to channel his “genius” into the highly anticipated TLOP. Conceptually—as a top to bottom listen—it’s amazing. Love or hate Yeezy, his strength (from a listener’s perspective) is his OCD-level of meticulousness when sequencing his albums. This has an oddly ‘rough’ feeling to it, which is hard to explain, but it adds charm. Whether or not you were thrown off by his last album, which was quite polarizing [TBH], this was Kanye returning to a more palatable level of dopeness.
ATCQ — We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
I’ll be honest and admit that I was also privy to the fact that Tribe was working on an album long before it was announced. I was sworn to secrecy—and my ‘mole’ will remain nameless. 18 years later, and this album was everything we wanted it to be. After a tough week for those of us who had to watch (with heavy hearts) as Trump—for lack of a better term—”trumped” the election, this album helped to make the monumental week a little brighter. I’d be Denise not to mention that I was in my feelings listening to this album. It will stand as a final effort from the original iteration of the group, and a monument to hip-hop culture. RIP Phife. Check out my full review here.
SnowGoons — Goon Bap
There aren’t many albums like Goon Bap these days. If you have an affinity towards 90s hip-hop and you haven’t yet taken in this CD yet, you’re missing out—in a major way. The production is timeless, and the curated guest list does a remarkable job of bringing together legends like the late Pumpkinhead and younger acts, like Pun’s son Chris Rivers, to create a cohesive top to bottom boom-bap smorgasbord with few loose ends. Also, “The 90s Are Back” features Psycho Les, Dres, Sticky Fingaz, Nine, Ras Kass, and more on one record—epic is an understatement.
The Avalanches — Wildflower
To understand the work that went into this album is to know the love and care that the group puts into their craft. Recorded over the period 16 years, amongst illness, [inner] comings and goings, sample clearance issues, and a lack of rumors, the album is a masterpiece, and one of the finest examples of plunderphonics you’re likely to find. If you’re a fan of producers like J.Rocc, you need to get up on this album — immediately. Read my full review here.
De La Soul — And The Anonymous Nobody…
Although they haven’t released an official album since 2004’s The Grind Date, it’s unfair to say De La Soul weren’t active for the past 12 years. They were festival mainstays performing for excited fans who had come into their own along with the group through the early 1990s. They didn’t feel pressure to make new material and the Anonymous Nobody… is organic in the best way possible. It came about from both sheer crowd-sourced demand and the trio’s undying love of the art itself. Nothing here is rushed, forced or out of place. The album doesn’t try to fit into any box for the purpose of selling records. Hell, the records were pre-sold, so stakes weren’t that high. But they still put together one of their strongest efforts yet. Check my full review for XXL magazine.