The Year 2016 was a year that will undoubtedly go down as one of the most trying times in recent human history. Social unrest and complete upheaval were the norm for the past 365 and a unusually high number of celebrity deaths accented a year that was full of personal lows for many people, myself included. The music that came out in 2016 offered a mixed range of emotions. While some gave off jubilant vibes, others took on a more somber, darker tone and it created a unique listening experience. Without further delay, here are the Top 25 Albums of 2016.
25. Anonymuz- Vice City
This project was the first time I had ever heard of Anonymuz but I was pleasantly surprised. His unrelenting flow and lyrical ability coupled with superb production made this a very enjoyable listen and I implore you all to give “Vice City” a spin.
2016 saw Drake catapult into the “Hip-Pop” stratosphere with is most commercially successful album to date. I do find it a bit ironic that this has to be my least favorite of his projects, but hey 4 million+ love this album so what do I really know right?
23. Gucci Mane- The Return of the East Atlanta Santa
2016 also saw the return of Radric Davis otherwise known as Gucci Mane or The East Atlanta Santa. When he was released from prison he hit the ground running and dropped three separate albums with this being my favorite of the three…Here’s hoping that Guwop stays with this trend of improving with the music so we can get the ultimate Gucci album that we’ve all been waiting for.
22. Kanye West- The Life of Pablo
Kanye is a genius for better or worse. He’s also one of the most polarizing figures in the culture. Although this album was an improvement over “Yeezus” ,it’s still hit or miss with a lot of people…I for one will continue to support and I hope he’ll find his way back to the music soon.
21. The Lox- Filthy America….It’s Beautiful
After years of waiting, Hip-Hop heads were finally treated to a proper Lox album. To say it was worth the wait might be a bit of an overstatement as many expectations were not met. But the album served its purpose as it held down long time fans of the group and introduced younger fans to a trio that stood the test of time.
21. Bj the Chicago Kid- In My Mind
Bj is a very talented singer and songwriter. I was more than pleased listening to this album as he displayed all of his talents and brought them to the forefront. This project is a slow burn but will age very well if you give it a chance.
20. Rapsody- CROWN
Rapsody took absolutely no prisoners on this EP. Every song was lyrical and thought-provoking. To me this was a declarative statement that if ANY rapper, man or woman wants the proverbial “crown” they are going to have to run it by her first.
19. James Blake- The Colour In Anything
Every one that I ran this album by..left me scratching their heads…I know it’s not for everybody but this is poetry. The melodies, the lyrics, the vocal inflections, all make for a very enjoyable listen if you’re into the more nuanced side of R&B .
18. De La Soul- and the Anonymous Nobody
De La Soul are underground heroes…I say that because they have consistently dropped stellar material for years and have managed to remain relevant organically…and this album is a testament to their endurance.
17. Elzhi- Lead Poison
Elzhi has to be one of the most underrated lyricist in Hip-Hop today. The way he crafts his bars and uses them to create sonic masterpieces is truly remarkable..And I haven’t heard it done quite like him. Go listen to this album NOW!
16. Common Black America Again
Black America Again saw a return to form for the “Conscious MC” known as Common. I personally favored “Nobody’s Smiling” and its grim/bleak tone but this album felt like the rainbow after the storm. And that is where it’s brilliance lies.
15. Beyonce- LEMONADE
Truth be told, Lemonade made me a Beyonce fan. This project could have been easily a series of Top 40 anthems and no one would have been mad because she is a brilliant entertainer. I feel that she made a conscious effort to go against the grain and make music that resonated with all women of color.
14. Kid Cudi- Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’
Kid Cudi was at a crossroads in his career. With the less than favorable reviews of his previous effort “Speeding Bullet to Heaven”, Cudi realized that his core was alienated and he had to return to a sound and feeling that was more familiar. He achieved that with this record, a sound scape that can only be described as a kaleidoscope of emotions. I love it.
13. Isaiah Rashad-The Sun’s Tirade
Isaiah Rashad continued the trend of stellar releases under the T.D.E. umbrella with The Sun’s Tirade. Not relying on the star power of the label’s “stars” Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q, Rashad was able to carve out his individual sound and simultaneously gained traction among the Top Dawg faithful that were solely fans of the other artists on the roster.
12. Pete Rock & Smoke Dza-Don’t Smoke Rock
Pete Rock is without question on the short list for greatest producers of all time. Once he decided to team up with underground stalwart Smoke Dza, the response was universally positive. The pairing is surprisingly organic and it gave me some of Smoke Dza’s strongest lyrical performances to date.
11. J Dilla- The Diary
Everyone that knows me knows J Dilla is the G.O.A.T. The steady output of posthumous releases in the 10+ years since his death only solidifies his status as the greatest producer to ever live.
10. Chance The Rapper- Coloring Book
If 2013’s “Acid Rap” was a benchmark for the new generation, then 2016’s “Coloring Book” was the preface of whats to come in the future. Although there was a slight departure in actual “raps” he more than made up for it with songs that resonated deeply within the culture.
9. Travis Scott- Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
Travis Scott was quoted as saying “I wanted to get straight to the point with this album”. Did he ever…Every track blended together seamlessly and this ended up being his most complete project thus far.
8. Ab-Soul- Do What Thou Wilt
Soul Brother No. 2 returned to the fray with a bold statement to make. That he is a lyrical tyrant that’s not to be messed with. As a wordsmith he’s easily top 10 in the game period. You can tell he actually listened to his fans and gave them what they wanted, which was supreme lyricism.
7. Maxo Kream- The Persona Tape
Maxo Kream is a talented MC. Even with his content being less than desirable to the purist out there, they would be hard pressed to say that he is not a force to be reckoned with. His rapid fire flow and the unrepentant lyrics heard on this album prove that there is such a thing as lyrical “Trap Music” and he’s probably best out at the current moment.
6. Anderson .Paak- Malibu
I’ll admit I was late to the Anderson .Paak train as I only just started hearing him on Dr. Dre and Game’s previous projects. Once I got hip and delved into his solo work, what I discovered was a talent that is so raw but yet so progressive that it would be hard to not feel his music on a subconscious level..This album is THAT good.
Solange- A Seat at the Table
Every Solange project has been something special. The perfect blend of love, power, grace, and just all around magic. So it serves as no surprise that ” A Seat at the Table” would be a culmination of all her trials and triumphs. This is literally 2016’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the world is better for it.
4. Childish Gambino- Awaken My Love!
Childish Gambino came from left field with this album, but I mean that in the best way possible. I totally wasn’t expecting this record to be pure funk and soul influenced. Every track oozed with so much saccharin nastiness that you might get an ear infection if you’re not careful. Gambino made George Clinton proud.
I’ve been a long time Game fan so I always knew that at his most focused, Game is Top 5 in the current era of Hip-Hop. People spent a lot of time lamenting over his constant Name-dropping and his chameleon like abilities to rap like whoever was featured on his records. Game put an end to the nonsense and gave his fans and detractors 12 tracks of pure lyrical mayhem with NO features..1992 is hands down my favorite Game album in his entire catalog.
2. ScHoolboy Q- Blank Face LP
1. A Tribe Called Quest- We Got From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
A Tribe Called Quest has a very special place in my heart. Growing up listening to the entire Native Tongue collective taught me individuality. Walking around my house with my hand over my eye mimicking Dave from De La Soul on the “Award Tour” song. Telling my mom I wanted to be a “Dungeon Dragon” for Halloween. Getting into trouble playing on the roof wearing a Seton Hall Jersey. Being so hype to watch The Wayan’s Bros. opening sequence in the later seasons just to hear the chords of “Electric Relaxation”. Losing Phife Dawg this year definitely hurt because for me, Tribe music was the soundtrack of my formative years. Even in early adulthood, hearing the music they created with J Dilla was something that I will cherish forever. This current album was a fitting tribute to brotherhood and overall harmony. It’s bittersweet because in the end, Phife passed on giving us his heart and soul and leaving it all in the booth. Phife…you’re a legend, I want to thank you, Q-tip, Ali Shaheed, Jairobi and everyone who contributed to the sound and shaped my childhood and the childhood of millions of others the world over…..Album Of The Year.