The best of 2016, top 10 hottest albums in Hip-hop and R&B. Did your favorite artist make the list this year?
Another year has passed, 2016 has been nothing but spectacular for music. Albums that were must listen week after week ruled the charts and had critical acclaim. Continuing the tradition from last year, I will reveal my Top 10 Albums of 2016. These are the albums I thought were musically great, had top notch production and were lyrically amazing. It was hard putting this together since a lot of music dropped, but nevertheless, let’s get into it!
(Sidenote: This list consists of albums that I have listened to, there are plenty I haven’t gotten around to (example: Birds In The Trap Singing McKnight) nevertheless, this is my opinion and I believe these are the best.)
10: untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar
Coming off of the best work of his career, (and my number one 2015 album of the year) To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar dropped untitled unmastered out of nowhere, giving us the blueprint of TPAB. As you can hear, the sound and music are drastically different than the final project. But that doesn’t mean this album is an okay project. It’s a demo album that gives us the musician Kendrick aspired to be (listen to “untitled 7”, second half) and shows us where he wanted to go. For sure, the project is unapologetically funky and soulful. It is a flawed album to be taken seriously.
Standout Tracks: untitled 2, 3, 7, 8
9: Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
2016 has been Donald Glover‘s year, from his hit show (a must watch for the culture) Atlanta, to now, his most experimental album to date. Glover dialed into his Funkadelic roots with this half-baked, semi-great psychedelic album. I had high expectations. The single ‘Redbone’ appeared to set up Awaken, My Love! as the funkiest album he’s ever made. Instead, I found a messy sounding project with okay lyrics and I wasn’t impressed. I’m a Funkadelic fan. I understand the weirdly sounding, musical mindset of George Clinton and company.
Awaken, My Love! is a diamond in the rough, and there are tracks that had me revisit this album a few times. The outstanding song is yet again, “Redbone”, the Prince/Camille voice esque, Bootsy Collins bass funk track, will stand the test of time. I’m still peeling layers off of this one.
Standout Songs: “Me and Your Momma”, “Have Some Love”, “Boogieman”, “Redbone”
8: In My Room – Jacob Collider
Now many of you may wonder why a white, young, jazz musician from England ended up on my list? And many of you are wondering, who the F! is Jacob Collider? Well, if I told you this brother wrote all the songs himself, played all the instruments himself, arranged all the vocals himself and produced it himself, and the album is astronomically great, then you’ll see why I placed In My Room at number 8.
Jacob Collider has perfectly created his own sound, blending Jazz, R&B, Folk and a little sprinkle of Funk, to create a project that is a perfect debut album for the world to listen to. The album does stall with the ballads, tend to be long winded and slow, but the lyrics are very beautiful. Please listen to this brother, you will not be disappointed.
Standout Songs: “In My Room”, “Hideaway”, “You and I”, “Saviour”
7: The Life of Pablo – Kayne West
Mr. West, Mr. West, he is a complicated man ain’t he? Started off the year dropping some tracks on Fridays that were reminiscent of G.O.O.D. Fridays, and gave us the first of many hyped albums of 2016 which ended up to be a 70-minute album of an album that I called “an unfinished album”. With the countless track listing changes, the introduction of Desiigner, and countless guest producers that brighten the album (cough cough Chance), Life of Pablo is not great, it’s good, not bad, but very passable.
At this point, Kanye West is going to do what Kanye does and he gave us an album that shows it. The first half of Pablo is great, hell if the first half was the album, it’ll be up there with College Dropout, but the second half drags the album and almost made me lose interest, if “Fade” (which I loved the Chicago House music Kanye was paying homage) wasn’t the second to last song of the album to pick things up. Nonetheless, “Pablo” is the album of an egotistical artist that still delivers decent albums. It is better than “Yeezus”, at least there’s no guest appearance with…God (?)
Standout Songs: “Ultralight Beam”, “Father Take My Hand (Part One and Two), “Famous”, “Waves”, “No More Parties in LA” and “Fade”
6: Lemonade – Beyoncé
2016 is the year of Beyoncé no questions ask. With “Formation” being unapologetically black, the Super Bowl performance, the Lemonade visual on HBO and the tour, Beyoncé is winning. But all that revolved around this album which was…half amazing, half uninteresting. To me, the album was too bland. It felt like Beyoncé wanted to capture every music genre out there, combine it with her musical talents and show us that she can handle anything thrown at her. While pouring everything she has been through since the elevator incident, after a while it got tiring to listen.
Beyoncé (2013) wasn’t like that, she reinvented herself on that album. Lemonade was her personal album and I felt that the lyrics did not match the music at all. But that doesn’t mean it was a terrible album. Not at all. It’s very much far from that. The second half shines better than the first half. Beyoncé fans around the world will and do love this album. To me, it left me wanting more. Okay Beyhive, do your worst.
Standout Songs: “Hold Up”, “Sorry”, “Freedom”, “Formation”
5: Anti – Rihanna
I wonder why nobody gives Anti the credit it deserves? Honestly speaking, this is Rihanna‘s best work that she has ever done. She was personal, sexual, sensual and fun all in one and she was being her. Plus this is the most soulful album she has ever made. The producers she worked with masterfully blended hip-hop, trap soul (that’s a genre now) and R&B all into one.
The second half does get weak (“Woo” how about “Eww”?) and the lyrics can be a bit better. But with songs (overplayed by mainstream radio) “Work”, “Needed Me” and the 1980’s-esque “Kiss It Better”, makes this album great for Rihanna, great for her fans and great for anyone that cares to listen to Rihanna.
Standout Songs: The First Four Songs, “Needed Me”, “Love On The Brain”, “Sex With Me”.
4: Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper
The Chicagoan “apprentice” of Kanye West, and a devout follower of Industry Rule #4080, Chance the Rapper has made it on the mainstream side with his close to perfect mixtape Coloring Book.
A mixtape filled with gospel, love, and happiness, was definitely well needed for 2016. Chance, logically, made sure every feature that was placed on Coloring Book shined to their greatest potential. 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Noname, Young Thug, Jay Electronica (welcome back) and Chance’s cousin Nicole (Can she be signed?) shined on the mixtape. There are a few flaws, particularly the song “Juke Jam” which I really don’t like because of Justin Bieber being on it and brings nothing to the song. That’s just me. But overall, I can’t wait until Chance drops his debut album.
Standout Songs: “No Problems”, “Blessings”, “Angels”, “How Great”, “Finish Line/Drown”.
3: We Are KING – KING
The great Stevie Wonder described KING‘s music the best way ever, LSD R&B. And I could not agree more. KING’s debut album is a lustful, dreamy, high, energetic R&B that keeps you on the edge of your seat for every song.
All the music was done by one woman named Paris Strother – vocals backed by her twin sister Amber and friend Anita Bias. You will hear a sound that challenged my ears to pick up little details placed in their songs. Songs like “The Greatest” or “Red Eye” that ‘brrrrrreeedddssss’ sex, or “Carry On”. They used the studio as their instrument. I’ll go on to say this is the best sonically sounding album all year, even though the mixing and mastering could have been done better. Nevertheless, this album is a must hear and I’m already counting the days until they drop their next album.
Standout Songs: (The whole album? Lol) “The Greatest”, “Red Eye”, “Love Song”, “In The Meantime”, “Carry On”, “The Story”.
2: A Seat At The Table – Solange
If black women had a soundtrack for themselves, A Seat At The Table would be the soundtrack. Solange dropped the biggest, most influential album of 2016, maybe in the decade itself, as it is an unapologetically black from beginning to end. It is basically an album on where she is right now in life and how much she had to go through to finally love herself as a black woman.
The concept itself can be studied upon and you could write many papers on it. But the music and the lyricism of this album is one to behold. It’s a simple, quiet, minuet, neo-soul that over in time, will emerge into another sound that will get better. Songs like “Cranes In The Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, “F.U.B.U.”, the album paints a picture on how beautiful black people are. How wonderful and strong-willed black women are, even if they have their flaws and mess ups because, at the end of the day, they are humans. A much needed album in a much needed time.
Standout Songs: “Rise”, “Cranes In The Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, “F.U.B.U.”
1: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest
2016 was a year of many celebrity deaths we were not ready for Muhammad Ali, Prince, Natalie Cole, but no one expected Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor to pass away like he did in March. He meant a lot to hip-hop, a lot to Queens and a lot to A Tribe Called Quest. Fans had no way of getting over his death except for listening to old songs. Wondering if he still had it in 2016. Well, thanks to Tribe (and Phife’s wife), we can finally hear what Phife had left and he was still on top of his game.
Rightfully titled, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, 18 years after their last album, still got the rhymes, the lines, the flows that fans have long for since “The Love Movement”. Once you hear Q-Tip on “The Space Program” you are greeted with Tribe’s great rapping skills that make you bump your head with the famous Tribe sounds of funk, R&B, and boom-bap New York hip hop drums. The production is great, has a very strong, yet airy mix that is pleasing to the ear. The transitions between songs are amazing (and I live for transitions between songs). This album truly shows, with all the bombardment of trap music, the beauty of what is hip-hop in 2016.
It’s not nostalgic, it’s nowhere near there. Tribe truly showed this generation what Hip-Hop should truly sound like, be heard, be spit, to be influential and not allowing record companies to run hip-hop. Listen to “We The People”, “Dis Generation”, “Kids…” and “Conrad Tokyo”, and notice the rhyme schemes and flow that makes you love hip-hop all over again. Even the guest appearances have killed their verses (Andre 3000 hasn’t lost it at all).
In the end, Tribe has definitely got it from here. Hip-Hop thanks them for influencing the art of Hip-Hop. The community thanks them for blessing them with knowledge and rhymes. We thank them for their service.
That’s my top 10 albums of 2016. Like. Comment. Share if need be. I hope you enjoy reading this.