Top 30 Albums of 2016
We made it, folks. The top 30 albums/mixtapes/projects of 2016. What a year. I thank you deeply for being here with me, and enjoy!
30) A$AP Mob – Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends
The Mob finally dropped an album. Filled with party bangers, wavy posse cuts, quick flows and array of colorful guests, this was one of my favorite group efforts of the year. It’s not the most progressive of projects, but I always have fun whenever I put it on. Production is top-notch. Looking forward to Vol. 2!
Fav Tracks: ‘Young Nigga Living,’ ‘Telephone Calls,’ ‘Crazy Brazy,’ ‘Nasty’s World’ & ‘Put That on My Set’
29) Pete Rock & Smoke DZA – Don’t Smoke Rock
One of the top collab projects in recent memory that actually lived up to the hype. Rock crafted some magic behind the boards, and Smoke brought his A-game in the bars department. The guest list is crazy too – as it includes Royce da 5’9″, Cam’ron, Jadakiss, Styles P, Rick Ross, Dom Kennedy, BJ the Chicago Kid, Wale, Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T., theMIND and Dave East. A true New York record.
Fav Tracks: ‘Dusk 2 Dusk,’ ‘Until Then,’ ‘Milestone,’ ‘Hold the Drums’ & ‘Black Superhero Car’
28) Saba – Bucket List Project
The thing I like most about Bucket List Project is just how good Saba’s verses are. He does a lot of singing on the album (all of high quality by the way), so when you do get to hear him spit it’s a worthy occasion. For years now this artist has been showing signs the he is an emerging young phenom, but after this album it’s a bonafide fact. Rather talented at producing as well.
Fav Tracks: ‘Church/Liquor Store,’ ‘MOST,’ ‘Bucket List,’ ‘Symmetry’ & ‘GPS’
27) Denzel Curry – Imperial
Denzel Curry somehow outdid himself again. First, I was blown away by Nostalgic 64 . Then 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms impressed me. But, if I’m being honest, Imperial is in a whole different league. The intro alone will cause your speakers to emit sparks, and I found the full product to be excellent. Top 10 Southern MCs out there now.
Fav Tracks: ‘ULT,’ ‘Zenith,’ ‘Story: No Title,’ ‘Knotty Head’ & ‘If Tomorrow’s Not Here’
26) Mac Miller – The Devine Feminine
Dang! This album was something (see what I did there?). For real though, how the hell did Mac pull this off? I knew he was talented, but this is next level. Rapping, producing and now jazz and R&B!? Mad props to him. Cool that he switched things up and didn’t self-produce any tracks too, added a fresh vibe to it all. Mac is an astounding producer don’t get me wrong, but him having the freedom to focus solely on the vocals fully paid off. Terrific execution.
Fav Tracks: ‘Congratulations,’ ‘Dang!,’ ‘We,’ ‘My Favorite Part’ & ‘God is Fair, Sexy Nasty’
25) Flatbush Zombies – 3001: A Laced Odyssey
This was a highly-anticipated debut for me, one that was years in the making. Between D.R.U.G.S., BetterOffDead and Clockwork Indigo, the Zombies have already proven their worth – establishing themselves as one of NYC’s dopest new hip hop acts. This album almost felt like a victory lap of their progress so far, and each member sounded in prime shape behind the mic. High honors to The Architect for producing it all without any samples. What a feat. Peep the mashup here.
Fav Tracks: ‘Bounce,’ ‘Your Favorite Rap Song,’ ‘Trade-off, ‘This is It’ & ‘A Spike Lee Joint’
24) Travis Scott – Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
Thank you Quavo for giving us one of the coolest album names all year. This was the Travis Scott project I’ve been waiting for. I loved bits and pieces of all his prior work, but they never gelled front to back in my eyes. Birds however ended this pattern, and the whole project was soaked in this fantastic dark Houston sound with a new-trap twist. When you then add in 3 Stacks, K Dot, Cudi, The Weeknd, Thugga, B Tiller, Quavo, 21 Savage and Nav (plus an insane list of beatsmiths) the end result is a rap gumbo of high energy and hazy vibes. Flawless production on here.
Fav Tracks: ‘Pick Up the Phone,’ ‘Goosebumps,’ ‘Sweet Sweet,’ ‘The Ends ‘ & ‘Through the Late Night’
23) Westside Gunn – FLYGOD
Gunn easily ranks as one of the breakout stars from this past year. He dropped a handful of gritty EPs, collabed with numerous New York rap legends and also released this gem of an album. Voice is too recognizable for him to fail, and his ear for beats is just as deadly. He and Conway are leaving no prisoners, Griselda taking over.
Fav Tracks: ‘Mr. T,’ ‘Dudley Boyz,’ ‘Vivian at the Art Basel,’ ’50 in Zenith’ & ‘Bodies on Fairfax’
22) Tall Black Guy – Let’s Take a Trip
A jazz/hip hop/funk/soul super concoction that flew under the radar in 2016. Tall Black Guy has tons of killer music on his Bandcamp, and Let’s Take a Trip may be his greatest achievement yet. This is beyond velvet, or even silk. Black Guy’s smoothness is in its own atmosphere, gliding in and out of the listener’s ear drum. Dilla would be proud.
Fav Tracks: ‘I Will Never Know,’ ‘Rocking From Beginning to End,’ ‘Peace and Love,’ ‘This One is For the Ladies and Gents’ & ‘One Device, One Method, One Thing’
21) Joey Purp – iiiDrops
Right from the kick of the horns on ‘Morning Sex,’ I knew Purp had put out a monster. He exudes confidence as an MC – I honestly think this will age as a Chicago classic. It also is home to an all-star lineup of Windy City/fellow SAVEMONEY artists, featuring theMIND, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. You gotta hear this if you haven’t already!
Fav Tracks: ‘Morning Sex,’ ‘Money & Bitches,’ ‘Cornerstore,’ ‘Escape’ & ‘Winners Circle’
20) Kevin Abstract – American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story
The major thing I took away from this LP was how bare Kevin Abstract is an artist. No topic is off-limits, including everything from his sexuality to his romantic endeavors to his relationship with his parents. Hip hop is also just one of many genres taken on by Abstract on the LP, and he also excels at blending in pop, R&B, alternative and rock into his music. From a critics standpoint, I was rather disappointed to not see this rank high on others’ list. Maybe it just hits me in the right way, but I thought it was spectacular. Kevin took some risks, but they ended up working masterfully.
Fav Tracks: ‘Miserable America,’ ‘Papercut,’ ‘Yellow,’ ‘Echo’ & ‘Empty’
19) Cousin Stizz – MONDA
Ill Smith in the house. Cousin Stizz destroyed 2015 and ’16, dropping two outstanding projects back to back, simultaneously stapling himself as one of faces of Boston’s rap scene. He’s also grown his circle immensely, associating himself with the likes of the A$AP Mob, Maxo Kream and even Chance the Rapper. When your flow, bars, voice and beat selection line up this well, it’s bound to be kick ass. Keep climbing Stizz, the game is your’s for the taking.
Fav Tracks: ‘500 Horses,’ ‘Where I Came From,’ ‘Gain Green,’ ‘Every Season’ & ‘Wanted to Live’
18) Ab-Soul – Do What Thou Wilt.
Not gonna lie, DWTW took a while to sink in for me. Then again, most Soulo projects do. A lot of what he’s saying flies over your head in the first listen, but once you go back and peep the lyrics it all clicks. This album especially. There is so much depth and intelligence packed into his bars that Rap Genius and an encyclopedia are necessary. Ab delivers these scriptures over a diverse grouping of eeire beats, accompanied by everyone from Bas to Rapsody to TDE co-president ‘Punch.’ Pen game is second to none.
Fav Tracks: ‘Lonely Soul/The Law Prelude,’ ‘YMF,’ ‘Portishead in the Morning/HER Wold,’ ‘Huey Knew THEN’ & ‘D.R.U.G.S.’
17) Bas – Too High to Riot
Speaking of Bas, here he is now. Out of everyone on Dreamville, I thought the Queens MC released the best album this year (yes, even more than Cole). This was the first project front-to-back that I thought he completely crushed – not a single bad track. Strong features from J and Cozz, too. Shoulda been on more year ends lists for sure. Iconic title.
Fav Tracks: ‘Methylone,’ ‘Housewives,’ ‘Dopamine,’ ‘Penthouse’ & ‘Night Job’
16) Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component
An album about loving ourselves and one another – how can you hate on that? Helps that Mick is one of the genre’s most talented young artists, but that’s almost besides the point. Yes, the rapping is dirty. Yes, the beats are both varied and consistent. And yes, the features/producers do their thing too. But there is a deeper meaning here. This was Jenkins’ debut. He could have gone any way he wanted to with it. But, above anything, he wanted to spread ideas of peace and togetherness. To me, that’s the greatest honor an artist can do. Not only a stellar album, but also a stellar message.
Fav Tracks: ‘Spread Love,’ ‘Communicate,’ ‘Drowning,’ ‘Plugged’ & ‘The Healing Component’
15) D.R.A.M. – Big Baby D.R.A.M.
If you payed any attention to the music world in 2016 chances are you saw this dude’s name. He took the game by storm – due to his massive hit ‘Broccoli’ with Lil Yachty – and quickly became an online sensation. His debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M. shortly followed the success of ‘Broccoli,’ coming complete with a perfect blend of pop, r&b, soul and hip hop. This album was made for summer, and I cannot wait to throw it on once the warm weather stars again. Real ass music!
Fav Tracks: ‘Outta Sight/Dark Lavender Interlude,’ ‘Cute,’ ‘Broccoli,’ ‘Cash Machine’ & ‘Sweet VA Breeze’
14) NxWorries – Yes Lawd!
I think it was Newton’s third law that said any Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak collab has to be certified heat. Might wanna check my sources, but could’ve sworn I heard that somewhere. These two each had huge years, and something tells me this is just the beginning.
Fav Tracks: ‘Suede,’ ‘Lyk Dis,’ ‘Best One,’ ‘Link Up’ & ‘Another Time’
13) Solange – A Seat at the Table
You know, if you tried to argue that this was the best album all year I wouldn’t try to fight you on it. It’s that good. It wasn’t my personal favorite overall, but I still had to rank it near the top. Solange’s lyrics, singing and awareness are a deadly trio – exquisite use of features as well.
Fav Tracks: ‘Mad,’ ‘Cranes in the Sky,’ ‘Don’t Touch My Hair,’ ‘Borderline’ & ‘Where Do We Go’
12) Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Glistening, soulful, chaotic – how do I describe TLOP? It’s a never-before-done ever-changing live composition of music, with Kanye adding and patching things to it whenever he pleases. The album itself is filled with some of Kanye’s best work in recent memory, and I am still thoroughly pleased with it all the way through upon each listen. Easily has some of the year’s finest production too. Praise Yeezus, he has returned once again.
Fav Tracks: ‘No More Parties in L.A.,’ ‘Real Friends,’ ‘Saint Pablo,’ ‘OG Wolves’ & ‘Ultralight Beam’
11) Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
Kendrick Lamar could drop an hour long recording of him mumbling incoherently over static feedback and it would still end up sounding good. This short and unorthodox album of jazz/hip hop fusion ended up being better than most rapper’s serious full-length efforts; yet another reason why Kendrick is considered rap royalty. We are not worthy.
Fav Tracks: ‘untitled 05,’ ‘untitled 01,’ ‘untitled 03,’ ‘untitled 07’ & ‘untitled 08’
10) Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Proabably the most hyped I was for a record all year. Although it wasn’t my top choice, Coloring Book still excelled overall. I also really dug the christian/gospel vibe, and I think Chance fit it well into his sound. Every track shines in its own regards – jubilant music. Congrats on the grammy nom Chano!
Fav Tracks: ‘Same Drugs,’ ‘Finish Line/Drown,’ ‘How Great,’ ‘Angels’ & ‘Summer Friends’
9) Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
You see, this is exactly why I wait until the last day to write my lists! You never know what surprises may drop right at the end. This duo is self-explanatory. Heavy, hard-hitting beats and vicious rap 16s are always on the menu when Mike and EL are in town, another classic from RTJ.
Fav Tracks: ‘Legend Has It,’ ‘A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters,’ ‘Talk to Me,’ ‘2100’ & ‘Thursday in the Danger Room’
8) Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
If you read my review for this earlier in the year, you probably could have guessed this would be high up on my list. Seventeen songs and it never sounds stale. Rashad balances solo and collabs tracks with precision, and the album constantly keeps me guessing. His style is unlike anybody’s in the game right now; very impressive debut as a whole.
Fav Tracks: ‘Park,’ ‘Free Lunch,’ ‘Stuck in the Mud,’ ‘Wat’s Wrong,’ ‘Tity and Dolla’
7) Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
Brown’s magnum opus. Mixture of all his experimental styles of the past with a newfound feeling of matured acceptance. In some of Danny’s previous work it almost sounded like he was fighting his demons, but on here it’s almost like he is fighting with them. The Detroit MC embraces his faults on Atrocity Exhibition, and his commanding presence throughout the LP is enough to amaze any fan of the genre.
Fav Tracks: ‘Really Doe,’ ‘Lost,’ ‘Tell Me What I Don’t Know,’ ‘Hell For It’ & ‘Pneumonia’
6) Elzhi – Lead Poison
Let’s keep it in Detroit. Lead Poison is the most punchline-packed, in your face hip hop LP of 2016. This is the product of many years of late night studio sessions and filled-up notepads; Elzhi is a living legend at this point. If you dig symbolism, storytelling and classic hip hop sounds, then this is for you. Filthy.
Fav Tracks: ‘The Healing Process,’ ‘Two 16s,’ ‘Keep Dreaming,’ ‘Cloud’ & ‘Egocentric’
5) Noname – Telefone
Still gets better upon each listen, can you believe that? Most albums hit their peak a few weeks after they drop and then plateau, but Telefone keeps growing! I can’t think of one bad thing to say about it. Noname’s verses and ear for production are both dynamite, it’s just the right length, and the features fit in their respective tracks like final puzzles pieces. A simply beautiful hip hop project.
Fav Tracks: ‘Casket Pretty,’ ‘Diddy Bop,’ ‘Bye Bye Baby,’ ‘Yesterday’ & ‘Sunny Duet’
4) ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
BLANK FACE! Every single second of this album is fire. Straight up. The middle section probably is the best stretch of hip hop on any release this year, and I still play Black Face LP on the regular. Even though it came out in the summer the project has yet to leave my daily rotation; Q dropped a classic. There, somebody had to say it.
Fav Tracks: ‘JoHn Muir,’ ‘Tookie Knows II,’ ‘Neva Change,’ ‘Ride Out’ & ‘Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane’
3) Frank Ocean – Blonde
Franky Muthaf*ckin’ Ocean. Everything about this album is astonishing. Even more crazy is the fact that no two songs sound even close to the same. They’re fast-paced rap tracks, moving soul ballads, and futuristic sounding mashups of both hip hop and R&B – I still hear fresh things whenever I listen to it. The way Ocean released this, Endless and his ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ magazine all at the same time is groundbreaking, and only made me respect him more as an artist. When it’s all said and done he’ll go down as one of the greatest of this era. No doubt in my mind.
Fav Tracks: ‘Nights,’ ‘Seigfreid,’ ‘White Ferrari,’ ‘Solo’ & ‘Pink + White’
2) A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service
If we’re talking strictly hip hop, this is the record of the year for me. Tribe is one of my favorite musical acts to ever do it, and the fact that they got to record one final send off with Phife means so much to me as a fan. Not only did they put out an album reminiscent to their socially conscious and trendsetting days of the past, but they also threw in some of the top artists of this generation to help them create a uniquely modern sound. Anderson .Paak, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, André 3000 and more all stop by on here, each artist adding their own flavor to the already vibrant project. Combine that with some disgusting verses from longtime friends Busta Rhymes and Consequence and you have yourself an LP that will go down in history. HUGE shouts to Phife – thank you for all that you did for the culture. Your work will influence future artists across the world, and you are already deeply missed. Rest in peace, and power.
Fav Tracks: ‘The Space Program,’ ‘Dis Generation,’ ‘Whateva Wil Be,’ ‘Conrad Tokyo’ & ‘The Killing Season’
1) Anderson .Paak – Malibu
No paragraph of witty banter and detailed writing can do this album true justice. It’s a gift with infinite layers of wrapping paper, one that we get to unravel more and more in every listen. Everything from the production team to the songwriting is 10/10, and I can’t think of a more diverse/sonically unique record made in the last few years. Malibu is a declaration to the entire music world that Paak is a genius force to be reckoned with, and I cannot wait to keep listening to him in the years ahead. These aren’t songs to me, they are memories. I think that’s all I can really say. This album was a blessing in my life, one that I will enjoy until my final days (or until I go deaf). Overly deep, perhaps, but it’s simply the effect his music has on me.
So, there you have it. Anderson Paak has emerged victorious this year. Let us pray for happier days in 2017 and, for one final time this year, thank you for being here. Benny P out! 🙂
Fav Tracks: All of them. Every single one. But, if I had to pick five, they would be: ‘The Season/Carry Me,’ ‘The Waters,’ ‘Am I Wrong,’ ‘Light Weight’ & ‘Room in Here’
Honorable Mention ( a little long, I know 🙂 )
Injury Reserve – Floss
YG – Still Brazy
Domo Genesis – Lost and Found
Oddisee – Alwasta EP
Ka – Honor Killed the Samurai
De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…
J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
The Weeknd – Starboy
Common – Black America Again
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
Gucci Mane – Everybody’s Looking
Ivy Sole – Eden
Kemba – Negus
Maxo Kream – The Persona Tape
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Kembe X – Talk Back
Jamila Woods – HEAVN
DJ Khaled – Major Key
Frank Ocean – Endless
Vince Staples – Prima Donna EP
Kid Cudi – Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’
Clams Casino – 32 Levels
Young Thug – JEFFERY & Slime Season 3
Atmosphere – Fishing Blues
Meek Mill – DC4
Lushlife & CSLSX – Ritualize
JMSN – It is.
Dave East – Kairi Chanel
G Herbo – Strictly 4 My Fans
Boogie – Thirst 48 Pt. II
Nyck Caution – Disguise the Limit
CZARFACE – A Fistful of Peril
Apollo Brown & Skyzoo – The Easy Truth
Termanology – More Politics
Blakface & SeanWyze – This Time Ahead
April + Vista – Note to Self EP
clipping – Splendor & Misery
BJ the Chicago Kid – In My Mind
A-F-R-O & Marco Polo – A-F-R-O-P-O-L-O
Sap – Self Employed
Kilo Kish – Reflections in Real Time
Blu & Ray West – Crenshaw Jezebel
Like – Songs Made While High
The Underachievers – It Happened in Flatbush
Rome Fortune – Jerome Raheem Fortune
Smoke DZA – He Has Risen & George Kush da Button 2: Don’t Pass Trump the Blunt
Father – I’m a Piece of Shit
CJ Fly – Flytrap
Rihanna – Anti
Sir Michael Rocks – Part 2
Lance Skiiiwalker – Introverted Intuition
K.A.A.N. – Eclectic Audio EP
Calez – Baby
M.I.A. – A.I.M.
Ras Kass – Intellectual Property: SO12
Vic Mensa – There’s A Lot Going On
Kodak Black – Lil B.I.G. Pac
Royce da 5’9″ – Layers & Trust the Shooter
Carlos Niño – It’s All Happening
Brockhampton – All-American Trash
Jay IDK – Empty Bank
DJ Quik & Problem – Rosecrans EP
Reks – The Greatest X
Daye Jack – Surf the Web
Chuuwee & Trizz – AmeriKKa’s Most Blunted 2
Trapo – Shade Trees
Havoc & The Alchemist – Silent Partner
Black Party – Mango
Torae – Entitled
Jay Prince – Smile Good
Rapsody – Crown EP
Jerreau – Never How You Plan
Drake – Views
A$AP Ferg – Always Strive and Prosper
Fudge- Lady Parts
Ugly Heroes – Everything in Bewtween
Emanon – Dystopia
Thane – Topia
Dizzy Wright – Good Vibes and Wisdom EP
Tunjie Ige – Missed Calls
Vic Spencer – St. Gregory
Lloyd Banks – All or Nothin: Live it Up
Kevin Gates – Islah
Joey Fatt$ – I’ll Call You Tomorrow
Curren$y & The Alchemist – The Carrolton Heist
Roy Woods – Nocturnal
Santigold – 99 Cents
Robert Glasper Experiment – ArtScience
T.I. – Us or Else
Vic Shadez – Uncontaminated
Kamaiyah – A Good Night in the Ghetto
Meyhem Lauren – Piatto D’Oro
Crooked I & Statik Selektah – STATIC KXNG
Kool Keith – Feature Magnetic
Lil Yachty – Lil Boat
Open Mike Eagle – Hella Personal Film Festival
Lance is a Genius – Lance is a Genius
Quelle Chris – Lullabies For the Broken Brain
Kweku Collins – Nat Love
theMIND – Summer Camp
The Slipmat Brothers & Penpals – Made For the Underground
images via Mac Miller, The Fader, Denzel Curry, Loma Vista Recordings, Ab-Soul, TDE, Solange, Columbia Records, Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels Inc., Isaiah Rashad, Danny Brown, Warp Records, Elzhi, Noname, ScHoolboy Q, Interscope, Frank Ocean, Boys Don’t Cry, A Tribe Called Quest, Epic Records, Anderson. Paak & EMPIRE