Last year, we shared our top 10 albums of the year with you, in the form of a simple list. This year we decided to switch it up a little. Instead of a top 10, we made a top 25 (and some honorable mentions) and we included write-ups for our 10 favorite albums. Basically, we went overboard, but these albums, mixtapes and EPs deserve it.
1. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book (Hip Hop)
Coloring Book, a Kanye-esque blend of contemporary Hip Hop, 90’s Boom Bap and, yes, Gospel, is on everybody’s list, from dedicated Hip Hop media to the New York Times. So what can we add to the discussion? How about what I wrote on Facebook, right after I first listened to the album:
I just listened to Chance The Rapper's new release Coloring Book and it's really fucking good. I'm talking - laugh to, cry to, go to church and praise God to, get married, make babies and die to - good. It's one of the best Hip Hop albums I have heard in a long time.
There you have it. The best album of 2016.
2. YG - Still Brazy (LP) & Red Friday (EP) (Hip Hop)
After the instant classic that was 2014’s My Krazy Life, YG had a lot to live up to. He did not disappoint. Still Brazy is raw, honest and, well, West Coast as fuck. Still Brazy is also the album that features the song FDT (Fuck Donald Trump), the anti-Trump anthem and maybe the most important Rap song of the year. The only thing that was arguably missing from the album was that extra spark that DJ Mustard, who did not contribute to Still Brazy, brought to My Krazy Life. Enter Red Friday, YG’s second release in 2016, on which the duo - the beef now squashed - was reunited. Red Friday was the perfect addition to Still Brazy, once again reminding us of why YG is one of the best rappers in the game. Earlier this month, Dean Van Nguyen wrote the following about YG:
It’s a record [Red Friday] that briefly reaffirms why we need Keenon out here right now - to keep the fingers twisted, Chevys bouncing and authorities checked. In LA, and wherever else.
We have nothing else to add.
3. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service (Hip Hop) / 4. Common - Black America Again (Hip Hop)
As some of you might know, A Tribe Called Quest is generally seen as one of the most influential and best Hip Hop groups of all time. This is their first album in 16 years and, against all odds that aging groups so often face, they managed to make an album that does not only compare well to their best work, but also to every other album released in 2016. The music is both reminiscent of the sample based formula they perfected in the 90s, as well as incredibly fresh. Sonically and lyrically, it’s a perfect example of the power a Conscious Rap album can have and, having been released just 10 days after the upsetting election of Donald Trump, it was also the perfect album to not only start the healing process, but also the resistance. Apparently America agrees with us, because it went to #1 in its first week. Next to all that, it was also a heartwarming send-off for Phife Dawg, the ATCQ member that died earlier this year. “You on point, Phife? All the time”.
Common’s Black America Again had the misfortune of being released so close to We Got It From Here [...], but it is an incredible Conscious Rap album in its own right, by a rapper that, at age 44, still deserves a place on everybody’s list. After 2011’s lush The Dreamer/The Believer and 2014’s sonically cold Nobody’s Smiling, this album is a return to a Dilla-esque production, which Common effortlessly uses to deliver some of his sharpest rhymes and strongest messages in years. It’s 2016 and Common still has a lot of things to say. We’ll always be here to listen.
5. Good Charlotte - Youth Authority (Alternative & Punk) / 6. Blink 182 - California (Alternative & Punk)
2016 was the year in which critics and fans realised that Pop Punk is both here to stay and not limited to being music made by and for teenagers. California, Blink 182’s first album in five years, with its infectious melodies and grown-up lyrics (which, when needed, are still delivered with a wink) is not only a return to form for Blink 182, but also a possible blueprint for how to make a Pop Punk record for an ageing fanbase. It turns out, you don’t have to become a lame Arena Rock band.
It wasn’t just Blink either. Other aging bands like Good Charlotte, Yellowcard, Green Day and The Descendants all followed suit with their own versions of what California managed to be, while contemporary Pop Punk bands like Modern Baseball released critically acclaimed albums that pushed the boundaries of the genre in their own right. Good Charlotte's album Youth Authority, a modernized take on their mid-2000's sound and an obvious labour of love, even managed to enter our list above California. What can we say? We're suckers for guyliner and big hooks. Pop Punk is alive, vibrant and relevant, and so are Blink 182 and Good Charlotte. What’s my age again?
7. Beyonce - Lemonade (R&B)
Beyonce’s Lemonade, a great album and her best one so far, has been the source of roughly a million think pieces, both good and bad, but mostly bad. We really, really don’t want to add to that, so here are a few bullet points and we’ll move on to the next album:
- Formation has the most Hip Hop video of the year and is a very important song.
- Daddy Lessons, on which Bey effortlessly channels both classic Southern Soul as well as Dolly Parton, is arguably the best Country song of the year.
- Speculating about other people's marriages is corny.
- We still want a Destiny’s Child reunion.
- “Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is.” ~Jay Z (#GuruRIP).
8. Mac Miller - The Divine Feminine (Hip Hop)
After 2011’s Blue Side Park, which was a bland and predictable debut album, Mac Miller, to his credit, increasingly started trying out new sounds, which often lead to great and surprising projects such as the Quasimoto-inspired mixtape Delusional Thomas and his cloudy sophomore album Watching Movies With The Sound Off. On The Divine Feminine, easily Mac Miller’s best album, the rapper - fresh out of what can only be described as Rick Rubin’s personal rehab camp - channels yet another sound: the album is a heartfelt, beautifully crafted and organic ode to the intersection of Rap and R&B. Mac Miller effortlessly rhymes his way through the ups and downs of all things love (and sex) and leaves plenty of room on the warm instrumentals for guests ranging from Neo Soul icon Bilal to contemporary R&B singers like Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla $ign and Anderson Paak. In what feels like a cold and dark year, The Divine Feminine is not just a cozy distraction, but also a soulful reminder of what matters most: Love.
9. Jeff Rosenstock - Worry. (Alternative & Punk)
On Twitter, music critic Ian Cohen wrote about how he dreaded the perspective of end of the year lists without this album on them. We wholeheartedly agree. On Worry., DIY hero Jeff Rosenstock, the former frontman of the band “Bomb The Music Industry!”, effortlessly moves between catchy Pop and raw Punk, and from joyous moments to gut-wrenching ones. It’s a wonderfully crafted piece of music with which Jeff offers a honest, emotional and relatable perspective on the anxieties and, occasionally, joys of adulthood.
10. J. Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only (Hip Hop)
J. Cole, with apparent disregard for us honest list-making people, decided to almost randomly drop an album in December. We can’t be too mad though, because with 4 Your Eyez Only (#TupacRIP) young Jermaine once again delivered. The album doesn’t sound all too different from his last album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which also managed to crack our top 10 at the time. It is however more concise, which is a good thing. Musically, the album features a simple yet hypnotic soundscape, once again showing that Cole is not just a gifted MC, but also a great producer in his own right. Lyrically, he wants to remind us (and probably himself) that life is not a given and that family is important. Cole is still an incredibly sincere (and often literal) writer. Some people say he is sincere to a fault, but they’re wrong. There is no such thing as being too honest in Hip Hop. J. Cole is telling us his truth and we love him for it.
11 - 25
All of these albums deserve write-ups as well, but we had to stop somewhere. Just know that we love them.
11. Rihanna - Anti (R&B)
12. Rapsdoy - Crown (Hip Hop)
13. American Football - American Football LP (Alternative & Punk)
14. Dreezy - No Hard Feelings (Hip Hop)
15. Cam & China - Cam & China (Hip Hop)
16. Yellowcard - Yellowcard (Alternative & Punk)
17. De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody... (Hip Hop)
18. Tweet - Charlene (R&B)
19. Terrace Martin - Velvet Portraits (Jazz)
20. DJ Quik - Rosecrans EP (Hip Hop)
21. DJ Mustard - Cold Summer (Hip Hop)
22. Havoc & Alchemist - Silent Partner (Hip Hop)
23. The Descendants - Hypercaffium Spazzinate (Alternative & Punk)
24. Skepta - Konnichiwa (Grime)
25. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo (Hip Hop)
Owen - The King Of Whys (Singer/Songwriter)
Ness Nite - Nite Time (R&B)
Kodak Black - Lil Big Pac (Hip Hop)
Ella Mai - Change (R&B)
D.R.A.M. - Big Baby D.R.A.M. (R&B)
Bon Iver - 22, A Million (Singer/Songwriter)
Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost (Alternative & Punk)
Kamaiyah - A Good Night In The Ghetto (Hip Hop)
Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman (R&B)
Payroll Giovanni - Big Bossin Vol. 1 (Hip Hop)
ABRA - Princess (R&B)
Fifth Harmony - 7/27 (R&B)
Vybz Kartel - King Of The Dancehall (Dancehall)
Reks - The Greatest X (Hip Hop)
Green Day - Revolution Radio (Alternative & Punk)
Lloyd - Tru (R&B)
Tiny Moving Parts - Celebrate (Alternative & Punk)
Jim Jones - The Kitchen (Hip Hop)
Tinashe - Nightride (R&B)
Kevin Gates - Islah (Hip Hop)
If you made it this far: thank you! And happy holidays!
Marius | 1520