RESPECT.’s Favorite Singles & Albums of 2016 + Skillz Recap of 2016

albums

Years pass but change remains a constant resident in the home of personalities, jobs, financial markets, and, of course, artwork. The creative minds of the modern time use this incessant change to pull out projects from the very thin air that they were once lacking inspiration in. It goes without saying that as years- time in general- passes, sounds and culture change and never quite return to where they once were.

This list is going to chalk up some of our favorite albums of the year- our favorite moments of change or inspiration from the industry’s finest and most creative individuals. The sound of 2016 was a combination of dancehall, retro funk, cold cut hip-hop and plenty more genres, which makes 2016 one of the most versatile years music has had to offer in recent years.

-Brendan South

Favorite Albums of 2016

ANTI — Rihanna

Rihanna’s ANTI tells a story that couldn’t have been executed properly by anyone other than the pop star herself. On the surface, the LP is a cluster of unique tracks equally representing different genres. Taking a deeper look though, Rihanna is letting the world know that she’s just like us and despite the fact that things may not be easy, she still is a force to be reckoned with.

On tracks like “Love On The Brain” and “Higher,” Rihanna exposes herself vocally in a manner we’ve never seen before. Her raw emotions seep through continuously and highlights the fact that she isn’t afraid to be vulnerable musically. There is no holding back.

Being that ANTI is her 8th album, Rihanna has undoubtedly learned how to create moments on her projects. The hit single “Work” featuring Drake is a moment on ANTI that fans have latched on to and probably will hold near to their hearts for a very long time.

Rihanna has never been one to follow the rules or stick to the status quo. This album title alone will leave its mark on the year 2016 as the project that was made for it’s own sake; nothing more and nothing less.

Big Baby D.R.AM. — D.R.A.M.

After his seemingly random rise to fame over the track “Cha Cha” back in 2015, audiences have been left to question who exactly is D.R.A.M.? The carefree Virginia native never made it easy for anyone to put him in a box and his debut project Big Baby D.R.A.M. made it even more difficult.

Big Baby D.R.A.M. definitely isn’t a project for everyone; the soulful artist transitions between singing and rapping in a quite unconventional way. It may be uncomfortable for certain fans to adapt to but, for those who can go with the flow of D.R.A.M.’s signature sound, this is a project of non-stop fun and pure bliss. Tracks like “Cute” and the Grammy nominated “Broccoli” featuring Lil Yachty make it hard not to crack a smile and simultaneously sing along.

D.R.A.M. also managed to get features from both Erykah Badu (on the song “Wi-Fi”) and Young Thug (on the song “Misunderstood”) who appear to be on opposite ends of the musical spectrum but, in some inexplicable way he makes it work.

The year 2016 was certainly a great one for D.R.A.M. and his debut album reflects all of the accomplishments he has made, both past and present.

SremmLife 2 — Rae Sremmurd

The first installment of SremmLife left Rae Sremmurd fans wondering what the twosome would bring next. Their sophomore attempt would simply either be a hit or a flop considering their debut No. 1 album.

If you were expecting SremmLife 2 to meet up to SremmLife‘s quality and sound you we’re wrong; it surpasses it by a landslide.

SremmLife 2 allows audiences to get a glimpse of what life is like for brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy as they maneuver and finesse their way through fame. The themes of partying, sex and nightlife are prevalent yet again in this LP as they were in the last one but, there are some major differences to take note of. Both Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy have evolved musically and their styles have matured greatly as well.

On tracks like “Now That I Know” and “Take It Or Leave It,” Swae Lee showcases his smooth harmonizing skills as Slim Jimmy slows down his flow like we’ve never heard him do before.

As if the album as a whole didn’t leave a stamp on the year 2016, the fan favorite track “Black Beatles” took on a life of it’s own and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It seems like Rae Sremmurd has made another album not only for the year, but one that will live on for countless years to come through its popular tracks.

A Seat At The Table Solange
There’s no question about it. Solange has had an epic year. The release of her acclaimed album A Seat At The Table earned Solange applause from her long-time fans as well as an army of brand new followers.  The album serves as an invitation for the community to unite and heal en masse. A testimony of overcoming the struggles and defining oneself based off your own ideals and no one else’s. A Seat At The Table is a glorious celebration of empowerment peppered with an abundance of black girl magic. Not to mention it’s accompanying visuals were nothing short of breathtaking. Definitely worth the Grammy nod it has received.
We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service ATCQ
This year A Tribe Called Quest released their sixth album, a year after reuniting on The Tonight Show for a performance of their 1991 classic, “Can I Kick It?”  Last year the trio hit the studio to record what we now know to be their final album We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service. The album comes just eight months following the death of our beloved Phife Dawg. For Tribe fans, it was important that this last album not only be superb after such a long wait, but it would by default, need to serve as a fitting tribute to the late, great, Phife. The end result was an archetypal Tribe sounding album which slotted nicely into the contempo vibe of 2016 and a poignant ode to the Five Foot Assassin. A brilliant and timeless body of work.
Crown Rapsody
North Carolina emcee Rapsody has been delivering exceptional quality projects for years. Having recently signed with Roc Nation, we wondered how soon it would be before the “All Black Everything” spitter dropped something, but we didn’t have to wait long at all. November 16th, Rapsody unveiled her 10-track CROWN EP, much to the delight of her loyal fans. The project boasts features from TDE‘s Ab-Soul, XXL Freshman Anderson .Paak, R&B legend Raphael Saadiq, and Moonchild along with Rap’s Jamla comrade 9th Wonder. Rapsody easily qualifies as one of the illest emcees the game has to offer. What’s just as impressive, is that she has accomplished everything without dumbing down her music or her core values. On the EP she touches on everything from Trayvon Martin to Nat Turner‘s rebellion and it’s repercussions and even on Donald Trump‘s election victory. Rapsody has consistently presented herself with the utmost integrity, and these principles shine brightly on Crown.
The Everlasting Wave Xavier Omar
Xavier Omar, rising musician from Texas, released his album The Everlasting Wave in October of 2016. Featuring eight tracks, it is a journey through healing and self-love, and the difficulties that come with it. Xavier is everything the world often doesn’t want him to be, working against hyper masculinity and the stereotypes of men –  he is sensitive, loving, and self-reflective – and it does this amazing thing, it makes him even stronger. His exploration of these topics is something so many of us can relate to, and feed into a larger discussion on the way relationships impact our path with every step we take – both positively and negative. It may be coined as a R&B or Hip-Hop tape, but it remains soulful and sweet in a way so much music that occupies these genres often struggles to. Before you pop the champagne, crack open your journal and mull over the good and bad of 2016 – with Xavier’s voice in the background to guide you along the way.

The Life of Pablo — Kanye West

The Life of Pablo is by far one of the most iconic albums of 2016. West was unapologetically open in his verses and held nothing back. Not even his beef with Taylor Swift, in “Famous,” whenever he called her out on his verse, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that b***h famous.”  The visual art in his “Famous” video was also a ballsy move on Yé’s part. I mean, what kind of musical mastermind would release a video with wax figures of some of the most gossiped about people in a bed together?? A genius like Kanye.

P3 –– PARTYNEXTDOOR

This album was highly anticipated after PND waited two years to drop this sophomore album, with the only feature being Drake, on their hit “Come and See Me.” Party’s sound is alike no other. P3 is by far his most sultry and ambitious album with melodies that express his deepest anxieties that he normally wouldn’t just expose about himself, which made P3 such an influential album of 2016.

Blank Face LP ScHoolboy Q

It’s no secret that Top Dawg Entertainment is one of the few dynasties that sit comfortably within Hip-Hop right now, and ScHoolboy Q is definitely one of the reasons why. While Kendrick Lamar took his more esoteric style into music’s mainstream, Q put his stamp on the culture with a mixture of genre-bending party cuts and deep-rooted Gangsta Rap chronicles, an approach taken by many of the West coast pioneers before him (think Snoop Dogg). On Blank Face LP, the Hoover Crip took his talents even further with deeper, more introspective rhymes about his troubled past (including why it’s no longer the right path for anyone to take) and being a part of his daughter’s life. Add in a unique set of cinematic visuals (as well as some big name contributions from the likes of Kanye West, Miguel and Vince Staples), Blank Face LP is easily one of the most memorable releases of 2016.

Blonde — Frank Ocean

After essentially pump faking the universe for years, Frank Ocean finally liberated his new album, which ended up being titled Blonde (along with the equally-dope magazine Boyz Don’t Cry and visual album Endless). As did previous drops Nostalgia, Ultra and Channel Orange, Blonde earned its accolades with a more abstract and unconventional style of R&B (and Hip-Hop), led by its opener “Nikes”; (secret) collaborations with Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake and André 3000 also helped to make Ocean’s album a repeat listen. For whatever reason, Ocean chose to leave Blonde out of the running for a Grammy award; nonetheless, the album will certainly end up on many year-end lists across a variety of formats (including this one).

The Divine Feminine Mac Miller
While his fans were still vibing to last year’s GO:OD AM, Mac Miller was crafting this year’s wildcard. Titled The Divine Feminine, the album – which delves into a more soulful, Jazz-y style of production than previous efforts — sees the Pittsburgh native switching up from speaking on life post-drug abuse to more conceptual subject matter, specifically in regards to women and how they represent the universe (or, from an even deeper perspective, how God is a woman). This project not only shows how Miller is evolving as an artist, but also how diverse Hip-Hop amongst the 90’s generation really is; it’s a true breath of fresh air in the midst of Auto-Tune heavy, hook-driven cuts usually heard amongst younger Rap artists. For the uninitiated, the groovy Anderson .Paak-assisted “Dang!” is a proper taste of what The Divine Feminine delivers.

JEFFERY  Young Thug

Young Thug has maintained relevancy ever since his first breakthrough single. His way of doing so has been the constant release of new mixtapes, which further proves him capable of making entertaining music.

However, after JEFFERY, every Thuger project that came before it appears to have been just a distraction for the fans as the rapper fought to crack the code of The Perfect Young Thug Album. Not to discredit his prior tapes as purely experimental, but it’s evident Thug was trying to create the blueprint for JEFFERY through them.

Be it I’m Up, with its airy instrumentation accompanied by meticulous lyricism and a stack features, or the concise SS3 — where Thug rides solo for most of the project, showcasing his unparallelled knack for melody; JEFFERY balances all those attributes (and more) perfectly.

The back and forth with Gunna at the end of “Floyd Mayweather;” the catchiness of “Future Swag;” the lyrical prowess and chemistry between him and Duke on “Webbie” — it’s all something we’ve been teased with on a miniscule level on previous tapes, until it finally was executed to perfection.

From its cover, to the mixing/sequencing of each track — JEFFERY is Thug’s most candid project, and incidentally most appealing.

Free 6LACK 6LACK

With the exception of “PRBLMS” and “Ex Calling,” 6LACK was relatively quiet the entire year. Once Free 6LACK released, his silence was not only justified, but awarded.

Full of love stories embellished with his unique storytelling and vocal range — the album birthed a musician who is rather excellent at portraying the love that exists in Atlanta’s jungle of violence and drugs, Zone 6.

He sings about everything from dysfunctional relationships (you know, the ones embroiled in jealousy and uncertainty), to the moments where you cook for your significant other at home, because “going out is getting old.”

It’s that type of simplicity in his stories, that makes Free 6LACK ultimately relatable, and earns it a spot atop our albums of the year.

Lil Big Pac Kodak Black

In a year where the buzzing new artists were wrongfully critiqued for their “lack of lyricism,” Kodak Black gave us a street album that uses lyricism as its backbone. He’s still a teen, but his music reflects maturity and intelligence similar to how the music of those references in the album title did. Lil Big Pac welcomes listeners to the mindset of a majority of young Black kids trapped in gang violence.

Kodak is smart enough to live through all the turmoil and paranoia that lifestyle brings, but he’s talented enough to escape it forever. And Lil Big Pac has given him his first push towards a better life as a household name.

P.S: The album is infinitely amazing for the single fact that those who refuse to listen will remain ignorant and think Kodak Black can’t actually rap.

Everybody’s Looking — Gucci Mane

Guwop’s return from his four year prison sentence was a rebirth. Not just for the Trap God’s career but as an individual. In Gucci’s first album since 2003, Everybody’s looking features his most lyrical effort yet. The story telling in “Robbed” is witty and surprisingly thoughtful. In “All My Children” Wop flexes his influence on southern rap culture. Gucci also has a good amount of star power on this album with features from Drake to Kanye West. However, Everbody’s Looking really shines on the track that gucci rocks solo on. I really wasn’t fired up for this album when it popped up on my Itunes a few months ago, but it really has made an impression on me that most projects this year didn’t.

Thank You Mr. Tokyo — Madeintyo

If someone told me a year ago that the “Uber Everywhere” artist would  drop one of my favorite projects of 2016, I wouldn’t believe them. Enter Thank You Mr. Tokyo, a fun banger filled tape from start to finish. I keep finding myself put all  10 of the tracks in my workout playlist because how exciting it is. Every record on this project is catchy as hell and Tokyo brings such a great energy to his performance it really shows off his star potential in this industry. Plus his producer K Swisha makes beats that perfectly compliment Madeintyo’s sound. Most artist know of days don’t find that so early in their careers. All in All, I expect for Tokyo to build off this momentum he has made this year to carry him into 2017.

3001: A Laced Odyssey — Flatbush Zombies 

After a successful string of mixtapes, the zombies went the extra mile on their latest release. The trio of Erick Arc Elliott, Zombie Juice and Meechy Darko all brought their A game for this project. Lyrically, A Laced Odyssey is the Flatbush Zombies at their absolute best. Though Meechy Darko steals the show on everyone of his verses (See “Your Favorite Rap Song”). Sonically Erick the Architect continues his run as one of the most unique producers in the industry right now. The production  “Trade-Off” is the highlight of the whole album. With a beat change for every member’s verse added an interesting dynamic to that record’s overall message. By the time this Odyssey is complete, you will be asking for another hit.

Cozy Tape Vol.1 — A$AP Mob
I had no idea what direction the A$AP Mob was going in after the untimely death of their spiritual guide A$AP Yams . After a year of missteps from Rocky and Ferg, this collaborative project is a return to form for the Mob. With a little help from some friends, the Cozy Tape was a reminder to why I was captivated by Rocky’s “Purple Swag” or Fergie’s “Trap Lord”. Plus A$AP Twelveyy, Nast and Ant  finally get the spotlight I felt they earned back in 2014. When it’s all said and done Cozy Tape is the perfect tribute to A$AP Yams’ growing legacy.

VIEWSDrake

It appears to be the growing consensus that 2016 was overall a pretty unpleasant year for everyone involved. With the deaths of Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, and Phife Dawg, the Syrian Refugee crisis, and the election of Donald Trump, its hard to disagree. However, it’s impossible to deny 2016 did anything but spoil fans with incredible music. With all the successful albums, mixtapes, and singles released this year its important to give credit where credit is due. Although as usual, only one can wear the crown.

It had been just over a year since If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, when Drake finally released his highly anticipated fourth studio album on April 29th of this year. Perhaps it was the sheer waiting that made fans desperate for any new material, or perhaps it was the precision in which the album was executed sonically from start to finish. Either way, they never had a chance. The production, features, emotion, swagger and timing of release shot this album into the hearts of listeners everywhere like a hypodermic needle. Views fell perfectly into several categories of “album”. It was perfect for turning up in the club, getting caught in your feelings, city loyalty, and personal reflection during those long walks home from work or school.

The album has however come under criticism for Drakes uninspired sound or safe approach. While Views achieved everything it set out too, it is undoubtedly formulaic and calculated to showcase certain styles and approaches that have proved successful for Drake in the past. By taking a step back, one can see the features are actually quite predictable, and pandering. Of course, there is a Rihanna and Future feature. Before it was even recorded, that collaboration was sure to be a hit. After the enormous success of What A Time To Be Alive, again why not capitalize on another of his most potent collaborations? Party Next Door and DVSN serve their purpose and satisfy the OVO-6ix-requirement. Additionally, both OVO signees are starting to generate some real buzz, and let’s be honest here, Drake is no stranger to benefiting off the budding careers of other artists.

While Joe Budden might disagree, this formulaic strategy for building Views was clearly an intelligent move. Since the initial week of its release, the project has been breaking records like their going out of style. After setting the One Week Streaming Record (245.1 million), tying the longest consecutive control of both the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 simultaneously among solo males, spending the most weeks atop the Billboard 200 for an album by a solo male in more than 10 years, the album has now gone platinum five times since April, and amassed over a billion streams on Apple music alone. There are still numerous other records regarding singles, award nominations, and billboard charting in addition to this list, but you get the picture.

Views is by far Drake’s most successful album to date, and perhaps the rest of his career. Naturally, This is a bitter-sweet victory. While the success of Views has successfully propelled him into the history books and the Hip-Hop/R&B hall of fame, it begs the question of what comes next? Many artists, writers, directors and athletes have proved over the course of history, topping the peak of one’s career is not so easily done. Drake appears to be well aware of this fateful fallacy, and instead of worrying about re-writing the record books once again, he’s enjoying the accumulating accolades and focusing on a few interest projects with Gucci Mane, Kanye West, and his upcoming compilation album More Life.

Even despite the criticism concerning the aversion to risk on this album, and its pandering formula, Views unquestionably remains the most popular album of 2016. With the Grammy’s just around the corner, the waterfall of accolades may not have run dry just yet.

StarboyThe Weeknd

The Weeknd now occupies a new stratosphere with the release of his third studio album, Starboy. On its first day alone, November 25th, the album broke Spotify’s record for most streams in a single day. While still very much in its infancy, the album is already doing exceptionally well with all 18 tracks now respectively charting. 

A little over a year ago, we received The Weeknd’s second studio album, Beauty Behind The Madness. While some fans felt confused by the sudden change to an overtly mainstream sound, others welcomed the way he masqueraded obscene and vulgar content in a veil of ostentatious R&B. He even acknowledges this irony on Starboy’s “Reminder”.

“I just won a new award for a kids show. Talking ‘ bout a face numbing off a bag of blow” 

This transition in sound was a crucial stepping stone in transcending the R&B and Hip-Hop genre. This was his opportunity to show he’s more than just the crooning feature on a Drake track, and he did just that. Becoming a superstar in today’s music industry is no longer about being the face of a genre, but escaping the restraints of associating with a single sound. When one recalls names like Michael JacksonBeyonceJustin Bieber and Taylor Swift, one does not think Michael the R&B singer, or Taylor Swift the country singer, and so on. They are simply Michael Jackson and Taylor Swift. Superstars are not a “genre artist” and The Weeknd has with his two most recent projects, broken similar constraints. Starboy has solidified his superstar status. He is no longer “that R&B singer from Toronto”. He is The Weeknd. 

Starboy finds a much-desired balance between the new mainstream sound he has broken into and the melancholic, honesty that first pulled the heart strings of listeners. This is most evident in the choice in features. While Daft Punk satisfies the much needed radio appeal for this album to be commercially successful, Future provides the “teeth” necessary for club and street appeal. Kendrick Lamar and Lana Del Rey further diversify Starboy’s portfolio. 

Not all reviews have been positive however, and for respectable reasons. Many still believe The Trilogy is where The Weeknd belongs in terms of sound. While the progression (or lack there of depending on who you talk too) over his last two projects is logical for him to reach superstar status, its hard to disagree. The album feels contrived and recycled compared to the unpolished emotion in House of Balloons. It didn’t take long for fans to realize “Six Feet Under” featuring Future, is nothing more than a recycled re-write of their previous hit “Low Life”. 

There is a lot to like about this album, however it also feels as if Starboy is unsure of what exactly it wants to accomplish. Some of the styles and approaches in the album feel executive influenced, and others feel like a pandering nod to past hits. This isn’t to take away from the obvious hits among the body of work, but there is a noticeable lack of cohesiveness.

In reality, the albums short-comings are not significant enough to dissuade the majority of listeners from eventually pushing Starboy past platinum status. However, it does raise questions concerning the cohesion and identity of his sound moving forward.

Awaken, My Love! Childish Gambino

The label “renaissance man” is ages old and harkens back to a period of substantial growth in art and expression, the ability to do so, and the desire to do so. A renaissance man, or “renaissance person,” to de-gender, is a person who portrays excellence in a variety of fields, all without being impediments to one another. Headed in the direction of Donald Glover, or Childish Gambino, it’s a rare feat to see a person begin their career and adulthood writing at NBC, to creating a funk revival piece that may well have been launched back in the 70s, and perched organically alongside Parliament’s Mothership Connection in a vinyl shop.

“Me and Your Mama” utilized Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar riffs sordidly spraying the background, with Gambino’s dirty, scratched vocals aggressively flavored as a coating. “Redbone” followed as the second single, this time boasting smooth, slapping drums and wobbles over an adjusted voice redolent of Macy Gray and D’Angelo.

The retro wave is alive and kicking, with Bruno Mars and The Weeknd, amongst others, utilizing sonic pieces of the past in their most contemporary works, and emulating the style graciously and true to its nature. Gambino’s record was perhaps the most notable, with the blend of modern and retro sounds in his work creating something “off the past” but still not quite mimicry. Instead, it’s as if Gambino wanted to take bits of the past and refine them- not just to a modern liking, but to an idiosyncratic wavelength that people down the line will only remark as being that of Donald Glover’s.

Konnichiwa Skepta

Grime has always been amongst the UK’s most prominent genre’s, with grime being a parallel to trap music in the US (though the two have an innumerable amount of differences). You may have heard grime playing at an underground venue, or in a neat, urban coffee place where the college aged student with lots of hair had the aux cord. In short, it’s largely been a genre snubbed by many American hip-hop listeners.

When Skepta dropped Konnichiwa, the grime fanbase found itself proliferating and bleeding into America. The genre itself is a far cry from the anthems that American ears are accustomed to, so not only was the sound Skepta was pushing good, it was also innovative in American culture; nobody heard anything quite like grime music, and, by extension, Skepta’s grime music.

Bludgeoning bass and belligerent instrumentals and lyrics litter Konnichiwa throughout its tracklisting, with Skepta hitting the listeners with the same style of rap he’s been effortlessly providing since he dropped Greatest Hits back in 2007. Nearly a decade later, and “whatchu mean whatchu mean” has found its way into American voices.

 

Atrocity Exhibition Danny Brown

What separates rappers from artists is the creativity that’s enmeshed with the instrumentation, which will ultimately further the point or emotion the artwork is attempting to push. Death Grips use belligerent yelling and abrasive sonics and lyrics to push past normative forms of narration and expression into a typically untapped realm of the human conscious in music- this untapped realm has some of the most primitive, insensitive, vile thoughts, and somehow they capture the essence of this in their music, consistently. This is exactly what Danny Brown did.

Kanye West once called the voice the greatest instrument ever, and Danny Brown has utilized his own personal voice as a method of expression since the dawn of his career. Atrocity Exhibition, however, doesn’t lean on the voice, or the instrumental, or the lyrics and their subject matter to further the message. What’s instead featured is an ensemble of gritty and subconscious thoughts that are molded artfully and gorgeously over the course of an album. It is exactly what it says it is: an exhibition of atrocity.

The various visuals that were released before the album dropped, mainly “When It Rain” is a testament to the aforementioned statement, with fast paced graphics and unorthodox film techniques used to help capture these various thoughts and “atrocities” Danny Brown is trying to push.

Leaps and bounds ahead of the standard hip-hop tape, which’ll feature a mellow jazz instrumental and lyrics about growing up in poverty, Atrocity Exhibition takes this common anecdote and consumes it raw, and becomes it.

Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks Xiu Xiu

Similar to Atrocity Exhibition, Xiu Xiu takes on haunting experimentation to tackle their rendition of a haunting television series’ soundtrack. Twin Peaks revolved around the murder of Laura Palmer, and made use of what are now common tropes in contemporary revival of 80s and 90s horror flicks.

The soundtrack, as a result of the theme, had to match it, and does a gorgeous job of doing so. Xiu Xiu takes their uncanny artistry and inserts it into this project. Head to toe, it is a rollercoaster of emotions and terror and establishes itself as a centralized portrayal of villainy, mystery, terror, grit and dread. When Xiu Xiu covers anything, they always appear to add their flavors of sonic haunting into what they do- Nina from 2013 captured Nina Simone songs, which by themselves already were made in an era of grittiness and were sometimes about gritty subjects (see: her cover of “Strange Fruit”), and injected them with even more tense, morose fillings that’s clearly been made a trademark of Xiu Xiu in the past. This album comes around in a time where Twin Peaks is very much still being appreciated by audiences, which makes the effect of this album all the better.

 

The Sun’s Tirade Isaiah Rashad

Isaiah Rashad’s music captures adolescence and debauchery at a level plenty of other artists seem to strive for and miss. Cilvia Demo was an album centered around nostalgia and ill feelings about adolescence, and somehow portrayed the mistakes, the youthful ignorance, the “good times,” the realizations, the shortcomings, and the tribulations in an organic, raw figure that’s often times set aside by artists because the content may be considered too graphic- Rashad’s “West Savannah” and “Heavenly Father” make overt glances over to mental illness and suicide.

The Sun’s Tirade seems to omit adolescence and instead capture the thoughts of the young, the ambitious, the loveless, and the depressed over the track listing. Songs like “Bday” and “Slikk Da Shocka” reverberate those emotions that Cilvia Demo did an amazing job at capturing. Rashad is another example of an artist that makes use of instrumentals, voice (“Rope / Rosegold”), and lyrics and pushes them to closer to their technical limits to help create feeling.

*Quick break*

Favorite Singles of 2016

“Me and Your Mama” — Childish Gambino

After a pretty lengthy musical hiatus, Childish Gambino miraculously graced the year 2016 with one of the most sonically diverse tracks we’ve heard in a very long time. “Me and Your Mama” is not your traditional love ballad but the message is as clear as day nonetheless. Gambino stretches his voice beyond limits we’ve heard him reach in the past and belts the lyrics over a multi-sectioned blues/rock/R&B backtrack. The song is without a doubt not necessarily what Gambino fans expected but it’s definitely a breath of fresh air. It is also just a glimpse of the vibe his new album ‘Awaken, My Love!’ brings forth.

“Bad and Boujee”Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert

Migos have never failed at making a hit song and “Bad and Boujee” proves that the group doesn’t plan on failing anytime soon. Despite the fact that the track was released in August of 2016, it is in the final stretch of the year that “Bad and Boujee” is finally taking off.

The track gives us that authentic Migos energy that we’re used to along with a energetic verse from Lil Uzi Vert. The catchy hook executed by Offset provides a smooth transition in between verses and also makes it hard not to sing along. It’s a no-brainer that “Bad and Boujee” will be in heavy rotation for the remainder of 2016 and probably well into 2017.

“No Heart” — 21 Savage

21 Savage’s rap career has sky-rocketed in the year 2016 and the track “No Heart” has played a major role in the process. ‘Savage Mode’, the rapper’s collaborative mixtape with Metro Boomin possessed a lot of gems and introduced fans to his troublesome lifestyle.

“No Heart” encapsulates 21 Savage’s tough upbringing and how it differentiates him from a lot of rappers. The hook makes the eerie yet hard-hitting track hard to forget. Metro Boomin’s flawless production also compliments the track extremely well and grants it a timeless sound that left a huge impact on rap culture in 2016.  

 “Layers” — Royce Da 5’9
Despite being a member of the artful hip-hop supergroup, Slaughterhouse, Royce Da 5’9 went on for years being underrated until 2016. His album Layers was one of the most revered offerings of the year. For the title track, Royce recruits Pusha T and MMG “bawse” Rick Ross to peel back the many layers of the hip-hop industry. It’s not all bright lights and glamor, and who better to paint the real picture than Royce Da 5’9, one of the most elite storytellers this culture has to offer. “Layers” is one of the best singles of 2016 because…lyrics. Pure and simple.
“Don’t Touch My Hair” Solange
When “Don’t Touch My Hair” dropped, every woman of color across the globe who heard it immediately felt a connection to the song. Her ears pricked up, and she felt a tiny twinge in her chest as Solange’s syrupy vocals sang out “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Having a near stranger stretch their fingers out and request to stroke, pat or run their grubby fingers through your hair as if you were an attraction at the zoo, is something that so many of us have had the displeasure of encountering. The song is an acclamation of setting boundaries, both physically and emotionally and a call to stand firm in your beliefs. An anthem for the 2016 Carefree Black/Brown Girl.

“Sneakin”’ — Drake feat. 21 Savage

Drake didn’t stop with the flames after releasing Viewsand came back with “Sneakin,’” featuring the ever-growing 21 Savage. It’s no surprise that this single peaked at No. 28 on Billboard’s Hot 100, after the duo popped off and relentlessly stunted on all of their haters. Although it dropped somewhat late in the year, “Sneakin’” will not be a hit that will be brushed under the rug and forgotten in 2016.

“Work”  Rihanna feat. Drake

Rihanna’s hit of the year, “Work,” featuring Drakewas essentially heard by everyone around the world. “Work” was the fourth most streamed song of the year, GLOBALLY, as reported by Spotify. It’s one of those songs that even when you’ve heard it 1,289,238 times, you can’t help but to jam out to it and sing every. single. word. Rih-Rih and Drake have taken home countless awards for this track, most recently being the 2016 American Music Award’s Favorite Soul/R&B song of the year.

“Nikes” Frank Ocean

First released via video as a different version from the album, “Nikes” was the perfect introduction to Blond(e).

Throughout the song his voice bounces from normal, to high pitched and then low pitched; the lyrics are subtle; the video is a youthful trip on modern art, and there is tons of glitter.

Essentially, “Nikes” is an accurate overview of both Endless and Blond(e) — two albums that are made to be glimpsed, felt, and at times even understood.

“Starboy” — The Weeknd

Starboy” feels like you’re floating above the galaxy and your feet keep dipping into different solar systems, as your body experiences goosebumps every time the stars pull you in.

Beside the fact Starboy is one of the most pleasing songs to come out this year, its release was also an event.

The new Daft Punk-infused sound. The haircut. It screamed reinvention. Then, on the third (and best) verse, he still reps his old persona. “Legend of the fall / took the year like a bandit.”

Years from now, it will go down as one of the best highlights from The Weeknd’s career.

“Pick UP The Phone” — Travis Scott feat. Young Thug and Quavo

A single that was featured  on both Travis’ and Thugger’s albums this year. A rather sweet song that was mixed with trap elements to create a unique club hit. Also the fact that Travis leaked the song without the permission of his label, showed the belief that he had in the record. Throw in the fact that it featured Quavo, who became a bonafide star this year and it makes perfect sense why this single resonated with listeners so well.

OOOUU” Young M.A

After watching a countless number of Young M.A’s freestyles, there was no question in my mind that she was a dope lyricist. However, I did not know if M.A  had it in her to make a hit song that would play on radio stations anywhere.Then she came out with “OOOUU” and smashed all my expectations for what she could become as an artist. Not only was this track catchy, it contained memorable lines that will follow her throughout what will most definitely be a successful career. Young M.A also stayed true to herself, which is hard to do especially in an industry that tries to over sexualize the female emcee. “OOOUU” was the perfect representation of what M.A can offer the rap game, even off a couple shots of henny.

“Formation” Beyonce

Yes the song that caused all that conversation back in january continues to entertain me even in January. Forget the fact that yonce slayed her first performance of this at the superbowl or the hilarious SNL skit that followed. The thing that I can’t get over is the fact that “formation” might have been a Rae Sremmurd song. The story behind Beyonce’s spell-binding single is an interesting one. The talented producer Mike Will Made It, made the beat originally for the party starting group. Mike brought one half of Sremmlife, Swae Lee, to the studio and he layed down a freestyle. Then, Mike Will brought the song to Beyonce who then put her own spin on it and the rest is history.  “Formation” is  another shining moment in the Queen B’s already illustrious career.

Broccoli” D.R.A.M feat. Lil Yachty
This fun filled club anthem had a slow rise to chart topping glory. Released to soundcloud in March, it took a while for the unlikely single to get some momentum. However by October, “Broccoli” was the number one rap song in the country according to the Billboard Top 100. This song was the main reason for D.R.A.M to get the greenlight from his label to release his critically acclaimed debut album. As well as the record that catapulted Lil Yachty into the mainstream. Whether you love the record or hate it, there is no denying the impact “Broccoli” had on the industry in 2016

 

Tell us about your favorite albums and singles from 2016!