Thursday, 2 July 2015

Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums of 2015 So Far...

Well June is over and it’s that time of the year were I count down some of my favourite albums of the year so far. Usually I only do a top 5 for the midyear list, however I felt the need to at least have some honourable mentions due to a great year for Hip-Hop so far. There were many albums released this year that absolutely floored me, so picking the albums that would make this list was not an easy task. However after a lot of thought, I came up with my top 5. So without adieu, I give you my top 5 albums of the year so far and some honourable mentions.

5- B4.DA.$$ - Joey Bada$$
After a series of great mixtapes and notable features, I had extremely high expectations for Joey’s debut. With rappers like Logic, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt delivering stellar debuts after their mixtape careers, Joey was up next. Not only did B4.DA.$$ exceed my expectations, it showcased how deep of a lyricist Joey can be. With many great heartfelt and introspective tracks, Joey dropped a solid body of work. However, he still kept that gritty New York boom-bap sound and dropped tracks that showcased his technical skill as an MC. His worldplay is better than ever and his ability to tell stories became apparent with B4.DA.$$. Every feature on this album works very well and fit perfectly into the scheme of the album. If you haven’t checked it out yet be sure to do so and support it. For my full thoughts on this album, click here.

Standout Tracks: Paper Trail$, No 99, On & On, O.C.B., Like Me, Curry Chicken

4- Love Story – Yelawolf
I always liked Yelawolf as a rapper and appreciated the unique flavour he brought to Hip-Hop. However with the long-awaited Love Story, Yelawolf’s Country influences dominated this sophomore album in the most cohesive and creative way possible. Now personally Country music is not favourite of mine in terms of music genres, but Yelawolf’s incorporation of it with Hip-Hop was done in a very enjoyable way. Yelawolf chose to sing on a large chunk of this album, and while his voice isn’t the best, he still manages to sound great. Tracks like Devil in My Veins show his ability to craft a great country song, while his great rapping is still present on a large bulk of the album as well. The album also has some of the catchiest hooks of the year on tracks like Whiskey in a Bottle, Empty Bottles, and Till It’s Gone. The production is immaculate all across the board and sounds clean and well layered. Yelawolf gets introspective about his past, getting abused as a child, and as the title implies his love story with both women and the Hip-Hop culture itself. The only issue I have with this album is the song American You, which sounds like a very derivative and cheesy pop-country track. This has to believe an intentional movie because it sounds like a satire and the rest of the album sounds nothing like it. Besides that, the album is amazing and has me looking forward to what he does next. It may not be your cup of tea, but it may just make you appreciate this fusion of genres more.

Standout Tracks: Devil in My Veins, Whiskey in a Bottle, Empty Bottles, Love Story, Disappear, Fiddle Me This

3- I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt – Earl Sweatshirt
Earl Sweatshirt is easily one of the best lyricists in the game right now. His debut Doris grew on my after its initial release, and now I see it as one of the best of 2013. Earl’s lyrics are incredibly complex, the wordplay is mind boggling, and the rhyme scheme is very impressive. On this new album here, which came unannounced, Earl gives us 10 songs and roughly 30 minutes of just him. He raps with more energy than usual, and his lyrics are more straight forward and not as coded as before. As a result, this album is a short yet a sweet listen and has a high amount of replay value. Earl gets very personal on this album, rapping about his grandmother, his place in the industry, and his relationships. The overall sound of this album is very dark, and the featured artists all contribute to add feel to that atmosphere. Lines like “fishy niggas stay eating off of hooks” and “I don’t act hard, I’m a hard act to follow” stick in my head. The beats are produced mostly by Earl himself, with the exception of one produced by Left Brain, and they’re very dark and gritty. The features are good for the most part, with Vince Staples’ feature on Wool being my favourite. I really hope that at some point these two collaborate and make and album/EP because every track they’re on together is incredible. While this album does not top Doris, it’s still another stellar addition to Earl’s consistent discography and I know that his best work is still ahead of him. So be sure to check this out and support it!

Standout Tracks: Mantra, Grief, Faucet, Wool, AM // Radio

2- Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco
I honestly lost faith in Lupe when Friend of the People came out, and I think that’s why I love this album so much. This is probably the best come-back album since Mos Def’s The Ecstatic in terms of delivering quality music after a slew of disappointments. I hope this come-back magic continues with artists like Kanye West and Lil Wayne this year. With Tetsuo & Youth, Lupe delivered his most lyrically dense album yet filled with the best production he’s been on since The Cool with contributions from S1, DJ Dahi, and more. Lyrically, Lupe delves into issues with finally leaving Atlantic Records, the prison system, love, and the issues young Black Americans face. Lupe’s bars are filled with great wordplay and metaphors. Don’t believe me? Just listen to Mural and prepare to be blown away. The hooks are also great and the features from Guy Sebastian, Nikki Jean, Ab-Soul, and all the guys on Chopper bring lots of diversity to the album. The theme with the seasons flows very well and the instrumentation sounds great . I’ve heard many people say this is a return to form for Lupe, and while I see where they’re coming from I have to disagree. I see Tetsuo & Youth as the evolution Lupe has been trying to undergo but has been unsuccessful at doing so up until this point. This is a new Lupe, and I’m extremely excited to see this face of his career. If you haven’t listened to this album, I highly recommend that you do! Click here for my full thoughts on this album.

Standout Tracks: Mural, Prisoners 1 & 2, Deliver, Madonna (And Other Mothers in the Hood), They.Ressurect.Over.New, Chopper

1      1- To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
As if you didn’t see this coming. What more can I say about this album that hasn’t been said already? It’s a damn near perfect album. In my opinion, this is the best produced album since Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid. It’s sonically a stellar fusion of boom-bap with West Coast funk, jazz and even spoken word. The album is very dense and delves into Kendrick’s thoughts as an adult, in contrast to good kid, m.A.A.d city which delves into his life as a kid. We get a mature look into Kendrick’s opinion on politics, spirituality, sex, and Black culture. The album is also a lyrical masterpiece, with Kendrick delivering one poetic verse after another. And while there are many serious topics on this album, Kendrick still gives you fun catchy songs like King Kunta and For Free? to make the album more diverse. Wesley’s Theory is still the banger of the year for me, How Much A Dollar Costs is still the best story told in a Hip-Hop song this year for me, and These Walls is still one of the best songs about sex I’ve ever heard. There’s not much more I can say other than if you have been living under a rock for the past few months, go listen to and support this album. It’s this type of music that should be pushed and supported, especially on a mainstream level. For my full thoughts on the album, click here.

Standout Tracks: Wesley’s Theory, These Walls, King Kunta, u, The Blacker the Berry, How Much A Dollar Costs, Mortal Man

Honourable Mentions:

The Ecology - Fashawn:
I talked about this album earlier in the year. I thought it was great that Fashawn finally came back and proved that this album was well worth the wait. The production handled mainly by Exile was excellent and the rapping was on point as well. However, a couple of filler tracks prevented this from entering the top 5. Still a great album that I recommend you check out. At least check out the song To Be Young because that is easily one of my favourite songs of the year so far. 

Sour Soul - BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah
This was an album I loved the second I heard it. And don’t get me wrong, I still think this is a great album, it’s just the more the year went on, the more albums that I preferred dropped. Regardless of that, this is still an album I play a lot because of the excellent chemistry between Canadian Jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD and the legendary Wu-Tang rapper Ghostface Killah. The music is smooth and jazzy and Ghostface’s energy is great as always. The features are stellar and the album itself is a great listen so check it out!

A Special Episode Of - Open Mike Eagle
Following the success of his last album Dark Comedy, which was my third favourite album of last year, Open Mike Eagle struck while the iron was hot with a set of very solid songs on this very short EP. And while it's a great easy short listen, it's the main reason it didn't crack the top 5. It's simply too short! The EP is still worth a listen and is filled with awesome songs like Dark Comedy Late Show, Raps for When It's Just You & the Abyss, and Ziggy Starfish. He's as witty as ever and the production is very solid as well. Be sure to check this out if you haven't. I would even say it's a great introduction to Open Mike Eagle if you're trying to get into his music. 

White Men Are Black Men Too - Young Fathers 
This new album from Young Fathers is a return to their original sound of the initial EPs they dropped a couple of years ago. This album is very noisy and yet has some very awesome grooves and tons of energy. Young Fathers come through with many conceptual tracks as usual, and their blend of various genres works perfectly. The only thing that held this back from the top 5 was feeling like this is the farthest away they’ve gone from Hip-Hop and I didn’t want to include it in a “Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums” list. The album is still stellar and if you’re willing to trying something a bit experimental then go ahead and give this a shot. 

Summertime '06 - Vince Staples
This new highly anticipated debut double-album from Vince Staples is one of the best albums I've heard all year. The production is stellar for the most part and Vince's gangsta rap style is perfected over a set of great gritty tracks. The features are all great and despite being 20 tracks long, it managed to impress me and it flowed very smoothly. So the problem? It literally just came out like 2 days ago and I only gave it a couple of listens. However I have the feeling that this album will only get better with more listens and will be a contender for the top 5 end-of-the-year list. Till then, be sure to check this thing out and support it.

Biggest Disappointments of the Year So Far:
- Mr. Wonderful - Action Bronson: Lots of filler and some bad singing, still a decent listen though, just wasn't impressed 
- Cherry Bomb - Tyler, the Creator: Couldn't hear a lot of what he was saying
- Surf - Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment: Just didn't click with me 
- At.Long.Last.A$AP - A$AP Rocky: Half this album bored me, and the other half was only decent

*Note: while these albums did disappoint me, none of them were really terrible and I still got a couple of dope tracks from them. They just didn't live up to my expectations.

Favourite Songs of the Year So Far:
Wesley's Theory (Feat. George Clinton & Thundercat) - Kendrick Lamar
Mural - Lupe Fiasco 
To Be Young (Feat. .BJ the Chicago Kid) - Fashawn)
Mantra - Earl Sweatshirt 
Devil in My Veins - Yelawolf 
Paper Trail$ - Joey Bada$$
47 Bars - Ab-Soul
Terry - Action Bronson 
Smuckers (Feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne) - Tyler the Creator 
Gunshowers (Feat. Elzhi) - BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah 
Still Running - Young Fathers 
Senorita - Vince Staples 
Holy Ghost (Feat. Joe Fox) - A$AP Rocky 
Glory - Lil Wayne 
All Day - Kanye West 
U Mad (Feat. Kanye West) - Vic Mensa
Them Changes (Feat. Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington) - Thundercat 
Road to Perdition (Feat. Jay Z) - Jay Electronica 
California Roll (Feat. Stevie Wonder) - Snoop Dogg
Jungle - Drake

Favourite Non-Hip-Hop Album of the Year So Far:
The Epic - Kamasi Washington: 3 hours of some of the best jazz music I've heard in a while, lives up to the title!

Albums That Came Out That I Missed But Will Listen To ASAP:
Every Hero Needs a Villain - CZARFACE
God, Money, War - King Los
PeteStrumentals 2 - Pete Rock
The Thief and the Fallen - Jedi Mind Tricks 

Anticipated Releases:
SWISH or So Help Me God or whatever he ends up calling it - Kanye West (its Yeezy, duh)
FWA (Free Weezy Album) - Lil Wayne (actually excited for this after some dope features from him)
Lead Poison - Elzhi (maybe, hopefully)
TBA - Jay Rock (maybe, hopefully)
Views from the 6 - Drake (actually liked some of his last mixtape/album)
TBA - Nas (if it comes out)
King Push - Pusha T (if it comes out)
Tha Carter V - Lil Wayne (if it comes out)
TBA - R.A. the Rugged Man (expecting something hopefully)
Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn) - Jay Electronica (lol, one can hope)

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