From the beginning of 2015, critics and fans alike both anticipated iconic releases. This past year is said by many to be a “year of hip-hop”, and there were undoubtedly many successful album drops by some of the most relevant artists today. The writers behind TexturedMusic have looked back on the year and selected one album from each month that you’ll remember, or should listen to if you haven’t. It was very difficult to choose, so don’t be offended if your favorite isn’t listed—these were chosen according to popularity, personal preference, quality and album anticipation.
Sremmlife by Rae Sremmurd
Brothers Khalif and Aaquil Brown come together as Rae Sremmurd, who climbed the charts with their song “No Type”. Their energy is contagious, and their pop/hip-hop music is playful and relatable. You’ll find yourself singing along to every track and, though lyrically the ideas might not be new, the duo still brings a fresh angle to a genre that we’re used to.
Noteworthy tracks: “This Could Be Us”, “Throw Sum Mo”, “Come Get Her”
Runner-up: B4.Da.$$ by Joey Bada$$
Dark Sky Paradise by Big Sean
Big Sean never seems to disappoint. Dark Sky Paradise explores a wide range of emotions, from not giving a single f*ck (“I Don’t F–k With You” feat. E40) to remorse (“Win Some, Lose Some” feat. Jhene Aiko). He doesn’t do it alone: John Legend, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and more showcase their talents and complement Big Sean’s work without overshadowing him.
Runner-up: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late by Drake
To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Of all the releases this year, Kendrick is by far the most honest and important. TPAB is a dramatic and passionate narrative that sheds light upon oppression of African-American oppression, aided by the voices of Tupac, Dr. Dre, etc. while still managing to be celebratory of opportunity and life. Jazz, piano and raw poetry tie together this essential listen. This album will make you think, feel, and stay aware.
Runners-up: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt and Mr. Wonderful by Action Bronson
Cherry Bomb by Tyler, The Creator
Words cannot describe my love for Tyler as a person and artist, especially after seeing tracks from this album performed live, but I’ll try my best. This album speaks to Tyler’s character: he’s creative and doesn’t’ like being tied to one label. Tyler pulls influences from wherever he can find them, including from featured artists Kanye West and Pharrell.
Noteworthy tracks: “Smuckers”, “F*cking Young/Perfect”, “Keep Da O’s”
Surf by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
When this album dropped on the 28th, the “When will Chance drop Surf?” tweets finally stopped. The reason its release took so long finally made sense: featuring collaborations with J. Cole, Noname Gypsy, KYLE and Big Sean, Surf is a playful yet insightful look into Chance the Rapper’s philosophy. These refreshingly catchy songs soundtracked the start of our summer.
Noteworthy tracks: “Wanna Be Cool”, “Familiar”
Runner-up: AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP by A$AP Rocky
Dreams Worth More Than Money by Meek Mill
You might know Meek Mill from the Drake controversy, or you might actually know him for his music– either way, production of this album is where the Drake flame war stemmed from and gave it great publicity. Meek Mill created several catchy songs, shifting tempos and switching moods while incorporating popular guests (which include, but are not limited to, Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd, Future and Rick Ross).
Noteworthy tracks: “R.I.C.O.” feat. Drake, “Check”, “Bad For You” feat. Nicki Minaj
DS2 by Future
I’m not a huge fan of Future, honestly, but his “trap bangers” are addictive. His songs are catchy because of their beats, and the lyrics are equally matched—songs like “F*ck Up Some Commas” and “Freak Hoe” will be stuck in your head for several days (at least). This album is quotable as well, with the first track “Thought It Was A Drought” and the well-known line “I just f*cked your b*tch in some Gucci flip flops”. Don’t be mistaken though: Future still has feelings about women and his career, and he addresses them.
Noteworthy tracks: “F*ck Up Some Commas”, “Blood On the Money”
Compton: A Soundtrack… by Dr. Dre
After 16 years (in which he focused on Beats and Beats1 Radio, etc.), Dr. Dre created a new studio album for the Straight Outta Compton film which, together, were at the forefront of the hip-hop hype of the summer. The album draws upon old energy and influences, but refreshes it and encapsulates the energy of the film. The list of writers and producers involved in creating this album is long, but they created something great—see the movie! The album isn’t complete without it.
Noteworthy tracks: “Genocide” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius and Candice Pillay), “Deep Water” (featuring Kendrick Lamar, Justus and Anderson .Paak)
What a Time to Be Alive by Drake and Future
Drake and Future are great artists, but I don’t believe that What A Time to Be Alive is the best that either of them can do. However, the reception I saw was generally positive (per the exception of a few heated Twitter debates over who shone brighter on certain tracks). Still, the songs are catchy and, as the whole internet discovered, great for the background music in vines and sports reels.
Noteworthy tracks: “Big Rings”, “I’m The Plug”, “Jumpman”
Runners-up: Fetty Wap by Fetty Wap, GO:OD AM by Mac Miller, Rodeo by Travi$ Scott
The Incredible True Story by Logic
Follow the story of Logic and his ship’s journey to the planet Paradise. Earth has become uninhabitable, and Logic is taking his music into the future—this story progresses as Logic’s career has thus far, and upon my first listen, I couldn’t help but be in awe of his creativity. This storyline sets Logic’s album apart from any that dropped this year with playful humor and a sense of adventure, but also fresh beats and the fast rapping that Logic’s fans love.
Listen to this album in order.
When It’s Dark Out by G-Eazy
G-Eazy’s second chart-topping studio album is an interesting follow-up to his last work on “These Things Happen”– Gerald transitions from a more mellow sound to one that is more mainstream “hip-hop”. He is clearly still finding his way, but is pushing his own boundaries. There are two distinct moods: one of confidence, in which carefully crafted lyrics are seamlessly delivered, and the other which is generally saddening. Though they are both polar opposites, they showcase G-Eazy’s potential. He is definitely an artist to watch for 2016.
Noteworthy Tracks: “Some Kind of Drug” feat. Marc E. Bassy, “One of Them” feat. Big Sean, “Random”
2016 has just begun and there’s already so much to enjoy and look forward to– Kanye just dropped “Facts” and, if you don’t like it, Lil B dropped 63-track mixtape Thugged Out Pissed Off which you can occupy a lot of your time with. Anticipated releases for this year include, but are not limited to, more Kanye, Chance the Rapper, new Drake, Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers 2: The Weed Album and, if we’re lucky, Frank Ocean might resurface.
The “year of hip-hop” has passed and we’re starting fresh again! TexturedMusic hopes that your year was filled with happiness and soundtracked by the best music out there—if not, we’re here to help you discover new artists in 2016.