Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums of 2016

#1. Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love!

childishFew artists can boast about such a successful year as much as Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino can. Coming off the success of his critically acclaimed and now Golden Globe award winning FX series Atlanta, the Atlanta artist surprised and wowed fans and critics alike with his third studio album Awaken, My Love!. After a near three year absence from the music scene, Glover closed out the year coming out of left field with a rebellious, throwback, funk revival album that has not only received accolades from across the music industry but even received praise from P-Funk architect himself George Clinton. Glover who has already proved himself to be a multi-talented performer between emceeing, stand-up comedy, and writing, producing and starring in his own television series, can now add vocalist to his resume as well. Glover, an artist who himself refuses to be boxed in by expectations and limitations of both the music and entertainment industries is allowed to showcase his true range and virtuosity as a musician on Awaken, My Love! daring to break away from the norm and be completely different. Not allowing himself to be boxed in by the narrow constraints of contemporary music industry trends or limited to just one single lane or clearly defined category it’s likely Awaken, My Love!  is just the first of many daring new projects avenues that Glover will explore in the future.

#2. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

“tribe”All great legacies eventually have to end, but nobody could have predicted the climatic curtain call that was A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. Following the swift and unexpected passing of group member Phife Dawg in March of last year, everybody thought that any hopes of a final Tribe album died along with the Five-Foot Assassin. However, much to everybody’s surprise Hip-Hop fans were elated when Q-Tip announced that after a nearly 18 year hiatus the group had reunited and been secretly recording material for a reunion album starting in November of 2015 all the way up to Phife’s passing in March. The end result was a star studded endeavor that re-united not only long collaborators but enlisted a plethora of newcomers as well, closing out a long and contentious musical legacy that A Tribe Called Quest blazed over the course of more than two decades. We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service was not only one of the highlight albums of the year but but one of the best comeback albums from a group in recent memory. After all the ups and downs the group has endured over the years, it was bittersweet to hear the group come together and reunite one last time to rock the mic and get one last proper send off before calling it quits.

#3. ScHoolboy Q: Blankface LP

blankfacelpcoverIf there is a label that has built a reputation for delivering both quality and quantity over the past several years it’s TDE. The label which has released critically acclaimed projects from both Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, SZA and Isaiah Rashad amongst others boast some of the most prolific stars in the industry today. However, TDE’s stand out artist of the year was, by far, ScHoolboy Q who released his sophomore studio album Blankface LP back in July. Blankface LP not only solidified ScHoolboy Q as one the label’s premier flagship artists after a series of misfires from other label mates, but locked in Groovy Q’s reputation for being one of the hardest, and most aggressive lyricist in an up growing wave of rising West Coast emcees. Departing from the sound of his prior album Oxymoron, ScHoolboy Q brought a deliberately more West Coast oriented vibe to the table, which was conversely accompanied by a much darker and aggressive sound, tone and execution than previously displayed on its predecessor.With noticeably less tracks on crafted for club and radio cross over appeal Blankface LP is proof that ScHoolboy Q is not only willing to push the boundaries of his own craft without the burden of industry constraints, but further proof that even without crossover singles Top Dawg Entertainment is still a musical force to be reckoned with and still a competitive label producing some of the highest quality albums on the mainstream side of the industry today.

#4. J.Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only

“jcole”J. Cole is perhaps one of the most revered emcees in the game today. So needless to say after releasing his third studio album 2014 Forest Hills Drive and going double platinum with no features the North Carolina emcee had quite a reputation to uphold. The end result is 4 Your Eyez Only, released two years exactly to the date of nonetheless 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Cole opted once again to make the album a solo endeavor with absolutely no guest features or appearances throughout the album’s 10 track entirety. Decidedly quieter, more introspective and intimate in its approach than its highly acclaimed predecessor, 4 Your Eyez Only seemed to be the natural progression of Cole’s music and the reflection of the N. Carolina wordsmith’s career as he contemplates and ruminates the newfound experiences of adapting to married life and fatherhood as well as exploring the always timely issue of prejudice and systematic racism in U.S. society, community violence and the ever present specter of loss. While 4 Your Eyez Only may have underwhelmed some fans and critics, dropping not one, but two major studio albums over the course of two years with absolutely no features proves J.Cole is not only willing to take bold, unprecedented and potentially risky artistic liberties; but unafraid to buck industry norms and unwilling to compromise his artistic vision for the sake of of mass appeal.

#5. Anderson .Paak: Malibu

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2016 was a particularly good year for Anderson .Paak. Being named one of the XXL 2016 freshman class, releasing his Grammy nominated sophomore album Malibu, as well as dropping a collaborative LP with producer Knxwledge as Nx Worries to close out the year; few artists this year have showcased the musical fluidity or work ethic to match what the Oxnard vocalist has displayed throughout the course of 2016. Malibu, which featured production from some of the best producers around such as 9th Wonder, Hi-Tek, Madlib, Kaytranada, DJ Khalil as well as welcomed guest features from The Game, ScHoolboy Q, Taleb Kewli, Rhapsody and BJ the Chicago Kid. Anderson .Paak, with the uncanny ability to effortlessly infuse various musical styles into the R&B genre, continues walk a thin tightrope blurring the lines between vocalist, emcee and producer which in the process creates a myriad of musical soundscapes that defy and mock categorization. .Paak’s distinctive raspy vocals over old school R&B create unique blend of relaxed Hip-Hop and Soul quite unlike anything else that was released throughout the course of 2016. In a year that gave us an abundance of variety and envelope pushing projects, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu will likely have listeners coming back for repeat listens long after its initial release.

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