2015 has already been an insane year for new releases, Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear, Jack U’s album, Toro y Moi’s What For? But where the music industry has really shined is in the hip hop genre. Monumental releases have already hit our ears this year with some of the top MC’s in the game giving us something new to bob your head to. So with that these are my top five releases of the year. I don’t pretend to be a hip hop head, but I do fancy myself a student of the genre, enjoy!
- Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb: Since this album was just released this past Monday with about five days notice of the release, it is too early to tell how this album will resonate with listeners. Personally I’ve only had a chance to listen through once, from what I’ve heard the production is super polished, but purposely abrasive and aggressive as most heard on the opening track “DEATHCAMP”, the jazzy production is still present in the other song we heard before the album dropped “F*CKING YOUNG/PERFECT”. All in all, this is a good album, just not an instant classic, like his previous albums, it’ll take a few listeners for most to be able to jam this, half the album is just like that old school OF that gave them their huge fan base, but it balances well with the jazzy tracks on the album where Tyler really shows his maturity in production, as far as lyricism…he’s a kid at heart. Yeezy and Weezy even make an appearance on the track “SMUCKERS”
- Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful: Bam Bam Baklava himself gave us his most well put together release yet in March. He sounds like Ghostface Killah, if Ghost was a Five Star Chef. Bronson constantly spices up his raps with various food references. Chance the Rapper is one of the more high profile features on the track “Baby Blue.” The production is different on almost every track but still extremely palatable. Bronson definitely knows how to cook up the perfect meal for your ear’s and this one of them. Did I mention Action Bronson appears a lot in the “Munchies” videos on YouTube? The dude is foodie.
- Joey Bada$$- B4.DA.$$: I’ll be honest, this album turned me off of Joey, he tried to bring back the Golden Years of East Coast and come up short. If I wasn’t such a big Wu Tang fan, I think this album would have been a lot better, when Joey said “Cash Ruined Everything Around Me” I couldn’t help but scoff, how can someone say he is a huge proponent of the type of music unique to the East Coast and then completely refute the song that identifies that genre (CREAM by Wu Tang Clan). But I digress, this was an excellent release that even the President’s daughter got behind, and I think the only direction is up for young Joey.
5) Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside
Mr. Deerskin Moccasin’s is on the stalk again! Earl surprised us with his ten track album, that he self produced all but one track. This album shows Earl leaving behind that fifteen year old kid that shocked us with his highly graphic lyrics. This album really shows where Earl is at in his life, as indicated by the title. He constantly switches up his style of flow, showing that he is well versed in the art of rapping, being able to switch from a quasi-trap rap to just spitting out bars like he never has. This guy is only twenty years old and already given us his third release, and that fatigue shows in the production which constantly seems like it’s tired and wanting to go back to sleep. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it really highlights the mood of the whole project and is one of the main reason this is on my list. He is at his best on this release when he’s reflecting on his past mistakes, being more honest to millions of people than some of us are to ourselves.
4) Maxo Kream- #Maxo187:
Trigger Maxo! Most of you probably have no idea who this guy is, but you should. Maxo Kream is a rapper from the SWAT, otherwise known as Alief, Texas on Houston’s Southwest side. Get it now? Maxo linked up with the recently deceased A$AP YAM$ prior to being thrown into the rap game, and the A$AP Mob influence is heavy in this mixtape release with A$AP P producing a couple of tracks. There are guests appearances from Joey Bada$$ and the enigmatic Father as well as Houston rappers the Sauce Twins. The booming production coupled with Maxo’s uniquely Houston, uniquely his own flow create a different side to Houston music, that is more edgier, grittier, and dare I say more gangster than anything the streets of H-Town has seen in a long time.
3) Badbadnotgood and Ghostface Killah – Sour Souls
Oh! Wow, you cannot possibly complain about this album, the Wu Tang legend and the groovy Toronto based Jazz trio teamed up for what was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Of course, you all know who Ghostface is, I mean he’s Ghostface! BBNG as they are so affectionately abbreviated got their come up when Tyler, the Creator noticed some of their covers of early Odd future releases.This is their fourth full length release, and second of album they wrote the music for, the first two releases were largely cover albums of everything from James Blake to Old Dirty Bastard. This album is the epitome of what I think hip hop releases should be today: Jazzy production, with an MC just ready to bite off the mic. This album features MF Doom, and the always energetic Danny Brown. Ghostface isn’t exactly at 36 Chambers level but he doesn’t have to be with the groovy background BBNG puts around him.
2) Drake- If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late
Drake, is well, Drake. I’m certainly not his biggest fan, in fact I sometimes go out of my way to bash him for taking good music and turning into some OVO pageantry such as the SBTRKT song “Wildfire”. Whether you like it or not Jimmy from Degrassi is here to stay. We’ve established this already, but Drake always seems to release something game changing. I mean Drake is the innovator of the surprise release. Whatever he does is instantly the industry norm, he’s a trend setter. His newest release is no different. He shows off some new lyrical chops, all over some A1 production. Seriously, he needs to thank his producers, they created a whole new world for Drake’s verses to live in. This in popular opinion, maybe be one of Drake’s weakest releases, but in m opinion, it his most well put together composition, second only to Take Care. Drake is the biggest thing in hip hop, and if he continues to pump out music like this, then there is really no stopping this guy from making music until he really is in a wheelchair.
1) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar once again gives us one of the most well put together works in recent memory. He brings in live instruments including the Bass guru, Thundercat, to play on the whole album. Appearances by Snoop Dogg and George Clinton give this album the star power it didn’t necessarily need. Flying Lotus and Pharrell produce a couple of tracks that show their own styles respectively. The album open’s with the phrase “Every n*gga is a star” uttered by Clinton and it’s clear what kind of statement Lamar is trying to make. He is a man who has achieved all he has set out to achieve for himself, now it’s time for him to give back. With this album Lamar is trying to make a statement, and he overwhelmingly succeeds. The departure of the typical hip hop production will be missed by those that only listen on the surface, but those who can appreciate good music, and open their ears to something a little different than the norm, will praise this as an instant classic. J.Cole’s Forrest Hills Drive 2014 made a similar statement, Cole’s only applies to a small frame of time, whereas Lamar’s statement can be applied to the past, present, and future, it’s what is going to give this album the replay-ability it deserves.
I’m sure there will be many more ground breaking releases this year, but so far I’m more than content. Let me know what you think of the list, anything I missed? What’s your list? Any feedback is always appreciated. Be sure to listen to my co-host, Wesley, and I Saturdays 7-9 PM “No Top Forty” and follow us on Twitter @NoTopForty. Thanks for reading!