Jan 5, 2016

Staff Picks AOTY 2015 - @Maryyy_UK

It seems like we are getting hip hop back. We must be because it was actually difficult to pick my top five albums for this year. There were a lot of albums with a lot of different sounds. Sometimes I think music can blend so much that they're aren't specific genres any more. This can be a positive thing, because it enhances the community of the music world, but it can also make artists not stand out. The albums in my top five were able to find a way to stand out among the crowd, especially for their quality.

 #5 The Album About Nothing Wale 

Wale’s Album About Nothing received some criticism when it first came out. it sold pretty well, but some people thought the piece was boring. I disagree. While it’s not trap music, and it doesn't have many club beats in it, is was very well-crafted. I love the way that even though it’s a album about nothing in particular, it has the common Seinfeld theme (which is a show about nothing, for non-Seinfeld watchers out there). His single, The Matrimony featuring Usher, was well received by audiences. He also had J. Cole in The Pessimist. This track was the realest sh*t he ever wrote to be honest. He and Cole list the reasons why our people are feeling hopeless, and most of them are pretty relevant to now. “If a nigga kill a nigga he another statistic, but if his skins a little different they gonna say it was self defense, a nigga feeling hopeless.” Sza, and Stokley Williams are also featured on the album. It’s definitely not the album that listen to before you go out Friday night, but like the show Seinfeld, it has classic moments that we can all relate too, and sometimes laugh about.
4.0 out of 5.0

 #4 If You're Reading This It’s Too Late. - Drake 

 WITH MY WOES! sorry, I had to do it.

Just when we thought Drake was getting too soft, he gives us this album. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn't a fan of his emotional pop stuff; Take Care was my album, but not everyone was on board with that. He gave the people who say, Drake doesn’t rap a reason to shut up. In No Tellin’ he says “Please do not speak to me like I'm that Drake from four years ago, I’m at a higher place/ Thinking they lions and tigers and bears, I go hunting/ Put heads on my fireplace." Yup its clear that Drake is in a different place now. He’s not all hard, but this more aggressive side he is showing is waking people up. This isn't the new Drake, this is the real Drake, and he is taking control of his own sound.
4.25 out of 5.0

 #3 Tetsuo and YouthLupe Fiasco 

As a Lupe fan, I was satisfied with this album. It was about a three year wait between this and his previous album, Food and Liquor II, but it was well worth the wait. His second track, Mural, is what had everyone talking. Eight minutes of rap; no chorus, bridge, or even another person featuring. It was just Lupe and the beat. Even if you hated what he said in the track, anyone would respect the ability to actually flow for that long. But I loved it. It was what a mural would sound like: different images that are seemingly independent, but in the end create a masterpiece. But that wasn't the only song that was great. There is this amazing religious imagery in songs like Madonna, Adoration of the Magi, and They.Resurrect.Over.New, that connect to faces you see in your neighborhood. Dots & Lines probably has the most intelligent and well crafted lines in a rap. This is a treat for you who like math and rap. I’m not even a numbers person, but I respected the hell out of it. Lupe also incorporated the youth in the seasons interludes, showing how kids would see each one. This was an intricate construction of an album, no wonder it took him three years.
4.4 out of 5.0

 #2 Summertime '06Vince Staples 

The up-and-coming Vince Staples surprised me with this album. “Man the sea’s been polluted baptism for the shooter." Damn. This guy has bars, I want to compare him to my number one spot holder (scroll down to see.) He just has a gift with words, building a distorted image in your mind like a twisted dream; somehow he makes the strangest comparisons make sense. He has a two disc album, and while all the songs are hearty in content, most of them are 3 minutes or less. These short vignettes aren’t scene of a warm and happy California, this album is picture of the Long Beach that most people don’t see. Lift Me Up and was a favorite of mine, other good ones were Dopeman, featuring his old group member Joey Fatts and Kilo Kish and Might Be Wrong featuring Haneef Taleb and eeeeeee. On this track Staples doesn't even rap. Its a speech followed by a phone recording. Rolling Stone called Staples “the most exciting rapper” this past summer. But this isn’t his first rodeo. This was technically his debut album, but he caught our attention with his EP Hell Can Wait. This album is just another stepping stone for him. I have a feeling he’s the type of artists that gets better with age.
4.5 out of 5

 #1 To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar 

I don’t know how there can be any dispute on this one to be honest. This album is what hip hop needed at the right time. I've been a Kendrick fan for a while and I think this is his best work yet. From the beat to the arrangement and of course the lyrics, Kendrick makes an album that is a perfect mix of rap, poetry, and ultimately art. The song that haunts me is How Much A Dollar Cost. The development of the story peeks inside the mind of every person who has walked by a homeless person who asks for money. This was President Obama’s favorite song in 2015 and the man has good taste in music. Even if you can’t relate to the content that he raps about, you can appreciate the way he conveys a message to his audience. The reoccurring character Lucy, short for Lucifer, comes and tempts Kendrick throughout the album with glitters that ultimately kill us all in the end. In “u” we get into K.Dot's mind. It is a dark track, where he battles with his own thoughts of despair and depression. However In “i” he combats that saying “I love myself.”  However this isn't just a celebration of him escaping the prison of self hate. This is a version where he breaks up a fight in the middle of a concert, reprimanding kids who say “fuck niggas” telling them to have respect of themselves and each other. And his interview with Tupac in Mortal Man was the icing on the cake, the greatest of our generation talking to his mentor is genius. The whole thing is raw. Good raw.
4.65 out of 5

This year showed me that we have real rap. One honorable mention was Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise, his third studio album. He is the one of the top MCs in the game, but he leans more to a commercial audience and hasn't reached his full potential yet as a lyricist. I always come in contact with people who always try to downplay rap. They tell me it’s disrespectful, mysogynistic, and violent. Before I would have to go far back in the crevices of my mind and find the most obscure rappers to prove that they were wrong, with this years productions I don’t have to do that. These rappers are making art and yes while the lyrics can include all of the aforementioned things, they are creatively and intelligently making beauty of the environment that surrounds us. Yeah it can be grotesque sometimes, but they have made it a true reflection of this world. Artists this year have held up the mirror to their audience and are basically saying just what Tupac said in Mortal Man “We aren't even really rapping. We are letting our dead homies tell stories for us.” In short, they're letting their lives and experiences motivate the message in their art.

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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