A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – WE GOT IT FROM HERE… THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE
KENDRICK LAMAR – UNTITLED UNMASTERED
TRAVIS SCOTT – BIRDS IN THE TRAP SING McKNIGHT
ANDERSON .PAAK – MALIBU
SKEPTA – KONNICHIWA
DANNY BROWN – ATROCITY EXHIBITION
KEVIN GATES – ISLAH
YG – STILL BRAZY
TRAVIS SCOTT – BIRDS IN THE TRAP SING McKNIGHT
If you listen to only eight albums this year, make it these ones. Every single one of them is a masterpiece in its own right. YG remained the flag-bearer of modern West Coast gangster rap. Skepta crossed the pond with the very British Konnichiwa. Kendrick Lamar managed to get into the conversation by putting out a collection of leftovers from his previous two albums. A Tribe Called Quest surprised everyone by recreating their signature sound in 2016. Danny Brown gave a perfectly gritty account of his drug abuse and mental health over cluttered, biting beats on Atrocity Exhibition. Anderson .Paak properly introduced himself to the world stage after featuring heavily on Dr. Dre’s Compton the year previously with an album that infused countless genres. Kevin Gates went from internet darling to outselling Adele in first week sales.
Despite all this, Travis Scott let his ambition carry him to putting out the greatest album of ate, with fourteen excellent tracks. A star-studded supporting cast including Andre 3000, The Weeknd, Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar and Bryson Tiller helped BITTSM overcome all its competition this year. Peaking at number one in the Billboard 200, Scott became an icon with this album.
The worst hip-hop album this year goes to A$AP Ferg with Always Strive and Prosper. I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s frequently seen beside the most charismatic man in hip-hop, A$AP Rocky but Ferg is probably the least cool rapper there is. Despite being woefully lame, Ferg’s music is usually pretty good. His 2013 debut album Trap Lord was critically acclaimed and was admittedly excellent. However, this year, Ferg’s music seems to have caught up with his personality. Always Strive and Prosper comes off like it’s confused and directionless and may have driven off some of the fans he won with Trap Lord. Apart from New Level which was brilliant (wholly thanks to Future), nothing here stands out at all. Sure, the production values are high and he has some high-profile features but the lostness and distractedness of it all just makes it unlistenable.
It would only make sense, wouldn’t it? Mustard had his moment, but in the last year DJ Khaled has become a parody of himself. Going viral almost daily with his Snapchat escapades, including the birth of his child (while listening to his own music, of course), getting lost at sea on his jet ski (tail-end of last year, I know, but hilarious nonetheless) and of course the groundbreaking release of his ninth studio album, Major Key, which had a who’s who of hip-hop for a feature list. From Nas, Jay Z, Busta Rhymes and Fat Joe to Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future and YG, Khaled got them all. Behind all the buffoonery, DJ Khaled is actually one of the best DJs in the world and should be respected musically. Laugh all you want, he’s doing the same. All the way to the bank.
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR:
MIKE WILL MADE-IT
Young Metro has done the rounds. Active since 2010, he’s only gotten better and is still only 23. With producing credits for the likes of Kanye West, Future, Young Thug, Collegrove, The Weeknd, Drake and Gucci Mane as well a joint project with 21 Savage entitled Savage Mode, 2016 has been one hell of a year for Metro. He’ll tell you himself his best work is yet to come. And if he doesn’t trust you, stay well clear of Future.
In what was by far the busiest category and one of the hardest to judge, ten of hip-hop’s biggest stars went head to head. 2016 introduced us to young upstarts like 21 Savage, Desiigner and Lil Yachty, saw the escalation to stardom accelerate for rappers like Young Thug and Migos’ Quavo, the confirmation of greatness for trap legends like Gucci Mane and Future. Despite all this, it was the year of a Texan by the name of Travis Scott. Top class features on the stellar DJ Khaled album alongside Lil Wayne and Young Thug’s JEFFERY mixtape put Travis Scott firmly in the public eye. However upon unleashing a fiery, atmospheric album in September, Travis cemented himself as a bona fide A-Lister in rap this year. Getting tier-one artists like The Weeknd, Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar on his sophomore album is an achievement in itself, but for the tracks themselves to be so infectious and compelling is a triumph for Scott. To show off the other contenders, a supersonic year was needed. Travis Scott had just that.
While he didn’t do a whole lot this year, Rich Homie Quan didn’t have one of his better years. From his crew being involved in a North Carolina nightclub shooting, botching a classic Biggie verse on TV, getting dissed by Young Thug, being sued by his own label and delivering possibly the worst radio freestyle of all time on Westwood… The list goes on but let’s just say Quan took a lot of L’s this year.