Top 10 Albums (1-10).
Freddie Gibbs – Shadow Of a Doubt
Gary, Indiana’s own Freddie Gibbs has delivered his darkest album to date. In a time where some may tell you street rap is in “dire straits”, Freddie shows up with Shadow Of A Doubt. Nearly every song on this project is a sonically brutal retelling of his time in the street, his paranoia, love…everything that comes with being an extremely talented rapper who wants to leave his checkered past behind. This album proves that Gibbs can rap on just about any type of beat, and not lose his flair for the technical. As Gibbs’ himself alluded to, moving with the times are a necessary part of a successful rap career. Freddie keeps pace with modern production and never sounds out of place or corny.
Kelela – Hallucinogen
Kelela has been making music for some time now. She kept feeding that dream from her parent’s basement, all the way to back to back sold out shows in NYC. While her music has transformed and evolved between projects (he previous work was the excellent Cut 4 Me), she has always managed to remain unique. Kelela’s current output has the feel of late 80s-early 90s pop, with the edge of a modern woman singing with raw emotion. Every lyric on Hallucinogen evokes familiar feelings, whether she’s singing about catching eyes with someone beautiful at a wild party, or the entrancing feeling of new and unexpected love. Her voice is strong, her taste in musical landscapes is incredible; this may be her true breakthrough moment.
Future – DS2
Future has had an excellent year, with or without all of the industry and personal life turmoil that he’s faced. Mid-year surprise release DS2 sees Future finally doing what he always wanted; making a major label album that was close to the heart of the type of music he is truly known for. Though the clear shots at his rather famous ex are jarring and in poor taste, few other projects this year harness rage and confusion quite like DS2. Future is totally unbridled here; he’s truly rapping from his soul, no matter how ugly some of those feelings may be. There’s almost a vulnerability within how he sneaks the truth in between pained boasts of sexual trysts and the pleasures that money brings. This album is a man at wit’s end, channeling his emotions into the only thing that never betrayed him; the music itself.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
POWERFUL. The only word that accurately describes Kendrick Lamar’s latest offering, To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick has always been somewhat socially aware; here, he parallels the realities of being black in America with his own personal demons. Kendrick is such a mercurial talent, that he was able to take a very complex idea and turn it into something that people from all walks of life can feel. The middle of To Pimp A Butterfly is mired in pain, but just like life itself, brighter times lie ahead. Kendrick’s message is one of determination and knowledge of self, no matter what may be happening to or around you. That, is a message that I will always stand behind.
Disclosure – Caracal
Disclosure really broke through in 2014, with HUGE songs, accolades, headlining slots at festivals, and the like. So what’s next? How do you outdo that? You hone the very aspects of your music that shot you to the top, while going in a completely different direction subjectwise. While 2014’s Settle was brighter, with more of a focus on love and freedom, Caracal is darker, with more of a focus on the more painful aspects of love. The sound of the album matches the emotional weight of the lyrics, without losing any of the energy that Disclosure is known for. There are some very poopular vocalists on here, but they all play a role. To be invited to Disclosure’s party is to meld with their music, not to overshadow it. This is a dance music break up album, helmed by a duo of absolute stars within the genre. If only my split were this catchy.
Young Thug – Barter 6
Young Thug has rounded the corner, this year. With all of the attention placed on his clothes, or his terms of endearment for his friends, sometimes it gets lost that he’s a very skilled rapper. Barter 6 proves once and for all that Young Thug can excel in the framework of a structured project. His trademark strangeness and taste for bending the English language to its very brink aren’t lost here; instead, they are sharpened into one focused effort. The music here is less frenetic and Thugger is much more efficient with his words. The lyrics are extremely crisp and audible and he’s very comfortable here, no matter the subject matter. The project is concise, each song serves it’s purpose, and Thug further establishes himself as a rapper to take seriously in 2015 and beyond.
Robb Bank$ – Year Of The Savage (YOTS)
Year Of The Savage has been a long time coming for this Broward county rapper. While he’s been popular online since 2011, he announced this album 3 years ago. He’s released multiple projects, leaving his fanbase to almost believe they would never hear YOTS. Alas, he released it October of this year. Known for his hazy and unforgiving lyrics about his teenage experiences with family, drugs (using and selling), and women, most expected more of the same from him. On YOTS, Bank$ is happier; he’s a clever and lyrically adept young rapper, with an air of arrogance towards his past pains. He literally takes glee in showing his enemies little mercy, and no remorse with betraying those who had it coming to them. The album isn’t rife with misery at all; his youthful disregard for following the rules is refreshing. Expect special things from Robb.
Bankroll Fresh – Life Of A Hot Boy 2
Bankroll Fresh worked his way into relevance with 2014’s “Hot Boy“, a very catchy pseudo-tribute to the Cash Money legends of the same name. From there, Bankroll never stopped working. In comes Life Of A Hot Boy 2. He isn’t revolutionizing trap music, and some of the beats emulate peak Jeezy (purposefully), but he is very good at what he does. This is trap rap in its purest form; everything is about hustling, shooting, and women. Yet somehow, Bankroll is never stale or boring. He’s funny, his go-to flows are very entertaining, and he’s more technically sound than you think. You can tell that Bankroll really enjoys recording, and his personality shines through and more than makes up for his shortcomings. LOAHB2 is a very, very fun listen.
Abra – Rose
Abra is a R&B/pop singer from the well-known Atlanta collective Awful Records. The label itself contains a lot of varying talents, but Abra really adds something special to the team. Her pop sensibilities are 80s house, beefed up with a certain “beautiful darkness” to it. While she makes somewhat somber pop music, her singing abilities are no slouch. Every lyric comes out with legitimate confidence, the sound of someone who is very sure of her talent. Towards the end of Rose, the sounds become more minimal and Abra’s voice and lyricism take center stage. She soars here; her conviction and vulnerability really set her apart. Abra is a very special talent on a label that is a perfect fit for her. Greatness lies ahead.
Tinashe – Amethyst
Tinashe released Aquarius to critical acclaim, and put her name on the map. I thought the album was fine for what it was, but I honestly wasn’t as impressed as others were. Then I gave Amethyst a chance. This mixtape that she released post-Aquarius is short, yet really gets it’s point across. Amethyst is Tinashe minus the starry gloss; it’s honest music that sounds like it came directly from her personal diary. This is a peek into the mind and emotions of someone who is becoming more famous by the moment, but can still establish her humanity. There are some strong songs on here; I want Tinashe to have more creative freedom (on her albums) going forward and I’m sure she’ll get it. She is young (nearly 23) and surely has room to grow; she has a very good chance of finding her true direction and reaching grand heights.
Top 10 Songs (1-10).
Disclosure (ft. The Weeknd) – Nocturnal
Kelela – All The Way Down
Drake – Jungle
K Camp (Solo Version) – 1Hunnid
Jamie xx/ Thugger/Popcaan – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)
Abra – Roses
Janet Jackson ft. J Cole – No Sleeep
Sevyn Streeter – Consistent
Dej Loaf/Big Sean – Back Up
Snoop Dogg – R U A Freak