Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Reigns Supreme: Top Hip Hop Albums



1- Czarface- Every Hero Needs a Villian- 7L, Esoteric and Inspectah Deck have perfectly crafted the Czarface persona to reclaim the top spot (also #1 in 2013) with a brilliant sophomore album.  7L creates the perfect backdrop for the two MCs and crazy pop culture references (Star Wars, wrestling, complete randomness) abound.  Even wilder guest appearances from the likes of Large Professor (the standout “World Premier”), RA The Rugged Man, GZA Doom, Method Man, and Juju from The Beatnuts.

2- Billy Woods- Today I Wrote Nothing- Some call it “grown up rap.”  If being a grown up means thought provoking, intellectual, expressive lyrics, then the description sounds good.  Woods switches it up with 24 tracks over just less than an hour, each its own story or conceptual work that mesh together perfectly.  the stalwart Elucid makes several appearances throughout including the standout track “African Dodger.”  Once again, Woods reminds us he is one of Hip-Hop’s thoughtful voices.

3- Action Bronson- Mr Wonderful- Bronsolino steps out of the mixtape and EP game to give us his first full length offering and arguably the year’s most fun filled album.  Whether it’s him and Meyhem Lauren’s wordplay on “Falconry,” or flipping a Billy Joel sample on “Brand New Car”, or the crazy three part “Thug Love Story 2017,” culminating with “Easy Rider” (“rocking very loose pants”) and perhaps the year's best feature verse "Baby Blue" with Chance The Rapper, Mr. Wonderful is a vibrant album throughout all 13 tracks.

4- Malik B & Mr Green- Unpredictable- The MC of Legendary Roots Crew fame and the “Live From the Streets” beatsmith team up for a short (clocking in at a neat 36 minutes) banger of Boom Bap beats and precise lyrics.  From the first track “Dolla Bill” and throughout Malik prowls on each offering, sounding hungry and fervent (like “Definition”: “had you cart wheeling doing tricks Vietnam shit for your Vietcong clique.”)

5- Tone Tank- One Offs & One Upsmanships- Brooklyn’s own gave a late gift this year with this album.  Superb production from the likes of J Howells Weatherman, Scott Thorough, and Harry Fraud complements Tone’s sometimes hyperactive, sometimes lucid but always on-point lyrics.  He takes on gentrification, off the wall old school references, and frankly some very unexpectedness.  Features with Kool AD and Snafu and a Bazooka Rap mix from Edan make this a December to remember.

6- Gangrene- You Disgust Me- “Heart is cold, froze from the ice and a whole Arctic Pole, bang my old art out of a Bose” Oh No raps on the track “Driving Gloves” (Watch the video with Action Bronson in all its awesomeness.)  The entire album takes a similar weed infused turn, with crazy news/reality show samples frequently about disgusting events.  If ever there was a track to peep it’s Sean Price’s verse on “Sheet Music" also featuring Mobb Deep's Havoc.

7- Dr Yen Lo- Days With Dr Yen Lo- Ka teams up with Preservation under the alias from The Manchurian Candidate for this brief albeit cold journey.  Like the Chinese doctor and hypnotist namesake, Ka’s rhymes draw you in; listen too closely and you might be transported to Brownsville or beyond.  At first glance the tracks, all named “Day” might scare the uninitiated, but listen to “Day 81” with Roc Marciano and you’ll get right on board.

8- Joey Badass- B4.DA.$$- Don’t crown Joey Badass as the savior of NYC rap or that "he’s bringing New York back", what he’s doing is putting out dope music.  Yep, there’s head nods to an era be gone on “Paper Trails” and the ill “No 99” (sounding like it could be straight from a Black Moon joint.)   Joey’s Caribbean influence shines throughout, especially on the track “Belly of the Beast.”  As NYers always remind us, NY never left, and now it’s in good hands.

9- Shirt- Nike Adidas Records- Queens cat Shirt charts for the second straight year with another release of 12 strong tracks, a few loosies from the past year and some new material.  Unlike many projects, Shirt is the lone MC on every track and gives us lyrics about reality. Producers United Crates, DJ Dahi, Steel Tipped Dove, and others highlight the free tape.  The last song, the San Holo produced “Top of the Whitney” is certifiable bananas and may be the year’s best track.

10- Earl Sweatshirt- I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside- An era where rappers search out producers for the quintessential “hot beat” Earl Sweatshirt didn’t have to go far to find someone for his debut follow-up, he produced every track except one.  The result is a driven, raw, stripped down sound of just 10 tracks in half a hour with Earl as an MC commanding each track with sometimes cocky, sometimes introspective lyrics.  Collabos include Vince Staples, Dash, and Wiki on the standout “AM // Radio.”

11- Michael Christmas- What A Weird Day- The Boston MC follows up a whirlwind year with his second release, pondering where he’s been and looking at how things have or haven’t changed.  It's no more evident than in the top track “Look Up / Save The Day” (produced by Qreamybeats) where the perspective reaches the hook and asks “there ain’t no stars in the hood, but I bet that we would leave if we could.”  Current rap heavyweights Logic and Mac Miller pop up, the latter on the nice “Grab Her Hand.”

12- Your Old Droog- Kinison The Nicest- With the is-he or isn’t-he Nas narrative in the rear view mirror, Coney Island’s Your Old Droog can focus on delivering dope music.  On Kinison, which opens with the namesake robust comedian bellowing against rappers, Droog laces tracks over a theme of 90's rock music, titles like the Marco Polo produced “Sonic Youth” and “Porno For Pyros.”  Followed by the DJ Skizz produced The Nicest, it finds a bit more refined sound with the highlight track “We Don’t Know You.”

13- Wiki- Lil Me- The Ratking (also with a strong EP release this year 700 Fill) front man drops his first solo project, a clean and crisp record with Madlib, Black Milk, Harry Fraud and others manning the boards.  The Nasty Nigel collab “Living With My Moms” and the other tracks (both Hak and Sporting Life drop by, the former on the exceptional  “Sunday School Dropout”) give the listener a true NY feel, not a throwback big beat sound, but an eccentric, intoxicating journey throw Wiki’s hometown.

Others receiving votes:

-Fashwan - The Ecology

-Pusha T- King Push-Darkest Before Dawn

-Cannibal Ox- Blade of Ronin

-Junk Science- And the $100 Sandwich

-Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman- Lice EP

-Marq Spekt- The Grilchy Era

FINAL NOTE: Sean Price's Songs In The Key Of Price isn't on here, but not because it didn't chart. Sean Price has long been and will be an SG favorite, all of his work is spectacular.  This release is being held out and honored in a special place.  RIP SEAN.

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