1. The Weeknd – Starboy
Gucci Mane’s sobriety put GuWop on a better music path, but apparently The Weeknd as well. The XO star’s new unorthodox sound fits the worlds of both your parents’ favorite hits & today’s electronic wave that collided at the exact same time. The throwback tempos championing Daft Punk-style production makes the album an exhilarating joy ride, which soundtracks his confident lyricism and fun anthem-like choruses. A fresh musical inhale of a sound you didn’t know existed until Weeknd cut all his hair.
2. J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
If “03 Adolescence” were a character and 2014 Forest Hills Drive were a TV show, this album is the perfect spinoff series. J. Cole retells the story of his upbringing while rapping through the perspective of his drug-dealing friend simultaneously throughout this LP. Details of street violence, fatherhood & fatherlessness over thicker & more full-sounding beats strongly back up his age appropriate lyrical content. Basically, he won’t look dumb performing his songs when he’s in his 50s. Hip-hop is growing up.
3. YG – Still Brazy
YG’s debut album My Krazy Life was praised as a great concept album over very West Coast influenced production and his follow up is exact that and more. YG shows an evolved stance by speaking on being a new father, the disconnect between LA’s black and brown community, hate for Donald Trump, and police brutality, as well as the paranoia that pollutes his mind after getting shot. Not your typical “concious rapper,” but a young gangsta who’s battling a negative world with open-mindedness, maturity, and more 16 bars.
4. Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
With seven albums placed nicely in history, Kanye West’s 8th effort reinstates his legacy in the rap game and at the same time expresses his musical confidence through his most free-spirited project. The Chi-Town artist’s sense of humor, unconventional production as well as his love for being an MC shines through. Yeezy proves he can still have fun and spaz on a beats that you couldn’t imagine anyone else to rap on. Oh, and Chance’s realest shit he ever wrote was on this album. Truth. #ThisIsAGodDream
5. Ab-Soul – Do What Thou Wilt
The youngin’ from Del Amo with a belt by Ferragamo proves he’s the fliest Black Hippy. Any hip-hop purist who complains about rap in 2016 should shut up and cop Ab-Soul’s most recent effort. The song concepts alone spark convos that have never been touched in rap music. Tracks like “Womanogamy,” and “God’s a Girl?” not only show maturity, but open-minded lyricism one rapper can express.The HiiiPower rep shows that the heaviest sunglasses can’t block the strongest 3rd eye holder in hip-hop. Soul-Lo.
Best Albums Of 2016’s Honorable Mentions (In particular order):
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
Tory Lanez – I Told You
Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
Beyoncé – Lemonade