Category Archives: Music

2017 Best Rap Albums Brought To You By Killing The Breeze

2017 best rap albums
Of course it’s time to reveal the 2017 best rap albums list. We did it in 2015 and 2016, so why would 2017 be any different?

2017 Best Rap Albums

There are 21 albums that made this year’s cut and it features some familiar names, new names, and even a few collaborations. Because she has no album, for that reason Cardi B will not appear on this list though despite that, Bodak Yellow was without a doubt the song of the year.(2017 best rap albums)

21) Perception – NF

2017 best rap albums

Beginning with, NF is the stage name of rapper and composer Nate Feuerstein from Gladwin, Michigan. Feuerstein endured a hardship-filled childhood in which his parents divorced, his mother’s boyfriend physically abused him, and his mother eventually killed herself. This is the height of Christian rap, and there is one word I would use to describe this album. That word is inspirational. Consequently landing here.

20) Without Warning – 21 Savage, Offset & Metro Boomin

2018 best rap albums

Next to last on our 2017 best rap albums is. 21 Savage, Offset from Migos, and Metro Boomin are three of the hottest names in the game now. Without Warning, which most definitely describes the release of this album, is about a return to trap music after having successful dalliances in pop music. It’s both dark and dense despite being only 10 tracks and 33 minutes long.

19) The Bigger Artist – A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie

2017 best rap albums

Artist Dubose combines melody with strength. This album considers the highs and lows of fames, tackles issues such as police harassment, and also reveals some of the Bronx MC’s soul.

18) Project Baby Two – Kodak Black

2017 best rap albums

This is the sequel to his 2013 mixtape Project Baby. Kodak’s voice is gruff, but melodic and he rhymes over what is seemingly jazz, blues and big band beats about topics such as jail and suicide as a result is here.

17) Gemini – Macklemore

2017 best rap album

This feels like a compilation album with all of the features, but it does show how flexible Macklemore is. This album is like Macklemore himself, uncool, not commercially viable, but honest as hell.

16) Grateful – DJ Khaled

2017 best rap albums

Khaled has once again created chemistry between top tier artists by seeking out both intriguing contrasts and complementary voices. “Another one!” is apt when describing this album.

15) Super Slimey – Future & Young Thug

2017 best rap albums

Future and Young Thug are definitely similar but have hardly ever worked together sans a third party. They both contestly test the limits of melody and tone, and Super Slimey is a testament to thick dueling bars split between singing and rapping. When it comes to their voices, they both have no problems pushing it to the limit.

14) Quality Control: Control The Streets, Vol. 1 – Various Artists

2017 best rap albums

Formed in March 2013, Quality Control is the shared vision of Kevin “Coach” Lee, a 40-­something dad who used to manage Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane, and Pierre “Pee” Thomas, a 35-year-old Atlanta native who “used to wear a lot of jewelry” and grew up idolizing No Limit entrepreneur Master P. Together, they invested deeply in a carefully curated roster of young rap talents — as influential local producer Zaytoven puts it, “They’ve got all the hottest artists in Atlanta” — the most successful of whom is Migos, who command roughly $40,000 a performance. This compilation is about Migos, Yachty and the roster of producers they use.

13) Future – Future

2017 best rap albums

All of Future’s personnas are featured on this album. He’s the party starter, the ladies man, the hustler and the hedonist all over 808 and warped synths. The jittery rhymes are still there making this self titled release a true peak into his mind.

12) HNDRXX – Future

2017 best rap albums

HNDRXX was released two weeks after Future and is more about reaching a mainstream audience than paying homage to his mixtape past. There are big time guest appearances, but it remains honestly hedonist in the attitude of Future.

11) Flower Boy – Tyler The Creator

2017 best rap albums

This album explores the softer side of Tyler. He isn’t any less thoughtful or edgy, but the dark wit and inetrnal conflict he is known for has gotten more substantive and is accentuated a bit more with an early 90’s sound.

10) Luv Is Rage 2 – Lil Uzi Vert

2017 best rap albums

Luv Is Rage 2 is Lil Uzi’s proof of his declaration that he is indeed a rock star. He dares to look for the unknown on this album. His melodic flow is aimed towards his triumphant success though he does go deeper reflecting on some of the pain he has felt as a result of relationships. I really don’t want to call this a classic as some have, but it’s really good and should last over time.

9) Mr. Davis – Gucci Mane

2017 best rap albums

Gucci got out of jail in 2016, and has grown his base which was developed through a lengthy mixtape catalogue. In conclusion Southern street rap is Gucci and he has collaborators and producers who clearly turned in spirited performances for Mr. Davis, his 3rd album released in 12 months.

8) Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels

2017 best rap albums

Disses, heavy bass, and precise scratching fueled by social injustice and the game is the heart of this album. In fact killer Mike as social activist and political advocate is an interesting and nevertheless feature of this album.

7) Everybody – Logic

2017 best rap albums

This album covers the milestones and obstacles Logic has encountered on his road to stardom. He talks about his biracial background in depth, and understandably continues to show humility and vulnerability while speaking uncomfortable truths.

6) Culture – Migos

2017 best albums

This is Migos’ arrival into stardom. Contagious trap anthems on a project that can only be described as tracks on tracks on tracks.

5) Pretty Girls Like Trap Music – 2 Chainz

2017 best rap albums

Of course we always knew 2 Chainz could make hits, but this project shows he wants to do far more than that. With strong production, 2 Chainz tells us his life story, shits on the government and mumble rap, and gives Nicki Minaj a platform to amplify her beef with Remy Ma.

4) I Decided – Big Sean

2017 best rap albums

Following this is a grown Big Sean confronting reality, and baring scars. In addition sharing lessons learned. All the fire and lyrical skills are still there, but dispute an admission of mistakes made and redemption for them.

3) More Life – Drake

2017 best rap albums

This album was billed as a playlist for all of Drake’s friends and family over the last 10 years. In fact South African house, UK grime, and Atlanta trap music combine to celebrate Drakes’s musical interests.

2) 4:44 – Jay Z

2017 best rap albums

The title comes from the time of morning Jay woke up to record the title track. Jay is the repentant father on this album. NO ID produced the whole thing where Jay has words for himself, his wife, and his disciples. This albums demontrates how the GOAT is still the GOAT thus, being #2.

1) Damn – Kendrick Lamar

2017 best rap albums

First, Damn is an attention grabbing declaration that is blunt, complex and unflinching. It is visceral and in many ways “extra” as the kids would say. No topic is too big to tackle and the album ends how it begins, signifying the completion of a journey.

The Top 25 Hip-Hop and Rap Albums of 2016 Presented By Killing The Breeze

2016

2016 was a strong year for rap with a ton of great new records from a multitude of artists, ranging from Drake to Macklemore. The variety and output of music over 2016 was exceptional in comparison to previous years. No matter what kind of hip-hop fan you are, there’s a rap song that came out last year that’ll get you on your feet. The power of the internet can be thanked for that.

Don’t Get It Twisted, The Full-Length Album Still Mattered In 2016

Hip-Hop was as competitive as it’s ever been in 2016, with rappers vying for great ratings and reviews, record sales (and streams) and that coveted Grammy nomination. Whether they call them albums, albums-before-albums, LPs, EPs, projects or mixtapes, the attention to detail and time spent in production and mastering is at an all-time high.

Which is why we still love to give the great ones their just due. A lot of discussion and debate went into creating this “Best Rap Albums of 2016” list, as several artists pushed the year-end deadline to the very last millisecond, but we’re confident in our picks and would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

25) This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

2016

This album is ambitious in its production, lyrical themes and supporting cast. A deeply introspective meditation on identity that gives a nod to rap’s past and present.

24) Happy Camper – Hoodie Allen

2016

Imagine Chance the Rapper doing pop and you have this album.

23) Church Clothes 3 – Lecrae

2016

Lecrae is now a household name as strictly a Christian rapper, which is a very rare denomination.

22) Therapy Session – NF

2016

This successful Gospel rapper is focused on fame after the success of his debut LP. He stays in stride contrasting the dark side of celebrity with his gratitude for being famous.

21) Fishing Blues – Atmosphere

2016

These guys have not changed their style in years and that’s a good thing.

20) I Told You – Tory Lanez

2016

Rich vocals, catchy hooks and spellbinding beats make his first album seem more polished than raw.

19) The Art of Hustle – Yo Gotti

2016

Yo Gotti sharpens and displays his battle techniques on this one.

18) Everybody Looking – Gucci Mane

2016

Gucci got out of the bling and gave us a jewel.

17) Slime Season 3 – Young Thug

2016

Raucous and raw, complete with barks, wails, woos and dribbled verses over that percussion he’s known for. The final installment of the series that launched his career.

16) Evol – Future

2016

Evol is more intense and less syrupy than DS2. It’s still champagne, sex and fame but with confidence and muscle.

15) Islah – Kevin Gates

2016

Street anthems and pure emotion straight from Baton Rouge.

14) Rage & the Machine – Joe Budden

2016

Hide the women and children. Joe Budden is coming after everyone.

13) 1992 – The Game

2016

Game used personal memories from 1992 to create this autobiography of sorts. It’s a vintage, West Coast love letter to his formative years.

12) Jeezy – Trap or Die 3

2016

Jeezy’s back with a bunch of hustler’s anthems. Trap beats all day and night. About damn time.

11) Layers – Royce da 5’9″

2016

Royce is a rapper’s rapper who has been doing it forever and this album is where he put it all together. It’s cinematic boom bap production that is both confident and cool.

10) Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight – Travis Scott

2016

This album is about Travis recognizing that he’s rich and famous now, and the trouble that comes along with it. The storytelling makes the album feel like a score of Travis’ own movie. A street masterpiece that’s not necessarily quintessential hip hop.

9) The Divine Feminine – Mac Miller

2016

The musical imagination of the nimble rapping boy wonder. Singing and rapping over gospel and R&B shows a relaxed mind producing creative, eccentric music.

8) 4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole

2016

This is J. Cole testifying. There are no guest appearances. It’s a discussion of social ills, black lives and doing the right thing over jazz and strings. Ultimately, this album is about hope.

7) Major Key – DJ Khaled

2016

It’s DJ Khaled so it’s an all star game. Name a rapper and seemingly they’re on this album rapping over dope beats with each one trying to outdo the one before and after.

6) Untitled Unmastered – Kendrick Lamar

2016

This album is all Kendrick, provocative and multilayered. The title is generic, though the release was anything but. Jazz solos and funkadelic grooves are a nod to hip hop’s deep roots and expressive political conscious.

5) Blank Face LP – Schoolboy Q

2016

West-Coast-flavored gangsta rap with a bunch of guest appearances of stars from the past and those of the future. It’s as simple as that.

4) The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

2016

The troubling genesis of this album gives way to Kanye’s Twitchy genius. As Kanye himself said, it’s a gospel album with a lot of cussing. It does seem spiritual at times. Featuring Chance the Rapper and Rihanna, it feels like Kanye is saying this is what hip hop will sound like if it were up to me.

3) We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest

2017

It’s Tribe. Instrumental beds, creative samples, supple rhyming and serious knock. They’re moving minds and butts with tracks featuring Andre 3000 and Kanye West, among others. This is a reminder that perhaps no one has been more influential, nor more important, than Tribe.

2) And the Anonymous Nobody…De La Soul

2017

It’s De La Soul reaffirming imaginative hip hop. The album is comedy and sadness over psych rock, disco funk breaks, and live instrumentation. De La shows us once again they’re impervious to wackness.

1) Views – Drake

2016

With immaculate vocal turns and sleek production, “Views” is Drake’s tour through the city that made him. A meticulous contrast to the off-the-cuff brilliance of recent mixtapes, he taunts adversaries with speaker-rattling anthems, revisits his humble beginnings and rekindles his seductive chemistry with Rihanna. The extremes we see on this album, from Carribbean warmth to icy lament, meld with unflinching vulnerability and unapologetic self assurance to make “Views” a victory lap for Toronto’s lead ambassador.

White Woman Discovers Rap Music And Is Terrified

white woman

The video above is a spoof of a woman who was aghast when she heard Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf” off his Summertime ’06 album. This lady is hilarious. This is her ridiculous account:

“This rap song comes on—and, guys I could not believe what I was hearing,” she said. “This is on our local radio station, this crap is being played. I couldn’t even believe the words that I was listening to. As a mom, it infuriated me.”

White Woman Discovers Rap

First, it can’t be disputed this white woman is extremely “white.” Not white as in her race, but as in her being so far disconnected and removed from hip hop culture that she can’t understand what’s actually being talked about in context. While I don’t believe she had never heard any rap music before, I do believe she is clueless when it comes to why it would be on “her” radio station.

Alex Galbraith gets it right when he says while it might be a bit much to expect a mom who clearly hasn’t kept up with changes in popular music to understand the complexities of Staples’ oeuvre, just how badly she missed the point deserves to be pointed out. Gang activities aren’t celebrated in Staples’ music, they just are. Staples delivers tales of street violence in the hardened deadpan of someone who has spent their entire life surrounded by tragedy and danger. If he can’t rap about his own life, what exactly can he rap about?

Finally, what does she propose to do about it? She does have options. She can call her local radio station and demand they play no rap music of this kind. She could change the station. She could even write to Vince Staples and tell him how his music is negatively impacting her and her children.

Unfortunately, she went to social media to air her grievances. One never knows how that’s going to turn out, and in this case, ridicule, scorn and mockery is what has greeted her. The video is great though.

Lil Yachty Is The Epitome Of The Blissful Ignorance Of New Hip Hop

lil yachty

In an interview with Billboard, Yachty revealed that he “honestly couldn’t name five songs” from the two rappers who are widely regarded as the best to ever do it: Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.

Lil Yachty doesn’t see his lack of knowledge about the two late greats as an issue. After making the surprising admission, he went on to say, “But if I’m doing this my way and making all this money, why should I do it how everybody says it’s supposed to be done?”

Lil Yachty could easily blame this ignorance on his age. At just 19, Lil Boat wasn’t even born by the time ‘Pac and Biggie died in ’96 and ’97. And being a baby of the Internet age, Lil Boat grew up on the sounds of Lil B and Kid Cudi rather than anything from the golden age. When XXL spoke to Yachty for his 2016 Freshman feature interview, the red-haired rapper claimed his early inspirations to be Lil B, Kid Cudi and Soulja Boy.

Lil Yachty and What’s Wrong With Hip-Hop?

The answer to the question is both nothing and everything. The fact that it has grown to the point where legends are unknown or ignored shows that it has a life all of it’s own. That’s great. The lack of acknowledgement of where it has come from is bad. Actually, really, really bad.

Understanding hip hop history helps us understand the culture and roles of the participants today from MC to DJ, b-boy to graffiti artist. Hip hop history may help Yachty realize why he raps the way he does. Has anyone done it before? If they have, what happened to them?

Understanding hip hop history also allows for a keener understanding of identity and understanding of the genre. Is Yachty a rapper or is he an MC? Is it a distinction without a difference?

Though I am not a fan, Yachty is under no obligation to pay homage to any so-called hip hop great whether it be Big or Pac, or even those preceding them such as Big Daddy Kane or Mac Dre. However, proudly declaring one’s ignorance of history is a bad look that can have all sorts of repercussions.

Top 15 Hip Hop And Rap Albums Mid 2016

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Why even bother making a list? It’s usually albums you’ve never heard of, albums you don’t care about, or albums you either have heard or are intrigued enough by the writeup, album art, media buzz to give a chance. Still, if you’re behind on your new hip hop and/or rap music listening for the year so far, you’re welcome. Here’s our top 15 in no particular order:

Drake – Views

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The vocals and production are a tour through Toronto. Unlike his mixtapes which can feel like an explosion of spontaneity, this is his map of adversaries and the bottom where he started. It’s Carribean warmth and Canadian cold. He shows vulnerability in his unabashed confidence.

Pusha T – King Push

top 15

This album dropped after our cutoff for the 365 days review. His flow is still ruthless, and his worldview is still as compelling as ever. Push tells his side of the story where you have to be violent to be at peace, making villains the heroes.

Kendrick LaMar – Untitled Unmastered

top 15

Kendrick is definitely provocative and complex. Obviously the album’s title and release are unique, and it incorporates a bunch of sounds and is almost hypnotic as it gets to the core of hip-hop.

Future – Evol

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Evol is strong, intense and forceful, leaving the syrupy sounds behind. It’s still bottles, booze and bitches, but with a punch.

LeCrae – Church Clothes 3

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LeCrae is more a household name now than an anomaly as a Christian rapper. He shows the ability on this project to go bar for bar, answer critics and reflect on success. Church Clothes 3 shows an incredible depth of subject matter over imaginative, atmospheric production.

Hoodie Allen – Happy Camper

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Happy Camper only climbed to number 28 on the Billboard 200, but it did top the magazine’s rap chart. This album is light, airy and in the “feel-good” genre of Chance The Rapper or even Mac Miller.

Yo Gotti – The Art Of Hustle

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This album was actually inspired by Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” which I thought was clever. Throughout it, we find Yo Gotti repping the pain of Memphis, war, success and struggle in the trap.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made

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This album is definitely daring in it’s cast, production and lyrical stylings. It’s a soulfully produced, introspective view of self that is both provocative and moving.

Kevin Gates – Islah

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Kevin Gates is doing it for Baton Rouge with street anthems full of emotion. Gates’ new offering will surprise you with the types of songs you’ll hear on this album.

Young Thug – Slime Season 3

top 15

Slime Season 3 is the last of the series that launched his career. The eight tracks, all produced by London On Da Track, are full of enigmatic sounds delivered over percussion.

Twenty88 – Twenty88

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This album defines sexy as the LA singer/songwriter teams up with the Detroit MC. Smooth vocals and verses over hypnotic beats and trap drums sets the bar for the modern Rap/R&B duet.

NF – Therapy Session

top 15

The Gospel-inspired rapper talks about fame in his second LP. The album is raw and honest in detailing the darker side of celebrity.

Royce Da 5’9″ – Layers

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Layers is cool, confident and cinematic going back to the boom bap sound of the 90s. It’s classic Royce who is hardworking, impervious to trends, and well connected.

Straight Outta Compton: Music From The Motion Picture

top 15

A compilation album of NWA tracks along with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E solos. There’s also some Jazz and Funk mixed in.

Hamilton: An American Musical

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It’s 2 hours and 23 minutes long and 46 songs. It’s definitely alternative hip-hop, but it’s super educational as a bonus.

Chuck D Is Old But Not Wrong About Authentic Rap

chuck d

Prophets of Rage rapper Chuck D says publications ignore the “Importance of the Group” in Hip-Hop. The rap mogul told Billboard that “the journals and blogs and everyone threw hip-hop down the stairs by praising the individual,”. Specifically citing the celebrity of Kanye West as an example.

Chuck D Is Better Than That

As we age, most people start to believe music was better when they were younger. The idea is of course ridiculous. I guess I’m a victim of a similar heuristic for thinking that Chuck D was somehow above that. Either way, this is a pretty good marketing tactic by identifying and addressing a target market.

I think that as artists, displaying a more united front against the industry is probably the better play. It’s alright to not like what the next guy is doing. On the same token, we don’t always have to state our opinions, especially if those opinions create a bigger divide.

Kanye

This is pecifically concerning Kanye. The same person who was not the only person he was talking about. But just an example, I think he’s a cultural icon in his own right just as Chuck D is a cultural icon. Kanye, being a creative, should be allowed to put his own stamp on a culture he’s so heavily influenced as well.

Groups vs. Solo Artists

Chuck’s comments about the lack of groups are really telling. There is a selflessness and sense of community that any collective of artists working together represents. While we have affiliations of MC groups, we don’t have groups like Public Enemy, Wu Tang, Run-DMC, Tribe, De La Soul, The Roots etc.  These groups consistently record, perform and promote themselves as a team. You have to check your ego to make a group work and we’re not seeing a lot of that circa 2016.

Hip Hop vs. Rap

The distinction between rap and hip-hop also needs to be made here as well. Killing The Breeze discussed this in our “Top 30 Hip Hop Albums of 2015

Hip Hop, as described by Afrika Bambaataa, described the culture that emceeing belonged within. Hip hop is the culture and rapping is one of five elements contained therein. The others being breakdancing, DJing and graffiti, and knowledge.

If there’s any distinction to be made, it’s made along the lines of quality or purity. Encouraged by labels, top-selling artists make records now indistinguishable from R&B or pop, appealing to a community in order to secure a place on the charts. Artists and songs are often categorized now based on who they are without identifying what they are. This allows those who have gotten their start within the hip-hop community to make other types of records, and still be classified as “hip-hop/rap” in order to appear at the top of the heap in terms of sales.

Ultimately, there are MCs creating art and contributing to the culture, and there are rappers who are packaged products of record labels contributing to their own coffers with little regard for contributing to the art form nor its evolution. Formulaic output and the reluctance to take risks in the industry is just the harsh reality that is the result of hip-hop becoming so lucrative.

Phife Dawg Will Always Be Hip Hop For Me

phife dawg
A Tribe Called Quest member Malik Taylor aka Phife Dawg is dead at the age of 45.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love hip-hop and that my favorite hip-hop act is A Tribe Called Quest. While Q-Tip was always the commercial face and “leader” of the group, the lyrics that delighted my ears and remain etched into my brain belonged to Phife Dawg, born Malik Taylor. Well, now he’s dead after many health issues including diabetes which required a kidney transplant in 2008.

Phife Dawg

Phife was born November 20th, 1970, in the Jamaica area of Queens, NY. Living in the same area as Q-Tip, he would meet his future groupmate at the age of 2, with the duo attending the same school and playing little league baseball together. He would visit his grandmother, a strict Seventh-day Adventist, on weekends and sneak in episodes of Soul Train for his early musical education.

At the age of 19, Taylor contributed verses to four songs on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Taylor and fellow Tribe member Jarobi had planned to start their own group, but the two would join Q-Tip and producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad officially on 1991’s Low End Theory.

Midnight Marauders would appear two years later. Taylor moved to Atlanta from New York following the release of Marauders, a shift he claimed exacerbated the infighting that had been increasing in the group. Two more albums would follow — 1996’s Dilla-co-produced Beats, Rhymes & Life and 1998’s The Love Movement. Following the group’s dissolution, Taylor continued to battle diabetes, reuniting with the group for live shows, in part to help defray medical costs.

I think Phife particularly spoke to me because, like him, I am not only a huge hip-hop head but an avid sports fan. Phife’s sports references are legendary and are covered in depth by Sean Gentille.

I am not devastated by Phife’s passing as death is a part of life; actually it is the only guaranteed thing in life. However, as a thirty something hip-hop head and sports fan, it’s a reminder that combination was unique and should be appreciated because life is fleeting. The essence of Phife, for me, is embodied in this “Ghost Weed” (in which users of the product could rap like the pros when in fact they are just featured by the pros) freestyle he did with De La Soul on their AOI: Mosaic Thump album.

Top 30 Hip Hop and Rap Albums of 2015 Courtesy Of KTB

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The top 30 hip hop albums of 2015.

 
27 of our 30 albums charted number one on Billboard’s Hip and R&B or Rap charts for atleast 1 week. Nicki Minaj dropped in 2014 despite appearing on the January 2015 charts. Our albums were ranked according to three criteria:
 

Attention Grabbing

It’s not about whether we liked it, but whether we were drawn to it. Did we remember it afterwards? Perhaps we didn’t enjoy the album, but we wanted to go back and listen to it.
 

Depth On Repeated Listens

Layers, motifs, double entendres etc. in lyrics were crucial. This wasn’t necessarily synonymous with complexity, for simple albums poignantly striking specific emotions can certainly have depth even with elementary lyrics.
 

Staying Power

Were we able to listen to the album and enjoy it after listening for depth on multiple listen?. Many albums reveal themselves to be boring or bloated after a number of spins.
 
This is obviously all subjective. These rankings essentially boil down to a combination of the kinds of beats we like or sounds that we’ve never heard before, lyrics that resonate with, and an album put together as a cohesive unit as opposed to a collection of songs.
 

Top 30 Hip Hop and Rap Albums

Shaka Shaw writes how Hip Hop, as described by Afrika Bambaataa to describe the culture that emceeing belonged within. Hip-hop is the culture and rapping is one of five elements contained therein—the others being breakdancing, DJing and graffiti, and knowledge.
 
If there’s any distinction to be made, it’s made along the lines of quality or purity. Encouraged by labels, top-selling artists make records now indistinguishable from R&B or pop, appealing to a community in order to secure a place on the charts. Artists and songs are often categorized now based on who they are without identifying what they are. This allows those who have gotten their start within the hip-hop community to make other types of records, and still be classified as “hip-hop/rap” in order to appear at the top of the heap in terms of sales.
 
Ultimately, there are MCs creating art and contributing to the culture, and there are rappers whom are packaged products of record labels contributing to their own coffers with little regard for contributing to the art form nor its evolution. Formulaic output and the reluctance to take risks in the industry is just the harsh reality that is the result of hip-hop becoming so lucrative.
 
We encountered this phenomenon while listening to and evaluating many albums released in 2015. We feel our list accurately reflects the paradigm within which we live now when it concerns hip hop and rap. Here we go.
 

30) Lil Dicky: Professional Rapper

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Lil Dicky made our top 30 off the strength of his own hand.

 
Lil Dicky is a funny guy who raps pretty well. Lil Dicky is a pretty good rapper who’s also funny.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

29) DJ Khaled: I Changed A Lot

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DJ Khaled is the only non rhyming DJ in our top 30.

 
Khaled once again collected all of the hottest names in the game. He’s still trying to overwhelm with grand bangers, but there’s some dancehall and reggae in here as well.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

28) Jay Rock: 90059

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Jay Rock makes our Top 30 though he is never too high nor too low.

 
Jay Rock comes with another solid, strong, consistent performance. This album is a changeup from his freshman debut, but you will enjoy the most sophomore followup from the most traditional of the black hippies.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

27) Kid Ink: Full Speed

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Kid Ink is Top 30 by default

 
Kid Ink is clearly following a formula that has brought him success. Fast beats, tingling synths, and old school new jack swing. Why mess with success?
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

26) Future: DS2

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Future is lower in our top 30 than most would expect.

 
Future seems to be in a syrupy haze throughout the entire album. His vocals are sprightly, and the production is hypnotic. The album is almost psychedelic making the self coined Future Hendrix fairly apt.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

25) Fetty Wap: Fetty Wap

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Fetty wap could not be left off of the top 30 this year.

 
He goes hard on every line, and his surging voice gets your ear. Squad anthems celebrating victories, and stories of triumph of the will over hi hats and bass kicks makes Fetty’s hip hop contagious and singable.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

24) Young Thug: Barter 6

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Young Thug has the most unique flow in the top 30.

 
The album is inventive and Thugga is impossibly abundant with voice and sound. He bends, twists and warps his vocals making this album a tongue-twisting, syllabic exercise, though he offers glimpses of himself behind his malleable voice.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

23) Snoop Dogg: BUSH

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We didn’t know what this is, but it’s definitely top 30.

 
This is more of the new crooning Snoop. We’re not even sure that it’s hip-hop, but everyone’s on it, and it’s smooth as hell.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

22) Machine Gun Kelly: General Admission

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Cleveland makes our top 30

 
This album is a tour of MGK’s hometown of Cleveland showcasing his versatility as the best of both Bad Boy Records and Believeland right now. MGK is not Yelawolf.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

21) Rick Ross: Black Market

Ross is back to making his classic Maybach music landing him just outside of the top 20 in our top 30.
Ross is back to making his classic Maybach music landing him just outside of the top 20 in our top 30.

 
Ross has set the mood for a mellower more contemplative expectation from his music and Black Market is just that. There’s still some of what we call the traditional “Maybach Music”, but there are some loose, 90’s style beats and plenty of R&B features. Additionally, Ross seems to preach of the perils of success as much as he has celebrated them in the past.
 
KTB Approved Track::
 

 

20) Yelawolf: Love Story

top 30
This is the album with the most country and rock in our top 30.

 
Yelawolf has expanded his musical boundaries in inventive ways, embracing his lifelong love of Southern rock and country, all the while dashed with his signature Bayou hip-hop flair. Risky, but definitely an involved and researched project.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

19) Joey BadA$$: B4.Da.$$

The most nost
The most nost

 
A gritty, witty and lyrical alternative to mainstream hip hop today. Over boom bap and soul samples, Joey updated the street vibe of 90’s rap for millennials with a flow that is part Nas and part Mos Def.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

18) Earl Sweatshirt: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt

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The rawest album in the top 30 bar none.

 
This album is a dark, fascinating trip to the bottom of ourselves. It’s raw but shows less is more. The lo-fi effect found throughout the entire album makes it the grittiest album on the list.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

17) Dr. Dre: Compton

top 30
He’s definitely the richest guy in the top 30.

 
Dre’s last album is Dre 2015. There’s still genius production, singular perspective, and visionary collaboration. with future soul hooks. The simmering frustration is also familiar, but the observations are older and wiser. The nostalgia is also warmer.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

16) Jadakiss: Top 5 Dead Or Alive

top 30
The most consistent rhymer in our top 30.

 
It’s chock full of lyrics as you would expect from the J-a-d-a, but acknowledges what the present game is and what the future will most likely be. He eschews it anyway and gives you bars over street shit.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

15) Drake and Future: What A Time To Be Alive

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Drake and Future is the highest ranked “mixtape” in our top 30.

 
This answered a lot of questions. Would is be better than the solo Future album? Yes. Would it be better than the solo Drake album? No. It’s a mixtape no doubt, and while their chemistry is generally good, they still decided to end the project with separate checks.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

14) Meek Mill: Dreams Worth More Than Money

top 30
Meek took the biggest rap L in our top 30 despite putting out a really good album.

 
After three years, Meek makes great use of start-studded features with nice pacing. The solo tracks are also solid. Humiliated in the battle with Drake, this was nonetheless a really good album.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

13) The Game: The Documentary 2

top 30
By going forward, The Game took it back at 13 in our Top 30

 
This is an ambitious sequel to his 2005 debut. We get a reflective album filled with vintage sample and battle raps. Game daydreams about the past and dreams about the future.
 
KTB Approved Tracks:
 

 

12) Rae Sremmurd: SremmLife

top 30
Definitely the youngest in our Top 30.

 
The debut from brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy prove that southern rap is as celebratory and upbeat as ever. This album marks them as the Young Princes of the Turn Up Generation.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

11) Tech N9ne: Special Effects

Tech N9ne, in a normal year would be Top 10 in our Top 30.
Tech N9ne, in a normal year would be Top 10 in our Top 30.

 
Tech N9ne gave us ruthless production with every feature bringing their best. The Midwest influence is heavy and apparent with some rock and punk. The album will make you a Tech N9ne fan if you aren’t already.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

10) Wale: The Album About Nothing

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It’s about nothing, but is top 10 in our top 30.

 
The Seinfeld presence is a novelty and a constant theme throughout the album and inventive. It’s great music with good songs. Not much bad can be said about the album except that it’s about nothing.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

9) Travis Scott: Rodeo

top 30
Travis Scott, more than anyone in the Top 30, has his own sound.

 
We labeled this project Kid Cudi 2.0 and not as a bad thing. There is superb production throughout as it’s clear Travis Scott is trying to create his own signature sound.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

8) Tyler The Creator: Cherry Bomb

top 30
Tyler is the top entirely self produced album in our top 30.

 
This album starts off as more or less punk rock. It evolves into the jazz instrumentation that Tyler has been using most recently as he produced the entire album himself.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

7) Mac Miller: GO:OD AM

top 30
The highest album in our top 30 not to be a Billboard number one album for any week.

 
This album is Mac Miller with clear eyes and a strong focus. He imparts the value of experiences and repercussions with crazy stories, deep discussions, and laughs.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

6) G Eazy: When It’s Dark Out

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G-Eazy or the “white Drake” was almost top 5 in our top 30.

 
G Eazy rhymes about his own changing landscape; specifically, the spoils of success. Though full of trap numbers, the late night confessional tracks are vulnerable and soul bearing.
 

 

5) A$AP Rocky: AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP

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Rocky marvels at his own success with beats carefully chosen spanning rock, soul, pop and the traditional bass heavy sound we’ve come to enjoy from him. This is meditation on both fame and happiness.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

4) Logic: The Incredible True Story

top 30
The best concept album in our top 30

 
This album is a widescreen epic. Buoyed by a narrative of two space travelers gunning through the galaxy, Logic slays bars across jazz, electronic, and boom bap production styles. His ambition even spreads to lyrical and thematic realms while still paying homage to overcoming struggle.
 
KTB Approved Tracks:
 

 

3) Big Sean: Dark Sky Paradise

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This album sits comfortably between pomp and humility. It’s a plea for respect as Sean flexes his flashy lyrics with ambition throughout the entire beat saturated project.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

2) Kendrick LaMar: To Pimp A Butterfly

Top 30
Kendrick could’ve easily been in our Top 30.

 
Kendrick provides us with an uncompromising listening experience here with some depth. Jazzy production and remarkable lyrics reveal how Kendrick is dealing with being a young, famous, black man commenting on black on black crime and even referencing Roots.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

1) Drake: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Top 30
Drake tops our top 30 for 2015.

 
Every single track charted in the Billboard Top 100. Nothing else really needs to be said, but I’ll continue nonetheless. Drake contemplates and confronts over beats by 40 questioning the loyalty of old friends and considering his own mortality and legacy. It set the standard for 2015.
 
KTB Approved Track:
 

 

Why 30?

You can listen to one album a day over a month and be caught up on 2015. You now also have a 30 track hip hop and rap playlist that’s roughly two hours long. Whether you like the list or not; well, you’re welcome.

My Final Thoughts on the TomorrowWorld Disaster

2morrowowlrd

This past weekend, Tomorrow World hosted it’s 3rd festival in upstate Georgia, tucked away in Chattahoochie Hills in the middle of nowhere. The prior years were nothing but success and a weekend of good vibes, but this year took a drastic plummet from a weekend of paradise to a weekend of pure hell for thousands of attendees.

Due to weather conditions, TomorrowWorld restricted attendance of the Sunday festivities to only a select camp ground, leaving the rest of the ravers to find their own methods of transportation home and away from the premises. Prior to this, Saturday night’s transportation took a turn for the worst when shuttles and buses couldn’t access the visitors requests.

According to Maxim, this left thousands upon thousands of unhappy people to walk down the highway in search of a ride. Communication was poor between authorities and attendees, and this left clueless people wandering the roads and sleeping atop cars in the cold, rainy atmosphere.

YourEDM.com released an article revealing TomorrowWorld’s apology, their explanation for the events that took place, and their regret for having to put festival goers through a less than enjoyable weekend. EDM headliner Kaskade was noted coming down on the festival’s handling of this situation, and a majority of those that attended the abbreviated festival had nothing but negative things to say about this weekend.

It’s an unfortunate mix of elements that turned into what every raver’s worst case scenario would be. If you’ve ever been to a festival that is held outside during any point of summer, you know that there is a risk for rain and and weather. Ultra Music Festival has been through it, Sunset Music Festival has cleared out the crowd in shelters during thunderstorms, and now TomorrowWorld has taken the cake for the absolute most miserable festival malfunction.

Mother nature can sometimes be the biggest jerk there is, and this past weekend was a horrible reminder that festivals aren’t always a safe haven, but simply an excluded chunk of reality.

But for TomorrowWorld to not have had some sort of emergency plan to evacuate participants is inexcusable. Yes, the conditions may have been dangerous, but any party host knows that you have to plan for the worst, even if there’s a .5% chance that it’ll happen. The same concept defends the reasoning behind CPR courses and insurance policies.

Perhaps it was in the best interest to limit access to the festival, but before doing so, transportation should have been organized prior to even publishing the announcement. Further, organization of transportation Saturday night should have been solidified, rain or shine. Unless endless tornadoes continued to touch down or a hurricane came over the land, there really is no excuse for the lack of transportation.

And finally, regarding the “apologies” released, it’ll be interesting to see if any more will be released to justify why leaving thousands upon thousands of people to be left in the dark, without a ride home Saturday night, and no festival to return to in the morning.

Book of Souls, Your Album of the Day

Iron maiden
35 years strong and still growing.

One thing cannot be stressed enough about Iron Maiden. They are a silly band. Like classic 70s and 80s metal relics, Dio (RIP) and Judas Priest, the joke was always best conveyed through a sincere indulgence. The best Maiden albums are when they went waayy over the top – The Number of the Beast and Powerslave are still their time tested classics, along with their Live After Death, a live album showcasing a band that relishes in being theatrically evil and don’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks of them. And that’s what makes those albums so great.

So, it’s been what? 33 years since the 1982’s controversial Number of the Beast. The Book of Souls will be the band’s 16 studio album and 12th studio album with tongue-cancer-free (and cunnilingus giver) frontman Bruce Dickinson. It’s also the band’s first double album and longest running album with a running time of 92 minutes. Like Titus Andronicus’ The Most Lamentable Tragedy, there is, of course there’s a fair amount of bloat. Unlike Titus, however, Iron Maiden uses the bloaty theatrical elements to their advantage, and don’t get bogged down in trying to tell a narrative. They keep most of the album focused with thematic elements of mortality, afterlife, and of course, silliness.

Bruce Dickinson holding up Iron Maiden’s Trooper Beers

What keeps the album together is the excellent musicianship. Steve Harris’ bass and general orchestration holds truly untouched by time and while it’s a cliché at this point, the cliché is necessary for the joke. And it starts beautifully with the first track “If Eternity Should Fail.” Bruce Dickinson starts with “Here is the soul of a man” with heavy on the reverb and melodrama, equally matched by the silly synth lines that sound like the beginning of an Ennio Morricone movie. This quickly dissolves into the wash of pulsating medium tempo 80s progressive metal riffs.

As usual, Iron Maiden is rooted by Harris’ steady bass, and flanked by the trio of veteran guitarists, shredder Dave Murray, bluesy Adrian Smith, and wildcard Janick Gers. “If Eternity Should Fail” uses a spoken word outro to transition into the extremely riff rocky “Speed of Light,” full of soaring vocal hooks, cowbell, and a plethora of guitar solos. This nostalgia dates the band but also remains true to their ethos: Iron Maiden – at least since 1999 – doesn’t really change as much as it holds steadily to reins still bucking since 1982 regardless what year it is.

One of the more surprising things is that Book of Souls has a variety of songwriting teams, with Adrian Smith and Dickinson collaborating on shorter songs (“Speed of Light” and “Death or Glory”), the longer Harris-written narratives, and also sees the first songwriting by the usually silent Gers on “The Book of Souls” and “Shadows of the Valley.” The album moves forward like a Queen album, where the tone and length of song is often dependent on who does the songwriting. Most of the band’s songwriting work has a similar vision in their songs, but with enough change and dynamic to keep things interesting.

Steve Harris, what a face

The first epic on the album is the Harris written “The Red and the Black” which follows a similar trajectory as something like “Dance of Death” the title track from their 2003 album. Coming in at over 13 minutes, the synths are tastefully layered into the song, the guitar solos, seemingly endless, and finally, a chanting “Woahoh” part that’s everything a Maiden fan could want in a song. It slides nicely into the comparatively up-tempo “When the River Runs Deep.”

The second epic is the 10 minute Gers and Harris title track featuring an acoustic intro before going into perhaps their most dissonant and groovy riff since their 80s attempt Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Like the title track to that album, the song is heavy on synth, but only a little distracting. Both epics are a bit clunky in their transitions but man, if there’s any band that can pull off clunky transitions with class, it’s Iron Maiden.

On the second disk of the album it starts with rocker “Death or Glory” which is bluesy and full of fist pumping moments, calling back to some other fist pumping moments like “2 Minutes to Midnight” or “Ace of Spades.”

As with most double albums, it starts to feel tired in the third quarter, with mid-tempo rocker “Shadow of the Valley” repeating a lot of the themes already stated on the album, and its 7+ minutes feeling expendably long. The Robin Williams dedicated “Tears of a Clown” comes off flat, lyrically and tonally at odds with the rest of the album. Dickinson’s operatic delivery doesn’t sell the repeated chorus, and the solos really don’t add anything. It might work better if he sang it in Italian and it was arranged as a ballad? The lyrics might have worked better if the arrangement for the following and penultimate track “Man of Sorrow” had been used for “Tears of a Clown” – more weighted instead of it being just another mid-tempo rocker.

Airline Pilot Bruce Dickinson

The third and final epic on the album is the Dickinson 18 minute finale “Empire of the Clouds.” It’s a story based on the R101 flight disaster that’s basically the British version of the Hindenburg. Like you can already imagine, it’s a silly topic to write an 18 minute long song about, and the fact that it heavily features pilot Dickinson on piano makes it all the more silly. The lyrics read as a poem assigned in high school about a tragedy, with lines like:

“Royalty and dignitaries, brandy and cigars
Related giant of the skies, you hold them in your arms
The millionth chance they laughed, to take down his majesty’s craft
“To India” they say, “magic carpet float away”, an October fateful day”

Oh Iron Maiden. Only you could get away with this (although there are others who have tried). It’s somewhere between Guns N’ Roses and Dream Theatre, except better executed and with a complete and utter British-ness about it. The cheese factor goes up even more when the song breaks down and narrates the crash of the ill-fated rigid airship and as you might expect the rest of the band is on board with the sinking ship.

The song, like the album, delivers with its indulgence and silliness at the forefront. Since their reintroduction in the 21st century with Brave New World, Iron Maiden has flown in the face of popular music, and found its niche market with metalheads that love the fact that they don’t give a fuck. That being said, 92 minute is a lot of commitment, and not all of it rises above some of the cringeworthy elements to the genre that Maiden has pioneered and made its own. The Book of Souls won’t necessarily make new fans, but as a testament to their veteran status, it will please those already indoctrinated.

4/5