The Top 5 Hip Hop Albums Of 2016
By Sumit Rehal
Different is the perfect word to describe the landscape of hip hop albums in 2016. The first high profile album to launch was Kanye West, who kicked off the winter with what was supposed to be Waves.
What came to be The Life Of Pablo debuted on the Yeezy Season 3 fashion launch, which was live streamed around the world from Madison Square Garden.
Kanye’s anticipated album gets the title of being the most prolific hip hop album of the year but it cannot be judged on quality simply because this album was incomplete when released. Even if we were to rank this album, which edition do we review? This album was changed more times than Bruce Jenner changes sex.
The Highlight Nation team lists the top 5 highest quality hip hop albums of 2016.
5. Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
When the single Me And Your Mama dropped on the internet this Autumn, the world was left gobsmacked to hear the total shift in sound that Childish Gambino offered. This single served as the intro to a full on 70s style funk/soul album that you could pass as a project from George Clinton. The second single, Redbone has a vibe that you would think would be from the late Prince, who we lost this year. Gambino has shown he doesn’t need autotune to sing like the legend when he performed he song live on The Tonight Show.
This project offers a refreshing sound with some of the best live instrumentals in the modern era. Gambino has shown his maturity while growing in every field that he’s in from music to comedy to movies to television.
4. We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest
2016 also saw the passing of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg. His fellow tribesman, Q Tip announced that there would be one last Tribe album in tribute to the 5 foot assassin. This album was released the same time that Donald Trump became President elect of the United States of America and couldn’t have dropped at a better time.
The lead single, We The People highlights the discrimination that many of Trump’s supporters have against certain groups while Phife showed that he still had it up until his early death. Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar, Consequence, Kanye West and Andre 3000 all offered their expert touches to help Tribe pass the torch to the next generation.
3. Blank Face LP – ScHoolboy Q
Blank Face LP was the first project to drop from superlabel, TDE. ScHoolboy Q proved that he only gets stronger as he begins to enter into his 30s with another concept album full of hard hitting bangers, deep storytelling and bouncy flows.
The persona of Blank Face is a tribute to the OG, Ghostface Killah as Q dons the same mask that Tony Stark wears in his Groovy Tony video. Q shows that he can match the Ironman when it comes to pure rapping while also appealing to a mass audience.
2. The Sun’s Tirade – Isaiah Rashad
It’s been nearly 3 years since Isaiah Rashad’s “EP”, Cilvia Demo. The singer/rapper surprised the hip hop community with his ability to connect with the listener through cloudy rhythms and sentimental lyricism.
The Sun’s Tirade proved that the debut project was no fluke with Isaiah developing on his skill to tell the world about his struggles with drugs, depression and baby mamas. What separates Isaiah from others is the way he talks of a subject without being so in your face about it. He lets the listener apply their own meaning to his lyrics, which makes each track meaningful.
1. Do What Thou Wilt – Ab-Soul
Soulo Ho3 dropped his latest project the same day that J Cole dropped 4 Your Eyez Only. But it was the Carson rapper’s album that blew the minds of hip hop fans over the project from the more popular Cole.
It was hard to imagine Ab-Soul ever topping his game changing, Control System, especially with These Days falling off the mark by some distance. Yet Soul showed why we should never write him off again with Do What Thou Wilt offering Soul’s most fire wordplay and passion yet! Soul declared war on all whack rappers on the first track, Raw (Backwards) and doesn’t stop the momentum till the last track finishes.
TDE ranked in 3 of our top 5 albums and could have maybe been 4 with Kendrick’s Untitled, Unmastered but we didn’t class that as an album as it was a bonus mashup to keep the fans going. Ab-Soul was Top Dawg this year and sets up a strong era of hip hop in the new year!
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