In no particular order, these below are my personal five favorite albums that I enjoyed listening to in 2015 when I took off my critic cap. That distinction is important, to me at least, because Kendrick’s album is obviously incredible and I’ve written about it and listened to it a ton, I just don’t revisit it as a leisurely experience as much as say Rocky or Drake. I also was big into FKA twigs’ M3LL155X, but I didn’t play it as much as I wanted. This was a great year for hip-hop and R&B, in particular, just an onslaught of releases (an essay I badly wanted to write, yet sadly didn’t get around to…) that I’m still trying to consume. To that end, list.
A$AP Rocky, At.Long.Last.A$AP
Favorite song: “Electric Body.” Think I tweeted this when I was walking to a softball game one morning, but Rocky has a knack for inspired interpolations versus hackneyed derivatives. Loved this joint, fresh and felt vibrant and so Uptown. And ScHoolboy Q is a gritty yang to Flacko’s fly guy yin.
Drake, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late/What A Time To Be Alive
Favorite song: “Star67” and “Scholarships.” In some ways, IYRTITL is Drake’s heel turn, which marks an important turn in his career where his rise and rule are no longer celebrated; now, he has to defend being on top of the hill. Jon Caramanica said it, prolly both in a piece and later in a podcast, that Drake sounds muscular on the project. Why I say heel turn, he went full on rapper and left the melody (for the most part) on the counter. “Star67″ starts off as hard as you’ll ever hear Aubrey. What I like about “Scholarships” is that like when Biggie flipped Bone, here, Drake rides in Future’s lane, comfortably, and then veers off and does the Drake thing that, while he can do your thing, you can’t do his thing, and well, that’s why he had to make records like “Star67.” (Of course, “Hotline Bling” and “Back to Back” lend themselves to the real essay on Drake in 2015 heading into the new year. Maybe later. Hope to do this more here in 2016.)
The Internet, Ego Death
Favorite track: “Gabby.” Although The Internet had a cult following prior to 2015, this release backed with major label muscle helped the collective reach a tipping point and it seemed like each week on my TL I’d see a tweet about how this project was slept on. Once Grammy nominations were announced that was no longer the case. The vibe of the album is the best of what VH1 Soul programming was (’Sup, Mjeema?): vibe-y, chill and a ting of urgency in its expression.
Favorite track:“Trust Me Danny.” I love this oddball. The EP is a fast play, filled with capers, odes of love and whatever happened to be on his mind at 2:00 a.m. when he was recording. I argue that he’s a R&B singer (classification to be exact: ghetto opera), but regardless if he’s a crooning rapper or a warped soul man, Makonnen has a knack for conveying the underlying emotion on each track.
Favorite track: “Hollywood Dreams.” On each subsequent album of his, Miguel has either gone further left or push the cards toward the center of the table. Is he the clean-shaven, slick R&B singer that he appeared as when he debuted? Or, instead, is he more the confluence of his racial (black and Mexican) and geographical (Los Angeles) background? It sounds like the latter and we’re all the better for it, as this project is ambitious, honest and sexy. He’s saying something on a lot of tracks here. There’s more than just coffee, if you get what I’m saying?