Top Ten Albums of 2016
Top 10 Albums of 2016
As 2016 comes to an end, it is always nice to look back at the year in review and put some things into perspective. This year in music stands next to 2015, both literally and figuratively, as an incredible year for music following a lackluster 2014. That means there was a lot of powerful music that came out. Some may have slipped through the cracks, but that makes putting together a top 10 list incredibly difficult. There will be albums probably missing from your list, but here is what this writer believes are the top 10 albums of 2016.
10: JEFFERY by Young Thug
“JEFFERY” by Young Thug represents the culmination of everything Young Thug has worked toward. The album name coming straight from his birth name, Young Thug shows his range while also paying tribute to the artists that came before him and inspired him. It is the album that helps to better understand Young Thug and puts him into the conversation as one of the best artists currently out.
9: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight by Travis Scott
Following his lackluster Rodeo album in 2015, Travis Scott followed that up with his first Billboard No. 1 album and one that both satisfies old fans and builds upon what the young artist could already do. Scott finds a balance in his music that he never had, with stellar performances by himself, a strong features list, and a continued track record of strong production. Birds in the Trap is an album that works with Travis Scott’s long list of strengths and allows the features to fill in his weakness, something all artists could stand to learn from.
8: Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
Danny Brown delves deeply into who he is as a person on Atrocity Exhibition, both hitting on hard hitting topics and still maintaining his fun nature. His style of music is one that can be difficult to listen to if you are not a diehard rap fan, but his raw nature is why this album is so incredible. So few artists can do what he does, making Brown’s abilities unlike anyone else in rap.
7: untitled unmastered. by Kendrick Lamar
Is there anything Kendrick Lamar cannot do? untitled unmastered. is an album essentially of scrapped material from last year’s Grammy winning album To Pimp a Butterfly, yet still is some of the best music out now. Kendrick Lamar is so good at what he does that an album full of unfinished material is still somehow one of the best albums of the year. The themes of old albums return, with the jazz infusions of To Pimp a Butterfly being ever present. If there was ever any question of Kendrick Lamar’s place in the game, this album ended any and all conversation.
6: A Seat at the Table by Solange
It must be hard to be the sister of Beyoncé, especially in a year where you both release an album. However, as someone who has not heard Lemonade because of its exclusivity to Tidal, Solange finds herself on this list and her sister does not. Solange’s album title says it all, just asking the general audience for some respect, or a seat at the table. She earns that seat with a beautiful delve into some of the most complex topics facing this country, including racial divide and a woman’s role. Solange sonically will mesmerize any listener and for that reason earns her spot on this top 10.
5: Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book is a fun addition to a Chance the Rapper catalogue that was already quiet impressive. The sequel to 2013’s Acid Rap, the two albums could not be more different with Coloring Book taking a much more soulful look on life. Chance’s use of choirs and big scale production is so unique and sonically pleasing that it is hard to find much fault in this album. With standout songs such as “No Problem”, “Same Drugs”, and “All Night”, Chance the Rapper show us what the future of music is and it is something to be excited for.
4: 22, A Million by Bon Iver
22, A Million is another album so unique that it can be hard to latch onto. With the electronic feels and robotic voices, Bon Iver creates an album with many different aspects to it. It is not all electronic, also incorporating live instruments like the piano on “33 ‘God’”. The album has a constant sound of not knowing whether to go full robotic or to stay human. When the listener hears the singing turn to chaos though, you know this is no ordinary album and stands firmly in its own lane.
3: Blond by Frank Ocean
Fans of Frank Ocean waited four years for a new album and when he finally released one in the form of a video (Endless), he then followed it up with the beauty that is Blond. Blond represents different versions of Frank Ocean, from him as a kid to who he is now. The album can get political when it has to, but can also be something that blurs the lines of hip-hop and R&B more than most albums. Frank Ocean takes this introspective look at himself and comes out on the other side still not knowing who he is, yet knowing exactly what he is. Ocean continues to bring us his beautiful melodies like on “Pink + White”, yet brings something new with songs like “Nights”. It may have taken four years, but Frank Ocean comes back and shows everyone why he is still one of the best songwriters alive.
2: Malibu by Anderson .Paak
Ask most people at the beginning of 2015 who Anderson .Paak is and they would have had no clue who you were talking about. Then throw him on a Dr. Dre album, have him release two projects of his own, and now you have one of the biggest stars of 2016.
Malibu, the better of the two projects Anderson .Paak was a part of in 2016, is an artist being great at a few things and surrounding himself with others who can fill in the gaps. The production on this album is out of this world, with a host of instruments finding their way into the production. Some of these are played by .Paak, others by friends. His writing shows a man who has perfected his craft over the time that it took people to actually find him. The groovy nature of this album is so infectious and just forces everyone listening to dance.
.Paak, much like Frank Ocean, has the ability to be whatever you want him to be. He can rap, he can sing, and is just an all-around excellent musician. There is something for everybody on this album and stood firm as the best album of the year until late in the year.
1: We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service by A Tribe Called Quest
18 years between albums and after the loss of beloved member Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest released the album of the year in We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service. We got it from Here is so unapologetically 90s hip-hop and thrives in that environment in 2016. The handoff rapping of the group is something to marvel at as one member picks up right where the previous had left off. Their messages are ones needed at this time, with talk of racial divide and overall a divide seen in the country currently.
Busta Rhymes finds himself several times on this album, and he sounds better than he has in years. Another artist on this project is André 3000 and although he was on other projects on this list, to hear him work with A Tribe Called Quest is a dream come true. The two worlds that collide here are two worlds fans of both sides can get behind.
Did A Tribe Called Quest do anything new? Not really, but that is why this is so special. The culmination of this album represents the culmination of one of the greatest rap groups of all-time and a fan’s last goodbye to Phife Dawg, and as a fan, it is hard to ask for much more than what we got.
David Arroyo is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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