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Ranking My Top Ten Albums of 2016

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Ranking My Top Ten Albums of 2016

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Photo by Uproxx.com

Jacob Chagoya, Web Editor

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2016 is over, and with it brings the end of an exciting year for music. From Frank Ocean’s long awaited return to Chance The Rapper’s rise to stardom, we witnessed a remarkable year. This year I listened to more music than I had in any other year, branching out to try new artists and listening to more albums. In light of all of the music I listened to this year, I thought I would attempt to rank my favorite albums of 2016. Below are my top 10 favorite albums/mixtapes/EP, as well as my favorite song and lyrics from each album.

10. i think you think too much of me – EDEN

The tenth spot on this list was the hardest to pick, as Major Key by DJ Khaled and Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight by Travis Scott were both very good. Ultimately however, I picked the album that I can listen to without having to skip any tracks, and that is EDEN’s i think you think too much of me. The only Alternative album to make my list, this short EP serves as a great introduction into EDEN, as it blends pop, rock, and electronic music into one original project. Along with great vocals, the synth heavy i think you think too much of me explores love in a unique way that allows the EP to stand out from the cliché love songs of pop. Heartbreak and hope are the subject of the album, and the electronic aspect matches the lyrics perfectly, creating a very distinct tone to the project. This EP is good and original enough to make its way on to my top ten list.

Favorite SongSex

Favorite lyrics – From XO

“I don’t think I love you no more/ you never seem to call me lately.”/ Girl I don’t think you know me at all/ ‘Cause I never thought I’d have to say this/ No I don’t love you, and I never did

9. untitled unmastered. – Kendrick Lamar

As suggested by the album title, this album was never intended to exist, as the songs were never completely finished, and weren’t even named. After Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly was critically acclaimed, many were starving for more from the talented musician. Thus, untitled unmastered. was released, as the tracks are songs that did not make it on to TPAB. Each track has no name, instead being called untitled and given a number, along with a date, presumably from when the track was recorded. At the end of untitled 02 | 06.23.2014. you hear Lamar talking to someone in the studio, referencing songs from TPAB, such as Mortal Man and [King] Kunta.Despite these tracks never being completely finished, the album is still very good, a testimony to Lamar’s ability to create music, as he created an album full of throwaways that was still good enough to make my list. While the album follows no theme, such as his previous albums have, the individual tracks are very good. Untitled 02 and untitled 07 provide some strong bars from the rapper, while songs such as 06 and 08 continue to see Lamar transfuse rap with jazz. This album is short, at only 7 tracks, but every song is a hit and right in line with what you expect when Lamar hops on the mic.

Favorite Song – untitled 05 | 09.21.2014.

Favorite lyrics – From untitled 08 | 09.06.2014

In today’s day and age we practice the self pity of taking the easy way out/ You wait on them, him and her/ But when a blessing takes too long, that’s when you go wrong/ You selfish motherf—-r

8. Views – Drake

No matter your feelings about Drake, you can’t deny he is one of the biggest stars in music today. That’s why the announcement of a new album brought with it much anticipation and hype, as he has continually evolved, going from the “soft” rapper/singer that delivered Take Care to the aggressive showoff that gave us If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. This is why the album, in my opinion, did not live up to the hype, despite the numbers it did.

This album was more of the same from Drake, as right off the bat you get Drake singing about an ex in Keep The Family Close. Drake played it safe, but it’s hard to blame him when his formula works. That’s why when I revisited this project with lowered expectations, it was better than the first time I heard it. Now I know an album must not fare well when you have to listen to a project with low expectations, but if this album were anyone else’s we would be claiming it to be very good.

However, because it is Drake’s it caught a lot of flack. In terms of the actual content, this album is a whopping 20 songs, landing at 81 minutes. Long albums are tricky, as there can’t be much filler as you can lose an audience, because no one wants to sit through a long album that isn’t delivering. Views has this problem unfortunately, as many tracks feel like filler, such as Hype, With You, and Grammys. Additionally, Drake’s lyricism isn’t up to par with his past projects, as he comes through with many corny punchlines (“Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”, seriously Drake). Yet, this album did provide arguably the song of the summer, One Dance. Ultimately though, Hotline Bling as the outro track sums up the album: made for hits. This isn’t a bad thing however, as there were enough good songs to have this album make my list.

Favorite Song – Feel No Ways

Favorite Lyrics – From Weston Road Flows

The most successful rapper 35 and under/ I’m assuming everybody’s 35 and under

7. DC4 – Meek Mill

I reviewed DC4 here. Again, DC4 showed the world what Meek Mill is capable of, and that he isn’t just the rapper that was in a feud with Drake. Meek delivered.

Favorite SongBlue Notes

Favorite Lyrics– From Two Wrongs

And the nerve of you critics/ To think something of me and judge me/ If I shoot and murder

these n—-s/ They murdered my dad and converted me menace

6. Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper

Chicago’s own Chance The Rapper took the world by storm this year, as his fame skyrocketed with his ground breaking mixtape Coloring Book. At the GRAMMYS award show, Chance was not eligible for nominations, as his music has always been free and he is not signed to a record label. His previous mixtapes, Acid Rap and 10 Day, were free to download. However, Chance took a bold approach to his new project, releasing it to Apple Music exclusively for 2 weeks before releasing it on other platforms. While some pointed out that this wasn’t free, Chance pointed out that fans could get a free one month membership with Apple Music, then listen to the mixtape on other free platforms, such as Soundcloud. As a result, Chance was able to gain nominations, and has been nominated for 7 GRAMMYS.

Coloring Book captures the persona of Chance, the happy, religious rapper that is trying to be a good father to his daughter. Chance loves life and God, and he lets the world know about it throughout Coloring Book. He almost overdoes it, such as in the song How Great, when there is a 2 minute intro of a choir singing “How great is our God/ sing with me how great is our god.” However, the mixtape provides listeners with feel great music. You can’t help but be happy when listening to this mixtape. The mixtape does hurt a little bit from a lack of variety however, as it felt very one dimensional. There were some mixing problems, as Kanye’s part in All We Got has a rough transition from Chance to him. Also, Chance The Rapper felt more like Chance The Singer this time around. It is a good thing that Chance has a good voice though, and when he did rap he came with some bars, such as in Finish Line/Drown. I just wish he rapped a bit more. Ultimately, this was a very good project that I had in rotation all summer long, and has propelled Chance to the mainstream, as he well deserves.

Favorite Song – Blessings (Reprise) (feat. Ty Dolla Sign, Raury, BJ The Chicago Kid & Anderson

.Paak)

Favorite lyrics – from Blessings (Reprise) (feat. Ty Dolla Sign, Raury, BJ The Chicago Kid & Anderson .Paak)

I speak to God in public, I speak to God in Public/ He keep my rhymes in couplets/ He think the new s–t jam, I think we mutual fans/ I used to dance to Michael, I used to dance in high school/ I used to pass out music, I still pass out music

5. 4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole

J. Cole surprised everyone when he announced that his latest album would be dropping on December 9th. Cole had a relatively quiet year, as the last time we heard from him he was contemplating retirement. This dark  tone is a prominent theme throughout the album, as Cole questions many different aspects of life.

The opening track For Whom The Bells Toll finds Cole questioning whether life is even worth living, as he raps “Tired of feeling low, even when I’m high/ Ain’t no way to live, do I wanna die?/ I don’t know, I don’t know.” On Immortal Cole continues to tinker with the concept of death, yet this time he talks about death from the perspective of the hood, and how dying “real” can immortalize someone. In Change, probably the most upbeat song, Cole talks about better days that are yet to come. However, at the end of the track you hear Cole speak of the death of a man, presumably one that Cole knew. Indeed, Cole tackles the loss of life that comes from gang violence and police brutality throughout the album. Neighbors, a song inspired by true events, is a song on Cole’s perspective of racism. Even though he is a very successful man who has helped better himself and others, because of his skin color his neighbors think that he only became rich due to selling drugs. “So much for integration.”

Another prominent theme on the album is very contrasting from the darkness that Cole explores in death and racism. We find Cole expressing his love for his secret wife and daughter.On She’s Mine, Pt.1,Pt.2, and Foldin Clothes, Cole serenades his wife and daughter, expressing his love and his hopes to make their lives as great as they make his. With the contrasting themes, the album can be confusing. On the one hand, Cole is contemplating death but on the other hand he is in love and has hope with his family. The final track, which is also the title to the album, brings the album together in a very clever way. In 4 Your Eyez Only Cole raps the first couple of verses from the perspective of another man. This man is the point of view that Cole has reportedly been rapping from. 8 minutes of incredible storytelling wraps up the album, as Cole weaves a beautiful story told on his latest project.

Favorite Song – Change

Favorite Lyrics – From Change

See I believe if God was real He’d never judge a man/ because He knows us all and therefore He would understand/ The ignorance that make a n—a take his brother life/ The bitterness and pain that got him beating on his wife.

4. The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

The Life of Pablo had possibly the most hectic release of any album ever. First Kanye announced the album’s release after a performance on Saturday Night Live, however he released it exclusively to the streaming service Tidal. As a result, many (including myself) had to sign up for the service in order to listen to the album. Kanye vowed to never release the album on any other streaming service, however he eventually did. In addition, Kanye unprecedently worked on the album while it was available to the public. He would add to songs, as he added a choir to Father Stretch My Hands pt. 1, as well as adding verses to Wolves. He even added an entire song to the album, months after the album’s original release, called Saint Pablo. I will be reviewing the finished album, and not the original that was initially released in February.

The craziness that accompanied the album’s release, and quite frankly Kanye’s  life, is reflected in this album. Whereas in previous albums he has had cohesive albums with a distinct sound, such as his album 808s and Heartbreak where he utilized the 808 drum often, TLOP was not cohesive. While Kanye claimed the album would be more similar to a gospel album, it was still a rap album. Only a 2 maybe 3 songs could even be considered gospel. Yet, this album is very good, as there were only 4 or 5 songs I didn’t enjoy, impressive on a 20 (19 if you exclude the awful intermission) track album.

The album’s opening track is electric, as Ultralight Beam offers up a dynamic song as Kanye explores his faith in religion. The two Father Stretch My Hands songs then switch the album up immensely, going into a more traditional style. The following tracks are all decent, but the album hits its strongest point after the track I Love Kanye, where Kanye raps about missing the “old Kanye.” We seem to get the old Kanye, as the stretch of songs after this, from Waves to No More Parties in LA is simply amazing. Kanye hits some of his most personal points ever in Real Friends, FML, and Wolves. Kanye even pulled Frank Ocean, who had remained away from the public sphere for awhile, out to do a track. Kanye and Kendrick Lamar then give us 6 minutes of straight rapping on No More Parties in LA, a refreshing track as Kanye’s lyrical ability has really deteriorated over the years. In fact, Kanye has many corny and weak bars throughout the album, a weak point of the album. However, there are some tracks where Kanye really brings it. One such track is Saint Pablo, a great closer to the album that parallels the strong opener. Overall, TLOP may be a mess, but it is a very enjoyable mess.

Favorite Song –Ultralight Beam

Favorite Lyrics – From Saint Pablo 

The media said he’s way out of control/ I just feel like I’m the only one not pretendin’/ I’m not out of control, I’m just not in they control/ I know I’m the most influential/ That TIME cover was just confirmation/This generation’s closest thing to Einstein/ So don’t worry about me, I’m fine.

3. Blank Face LP – ScHoolboy Q

ScHoolboy Q, the former gang member of the Hoover Crips, produces a dark,grimy album that was my favorite for most of the year. The album is very well produced, as it had some of my favorite beats of the year. Tookie Knows 2, Dope Dealer, and John Muir are some of the highlights. The transition from By Any Means to Dope Dealer is so good, and Metro Boomin produces as only he can. The beat of Tookie Knows 2 may be the jardest beat I have ever heard in my life, and that truly somes up how good the production of this album was. Aside from the production, Q showcases many different styles and flows throughout the album. Q showcases his lyrical ability on tracks such as Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane and Str8 Ballin. He also has some groovy, funk inspired tracks that he seems throughout the album.

The guest features on this album were well delivered for the most part. Jadakiss has a menacing verse on Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane, that really adds to tone of the album. Lesser known artists TF and Traffic helps put two strong verses for a great closing track, and Anderson .Paak makes his mark on the album as he delivers for the title track. Some verses really detracted from the songs, such as Kanye West’s part on THat Part, and E-40’s verse on Dope Dealer. Overall, Q put out a strong album that hits on every level.

Favorite Song – Tookie Knows 2

Favorite Lyrics – From Lord Have Mercy

Guess I’m bein’ a “real n—a” like I’m ‘posed to be/ But bein’ “real” never once brought the groceries and/ Top told me, “Keep rapping you’ll make it hopefully”/ and hope was all that I needed, dreamin’ myself to work/ This workin’ affair was better than bullet holes in my shirt

2. We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest

This album shot up my list to end the year, and for good reason as A Tribe Called Quest released an album that fused the sounds of the 90’s with modern music. I had never listened to any of their albums, as they were released so long ago. Yet, I gave this a try and boy, I am glad I did because this truly is an album that speaks on so many levels. With 2016 being an election year, Tribe had a lot to say as they released a politically charged album.  This was the rap group’s first album since 1998, so there were questions surrounding this album. Would they be able to connect to the newer generation while also maintaining what made them famous? They did, and released one of the best albums of the year. There were also questions about how Tribe would cope with the passing of member Phife Dawg. Yet, Tribe came out with an album that would make Phife proud.

The Space Program opens the album, a smooth track that talks about the treatment of African Americans in America, where the group wonders whether they would be taken to safety if the world was ending, an analogy to talk about the harsh reality the Africa American community faces. “Imagine if this s–t was really talking about space, dude.” The album then shifts to the song We The People, a song that has plenty to say about the racism and bigotry of the country. The chorus really hits here, as member Q-Tip sings “All you Black folks you must go/All you Mexicans you must go/And all you poor folks you must go/Muslims and Gays, boy we hate your ways,” mimicking the thoughts of some people in America. The first two songs leave a very strong impression as to what to expect for the album, not only through the political theme but through the smooth flows were the group effortlessly passes the mic to each other. Each member plays to their strengths, and they complement each other very well.  This is exhibited on Solid Wall of Sound, as Phife Dawg, Q-Tip and guest Busta Rhymes intertwine their rapping throughout the song. The album has very few, if any filler tracks as each song feels just as important as the last.

I will say though, that I enjoyed the first 5 songs, and the last 5 an equal amount, as the middle of the akbum didn’t leave as strong of an impression. Not that they are bad, just that the opening and ending of the album are just that good. Starting with Lost Somebody, the album becomes rejuvinated. The track is a tribute to Phife Dawg, one of the most personal and emotional tracks on the album. Yet, Tribe gives us hope and happiness in the next track with Movin Backwards, as they explore failure and moving on through the pain.

The features on this song are also refreshing and exciting if you are a fan of Hip Hop. Kendrick Lamar delivers an electric verse on Conrad Tokyo, while Anderson .Paak unexpectedly takes over on Movin Backwards. Busta Rhymes fits in comfortably on Solid Wall of Sound, and Elton John’s help on the chorus is also a welcomed addition. There is also an appearance from the elusive Andre 3000, one that is sure to get any Outkast fan excited.

Overall, A Tribe Called Quest created a master piece of an album, one that anybody can appreciate. They don’t rely on their past success to carry them. They don’t rehash what made them successful, or brag about what they have done. They simply create an album full of great beats, lyrics, and songs.

Favorite SongWe The People 

Favorite Lyrics – From We The People

We don’t believe you/ Cause we the people/ Are still here in the rear ayo we don’t need you/ You in the killing-off-a-good-young-n—a mood/ When we get hungry we eat the same f—–g food/ The ramen noodle

1. Blonde – Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean is an enigma. After dropping his critically acclaimed debut album, Channel Orange in 2012, the R&B singer went into hiding. Not much was heard from Frank and after a few years, fans began to get antsy. Frank teased multiple times over the past two years about the release date for what would be his newest album. He said the first date back in 2015, and fans waited all day for nothing, as the album never dropped. It seemed like this happened every few months, as rumors would soread about a release date, only to prove futile. Then, one day Frank Ocean’s website ran a livestream. Now, I wasn’t a Frank Ocean fan at all. I saw the hype, listened to Channel Orange and thought nothing of it. Yet, there I was at 1 a.m watching his livestream, because all of the mystery surrounding this man brought me in. The livestream wasn’t even anything, it was an empty garage. Nothing happened though, and it seemed like Frank was again messing with everyone. Then, the New York Times, the most credible source yet,  reported the debut of a new album was coming. Again, the date came and went. Then it finally happened, as Frank dropped not only a studio album, Blonde, but a visual album Endless. He also released magazines titles Boys Don’t Cry. It was quite the return, and every second of this album makes the wait entirely worth it.

This album is not Channel Orange 2, as Frank Ocean’s music evolves. There is a distinct lack of drums on the album, a change of pace from the 808 heavy music that fills our radios. Yet, it works very well, as the production introduces a variety of instruments to fill the void. There are very few albums where there is no consensus on the top songs. There are so many songs to pick from, and I personally would have a new favorite track each week. First it was Ivy, then Nights, then Pretty Sweet, then Self Control, and back to Nights. This album is just that good.

Years without hearing Frank Ocean’s soothing voice passed, and when you start the album you are hit with a distorted Frank, a shock to anyone expecting to heat the talented singer. High pitched and altered, Frank sings about the materialistic world that we live in, referenced by the title Nikes. In fact, Frank doesn’t enter until over 2 minutes into the track. Yet, the track is so peaceful, that you can’t help but feel at peace. Somehow, the altered voice works, and makes the appearance of Frank so much more welcomed.

Ivy, the next song gives us more of what you would expect from the singer, a tale about the excitement one feels when they are first in love. The relationship eventually dissolves, as these “perfect” relationships tend to do. “I thought that I was dreaming, when you said you loved me,” turns into “I broke your heart last week, you’ll probably feel better by the weekend.” The song then ends with a shrieking voice, one that accurately sums up the relationship told here. Frank explores love, materialism, and ultimately being yourself.

Frank Ocean, an icon to the LGBTQ community, has admitted to being either gay or bisexual. With this in mind, the album title takes on a different meaning. Blonde is the title of the album, yet the spelling Blond is seen on the cover art. These are the two spellings of the word, yet, Blonde is associated with women while Blond is associated with men more often. Frank speaks up on being yourself, not only through sexual preference but by not being peer pressured, seen on the interlude Be Yourself. 

Frank sings his heart out in this album, and really each song is a masterpiece. The beat switch on Nights sends me chills everytime, and there are many high points on the album, and few if any low points. The soft music presents a spot light where Frank can shine, and you can’t help but listen to everything he says. Frank looks back on his past a lot in this album in a reflective mindset, yet his music is going no where but forward, and for the better.

Favorite Song –Nights

Favorite Lyrics – From Nights

Know them boys wanna see me broke down/See me bummed out, stressed out/ That’s just everday s–t/ Shut the f–k up I don’t want your conversation/ Rolling marijuana that’s a cheap vacation/That’s just everyday s–t

 

Agree with my list? Hate my list? Let me know, and give me your rankings in the comments! 

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Ranking My Top Ten Albums of 2016”

  1. Jacob Leib on February 1st, 2017 2:46 pm

    This ranking is very poor. I respectfully disagree with all of it. I think you should listen to some actual quality music. For example: Spirits Having Flown By The Bee Gees, America By America, Homecoming By America, Crosby, Stills and Nash By Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bookends By Simon & Garfunkel or Rubber Soul By The Beatles. Let me tell you, these are only my suggestions, but I think that if you enlightened yourself it would make your life a little bit better. 59

  2. Will Weinfield on February 1st, 2017 2:53 pm

    Well actually Jacob L. none of those albums were from 2016, however, if I do say so myself they are some quality albums. But, if we are strictly speaking about 2016 I would have to say that we are in the golden age of speed metal!!! My personal favorite from 2016 would have to be Redux By Vektor Terminal followed by The Apothic Gloom By Skeletonwitch. That is just my opinion.

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