[Written By// @K1ngEljay]
It has been an incredible year for music in 2015. Anyone who’s told you different doesn’t know how to find the music they love, because there was so much to drop this year in almost every category, for every type of rap and hip-hop fan. Since TheREDEFINED.com went on a bit of a hiatus towards the end of last year, it’s only right that we attempt to catch you up on the main things you may have missed out on. The following post is a year-end list, but with a bit more detail than normal. It must be noted that these are my favorite projects to come out, and although the logic (not the rapper) within will be sound, feel free to disagree and argue in the comments as much as you like. We welcome the discourse. That being said, check out the ten projects to survive my personal iPod this year.
10 | Jay Rock x “90059”
We could mention how 90059 lost a bit (okay, a LOT) of it’s momentum by TDE’s mismanaging the release date. Granted, in other situations it would be an ingenious idea to have the fans preorder the album and dictate the release by the amount of preorders, but you can ask GameStop how pushing preorders can make you an enemy of the state. By the time the album was official and the release date set in stone, no one truly believed them. It took Jay Rock’s album leaking, and us being able to hear it for ourselves for people to pay attention. I’m thankful for the music being really good, but the politics around the album (and, honestly, the videos outside of “Vice City“) almost ruined it for me.
As I said earlier though, the music was top-notch, and although it lacks a couple of the clever bangers from his Follow Me Home debut (“Just Like Me” is forever one of my favorite songs from him), it flows so much more cohesively as a whole, and it’s a testament to the care that TDE’s camp takes when crafting their music.
Now if we can just get Ab-Soul to redeem himself for These Days… then we’ll be good.
9 | Lupe Fiasco x “Tetsuo & Youth”
I hate Twitter sometimes. I don’t think Lupe Fiasco’s name would illicit groans to this effect if Twitter wasn’t a thing. From him and Goodbye Tomorrow getting into it about the smallest things in the world, to Lupe’s seemingly innate ability to make molehills into mountains, most of Lupe’s fans nowadays have to learn how to separate the man from the music. It shouldn’t be that way when partaking in someone’s art. It’s disappointing, but Lupe himself has said it wasn’t wise to confuse the two. I guess we’ll just have to make due with the fact the man’s coming off more and more like a jerk…
Regardless, the bottom line is that Lupe has proved he is still as sharp as ever, the music is top-grade, and Tetsuo & Youth ended up sounding more like the emcee we wanted two albums ago. From stylish word schemes for the simple (“Deliver“) and the not so simple (“Mural“) to the song-making ability, there’s not too much fault here… unless, of course, you really just don’t like Lupe anymore and feel like you need a dictionary/thesaurus to enjoy it properly.
That’s fair, actually.
8 | Freddie Gibbs x “Shadow of a Doubt”
I could be cliche and say that I want everyone to win in life, but that would undermine the fact that there’s certain people I need to see win more than that. I’ve been following Freddie Gibbs since “F*ck Tha World” came out, and there was something so refreshing about someone that lyrical and that street. I felt it was a matter of time before he blew, and when he signed with Jeezy, I figured that was it, and he was about to be out of here.
Then he wasn’t. Instead, Gibbs and Jeezy had a feud that’s went public, then silent, and now it’s more mute than anything. Simultaneously, Gibbs has been pushing his ESGN products with relative success, but that wasn’t enough for me. I was still waiting on that resounding, undeniable album, though; although I rocked with all of his projects, I had people around me that didn’t for several reasons.
And then, as Shadow of a Doubt dropped, I watched those reasons fly out the window. I can’t say if this is his best project to date, but I can say that this is the project I play for people when they ask me about new music, and it’s yet to disappoint. There’s not too much out that’s better, but as far as the pure, unadulterated street angle? In that regard, this is by far the best project to drop.
Just… skip “Basketball Wives.” I…I don’t know what was going on with that one.
7 | Earl Sweatshirt x “I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside”
Earl Sweatshirt is an interesting person, man. Loiter Squad skits stay getting retweeted on my timeline, and most of them are hilarious because of Earl’s cameos. His personality’s comical, so it’s always a bit of a shock when I flip back and forth from his acting to his raps. That being said, he’s incredible at both, but his raps are decidedly darker than most would prefer. Doris didn’t exactly move me (or him, in that matter if you check the archives), but I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside came purely from him.
Thankfully, the album completely encapsulates his talent all in one (with the exception of the humor, sorry), because Doris was not it. It’s dark, it’s brooding, it’s dense, and it’s one of the best technical displays of rap you’re going to get from someone that young. He’s only going to get better, and watching him perform these songs live when he hit Iron City in Birmingham, AL (shout out to the plug) also skyrocketed the replay value for me. It’s funny when you hear people say he’s boring when he raps; it kind of proves they don’t listen to music and they just skim through it… Internet “tastemakers” aside, Earl strung together a cohesive project with this one, and the more I listen to it the more I appreciate it as a writer and a fan.
6 | Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment x “Surf”
First off, you should disregard every single opinion concerning Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment if they simplify the movement to a “Chance The Rapper” endeavor. In layman’s terms, this is more than a Chance the Rapper project. He’s involved, but this is Donnie’s brainchild. If you truly believe differently, you need to go back and relabel all of the old DJ Khaled albums as Rick Ross / Ace Hood albums. You’d also need to essentially throw a middle finger up to the SAVEMONEY team (Kids Next Door included), because it’s that disrespectful to Donnie Trumpet and his overall ability to be the glue-guy to make things work. I never thought that someone could get that much mileage out of an instrument, but the collective minds on the Social Experiment outdid themselves this year with an album that featured everyone, with the artists agreeing to being listed on the project in secret, while getting iTunes behind the move…all for the price it cost you to read this sentence.
That means, it’s free.
While we’re here, it should be said that some of the unions on the project is nothing short of musical flexes. Busta Rhymes kicking the features off with a bang? D.R.A.M. putting it down on one of the best snippets on the project? King Louie and Quavo on lush instrumentation together? No, seriously, God Bless the person who had the vision to place those two on the same track. God, bless that person.
5 | Mac Miller x “GO:OD AM”
There was a moment on GO:OD AM that I don’t feel we talk about enough. Somewhere in the midst of the hilarious punchlines, the devilsh bars, and the top-notch production, Mac Miller found himself. Before this album came out, there were flashes of it throughout the entire time, so although I didn’t enjoy entire projects, there were songs that I vibed with hard. That being said, in the midst of all of these songs that I vibed with – hard – coming back to back, the sample drops in for “God Speed” and Mac pens an open letter concerning his recent awareness. It’s one of the realest moments you’ll hear in music this year, and the sudden change was sobering enough to make me realize this was something special.
And, of course, Mac then drops in “When In Rome“, which might be one of the hardest, high-energy songs you’ll hear this year. Granted, that’s not the only highlights here; you have the coming out announcement of “100 Grandkids“, the Lil’ B feature on “Time Flies“, or the Chief Keef collaboration on “Cut The Check“, but all of it flows together with the introspective Mac songs (“ROS“, Ascension“) to make one of the best projects to drop this year. Don’t write off Mac Miller; it seems like his time around the TDE camp has done him some good.
4 | The Internet x “Ego Death”
Alright, so don’t laugh, but it actually took my wife to press play on this to get me to listen. She’s been rocking with Syd and company from jump (because, Odd Future fan), but I didn’t comprehend or understand how talented the Odd Future associates were until about a year and some change ago. To top it off, I was never quite big on Syd as a lead artist, even though her behind-the-scenes movements are cohesively calculated.
I have to extend a serious apology about my thinking; I was so wrong. There was no malicious intent in my thinking, but I truthfully thought the music wouldn’t resonate with me, and that was incorrect. To be blunt, The Internet and their music is incredible, and the vibes from Ego Death literally grab you as soon as the project begins. I’ve used this word a couple times today, but this project’s simply undeniable. If you haven’t listened to it and you need a break from the raps, check this one out. It’s that good.
3 | Scarface x “Deeply Rooted”
Scarface is top five for me, dead or alive, in the category of favorite rappers. There’s an atmosphere of authenticity whenever he speaks or spits, and there’s not another person in rap who can command my attention as well as he can. When listening to albums, if there’s a FaceMob feature, I’m skipping to it (which goes completely against my process of playing an album in its entirety off bat). If he drops an album, I cop it off bat. It’s not a “Stan” situation either; I’ve bought a couple of his projects that didn’t quite hit right for me (mainly Emeritus, although there were a couple bangers on there). So I was borderline ecstatic to be able to play the hell out of Deeply Rooted from front to back with no regrets.
It’s funny; this may be the first album in years that Face himself is cool with. I say that because I got to read his book, “Diary of a Mad Man“, and it has some very interesting things concerning his music he’s made after going back to Rap-A-Lot in the 2000s. It is what it is, but the bottom line is that whether his heart was in the old music or not (and it was, there’s no questioning that in any regard, ever) Deeply Rooted is the album we’ve been waiting for since he announced his retirement, and it’s my favorite from him since The Fix. Yeah, that’s in writing.
The only knock I have for it is that arguably the best song from Face is on the Deluxe Edition: “Mental Exorcism” is the rawest song I’ve heard this year, and you need to do the same before continuing with this post.
2 | Kendrick Lamar x “To Pimp A Butterfly”
King Kendrick Lamar, ladies and gentlemen.
I think the last time we’ve seen people argue this vehemently about any musical topic in rap was when Kendrick dropped his “feature” verse on Big Sean’s “Control.” Granted, Drake (who, if you haven’t noticed, is absent from this particular list on Crack|The|Crown) may be the most polarizing artist in music due to circumstances, but Kendrick seems to stay in people’s mouths just as much without the “public” accomplishments of being associated with an NBA team or beefing with your #WCW’s current man. Kendrick’s been focused more so on putting out content that wasn’t thrown together in a week or named by bloggers that may or may not have mimicked Chris Brown’s regrettable actions towards Rihanna, and the rewards have been plentiful.
Of course some are still split about the project, but just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in the conversation…and this is easily in the conversation for me. Top that off with the stellar videos, performances, and one-off singles that are just as high-quality (but no where to be found in MP3 format, such as the intro to the “Alright” video and the INCREDIBLE Colbert Show performance) and Kendrick’s name stayed in people’s mouths for all of the right reasons. No gimmicks. No collab EPs to hold fans over. No high profile dating scene. Just…the music, via To Pimp A Butterfly.
Thanks, man. I didn’t know that was still possible in today’s age.
1 | Boogie x “The Reach”
If you’re new to my writings, then you may be wondering where in the world this pick came from.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, this isn’t a surprise to you at all, and now I get to explain why.
One of the best things about music is how it can literally come from anywhere, and Boogie came completely out of left-field for most people, myself included. I had his project favorited for at least a week before Melvin insisted I hear the intro. A few minutes later, I was in the rabbit-hole, finding out as much as I could about him and wondering how in the world I missed that to begin with.
The best thing about Boogie is his diversity, however; after hearing his attention-grabbing, Jahlil Beats produced banger “Oh My“, I was surprised to see the song that most associated him with was literally bait; no other song sounds like that on his project (or on Thirst 48, to be real). Instead, The Reach is a cohesive flowing project that utilizes Boogie’s skills as a rapper and a musician to the best of any ability I’ve seen this (um, last) year. Combine that with the incredibly layered schemes thrown into the lyrics, and couple that with the wise but talented production from Keyel and others, and Boogie’s The Reach can rival any project to drop last year, pound for pound.