2016 really has fucked us over, but let’s not dwell on the political catastrophes, acts of terrorism and the deaths of countless global icons that will forever categorise what truly has been a disaster of a year. Musically, it’s been a different story. At a time when the rise of the playlist threatened its demise the album format is alive and well, and we’ve selected a short few that we don’t think your 2016 should be complete without.
10. 808INK – HUNGRY
Kicking things off this year is the second LP from ‘Lundun’s gulliest duo’, 808INK. In 2016, 808Charmer and Mumblez Black Ink honed a sound that processes the Funk-inflected bass and synth sounds of West Coast Hip Hop through a South London lens. ‘Hungry‘ is an altogether more assured effort than last year’s ‘Billy’s Home‘, and saw the duo receive some of the critical acclaim they’ve long deserved.
ScHoolboy Q’s ‘Blank Face LP’ saw the TDE MC troll us with fake covers and release a two part short film in the form of ‘By Any Means‘ and ‘Tookie Knows II‘. There are moments of brilliance on ‘Blank Face’; the relentlessly foreboding ‘Groovy Tony‘ exemplifies Puffy at his most brilliantly unrestrained and tracks like ‘Dope Dealer’ and ‘WHateva U Want’ pays a delightful homage to his West Coast heritage. And then there’s ‘THat Part‘. Check it out here.
When it comes to Grime MCs set to dominate 2017, Trim is far too often overlooked. Although his ‘Soulfood’ series and work as part of Roll Deep has made him something of a household name, it’s his latest collaborative LP with James Blake’s 1-800 Dinosaur thatreally saw him come into his own. Spitting clever, often bitter, off-kilter bars over leftfield Grime rhythms, Trim carves out a real niche. Check out ‘1-800 Dinosaur Presents: Trim’ here.
Since his full-length LP, 2013’s ‘Kaytra to Do’, Kaytranada had been producing for the likes of BADBADNOTGOOD, Kali Uchis, Mick Jenkins, Wiki, The Internet, Towkio and Freddie Gibbs – to name but a few. All the while, the Canadian beatmaker had his own sound firmly in his sights; a fusion of J Dilla-inspired Hip Hop and woozy House grooves that must make his earlier minimalism wince. Click here to check out 99.9% for yourself.
‘The Life of Pablo‘ wasn’t released without controversy. It was the first album to continue to evolve after its release, came with a tour that drove West to exhaustion, and then of course there was that line on ‘Famous‘ [the video for which didn’t exactly play it safe]. At the heart of it all though, is an album that sees Kanye West continue to push boundaries and innovate in the way that only he can. Listen back here.
Since previous album, 1998’s ‘The Love Movement’, A Tribe Called Quest tragically lost founding member Phife Dawg. This year’s ‘We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service‘ saw the legendary group create another timeless classic, featuring Fif himself alongside the likes of Q-Tip, Andre 3000 and Busta Rhymes. If ever there was a difficult sixth album this was it, but Tribe “easily slipped back into the zone” according to Tip, with the Jack White, Anderson .Paak and Kanye West bringing their sound into the 21st century.
Last August, Frank Ocean released baffling visual album ‘Endless‘. It was a job to know what to make of it, until a new video for ‘Nikes‘ hinted that this wasn’t the album fans were waiting for. ‘Blond’ came just days later, and it became apparent that Frankie had just been fucking with us – and his label – all along. ‘Blond’ isn’t exactly immediate, and like so many great albums takes several listens to make its full impact. ‘Channel Orange’ mark two it is not, but woozy and delicate, its subtlety continues to resonate.
Danny Brown’s debut on Warp Records is a terrifying glimpse into the psyche of an unhinged artist. ‘Atrocity Exhibition”s production is unrelentingly stark, and recalls Post-Punk every bit as much as the album’s Joy Division-inspired title. Highlights include ‘Really Doe’ [ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt] and the frenetic ‘Pneumonia’, but it’s the way ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ hangs together as an unsettling rush of raw energy that warrants its inclusion in our top ten.
Okay, okay – so this isn’t technically an album – sue us! The distinction between mixtape and album is becoming increasingly blurred thanks to incredible bodies of work like ‘Coloring Book’, and that’s precisely what we’re here to celebrate. Call it what you will, this is the most infectiously positive, undeniably life-affirming collection of songs we’ve heard all year. At it’s heart, ‘Coloring Book’ is pure Gospel; it’s a melodic display of Chance’ gratitude to God for the good fortune he’s received. Check it out here, download here on iTunes.
Skepta’s had a foot deep in the Grime game since day one. Fiercely independent, he’s spearheaded the progression of the genre alongside a handful of others for over a decade. The success of fifth album ‘Konnichiwa‘, however, has turned the mainstream spotlight toward Grime, and has been partly responsible for taking the scene global. The Mercury-winning album is a worthy winner even devoid of this context: packed with hard-hitting anthems like ‘Shutdown’, ‘Man, ‘Crime Riddim’, ‘It Ain’t Safe’ and ‘That’s Not Me’, it’s a forced to be reckoned with. Stream it here.
So there it is – our top 10 albums of 2016. And in case you’re unfamiliar with any of the titles – we’ve made you a handy little playlist [above] so you can get to know. Follow us on Spotify for more sweet playlists, and here’s to another great year of music in 2017.