The time has come for the annual recap of some of the best music to hit the internet waves from this past year. Though I can argue that each year the music scene gets better and better, 2016 was quite possibly my favorite year in music.
2016 was a year for diversity in music for me, and quite frankly, because of the diverse musical pallet of this year, it helped me cope with whatever mood I was feeling for almost any situation. That is what music was intended to do for you.
Whether it was a density of relatable lyrics, emotions that were expressed through sound and movement, or just an overall joy felt from the artist and their creative works, these are my top albums of 2016 (in no particular order).
Kaytranada – 99.9%
This album by far was one of the more cleverly crafted albums of the year. With quirky and charismatic production, paired with Kaytranada’s standout deep, bouncy bass on a majority of the tracks, it was almost a no brainer making this one of the best albums of 2016. Kaytranada’s sound is undeniably noticeable, as well as memorable. With features from newer artist in the music scene like River Tiber, AlunaGeorge, Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa and BadBadNotGood; each artists rightfully adds another level of attitude and character to the album.
Best Songs:GOT IT GOOD; TOGETHER; GLOWED UP; YOU’RE THE ONE
Frank Ocean – Blonde
My favorite album hands down for the year. Frank Ocean makes his return after a four year hiatus and does not fail to disappoint on delivering the best sounding album to date. This album, in many ways, brings out the best of emotions when listening to it. With nostalgia riddled throughout the album, I can’t help but feel such an overwhelmingly awesome sensation when listing to tracks like “Pink + White,” “Self Control,” “Nights,” and “Seigfried.” This album is an experience. If you’re looking for an album that’s filled with hard hitting base, cliche hooks and whatnot, this album might not be for you. This album’s true beauty shines with its instrumentation from sexy guitar strings, crisp percussion, and harmonizing vocals.
Best Songs:Nights; Solo; Seigfried
AlunaGeorge – I Remember
With Aluna Francis and George Reid making up the insatiable AlunaGeorge, this album was undeniably a favorite for me. I first came across the duo through SoundCloud. I would say they got their start by releasing remixed singles of popular songs. Their sound began to stick in the industry and you could tell what was an AlunaGeorge production. But to pull this back into the topic of their album, this is an album you can put on repeat just about anytime of the year. It’s a special favorite of mine in the summer time just because of it’s tropical percussion and island sounding synths. The two’s collaborative efforts really shine on cuts like “In My Head” and “Mediator.” It’s just an overall feel good album.
Best Songs:In My Head; I’m In Control; Mediator; Not Above Love
Jack Garrett – Phase
In the world of creatives and talented people alike, Jack Garrett is one of those outliers that truly differentiates himself from the majority. I’m pretty positive Jack did most of the legwork on this album. That encompasses writing, creating all of the instrumentation you hear on the album, and singing on top of all of that. This guy’s electro-R&B style is pure sonic addiction. It is a luscious, warm, and energetic album. Not only is the body of work incredible, but if you haven’t seen him live, I strongly encourage you buy the next available ticket and do so because he’s even better live.
Best Songs: Breathe Life; The Love You’re Given; Surprise Yourself
J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
Returning from his last album2014 Forest Hills Dr.,Cole has managed to create another classic within his discography. Cole’s4 Your Eyez Onlyis an album that runs parallel to his life and another close acquaintance of his. While the album uses Coles notorious stylistic storytelling throughout, the album focuses on topics ranging from love, to suicide, to family, to racism. The North Carolina born is argued as one of the best in the game, and though there is an amazing amount of talent that is out on the scene currently, Cole definitely should be included in the top 5 category of best hip-hop artist. My only question is this: will this be another album of his to go double platinum with no features?
Best Songs: 4 Your Eyez Only; For Whom The Bell Tolls; Change; Neighbors
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Bruno did an amazing thing this year by bringing back the magical sound of the ’80s. If you grew up like I did, you would know on the songs like “Calling All My Lovelies” and “24k Magic,” those throwback style synthesizers are the epitome of classic, smooth 80’s sounds. Similar vibes from artist like Michael Jackson, Zapp & Roger, Prince, the list could go on. This is an album that even your old-head parents could really get down to.
Best Songs:Chunky; 24k Magic; Calling All My Lovelies; Straight Up & Down
Solange – A Seat At The Table
By far the best product Solange has ever put out. Solange manages to tackle the challenging feat of stepping outside of her sister’s shadows and define a pathway, style and sound for herself. This album is statement about acceptance, and more so, an album of empathy. There’s a particular skit (Tina Tought Me) where it seems as if it may be a relative of Solange’s, Tina, but the skit discusses her perspective of the beauty behind being black. She takes the concept further by saying that it’s sometimes hard for her to even express these feelings because a majority of interactions she’s had with her white counterparts exclaim that it is anti-white. Just because you celebrate black culture doesn’t mean you’re against white culture or hispanic culture or arab culture or whatever. It’s simply taking pride in who you are and how you were born. A very though provoking album to say the least.
Best Songs: Don’t Touch My Hair; Where Do We Go; Cranes In The Sky; Don’t Wish Me Well
Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Chalk this one up there as a top 5 favorite of 2016. I continue to reiterate this, but what can’t Donald Glover do? Glover has to be one of the most creative individuals we’ve seen in our generation. From actor-comedian, to rapper-singer-songwriter, to producer-director, Glover is most of the things I aspire to do with my existence on earth. The guy waste no time whatsoever and you can tell through this album that he is always pushing the needle forward in regards to new, fresh, and original content. The album itself is a huge risk and dammit if he didn’t body it and make it a classic. A common trend of 2016 was the jazzy, funkadelic vibe. Glover easily accomplishes this on top of eccentric and very animated vocals. Another album I would characterize as an experience more than anything else.
Best Songs: Zombies; Me and Your Mama; Baby Boy; Stand Tall
Drake – Views
With a multitude of accomplishments attained in 2016 alone, Drake undisputedly owned the fuck out of this year. Upon the release of this album in early 2016, I think the whole music community shut down. What other artist do you know of that has such a ginormous influence on a community like that? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Drake comes correct with the boasting and cocky lyricism onViews.Another aspect that made this album so worthwhile was the relatability he was able to exude on this album. Drake is the king of relatability. If you didn’t listen to this album in 2016, were you even apart of this year?
Best Songs: Feel No Ways; Hype; Fire & Desire; Faithful
The Weeknd – Starboy
The unfiltered and explicit, The Weeknd, makes his return again; creating a new alter-ego known asStarboy.This album somewhat took some time to grow on me. Being an original Weeknd fan from the days ofHouse of Balloons, Thursday, Echos of Silence,hell, evenKiss Land,it’s hard to deviate away from the topics he was singing about and from the overall sounds he was creating.Starboytakes another route into the electronic, club style music sound. With productions coming from the legendary Daft Punk, and features including Lana Del Ray and Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd knew exactly what he was aiming for on the collaborative aspect of this album. This would be The Weeknd’s most upbeat album he’s created.
Best Songs: Reminder; Secrets; True Colors; Die For You
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your service
After 11 long years, ATCQ is back with their final album. Because honesty is a virtue of mine,The Low End Theorywas the only other Tribe album I’ve heard from them. I know, it’s pretty disheartening to hear. But being a ’90’s baby, born in ’92 I didn’t start acquiring a love for hip-hop until after the ’90’s era. Fast-forward to today and here I am; an obsessed music lover who loves all sorts of sounds and creativity.
ATCQ remains consistent with their sound from decades ago, while adding a few zany strings and percussion into the mix. It’s worth mentioning that, while the sound is somewhat consistent, the crew still managed to create an original sound for 2016 too – like how they add these spacey loop transitions through the tracks “Mobius” and “Black Spasmodic” as if we’re teleporting through songs. For all the old school style hip-hop lovers, this album does not miss its mark one bit.
Best Songs: We the People; Dis Generation; Movin Backwards; Enough!!
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
It would be utterly disrespectful to not include Chano in this year’s best albums. Like, complete ignorance. One of the reasons that Chance has made such great strides in the music scene is because he’s done everything without a record label – pushing the memo thattheartist should always be in control of the content they put out and ultimately the creativity their looking to produce. On top of that, Chance is one of the more openly public rappers that references GOD on his records and in his performances.
Chance, like Kanye West, gives great credit to the city of Chicago and consistently continues to rep his city and give back to it as much as he can. This tape has features from the likes of Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Justin Bieber, T-Pain; I just listed off all of those for the old heads out there that haven’t been following more of the newer musicians that are on the come up and featured on this album. A lot of hype has been surrounding this album and it may very well be the first album ever to be presented a Grammy without belonging to any record label. How can you not like this dude?
Best Songs: No Problem; Angels; Juke Jame; Finish Line/Drown
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Kanye, Kayne, Kanye. Man, to say you had an interesting 2016 would be an understatement, but I will go ahead and let you know that you created one of the best openings to album I’ve heard in like, ever. J. Cole’sFrom Whom The Bell Tollsis a very close second. This album was the Kanye we all expect. Intuitive production, well placed feaures of artist, and just an overall excitement that the album was able to create for its listeners. Though, I will say the multiple album edits and re-uploads to streaming services was a force and pretty ridiculous. Put out the album and let that be it, Kanye.
Best Songs:Ultralight Beam; Father Stretch My Hands, Pt.1; Saint Pablo; Highlights; FML; Real Friends; Fade
Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine
What happens when you meet Ariana Grande? Well, you fall in love with her and then you proceed to make a love-sick album calledThe Divine Feminine. This album has received some speculation based off of the premise of it and also because of the love-sick crooning Mac Miller displays on the record. But, dammit, I love this album. Mac isn’t the best singer by any means, but what I love most about it is the thought process behind it, the production, and the overall openness Mac portrays on the album.
This album is a more mature Mac for sure and you can tell that Mac is improving altogether as an artist. At times it does seem like the features on this album kind of outshine Mac, but when you think about it, Mac was the brains behind the placement on which artists in general would help complete the tracks. And for that, I give him even more accolades.
Best Songs: Dang!; Stay; Planet God Damn; We; God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty
Rhianna – Anti
Rhianna graced us early in the year with yet another classic album. But this go-round, she took a somewhat darker, emo style approach. Based off of the album cover alone, you get a sense that this album is going to be really unexpected. Which, rightfully, she releases one of the most memorable/catchiest songs of 2016, “Work” that has you dancing uncontrollably, but then unleashes more singles like “Needed Me” and “Love On The Brain.” All completely different style songs. This album experiments and it succeeds. If you’re looking for an album that can have you dancing one moment, into your feelings at another, and then possibly falling in love all together,Antiis the best solution.
Best Songs:Consideration; Work; Same Ol’ Mistakes; Needed Me
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
How could I not put the love of my life up here for best albums. Ariana has started to really capture everything beautiful about her voice – I mean it’s pretty incredible. Now I won’t sit here and tell you that I listened to this album all throughout 2016; I wouldn’t lie to you, but this is true girl-power album and I know that every female in 2016 has this album or ATLEAST one song from the album. I just know. Ariana has too big of a base to not have captured a majority of the female demographic.
Best Songs: Be Alright; Let Me Love You; I Don’t Care; Side To Side
Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
This album did not stop rocking throughout the tail end of 2016. This album is still a go-to; doesn’t matter the time of day, I can vibe to this. Initially, off the first few listens, I thought Scott was kind of lazy on the lyrics with this album. For reference, “Beibs In The Trap,” (which is a banger) is probably one of the more lazier intros I’ve heard from Scott. And then the line in “Through The Late Night” where he references his genitals as a “cactus” definitely had me scratching my head. Nontheless, the albums plusses outweighs its negatives. Awesome features, triptastic production and music, and the ad-libs for it just never get old.
Best Songs: Sweet Sweet; Beibs In The Trap; Outside; Through The Late Night; Pick Up The Phone
Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Malibuis a top 5 album for me this year. Where did Andy come from?! From being homeless to being featured on Dr. Dre’sComptonalbum to then getting co-signed by Dr. Dre. Anderson .Paak had probably one of the biggest 2016’s aside from Donald Glover. This album is fun, to say the least. It utilizes beautiful strings, lush pianos, and just down right groovy drum set inclusion. He’s another artist where he’s arguably almost better live.
Best Songs:Heart Don’t Stand A Chance; Am I Wrong; Silicon Valley; The Season/Carry Me
Madeintyo – Thank You Mr. Tokyo
Made in who? Yeah – I still don’t even know how to correctly pronounce old dude’s name but this was the most energizing record of 2016. Madeintyo is most famous for his hit single “Uber Everywhere,” where later Travis Scott would make an appearance on the remixed version to further boost its popularity.
What I can say about this album is that if you’re looking to get anything life changing out of it, or at the very least, content that makes you think, I’m going to go ahead and tell you that this is not the album for you. For those who love to have a good time, like heavy double-time bass, comical one liners, and the catchiest ad-libs, well then look no further. Being from Atlanta his style is very influenced by the southern trap-rap genre of music. I’m almost positive he’s coined the lines “Ooo ooO” and “Skirt Skirt.”
Best Songs:Skateboard P; Gucci Polo; Time Of Her Life
Lady Gaga – Joanne
Gaga’s albumJoanne,named after her late aunt, has taken a step away from the more disco-esk style she’s normally used to producing and creates an album that is folk-pop-rock-influenced. The album really opens up at the album’s self-titled song “Joanne.” A tribute to her aunt that is beautiful. The list of collaborators on this album are pretty impressive too. Names like Mark Ronson, Jeff Bhasker, RedOne, and BloodPop to list off a few.
Best Songs:Joanne, Hey Girl; Perfect Illusion
ZAYN – Mind Of Mine
ZAYN has proved to the world once again that you can actually be very successful upon leaving a music group to pursue your own solo career. We’ve seen if from the likes of Justin Timberlake, Beyonce Knowles, Phil Collins, George Michael – RIP. This album is a dense and sexy culmination of songs that will have you feeling slightly intoxicated at times. Seriously – the dreamlike production, harmonic croons, and perfectly placed falsettos, like on the song “Like I Would,” are mind altering.
Best Songs: Like I Would; Her; Wrong; Befour
Alicia Keys – HERE
On her sixth studio album Alicia Keys returned in 2016 with a dedicated album to her birth place, New York City. This album dives into a variety of topics, like life in general, family, and having a genuine sense of understanding our peers. “This album is so much about life, New York City, us as people, all the stories I saw growing up.” On the album, Alicia says she’s arrived HERE.
“I’m willing to truthfully look at myself in the mirror and to also see the reality of who we have become in this world. The good, the ugly, the shadows and the light. I’ve come to realize that in order for us to grow and to understand and accept each other we have to recognize the complexity of ourselves. We have to be able to talk about it and meet each other where we are, HERE.”
Best Songs: She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv; Blended Family; The Gospel; Holy War
Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Devin Hynes (Blood Orange) tackles his third studio albumFreetown Sounddiscussing topics such as black culture, race, femininity, and even sexuality. The album gives it’s respects to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where Hynes’ father is from. This album is Hynes’ statement to systematic oppression that many in society encounter on a daily basis. “My album is for everyone told they’re not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way … it’s a clapback.”
Progressive to say the least, but also an album that the minority population can truly get behind and empathize with. The album uses spacey sounds, but has familiar stylistic undertones that highlight a variety of jazz instruments, similar to Kendrick Lamar’sTo Pimp A Butterfly.
Best Songs:Best To You; Augustine; Hadron Collider; Thank You
Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
TDE’s newest addition, Isaiah Rashad, released The Sun’s Tirade back in September and it wasn’t hard to classify this album as Top Dawg (I hope you caught that reference…). This dreamy, reminiscent record covers Rashad’s ideas of race on songs like “Bday,” his youth (“Free Lunch”) and batting times of depression. The newest star also features a collaboration with King Kendrick himself on the song “Wat’s Wrong,” a track that talked about Rashad’s substance abuse which almost made him lose his deal with TDE. “Stuck In The Mud” with an amazing feature from SZA offers another perspective on similar topics.
TDE has built up quite the arsenal of artist and it would behoove you to listen to this album before 2017. But if you can’t commit to that in time, I’m confident the album won’t be forgotten in 2017.
Best Songs:4r Da Squaw; Wat’s Wrong; Park; Tity and Dolla; Stuck in the Mud
NAO – For All We Know
NAO: the most amazing voice of 2016 released her first full length, funky electro-soul influenced album. The artist states that the album is “super simple” and “laid back.” This album is all about the vibe and NAO accomplishes this and more. Having a whompy/wobbly stylistic sound, she feels that this album is tailored for all of those ’90s music fans out there.
Best Songs:In the Morning; Adore You; Bad Blood; Girlfriend
Best Albums Of 2016Blood OrangeBruno MarsChance The RapeprChildish GambinoDrakeFrank OceanIsaiah RashadKayne WestMac MillerNAOSolange
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