I might only be 21, but my taste in rap music makes me feel like I'm 40. All the rappers today with rainbow dreads and dumb names just don't appeal me to me, even though I'm the target audience.
Despite this, I was still able to find some enjoyable albums this year including some that wouldn't be considered mainstream. Here are my favorite albums of the year (in no particular order).
1. Black Panther: The Album
An album I did not expect to see this year was a rap album inspired by the "Black Panther" movie. I also didn't expect it to be overseen by Kendrick Lamar.
This ended up being even better than I expected it to be. Every song manages to incorporate elements of African music with the use of samples. There is also a certain drum sound that plays in the movie that can be heard throughout the album. Even though Kendrick is not on every song, he and the other artists did not disappoint here.
Perhaps the most popular collaboration from the album is the energetic team up of Kendrick, Jay Rock, and Future called "King's Dead." The song was very popular and was even recently nominated for a Grammy.
I hope this album serves as a blueprint for future movies on how to do a movie soundtrack. The fact that not every song here is in the movie gives the artists a little more freedom as to what type of song they can make.
2. KOD by J.Cole
J.Cole is someone in hip-hop that once was beloved by seemingly everyone only to become the butt of every joke after he dropped his 2016 album "4 Your Eyez Only." The album was much different than his other albums since it seemed to be aiming for a jazz-inspired sound while acting as a concept album that told a powerful story. A lot of people called the album boring and trash because it was different, and only seemed to enjoy the song "Neighbors" since it sounded different than every other song and wasn't jazz-inspired.
This time around, J.Cole has seemed to ignore the critics of his last album and do the same thing again--except this time without the jazz-inspired sound. "KOD" has three different meanings: Kids on Drugs, KingOverDosed, and Kill Our Demons.
The album does a great job of making it ambiguous which one is the actual meaning. The songs cover many topics such as drug addiction, money, and paying taxes. The jazz-inspired beats are nowhere to be seen this time around; instead, J.Cole aims to use elements of SoundCloud rap and trap music, which makes sense since he takes shots at current rappers on the album's final song "1985." Once again, J.Cole was criticized for this album, but I'm sure he'll continue to make the music he wants despite what critics say.
3. Iridescence by BROCKHAMPTON
Last summer I felt like I was the only one who sang the praises of America's favorite boyband BROCKHAMPTON outside of the internet. I tried to get my friends to listen to their music, but they weren't impressed.
Over a year later BROCKHAMPTON has gained my friends and many others as fans with their 4th album Iridescence. The group had kicked out one of their members due to some controversy earlier this year, but that didn't stop them from dropping this album.
I'll be honest here: I have no idea what the concept of the album is. The pregnant lady on the front is weird and the songs don't seem to relate to one another. Despite this, I really enjoy how futuristic each song sounds and the beat switches that occur throughout the album. One of my favorite things about the album, besides the song "J'OUVERT," was the beat switch on the song "HONEY" and the sample of Beyonce's "Dance For You" that follows. The vocal mixing gives Beyonce such an angelic-sounding voice that I always skip to that part of the song whenever it starts playing. The group has yet to announce their next album, but hopefully, it is as good as this one was.
4. ONEPOINTFIVE By Amine
Two years ago, Amine had the song of the summer when he dropped "Caroline." After that, everyone assumed he would become a one-hit wonder.
But he then dropped two projects with "ONEPOINTFIVE" being his most recent one. This was a surprise release, as it dropped the same night it was announced. And it surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Amine's last project, "Good For You," was pretty forgettable and didn't even sound anything like "Caroline."
This time around, Amine decided to make a more rap-focused project. The songs end up sounding like today's modern rap--but without all of the annoying ad-libs, mumbling, and repetitive song subjects. Ironically, my favorite song on the project is "HICCUP" featuring Gunna, who embodies all of these stereotypes.
If I had to name a definitive album of the year, it would probably be this one as I replayed it the most out of every other album on this list.
5. Vacation in Hell by Flatbush Zombies
The last time Flatbush Zombies released an album, it was my first time hearing about them. Once I saw this cover art, I immediately pressed play and found one of my favorite albums of 2016.
Fast forward two years later and they've done it again. "Vacation in Hell" is the group's sophomore album, and if there's one thing this project excels at, it's the production.
Most rap songs nowadays sound very similar beat-wise with the usual beat snares and hi-hats. I don't recall hearing any typical rap production, but if there was any, it's overshadowed by the various other production elements like pianos. The album's production was handled by rapper Erick Arc Elliot, one of the group's members, with some assistance from Kirk Knight, Anthony Flammia, Tyler Dopps, and Hector Delgado, the for A$AP Rocky.
The song with the best production, in my opinion, is "Facts," featuring fellow New York rapper Jadakiss. The piano loop layered over the beat as everybody raps over is so pleasing to my ears.