2016 will go down in history as a great year for Hip Hop. Forget all those “Young…” and “Lil …” autotune mumble rappers that dominate mainstream rap nowadays. It’s not even Hip Hop. Real Hip Hop is alive and well – you just have to know where to look for it.
There have been tons of excellent Hip Hop album releases this year, with The Easy Truth by Apollo Brown & Skyzoo being our favorite. With other excellent albums by Aesop Rock, Mr Lif, Torae, Statik KNGX, J Dilla, Royce Da 5’9″, Planet Asia & DJ Concept, Murs & 9th Wonder, Apathy, Vinnie Paz, Atmosphere, Ill Bill, Ugly Heroes, Nick Caution, Flatbush Zombies, Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Elzhi, Havoc & The Alchemist, Reks, Oddisee, Dave East, Termanology, Slaine, Czarface, Journalist 103, KXNG Crooked, Mickey Factz & Nottz, La Coka Nostra, and many others – 2016 will be another great year for Hip Hop, just like 2015 was.
In addition to all the dope, real Hip Hop released in 2016 by veterans and young talent alike, it was the legends of the game who brought the real heat. For this list, we have selected 5 awesome albums (+ 5 honorable mentions) from Golden Age giants, albums that should have a place in any and all true heads’ collections.
Common - Black America Again
“Here we go, here, here we go again / Trayvon’ll never get to be an older man / Black children, they childhood stole from them / Robbed of our names and our language, stole again / Who stole the soul from black folk? / Same man that stole the land from Chief Black Smoke / And made the whip crackle on our back slow / And made us go through the back door / And raffle black bodies on the slave blocks / Now we slave to the blocks, on ’em we spray shots / Leaving our own to lay in a box / Black mothers’ stomachs stay in a knot / We kill each other, it’s part of the plot / I wish the hating will stop (war!) and the battle with us / I know that Black Lives Matter, and they matter to us / These are the things we gotta discuss…”
Together with The Easy Truth by Apollo Brown & Skyzoo, Common‘s eleventh album has to be THE contender for ‘Album Of The Year”, if not the big favorite to win that honor.
Common has dropped quite a few excellent albums in his long career, and this one is up there with the very best of them, even on par with BE.
Meaningful, profound, captivating, intelligent, soulful and lyrical – Black America Again has everything a Hip Hop albums needs to have. Truly great from start to finish, there are no skippable tracks here. Production is excellent throughout and Common’s flow and lyrics are as good as they ever were. This is not just one of 2016’s best albums, but one of the millennium’s best. Instant classic.
A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
“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-good-young-nigga mood / When we get hungry we eat the same fucking food / The ramen noodle / Your simple voodoo is so maniacal, we’re liable to pull a juju / The irony is that this bad bitch in my lap / She don’t love me, she make money, she don’t study that / She gon’ give it to me, ain’t gon’ tell me run it back / She gon’ take the brain to wetter plains, she spit on that / The doors have signs with, don’t try to rhyme with / VH1 has a show that you can waste your time with / Guilty pleasures take the edge off reality / And for a salary I’d probably do that shit sporadically / The OG Gucci boots are smitten with iguanas / The IRS piranha see a nigga gettin’ commas / Niggas in the hood living in a fishbowl / Gentrify here, now it’s not a shit hole / Trendsetter, I know, my shit’s cold / Ain’t settling because I ain’t so bold but ay…”
Ah, a sixth A Tribe Called Quest album… Energized by a one-off performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on November 13, 2015, the group members decided to record a new album in secrecy. Despite Phife’s untimely death, the album was completed, with Phife’s recorded bars flawlessly integrated into what turned out to be a perfect final album.
The album features all four of the group’s members (Jarobi makes a comeback and even spits some bars!) plus a host of guests — André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Jack White, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli, and Consequence and Busta Rhymes, two longtime Tribe collaborators.
The result is a phenomenal album with that classic Tribe vibe but set firmly in this era at the same time. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service certainly is one of the highlights of 2016 and a more than worthy addition to Tribe’s monumental catalog.
De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody...
“Us three be the omega like fish oil / This royal right we own, no rentals / Owners of the cape express / He went fresh from the mind, you ate off the plate of fundamentals / Knocked on every door of the country’s red rugs / We’ll lay on floors / We walk and etched in like testament / And find the atomic number 79 / On Vernon’s periodic table we dine upon / Sittin’ on thrones gettin’ blown to bits / By our royal dime, fillet of fine dinin’ / News from the east sire / Them east coast kings are still findin’ ways to stay on / On for play on like a damn disease / Spread the word of Ramseys and fry up a pan of these / Salute dawn when day breaks / And give me my checks with the same first name as my cape / I repeat salute dawn when day breaks / And give me my checks with the same first name as the capes / Royalty…”
De La Soul has never made a bad album. Few acts can boast a catalog as consistent as De La Soul can. Twelve years after the excellent The Grind Date, and the Anonymous Nobody… seamlessly continues what De La Soul has always done: putting out quality music, this time pushing boundaries with genre-bending compositions and surprising guests.
If there’s a drawback it may be that there are a little too many guests on the album, and consequently not enough De La Soul. But that’s a minor quibble, as the guests mostly bring the goods to complement De La’s vibe, resulting in some unexpected and intriguing tracks.
Not for everybody, and the Anonymous Nobody… nevertheless is a solid piece of music by one of the genre’s best ever groups.
Masta Ace - The Falling Season
“Young black intelligent, this is not a first / But it feels like it’s curse and it weighs like a elephant / Heavy on my mind cause I feel so irrelevant / Heavy on my heart it’s like I’m smart for the hell of it / Heavy on my soul, it’s our stroll through the Ville again / Strangers on this island, feel like I’m Gilligan / Friends got jailed and then they got bailed / Stress that I’m under, I just wonder when they kill again / Please understand that I’m living in the concrete / Jungle where I stumble is the crumble under my feet…” (Y.B.I.)
Masta Ace is one of those few artists who are able to keep reinventing themselves while turning out consistent quality. This album is no exception. Ever since his 1990 debut album Take A Look Around Masta Ace has been one of Hip Hop’s greatest talents, who was always able to capture the true essence of Hip Hop in all his work.
The Falling Season is another concept album, on which we see Ace through his young high school days, in which he experiences his embracing of Hip Hop culture, bullying, academic successes and struggles, and girl crushes.
Although maybe just a little bit short of his masterpieces A Long Hot Summer and Disposable Arts, The Falling Season will undoubtedly prove to be another timeless Masta Ace classic and easily is one of this year’s best albums.
D.I.T.C. - Sessions
“When you’re tired of listening to frauds / Auditioning for broads / My shit religion / You need to get up on the Lord / Cuz nowadays man shit’s retarded / When it’s cool to wear shit out your sister’s closet / Most got that Xerox flow / But ain’t all that sharp / Lyrically you fingerpainting / You call that art? / I do damage with a flow that’s so savage / I don’t respond and answer / Y’all niggas below average / Show it’s nothing to get murdered in the booth / Why even keep it real when y’all allergic to the truth? / I know shit ain’t the same / Why sit and complain / I was told to throw on a uniform and get in the game / I’m the ace of trades with the insight to teach / Gotta mean hand on the game, it’s not polite to reach / I ain’t after fame / Just tryna craft my pain / With enough bars to incarcerate half the game / Will my team fall short? / That might mean never / We’ll be long here after the tight jean era…” (Rock Shyt)
There can be little doubt about the fact D.I.T.C. is one of the most underrated collectives in the history of Hip Hop. Lord Finesse, Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz and A.G. and the late Big L have all put out excellent singles and albums over the years, most of which went well under the mainstream radar. True heads know what’s up though, and will be familiar with all the gems dropped by D.I.T.C.’s individual members.
After the death of Big L, arguably the collective’s most talented emcee, in 1999 and the release of their only group effort D.I.T.C. in 2000, it looked like there would never be another D.I.T.C. album – also because Showbiz once stated just that. Luckily those expectations were proven wrong this year with the release of Sessions.
Sessions offers authentic bars and beats – a dose of that good old boom bap Hip Hop. Don’t sleep on D.I.T.C. if you want to experience true Hip Hop of the highest level.
- Craig G – I Rap And Go Home
- Sadat X – Agua
- Ras Kass – Intellectual Property: SOI2
- Kool Keith – Feature Magnetic
- Wise Intelligent – Stevie Bonneville Wallace