What’s happening, folks! It’s the start of 2016, and we’re all thankful to be here to see another year come in. I have one last list for you for the year 2015.
This one involves the best singles and album cuts of the year. This list, unlike the rest of the lists I’ve made, won’t be in any particular order. There’s only one I would put at the top, and that one you’ll see first. The rest of them are all cuts I had been really feeling throughout the year. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Kendrick Lamar - "How Much A Dollar Cost"
Kendrick Lamar – “How Much A Dollar Cost” feat. James Faunterleroy and Ronald Isley | Production: LoveDragon | From: To Pimp A Butterfly
This was my absolutely favorite track all year, and definitely among the best cuts King Kendrick has ever presented to us. Starting with the haunting two-note keys, you already have a sense that this about to be a brooding track, and indeed it was.
Aside from subtle yet compelling production, the concept is very thought provoking and channels a spirit of humility like most we haven’t heard this year, if not a pretty long time. He plays a star that has traveled to Africa and comes across a man down on his luck and this encounter provokes a change in him that follows him the rest of the album. The ending doesn’t get any more powerful than how it was brought to us.
Personally, this track made me look at panhandlers, the homeless, and the unfortunate ones differently, as it could be us at any given time. The exclamation point was put on beautifully by soul legend Ron Isley while the morally simple yet effective hook was provided by James Faunterleroy. Words can’t do enough justice as to the impact this song had on the rest of the album. This doesn’t get enough credit compared to other breathtaking cuts like “U”, “Mortal Man”, and “Complexion”, but truthfully, this may be the meat and potatoes of the album in terms of underlying themes. This track will change you.
Joe Budden - "Love I'm Good"
Joe Budden – “Love I’m Good” | Production: AraabMuzik | From: All Love Lost
One of the better albums to emerge this year was Joe Budden’s painfully personal, All Love Lost. He touches on subjects such as depression, drugs, and definitely women problems.
Most people talk about his track dedicated to Slaughterhouse and Eminem, “Slaughtermouse”, which is by all means an incredible track, but one that more people should be talking about is “Love I’m Good”. Each verse is towards something of importance. His first verse has him spitting his utter frustrations about Hip Hop, including him blatantly calling out Future and Young Thug. The second verse has him pouring out his emotions towards the mother of his son (maybe even Tahiry, who knows). The third has him speaking to his son in heart-wrenching detail. This has to go down as one of the best Budden tracks in his entire discography.
Lupe Fiasco - "Mural"
Lupe Fiasco – “Mural” | Production: The Buchanans | From: Tetsuo & Youth
I’ve regarded Lupe in the past as a polarizing emcee, but no one can front on the dude’s lyrical abilities, at all. Over the last few years, he has put out mediocre to decent material from Lasers to Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album.
That all changed with his amazing Tetsuo & Youth, which is without question his best effort since The Cool. The first track had you all the way open, as the track “Mural” was an eight minute plus lyrical onslaught full of controversial topics, but to hear him go to work that good was a friendly reminder of how stellar of a talent he is.
Kendrick Lamar - "The Blacker The Berry"
Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker The Berry” | Production: Boi-1nda & Terrace Martin | From: To Pimp A Butterfly
One word comes to mind when it comes to this track: EXPLOSIVE!
In the midst of the various profound subject matter and subdued production, here comes the epitome of Black rage for this generation. While “Alright” channeled Black power and became the anthem for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, this cut is as in-your-face as any cut you’ll hear all year.
What makes it even more compelling is the conclusion, in which he turns the mirror on his own community, specifically the gang culture. While the word ‘powerful’ is instantaneously promoted within the album all throughout, there are various levels of how powerful the tracks are. This one may be the highest form of it.
Logic - "Young Jesus" feat. Big Lembo
Logic – “Young Jesus” feat. Big Lembo | Production: 6ix | From: The Incredible True Story
In 2014, Baltimore emcee Logic dropped a very impressive debut called Under Pressure, and while critically was loved, it went under the radar somewhat, in spite of it being a Def Jam release. Practically every cut was excellent.
Towards the end of 2015, he dropped his sophomore effort, The Incredible True Story, and the lead single was a great throwback to mid to late nineties Hip Hop, and it thumped. Lyrically, he came as correct as we have come to expect from him. His associate on the track, Big Lembo, did a good job himself (in spite of his flow and physical stature are very reminiscent of the late Big Pun). This track was an instant head-nodder and served as one of the standout cuts on an overall great follow-up to his debut.
Kendrick Lamar - "Mortal Man"
Kendrick Lamar – “Mortal Man”| Production: Soundwave | From: To Pimp A Butterfly
Once again, I’m back with another Kendrick track. It’s inescapable, his album contained THAT many jewels. This one summed up the album as a whole, thus the reason this cut was the last cut on this masterpiece.
We’ve heard infinite people spit about loyalty, and this one is no different. However, what makes this one special is the sheer passion he exhibits in this cut. The hook alone is the pitch for the cut: “If shit hits the fan, are you still a fan?” He tackles the subject concerning fans’ fickleness and even so-called true homies. He even shouts out Michael Jackson and his “fans” that turned their back on him during the molestation accusations.
This is a monster cut, and will have you questioning “love” around you.
Dave East - "Demons"
Dave East – “Demons” | Production: Sean C & LV | From: Hate Me Now
Harlem resident, and Mass Appeal signee Dave East, generated a big buzz with his mixtape, Hate Me Now (obviously titled after the massive hit from his boss and mentor Nas).
The lead single was a SICK track that showed off his lyrical prowess and would even drop some occasional jewels: “Kids nowadays don’t care about living, long as they die fresh.” Produced by former Hitmen Sean C & LV, this dark, menacing track was a standout on an overall dope release from an emcee considered among the future of NY Hip Hop.
Pusha T - "Untouchable"
Pusha T – “Untouchable” | Production: Timbaland | From: King Push Prelude: Darkest Before Dawn
Virginia’s favorite coke rapper, turned president of G.O.O.D. Music, Pusha T released a serious heater near the end of the year with the prelude to his eagerly anticipated album, King Push, and the lead single was nothing less than ill. Over an uncharacteristically dark beat by fellow VA native Timbaland, he spits his trademark cocky street rhymes with hard-hitting validity.
This lead single may arguably be the best cut from an overall fantastic release. Truly can’t wait for the King Push album in April.
Jay Rock feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and ScHoolboy Q - "Vice City"
Jay Rock feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and ScHoolboy Q – “Vice City” | Production: Cardo & Yung Exclusive | From: 90059
We didn’t have too many in the form of posse cuts this past year, but one that definitely got a lot of recognition was the Black Hippy-reunion, “Vice City”.
Definitely one to crank the bass up in your speakers, each cat in this track brought it, and brought it well. Many argue this was Kendrick’s worst verse, but some others figured it would be to bring shine to the rest of his team. On the plus side, ScHoolboy HANDLED this cut and made you anticipate his third TDE major label effort.
As a whole, this cut solidified that we NEED that Black Hippy album. Hopefully in 2016, we’ll finally get it.
PRhyme feat. Phonte and MF DOOM - "Highs & Lows"
PRhyme feat. Phonte and MF DOOM – “Highs & Lows” | Production: DJ Premier & Adrien Younge | From: PRhyme (Deluxe Edition)
What was one of the straight hardest EPs of the past ten-plus years was the highly anticipated union of legendary producer DJ premier and Detroit’s resident lyrical beast, and one-fourth of Slaughterhouse, Royce Da 5’9. They called themselves PRhyme and dropped their debut EP near the end of 2014 and it was just explosive, a classic album that heads will remember for years to come.
Near the end of 2015, they dropped the deluxe edition of the EP that included four new tracks. One of which was the collab with Phonte and the one and only DOOM (tell me you never dreamed of DOOM over a Premo track). Royce, Phontigallo, and ol’ Metal Face delivered BARS on this excellent cut. There has been a dispute as to who really ripped the track: DOOM or Royce? The answer, WHO CARES?! This is a BEAST of a cut and if PRhyme 2 does drop in 2016, it’s a done deal and a wrap!
Georgia Anne Muldrow - "Great Blacks"
Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Great Blacks” | Production: Chris Keys | From: A Thought-iverse Unmarred
West coast poet/MC/songwriter Georgia Anne Muldrow provides us a very good history on the success of the Black race in a very uplifting cut over a very groovy, mellow track provided by Mello Music Group in-house producer Chris Keys.
Her acclaimed album, A Thought-iverse Unmarred, is an exemplary album filled with moments that make one reminisce of albums like The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill and Nature Of A Sista, two very stellar albums of once iconic eras.
Quelle Chris - "I Asked God"
Quelle Chris – “I Asked God” | Production: Chris Keys | From: Innocent Country
Mello Music Group emcee Quelle Chris has earned a following on the silent over the last few years. His last album, Ghost At The Finish Line, was a slightly eccentric, yet overall enjoyable, album that helped further the label of Mello Music.
In 2015, he followed that album up with Innocent Country, which improved upon the missteps of Ghost At The Finish Line and made an even more enjoyable album. The second released single was the thought provoking “I Asked God”, which contains part of the hook that provided the ever-introspective question: “I asked ain’t you God, He said ain’t you gods too?” Over a nice piano loop provided by the aforementioned Chris Keys, this was among the true standouts on a dope album.
Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright” | Production: Pharrell & Terrace Martin | From: To Pimp A Butterfly
My last of Kendrick on this list is undoubtedly the most impactful on a national scale. The only song to be considered “turn up” became the anthem for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In this generation, there’s no explainable level as to how much a song like this was needed for the uplifting of a culture as a whole. This isn’t quite “Fight The Power”, but this is a song that shows strength, solidarity, and unity amongst the Black culture for this generation. Aside from having arguably the best video on the planet in 2015, this was the best song for this era. Simply put, King Kendrick officially became the leader of the pack with this one.
In this generation, there’s no explainable level as to how much a song like this was needed for the uplifting of a culture as a whole. This isn’t quite “Fight The Power“, but this is a song that shows strength, solidarity, and unity amongst the Black culture for this generation. Aside from having arguably the best video on the planet in 2015, this was the best song for this era. Simply put, King Kendrick officially became the leader of the pack with this one.
Aside from having arguably the best video on the planet in 2015, this was the best song for this era. Simply put, King Kendrick officially became the leader of the pack with this one.
Jadakiss feat. Swizz Beats - "Jason"
Jadakiss feat. Swizz Beats – “Jason” | Production: Swizz Beats | From: T5DOA
After a six-year absence from the game, Jason “Jadakiss” Phillips returned with his Top 5 Dead Or Alive mixtape. The lead track from that mixtape was the menacing, Swizz Beats- crafted “Jason”. Jada returned in big fashion, sounding as though he never left in the first place. Hungry and rejuvenated, Kiss rips the mic apart, while bringing attention to the string of police murders by stating in the cut, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”. It was good to see Kiss back, and this track was a warning notice to all.
Scarface - "Mental Exorcism"
Scarface – “Mental Exorcism” | Production: N.O. Joe & Scarface | From: Deeply Rooted
If there’s one thing the southern legend is known for, and that’s the real. In every cut from him, you get raw, brutal honesty with no chaser. In his triumphant return, he slammed any notions of him falling off with his beyond fantastic album, Deeply Rooted.
One of the more powerful tracks on the album was the very melancholy “Mental Exorcism”. His voice draped in sadness and anger over today’s society with police brutality and the murders of the likes of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner among many, many others.
An emotional cut with an equally, if not more, emotional video, Uncle Face delivered another important cut for times such as these.
The Game feat. Scarface - "Last Time You Seen"
The Game feat. Scarface – “Last Time You Seen” | Production: S-1 | From: The Documentary 2.5
When 2015 is all said and done, an album a lot of people were surprised to hear was as potent as it was, was The Game’s Documentary 2/2.5. This double release is among the top five best Hip Hop albums in the entire game. If he would’ve released the album as one complete double album instead of releasing the first half one week and the other half two weeks later, it would be among the upper tier double albums in Hip Hop history, bar none.
Regardless, most view the second half of the release as the better of the two, and one track standout track in particular was the collab with the previously mentioned Scarface on “Last Time You Seen”, which was a damn good tribute to the late icon 2Pac. At the end of the track we’re blessed with Pac spitting some jewels as usual in a compelling soundbite.
While almost the entire Documentary 2/2.5 is amazing, this track may be its magnum opus.
Sean Price - "Planet Apes"
Sean Price – “Planet Apes” | Production: PF Cutin | From: Songs In The Key Of Price (Mixtape)
There wasn’t a more heartbreaking anguish that occurred in Hip Hop this year than the untimely passing of the great Sean Price. One of Hip Hop’s most vicious lyricists passed in his sleep this past summer, and the effects are still being felt.
The former BCC soldier had finished up his mixtape Songs In The Key of Price just before his death, and the project further cemented his place in Hip Hop immortality. The first cut to be released was the PF Cutin-produced “Planet Apes”. The epic production from the Blahzay Blahzay member provided the best backdrop for this brutal lyrical onslaught from “The brokest rapper you know”.
Once of the best to do it, he’ll always be remembered. One time for Sean P!!!!!!
Oddisee - "Belong To The World"
Oddisee – “Belong To The World” | Production: Oddisee | From: The Good Fight
If there was an album that really put an underground artist on a bigger level, it was Diamond District’s Oddisee. He created one of the year’s best gems with The Good Fight. One of the better cuts on the album was “Belong To The World”, which has him spitting about fitting in and self-identity. The spacey track he created was a great soundscape for his subject matter.
Often compared to albums like The College Dropout and One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Oddisee’s Good Fight is an album that shows the underdog can rise before your eyes.
Joey Bada$$ - "Curry Chicken"
Joey Bada$$ – “Curry Chicken” | Production: Statik Selektah | From: B4.Da.$$
Brooklyn’s own Joey Bada$$ knocked us on our asses at the beginning of 2015 with his eagerly anticipated full-length debut, B4.Da.$$, and man was it worth the wait. From top to bottom, it was a sonic pleasure as we saw a kid grow to a man before our very eyes and ears.
One of the more poignant tracks was the Statik Selektah-crafted “Curry Chicken”. This excellent ode to his wonderful relationship with his mother was just short of “Dear Mama” status, but nevertheless was a touching side of the otherwise hard-rocked Pro Era member.
Joe Budden - "Slaughtermouse"
Joe Budden – “Slaughtermouse” | Production: AraabMuzik | From: All Love Lost
Jersey Joey has been a fan of Eminem’s since the very beginning, and this open letter to his Shady Records boss and to his groupmates of KXNG Crooked, Ortiz, and Royce is as personal of a track as you’ll ever hear from Budden.
His album, All Love Lost, is among the most confessional, personal albums in recent memory, and this haunting-sounding track provided by AraabMuzik is just one example of Budden spilling his thoughts and emotions in the rawest form we’ve ever heard him.
Well folks, that about does it. I could do an honorable mentions spot, but simply put, there’s way too many to put on it. Instead, I’ll just leave you to chime in about other substantial cuts that were different and impactful in 2015. One can only imagine what we’ll be in store for in 2016, but I for one am definitely perking my ears up.
Have a great 2016! I’ll be right back!