Here it is! Part 2 of my favorite albums from 2015 and my honorable mentions that didn’t make the list but I thoroughly enjoyed.
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Royalty, King Royalty, Black Emperor, King Ruler! Hands down, Kendrick Lamar has had the best year in music! Which is why I’m naming To Pimp A Butterfly my number one album of 2015! Following his critically acclaimed first album, Good Kid M.a.a.d. City, Kendrick released To Pimp a Butterfly in the most surprising way. I mean, we knew it was coming but we didn’t expect iTunes to leak the album one-week in advance! But hey, I wasn’t mad!
I remember when King Kunta first leaked. It reminded me of a funky song from the 70’s with that booming bassline and the classic call-and-response style that funk masters like James Brown is famous for. Songs like Wesley’s Theory featuring the p-funk God, George Clinton, was a brilliant album opener!
“Every nigger is a star….” – Sample from Boris Gardiner’s “Every Nigger is a Star” (1970)
The next song, For Sale, is a jazzy interlude that reminds me of a scene from a Spike Lee film. Kendrick catches the listener off guard with his hilariously repetitive shout, “This dick ain’t free” to a woman who is constantly nagging about how he didn’t buy her materialistic objects. However, after finally listening to what Kendrick is saying, his final line sums up what the song is about:
Oh America, you bad bitch, I the picked cotton that made you rich, Now my dick ain’t free.”
And the woman yells out,
I’mma get my Uncle Sam to fuck you up. You ain’t no king!”
Enter King Kunta.
What else can be said about To Pimp A Butterfly? The album starts out as psychedelic, funky, smooth and soulful. I would also describe TPAB as exactly how Kendrick explained it would be: Hip Hop with a fusion of soul/jazz/funk and spoken word. Included are features from, Terrace Martin, Bilal, Snoop Dogg, Ron Isley, Rapsody with production from Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Sounwave and more. One of the surprising pieces on this album is the repetition buildup of the poem, “I remember you was conflicted…” Come to find out on Mortal Man, he’s interviewing Tupac! My eyes instantly teared up the moment I heard Pac’s voice! It creeped me out, but Pac’s voice is needed, which is why he’s severely missed! Who is our “Tupac” of today, a voice of our (my) generation and young people? Could it be Kendrick? By the looks of it, Kendrick could be the one who breaks that barrier to actually rap about self-love and Black pride in 2016 and many years to come.
Wishing for great years in music to Kendrick Lamar!
*Favorite tracks: Wesley’s Theory, King Kunta, These Walls, u, Alright, For Sale?, Momma, Complextion, i, Hood Politics, You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said), Mortal Man. (Pretty much the entire album, huh?)
2. Dr. Dre – Compton
Gangsta rap fans were thrilled with the surprise release of Dr. Dre’s third album, Compton. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m pretty sure everyone was confused with the release of Compton because we were all waiting for the now-dead ‘Detox’ album! Basically, Dr. Dre wants us to understand that Detox is dead and that we need to forget about it – and I’m perfectly fine with that! Compton, which was originally only available on Apple Music and serves as the official soundtrack to the record-breaking Straight Outta Compton movie, which tells the story of N.W.A, was indeed a breath of fresh air for rap fans!
I just bought Cali-fornia
Them other states ain’t far behind it either
I remember selling instrumentals off a beeper
Millionaire before the headphones or the speakers…”
The moment I heard the opening song, ‘Talk About It’ featuring King Mez and Justus, I was hooked! Next came ‘Genocide’ featuring Kendrick Lamar and Marsha Ambrosious, who both made multiple appearances on this album. Other appearances include Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, BJ the Chicago Kid, King Mez, Xzibit, Jill Scott, The Game, Eminem and new artist who has made his mark on pretty much every song, Anderson .Paak (whom I know as Breezy LoveJoy).
Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre, along with The Chronic and 2001, is definitely a classic in my eyes because of the simple fact that we rarely get to hear anything new by Dre, so I’m treating and cherishing this release like royalty! Plus, Dr. Dre is one of my favorite producers so anything he releases, my ears are open!
*Favorite tracks: Talk About It, Genocide, All In a Day’s Work, Deep Water, Satisfiction, Animals (ft. Anderson .Paak).
3. Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show
YOU FEEL THAT FIRE?! LET IT BURN!
One of my favorite R&B comebacks is Jazmine Sullivan! In Reality Show, Sullivan proves once again why she’s one of the best voices in R&B. After a hiatus and short retirement from music, Sullivan sang her heart out that was full love, dealing with mental abuse and also self-love. It’s a shame that urban radio has no problem with playing Adele, but listen to any top hit station, her music is no where to be heard or found. Things that make you go hmm…
With a very popular selling album and successful tour, I hope Jazmine continues to put out great music and continues to stay true to what she was put on this earth to do!
*Favorite tracks: Let It Burn, Mascara, Silver Lining, Forever Don’t Last, Masterpiece (Mona Lisa).
4. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Another artist who had a great year in music is none other than J. Cole! Releasing 2014 Forest Hillis Drive in late December, Cole continues to prove that he is becoming one of the greats that can make music with substance. In a music world filled with rappers mumbling over trap beats and basically rapping about the same thing, it is a breath of fresh air to have an artist like J. Cole on the scene.
I’m looking forward to whatever Cole World puts out because we need more mainstream rappers like him to give us more substance and storytelling in hip hop.
*Favorite tracks: Wet Dreamz, A Tale of 2 Citiez, Fire Squad, St. Tropez, G.O.M.D, No Role Modelz, Hello, Apparently, Note to Self.
5. Tyrese – Black Rose
Another score for R&B music! Tyrese has mastered using social media to promote his music and has done incredibly well with making headlines. Even though the album was released on his independent label, Voltron Recordz, Black Rose ended up being number one on the Top 200 and his Jennifer Hudson backed single, Shame, went number 1 in US Adult R&B Songs.
*Favorite tracks: Shame, Picture Perfect, Waiting On You, Don’t Wanna Look Back (ft. Chrisette Michele), Prior to You, Leave, The Rest of Our Lives (ft. Brandy).
1. Siobhan McNear – UN|in|Hib|it|ED
I wanted to put this album on my list because I’ve known this person since I was a kid, literally! From singing in a Cincinnati local Jazz/Soul group called, Nu Soul, I fell in love with her voice from day one! Siobhan, who’s made her mark as a background singer for Jennifer Hudson, released her tribute to the late, great hip hop producer, J Dilla. Siobhan described her mixtape as,
My Tribute to J Dilla. This conglomerate of creative deliciousness includes J Dilla’s original instrumentals with substance filled lyrics.
This mixtape is perfect for Neo-Soul lovers or people who love J DIlla and real singing. Accompanied with hilarious soundbites from the classic shows, Martin and Chappelle’s Show, Siobhan shows her classic personality while paying homage 90’s hip hop and culture. I’m looking forward to hearing more music from Siobhan!
*Favorite tracks: Find Your Way (Fork These Yams), Plead the 5th, Who is this King, CLIMAX, Thought You Were Nice (ft. Wayne Fowler), Don’t Fall In Love
2. Kirk Franklin – Losing My Religion
*Favorite tracks: 123 Victory, It’s Time, When (ft. Kim Burrell & Lalah Hathaway), Wanna Be Happy?
3. Lalah Hathaway – Live
*Favorite tracks: Angel, Little Ghetto Boy, ‘Forever, For Always, For Love, Lean On Me (ft. Robert Glasper)