Here we are once again saying goodbye to another year. Upon getting ready for what the New Year has in store for us, we must take the time to reflect on the music of 2016. Although the year was off to an amazing start with projects from the industries elite, a few others still managed to deliver memorable music. As Nas loudly professed that his new album was done, we learned that wasn’t true. We’ll also grow old waiting on Fabolous to deliver a new LP, but at least he’s good for a mixtape still. Sadly, we’ve come to understand that we may never get a sophomore album from Elle Varner. Needless to say, 2016 wasn’t shabby at all. We had a few big surprises; more than a few hits, and with hits comes the misses.
2016 Big Surprises:
Twenty 88 – Big Sean & Jhene Aiko: The Good Music rapper and his rumored girlfriend teamed up for an EP that caught most by surprise. The eight-track project showcased how you perfectly create a duet album with a rapper and singer.
In My Mind– BJ The Chicago Kid: Whereas last year had more to offer the R&B genre, this year wasn’t as lucky. However, newcomer BJ proved to be a force for R&B with his debut project. BJ was brilliant with the blending of new age and traditional R&B. Clearly he studied artists before him and followed the R&B recipe of heartache, love lost, and the influence of church. He reminds you of his church upbringing and gives us a bible story of Jeremiah the prophet on “Jeremiah/World Needs More…” Aside from you hearing the love he has for his hometown Chicago, he effortlessly switches back and forth between R&B eras. BJ perfectly illustrated where the church and the streets of Chicago meet, as he allowed the world into his mind.
Dangerous Woman– Ariana Grande: With her third LP in just a few years, Ariana set out to make it known that she’s a grown woman. Just too bad she doesn’t see it fit to change her hair. However, her album’s material was loud and clear, and helped her veer away from her childhood image; proving the young woman is going to be dangerous for the industry.
Hard II Love– Usher: We are far gone from the Confessions days of Usher. Though he has had success with music exploration, his core urban fans aint never been feeling it. But in 2016 he found a way to merge both sounds together and sprinkle a little of that Confessions feeling on Hard II Love. Hard II Love is an array of things. More than just the story of a man who’s complicated. Usher is known for making very lyrical cohesive albums, and Hard II Love has many layers to it’s songs along with fresh and great production. The genius side is it’s unexpectedness and radio friendly tracks. Unlike his past attempts of music exploration, he got it right this time around. It’s the perfect blend of Pop, R&B, and Atlanta that’s forward movement. The album represents love, but more importantly it represents the plight and transformation one experiences, which makes them Hard II Love.
Still– SWV: These ladies somehow missed the mark this year. This did not live up to the hype or the greatness of their 2012 album I Missed Us. Not sure where things went wrong, but Still is easily forgotten in 2016.
Life on Earth– Musiq Soulchild: Did you know he dropped an album this year? Exactly!
blackSUMMERS’night– Maxwell: Delivering the second installment of his trilogy, and the follow up to 2009 LP of the same title. The “Lake By The Ocean” singer’s album fell deep in the seas. The only talk it gets is the fact he’s promoting it while currently touring with Mary J. Blige.
The Definition Of…– Fantasia: Although you fully understand the purpose, need and direction of the album, doesn’t mean it was good. Nor did it fall on death ears. It just lacked Fantasia! Fantasia showcased that there really isn’t a definition to what genre of music she’s able to sing. Delivering lyrics over a load of instruments she was able to remain true to herself with the albums material, which is also testimonial to her current station in life. The album perfectly tackles genres and homage as she displayed on “Lonely Legend” where she vocally channels Tina Turner powered with an amazing horn section. The album was a brave, artistic, and a necessary move that’ll help redefine her as an artist. Regardless if you want to call the album experimental or stepping into new territory, Fantasia conquered her set out goal and re-wrote the definition of what she does musically.
Blond– Frank Ocean: Whereas this album has mixed reviews by the masses. Many love it, and others think it’s trash, but he managed to remain mystique and deliver it under the radar. I still want my money back!
Here– Alicia Keys: A 2016 late release from the musician was promising and said to be her favorite. Guess she should have kept it to herself. It’s political and feels forced to be associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. It lacks balance, nothing screams No. 1 song, and it doesn’t contain a single love song.
2016 Hits: Top 6
A Seat At The Table– Solange: Solange’s fourth time around was her charm. A musical display of self-discovery, liberation, and blackness stewed together in a Louisiana Texas bowl was the recipe Knowles served piping hot at her table.
Anti– Rihanna: With “ANTI” Rihanna proved to be a fighter. With a few failed single attempts that caused the album to be postponed, she still presented solid material. It showcases her growth vocally and as an artist, also providing her with a nice batch of songs to compliment her live set list. “ANTI” is an album for music lovers of all genres, and although she may have stepped into new music territory and away from her traditional sound, she hasn’t necessarily abandoned it. The LP’s explicit lyrics remind you that you can try out new things and remain true to yourself, all while being ANTI.
The Life Of Pablo– Kanye West: The album that seemed to never reach completion, but still offered an amazing sound production wise through it’s messiness. With TLOP you hear Kanye stepping further away from the box of being just a rapper. The chosen sounds and infusion of music on the album showcases as it explores his artistic quest. He’s been listening to his fans and the public, who plead they want the “old Kanye back,” because you’re able to hear a piece of his entire discography on this one album. Sadly, as he challenged himself to reach new heights of artistic expression, a bulk of the album comes off as a “goodbye” to the rapper Kanye. The album doesn’t showcase West’s skills as a lyricist, but for those who think he isn’t able to rap are quickly reminded on “No More Parties in L.A.,” which is pretty much the only full out rap track.
Views– Drake: Solely nabbing a spot in the top off of numbers alone. Although it’s not his best material, the project has gone 4x platinum letting us know his star power is larger than ever. One of the Top selling album of 2016 and most streamed artist on all streaming outlets, (aside from Tidal) Drizzy has proven that the view from here he’s sitting is pretty.
Lemonade– Beyonce: King Bey did indeed leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth with her rollercoaster of music emotions Lemonade. Beyoncé has been “Dangerously in Love,” “Crazy in Love,” “Drunk in Love,” and according to the first few songs on “Lemonade,” it seems she’s been a fool in love. If her previous album “BEYONCE” was all about being in love, “Lemonade” is certainly about the fight to stay in love. She displayed her wounded vocals on “Sandcastles,” which is pretty much the only album ballad and “Love Drought” helps piece together more of the story. By the albums closing redemption track “All Night” you get the point “he ain’t always right, but he’s just right for me,” and that her tasty glass of lemonade will keep bringing you & him both back for more.
Coloring Book– Chance The Rapper: Most had no idea who Chance The Rapper was, but with the year he’s had you can’t say you’re not familiar. The kid from Chicago painted 2016 with an assortment of colors, and did it all with no record deal. Shifting the culture musically in a new direction all while nabbing seven Grammy nominations to close out his dynamic year. “Coloring Book” is Chance’s testimony. It’s for the lover of Christ and the lover of hip-hop. Majority of the albums material contains a biblical reference, when and if he’s not making reference of his baby’s mother. Chance may have the word ‘rapper’ in his stage name, but he’s far more than that. The Chicago native was brave by veering away from the standard of what hip-hop should sound like. Chance proved it’s better to pick your own colors and do your own thing, because in his coloring book he never once stayed in the lines.