It’s 11:47pm and I’m in a hotel room in Boston watching Friends while my wife and three sons are sound asleep after a late-night family swim. I figure now is as good a time as any to attempt to wrap up 2015. Bare with me, I’ve been loosely compiling some stuff for this post for the past couple weeks, but this is basically all off the top.
2015 Big Cheese Award (Three-Way Tie)
These three Canadian Kings bodied 2015. They all crushed the charts, which doesn’t usually mean shit to me. But the fact that they did it with incredible music and not some sellout pop bullshit is what’s important to note.
Drake dropped a No. 1 album that was basically a mixtape of him crushing ill flows over the most progressive and piffed-out production rap and R&B fans have ever heard on one album. He gave us “10 Bands” and “Jungle” on one project, fuck. Dude is a beast. And then just when it was time to hate on him for having ghostwriters, he deaded anything we could say with “Charged Up” and more importantly “Back to Back.” Plus “Hotline Bling” blew up outta nowhere. No one’s fucking with Drizzy.
As for The Weeknd, well, dude bounced back after a mediocre LP release in 2013 (Kiss Land was kinda weak except for that Pharrell remix of “Wanderlust” which I loved) and showed the world he knew how to make hit songs. He got on his MJ swag and dropped a range of No. 1 records, from the bedroom gem “Earned It” to the blunted “The Hills” to the straight-up dance floor firebomb “Can’t Feel My Face.” And his album had crack on it too (“Shameless” is my shit, as is “Tell Your Friends” of course).
And finally, Justin Bieber. I kept telling heads that “What Do You Mean” was fire from the moment I heard it, and that he was on some next shit. And everyone would come back to me a day later and be like, “I heard the new Bieber on the radio today, and it’s not bad!” Yeah no shit, it’s great. And Purpose has mad flames on it too. The “Sorry” video contains the dopest choreography I’ve seen in a music video maybe ever, as do the joints that followed with the same dance team (my kids are obsessed). And songs like “No Sense” and “Company” and everyone’s new favorite “Love Yourself” show that Bieber is the truth.
Favorite Rap Albums
Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful
Curren$y – Pilot Talk III
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Joey Bada$$ – B4.Da.$$
Your Old Droog – The Nicest (EP)
I’ve seen a lot of major publications leave Mr. Wonderful off their best album lists, even ones specific to rap. Unbelievable. Dude came correct and gave us a fun-ass album with radio hits, underground bangers, and all that. So what he experimented a bit, that shit made it more fun to listen to. I saw him perform the whole album live back in March when it dropped, and the shit flowed so lovely. You slept on this joint, sorry.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Joey Bada$$ stepped up and gave us the album we know he wanted us to have. My personal favorite track? “Piece of Mind.” So fucking good, from the beat to the bars to the intro/outro with his man on the phone locked up. Props to Joey.
And Droog had a hell of a year, didn’t he? I’ll get to him more in a bit, but The Nicest was very niiice! What a tight body of work. Kinison was dope, but The Nicest was Droog at his very best.
I already told you about Drake, so that’s a no-brainer. But just to further explain, you gotta respect what he did with the raps/flows on this tape or album or whatever you want to call it. Helping hands or not, he’s next level with it.
Oh, and my dog Curren$y! Everyone’s talking about his latest album Canal Street Confidential, but I prefer the work him and Ski Beatz (and others) put in on Pilot Talk III. There are some dope ass samples on that album, and he’s spitting his shit as always. “Cargo Planes” and “Briefcase” are especially worthy of accolades.
Favorite Reggae Album
The Frightnrs – Inna Lovers Quarrel EP
If you like old school roots reggae like I do, you gotta peep this EP. It’s produced by Ticklah, and is excellent top to bottom. My favorites are “Sharon” and “Make Up Your Mind,” so damn good. I gotta check these dudes live ASAP. And I told my boy Matisyahu he’s gotta link up with them for a song or tour or something! Word!
Slept-On Rap Project
Westside Gunn & Conway – Griselda Ghost EP
First of all, who knew that blogger dude who impersonates Ghostface Killah had beats?!?! Dude is sick with it! And Westside Gunn and Conway to me are the two illest new dudes on the underground New York scene making noise right now. They both put out solo projects this year (and ill loosies like “Mr. T”), but this collaborative EP got slept on. Gunn told me during an interview they banged the whole shit out in like one session or some shit, and I believe it. It sounds like they’re in a crazy zone, taking turns murking Big Ghost’s sample-laced loveliness. Go get this shit.
Favorite Solo Rap Songs (By Artists Not Already Mentioned)
Denmark Vessey “Don’t Smoke K2” – Denmark Vessey is one of the most talented rap artists in the game, and he actually has something to say! This is my favorite song off his latest release Martin Lucid Dream, which seems to be getting a lot of props on year-end lists (not mad about that, he deserves it).
DP “Jabar” – This shit came out in 2014, but fuck it, DP arrived this year and I heard it for the first time this year so fuck it I’m putting it on my 2015 list. Hate me now, but the truth of the matter is mad people still aren’t up on this dude, and this song is fucking immaculate.
50 Cent “Body Bags” – Vintage Fif right here over an Alchemist banger, and do the knowledge to the late great Sean Price beat selection, too. Nice nod.
Future “Stick Talk” – Never was a big Future fan, but this shit goes I can’t front.
Ghostface Killah “Tone’s Rap” – Off that Sour Soul, which is exactly what this is.
Homeboy Sandman “Arrows” – Peter Rosenberg put me on to this, straight hip-hop shit for the real heads.
Kamaiyah “How Does It Feel” – Kamaiyah’s from my hometown (Oaktown), and she puts it down for real for real. Love this song.
Kanye West “All Day” – Saw a lot of pubs leave this off lists too, like everyone wasn’t going nuts when this first came out. That live performance with the fucking flame launchers or whatever you call those things is probably the best live performance of the year, too.
Large Professor “Opulence” – LP’s album Re:Living is dope, and this is my favorite song off it. Beat is fresh, and he’s spitting nicely on here. Don’t miss “Dreams Don’t Die” either.
Lil Dicky “Pillow Talk” – This long-ass song showcases the genius and hilarity that is Lil Dicky. I saw him perform it live too, and it made me like it even more (chorus had me cracking up).
Mac Miller “Perfect Circle” – My favorite Mac Miller song off his new album. Shit is crazy.
Milano “Cocaina” – Hardest shit of the year, love this. Can’t wait for the full project with DJ Skizz and Marco Polo, those dudes crushed the production this year all around. Milano is the dopest MC out that no one is talking about. And he’s been dope since the early Terror Squad days, do remember.
Oddisee “First Choice” – My old pal Oddisee came correct with another dope album this year, and this was my personal highlight off it. And “Counter-Clockwise.”
Post Malone “White Iverson” – Not sure if I can get away with categorizing this as rap, but fuck it, he’s spitting, it’s just so damn smooth and melodic it’s hard to box it into a genre. Gonna put it here, but just know, I know.
Rick Ross ft. The-Dream “Money Dance” – Get cake to this.
Shirt “Cuba” – Shouts to Shirt and United Crates, an ill pairing to say the least. This track is crack.
Favorite Rap Collabos (By Everyone, Fuck It)
Action Bronson & Joey Bada$$ “Beautiful Life” – Statik came correct on this, love the video too. Go watch that.
Action Bronson ft. Chance The Rapper “Baby Blue” – Fun ass single, fun ass video. Fun.
A.G. ft. Roc Marciano “Red Apple Kings” – Been playing this on repeat since it dropped, props to Ray West what a track! Roc and A.G. always slay shit together. Ride out to this.
Big Sean ft. Drake and Kanye West “Blessings” – Verses are memorable, chorus is incredible.
Conway ft. Westside Gunn and Roc Marciano “Rex Ryan” – Eerily ill.
Conway, Westside Gunn and Sadat X “The Town” – Gunn and Conway recruit the legend Sadat X, blood bath ensues.
Cormega ft. Roc Marciano “No Filter” – Might be my favorite rap song of the year.
Curren$y ft. Freddie Gibbs “Fetti” – Alchemist shit you might’ve missed.
Drake & Future “I’m The Plug” – One of Drake’s best straight rap verses ever.
Earl Sweatshirt ft. Wiki “AM // Radio” – Earl and Wiki for the win!
Kendrick Lamar ft. Snoop Dogg “Institutionalized” – Fave song on the Kendrick album, Snoop sounds awesome on this and the beat is poison.
Maffew Ragazino ft. Roc Marciano “Better Recognize” – Roc and Rags, can’t lose.
Meyhem Lauren ft. Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and Big Body Bes “Bonus Round” – Light work by Harry Fraud and company.
Puff Daddy ft. Pharrell “Finna Get Loose” – Gotta request this if I’m ever in the club, beat is bananas.
Towkio & Joey Purp “Gettin’ Throwed” – Some freshness to get blazed to by two of the dopest out of the Chi right now. Oh and shout to the production team Two Fresh who did the beat, they’re worth watching.
Favorite Non-Rap Drake Songs
“Hotline Bling” – You already know. And I did too, first listen.
“Jungle” – Best Drake song from this year that no one talks about. Can’t front, I love when he goes full into in on his R&B side like this. The short film was super dope too, and when this dropped at the end on some teaser shit I was like, “I need to hear that!” Luckily he let the whole project go a day or so later and I could listen to it on repeat.
“Sweeterman (Remix)” – The Ramriddlz original is nuts, but let’s be honest, Drake made it a whole lot better.
Favorite Drake Rap Songs
“Back To Back” – Now that’s how you diss someone! Fuck.
“10 Bands” – Craziest beat/flow combo of the year.
“Know Yourself” – “I was runnin’ through the 6 with my woes!” Too good.
Favorite Your Old Droog Songs (Most Consistent Artist)
“We Don’t Know You” – This is the vibe I like to stay in.
“Word” – Still talking’ shit?!?!
“Basketball & Seinfeld” – The references/name drops on this track are crazy, and I love the sample!
“Hidden Persuaders” – Shit is so fire it made me write my first bars in literally over a year. Went ahead and did an Ipcus remix to it.
“Rage Against The Machine” – Fave track on Kinison EP.
“Mr. Goodbar” – Rude One blacked out on this, as did Droog.
Favorite Pop, Rock & Soul Songs (Not by Drake, The Weeknd, or Justin Bieber)
Alabama Shakes “Gimme All Your Love” – Lotta heat on that sophomore Shakes album, but this song has gotta be the standout.
CHINAH “Away From Me”/”We Go Back” – Need a full album from this group immediately. Great sound.
Frank Ocean “You Are Luhh” – Frank’s been quiet, but he did put out a lovely cover of Aaliyah (and originally The Isley Brothers’) classic “At Your Best (You Are Love).”
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad “Bright Days” – GPGDS goes folk, and does it well.
The Internet “Special Affair” – Oh man, this whole album is great but I particularly love this track, what a vibe. Dopest new soul band out, for sure.
Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell “Bulletproof Soul” – I thought I’d like their collabo cover album more than I really did, but this track is nice. I’ll give the whole shit another shot someday soon.
Kanye West “Only One” – Did everyone forget about this? What a sweet tune, and crazy meaningful too. I’m a Kanye fan forever.
Leisure “All Over You” – Currently my favorite song out. Just posted about it recently, and also danced in the kitchen to it with my wife.
Leon Bridges “River” – Sam Cooke reincarnated. His whole debut album flows.
Martin Courtney “Vestiges” – The lead singer of one of my favorite bands—Real Estate—continues to make the best nostalgia rock in the universe.
Pentatonix “Can’t Sleep Love” – Acapella pop gold!
Son Little “Lay Me Down” – Son Little is that dude, watch the water boil to this one.
Sufjan Stevens “Death With Dignity” – Loved this album, and this song sucked me right in at first listen. So sad, so dope. First time really listening to SS, gotta peep his older stuff.
Tame Impala “The Less I Know The Better” – Might be my overall favorite song of 2015. Shit is so fire even my wife and kids fuck with it, and they usually don’t admit that the songs Daddy likes are crack! Sounds like some fly ’80s shit you’d hear randomly on the radio at like three in the morning riding across country.
Tobias Jesso Jr “Can’t Stop Thinking About You” – Tobias Jesso Jr is a fucking beast with the keys and melodies. This was my favorite off his excellent debut album.
Tennis “Mean Streets (Wild Belle Remix)” – Love this cut! Nothing else out sounds like this. Think indie meets reggae with pop melodies? Something like that.
Wild Belle “Giving Up On You (Ticklah Remix)” – My favorite reggae producer remixed the new Wild Belle single, and I still can’t believe it. Another current favorite.
Years & Years “King (Acoustic)” – Posted this recently, beautiful piano-only recording of their No. 1 UK hit record. I’m still obsessed with it.
Favorite “Hotline Bling” Cover
Everyone from Jadakiss to Erykah Badu took their turn with Drake’s surprise smash. But my dude Son Little crushed it better than them all on some straight blues shit.
Favorite Rap Mixtape
Sean Price – Songs in the Key of Price
Not the shit on Spotify, the full mixtape. We lost a legend this year, so you better cherish this shit.
Action Bronson on Funkmaster Flex (Hot 97)
This shit was so lit!!!!! Go revisit it and remember the greatness that is Action Bronson. I know our boy Ghostface got him good with that diss video (which even Bronson will admit was brilliant), but this freestyle proves that Action is an original, and does his thing when put to the test. Can’t wait for the Human Highlight Film.
Favorite Action Bronson x Alchemist Bangers (Just Because)
“Alligator” – Shit is voodoo.
“Big League Chew” – I feel so blessed that this was released. Banger.
“Galactic Love” – I drove around listening to this all year.
“Driving Gloves” w/ Gangrene – Put the pedal to the medal.
“Terry” – Another one that might be my favorite rap song of the year.
Favorite Music Articles I Wrote
In The Lab with Large Professor
Confessions of a Hip-Hop Junkie: The Struggle of Making My Top Five List
All The Way Live: Action Bronson Celebrates Mr. Wonderful In His Hometown, Baby
Mixtape Memories: 10 Classic DJ Clue Mixtapes Released in 1995
Right or Nah? with Your Old Droog
Mixtape Memories with DJ Craig G (Summer ’95 Edition)
Mixtape Memories: The Oral History of Strictly Classics, A Maryland Mixtape Store
The 25 Best Action Bronson Songs
Okay fuck, It’s 2:18am now, and I gotta get to sleep because my kids are gonna wake up and they’re all gonna be a mess because they stayed up mad late. And I’m their Dad and we’re away from home so I gotta be on point. So I hope you enjoyed this year-end recap. Pardon me, you know I usually link heavier, but sometimes you just gotta say “fuck it” and do it live!
Thanks to 2015, what a truly exceptional year for music of all genres. Peace and love.
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