Best of 2016… So Far


Six months into 2016 and we’ve faced another year that’s had such a consistent smattering of good music come our way prior to.

Maybe it’s the Internet and the bullet-train-rate we’re inundated with information, but let’s say if the music world were to hit pause for the rest of 2016, I would not be mad (Please don’t, I don’t actually mean that).

Hypothetical situations aside, starting from January until now, every month in 2016 thus far has bore witness to some fire album. Whether it was totally expected or came out of the cuts, it has been my absolute pleasure to strap on my headphones and, with all due respect, ignore my colleagues and just dive into what the music world has for me that day. I mean, I limited myself to picking six records for this list, but the Honorable Mentions jawn was originally longer than the actual winners.

Maybe there’s something in the water, maybe there’s something in the air, maybe it’s global warming, but while I have ears and its 2016, I am audibly wide open because I have yet to be wholly disappointed since the year began.

Read through for my picks of 2016’s Best Albums…. so far.

Anderson .Paak – Malibu
“Malibu” has the unfair advantage of being one of 2016’s first records to release, and it set the bar pretty damn high. Anderson .Paak’s debut album (following a stellar showing on Dr. Dre’s “Compton) solidified his emergence from behind the scenes as a drummer into full-fledged pop artist. “Malibu” is a little bit of everything: A little funk, a little soul, West Coast grooves, rap heritage and a full serving of cool. This record was just the jump-off for the California native as he continues to spread his Midas Touch on every commissioned feature thrown his way. “Malibu” is Anderson’s world, and we’re just living in it. Yes Lawd!

Kaytranada – 99.9%
The one letting loose the bounciest drums is the quietest one of the bunch. Montreal beatsmith-wallflower Kaytranada prefers to live in the background noise, but for his debut record he pours in 100% of himself into this one. Not to be confused strictly has a house producer, KayKay flexes his musical chops and solidifies himself as a bonafide artist with “99.9%”. Sure, his infamous bounce is tethered throughout the entire record, but the real showcase here is his versatility and prowess in encompassing his musical influences: 90’s R&B, boom bap rap, funk, and ethereal melodies dry the ink on his signature stamp. Plus, his features list is fuego.

Gallant – Ology
Gallant’s single “Weight in Gold” and the millions of remixes to follow had been floating around the blogosphere for awhile before his debut “Ology” record dropped. Though forefronted by a Maxwell-esque falsetto, the song-writing in “Ology” reinforced Gallant’s resume as a songwriter to those unfamiliar with the D.C. native. A record full of pain and torment, the lyrics fits right in with modern music’s obsession with self-realization. Though a little vague and ambiguous (akin to one Mr. Ocean), the weighty production odes to 80s and 90s R&B carry “Ology”, with his vocals lifting it to a mode of sultry R&B that has faded since we switched the channel from orange to gold.

Domo Genesis – Genesis
The biggest surprise of the year thus far, I’m not even mad that Domo is stepping out of his Odd Future shadow. “Genesis” hangs its hat on a number of musical elements aside from the shock-and-awe, vulgar-for-vulgarity’s-sake tradition often associated with any OFWGKTA stamp. There’s still that smoker rapper vibe, but even more so, tinges of soul subtly embed itself throughout this record. Production from Christian Rich, Sha Money XL, Sap and Cam O’bi allow for more mellow raps and thoughtful dispels that allows Domo to show off that growing up ain’t so bad after all.

Young Thug – Slime Season 3
I won’t lie, I was never a Young Thug supporter simply because I personally believe the world is a little oversaturated with staccato rappers. There can only be one true Migos. But I’d also be a bigger liar if I said that cadence isn’t catchy as hell — hence Drake, Future, Thugger and so forth. Uncle Snoop made fun of Migos flow and it still sounded fire. That being said, “Slime Season 3” certainly made me appreciate how flexible Young Thug can be with his flows: Amid the pockets in low, rumbling trap beats, Thugger can pack in an infinite combination of ad-libs and syllables in one bar, and then rubber band the next, compressing and stretching words in a single breath. It’s quirky, at times its senseless, but man, does it pack a punch. I have absolutely no qualms against what he’s trying to say lyrically, all I’m saying is when the mood is right, “Slime Season 3” is everything I could want to bump in the whip and more.

A$AP Ferg – Always Strive and Prosper
For Ferg, “Always Strive and Prosper” was the trap lord taking an inward look at himself. Amid a life of fame, chains and gold teeth, Ferg asks the hard questions: “Now that you’ve made it, who you repping for now?” That’s not an unfamiliar feat, as that question served as the thesis to Kendrick’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” but the life of a trap lord is still largely different than that of a hood poet. From here, Ferg goes down different lanes sonically, dabbling in a deep house vibe courtesy of DJ Mustard and Stelios Phili, shooting the breeze with Ty Dolla Sign and Chris Brown and circles back to hard, chest-thumping sounds that made his mark. More so centered around the storytelling than the beats, Ferg explores a new, yet similar avenue of self-examination to ensure strife and prosperity.

See, the trouble with this making lists and stuff, is that there are always going to be worthwhile contenders that you have to leave out. And some are justified, some are not. I will admit that it did feel weird to leave off a J Dilla record. It took a lot of guts to omit “Lemonade” and I had to admit that myself (and a whole lot of others) overhyped “Views” and had to whittle it down to “just another Drake album.”

I had to reassure myself it was the right decision to not consider Kendrick’s “Untitled, Unmastered” B-sides record as not an album, even though it very well could have been. “Anti” is probably my favorite Rihanna record to date, and “The Life of Pablo”, amidst all its hoopla, just couldn’t hold a candle to the original six.

So here’s the honorable mentions list. Again, this list was a lot longer than it should have been, but I do anticipate that within the next six months — hell, maybe even three — both of these lists will be looking very different. Who knows what 2016 still has in store, but I’m eager to find out what’s left to emerge from Apollo’s Box. (Looking at you, Frankie.)

Honorable Mentions:

J Dilla – The Diary
Kendrick Lamar – Untitled, Unmastered
Rihanna – Anti
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Drake – Views
Beyonce – Lemonade

Nina Tabios

Nina Smoove aka Champagne Ninang. Certified hooligan. $F Bay Area born and bred.

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