This is Music Industry Quarterly’s (MIQ) Definitive Hip-Hop list of 2015
Call it madness, the way 2013’s Acid Rap became a turning point in Chicago’s Hip-Hop scene. Obviously, it thrusted Chance The Rapper into the arms of everyone from Madonna to Lil’ Wayne, to SNL. Bringing along his backing band, The Social Experiment, Surf surprised the internet when it just dropped on Apple Music without a warning. What was presented was a musical odyssey exploring the Chicago emcee’s light and fun mindset that’s fairly revolutionary considering the current seriousness of Hip-Hop.
Dr. Dre spent so much time molding Eminem, 50 Cent, Game and Kendrick Lamar into Pop culture phenoms after dropping 2001, many wondered if he’d ever drop the highly-anticipated Detox. Then Beats By Dre became the world’s first technological fashion statement since the i-anything and the world thought his third solo-album/ compilation would never happen before Apple made him Hip-Hop’s first billionaire. Finding inspiration from this year’s blockbuster biopic on his early days with N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton, Dre drops Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre, which becomes a fantastic accomplishment in itself.
A year and some change removed from his third feature length album, Nothing Was The Same, Drake literally dropped a surprise mixtape/ album earlier this year in If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Heaven knows what the title actually represented. However, it’s clear October’s Very Own made one of his most lyrically aggressive projects to date. Before the lucrative Apple Music and almost comical career-ending defeat of Meek Mill, Drizzy kicked off 2015 in only a way he can.
Recorded in less than a week, produced mainly by Metro Boomin and featuring two of Hip-Hop’s two most notable names, What A Time To Be Alive is the Watch The Throne for the Trap generation. Most importantly, the joint project by Drake & Future serves as a testament to both’s status following stellar solo work. Though the project leans heavily toward Future Hendrick, Drizzy fits in fairly well while staying true to his own Pop star status.
2014 couldn’t have been a worse year for Atlanta’s current Trap king, Future. Alongside of his disappointing sophomore album Honest, romantic involvement with Ciara made the reluctant Pop star a new tabloid target. By the end of the year, he dropped the satisfying Monster which wound up being the jump-off point for his 2015 comeback. This included the Zaytoven-assisted Beast Mode alongside the DJ Esco hosted 56 Nights with 808 Mafia. Mid-year he drops his proverbial cherry on top with DS2. “I just f*cked yo b*tch in some Gucci Flip Flops,” may as well be the best opening line anyone will hear all year
Kendrick Lamar clearly had much on his mind going into his sophomore album, To Pimp A Butterfly (with 11 Grammy nominations). The end result is a revolutionary body of work both thematically and sonically. Compton’s champion presents a wide range of ideas through backing tracks inspired by Black music’s entire history from Jazz and Funk to modern Trap. All, of course, found their way cohesively interwoven into a poem ending with an eerie mock interview with Lamar’s greatest creative inspiration, Tupac Shakur.
Mello Music Group is becoming one of the last handful of record labels undeniably dedicated to preserving traditional notions of Golden Era Hip-Hop. This means flawless takes on boom-bap production and densely intricate lyricism. Oddisee’s The Good Fight is almost a reflection of how difficult it is to stay true to those core values in a world where popping bottles and booming 808’s run mainstream consumption. The Washington D.C. native does a phenomenal job in displaying the vintage beauty while staying forward just enough in the production.
Getting Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder together this year couldn’t have been a better idea. Indie 500 is everything one should expect from this type of album plus more. Interestingly enough, the amount of guest features on the album almost makes this feel like a hyper compilation for alternative Hip Hop heads. Problem, Bad Lucc, Rapsody, Brother Ali, Planet Asia, and more make this one of the best lyrical experiences of the year.
Going down as 2015’s best debut album, Vince Staples makes a dark, depressing hood epic. With No I.D. handling majority of the production alongside stand-outs from Christian Rich and DJ Dahi, each track on the double-disc really sets the groundwork for Staples’ various emotions. Thankfully, the Long Beach emcee lyrically can flip rhymes underneath very real tales of poverty and all-out violence. Anyone looking for an interesting take on American gun violence without corny rap-tropes can be forwarded to this amazing first start by the Ramona Park Legend.
Young Thug represents everything Rap traditionalists hate about current trends within the culture. It doesn’t hurt that he happens to be at the center of Hip-Hop’s current commercial dominance in Atlanta. Then there’s that title controversy regarding his Lil Wayne inspired Barter 6. Behind all of that is a mixtape/album beaming with Thugger’s slick usage of melodic rhyming and great beat selection. Barter 6 isn’t a lyrical masterpiece and doesn’t try to be. However, it manages to be a testament to his fairly amazing song-making ability.
BY: TIDUS MCCLOUD