I wanna give y’all my picks for 10 albums you might not have heard this years, but should definitely check out… while I appreciate and fux wit a lot of the mainstream/hella commercial albums that came out this year; A Tribe Called Quest’s We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, Kendrick’s untitled unmastered, Solanges’ Seat a the Table (I know I’m not the only one that had Cranes in the Sky on repeat for a week…mostly this version , RiRi’s Anti, Bey’s Lemonade, Chance’s Coloring Books, BJ the Chicago Kid In my Mind, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu and all the other sonic dopeness that came out…….This is not a post about those albums……..truss they should/will be written about by countless media platforms….but I wanted to focus on something a lil different.
Albums that deserve mention but didn’t make the list….Moor Mother Fetish Bones, Jamila Woods Heavn, Mykki Blanco Mykki, Run the Jewels 3, Dope Saint Jude Reimagine Ep, Asaiah Ziv Free your Soul side A, & Mr. Carmack Rekindling Here are ten albums that have left a distinct impression on me.
When you follow a cultural producer, its exciting to see the ways their werk evolves and continues to grow. Cumbé is the first full album released by Boca in almost 4 years, while 2012’s Patologías del Invisible Incómodo dealt with lyrically diagnosing the pathology of white supremacy, colonialism & capitalism….Cumbé is about healin’. Its the voicing of Black and Brown dignity through survival, reclamation, and dance. Tracks that definitively stand out for me are Espiral ft. Gabriel Duran of Awkward Theory and Sankofa ft. Sekou…..below is the first video from the project
Cakes is one of my favorite emcees, his delivery is biting & he does not play. As a qpoc deejay who throws hella house parties, his music naturally fits with most of the dance genres that I play, and reminds us just how deep the connections between Hip Hop and dance go. Hedonism is fierce, funny and flows hard, because it has to. To quote queer elder, an emcee extraordinaire Audre Lorde, “it is better to speak/remembering/we were never meant to survive”….Cakes knows this, and practices self emancipation at every step by refusin’ to allow the yt cishet world to fuck with his flow, his ability to disrupt hegemony through his existence is freein’ for us all… With tracks like, Up out My Face (ft. Peaches) , Talkin Greezy, and New Phone (Who Dis).… Cakes gives us anthems for all the everyday shit we deal with, with just a touch of pettiness that we all need to maintain our sanity. His video release for New Phone (Who Dis)…..gave so much memeable material for anyone whose ever been heartbroken, and feelin ruthless.
Noname’s first album Telefone, in someways follows the sonics and vibes of her Chicago contemporaries BJ the Chicago Kid and Chance the Rapper, but with a femme centered aesthetic that brings an undeniable richness to the project. Her ability to switch up her cadence between neo-soul, juke, and spoken word flows, makes me fall in love a lil bit. She spits lyrical complexity in honest and at times heartbreakin’ ways, peep Casket Pretty if you don’t believe me. Tracks that I’ve been vibin’ heavy with are Diddy Bop, Freedom Interlude, Forever and Reality Check. The first verse on Forever opens with signifying sonic elders and seamlessly flows into talk of Andre as imaginary lover and then to the social conditions of poverty….. “Miss Nina Simone, Jimmy Jones/Missy Elliot musically were my relatives/Never forget my Andre/Papi mi casa es su casa/Baby I made an entrée/Maybe I make your moms plate/Maybe we not gon’ sleep tonight/In the night you and I laugh about how you Gemini/Already fry the chicken/But leftovers was my inner thigh/Nah I’m lying, I’m just playing/You can read this book with me/I’m trying to re-imagine abracadabra for poverty”
Kembá FKA YC the Cynic, is a powerful lyricist from NY…..In Caesar’s Rise he opens with, “Please don’t call me conscious/Don’t call it political/Please don’t deem this lyrical/These are negro spirituals” highlighting that Hip Hop is at root a Black Atlantic sound, which cannot be contained by narrow boxes, backpacking, and respectability politics that the label “conscious” often conveys, and the audio sample of Nina Simone creates the affect of sonic sankofa, honoring what came before and holding up her desire to help young folk value their Blackness, which Kembá clearly does. On this album he does what he does best….spits fire and truth with precision…. he engages listeners with a braggadocious candor that gives you glimpse of into the vulnerability of a young Black man coming up in the Bronx….Tracks that stand out, Hallelujah (prod. DJ Illanoiz), The New Black Theory, Caesar’s Rise and Greed….
Kaytranada’s production on 99.9% is so damn smooth, and flows between genres seamlessly….he is comfortable switchin it up between house/disco, r&b, Hip Hop, ambient vibes, and transgress across and in-between what we define as each of those genres. He is a sonic force, whose been producing & co/trancreatin with artists/vocalists/lyricists for a minute, so it was exciting to see who he brought in to work on a project of his own creation and direction. 99.9% will make you want to move, dance is inevitable. The features on this album are life givin’…. Vic Mensa, Anderson .Paak, GoldLink, Little Dragon, Craig David, and SYD to name a few… Tracks that you should peep, Glowed up, Leave me Alone, Got It Good and Together.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews refer to Williams’ as an alternative Hip Hop/spoken word artist, that definition feels too narrow and limiting for his body of werk. Williams’ werk as a cultural producer is a complex web of interconnected projects that all seem to be moving towards the goal of liberation….his use of multimedia to communicate archives of knowledge is on full display in MartyrLoserKing. Williams in a interview with Democracy Now discussed the concept behind the the werk as a processes of defining and transgressing, the narrative is rooted in Burundi and centers on a hacker named MartyrLoserKing, the work is a thinly veiled fiction which he hopes provides energy and counter narrative for those involved in movement. The opening track Groundwork, offers sonic testimony to remind/inform listener/audience that Indigenous cosmologies begin with the ground, rootwerk is necessary to heal and subvert. Williams’ album continues to provide deep commentary on the current social condition we find ourselves in, and how our positions within these spaces of hegemony/counter hegemony, center/margins, domination/subordination play out in a global system of power where ytness, colonailism, and Amerikkkan neoliberal imperialism maintain violence bodies in space. I can’t really suggest tracks off this album, it at least deserves one listen, uninterrupted from first to last track.
Little Simz’s Stillness in Wonderland is a project that highlights how a young artist matures and continues to develop a sound that is distinctly her own while navigating the entertainment industry at a high level. This album features the production of Rascal, SHE, Wondagurl & Astronote…and Simz spits flow that adapts to each of their styles… she collabs/features other vocalists and emcees on Stillness in Wonderland that compliment her delivery and push her in new directions….the features of Chronixx, Tilla, Syd, and SiR are fire…..This year Simz has been growing her body of werk to include film and print media in the form of comic/graphic novel. Tracks that are definitely worth listenin to Shotgun ft. Syd, Poison Ivy ft. Tilla , Low Tides, and One in Rotation ft Sir.
Princess Nokia’s 1992 is the merging of Indigenous, Black, Femme cosmologies which transgress hegemonic notions of what Hip Hop was, is and could be. her body of werk in 2016 has been extensive, she has released 3 videos from the album of which she has been creative director, produced a mini documentary with Fader, maintained an extensive tour schedule and been werking on Smart Brown Girl Club, an urban feminist collective which run media, werkshops, art, and community outreach events. Her flow as an emcee is raw and organic….she delivers lines with aggression, humor, confidence, and the knowledge that power exists in our individual stories. On this album she claims this year as her own, and highlight how her Afro-Indigenous spirituality is a grounding, and central energy in her life and progression as an artist and cultural producer. In Brujas, her second verse lays out the ancestral wisdom and the diasproix sacred, which flows thru her….I’m that Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba/And my people come from Africa diaspora, Cuba/And you mix that Arawak, that original people/I’m that Black Native American, I vanquish all evil/I’m that Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba/And my ancestors Nigerian, my grandmas was brujas/And I come from an island and it’s called Puerto Rico/And it’s one of the smallest but it got the most people. Tracks that need to be listened to on repeat, Brujas, Tomboy, Kitana, Green Line, and Mine…..actually, just the whole nine track project.
Oddisee’s skills in lyricism are matched by what he brings as a producer, while The Odd Tape is instrumental production, I don’t say that to diminish the complexity and drive of the tracks….he conveys affect, mood and story in the absence of words. This album has been a constant space that I’ve come back to since its release in May, when I need to focus and get my life rite, whether when I’m writing, werking out, processin emotional shit…..you know, whatever, this album holds space for all of that. It was recently part of my soundtrack while travelin’, his werk is the perfect companion for inner city travelin’, on the buses and subways that characterized my movements, it created soundscapes to fit the vibe and mood of movin around a city that wasn’t mine. I love the soulful and jazzy elements that come thru on the tracks….I don’t have much else to say except he is one of my favorite lyricists and producers, and I am patiently awaitin the release of 2017’s The Iceberg. Favorite tracks: Alarmed, Born Before Yesterday, On the Table and No Sugar No Cream.
If there was one album I could urge people to listen to from 2016, it would be A Tribe Called Red’s we are the halluci nation. ATCR are using deejaying, electronic music production and new sonic technologies to deploy Indigenous cultural healing & resistance. This project seeks to expands the Indigenous notion of nationhood as a way to address the completely flawed structure and systemic violence of coloniality. This album is layered with complex sounds, We are the halluci nation, speaks Indigenous…It is the rhythms of the ceremony and dance… the verbal transmission in the form of samples, emcees, throat signing, song and speech, werk to communicate ancestral knowledge, narratives of survival and resistance to yt supremacy, land degradation and violence, and a proposed futurism of how to create a shift in collective consciousness. It features collaborations with Northern Voices, Saul Williams, Tanya Tagaq, Chippewa Travellers, Yasiin Bey, Lido Pimienta, John Trudell and others who speak to this expanding sense of nation and belonging which are intrinsically tied to connection to the earth and a reclamation of self. Much like Saul Williams’ MartyrLoserKing, We are the halluci nation deserves to be given a listen in its entirety, but then come back and listen to the tracks, The Virus, Sila, JHD, How I feel, and For you- The Light, pt 2