- Porches – Pool
Favorite Tracks: Underwater, Mood, Even The Shadow, Glow, Car, Shape, Security
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made
Pop Rap / Conscious Hip-Hop
Favorite Tracks: Light Tunnels (ft. Mike Slap), Need To Know (ft. Chance The Rapper), Bolo Tie (ft. YG)
- DIIV – Is the Is Are
Favorite Tracks: Out of Mind, Take Your Time, Incarnate Devil, Healthy Moon, Loose Ends
- Matmos – Ultimate Care II
Experimental / Washing Machine Music
Favorite Tracks: Doesn’t apply.
- Young Dolph – King of Memphis
Trap Rap / Memphis Hip-hop
Favorite Tracks: Facts, Fuck It, Royalty, Get Paid, It’s Going Down
- Young Thug – I’m Up
Trap Rap / Southern Hip-hop
Favorite Tracks: F Cancer (Boosie) [Ft. Quavo], Hercules
10. Nevermen – Nevermen
Alternative Rock / Indie Rock / Experimental Hip-hop
An unlikely, intriguing trio emerges on Nevermen’s self-titled album. Mike Patton, Tunde Adebimpe, and Doseone join forces to mesh what would seem to be conflicting styles into one project. Although the trio fails to really create one new, unique sound here, the elements of rock, metal, and hip-hop that are distinctly apparent on each track makes for an album that keeps the listener’s attention, if nothing else.
Wrong Animal Right Trap, Hate On, Mr. Mistake, Shellshot
9. Lais – 114 EP
Lais embodies the dark, gritty style of R&B coming out of Toronto on the 7 track EP, 114. Despite the limited volume of tracks, a diverse style and range is evident. While the opening songs are drowsy and moody, “Remember Me Gold” features more up-beat production and brings up memories of Vic Mensa’s “Down On My Luck.” Not to mention “Cocaine Rain” is legitimately one of 2016’s best releases to date.
All I Want, Cocaine Rain, Remember Me Gold
8. Yung Lean – Warlord
Yung Lean is certainly not an easy artist to get into for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s his avant garde style that put him on the map or the fact that he hails from Stockholm, floating over the beats in his second language, the barriers to entry are obvious. However, a main reason why the now-19 year-old became an Internet sensation, even here in North America, is the production that joins his cloudy, moody vocals. This fact remains on Warlord, coupled with more focused, mature vocals from Lean. The album is obviously lacking in any lyrical content, yet a cohesive element is there thanks to a consistent atmosphere created from start to finish. If “Hoover” is any indication of the creative direction that Yung Lean is taking, then buckle up.
Hoover, Stay Down, Hocus Pocus (ft. Bladee), Shawty You Know What It Do, Miami Ultras
7. Majid Jordan – Majid Jordan
If nothing else, Majid Jordan sets a very specific aesthetic in their self-titled follow up to their debut EP, A Place Like This. Moody, atmospheric, spacious, the Toronto production duo creates a very chill collection of tracks that are soothing and calming and almost serves as the ideal background noise in the best way possible. While the vibe is certainly consistent throughout, the quality seems to take a bit of a dip here via a midway lull, but this could certainly be a case of personal taste – it seems as though everyone has a favorite handful of tracks off this album.
Learn From Each Other, Make It Work, My Love (ft. Drake), Something About You
6. Jazz Cartier – Hotel Paranoia
Hotel Paranoia stands on its own as a entertaining, diverse album, with Jazz flowing over a wide range of beats produced by longtime collaborator Michael Lantz. However, this project isn’t without its flaws. Being 16 songs in length, the album could definitely stand to cut out a few less memorable tracks to improve its overall quality. Nor does Cuzzi really say anything of substance here. But the major issue here is that Hotel Paranoia is very much a plateau for the up-and-coming Toronto artist. HP fails to improve off of 2015’s Marauding in Paradise. More will be needed from Jazz Cartier to really break through into the top tier of hip-hop. But he will get there soon enough and the likes of “Red Alert” and “100 Roses” display the immense potential and appeal that Jazz Cartier possesses.
100 Roses, Red Alert, I Know, Stick and Move, Opera, Tell Me (ft. River Tiber), Tales, Save Me From Myself
5. Santigold – 99 Cents
Although described as a pop artist, Santigold is so much more on her third album, 99 Cents. The project, certainly situated under the pop umbrella, seems to borrow from every genre under the sun through each of the fun, upbeat, sharp tracks. The dancehall, reggae, electronic, hip-hop, indie, post-punk influences experienced are only aided by Santigold’s quirky vocals.
Can’t Get Enough of Myself (ft. B.C.), Banshee, Chasing Shadows, Walking In A Circle, All I Got, Who I Thought You Were
4. Future – EVOL
Trap Rap / Southern Hip-hop
Damn Future, back at it again with a quality release. (I’m so sorry.) The Atlanta superstar builds off of January’s solid Purple Reign with an album that is all hits, no misses. Despite the volume of material released in the last year and a half, Future seems more focused on EVOL, managing to deliver fresh flows and escaping any notions of a stale sound. What he does maintain is his patented druggy aesthetic that is extremely alluring. We get our fix of trap bangers, an intriguing opening guitar riff on “Fly Shit Only,” and a breath of fresh air from The Weeknd off the stellar “Low Life.”
Maybach, Lil Haiti Baby, Seven Rings, Lie To Me, Low Life (ft. The Weeknd), Fly Shit Only
3. Bones – Useless
Alternative Hip-hop / Cloud Rap
Bones combines hip-hop and hardcore in this dark, intense, and eerie mixtape, Useless. From beginning to end, the aggressiveness of this project is turned all the way up. The bass on tracks like “Restinpeace” is mesmerizing and the subtle trap influences here are a pleasant addition.
Restinpeace, Keeptellingyourselfthat, Gladwehaveanunderstanding, Translucent
2. Various Artists – Star Wars Headspace
Rick Rubin enlists a dream team of EDM (among others) producers on the Star Wars-themed album, Star Wars Headspace. It seems as though one’s opinion on this project has such a wide range and could swing with any given mood but what is undeniable is the fact that this is simply a fun listen. In one sense, it’s almost a shame that it takes the idea of a Star Wars theme to get this impressive list of producers on the same album but despite the constant sampling from the iconic series, we’re left with many quality tracks. If anything, the album serves as living proof that the likes of Flying Lotus and Rick Rubin can sample anything and make it sound good.
Favorite Tracks: Kaskade – C-3PO’s Plight, Toyboi – Force, Rick Rubin – NR-G7, ATTLAS – Sunset Over Manaan, Flying Lotus – R2 Where R U?, Rustie – EWOK PUMPP, Galantis – Scruffy-Looking Nerfherder, Breakbot – Star Tripper
1. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Alternative Hip-hop / …Gospel?
TLOP isn’t overtly cohesive or conceptual. TLOP is extremely flawed. TLOP is so damn good. The sheer number of fantastic tracks on Kanye’s The LIfe of Pablo is quite astounding, as is the fusion of a collection of genres experienced through both vocals and production. The contributions and collective nature of this album is a major reason why this album is so enjoyable. Whether it’s Chance The Rapper’s verse of the year on “Ultralight Beam,” Metro Boomin’s production, the sampling of Desiigner’s “Panda,” the subtle vocal appearances from Kid Cudi and Young Thug, the rare addition of Frank Ocean’s voice, or the smooth interjections from Ty Dolla $ign, each featured artist seemingly adds to the value of the album and brings something new to the table. There are some noticeable flaws here, however. The back-to-back experience of “Low Lights” and “Highlights” feels like a major sonic valley, while Desiigner (and Tyler, The Creator’s recent remix) shows the true potential of the insane Yeezy x Hudson Mohawke beat on “Freestyle 4.” Chris Brown overstays his welcome on “Waves,” the outros to “Feedback” and “30 Hours” are completely unnecessary and unwarranted, as is “Silver Surfer Intermission.” It’s really too bad this project wasn’t trimmed down by maybe 5 minutes or so, but the peaks of The Life of Pablo are so great that these flaws are an acceptable tradeoff, if not easily forgotten. Like Kanye himself, The Life of Pablo isn’t perfect but, if nothing else, extremely entertaining.
Ultralight Beam (ft. Chance The Rapper, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream, & Kelly Price), Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 (ft. Kid Cudi), Pt. 2 (ft. Desiigner & Caroline Shaw), Famous (ft. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz), Waves (ft. Chris Brown & Kid Cudi), Real Friends (ft. Ty Dolla $ign), 30 Hours, No More Parties in LA (ft. Kendrick Lamar), Fade (ft. Post Malone & Ty Dolla Sign)