2015 blessed us with sooo many good hip-hop albums that at times it was hard to keep up and even now I know there were albums I missed simply because they slipped through the cracks. What I’ve complied here is my personal Top 10 releases of 2015. You won’t agree with them and some of you will probably look at my list and think I’m not fit to write for DEHH. However bare with me and give a couple tracks a listen and if you genuinely hate the tracks then hit me up on Twitter (@BigSto) and we can talk. Let’s jump in.
Red Pill– Look What This World Did To Us
For a lot of us the first time hearing Detroit Hip-Hop artist Red Pill was on the Ugly Heroes self-titled album. On his first solo venture with Mello Music Group Pill creates an album for those of us struggling to make it in the day to day in a society that doesn’t seem to have our best interests in mind. Red Pill speaks on his personal struggles and also speaks on the determination to prevail over everything that’s against him. With production from L’Orange, Hir-O, Duke Westlake and even Red Pill himself, the soundscape on the album is subdued and gives you a chance to focus on what Pill is saying. Anyone out there battling against the 9-5 and other stresses of being an adult in this age will gravitate to this album and enjoy it for its humor, relatability and dark tone.
Earl Sweatshirt– I Don’t Like S*it, I Don’t Go Outside
Earl’s debut “Doris” was a solid introduction to the West Coast emcee and producer, but many were wondering what the young prodigy would do next. Enter his sophomore effort “I Don’t Like S*it, I Don’t Go Outside” which ended up being a dark opus of everything Earl’s gone through since his return from Samoa. Earl produced the whole album front to back and (aside from the Left Brain produced “Off Top) goes into his relationship with his mother, the death of his grandmother, drug use and coping with all the stress that comes along with growing up with your life under a microscope. However at the same time don’t post Earl as just some emo kid, because he also comes with some heavyweight bars cutting down emcees on tracks like “Off Top” and “Wool”. Once you fall in love with the album make sure to go pick up that special edition vinyl.
Ghostface Killah & BadBadNotGood– Sour Soul
For me personally this collaboration came out of nowhere. Wu-Tang emcee Ghostface Killah teaming up with a Canadian jazz/rock/hip-hop band in BadBadNotGood. What we got though was nothing short of amazing. BadBadNotGood was able to create that signature underground sound that harkened to RZA’s beats. Ghostface continues to show and prove that he hasn’t missed a step and with heavyweight collabs with MF DOOM, Danny Brown, Elzhi and more, how can you pass this up at all. This was an album I had on repeat for the first half of the year and still revisit. Ghostface with a live band is a match made in heaven and we can only hope a sequel is in the future.
Kendrick Lamar– To Pimp A Butterfly
I feel like this goes without saying, but Kendrick has been on a roll since his surge during the “Section 80” campaign. Here we are two albums later and not only has Kendrick continued to step up his craft, he’s also making music that is culturally relevant to the majority of his audience. As always Kendrick is able to craft a masterpiece that touches on topics relative to everyone. From vices, to depression, from his life in Compton to how he’s adjusted since acquiring superstardom. All of this is done over a diversity of sounds by Sounwave, Knxwledge, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Dr. Dre and more. They create a jazzy, funky sound that still manages to bang in the whip. I said it with Kendrick’s last project, I have no idea how he’ll top this but I know he will.
L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae– The Night Took Us In Like Family
Producer L’Orange has always had an unconventional sound to all his beats and with this project he collaborated with hip-hop artist Jeremiah Jae. Now this record is more than just Jae rapping over beats L’O sent, there’s a story interwoven between songs and interludes that push the story forward. L’Orange does stick to his signature sound of 70’s clips and jazzy loops (that I love so much) but that’s not to say that the album doesn’t bang in the whip. Guest appearances by Homeboy Sandman and Gift of Gab, JJ handles the majority of the vocals telling a dark tale of betrayal, murder and more. Jeremiah Jae flows effortlessly over L’Orange’s beats crafting an album that you’ll have on repeat once you jump in.
L’Orange and Kool Keith– Time Astonishing!
After “The Night Took Us In Like Family” L’Orange had already made a strong case for himself as producer of the year. However this man decided to release a second record this year, this time with the legendary Kool Keith. L’Orange took his sound in a different direction with “Time Astonishing!” still keeping the 70’s radio interludes but this time adding a more futuristic sound. On the opposite side of this collab Kool Keith sounds reenergized and hungry over the spacey production. With vocal assists from Blu, Mr. Lif, MindsOne and more, again this is more than just beats and raps. The duo is trying to take you on an adventure away from this planet.
Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment– Surf
A group effort consisting of numerous artists, “Surf” was my personal soundtrack to the summer and steered away from a lot of the darker stuff that has come out this year. The project screams upbeat and positivity with influences across all genres. So many people had their hands, voices and sounds on this record and what we get in return is an actual group project. Busta Rhymes, NoName Gypsy, Erykah Badu, B.O.B, Chance the Rapper and many many many more turn this project into a must listen and I promise you any bad vibes you’re feeling will melt away. Best of all this project is FREE on iTunes, so there’s no excuse not to cop.
J. Givens– Fly Exam
J Givens stormed onto the scene with his #OccupyMonday series and his debut album “El v. Envy”. After a solid debut and tons of fans later, many were wondering what was coming next. After signing to Humble Beast and a somewhat mysterious album campaign we got “Fly Exam” which in my opinion is one of the best crafted albums this year. From the roll out to the final track on the album, J. Givens has upped the ante. A soundscape crafted by the Humble Beast team, has sounds we don’t usually hear that often in hip-hop. Combine that with J. Givens lyrical acrobatics, storytelling and introspection and we get a diverse concept album with more layers than an onion.
Dr. Dre– Compton
2015 has been in my opinion one of the best years hip-hop has had in a minute, but even I didn’t expect Dr. Dre to rise from the ashes and finally put out another record. While it wasn’t the “Detox” we were expecting, what we got instead was the embodiment of Compton through music. Dr. Dre brought together veterans and new talent alike to craft an album that speaks on the black experience while making music that bumps. Some were introduced to Anderson Paak, Justus, King Mez and others through this album. We were also given verses and vocals by veterans like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, The Game and more. A cohesive album that should open people’s eyes to the black experience and what West Coast Hip-Hop is about.
The Battery– The Change Up
My 2015 started off with this album in my inbox. For those who don’t know The Battery is made of Tunnel Rat members, Jurny Big and Peace 586. The two came together years back to start releasing music again and this is their third effort since that point. For a group of OGs in hip-hop to come together and still continue to put out music and even more so continue to grow through their music is a breath of fresh air to see in hip-hop. With Peace on the beats and Jurny giving introspective looks into fatherhood, his spiritual journey while still telling cupcake rappers to fallback makes for a great album. PLUS there’s pretty much a full-fledged Tunnel Rat reunion on the album, how can we possibly pass that up?
2015 was a classic year for hip-hop. What were your favorite releases in 2015? Leave them in the comments below or tweet them to us @DeadEndHipHop.