1. Dr. Yen Lo (Ka & Preservation) – Days With Dr. Yen Lo
This is my Favorite Hip Hop Album Of The Year, not only because I’m a huge fan of Ka but because he continues to deliver on a lyrical scale that is unlike anything you hear today in Hip Hop. With Preservation on the Production, Ka feels right at home as an emcee. I expected this to happen tho, as their 1200 BC EP last year fit right in that vein as my favorite Rap EP . I was immediately hooked when I heard the first track "Day 0". With lines like “Still Hot Headed from when I walked the desert” or “It’s great to whole your own weight, no kick stand” but my favorite joint on the album has got to be Day 777 and that’s just one of many tracks to offer strong quotables over cinematic production. One of the more memorable lines of the song goes “Listen What You Pitchin Son! got ‘em sick and dumb, cease all them jewels in your teeth if you ain’t spittin none” or “my wine cellar put your bars to shame”. The music is an experience and meant truly for conscious listening, You’ll be rewarded with story of ghetto struggle and triumph told through Ka’s clever word play on this album. I’d love to hear even more work from Ka and Preservation in the future! Great Work! Congrats!
2. Oddisee – The Good Fight
One of the better self reflective albums of the year. On this latest Solo Vocal Project from Oddisee, you find him really stepping it up all around, I have to say, this is my favorite Solo Album From Oddisee. From the lyrics, to the production, to the overall musicality (Oddisee even sings and it sounds great!). Similar to Kendrick’s Album, much of “The Good Fight” is about Oddisee in conversation with himself, his critiques, his strengths, his weaknesses and the things he strives for. The music however personal it may sound, is still very relatable and any listener could compare and learn from their own life’s circumstances by listening consciously to his lyrics. Although I’m a lyrical head, I must say, that what brings this album alive is the instrumentation. There are just some really GREAT SONGS on this project!, My favorites are Counter Clockwise, First Choice, Belong To The World (I really like this Song), Book Cover and Meant It When I Said It. Congrats Oddisee You Did It! And you deserve the props brother!
3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Yes! Clearly the most Popular Hip Hop Album to appear on just about every top Hip Hop list this year and for very good reason. I mean, 11 Grammy Nominations alone should speak for itself. What I really appreciate about this record is Kendrick’s ability to go outside of the musical box and create lasting art, something that most people might not comprehend right away. The Album also doesn’t feature any trendy sounds or typical mainstream production of today, lending further credibility to the project’s timelessness. That being said, I love the fact that he chose to work with an avant guarde group of musicians that likely music nerds or the thoroughest of music heads would know. With the likes of Artists, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Bilal, Terrace Martin, George Clinton, Knxwledge, Kamasi Washington and others lending their artistic strengths to the album, it’s no wonder we are able to experience this musical outcome. The story telling gets deep on this album as well and it will greatly benefit the listener to take their time with the lyrics from beginning to end. The subjects expressed throughout seem to come full circle in the end and you get a greater appreciation for Kendrick as a writer. My favorite tracks are These Walls, U, Alright, Momma, How Much A Dollar Cost, Complexion and Mortal Man, and I must say that his conversation with Tupac at the end is one of the most epic things I’ve ever heard on any musical album. That alone stands high and puts this album in a class of its own. Salute and Congrats Kendrick, I’m certainly rooting for you to take it all in the 2016 Grammys!
4. Scarface – Deeply Rooted
I thoroughly enjoyed this album! It’s really one of my top favorites this year! It’s just simple. Classic Scarface. He just has this ability to teach and guide through lyrics. Much like KRS-One, when Scarface raps you just gotta sit an listen to what the OG is spittin’. You could very well learn something especially if you dealin’ with the life in the streets. I don’t think there’s one track on this album I didn’t like. My favorites are Steer, Anything, Do What I Do, You and All Bad, but I must also give recognition to the 3 bonus tracks I had to get exclusively from Best Buy. They are so worth it! The first joint “Exit Plan” is like a street survival guide that Face tells so eloquently. The album has some really socially aware and thought provoking moments as well. It’s just an overall quality and mature musical effort from Scarface. "Deeply Rooted" definitely lives up to its Title.
5. A.S.M. (A State Of Mind) – The Jade Amulet
Okay, so the hip hop heads in my circle already know how much of a fanatic I am for Concept Albums and I must say I didn’t even know about this 3 man group (Emcee's: Green, FP and DJ/Producer:Fade) prior to the MF DOOM feature, which is one of my favorite guest spots from DOOM this year. The feature found DOOM playing a Character called King Dumile which was exciting to learn about, however I wanted to get an overall understanding of the story and how the position of the character came to be in the song, so I decided to purchase the entire album and listen to every track straight through before I took a conscious listen to the DOOM feature. This was a journey I thoroughly enjoyed. It certainly took some time and lyric studying, but was very much worth it. A.S.M. put a great amount of effort in so many aspects of this project. From the music, the live instrumentation, the characters, the features and the magnificent story line, I was greatly impressed. Even the comic book sketches and the artwork for the project was superior. I’ve yet to see them perform this project live, but I’d be excited to see if/when I get the chance. Much Props, probably one of the best concept/story told albums I’ve ever heard. Big Ups to A.S.M.
6. Joey Bada$$ - B4 Da Money
This was an album I was eagerly anticipating, and boy did he deliver! The music on this album is emotional, it really helps to bring out the best in Joey lyrically. The subject matters are mature, self reflecting, dealing with family, dealing with life, dealing with struggle, dealing with the ghetto, dealing with the police. Just an honest but very mature record, that I always anticipated hearing from Joey. I truly think that this album lived up to the hype that many of us mid 90’s golden era heads were looking for in Joey. And all though I say the golden era, I don’t mean that his music should sound like yesterdays but the consciousness that existed in hip hop back then is one of the main reasons we saw that era as so great. I feel like Joey delivered on that scale. My favorite tracks are Piece Of Mind, Like Me, On & On, O.C.B.,Curry Chicken and Run Up On Ya. The album is so dope and I would encourage you to cop the album physically if you can, so that you can read through the lyrics as you listen. The writings are much clearer and you get a greater understanding of Joey’s lyrics as you recite along.
7. Czarface – Every Hero Needs A Villain
Let me first say this before I go into the review, if you like Czarface, please feel encouraged to pick up a physical copy of this cd, it’s one of the best cd packaging looks I've seen. It’s literally a mini hardcover comic book that houses the cd, and it also includes some really high quality artwork and the lyrics to the songs on the album. Aside from 7L, Esoteric and Inspectah Deck doing their lyrical thing, the album has some really good guest features in the likes of Meyhem Lauren, MF DOOM, Large Professor, Method Man, Ju Ju of The Beatnuts, GZA and RA The Rugged Man. Every guest comes through correct with their raps on their featured verse. Although the beats sound slightly different to the first Czarface project, they still work really well with the theme. Esoteric and Deck go in lyrically with their witty raps and comic book related punchlines. Czarface gives us that raw boom bap hip hop feel with intricate but fun rhymes to listen to. You don’t find much hip hop projects that sound like this. I certainly enjoy the uniqueness of Czarface that existed on their first album and carried over into this one.
8. Large Professor – Re: Living
This album had me anticipating since I heard the first two singles “In The Scolls/Own World”. The sound is straight up Classic Large Pro. If you’re a fan of his earlier solo albums, you’ll really appreciate this. The beats are raw, the rhymes are clear, the flow is sharp. It’’s Queens, it’s NYC, its LARGE PRO! That’s all I could say. My favorite joints are Own World, Opulence, New Train Ole Route, & Industry Remix 2 but honestly every track on this album is dope. If you’re a fan of Large Pro, this album won’t dissappoint.
9. KRS-One – Now Hear This
I take pride in the fact that in 2015, I could add a variety of OG's and Legends that paved the way in hip hop to my top albums list. It feels good to share that our OGs are still bringing it! And KRS-One is a great example of that. I mean, this brother is still teaching and spittin’ music that is still consciously relevant to us and still doing it better than many of the new lyrically gifted emcees. This album exemplifies why I’m such a huge fan of KRS. The beats are raw, and his ability to express and teach clearly through his rhymes shines strong. If you want food for thought with high intellect told in a clear and understandable manner, then this is the album for you. My favorite tracks are Drugs Won, You A Millionaire, American Flag, Let’s Go, It’s All Insane To Me, and The Lingo. Quality and conscientious hip hop still exists strongly.
10. Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons To Die II
Ghostface and Adrian Younge do it again with their concept album TRTD II. What I really liked about this project is Ghosts’ ability to continue the story line of his character and show why he’s so good at concept albums. The album strictly stayed in the vein of what we usually get with Ghost and Adrian and I didn’t have a problem with that at all. I really appreciate the creative work of these two brothers when they collaborate. Props to Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge for delivering once again.
Best Hip Hop Albums Continued(11-15) - Cril's Picks!
The following 5 albums complete my “15 Best Hip Hop Albums List for 2015". For time sake I was unable to do a longer review for each of these projects, however they were very much a big part of the successful albums I experienced in 2015.
11.The Game – The Documentary 2.0 and 2.1
Dope Overall Album! I think this album has something pretty much for everyone
12.Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo And The Youth
Depth! Lyrical depth is strong on this one
13.Canibus and Bronze Nazareth – Time Flys, Life Dies Phoenix Rise
Raw Rhymes, Food For Thought! Dope Soulful Beats that suit Canibus’ style well. Bis still got it!
14.Guilty Simpson – Detroit’s Son
Different sound for Guilty but very intriguing to listen to. I was attracted by the unique sound.
15. Add-2 Prey For The Poor
Soulful, Food For Thought!