SpeedontheBeat.com’s SOTBMusic Top 16 for 2016

In the Year of Our Lord 2016, we’ve seen a lot of loss and a lot of insanity. From the death of Prince, to the election of Donald Trump, to the death of Maurice White, we’ve seen a plethora of craziness envelop our lives. However, through the insanity, we’ve gotten some great music. I’ll go on record as saying that 2016 was one of the best years musically in a while. So, without further ado, let’s look at sixteen of my favorite albums from 2016. Please keep in mind that these are in no specific order, nor is this an exhaustive list of all of my favorites. Additionally, if you make the list and I’m cool with you, it’s not because I’m cool with you; it’s because I rocked with the music. Hell, True God released albums like pennies in a fountain this year. But, I’m not including every TG/DAR release from this year. Finally, if your favorite’s not on here, sorry not sorry.

Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book

When this album dropped, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d always liked Chance as a rapper, and respected him as an activist. But, overall? I wasn’t a stan or anything. I thought his next project would be cool, but it wouldn’t be something I’d play full-length at the end of the year on a regular basis. Enter Coloring Book, a project that’s just as groovy as it is gospel. It’s as retrospective as it is inspirational. Plus, this album contains some of the elements Chance wanted to pass onto Kanye for TLOP (if he did, maybe TLOP would find its way onto this list). This was the project that, for me, solidified the fact that Chance is another once-in-a-generation rapper.

Beyonce: Lemonade

Lemonade was a moment. Was it the best album of the year? Eh…not exactly, but the story behind it and the story which accompanied it were greatness personified. Plus, any time Beyonce gets racially-blinded White folks in a tizzy over “Black Panther” pride, she’s going to get a W out of me. Her Super Bowl performance gave me some life in a defensive slugfest. Like her sister’s album, I was here for more than the singles, because the singles on Lemonade were slightly underwhelming, even though they were big as hell. The album isn’t available to stream on Spotify, but check it out (even if you’ve got to get Tidal to do so).
Childish Gambino: “Awaken, My Love”

When I heard about this one, I was excited. I mean, Gambino always played with several genres at once. So, hearing him go straight funk-rock on a project? Sign me up. AML was better than expected, still. It’s angry as hell and protest-worthy, but still aims to create peace and positive energy through music and love.

Anderson .Paak: Malibu

Anderson .Paak is a genius. Malibu, recorded on a busted mic and a laptop, is an example of this genius. It’s a perfect album for this era of life we’re living in. Abrasive, but still smooth. Revolutionary in its approach, but still easily digestible so everyone gets a taste of the real. Plus, well, the man can sang.

Curren$y: The Carrollton Heist

It’s a bit unfair to include just one Curren$y project, as the discography he’s amassed over this year has been nothing short of legendary. However, the collaboration between Spitta and Alchemist was just beautiful. Gritty while still being funky, but beautiful. I actually revisited this project because of the Remix version and rediscovered some of Curren$y’s best work out of the year. If you need an introduction to a criminally-underrated legend, here’s a good one.

Maxwell: BlackSUMMERS’night

It’s new Maxwell, one of the original panty wetters. Do I really need to say more? It’s possibly his best albums (possibly, don’t shoot me for saying it). On top of that, it one of the best neo-soul-tinged albums I’ve heard in a minute. It’s beautiful without being cheesy. Plus, “Lake By The Ocean” is a panty-getter even though he’s not even trying. Additionally, it’s not just about getting the drawers, as Maxwell gives us an album that’s a pretty dope look into his world and the sequel world originally set up by BLACKsummers’night.

Dope Music Village: You’re Welcome

The DMV has been on a come-up these past 50-odd weeks, even with the loss of some of the region’s brightest (RIP Scoota, for example). From the release of Tate Kobang’s newest project to Jay IDK’s Empty Bank to the non-hip-hop albums that’ve been released from the region, the area has it all. But, D.M.V.’s work, consisting of bars and beats from Ezko, Brain Rapp, and Nature Boi, encapsulates the area better than most. There’s equal parts turn up and reflectiveness, a blend between the good, the bad, and the ugly within the region on the project.

The Weeknd: Starboy

He did it. He finally fucking did it. The Weeknd went full supernova on Starboy, embracing the 80s as much as he does songs about coming down off a bag of blow and strippers. This project blows BBTM out of the water, in that it’s a lot more concise with its choices (while still giving us more music for our money). Sure, I don’t see people using “Sidewalks” or “I Feel It Coming” like they would, say, “Earned It.” But, the album is full of dancefloor-ready tracks, introspective looks at the price of fame, many religious overtones and The Weeknd embracing the pop stardom he’s received over the years while still remaining true to himself. Not too many artists can say that with a straight face. Well done, Abel. Well done, indeed.

True God: Immortal Freedom

I could’ve spat in the wind and picked out a True God piece just to be like “hey, DAR puts out dope-ass music, too. Let’s not forget about True, Ax, ‘Pollo, Speed, Dugee and the rest of the team.” But, nah. I actually listen to projects, friend or foe, and I then determine if it’s something I’ll ride out to for more than one or two sittings. Immortal Freedom contained a lot of elements that some of True’s other 2016 releases lacked. It’s a complete album that drops you off in the middle of the story. But like, say, Because the Internet, its own self-containment allows for a legitimately interesting story in its own right. We get True at his most-open since the D.O.A./SR2 days, talking about the effects family, friends, the lack of his daughter, and more are having on the DAR leader.. Plus, the man put two albums together on one project, just like After the Revival.

A Tribe Called Quest: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

The album is classic in that it feels like that classic era Tribe, but still modern enough that it doesn’t have to rely solely on nostalgia. If you haven’t heard it, go do so. Now. Stop reading this piece and go listen to it below. Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to hear Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar on an album which also features Elton John, this is the one for you.

Ab-Soul: Do What Thou Wilt.

Now, December 9th had a lot of heat drop. From Cole to Tech N9ne to Charles Hamilton, we got a lot of dope music. However, Ab-Soul’s project crept its way into my list because it’s unapologetic as hell about its messages. There’s a slew of philosophical and biblical imagery within this project that it takes several listens to completely unpack everything. On top of that, it’s Soulo (to me) at his best. I’ve found myself revisiting tracks off this project more over the past couple days than I’ve revisited some tracks this entire year.

Nighlawn: Purple Elixir

I’ll just repost some of my review of this project to inform you to why it finds its way onto my list. NighLawn starts Purple Elixir off with “Compulsive,” a syrupy ditty focusing on someone who she’s questioning their intentions and potentially being a compulsive liar. Laid over an instrumental that provides NighLawn with the instrument needed to vocalize her emotions and frustration on this situation, “Compulsive” is the summary of the project in some ways. It’s an emotional project that takes us on a ride through some of NighLawn’s darkest and brightest times, coaxing us to pop another one to get to that level we need to be at in order to just say “fuck it all” and let our emotions pour out. 

The Chainsmokers: Collage EP
NxWorries: Yes Lawd!

Anything that Anderson .Paak touches turns into gold. He’s got the touch. But, this collaboration between him and Knxwledge is just…words don’t really describe it for me. So, I’ll just shut up and tell you to check it out.

Green Day: Revolutionary Radio

I didn’t expect to get a Green Day album this year. On top of that, I didn’t expect it to be one of the best albums I heard this year. It’s angry, revolutionary as the title suggest, but still feels like Green Day. That’s a daunting task, and, for the most part, Green Day delivers.
Mighty Mark: Real EP

I’m a sucker for Baltimore Club. But this EP makes my list because it takes the aggression and the frantic nature of club and mixes it in with some more modern feels. It’s equal parts an homage to the genre and an evolution of the sound. It’s a protest against gentrification of the sound, and by extension, the city in some ways. Plus, who doesn’t love new club sounds? Point ’em out, don’t be shy.

Solonge: A Seat at the Table

You can’t talk 2016 without talking the sleeper hit of the year. No one was expecting Solange to drop an album this year, especially with, you know, Lemonade being a thing. But, Solange has never been one to stay along within the lines of convention. And because of that, A Seat at the Table is one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s sleek, it’s reflective, it’s floaty without being too dreamy. It’s damn near a perfect album for this year. It (like a lot of other albums this year) is revolutionary as hell and deserving of all the praise it’s received this year (and then some).

Again, this is not an exhaustive list of all of my favorites. Instead, I chose to highlight 16 of my favorites from this year. So, with that said, go stream these projects and buy them if you really rock with them. I’m looking forward to the end of the year and the new music that’s slated to drop this coming year. With some of the picks here, it’s easy to see why I say that 2016 is one of the best years musically we’ve had in a while.
Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com

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