As the end of 2015 quickly approaches, it’s hard to believe that an entire year has already passed and we are back to making our best of lists. This year was full of some huge albums like To Pimp a Butterfly and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, as well as some major surprises, such as the release of the long awaited follow up album for the living legend himself, Dr.Dre. Just like any best of list, it seems impossible to make this list big enough for all the great albums that were released this year, but somehow we condensed it into the top 10 hip-hop albums of 2015. It was a good year for hip-hop fans, and the quality of music in the hip-hop genre is definitely rising. This list factors in everything from storytelling ability and beat selection, all the way to rhyme schemes and subject matter, so there are multiple reasons why Young Thug’s album is not included.
- To Pimp A Butterfly: Kendrick Lamar
Released on March 15th, 2015, To Pimp A Butterfly is the highly anticipated follow up album to Kendrick Lamar’s hugely successful debut album, Good.Kid.Madd.City. If you look at just about any list of the top hip-hop albums of the year, you are guaranteed to see this album somewhere on the list, and that is respect well deserved because it is a truly amazing piece of art. The album is heavily influenced by jazz inspirations and features some amazing subject matter and songwriting ability. Whether it be the dark and depressive content explored in “U” or the thought provoking storytelling on “How Much A Dollar Cost”, it’s clear that Lamar put an immense amount of thought and emotion into this record. To Pimp a Butterfly somehow lived up to being one of the most hyped up follow up releases of all time, and the sky seems to be the limit for the entire Top Dawg Roster, which is filled with extremely talented artists.
- Lofty Goals: LockSmith
Locksmith is an artist that everyone might not be familiar with, so I would like to be the first to introduce you to one of the most talented rising emcees in all of the industry. Released on June 30th, 2015, Lofty Goals is the second album released by Locksmith and features guest verses from talented emcees like Jarren Benton, Futuristic, and Chris Webby. The album is a perfect display of how an artist can balance technical rhyming talent with quality subject matter that connects and truly resonates with the listeners. Songs like “For Now”, “Lessons”, and “This Love ” are timeless and deserve to be recognized for the talent they deserve. If you enjoy quality rapping paired with real subject matter and lyrical content, then definitely check out Lofty Goals and be on the lookout for the rising success and notoriety of the talented emcee that is locksmith.
- Special effects: Tech N9ne
After over 20 years of independently killing the hip-hop industry, Tech N9ne is still at it and doing it better than ever. His latest project was released on May 4th, 2015 and is astonishingly his fifteenth studio album, and this one may be his best one yet. Special Effects features an arrange of different sounds and rhythms and the loud aggressive sound goes along with the theme of movie like special effects. The album features an impressive 24 songs, 6 of them being skits, and it is extremely easy to put the album on and listen through the entire thing. Some of the highlights of the album come on songs like “Lacrimosa” , ” On the Bible”, and “Give It All”, or even the experimental plunge into rock with the Cory Taylor assisted “Wither”. Special Effects was an impressive album for a man that has been doing it for over two decades, and somehow his talent level is continuing to rise. They say practice makes perfect, and I think by now it’s Clear Tech N9ne has damn near mastered the hip-hop industry.
- If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late: Drake
It’s pretty difficult to ascend to the level of stardom that Drake has gotten to and have no talent or skill in your profession. Drake has constantly been criticized by artist and critics alike because they understand that he just so happens to be both a marketing genius and a talented artist. His latest album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, is a classic example of everything that Drake has done to be as untouchable in the rap game as he is now. The album was originally rumored to be dropped as a free mixtape, but unexpectedly arrived on the Itunes Store on February 13th,2015. Despite the surprise release and debate over it being an album or a mixtape, the sales of the album did extremely well, debuting at number one of the Billboard 200 and shattering his own record for first week streams through Spotify. The album features quality production from in house OVO producers 40 and Boi-1da, while displaying the smooth and confident rapping abilities of drake doing what Drake does best. When it comes to the flawless fusion of rapping and singing, Drake has the style mastered down and this album is the prototype for everything that he does well.
- Summertime 06′: Vince Staples
Earlier this year, B-sides had a young artist On-Radar by the name of Vince Staples, who has since delivered one of the best albums of the year. Released on June 30th, 2015, Summertime 06′ transports listeners into the shoes of a young Vince Staples, growing up in a rough area of Long Beach, California. The album has some amazing storytelling qualities and staples delivers an honest and raw description of his childhood and home city. On songs like “Senorita” and “Norf Norf” Staples gives an example of his signature aggressive flows and talented verse writing ; however, there is also a lot of creativity and leaving his comfort zone, like on the songs ” Lift Me Up” and “Lemme Know”. While quality verses and powerful lyrics were expected, the album really peaks with the smooth and melodic sounds of “Summertime”, the last song on the first disc. The double disc album comes with two discs, each containing 10 tracks that capture the mood and atmosphere of Long Beach, California in Summertime 2006!
- Compton: Dr.Dre
If the return of Dr.Dre alone is not enough to spark your interest, let’s also add in the fact that Compton is actually a really good album. B-Sides reviewed the album upon its release and it has since managed to stay atop of our lists as one of the best hip-hop albums released this year. The tracklist features a huge list of big name collaborators including Jill Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and many more. This album resembles Chronic 2001 as it includes a lot of other artists features, that get showcased over Dre’s masterful producing. The album does a great job of doing what Dre does best, which is finding young talent and maximizing their potential. While Compton serves as a spotlight for the stars to shine it also plays the part of a platform for an unknown artist to break out. Justus, King MEZ, and Jon Connor are three names that all seem to get the Doctor’s stamp of approval. Nostalgic storytelling, powerful layered production and quality verses are all something to expect that this album does an amazing job at, as well as showcasing these artist in the best spotlight possible.
- Shadow of A Doubt: Freddie Gibbs
After the release of the critically acclaimed Piñata in 2014, Freddie Gibbs has been sitting high and taking in the compliments , but what everyone wanted to know was how he would follow it up. Gangsta Gibbs returns with another solid project that definitely deserves to be on this list. This time around Freddie Gibbs leaves his comfort zone a little and tries his hand at some singing, and even some autotune sounds. Gibbs has always done and fantastic job at connecting listeners to stories from the streets, while also being lyrically talented and writing quality verses. Shadow of A Doubt is no different and also does a great job of both staying true to the gritty realness of his lyrics and also showcasing what else he can do as an artist as well. Original fans can vibe to the classic Gibbs sounds like “Fuckin’ up the Count” and ” Narcos”, or even hear another side to the artist on songs like “Lately” or “insecurities” . Shadow of a Doubt is a quality follow up to Piñata, which now gives Freddie Gibbs two top 10 albums in the last 2 years. With that type of consistency, it’s safe to say that Freddie Gibbs will be sticking around in the rap industry for awhile.
- I Don’t like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: Earl Sweatshirt
Since emerging to stardom with his Odd Future affiliates, Earl Sweatshirt has quickly gained the attention of both listeners and critics alike. After releasing Doris in 2013, Earl established himself back in the industry as a solo artist and the follow up to his debut album was highly anticipated. Since, his relationship with Odd Future seems to have drifted apart and it’s evident through his lyrics that Earl is battling a lot of thoughts and emotions. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is a somber and dreary outlook of a person struggling to find and accept his identity. The production is extremely heavy and dark, creating an accurate description of someone who doesn’t like shit or go outside. The lyrics reveal some of the real life issues that Earl is dealing with since his rise to stardom, and this album displays some of the most raw and emotion filed lyrics of the year. Just look at the lead single of the album, “Grief” and it’s terrifying video, for an accurate representation of just how both talented and depressing this album really is.
- Go:od AM: Mac Miller
On September 18th, 2015, Mac Miller returned with his third studio album and a follow up to the critically acclaimed Watching Movies With the Sound Off. It seems as if Mac is making it a point to one up and progress past his previous albums, as they are all continuingly getting better and better. Go:od AM is well put together project, that combines a little of every type of music style, proving Mac to be more well rounded then ever. He slows it down a bit for love a song like “ROS” and some self reflecting on “Ascension” , but compliments them with bangers like “Break the Law” and “Cut The Check”. The content does a good job of exploring a lot of topics, especially when diving into the personal struggles of addiction that Mac often speaks on throughout the album. For fans of the old Mac and new listeners just finding him, Go:od AM will definitely have a few sounds that catch your ear and enlighten one to just how much Mac Miller has actually progressed since the K.I.D.S mixtape days.
10.Surf: The Social Experiment
The Social Experiment is a Chicago based band comprised of Chance The Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale, and Nate Fox. After the success of Chance’s Acid Rap, he took the momentum in full swing and decided to do a collaborative project with his good friends and band that he tours with. The album featured one single called “Sunday Candy”, and the soulful sound and singing on that record seems to continue on through the rest of the project. Surf is heavily influenced by jazz and features an incredible cast of featured artist, including Erykah Badu, J.Cole, Big Sean and a whole slew of other extremely talented artist that all pitched in to make this one of the best albums of the year. This album is definitely one of the most creative and collaborative projects out, making for some amazing experimental sounds that came out great. Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment are without a doubt going to be around in the industry for a while, so stay tuned for more great music from a brilliant young group of artist.