Camiele’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2016
20. Chantae Caan – Journey to Golden
I’ve been in love with Chantae since her stint with new-wave jazz outfit the Jaspects, on track Find My Way to Love. With the release of her first full-length album, my adoration only grew. Journey to Golden is a joyful expression of love and experience, filled with so much sunshine and positivity it truly gave me a new outlook on 2016. And for a moment, everything was truly blissful. Chantae has the kind of voice that soothes the weary soul, brings brightness to even the darkest moments. Lead single Da Da’n Da was really one of the most glorious pieces of music I’d heard when she released it, the track truly soaring at its climax and lifting listeners up on wings of gold and sunshine.
19. Crush – Interlude
There was a moment there that I almost gave up on Crush, not gonna lie. A lot of his music went the way of the spent candle, drippy until there was nothing left but the wick. I’d been entranced with his voice since his debut album, but after that he released a flurry of singles that all unfortunately began to sound the same. Then he decides to drop this bit of self-indulgent experimentation and I was yet again stricken by just how wide his range is. Interlude wasn’t for everybody. In fact, I’m sure there were tons of people who just couldn’t get with Crush’s need to play with computer techniques. But I absolutely adored his use of his new toys and the way he managed to integrate so much of his vocal color into each and every track—even when he just took a step back and allowed vocalist Miso to shine on Castaway. This wasn’t an album meant to impress, really. It was strictly Crush’s desire to play and appease his own soul. I can’t hate something so purely meant for experimentation that gets back to the roots of what all art is—an egoist playground where the rules are there ain’t none!
18. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!
By far and away the artist with the biggest year in 2016 was Anderson .Paak. Featuring on countless tracks and releasing one of the year’s most acclaimed albums, the brilliant drummer and vocalist teamed up with hip-hop musician Knxwledge and created some of the funkiest, smoothest grooves to stride into 2016. Yes Lawd! was everything good and wonderful in this world, if not a bit on the overexaggeratedly macho side. But you can’t deny the musicianship and the sheer finesse in the album. Sexy, crude, and fantastic, this album will go down as one of the year’s best collaborations of minds and spirits.
17. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face
*sigh* Where to begin with Schoolboy Q…? Honestly, I was blown away from the first creaking notes of the album, Anderson .Paak proclaiming, “Traded the noise for a piece of divine.” Dear lord this album was the heaviest shit to ever lay itself on my shoulders. It was like a bullet to the chest, splitting me wide open and leaving my skin and bones splayed on the concrete. And that’s exactly what Q was going for—the truth, the dirty grit and thick spit of a hood child. This man’s diary is full of scars, ghosts, and burnt edges, as if every step of his journey was an attempt to scratch, crawl, and fight his way out of hell. Blank Face makes you want to look over your shoulder at every moment. Trust no one. As vulgar and ugly, bittersweet and hard-edged as the album portrays itself, the amount of soul and honest-to-god tenderness throughout is enough to break your heart. It’s as if he’s picking up where Oxymoron left off, each note a slice of shattered reverb off the walls of his memories.
16. The CrossRhodes – The Great Debate
Another favorite of mine that I sadly neglected, Wes Felton. He teamed up with another vocalist I haven’t listened to for a while (*sigh*), Raheem DeVaughn. The two came together to make one of the most overtly political and unapologetic pieces of music to come out of 2016. It was a direct reflection and response to the craziness that was last year, the violence, hatred, death. Hope was at an all-time low, especially for those of us in the black community who just had to live through the pain of too much death, too much bigotry and closed-mindedness, ultimately resulting in one of the most tragic displays of human ugliness we’ve seen in quite a long time. Forget political affiliation, we were shown just how much fear and unadulterated hatred there is for the “other,” whatever that other may be. The Great Debate was a two-tier piece of music that gave weight and expression to all the turmoil throughout 2016. Meaningful and powerful, The CrossRhodes is a collaboration that needs more attention, and we all need to pay it.
You can listen to the album on Datpiff.
15. Gallant – Ology
Perhaps one of the year’s most popular artists, Gallant left such an impression on so many other artists, what with the absolutely unreal control of his falsetto—always full voiced and regal it’s so commanding. He certainly left an impression on South Korea, many artists claiming him as one of their favorites, many seeking (and being gifted) collaborations with the vocalist. He was even invited to perform at the MAMA Awards, one of Asia’s biggest year-end awards shows. Weight in Gold has become something of an anthem among fans of his music, powerful, bombastic, even to the point of being a little overwrought with dramatics. But this is nothing new for Gallant. Since his Zebra EP, I’ve been totally enraptured by his voice and his ability to paint poetry into every single note of his music.
14. ATCQ – We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 the Service
There’s no way I could’ve made this list without paying homage to one of the first groups that got me into hip-hop. A Tribe Called Quest gifted their fans with their first album in almost twenty years. Unfortunately, it’s also officially their last, more a tribute to Phife Dawg than anything else (the title being one of Phife’s last creations). It was hard to imagine hearing the group without the late wordsmith, but the group put aside any squabbles they may have had to give the world a brilliant piece of hip-hop, powerful and just boundlessly beautiful. It goes back to the heart of ’90s hip-hop, bringing us top-notch production, brazen lyricism, and just an honest vibe that permeated every corner of the album’s wax confines.
13. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.
With the absolute masterpiece that was To Pimp a Butterfly, many wondered what else Kendrick Lamar had in his vault. Turns out he had a cornucopia of outtakes that never made the final cut. Whether or not these tracks would’ve done anything to give even more depth and ferocity to undoubtedly 2015’s best album is debatable. What’s absolutely 100% true, however, is that each of these tracks has a power just as vehement as anything that actually made it on Butterfly. I just sat stunned at some of the lyrical mastery on display in these tracks left on the cutting room floor. It’s not surprising to realize that much of Butterfly had been in the making for years prior to its release, but it’s shocking that there was just so much more Kendrick had to say about his inner demons and how they managed to play themselves out.
12. De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…
2016 was definitely a good year for hip-hop, most noticeably some of the legends of the genre. Another group that defined my childhood, De La Soul created an album that had so much dimension, so much mind-bending creativity that I was just left stunned, mouth agape, from one song to the next. Each track is its own piece of magic, elevating the album to something beyond what you could possibly imagine, even if you are a longtime fan of De La. The album is everything you love about De La Soul and so much more—more soul, more noise, more insane lyricism. There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe the group’s latest.
11. Rapsody – Crown EP
Undoubtedly the Queen of North Carolina, Rapsody has been crushing hip-hop since 2012. Her lyricism is always pristine, and her message is always positive. Her ability to uplift the spirit as well as enrich it with her verses is just refreshing. Her Crown EP really is a nod to her royalty, her ability to blend her laid-back delivery with perfect production on full regal display. Really, you just need to do yourself a favor and invest your psyche and intellect in the wisdom and fire of this brilliant MC.