5. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – ‘SURF’
Never has there been a more exciting independent than Chance The Rapper. What he’s been able to accomplish for not only himself, but his friends (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment) has been nothing short of amazing. And Donnie Trumpet’s debut project was just as masterful as Chance’s career has been thus far. The album, which was released for free via iTunes, saw features from Busta Rhymes, B.o.B, J. Cole, Erykah Badu, Jeremih, Big Sean, Migos and more. And when you can get HUGE names like those to come take part in your sessions, knowing that the end result won’t yield them a profit, that’s when you know you’re doing it right. And SURF was the definition of right.
4. Kendrick Lamar – ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’
Okay so, this album, to me, isn’t as classic as the critics want you to believe it is. Yes, it’s lyrical. Yes, there’s no DJ Mustard beats or stupid dances or Future-like mumble raps or Migos features. Critics love that. You love that. I love that. I get it. But, this album just doesn’t connect like good kid m.A.A.d city connected, and that’s me being completely honest. HOWEVER, this album is still amazing. The story that Kendrick is able to tell, the musicality he’s able to achieve; it’s amazing. The fact that people like George Clinton and Ronald Isley and Bilal are featured further gains Kendrick cool points. It’s completely understandable why this is being garnered one of the best hip hop albums of the past decade. “How Much a A Dollar Cost?” Amazing. “Hood Politics?” Genius. “Alright?” Smash. But…I’m still not completely head over heels with it like the Grammy committee and every other music journalist seems to be.
3. Alabama Shakes – ‘Sound + Color’
This one’s simple. Brittany Howard. That voice. The emotion and grit she exudes throughout ‘Sound + Color’ is enough to make any person on Earth stop and take notice, no matter their status or taste in music. Simply, amazing.
2. The Weeknd – ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’
Not that The Weeknd wasn’t super dope before, but this album has transformed Abel into a level of star that I don’t even think he knew was possible. It all started with Ariana Grande’s “Love Me Harder”. And ever since then, The Weeknd has been unstoppable. Whether it be on “Earned It”, one of the biggest smashes of 2015. Or it be on “Can’t Feel My Face”, one of the other biggest smashes of the year. Or it be on “The Hills”, yet another one of the biggest #1 smashes of 2015…2015 belonged to The Weeknd. And his album, ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’ did not disappoint in the slightest bit. He was able to keep his drug-induced, “pre-mainstream Abel” R&B vibes intact with songs like “Often” and “The Hills” and “Real Life”. But songs like “Prisoner” and “Dark Times” show that Abel’s able to merge that world with the world of big choruses and heavy-hitting pop stars. The album does have a throwaway in “As You Are”, and the Michael Jackson impersonating on songs like “CFMF” and “In The Night” rub alot of people the wrong way, but to me the album is the definition of FIRE.
1.. Dawn Richard – ‘Blackheart’
‘Blackheart’ is so intensely amazing. It’s one of the few — if not the only — album this year that paints vivid pictures in your head as you listen. It’s more than just music. It’s a movie, it’s an interactive art gallery, it’s a full-blown virtual experience. The album is super stimulating and on many occasions, I feel like I’ve just landed in the middle of a busy Tokyo street at night, being overwhelmed by the huge dose of awesomeness happening around me. It’s not until “Castles” do I even think about coming up for air; escaping from the high that I’ve just been delivered. And to think…Dawn Richard is an indie artist. Dawn achieves all of this acclaim with a bare minimum team of producers, mainly Noisecastle III and herself. She’s able to achieve the same audial heights that someone like Kanye achieved on ‘808s’ with a team of hundreds helping to create his vision. And for that, Dawn is forever DOPE and oh-so-deserving of the No. 1 spot.