March 12, 2017

The Best, Underrated and Overrated Rap Albums of 2016


Aryeh Lande ‘18


Top 5 Albums:
  1. “Coloring Book” – Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper, born Chancelor Johnathan Bennett in Chicago, is perhaps the greatest artist of 2016 – period. “Coloring Book” is a true testament to the rapper’s dominance in the music industry. His first album, “Acid Rap,” was considered an artistic experiment by many with its slow beats and soulful style. Now, with “Coloring Book,” Chance solidified his stake in the form he came to represent, bringing Chicago gospel music into mainstream rap culture. The fusion between typical beats and choral singing turned out magnificently and “Coloring Book” broke records, becoming the first digital-only album to win a Grammy. The musical style, mixed with lyrically clever bars, turns “Coloring Book” into something special. It offers such a wide variety of songs from hype music to calming renditions. Not only does Chance shine on this musical exploration, but also the rapper was able to revive the names of the past with appearances by sages of rap like 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, while utilizing singers like Justin Bieber and new age rapper Lil Yachty to create a diverse project. All in all, this album is nothing short of excellence.
  1. “The Life of Pablo” – Kanye West
What is there left to say about Kanye West that hasn't already been said by West himself? After a three-year hiatus from releasing music, the eccentric rapper, hailing from Chicago, lived up to the hype with the release of “The Life of Pablo.” Though it started off as a mess of controversial lyrics and antics, the album grew in popularity. After it was slowly digested by the public, a smashing hit emerged through all the craziness. It encapsulates West’s style and personality, with each track taking you through the mind of West and the brilliance that exists within. The man is all over the place, taking credit for Taylor Swift’s success, bringing Ray J into the mix, speaking about himself in the third person and having some moments of sincere contemplation, all to perfection; you can see why he lives up to his self-proclaimed title, a “creative genius.”
  1. “Bobby Tarantino” – Logic
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why should I care about Logic?” Well, you should. This past year, Logic released his latest album in an attempt to follow the success of his previous album “The Incredible True Story.” In “Bobby Tarantino,” Logic is dedicated to getting away from the sci-fi world associated with him, bringing the story back to his roots. Much of the album grapples with his struggles as a mixed race child growing up in Baltimore. At the same time, Logic’s sense of fun and humor poured across the album with skits, giving dedicated fans nostalgic longings for past mixtapes. Unwavering, Logic’s flow dominated the reviews of commentators, as he proved why he deserves a place at the table of greats. Most importantly though, in 2016 Logic droppedFlexecution,” one of his best produced pieces to date. With its beat, vibes and overall quality, this album is a solid winner. It may never see Grammy nomination, but it does outdo every other manufactured rap artist and trap producer on the market.
  1. “4 Your Eyez Only” – J. Cole
On the heels of his own success, Jermaine Cole took an extreme risk with the release of this album. Much like Childish Gambino, Cole turned to a more soulful medium rather than sticking to his iconic hard style. Unlike Gambino, however, Cole took a quantum leap forward in his progression as an artist. The album unlocks a personal side to Cole. No, there are no club beats or hype tracks on this album, and yes, reviewers have a point in critiquing the lack of mass appeal of the album. Still, this album does not need a hit single, nor do critiques of its content seem to understand the album as a whole. It is an intensely meaningful meditation on death, society and the meaning of fame. The album is a work of art. Individually, the songs are nothing, but collectively the album speaks bounds, highlighting the weaknesses of an A-list rapper in an oddly twisted manner. What reads more like a vulgarity-filled poem for an AP English class is really an intentionally unsettling piece, blending Cole’s genius with his sensitivities.
  1. “Views” – Drake
Perhaps Drake is overplayed, and perhaps we’re sick of hearing his antics across the media, but the man can sell albums. No list of 2016 albums would be complete without “Views,” the album that brought you “Controlla,” “One Dance” and “Too Good.” Using catchy beats and a simple lyrical structure, Drake touches on mainstream issues, not really changing the music scene through content, but rather quality. Drake’s consistency and ability to make features flourish brings him to fifth on this list.   
Underrated:
“Prima Donna” – Vince Staples
With “Prima Donna,” the virtually-unheard-of rapper released his third album. Shaped by his roots as a Crip from Long Beach, C.A., Staples reminds us why he was named a 2015 XXL Freshman. His high-octane flow over a strong bass will leave your heart pounding. Maybe his lack of lyrical talent keeps him from rising to the top, but regardless, the dude’s energy shines through his pieces. Each song sounds like a new attack on a microphone, mixed with the creativity only military-grade LSD has been known to produce. Which may be surprising, considering the hardcore gangster is openly against the consumption of alcohol and other drugs after seeing its devastating effects on his childhood community. With notable features like A$AP Rocky, the album has the potential to thrive. Maybe not so deep in content, but it deserves much more exposure than it currently receives.   
Overrated:
“Islah” – Kevin Gates
He’s not the Nickleback of rap, but Kevin Gates is the most overrated rapper ever to grace the scene in the past decade. His lack of talent is astounding compared to his peers. His XXL Freshman freestyle was a failure – unsurprisingly – and his crutch of rapping autotuned, meaningless lyrics will catch up with him. There is no way he deserves the acclaim he has been receiving. “Lyrically disappointing” and “talent-parched” are adjectives never associated with good rap.
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