I didn’t post anything in 2016 but there was plenty to post about. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2016. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.
The Latest Playlist: 2016
*Track listing at bottom of post
Notable Albums of 2016
First I should mention that there were many important albums worthy of writing about that came out last year, including respectable projects from Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, J Cole, Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, Kool Keith, De La Soul and Common just to name a few. Despite the plethora of albums to review, I felt compelled to write about two in particular.
KA – Honor Killed the Samurai
Honor Killed the Samurai is a concept album that has a strong cinematic quality and captivating story. The tensely ominous instrumentals set the scene for Ka’s character; a wise and experienced criminal who has done everything necessary (often regrettably) to survive his dangerous environment. The “Samurai” is referenced both thematically in the instrumentals and with direct samples of old Samurai movies.
Ka does not proclaim himself a Samurai or even reference it in his lyrics. Instead he tells detailed stories of having a difficult upbringing and committing “grimy street crimes”. While shooting people and selling drugs are not new topics in hip hop, Ka addresses them with a heavy heart, minimizing the glorification and highlighting the guilt and repercussions. Ka’s character is more of an elder Mafioso who is contrasted stylistically with the concept and sound of Samurai. Through expert-level multisyllabic flow structure, Ka tells vivid tales of his difficult past, warning those faced with the challenges he once was.
So I stood on mine, during the hoodest time
Was a nightmare, felt like life here was as good as dying
We was born in the thorns, few arose
Once a town’s noose, now in soundproofs pursuing golds
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
After Run The Jewels & Run The Jewels 2, the expectations for Run The Jewels 3 were raised to unreachable heights, but nonetheless Killer Mike & EL-P delivered. Scheduled for January 2017, they blessed us all with an early release in December, making RTJ3 my favorite and debatably the best hip-hop album of 2016.
First of all, the production on this album (like its’ predecessors) is incredible. The RTJ sound is uniquely discernable from anything else in existence, and EL-P’s signature apocalyptic production has nearly reached it’s final form. Every beat is deeply layered with industrial, hazardous, and robotic rhythms, turntable scratching, voice samples, intricate drums, and a variety of carefully placed sound effects & synths.
Much of the lyrical content on RTJ3 is the same off the wall, do whatever the fuck we want style seen in RTJ2. In addition, this project covers a wide variety of content from track to track, at the forefront of which are politics and current events. Many of the braggadocios lines on this project serve dually as classic hip-hop boasting and a reflection of the arrogant bully-type attitudes seen in many political leaders. A prime example of this is in the DJ Shadow music video that RTJ featured on for the track “Nobody Speak” which was released in August. When Run The Jewels 3 came out a lot of the lyrics made me think of this video (see below).
Personally I believe this duo is the best thing happening in hop-hop right now. They sound and feel not only current and relevant, but also necessary. The energy on this album is through the roof, and I believe it reflects the sentiment of a culture that is up in arms over the political climate, searching for an outlet just shy of rioting.
Notable Music Videos of 2016
DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak
Kemba – The New Black Theory
KOOL KEITH feat. MF DOOM – Super Hero
Notable Rap Battles of 2016
Danny Myers vs B Dot (LABG)
Iron Solomon vs Dizaster (KOTD)
The Latest Playlist 2016:
Kemba – The New Black Theory
Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)
KA – Just
Homeboy Sandman – Eyes
Blu & Union Analogtronics – Sunny
Run The Jewels feat. BOOTS – 2100
Mickey Factz & Nottz – 414 Words
Mick Jenkins – Fall Through
Elzhi – Cloud
Danny Brown feat. Petite Noir – Rolling Stone
Have a great 2017!