15. The Internet – Ego Death
Play any track from this album and then tell the unsuspecting listener that The Internet is apart of Odd Future and they’d more then likely be shocked. On Ego Death, Syd is able to reach the level of singer/songwriter that she needs to compete with the production that she has been given. The album feels intimate, organic, and a soundtrack to a relatable time in every person’s life. Boosting features from James Fauntleroy, Janelle Monae, Vic Mensa, KAYTRANADA, & Tyler, The Creator, there’s some extra flavor added to near a third of the album. The album was nominated for Best Urban Contemporary album at this year’s Grammys, and for good reason.
It took three albums, but The Internet finally hit their stride on Ego Death. You know what they say, third time’s a charm. – malbin
14. Future – 56 Nights
56 Nights, based off DJ Esco‘s 56 night stay in a Dubai prison, is Future‘s most abrasive project in his discography, never letting the foot off the gas of acerbic comments throughout the quick project. While the project feels like the continuation of the story behind Future‘s corroding lifestyle, most notably on the title track, it is indubitable with the project’s eight bangers.
Led by arguably Future‘s greatest track of all time ‘March Madness’, which amalgamates political and club ready verses into one track, 56 Nights capped off Future‘s mixtape trilogy on a strong note. If anybody were to say 56 Nights was the best of the trilogy, it would be hard to argue against it, even if Monster or Beast Mode is your favorite.
13. Elijah Blake – Shadows & Diamonds
Elijah Blake was quietly able to drop his debut album Shadows & Diamonds this year, and while the term quietly isn’t necessarily a good thing, it allowed his true fans receive a gem of an album. No ID‘s latest prodigy was already a successful songwriter, penning tracks for Rihanna, Keyshia Cole, Rick Ross, Usher, & others, but after two EPs and a handful of singles, Elijah showed us his true potential on Shadows & Diamonds. Led by ‘I Just Wanna…’, the only truly pushed single on the album which boosts a feature from Dej Loaf, the album showcases Elijah’s talent for crafting crossover records (‘Everyday’, ‘Uno’, ‘Live Till We Die’, ‘Bout That Life’) as well as urban R&B tracks that are begging for the push to take over a huge share of the market.
While a lot of the skits on the album throw off the vibe a bit, they play a huge role in setting up future tracks, which include Elijah telling a story about his girlfriend cheating on him with his ex-girlfriend. In my interview with Elijah, he stressed that Shadows & Diamonds was the album that was going to lay the groundwork for his future albums, and it is safe to say that Elijah laid down a solid foundation for his future albums. – malbin
12. Tory Lanez & WEDIDIT – Cruel Intentions
2015 was the year that everything truly came together for Tory Lanez. He continued his Fargo Friday’s series, signed to Interscope and released his debut single ‘Say It’, which hit #1 on Urban radio this month, and he also released one of the best projects of the year with Cruel Intentions. Produced by the WEDIDIT collective, which consists of Shlohmo, D33J, RL Grime, & others, the project is quick with only five songs. But no more tracks were needed, as each of them make a lasting impression.
While singles ‘Acting Like’ & ‘In For It’ lead in popularity, the EP’s closer ‘Honda Civic’ leaves a lasting notion and perfectly sums up the EP. Tory’s vocals effortlessly unfurls across the lush soundscape throughout the EP but it is most notable on the closer. The star of Cruel Intentions wasn’t Tory or WEDIDIT, it was a blend of them both crafting a completely new sound around what feels like an imaginary aesthetic. Both Tory and the production collective elevated their game to the next level, which leaves optimism that there will be more work from the two in the future. – malbin
11. Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$
As leader of NY-based collective Pro Era, Joey Bada$$ has been receiving insane amounts of hype ever since his acclaimed mixtape 1999, released in 2012 at the age of 17. 2013’s Summer Knights was a step back, but expectations were still high for his commercial debut and Joey did not disappoint. Getting some of his best beats yet, ranging from legends like DJ Premier and J Dilla to close friends like Kirk Knight and Statik Selektah, Joey raps about his life in New York and the seemingly genuine come-up him and his crew have made. It’s true – Joey has really been one of the biggest risers in hip hop recently. With him dropping such a memorable album at only 20 years old it’s really scary to think of where he can go next. – Mitch
Standout tracks: Save the Children, On & On, Curry Chicken