5. Bryson Tiller – TRAPSOUL
Bryson Tiller‘s 2015 was quite unexpected. He went from a Soundcloud darling with a co-sign from Timbaland at the end of 2014 to getting a Drake cosign and getting into a major label bidding war, which eventually led him to getting his label Trap Soul funded and promoted by RCA Records under their creative partnership. All of this led to Bryson releasing his debut album TRAPSOUL in October, led by his hit single ‘Don’t’. While ‘Don’t’ might be his most recognizable song and a damn good one at that, compared to the rest of the album, the track takes a backseat to tracks that really showcase Bryson’s true talent.
While there are no skippable tracks on the record, the real standouts from the album are cuts like ‘Exchange’, ‘Open Interlude’, ‘Been That Way’, & ‘Right My Wrongs’. On most tracks on the album, Bryson is pleading for forgiveness or explaining the impact an unnamed female has had on his life. Notably on the second half on ‘Open Interlude’, Bryson talks to a girl about opening up, but shows off some contradictions showing that he has a hard time opening up himself. Bryson stated that the album’s outro – ‘Right My Wrongs’ – was created during an argument with his girlfriend. Bryson went into the booth and recorded the song as a response to her and capped off the album on a note worthy of a standing ovation.
Most people view Bryson as an internet meme with some of the things he tweets and the amount of parody accounts that his image has, but he proves he’s more then that with his debut effort which has fans dying for more. TRAPSOUL acts more like a demo then a major label debut, but in either respect, Bryson delivered to the point that this album will live on to be one of the R&B staples of this generation. – malbin
4. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Recently, To Pimp A Butterfly had some controversy, as people were coining it overrated and what not. But really, I paid no mind to it, it was merely more clickbait from the famished sect of rap journalism and the tactic worked to get people talking. Personally, I love To Pimp A Butterfly, probably even more than Good Kid m.a.a.d City. To Pimp A Butterfly doesn’t have easy hit like Kendrick’s former album but this new one is denser, jazzier and a real trip from beginning to end. Kendrick’s utilization of jazz, in a day and age where self-proclaimed visionaries like Kanye West have called “jazz dead” made him ballsy and if you didn’t already know, Kendrick’s not making this music to please as many people as possible. He’s making the music he wants to make, unheeded by the label’s demands as he even made “I”, the one odd track on the album fit into the mold of what was going on in this album.
The jazzy, funky sound of the album is probably the biggest reason why I love it so much. “Wesley’s Theory” feels like a trip back in time to the 70s, I really feel like I’m listening to new Parliament music that just happens to feature this young, hungry black kid who’s inflicting his troubles onto this record, something that wouldn’t have been appreciated then. Not because rapping really wasn’t a thing yet, but because funk music is the furthest thing from bleak, it’s meant to make people move their feet. Kendrick’s a member of the realism school of art, which would’ve scared people then and despite the whole world-loving rap in 2015, some people are still afraid of Kendrick’s raps. He’s not asking everybody to love it but because of his notoriety, that’s going to be the question every single album. From my lens, Kendrick delivered one of the most unique and well-executed album’s I’ve heard in a while, something that hasn’t left my rotation all year. – Trixx
3. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
I do not think I would have ever predicted 12 months ago that Vince Staples would release one of the best rap albums of 2015, but here we are, with Vince doing just that. Packing 20 tracks into two discs and one hour of run time, Vince’s hazy descriptions of his life in Long Beach, CA, in and around drugs and gangbanging contains some of the hardest hitting stories of the year, over some of the year’s best production (from DJ Dahi, Clams Casino, No I.D. & others). He shows a variety of styles, such as getting personal and introspective on “Like it Is” & “Summertime”, or aggressive rapping like on “Jump Off The Roof”. And yet, after all this we are still left wondering, as closing track “’06” ends abruptly, mid-line from Vince after only 40 seconds. It’s incredible to see the improvements he has made as an artist, and I’ll be highly anticipating his next project. – Mitch
Standout tracks: Jump Off the Roof, 3230, Like It Is
2. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
While speculation of Drake dropping a mixtape was rampant, it still was full of unknowns as If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was Drake’s first mixtape in over 6 years. Drake surprised the world by continuing on the less fragile, colder sound he started to forge for himself on his 2013 album, Nothing Was the Same. Between club bangers like ‘10 Bands’ and ‘Know Yourself’, atmospheric cuts such as ‘Preach (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)’ and ‘Company (feat. Travis Scott)’ and personal songs like ‘You & The 6’ and ‘How Bout Now,’ IYRTITL has songs for every type of Drake fan while overall portraying Drake with more street cred than ever. This proved to be important when writing allegations from Meek Mill led Drake to release one of his hardest songs yet, a diss track titled “Back 2 Back”, which only sonically made sense after a project like IYRTITL, leading Drake to his biggest W yet. – Tommy
1. Future – DS2
And with no surprises, Future‘s DS2 comes in at number one of Fashionably-Early’s top 50 projects of 2015. The 18 song album was climax of his mixtape trilogy following his commercially disappointing sophomore album Honest. Future turned it up to a whole new level on his 18 song album, where he refused to compromise his sound and made his most successful album to date without dipping quality.
DS2 is filled with meme ready bars and hooks and trendsetting production put together with melodies that are out of this world. Over the 18 tracks, the only feature comes from Drake, who phones in a verse on the album’s hit single ‘Where Ya At’. The album just smacks you in the face with hard hitting production, handled primarily by Metro Boomin and Southside, until it finally eases up towards the end of the album on tracks like ‘Colossal’, ‘Rich Sex’, ‘Blood On The Money’, & the album’s somber standout ‘Kno The Meaning’. While Future performs best on high-energy tracks and on hooks, tracks like ‘Kno The Meaning’ helps prove that Future is more then just a trendy artist that makes hot music. He has the ability to release his inner demons and emotions into records that can stand the test of time.
“Tried to make me a pop star and they made a monster.” A perfect synopsis of Future in 2015 and hopefully a trend that continues into the future. – malbin