5. Noname – Telefone
Bruh this album is amazing. There isn’t a more cohesive sounding album from front to back on this list. There’s a melancholic tone that this album possesses in its chords that is divine and that tone carries on through the whole album. Nothing sounds out of place and each song drives into the next one beautifully. Huge shouts to Cam O’bi, Phoelix & Saba for being the main contributors to the score of Noname‘s debut. Not to mention, Noname‘s flow of a poet fits beautifully atop it all. For all artists looking to make a cohesive album, use this at the benchmark. – Trixx
4. Nao – For All We Know
2016 hit with me a ton of unexpected gems, but none was more surprising to me than Nao’s For All We Know. Previously led by her So Good EP and breakout single ‘Bad Blood,’ For All We Know was our first full-length offering of the British singer’s 90s influenced R&B/funk hybrid style. Although led by previously released singles, the album as a full piece of work is tremendously strong. For All We Know is one of the best produced albums of 2016 but Nao was without a doubt the star on this album. Her writing is comparable to everything you already have inside you but have yet to tap into. She looks into modern love throughout the album. Her show-stealing vocals only help thrust her emotions through your body.
The Prince influence on here is very heavy and it is an absolute shame Prince passed months before this album released. For All We Know would have made him proud. – malbin
3. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Anderson .Paak kicked off 2016 with his album Malibu and he set the bar very high for the rest of the year. In 2015, .Paak was fresh off numerous show-stealing performance on Dr. Dre’s comeback release Compton and finished the year of with a handful of guest features on The Game’s double album The Documentary 2. Expectations were sky high for Malibu and .Paak delivered everything you could have wanted and more.
.Paak as an artist is far beyond any categorization you could give him. Malibu is an interweaving mix of hip-hop, funk, and soul elements that export extremely warm vibes across the 61 minute album. The only low-point of the album is the goofy mannered ‘Silicon Valley’ – which has a decent message that suffers from a poor delivery. Every other track on the album soars with excellence. Right from the jump, ‘The Bird’ sets the tone for the rest of the album and beyond a single misstep, Malibu stays surfing atop it’s own wave. – malbin
2. KAYTRANADA – 99.9%
Let me just go out and say that Kaytranada is probably the most talented producer in the game right now. Everything he touches is gold and that includes his debut album 99.9%. What’s even more remarkable is that a lot of these songs were created remotely where he’d send an artist the beat and they’d send it back with vocals. There’s definitely an advantage to working with an artist in the studio but seeing how well these tracks came out working remotely is astounding. It speaks to how good Kaytra’s production is for one and how well he picked who to feature on the album.
The music speaks for itself better than my measly words ever could but in short, Kaytranada‘s production is as dense and well-produced as it gets. He’s got some of the best, deepest bass sounds in the game and his synth game is top tier as well. My only knock on Kaytra is that he does use some of the same sounds in different beats but who could really blame him? – Trixx
1. Frank Ocean – Blonde
It was a long four year wait but Frank Ocean blessed us with two albums in 24 hours this year. Endless, a visual album, was released on Apple Music on August 19th and on August 20th, Frank released his proper follow-up to channel, ORANGE with BLONDE.
The album was a distinct pivot from his R&B laced debut effort. Taking on production leaning towards drum-less avant-garde indie-pop, Frank drenches the album with auto-tune laced and pitched up vocals throughout the album. The album features two skits – ‘Be Yourself’ and ‘Facebook Story’ – which was quick moments that give an outside perspective on problems involving individuality and social media in today’s generation. The album closes out with an emotional rollercoaster of tracks – starting at ‘Close To You’ until ‘Godspeed’ – before heading into the free-form ‘Futura Free,’ which also contains an interview with an 11 year old Ocean.
We could sit here listing off reason after reason why BLONDE is great. At the end of the day, the album is like nothing that is out. The album flat out moves you in a way you did not think was possible. It is a one of a kind album that will serve as a must listen for years to come. – malbin