Wow, what a year for music, especially hip-hop/R&B. Last year was a relatively slow year for these genres but the same cannot be said for 2015. A ton of big name artists (i.e. Drake, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar) put out an album or at the very least a single or two. In addition, many new guys (like Lil Dicky, Vince Staples, Fetty Wap) burst on to the scene with stellar debuts or follow-ups, holding their own with the established veterans in the game. There was so much new music, I just couldn’t keep this list as a top 10 list. It was impossible. I had a hard enough time trimming this list to 15. I was forced to leave of so many albums I enjoyed, including The Documentary 2, Rodeo, The Album About Nothing, Summertime ’06 and many more. Since I’m writing about a lot of albums, I’ll try to keep things brief. Also, I’ve included a playlist of 3 of my favorite songs off 14/15 of the albums on this list (one of these albums isn’t on Spotify). You may not want to or have time to listen to the whole thing and I get that but I encourage you to look through and find some new music you may not have heard yet. So without further ado, here are my 15 favorite albums of 2015:
- Ludaversal- Ludacris
Many people have forgot or just plain ignored Luda’s incredible talent recently. He had himself a huge year with Furious 7 and this very good album, his ninth studio album. It’s the best he’s been in years and is definitely worth a listen.
- Dreams Worth More Than Money- Meek Mill
Just before committing career suicide, Meek Mill put out a very successful album that has all but been forgotten about thanks to Drake. Well Meek, I didn’t forget. This is arguably Meek Mill’s best work (Dreamchasers 2 might be better) as he shows maturity in his music and has some vicious bars over hard-hitting instrumentals throughout.
- Purpose- Justin Beiber
There comes a time in every man’s life where he has to look himself in the mirror and admit something he’s not proud of. This year, I had to admit that I am a Justin Beiber fan. He did his thing on this album and it’d be unfair to judge his music based on his lifestyle. So I give the album a thumbs up and look forward to seeing where his career goes from here.
- When It’s Dark Out- G-Eazy
What an amazing album. Complete with bangers for partying and emotional songs for those lonely days, When It’s Dark Out comes in at number 12. It came out in early December, so I’ve been listening to it a lot lately and can’t get enough. A very strong effort for only his second album.
- T R A P S O U L- Bryson Tiller
Welcome to the big leagues Mr. Tiller. Out of nowhere this kid blew up with his debut album, and for good reason. It is magical. He blends the best of R&B with the best of trap music while effortlessly switching up flows and styles, rapping and singing. You are guaranteed to love this album if you are at all a fan of music. Make sure to keep an eye on this young man in the future because there is plenty more to come from him. Sidetone: Shoutout to the Pittsburgh hat in the music video.
- Dark Sky Paradise- Big Sean
This album is filled with certified bangers. Blessings, IDFWU, All Your Fault, Paradise…you get the picture. I remember when this came out, every pregame playlist we listened to had at least 4 songs off this album on it. But there are also some very personal, emotional songs like One Man Can Change The World that make this album come full circle as Big Sean’s most complete, fulfilling album to date.
- Compton- Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre is a legend in the rap business but he has surprisingly only released two albums in his entire solo career. Well that was the case until this year when he dropped his third (and final) album to coincide with the release of the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” This album bumps and is great for all fans of West Coast hip-hop. I went into more detail with a two part review of the album you can read here and here. We will never get Detox, but Dre made sure he put out an album that was well worth the wait.
- At.Long.Last.A$AP- A$AP Rocky
Easily one of the best hip-hop albums of 2015. A$AP Rocky dug deep and strayed away from making radio friendly hits. He made an album that totally revamped his style, with dark, psychedelic beats that give a feel similar to Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap.” He turned to drugs to deal with the passing of his mentor A$AP Yams and while I don’t recommend that, it sure did aid him in creating a masterpiece of an album.
- If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late- Drake
Let’s be honest, Drake dominated 2015. He started the year with this album, which ran the early months. Then for the summer and fall, he kills Meek Mill on “Back 2 Back” and released “Hotline Bling” which is still controlling the radio (no joke, 5 of the last 6 times I turned my car on with the radio playing, this song was on). And just for fun, he drops a joint album/mixtape with the other hottest name in rap, Future, to continue his 2015 dominance. He is on top of the game in terms of marketing and looks to continue with the release of “Views from the Six” in (allegedly) January. See, I haven’t even talked about how good this album is yet. That’s how well Drake’s 2015 was. Just give it a listen.
- This Thing Called Life- August Alsina
I did not expect to like this album as much as I did. Going in, I wasn’t really a fan of his music. I basically knew who he was, knew he was talented, and decided to give his album a listen. All it took was one time through to fall in love. I’ve been playing this virtually non stop since. August has an incredible voice and many of his songs deal with deep, personal issues which I love when an artist can sing/rap/talk about rather than all that other material nonsense.
- Tetsuo & Youth- Lupe Fiasco
What an amazing album. The fact that this didn’t get nominated for a Grammy (and Nikki Minaj did) is proof enough that the Grammy Awards don’t care about hip-hop. They just pick the most popular artists and nominate them so more viewers tune in. Great strategy but it’s bull shit and unfair to people like Lupe (who has a nice following but pails in comparison to Nikki’s), who put out probably the second best hip-hop album this year. I digress (before I get too worked up). This album is packed with incredible lyrics and conceptualized into the four seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter) to sort of categorize the differing productions throughout the album. Great beats and great lyrics make this a must listen.
- Beauty Behind The Madness- The Weeknd
Talk about people who had amazing years. The Weeknd went from impressive artist to full on, worldwide superstar with this album. He had multiple Billboard 100 chart topping hits and had multiple hits in the top 10 at one time. This does not happen often. Everything from the production to the lyrics to the vibe of the album makes this one of my favorite albums this year. Don’t look now, but he very well may be the closest thing to Michael Jackson our generation is gunna see.
3. Surf- Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment
The best thing about this album is how unique and inspiring of a message it gives throughout. Uplifting content, soulful production, and a wide array of guest features are all major keys to this album’s success. Chance The Rapper acts as somewhat of a tour guide to the album, rapping or singing on most of the songs but making it clear that this is his band’s album, not his. In true Chance fashion, the album was released for free on iTunes and Spotify and was downloaded 618,000 times on iTunes alone in it’s first week (more than Drake’s IYRTITL)!
2. Professional Rapper- Lil Dicky
This dude can rap. Plain and simple. Not only that, but his concepts for songs are way more unique, creative, and relatable than 90% of what other artists put out. Anyone who can make me laugh my ass off from rapping automatically gets my vote. I am a huge fan of this man and can’t wait to hear his follow up. For a full review of this album (honestly one of the best things I’ve written) go here.
Oh yeah, and he has the best music videos (conceptually at the very least) in the biz.
1. To Pimp A Butterfly- Kendrick Lamar
Possibly the most polarizing album of the year, “To Pimp A Butterfly” comes in as my favorite album of 2015. Kendrick Lamar is currently my favorite rapper (with J Cole sitting pretty at 1B) and this album was simply amazing. It has gotten a lot of criticism and a lot of praise. You won’t find any of that criticism here. Kendrick went away from the norm with this one and made an album for himself and anyone willing to listen to songs with a message, rather than radio friendly singles. His emotion is raw, his messages are clear and powerful. He’s been dealing with post-success depression and self-loathing and does not hold back in telling the world about it. He delves into other topics like the state of African American culture within the country and includes some positive songs about loving oneself and others like you. The fusion of jazz into modern day works perfectly in my mind, creating an extradorinaiy and unique album.
I hope you enjoyed the countdown. I’d like to thank everyone for reading our posts throughout the year and listening to the music we post. I also want to thank you for sharing with others and sending suggestions our way. Special shout outs will go to Andy Serven for sharing ABAD back in CT, both Dylan’s for spreading love and sending suggestions, Dani for sharing our posts literally every time, Breezy for sharing and retweeting often and anyone else sharing, retweeting, even just telling another person about us: sincerely, thank you! Now enjoy some music from 2015…