What Projects Did We Listen To in 2016?
It’s the last day of 2016 and artists are already lining up their projects for the first month. We discovered new artists, listened to more hiphop. These picks aren’t based on popularity or Best Projects of 2016. They are a reflection throughout the year and what we were listening to. Feel free to drop your favourite project(s) in the comment section and thank you for being with us in 2016! Until next year.
Rakim (Graphic Designer/Cinematics)
2016 was an exciting year for music. A lot of surprises, collabs and an abundance of great projects. Choosing 5 projects for the year is a hard task. I spent a lot of 2016 on the road and based my top 5 projects by what got the heaviest rotation in the whip. Maxo’s Personna tape and the Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 were highly anticipated projects that didn’t disappoint and received heavy rotation front to back, undoubtedly filling the void between the loosey Yamborghini High and Maxo’s 2015 effort Maxo 187. Not exactly a new standout project, but rather an outstanding compilation was Divine Council’s Council World EP, which got me through some rough AM drives to Uni. Similarly, Kaytranada’s 99.9% was a masterpiece, no joint skipped, the perfect soundtrack for 2016, day and night. Last, but definitely not least is South Flawda’s Deniro Farrar, with Mind of a Gemini which is easily one of the most solid projects of the year that flew below the radar. These five projects were my soundtrack for 2016, a lot of adlibs and a lot of dabs.
For me, this year has brought hip hop and r&b styles to the foreground with my favourite album of the year being Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. I’ve always been a huge Kanye supporter and I love to see the way his music reflects him as a person at that point in time. In my opinion, the way his individual vibe and theme on each album reflects current trends is very impressive regardless of what people think of his personality. The album isn’t a masterpiece, but I always manage to find new favourite tracks with every listen. A lot of super impressive rap projects have come out this year from Metro Boomin’ and 21 Savage’s project Savage Mode to the politically fueled album from A Tribe Called Quest “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” and to the lighter hearted work of artitst like Chance the Rapper and Lil Uzi Vert. Honourable mentions to Lil Yachty, Denzel Curry, A$AP Mob, Migos, Yung Lean, Kodak Black and surely many more, this year has no doubt been huge for hip hop if not just to me personally.
For me there was also a strong presence in slower experimental hiphop/rnb inspired works in particular artists like Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and James Blake. James Blake’s album “The Colour in Everything” was definitely one of my favourite projects and to see him come back with a huge 17 track album was like heaven. The album may not have been as strong as his previous work given the extensive list of songs, but I can’t even count how many days I have just had this album on repeat all day long. He’s a master of emotion and this is definitely his most personal and evocative work yet. Although it wasn’t the hiphop album he originally intended it to be, we may see that soon.
Electronic music died a little for me this year, with releases following more of a flavour of the month trend however two artists that did it right for me were Flume and Baauer. After hearing Flume’s short mixup on Triple J for NLVs last show, I was very excited to hear this new album and it didn’t disappoint. It definitely takes a new direction for Flume while still using recognisably flumey synths and melodies. The album is great (if not somewhat overhyped) but what makes it for me is that it features some of the most impressive sound design I have heard recently. Tracks like “Numb and Getting Colder” have incredible sound design and vocal processing it gives me chills everytime. I’ve been following Baauer for a while too, like most electronic music enthusiasts so it was great to see him finally release a more complete piece. It’s pretty genre bending and shows off the work he has been putting in over the past few years to really lock down his sound. So good to work with him this year and loving the new direction he is taking his sound after this release. Honourable mentions Kaytranada for his album 99.9% and Tourist for his album U.
Probably the biggest artist for me this year was Anderson Paak. His album Malibu flew under my radar for a while but luckily I cottoned on, because this guy totally killed the music scene this year. His voice is amazing and the vibe he brings to each project he works on (including NxWorries with Knxwledge) is crazy good. Seeing him live is an absolute must too. For me he really bridged the gap between hiphop/rnb and alternative music this year and I can’t wait to see what he does next year.
2016 was a hectic year for me. A lot has happened and so did the music scene. My interests always shift when it comes to picking music and what I’m doing at the moment. These five projects stood out for me because there were moments where I removed myself from my surroundings and all the focus shifted to the music.
When Dev Hynes released Freetown Sound, I was excited to hear the project, because Cupid Deluxe was a project that stood by with me during my travels and melodic sounds of Dev. This time he went more political and brought more female power to showcase his all-round skills and taking everyone back to his 80s/90s playground in New York.
Flashing back to the beginning of 2016. The duo Chairlift helped their friends such as Dev and Solange on their projects after they’ve released Moth. It was a great start of 2016, but the sad part came later on when they’ve announced their departure. When you lose strength and regain yourself with new opportunities.
I’ve enjoyed Like’s project. He is well-known for his group PacDiv and decided to make something on his own. Songs Made While High was the raw energy that I needed during my travels with the samples he used on his project with additional help from Kali Uchis and Anderson. Paak on a couple of tracks. Yes, I am a sucker for great use of samples or letting sampling to simplicity like Madlib does.
I’ll keep the storytelling moment going with Isaiah Rashad, because I haven’t heard anything from him for a long time until he came back with The Sun’s Tirade. The story behind the album gives it more depth and didn’t disappoint me in any way. The ability to tell a story with the expansion of his production choice matches the entire album.
Last but not least. BROCKHAMPTON was a surprise. I have been watching the boys for awhile and they’ve released a behind the scenes video on how they worked together for their project ALL-AMERICAN TRASH. Everyone had their contributions and knows what everyone can do in order to get the project rolling and releasing it to the world. From old to new and young to old. We thank you for being with us and see you in 2017.
MALIBU – ANDERSON PAAK
- Pure vibes from start to finish. Paak’s ability to sing, spit and play drums and tie it all together with catchy hooks, soulful, funk-laden backdrops and diverse production make this one a winner through and through. Had the pleasure of catching him deliver an absolute heater of a performance at a hometown gig in Ventura, California.
FREETOWN SOUND – BLOOD ORANGE
- Dev’s voice gets to me. Cupid Deluxe is one of my favorite albums of all time and Freetown Sound builds on it nicely. Strong social commentary shines through his lyrics and make the listen equal parts eye-opening and enjoyable.
NONAGON INFINITY – KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD
- Because who needs coffee. And the fact the ending track loops back into the opener makes it all the more easy to sit back and ride the wave. Face melter.
AWAKEN, MY LOVE – CHILDISH GAMBINO
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist make as big a leap as Bino has from BTI to this. How he goes from the cheesy one-liner raps in Camp to a falsetto-wielding disciple of Prince (RIP) and Parliament Funkadelic is beyond me. But I love it. Bringing funk and jazz to the mainstream in a big way.
- I listened to this over and over and over and over again (and will continue to). The depth of Moodymann’s music knowledge is crazy. An absolute journey through a smorgasbord of genres which Moody somehow manages fuse together and make the project flow nicely. Features tunes from the likes of Jitwam, Dopehead, Jai Paul, Jose Gonzalez and Little Dragon.
2016 was well and truly the year Soundcloud helped push more rappers into the spotlight for the world to hear. I listened to a lot this year to even consider narrowing this list down to 5, but I didn’t double think this list as I just went with the stand outs that appealed to me from the get go. Lucki’s Freewave 2 was on heavy rotation since it came out from tracks like ‘Dirty Demons’ and ‘Speed Demon’. If you end up being a Lucki fan, you’re in luck, because he also has a massive discography for you to get familiar with. The Boston boy Cousin Stizz deserved to be in the spotlight for this category from the get go. Monda was a release that took me by surprise, from the diversity of his storytelling and lifestyle in Boston. This project has it all from tracks like ‘Day Gone’, ‘Gain Green’, ‘Where I Came From’ and ‘Every Season’. It’s a pity ‘Coulda Been’ didn’t feature in Monda as it was easily one of the best singles released by Stizz this year. Yung Simmie is up next, and you might disagree and say Denzle Curry deserves to be in this list but Simmie Season brought that laid back vibe all told by Simmie with the help of Curry who was his only feature throughout the tape. A very short project with only 9 tracks but besides the Curry feature on ‘Shoot the 3’, ‘Flexin’ and ‘Just For Fun’ will make you appreciate Simmie so just pray he releases more in 2017.
What more can I say, if you haven’t listened to any of these projects yet what have you been listening to this whole year?