Top 5 Hip Hop Albums 2015
Choosing favorites for anything in hip hop is never easy. With a growing range of sub-genres and new areas being put on the map as well as both long lasting veterans and newly emerging talent there is almost always too much choice. This list then is in no way definitive but gives a snapshot of what for me have been some of the highlight albums of the last year.
1. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly
With it’s impressive selection of awards culminating in a ranking of best album of the year by Rolling Stone it is difficult to argue with the inclusion of Kendrick’s third studio album on any hip hop list for this year. Beyond the technical brilliance of its genre blurring production and poetic lyricism TPAB sits in the increasingly unique position of being a chart topping piece with a message. Throughout the album’s sixteen tracks Kendrick manages to give hard hitting social and political commentary usually reserved for underground releases and for this integrity TPAB must be applauded.
2. Dr. Dre- Compton: A Soundtrack
It might not have been the long awaited Detox but after over a decade of anticipation listeners were far from disappointed with Dre’s third studio album. Timed to accompany N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton the album serves as a tour de force of not only Dre’s continued artistry but all those connected to him with an impressive roster of artists from Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube to Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. The album even looks forwards with some relatively new names such as Justus and King Mez. A true soundtrack to a city to which hip hop owes so much.
3. Akala- Knowledge is Power, Vol. 2
Whilst many album lists have a tendency to be dominated by US releases it is important to remember the continued strength of UK hip hop, often overlooked due to the growth of grime. One artist to undeniably understand the importance of hip hop’s fifth element, knowledge, is Akala who does full justice to this follow up project’s title packing history, politics and social commentary into every track. Opening with the powerfully anthemic Mr. Fire In The Booth Akala sets the tone of the album with the lyricism and delivery he’s become famed for.
4. Public Enemy- Man Plans God Laughs
It’s always good to see classic acts still going strong and with this year’s 13th studio album PE proves they can remain as relevant today as ever. The punchy 27 minute album sees the group adopting new production styles with notable influences from Kanye West’s Yeezus and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The original integrity of the group is far from lost though with the listener steered through a variety of topics and issues by Chuck D’s baritone narration aided as ever by the trademark interjections of Flava Flav.
5. Fashawn- The Ecology
Six years in the making since the release of breakout album Boy Meets World Fashawn finally offered sophomore album The Ecology. Under the guidance of Nas since signing to Mass Appeal Records last year the album provides a strong follow up and whilst Nas’ influence is clear Fashawn is still sure to keep the album his own. In keeping with its theme The Ecology portrays a vivid picture of the West Coast through a variety of sounds from the lazy G-funk inspired Golden State of Mind to the soulfully crooning Something to Believe In.