Brief Reviews: 2015 Rap Albums

Before I had this blog as a medium to discuss music, I used to post my own little short reviews on music forums and review aggregator websites. As a kind of trip down memory lane, as well as a reflection on one of my favorite years in recent hip-hop history, I decided to compile all the short reviews I wrote for albums released in 2015 and update them a little.

G-Eazy – When It’s Dark Out

Other than the really solid, high-budget production, I considered this a pretty below-average album. G-Eazy, at least in my estimation, isn’t an incredibly charismatic rapper, and when coupled with the fact that he lacks both a distinguishable rapping technique and bars worth getting invested in, it makes for a generally underwhelming performance. Aside from “Random,” “Sad Boy”, and “Everything Will Be OK”, which were pretty positive moments on the album, this project was mostly unremarkable in my opinion.

Logic – The Incredible True Story

While I thought this album was a positive effort overall, there are a few very glaring problems that this project has which prevent it from being better than just “decent.” The Incredible True Story, much like Logic himself, lacks a distinguishable asset that makes it unique. Right from the get-go on the track “Contact,” Logic borrows the iconic drum pattern of Kanye West’s song “Amazing”; on “Like Woah” — a great song and one of the album’s highlights — Logic employs a flow that resembles that of Kendrick Lamar; the song “I Am The Greatest” gives off “Worst Behavior” Drake vibes; “City of Stars” sounds eerily similar to Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”, as well as many other examples throughout the album. It is very obvious to see who Logic’s influences are, but on this album Logic failed to establish his own imitable style.

Pusha T – King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude

This prelude project set the bar pretty high for what was supposed to be Pusha T’s imminent King Push album (it hasn’t been released yet, and it isn’t look like it will be anytime soon). Pusha T wastes neither time nor words: this album is 33 minutes of Pusha T cutting straight to the point. While utilizing great flow and great lyricism, Pusha T repeatedly delivers punch after punch with no fillers over a wide array of some very fantastic production from the likes of Timbaland, Kanye West, and Boi-1da.

Big Sean – Dark Sky Paradise

Despite the fact that this album didn’t do much for me personally, it will definitely be remembered as Big Sean’s best album. I liked the darker direction and tone Sean attempted, but personally I couldn’t bring myself to be fully invested in what he was saying, especially whenever he tried his hand at sing-rapping. There were also moments in which it seemed like Big Sean was incapable of rapping on beat (e.g. the song “Paradise”). The production was pretty solid, but other than that Dark Sky Paradise failed to fully engage me.

Mac Miller – GO:OD AM

One of the best albums McCormick put out while he was alive, GO:OD AM is a nicely produced album that’s more jubilant and charismatic than the two projects that preceded it. This album expands on the incredible promise Mac showed on his 2013 album Watching Movies With The Sound Off and his 2014 mixtape Faces. In terms of delivery and lyricism, Mac rapped with conviction on this album, like he was trying to prove he deserved to be considered among the best in the game. In that regard, he succeeded.

Mick Jenkins – Wave[s]

Mick Jenkins went for a more upbeat, slightly more radio-friendly sound compared to his previous mixtape The Water[s]. Because of the short length, as well as the change of direction, this EP doesn’t accomplish some of the feats that The Water[s] did. Still, Wave[s] oozes with positive vibes and contains some high quality tracks like “Alchemy,” “Get Up Get Down,” and “P’s & Q’s.”

Drake & Future – What A Time to Be Alive

The mostly solid trap-influenced production on this mixtape make for good bump-in-the-whip music and iconic party anthems. “Big Rings” and “Jumpman” are infectious and catchy, and “30 for 30” was the highlight of the mixtape and perhaps among one of the best songs of 2015. However, outside of this mixtapes very high highs, there wasn’t enough to lift this project up from being either trapped in filler and mediocrity.

A$AP Rocky – At Long Last A$AP

A.L.L.A was the first time I listened to a full-length A$AP Rocky project, and I must say, it was an incredible first impression for me. I really dug the production on this project; it’s often very dreamy, psychedelic, and in terms of flows there are few who just sound as good as Rocky. Retrospectively speaking, another thing I was impressed with on this album was Rocky stepping up his game lyrically in comparison to the previous two projects Live.Love and Long.Live; his lyrical content was never overly impressive, but him improving his lyricism made this an even more enjoyable listen.

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Overall I thought IYRTITL was a pretty dope project, and it might be the most underrated project in the star rapper’s catalog. The production, in my opinion, is the high point of the album. There are a lot of unique sounds on this project, and this features some of the darkest, most “experimental” (relatively speaking) beats that Drake’s ever rhymed over. And on the topic of rhymes, this is also probably one of the high lyrical points of Drake’s album discography; he keeps the “lovey-dovey shit” to a minimum and comes with genuine confidence and aggression.

Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$

This album, just like his debut mixtape 1999, displayed the incredible lyrical ability that undeniably put Joey in the upper echelon of new school lyricists; B4.DA.$$ also showed Joey growing as an artist and expanding upon the Golden Age east coast sound that has influenced him so heavily up to that point. Impressive album, considering he was only 20 years old at the time and still has not even reached his maximum artistic potential yet.

Wale – The Album About Nothing

TAAN, in my opinion, was Wale’s best album, although it still doesn’t beat his Mixtape About Nothing. This album showed Wale making less “Maybach Music” and more of what he’s been comfortable with. He got very personal and relatable, dishing on personal issues, his views on society, relationships, etc. The first half or so of the album is on point, with an awesome, attention-grabbing intro and strong works like “The Pessimist” and “The Girls On Drugs.” The second half isn’t bad at all, but not quite as solid as the first half, although it has songs I still enjoy to this day, like “The God Smile,” “The Need To Know,” and “The Matrimony.”

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

TPAB is still one of the most unique and innovative albums I’ve ever heard. As if he didn’t put on enough of a storytelling clinic on his previous album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, TPAB is bursting with wonderful storytelling and stunning creativity that you simply just don’t hear very often in modern music in general. Sonically and conceptually, the album was definitely out of left-field, which made it a difficult album for a lot of people to really get into. And TPAB certainly doesn’t have the “replay factor” that, say, GKMC or DAMN have. But in contrast to those two it’s certainly a more rewarding listen and a more revolutionary hip-hop experience.

Other rap albums from 2015:

  • Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt
  • Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
  • The Underachievers – Evermore: The Art of Duality
  • Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
  • The Game – The Documentary 2 & 2.5
  • Travis Scott – Rodeo
  • Bryson Tiller – Trapsoul

What did you think of these albums from 2015? Which ones were your favorites from that year?

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