The second post in our Staff Picks series, our writer Rob takes a look back on his favourite Hiphop album & Artist of 2015
Vince Staples– Summertime ’06
2015 was a monumental year in the world of hip-hop. There’s no denying that the most influential and widely praised project to come out of it was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick introduced the world to a hard hitting, genre bending album that was expected of him at this point in his career. After the success of 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city that catapulted Lamar into rap stardom, the onus was on the young artist from Compton to deliver a follow up that wouldn’t be eclipsed by his past projects. He delivered in spades, and there’s no denying that To Pimp a Butterfly will be remembered as 2015’s standout album in hip-hop history, it’s the easy choice.
I’ve never been one to make the easy choice (that stems from my own stubbornness, not some moral high ground) so my pick for 2015’s best album has to be Summertime ’06 by Vince Staples. Like Kendrick, Staples hails from Compton, California and makes no effort to shy away from the fact. Summertime ’06 is a study of Vince’s come up in the city, much like Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, with a loose concept surrounding the summer that would shape the rest of the young rappers life. The project moves fluently from one track to the next, in part thanks to complimentary production provided by industry veterans No I.D. and Clams Casino but also as a cohesive tale. Staples never invites the listener into his world, making sure to highlight the separation between the audience and the life he lived in Compton, rather he presents his life as an example of the consequences to be felt by the choices we make as individuals and as a society.
In my opinion, though not as politically charged, the social construct of the album matches that of To Pimp a Butterfly and may do a better job of conveying these messages than the latter. Yes, it may be based around the lifestyle of a Compton Crip-affiliate, though Staples writes in a way that any listener can find a relatable message in the music. It’s a solid effort throughout the 20 song tracklist, with little to no filler. Where Kendrick Lamar released a masterful hip-hop album last year, he was merely meeting expectations. For Vince Staples, Summertime ’06 was a debut effort that nobody saw coming, including his hardcore fans, and it only has me excited for what’s to come.
Nobody had a bigger or better year than Future. Hands down. No questions asked. This has to be the biggest bounce back in music for quite some time now. After 2014’s public fall out with ex-fiancee Ciara, mother of one of Future’s four children, the Atlanta rapper had nothing more to his CV than a handful of decent mixtapes and an album filled with heartfelt tunes dedicated to Ciara herself. Not many casual hip hop fans expected the year that was to come, but in October 2014, he dropped the first of three ‘album-quality’ mixtapes, Monster. Future showcased his talents as a writer, filling the tape with vulnerable tracks that invited his audience into the drug-fuelled depression the rapper had suffered as a result of the public break-up.
The stage had been set for what would be the biggest year a rapper’s had since Drake began his takeover of the industry in 2012. Releasing the second of the mixtape trilogy in late January, and only two days after Ciara released her first song since the break up, Beast Mode delved deeper into Future’s psyche, lined with his signature style introspective lyrics over trap production that the rapper has fine tuned. In March, he released 56 Nights, a tape inspired by DJ Esco’s 56 night incarceration in Dubai for marijuana possession, where the hard hitting Atlanta trap influences were in full flex. Though the introspective themes of the first two projects weren’t as prevalent on this tape, 56 Nights marked Future’s third release in under half a year and the rapper’s momentum was picking up. July marked the release of his first LP since Honest, the album dedicated to Ciara and his third studio effort overall. Dirty Sprite 2, or DS2, launched to number one on the billboard and Future had finally arrived. With trap-influenced production by up and coming producer Metro Boomin, Future’s introspective tales of drug addled nights thinking about the love he lost proved to be the recipe for the Atlanta rapper’s success.
Drake came ringing later in the year and alongside the Toronto native, Future earned his second Billboard number one project of 2015 with What a Time to be Alive. The mumbling delivery of his lyrics is more than enough to turn casual listeners off, but once you’re able to listen past the grunting and groaning and hear what the rapper has to say, you may have a newfound appreciation for the introspective side of the trap rapper. Though he seems to be on top of the world, his words suggest otherwise and he has no problem opening up and inviting you to experience the world of pain he’s in, even if it is for our amusement.
There you have a little insight into what kinds of music I was enjoying in 2015. Though too many honourable mentions to name, I can say that the year ahead is looking just as promising, if not more, than 2015 was.
Cheers, everyone and have a happy 2016.