Welcome back! If you missed it, I talked about 2015-2016, sports and music, and handed out awards for several different categories in Part I: The Opening Act. We ended with one of the sexiest voices of the last couple of years, providing a great segue to our first award of Part Dos.
Best Album To Lead Into Doing the Dirty
In 2015, this was unquestionably The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness, and not just because of “Earned It,” although that certainly helped. Song after song on that album just dripped in sexiness, it was a sex masterpiece, a sexterpiece (yeah, that doesn’t work).
Knowing Abel was working on another release, it would be an upset if he didn’t carry this title two years running. But wait! Enter Anderson .Paak!
Malibu, Anderson .Paak
On “Am I Wrong Paak” says,
I never wanna waste your time, my life / So precious, is yours, is mine / And look at the time, my God / So precious, is yours, is mine
And I know he’s not talking about us, but really he’s talking about us, right?
Then on “Room In Here”
Baby there’s room in here / Just enough for two in here / Ain’t nobody but you and me in here
Yeah, it’s just you and me, Paak.
Room in Here Lyrics: Besides surfing, what do you think about? Love, for instance? / I don’t think about it, I make it /…genius.com
Best Hip Hop Album: Under 25 Division
Call it the College Football Playoff Championship. The Under 25 Division has some really, really good stars that produced high quality music. However, I’m not sure they have the pedigreed output to compare to our big dogs (coming up later).
Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
Chance is the Oregon of Hip Hop. He’s a cool, unique, extremely talented rapper/artist that has had regional success but has yet to achieve that national championship. Well, his time might be here. Chance scored seven (seven!) Grammy nominations for his work this year, and will have a good, um, chance (sorry) to take home some serious hardware.
While number of Grammy nominations can be deceiving (Kanye received eight for his work this year… and I’ll come back to this some other time, because I have too many thoughts), all the nominations for Chance are well-deserved. Chance’s year has been a busy one, and Coloring Book was just fantastic.
Runner Up: Sun’s Tirade, Isaiah Rashad. TDE is the Alabama of this metaphor, pumping out championship caliber album after album. The production level on all the TDE outputs this year was off the charts good, and Isiah Rahad’s unique style fits the score on his album perfectly.
Best Hip Hop Album, OG division
Where the big dogs play. Kanye, Schoolboy Q, J Cole, Vince Staples, Young Thug, Gucci, Run The Jewels, Domo Genesis, and others put out albums this year. But there is one. One and only one. Our king.
The king has not been dethroned. You can say that he has, but you cannot prove it. Please, try.
Best J Cole Album
You might be saying, “Hey, wait a second, there was only one J Cole album this year. Wait, are you giving J Cole his own category…” Half of you will finish the thought with, “because he’s head and shoulders above everyone else.” The bigger half will finish that thought with, “because that’s the only way he can win something.”
Well both halves are wrong. The best J Cole Album this year was
Do What Thou Wilt, Ab-Soul
On “Crooked”, Ab-Soul raps, “I’m a entity, never mind my identity”, and I swear Cole has said this before. A couple bars later, he says, “I had to be a little crooked just to make sure I was straight”, and its the type of word play that could have been written by Cole himself.
Sometimes corny, other times witty, other times just fuckin’ around, Ab-Soul plays the Cole lyrical game on Do What Thou Wilt, an album definitely better than Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only. The only big difference is Soul doesn’t shy from features, which is a good thing. Have some diversity, Cole, and maybe you’ll win next year.
Best Time Traveling Album
With a nod of the head in the direction of Bruno Mars. I see you, bruh, but there was too much pop—and not the soda pop type of pop.
This one easily goes to:
Awaken My Love, Childish Gambino
I was really, really excited to find out Gambino was releasing new music, then his first single came out, “Redbone,” and my excitement turned to… a different kind of excitement? Like a more curious excitement.
If you haven’t already, get a really good set of headphones or a really good speaker, and put this album on. Somehow we live in a world where Donald Glover, the goofy jock from Community, the stand-up comic, has great sonic depth in his vocals.
Everyone was calling this a throwback to Funkadelic, and it sure sounds like it. That, by the way, is a hella good thing. Funkadelic is awesome and so is Awaken My Love.
All of these albums, so far, have been outstanding. There is one though, that stands a little further out…
Album of the Year
For every rule, there’s an exception. Well, what’s the exception to that rule? There is a singular rule out there that has no exceptions. That rule is: talk bad about Beyoncé in public, and you will be vehemently attacked by the Beyhive. You don’t even have to be in public, if you have a private thought about how you might not like Beyoncé, they’ll get you. Try it. I dare you. Actually, don’t. I like you too much.
Some things that make an album great, in no particular order:
- Unique: how much does this album offer that no other project does?
- Impressive: graded from 0 to 100% Kendrick.
- Social media power: it’s 2016, this is important.
- Moving: what do you feel when you listen?
Beyoncé checks everything off the list here: unique, % Kendrick, social media power, and moving.
Let’s start with unique, because Beyoncé did something not a lot of other stars did this year: she didn’t do much. The only place you are getting Beyoncé is from Beyoncé, and more specifically, Lemonade. You want to hear the queen? Bust out the pitcher, and pour some Lemonade.
Consider some of the other artists of the year. Drake put out Views and a bajillion singles were in every club, DJ dance mix, and on every radio station…all the time. We were saturated with Drake this year.
Chance popped onto the popular radar, not with his own mixtape, but from a feature verse, which he did again and again and again this year. A week rarely went by where I didn’t get a text with a link to a new song Chance had a verse on. To top it all off, he released a second tape as a Christmas gift to the universe.
Did you catch all those features by Beyoncé? Nope. That second project? All those other singles? Nope. You downloaded Lemonade, paid for a CD/Vinyl, or signed up for TIDAL — hahahahaha, just kidding.
Something that gets a million Grammy nominations has to be really impressive, right? What’s that? Drake got how many for Views?!?! Fucking hell.
Moving beyond nominations, what Bey put forth on Lemonade was truly impressive musically, lyrically, and visually. The visual component came in two stages. By releasing the music video (and not just any video, but thatvideo), with the release of the single, it gave the already very good imagery literal images.
When the opening beats of “Formation” start, you can picture Bey crouching down on that police car half under water. That’s a very literal image that holds so much metaphorical power, and it fits the song and album, perfectly.
After the “Formation” release, of course, came the visual album on HBO, adding so much more to the already densely packed album. It is a fantastic piece of art. While it certainly wasn’t the first visual album, it may have been the first one a lot of us talked about in detail. Which, speaking of…
Social Media Power
Holy hell. To be honest, this category is more defined by Beyoncé than by its own literal definition.
Were you alive the first weekend in February 2016? Was your heart beating? Was air going into your lungs, oxygen filtered out and sent into your bloodstream? Then, yeah, you knew about “Formation.”
One of the most powerful songs from the all power everything artists of our time dropped with a crazy powerful video. You mix that negro with that creole, and you get a fuckin’ banger.
I swear Twitter and YouTube was purchased by Beyoncé for those two days.
Then the Super Bowl happened,
and the visual album was released.
In 2015, Justin Beiber had a hit song called “Sorry”. In it, he pleads for forgiveness (a little bit) from Selena Gomez (his ex) and (maybe a lot bit) from the general public for doing stuff that a young dude with money shouldn’t have to apologize for (like, for real, parents, just don’t let your kid idolize celebrities).
Regardless of whether he should have or not, Beiber felt like he wanted to/had to and released a song where he says, “sorry” 20 times, and means it in its most traditional sense: he feels bad about what he’s done. He admits to messing up hundreds of times and letting “you” down. He’s just plain sorry.
A year later, the Queen released a song of her own named, “Sorry.” It starts as a #sorrynotsorry fake apology, but then moves to be a middle-finger-waving-in-your-face “fuck you” non-apology.
It’s a fun juxtaposition, to think of Beiber’s song as the apology from the boy in the relationship and Bey’s song as the girl’s response to it. The boy messed up hundreds of times, knows he messed up, and is trying to reconcile by admitting it. The girl is rightfully fed up, and gives back a big ole middle finger to his apology, saying, “Now you gotta see me wilding.”
I know I have my favorite “Sorry.” What’s yours?
I hope you stuck around because I have a confession to make. I lied about 2015. It wasn’t cool. It sucked too. There was a spike in mass murders. Nowhere was safe: day care, movie theaters, even a fucking church. Nine black people were murdered in a racially motivated shooting. Countless more were murdered by the police sworn to protect them.
So yeah, 2016 sucked. So did 2015, and 2014 wasn’t all that great either. Each year, though, we can continue on by having hope. Hope in trying to make things better, hope in trying to further our knowledge, understanding, and experience of this world we live in.
This year was not all bad, either. More Americans have health care coverage than ever before. The unemployment rate is at a historically low mark, and the economy has continued its year over year growth since 2009. There are good things happening. There is reason for hope.
We need this hope, and we need to strive to make the world better. This is your life and your world. It’s the only one you’ve got.