In many ways 2016 hasn’t been such a good year, but in the face of adversity art always prevails. In act these particular 10 albums have the very vibes that helped us get through it. It should go without saying that choosing just 10 was extremely difficult. Perhaps these projects went unseen via the mainstream media but they are indeed some of the greatest pieces of art made this year. Check it out.
10 | LOCKSMITH, ‘The Lock Sessions’
Locksmith didn’t have to release The Lock Sessions, but he did. Lock went above and beyond to not only give the fans his long awaited project, “Lofty Goals” but also another complete body of work with even more bars. ‘The Lock Sessions’ are not just a few songs thrown together but rather a passionate narrative and inspires the listener and dismisses all doubt and negativity bar by bar. Based on the lyrical strength alone this album is able to round out our top 10 albums of the year.
9 | ILLMAC, ‘Still Standing’
There is no better title for this piece of work. Illmac is indeed ‘Still Standing’ and going toe to toe with any artist that crosses his path, don’t believe us just check out his latest Bar Fight against the young Bronx MC, Denzil Porter. Illmac can certainly hold his own, he came to show and prove on this album, and yes he still got it! Somehow after a decade of competing in the Hip Hop game it feels as though Illmac has experienced a resurgence and this is actually at the beginning of something big.
8 | DON MYKEL, ‘G.O.D Mykel: The Martyr’
There is no stopping this home town hero, Harlem grown artist Don Mykel has quickly made a name for himself across the five boroughs and beyond. After making it to the Top 12 in 2015 Mission Underground LA, Don was able to bounce back with even more fire for TeamBackPack. Since then the young artist has blazed a number of cyphers and released two major projects, the latest one coming in at number 9 on our list, ‘G.O.D Mykel: The Martyr’. This album tells a story on vigilance and grit, somehow Don is able to drop knowledge and be the coolest guy to ever heard all in one breath. Don’t expect to get this album in one listen, in fact there is only one way to listen to Don Mykel and that’s on repeat. No seriously, you will need to replay tracks just to make sure nothing went over you head! No shame, even we missed a few bars the first time. Ultimately, this is really just the warm up for Don, make sure you’re ready when he starts running victory laps around the Hip Hop game.
7 | MAD SQUABLZ, ‘The Art Of Boom Bap: Generation Next’
Mad Sqaublz is known to most as a Hip Hop prodigy. The Philly MC is blazing mics left and right. It was clear that after his victory at Mission Underground NY, this kid was going to be something special. The Art of Boom Bap is pretty self explanatory, pure hip hop, traditional in form and style. There is something refreshing about an artist so young digging deep into the creates to recreate a sound so honest and nostalgic to all Hip Hop fans.
6 | DOT DEMO, ‘Outer Body Experience (O.B.E)’
We’ve called Dot Demo a lot of things this year, everything from ‘A new Bronx legend’ to ‘The east coast Kendrick Lamar’. And trust us we really believe that, Dot Demo has filled a void in east coast Hip Hop, and has carried the Bronx on his shoulders the whole way. Not many come out of the South Bronx as fortunate and talented as this guy. While O.B.E. shows a great range of Dot’s ability it also demonstrates a story and foreshadows what is to come. At first glance it is easy to dismiss his bravado on songs like, ‘Plugged’ or ‘Roberto Clemente’ but you soon see the tales of survival and consciousness in ‘Indigenous Man’ and ‘Me Pt.2’ that propels Dot Demo to a higher plane. Observing the world around him, I guess you could call it an outer body experience.
5 | Marlon Craft, ‘He Looked Like Nothing‘
There is one thing that rings true about Marlon Craft, he really cares. In every track any listener could clearly hear that Marlon Craft cares about the the art of Hip Hop. What we at TBP refer to as the culture. Anyone can attempt to rap but not all appreciate and respect the culture. This has been a break out year for Marlon Craft, releasing a debut project to soon to be headlining at Webster Hall on January 5th. There is more than meets the eye. In fact Craft has been shattering peoples preconceptions since day one, usually with the first 8 bars ! In all seriousness, ‘he looked like nothing’ is the best representation of the young MC out of Hell’s Kitchen.If you want to feel Hip Hop running through your veins, this is the album for you.
4| FLO KENNEDY, ‘The He(art) EP‘
Every time I find myself in the same room with her, Flo’s radiants with warmth and passion. Her laugh echoes and inevitably reaches you, I’ve coughed out a giggle or two even on my most glum of days. On the flip side the second she touches the mic Flo commands a room with aggressive and passionate energy. You can’t look away, in fact you’re afraid to, that is how powerful and serious her words can be. If you have spent any time around Flo, then you know she wears a cap that reads, “The Artist Is Dead” , a tragic irony as she herself is the walking definition of a true artist.
The He(art) EP starts with an intro ‘The Outsider”, it immediately sweeps over my consciousness while Flo manages to wrap me delicately in the bass of her voice while the beat gently ushers me into her reality. It’s at this very moment where I realize the outsider has let me in and a interesting role reversal takes place. Flo delivers this track with such ease and finesse, it’s the prefect introduction to whats to come. By the end you know everything you need to properly continue, Flo makes it clear she won’t abide to the barriers or vices that surround her, saying, ‘it’s unattractive when niggas call me a female rapper’ while later admitting, ‘my chalice filled with Hennessy and lies’. Read FULL REVIEW HERE
3| RADAMIZ, ‘Writeous‘
Writeous was no doubt one of the most anticipated albums this year. At every show or gathering there were whispers of when the project might drop, are what unreleased track has been added. The hard work definitely paid off. In the very first track you will understand that this was worth the wait. More importantly we see that true emotion was poured into every track. This is not just another mixtape, this is an important mark in a man’s life and musical journey. On ‘God Talks To Me A Lot’ we immediately hear a soundbite of Lauryn Hill explaining it is more important to be righteous than it is to be right. This concept is a way of thinking that Radamiz is known for. And shapes his humble but confident energy. In addition Mogul Club member Madwiz, is featured on this track with a beautifully constructed verse that sets us up for what’s to come. Read FULL REVIEW HERE
2| DUCKWRTH, ‘I’m Uugly‘
WOW. Duckwrth landing in number 2 spot, was the result of many conversations. At any point it could have been number 1. It seems like Duckwrth really dug deeper than ever before, to bless us with some serious gems. ‘I’m Uugly’ is quite abstract but literal at the same time, taking ownership and bending the status quo. From the incredible artwork to the stunning visuals you just can’t look away. So it’s not surprising that people are starting to notice. In some ways he has become the face for alternative hip hop in our community. Which to be fair really means to not conform to the constructs we are so attached to. No one formats a song like this guys. This is the perfect genre bending project that couldn’t be more Hip-Hop. This project feels very special, it feels like the one before everything changes. Probably similar to the moments of Overly Dedicated. The point being this will surely propel Duckwrth to new heights.
1| ANGELO MOTA, ‘House Of Diamonds‘
NUMBER 1, The album of the year is “House of Diamonds”. Oh you haven’t heard it? We know, and are willing to look past it. Angelo Mota has been a quiet force in the TBP community, but being overlooked has never stopped the New Jersey based artist. And at 20 years of age, this is only the beginning. Prior to HOD, we had ‘Crystal Avenue’ looking back now it was a blueprint for what was ahead. While Crystal Avenue now feels like journal of deep secrets, HOD is a leather bound novel. In fact that album is almost entirely produced by Mota himself. He tells his listeners, “I made an album while I was in a dark place. hopefully I can shed some light on yours.” This alone tells so much about what to expect, his music is literally therapy not only for himself but the listener as well. There hasn’t been a album this year that demonstrated this level of authenticity, passion, and conceptualism. In a era where the album is dying, it has never been more important to have works such as this. We enjoyed seeing Mota grow and evolve, and by the forces of nature he may not be so underground for long, so just remember you heard it here first.
– Larissa Price