Romantic tension has always played a part in the xx’s music. A little over four years since their last album, the group’s latest work, I See You, addresses this subject more directly than ever, with a soul-bearing collection of songs about reconciliation and the start of something new.
For a girl who hasn’t yet entered her twenties, Jamaican-Irish singer Mahalia Burkmar has achieved an awful lot already. She’s performed with Emeli Sandé, opened shows for Ed Sheeran and Tom Odeel, and appeared on the big screen in Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood.
Raised in Leicester, and now living in Birmingham, the 18-year-old’s first full-length mixtape, Diary of Me, is a mellow amalgamation of acoustic guitar melodies and chilled pop, which form the beds for her autobiography songs.
The ever-dramatic race for the White House was more controversial than ever this year – and we all know how it ended now. But the arrival of the 2016 US Presidential Election was also the chief reason behind Chicago rapper Common releasing his eleventh studio album, Black America Again. It’s an invigorating record for the turbulent times that America, and the world, are facing.
A Tribe Called Quest are one of the pillars of 1990s hip hop, with hits such as ‘Electric Relaxation’, ‘Award Tour’ and, perhaps their biggest crossover, ‘Can I Kick It?’. Work on this album, Quest’s first album in 18 years, and their final, had been underway when member Phife Dawg passed away on March 22, 2016.
This loss shook the world of music, and, understandably, the remaining Quest members – Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White – are still coming to terms with it. However, in Q-Tip’s words, armed with Dawg’s “blueprint of what we had to do”, the Quest members reformed, tapped up old friends, such as Busta Rhymes, as well as the likes of Talib Kweli, André 3000, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak, and have delivered a sublime hip hop buffet.
Christine and the Queens is the unequivocal breakthrough artist of the year. From magazine covers and music awards to performing on stage with Elton John at the Camden Roundhouse: you name it, this lady has been there and got the T-shirt (or likely will do by this time next year).
Chaleur Humaine is the international debut album from this idiosyncratic French musician, whose real name is Héloïse Letissier. It’s a superbly delicate electronic pop album filled with sounds that leave you agog.
Danny Brown is one of hip hop’s comfortable outsiders. Atrocity Exhibition is the Detroit rapper’s fourth studio album. It is a bizarre ride through Brown’s mind that’s dark and raucous, but also adventurous and challenging.
Isaiah Rashid had his sights set on becoming a preacher before his stepbrother’s copy of OutKast’s ATLiens led him into the wild and wicked world of hip hop. A member of the Black Hippy collective, and stable mates with fellow Top Dawg signees, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar, Rashid’s sublime EP, Cilvia Demo, set the wheels in motion for this a much-anticipated full-length debut.
Considering the personal and professional struggles the rapper has since admitted he was facing during its creation, it’s a wonder that he finished The Sun’s Tirade at all – let alone to such a compelling level of quality.