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.
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.
Kendrick Lamar was the man of the moment in 2015. To Pimp a Butterfly was a masterclass of conscious rap addressing the extreme racial discrimination that continues to play out in the US, and beyond. Untitled Unmastered isn’t a follow-up: it’s a collection of polished demos and experiments that are powerful and additive in their own right.
Hip hop artist, Kano, is one of the UK grime scene’s godfathers. He’s had hits such as ‘Typical Me’ and ‘This is the Girl’, and has appeared on albums by Chase & Status, Gorillaz and many more. Made in the Manor is his fifth album, and pulls no punches in reaffirming the MC’s greatness.
It took them a while, but they made it in the end. And they’ve done good.
Soon at the Latest is the debut album from Fur, an eight-piece hip hop-jazz collective from east London. Similar to the music of BadBadNotGood or El Michels Affair, this an album cramped with verdant instrumentals for late nights and crosstown journeys. It’s cheeky, it’s charming and it’s wildly refreshing.
Hip hop is a young man’s game. Or at least that’s the impression you get when the Rolling Stones are selling out worldwide arena tours, and the likes of Blackalicious, People Under the Stairs, the Pharcyde and Slum Village – celebrated purveyors of hip hop during its teenage years – are still playing small and mid-sized venues.