Best albums of 2016: 40 to 31

The countdown continues with shining albums from superstars including Drake and Beyoncé, sublime first-time releases from Ray Blk and Izzy Bizu, and a bold political album from independent musician, Anohni.

40. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
39. Ray Blk – Durt
38. Lady Wray – Queen Alone
37. Drake – Views
36. Wild Belle – Dreamland
35. Beyoncé – Lemonade
34. Anohni – Hopelessness
33. Izzy Bizu – A Moment of Madness
32. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
31. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive
Continue reading

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service review

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. Continue reading

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition review

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. Continue reading

Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade review

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. Continue reading

Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered review

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. Continue reading

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo review

Nowadays, Kanye the celebrity is far more of the focus than Kanye the musician. “I got rid of my phone so I can have air to create”, West tweeted on September 14, 2016. That may be the entertainment tweet of the year. For real. But this, nor West’s bizarre fashion line can change the fact that his seventh album, The Life of Pablo, is a muddled affair that lacks real direction. Continue reading

Frank Ocean – Blonde review

Frank Ocean - Blonde promo art 1 (1200x675)The curse of the difficult-second-album hangs over Frank Ocean’s Blonde like an unforgiving spectre. As if following up his critically acclaimed debut, Channel Orange, wasn’t hard enough already: there was the endless rumours, the delays and the never-ending storm of desire and derision on social media. No wonder Ocean prefers to keep himself to himself these days.

For better and worse, Ocean’s second album is the product of personal struggle under the weight of intense expectation. It doesn’t reach the dizzying perfection of his 2012 debut, but it is a profound listen nonetheless. Continue reading