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.
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.
Jordan Rakei is an Australian singer and producer making soulful, dreamlike R&B. He released his Groove Curse EP in 2014, and contributed to Disclosure’s 2015 album, Caracal, with the track ‘Masterpiece’. His debut album, Cloak, is an innovative and modestly arresting creation that discerning listeners will appreciate.
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.
Hopelessness is the first album from independent musician Anohni, who was previously known as Antony Hegarty of the pop group Antony and the Johnsons. It’s an album that’s heavily political, but it is also intensely beautiful.