Maybe Hip Hop ISN'T dead... 2016 was actually pretty damned good

Truth told, 2016 was not a bad year for the kind of hip hop that I listen to.

Jan 15 – Lecrae: Church Clothes 3
                You know what?  I tried to sleep or let this dude be what he is outside of my view because he was a Christian rapper, but I gave this one a few objective listens later in the spring in the car and really enjoyed it.

Jan 15 – Torae: Entitled
                I was worried about this album because he launched it off of a Kickstarter campaign…
What that allowed him to do, though, was whatever in the fuck ever he wanted to do.  If that means Praise does several beats, we get introduced to the album artist’s cousin on the album, we have to listen to a spoken liner notes/outro or see Phonte show up with one of the best verses of 2016, then the independence of the album leaves us free to experience all of that.  And we were better for it.

Apr 15 – Royce Da 5’9”: Layers
Almost 8 months have now passed and I am STILL forcing people to take this album in for the first time, then watching as they KEEP listening to it.  This wound up being an expectedly solid release from one of my favorite rappers.

Apr 23 – Drake: Views
                I listened to it my requisite three times… I guess it is okay if you’re into this kind of thing.  Never actually made it into my car.

Jun 10 – Apathy: Handshakes with Snakes
                Look, if you don’t get this album for ANY other reason other than this, go to YouTube RIGHT now and look up track 12, “Moses” with Twista and Bun B.  I was so surprised to hear those voices on a track with an artist like Apathy that I was blindsided by just how DOPE the song was and had to listen to it 4 times.  The album in and of itself is quite well made and comes with the normal level of lyrics as one would expect of Apathy or anyone else of the Demigodz crew.

Aug 26 – De La Soul: and the Anonymous Nobody
                This album was such a breath of fresh air.  What with their seeming inability to put together a full presentation worth listening to since Stakes is High (fight me, dammit) and Maseo’s son going AWOL from the (then) St Louis Rams and ending up on the “did not report” list.  I sat with mixed emotions approaching this project, the 37 year-old who remembers who in hip hop invented the hip hop album skit, who would make 70+ minute concept albums and also remember who promised a three-album series in 2000 and only delivered two.  The old-school hip hopper in me won.

Sep 23 – T.i.: Us or Else
                Total surprise to me…  I guess there is a time for everyone to eventually grow up and latch on to a social stance and make an album like this one.  I am aware of that.  What I am STILL having a hard time with is that it was who it was in this case.  His interviews around the time as to why he was saying the social things he said on this album and the consistency with which he supported it gained him a lot of respect from people who might not have otherwise dealt with him.  Unfortunately, however, the purses didn’t like that he was saying what he was saying but he was ready for that too, readily admitting that knew it could hurt his pockets some but was the thing to do.  

Sep 30 – Apollo Brown and Skyzoo: The Easy Truth
                They threw feelers out about this album EARLY in the year and I sat like a meth addict for months WAITING on September 30 to arrive.  I woke up at 6am on the day, downloaded the album and put it on my devices to listen and at NO moment was I disappointed.  Many may be aware that Skyzoo is easily my favorite rapper of the moment and while that may have had a hand in my enjoyment of this album, I am not at all ashamed to admit it.

Oct 14 – The Game: 1992
                I never know what to expect of the game, but here is another album I couldn’t exactly hate.  I liked the dearth of guest appearances for a change, something that does not happen often in hip hop these days.

Oct 28 – Jeezy: Trap or Die 3 and Meek Mill: DC4
Both included on this list because I did download and attempt to listen to them, but neither getting their own entry because I did not enjoy them enough to continue discussing them after the next period I type.

Nov 4 – Common: Black America Again
                Funny thing…  I wasn’t sure what to expect of the dude who I love as a rapper but cannot watch as an actor.  Here, his first album since losing his father in 2014.  I was unsure what to expect.  What I got was a wonderful collection of the expected well-written and jazzy pieces with a LOT of Bilal.  With the aforementioned production handled solely by Kareem Riggins and Robert Glasper, this one appeals to the music and rap nerds in me.

Nov 11 – A Tribe Called Quest: We Got it From Here…  Thank You 4 Your Service
                Holy shit, I get a De La and tribe album in the same year?!!?  Did I set my wayback machine to 1992 or something?  Wait, AND they’re both damn good albums at that?  Knowing that Phife Dawg passed earlier in the year and still hearing topically accurate lyrics for the current times is a good thing, the album is well produced and it was QUITE ill seeing them on SNL with Chappelle.

Nov 18 – E-40: D-Boy Diary
                I won’t lie…  I have TRIED to hate E-40’s work.  It took me to accept that he was not trying to be taken too seriously to get it.  He is having fun doing what he likes to do.  He is WELL respected in the streets and in the industry and  that he is allowed to still be releasing albums independently within 72 hours of his 49th birthday speaks to something I should respect.

Dec 2 – Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love
                Okay, let him write for NBC (30 Rock, Community) nominate the boy for two Grammys, two VMAs, an NAACP Image award, let him release two dope albums and several EP/mixtapes and it takes for the FX series Atlanta for some black people even notice him.  Well for those of us who remember the “Bro Rape” skit from having shared it on MySpace, we are happy to see the dude getting the attention of the REST of America finally.  For our troubles, we get an album that might not even be fully classifiable as “hip hop,” really.  It is alternatively funky and sing-songy and Wikipedia actually calls it R&B (but for some odd fucking reason, won’t do that for Drake albums?).  No matter, it is still well done and worth the time and effort.

There still remains 3 and a half weeks in the year…
I am impatient and lose interest in things too quickly to wait to see what else shakes and what I am and amn’t (new word!) interested in to then sit and write about.
Before anyone responds to tell me what I did and didn’t mention in this post, I would like to remind you who the Phlip in “callmephlip” is and why that matters as to what does and doesn’t make it inside of posts here.  It is more than possible that I forgot an album that you were interested in, that I was not interested in anything other than savaging it, or – as is the case with ANY mumble rapper – I couldn’t wrap my head around it enough to listen three times and have an opinion.

Thanks, all.


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