As a fanatic music listener, especially within the fields of Hip-Hop and R&B, I believe that the decade of 2010-2019 was a real coming-out party for these genres. Long gone are the days of Hip-Hop songs being known purely as vehicles to peruse and promote the shiniest and darkest virtues and sins money can buy. Today we have more and more vibrance in the culture from the music to the artists behind it all. We have deeper meaning to lyrics, greater expression through visuals and, in my opinion, more genuine care taken in the artwork that one is producing.
This post starts off my deeply personal and heavily subjective list of the my top 20 favourite albums of the decade. The five albums in this list below, however, did not quite make the cut. Nonetheless I felt they deserved at least a mention.
TRAVIS SCOTT – ASTROWORLD (RELEASED AUGUST 2018)
Astroworld is a further ethereal journey into the warped mind and skill set of Travis Scott. This album is more sonically advanced than his previous best work on Rodeo, and features more sticky hooks and varied production than Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. The downfall for me lies in the length of the album as it comes in at a whopping 58 minutes run-time. Trim 3-4 of the tracks in the 3rd quarter and it becomes a more concise listen while maintaining that specific trap sound that only Travis Scott can provide.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Stargazing, Stop Trying To Be God (feat. James Blake, Kid Cudi, Philip Bailey & Stevie Wonder), 5% Tint
Young Fathers – Tape Two (Released June 2013)
Tape Two is a relatively short EP released by Scottish group Young Fathers. Musically, it features lo-fi production, some oddly mixed chunks and synths befitting of a late 1980s pop track mixed with outlandish pop-crossover ska such as Madness. Vocally the artists riff between spoken word ‘monologues,’ choral passages and seemingly West-African inspired soul. This project is one of my favourite to recommend to friends for wholly new music as you can hear something new in every listen. It’s far from your stereotypically Hip-Hop EP.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Come to Life, Freefalling, Ebony Sky
Oddisee – The Iceberg (Released February 2017)
While I wasn’t in love with Oddisee’s 2015 release The Good Fight, it was obvious that there was a development in terms of production depth and musicality. Oddisee has always been both a talented producer and wordsmith but in The Iceberg we find him on top form for both. The production here features a lively variance of tempo as well as a distinct funk element with the additional live band, strings and brass sections. Lyrically, the project sees Oddisee diving deeper into typical themes of inequality and social justice but with a clearer nod to optimism than on some projects before.
STANDOUT TRACKS: You Grew Up, Want to Be, Rain Dance
Pusha T – Daytona (Released May 2018)
What to be said about this album that hasn’t been said already? As the first of Kanye’s bold 5 7-track projects to be released in consecutive weeks, pressure fell on the shoulders of the GOOD Music president to perform and boy did he. To fit so much work into just seven short tracks is truly admirable, especially when 90% of your subject matter is about that powdery white stuff. Pusha-T is as sharp, witty and on the nose (heheh) as ever with his lyrics and is matched step for step with some of Kanye West’s best production since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I could honestly have done without “What Would Meek Do?” and the majority of “Hard Piano” with Rick Ross, however, “If You Know You Know” and the gut punch that is “Infrared” would drag any project into the spotlight.
STANDOUT TRACKS: If You Know You Know, Come Back Baby, Santeria
Saba – Care for Me (Released April 2018)
When an album can successfully juxtapose biography and autobiography, brevity and depth of detail, you know you’ve found something worth listening to, especially in the world of Hip-Hop music. A 10-track heartbreaking story about his Saba’s friend Walt is what the listener hears, sprinkled with the truths of growing up in a black neighbourhood in Chicago. Although I understand that every track has a meaning, “Logout” with Chance the Rapper was a major disappointment. On the other end of the spectrum, “Calligraphy” is possibly in my top five tracks of the decade if I were making a list for those too which I’m gladly and thankfully (for my sanity) not.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Busy / Sirens (feat. theMIND), Life, Calligraphy
Stay tuned – beginning soon is the countdown of my 20 favourite albums of the decade with 20-16!