- PartyNextDoor - PNDColours (OVO Sound)
- Drake - If You’re Reading This Its Too Late (Cash Money, OVO Sound)
- Freddie Gibbs - Pronto (ESGN Records)
- Young Thug - Barter 6 (300, Atlantic Records)
- Lupe Fiasco - Tetsuo and Youth (Atlantic Records)
- Future - Dirty Sprite 2 (A1, Freebandz, Epic)
- The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness (XO, Republic)
- Drake & Future - What a Time to be Alive (A1, Cash Money, OVO Sound)
- Travis Scott - Rodeo (Grand Hustle, Epic Records)
- ILoveMakonnen - ILoveMakonnen2 (OVO Sound, Warner Bros.)
(List is in chronological order based on release date)
PartyNextDoor - Colours
While technically a 2014 release, I didn’t get to listen to this EP until 2015 rolled around. The ‘Sauga City crooner released these 4 tracks with little promo on his Soundcloud but the mixtape could be heard all over the city come new years. With help from Cash Out and Travis Scott, PND separates himself from another notable Toronto R&B artist on this list with Colours. PND’s last offering of 2014 had me seeing through a prism while The Weeknd’s was more Shades of Grey. Standouts ‘Lets get Married’ and ‘Don’t Worry’ showcase PND’s ability to create moody R&B that is still crowd pleasing.
Drake - If You’re Reading This Its Too Late
(Cash Money, OVO Sound)
Way way way up! Surprise mixtapes have to be my favourite kind of album. With no word or indication IYRTITL dropped in February the day before Valentine’s Day. Was it a sign that the feud between Young Money Cash Money had reached a breaking point? Was it an early Valentine's Day gift for every Drakette in the city? Or was the Boy just trying to pull a Beyonce and dominate the headlines for a couple weeks? Whatever the plan it worked very very well. The mixtape or album, depending on who you ask, debuted #1 on every chart worldwide and had almost every track make it onto the Billboard 100. By all accounts a commercial success but as we all know Drake wasn’t done for the year.
Freddie Gibbs - Pronto
Gangsta Gibbs released his Pronto EP on in March this year. Some may be wondering why I decided to feature Gibbs EP and not his full album release from later in the year Shadow of a Doubt. This is due mostly to staying power. I listened to those 3 tracks way more often than I do the cuts from Shadow which I felt was repetitive and could’ve used a shorter track list. Pronto is a great step into the sound of Freddie Gibbs for anyone who has somehow avoided the Gary, Indiana native for this long. I had the opportunity to see Gibbs play The Hoxton this year and shouting ‘Throwin' fins in the six, shout out Toronto!’ was one of the best times I’ve had in that venue.
Young Thug - Barter 6
(300, Atlantic Records)
Young Thug is an enigma that spawned in 2015 and proceeded to have hip-hop again question ‘what did that guy just say’. I said that out loud and in my head at least a dozen times a day while listening to the Barter 6. Still there is no doubting Thugga’s ability to craft a hit. Check, With That and Halftime were all tracks that I heard all over the radio and mixes in 2015. If anything the Barter 6 allowed people to continue to question if Young Thug is creating MOMA level performance rap or just another lean sipping artist from the ATL.
Lupe Fiasco -
Tetsuo and Youth
One of the most panned albums of 2015 and it is actually such a shame. After dropping this album in late January Lupe all but disappeared from the public eye claiming that he no longer wanted to compete with Wiz Khalifa for the attention of a 12-year-old. Since the beginning of his career Lupe has made thought provoking hip hop that asks the listener to take account of the world around them while bobbing their head to the music. It's disturbing that in a year where a concept album like ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is so universally praised by critics that another concept album that tackles tough subjects like the prison industrial complex and the plight of low income single mothers is passed on. T&Y starts in the summer and takes the listener through the seasons as Lupe takes account of the world he sees around him through sharp and intelligent verses. While the entire album hasn’t stayed in my iPod, tracks like “Dots and Lines” and “They. Resurrect. Over. New” are ones I find myself going back to.