Hip-hop Club reviews best of 2015

hip-hop with almost every major artist dropping a project, many unexpected. With such a large amount of material to sift through, it may be overwhelming for the average listener, so we, the Hip-hop Cultural Appreciation Club, listened to all of it and present to you the very best of 2015. This is our first year as a club at Westminster and we hope to stay for as long as hip-hop is bumping.

Steven Yang: B4.DA.$$ byJoeyBada$$

     While it may not have the radio-friendly nature of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late or the monumental social commentary of To Pimp a Butterfly, B4.DA.$$ is still one of the best albums of the year. Its 90s East Coast hip-hop sound, Joey’s lyrical talent, and Joey’s content come together to make a complete and fulfilling album. Filled with disc scratches and booming drums, the track “No. 99” sounds like a song lifted from a Gang Starr album. Despite its heavy 90s influence, there are some still modern tracks such as “Teach Me.”

   While Joey is a very talented artist, there aren’t mind-boggling Kendrick verses or easily digestible Drake lines. Joey doesn’t pretend to be a pioneer of hip-hop. Instead, with clear evidence of influence from his mentors, Nas, Mos Def, and Jay-Z, he paints a vivid image of the ghetto he grew up in. B4.DA.$$ does not have a political agenda, and it does not aim to be a radio album. Instead it is a personal, gritty, and amazing rap album.

Favorite songs: “Paper Trails,” “Big Dust,” “Christ Conscious,” “Hazeus View”

Evan Dhillon: The Powers that B by Death Grips

      Death Grips’ fifth studio album, The Powers That B, is split up into two disks: N****s on the Moon and Jenny Death. Although sonically both the disks go in the same direction, it is evident that the second disk, Jenny Death, truly achieves a long-awaited sound. While both disks push boundaries experimentally by unleashing some of Death Grips’ most chaotic and varied material, at times N****s on the Moon comes across as dissonant and forced, whereas Jenny Death seems like a well-executed master plan.

     Death Grips builds off of the over-processed industrial hip hop sound that they produced on Government Plates, their fourth album. On Government Plates, producer Flatlander used MC Ride’s vocals as more of a chopped and screwed instrumental rather than as the substantial lead role they played on other albums. The Powers that B does a better job of implementing Ride’s vocals into this new, experimental, and aggressive sound that they are pioneering, and overall takes the group’s sound in a different direction than their 2012 albums, The Money Store and No Love Deep Web.

Favorite songs: “Inanimate Sensations,” “Pss Pss,” “Why a B**** Gotta Lie,” “Up My Sleeves”

Holt Sanders:  I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt

Earl Sweatshirt is a 21-year-old rapper from California who found fame through the now-split-up hip-hop collective Odd Future. While much of Odd Future’s music focused on a more comedic style of rap, Earl’s most recent album takes a darker, more serious approach and confirms his departure from the group. This album is littered with grimy synths, melancholy piano and jazz instrumentation, and distorted drum beats. The song “Grief” features droning, breathy synths and a snare that sounds like a glass bottle being thrown against a wall. However, the production is only half of what makes this album great; Earl’s word choice and flow perfectly compliment these dark beats. He covers a wide array of topics: a rough breakup, conflicts with his mother, not wanting to take pictures with fans, and more. At just above thirty minutes, this album comes together into a unique, interesting project that warrants many listens.

Favorite songs: “DNA,” “Grief,” “Mantra,” “Huey”

Spencer Breitzke: To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

       The word “masterpiece” is not used lightly when discussing pieces of music. To Pimp A Butterfly is a masterpiece. The album blends so many genres together—soul, funk, jazz, funk, and hip-hop—to create a piece of art that accurately portrays the issues the black community, as well as America as a whole, faces on a daily basis. Kendrick Lamar could have made an album full of songs like “Backstreet Freestyle” and gone platinum within three days; however he chose a different route by using his power in the American media to produce a political album that digs at the heart of our culture. The effect of this album has already been seen throughout America: protesters sang his song “Alright” while being harassed by the police just months after the album’s release. I predict this album will set the bar for years to come on what artists hope to achieve with their music.

Favorite songs: “Wesley’s Theory,” “Alright,” “Hood Politics,” “The Blacker The Berry”

Grant Oesterling: Summertime ‘06 by Vince Staples

     Vince Staples’s ambitious Summertime ’06 was my favorite album of the year. Simply put, the production on this project is considerably better than most other 2015 albums. No I.D., a former mentor to Kanye West, created some of the best beats of the year– pulsing, distorted bass lines under woozy synths and blurts of percussion create a dark, interesting sound, akin to an Earl Sweatshirt album. Similarly to Earl, Vince brings the listener into his mind, but instead of rapping about his mental state and emotions, Vince documents his life, translating it to those of us who don’t live it. He raps about the loneliness of being a rapper, the police brutality he experienced growing up in Long Beach, the crimes he’s committed, and more. The whole album is very cohesive and is certainly worth listening to the whole way through.

Favorite songs: “Norf Norf,” “Street Punks,” “Lift Me Up”


    A$AP Rocky’s sophomore album A.L.L.A (AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP) was released earlier this year in May, and it takes a very different turn from his debut album, L.L.A (LONG.LIVE.A$AP). The album feels far from “safe” – he didn’t create it with the intention of appealing to the masses. A.L.L.A has an almost psychedelic feel. It has a slow rhythm that is made up of hazy unorthodox beats and slow deliberate rapping. A.L.L.A mainly deals with how Rocky has had to sacrifice parts of himself for his success and how drugs have affected his career both positively and negatively. Some songs that exemplify this theme are “Holy Ghost,” “Everyday,” “L$D,” and “Excuse Me”. Rocky also pays tribute to his debut album with some harder songs such as “Electric Body,” “M’$,” “Max B,” and “LPFJ2”. Overall, A$AP ROCKY took a big risk with this album, and he was largely quite successful with this new sound.

Favorite songs: “L$D,” “Max B,” “LPFJ2,” “Everyday”