Before we get too far away from the past year, the Brotherhood Crew wanted to focus on the best albums of 2015. We enlisted all of our staff writers to pick two of their favorites from the year. What you have here are 10 of the best releases from 2015. Read along and see if you agree with the picks. You might even read about an album you missed.
Lee Scott – Butter Fly
Evergreen of the UK Rap landscape, Lee Scott, blessed us with 11 songs of mic-melting magic on his latest album, “Butter Fly”. The concept of the project, produced by Dirty Dike, is to initially poke fun at the overly health-conscious world we now inhabit, but as Scott slowly slides down the track list he takes the opportunity to expose the day-to-day routine of the disillusioned drug-taking population of Britain’s working class, mixing social commentary with larger than life imagery of fantasy scum scenarios. The Runcorn-native describes the North West of England as seen from his telescope on the moon, taking us on a lyrical journey wading through the bong water of Blighty. –Butchaz
Sagging on the couch getting pally with an ounce/A spliff pirouetted through the air and landed in my mouth/
Action Bronson – Mr Wonderful
For years we’ve been struggling to find fresh superlatives to praise the chef-turned-rap sensation, Action Bronson. In 2015, his position at Hip Hop’s top table was cemented with the hotly anticipated release of his first studio album since signing to Vice Records 3 years prior. Famed for being able to spit hot fire over any beat, “Mr Wonderful” further highlighted Bronsolini’s versatility. His previous projects have historically just been with one producer, but with this release we saw a wide variety of beat makers lay down instrumentals inspired by a number of different genres. Whether going in on Party Supplies’ psychedelic rock anthem “Easy Rider”, or dishing out smooth revenge over the brass-infused “Baby Blue”, produced by Mark Ronson, Bam Bam Bigalow never failed to stir in a big, fat portion of originality and charisma into his hot pot of rap. -Butchaz
I’m not exactly flawless, but I’m gorgeous, just like a horse is/I know the thought of me succeeding makes a lot of people nauseous/Still, I’m on the back of the boat taking pictures with the swordfish/
BBNG x Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
Listening to Sour Soul by BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah can best be described as waking up at 5 AM to watch the news, just to see that school is cancelled and you can now spend the entire day playing Metal Gear Solid, all while being fed Dunakroos by your crush. In short, BADBADNOTGOOD x Ghostface Killah is the album that I never knew I needed, but somehow always wanted deep down inside. Overall, the album is fairly short, clocking in at 33 minutes, but the production, pacing, and sprinkled features keep each track fresh and dynamic. More importantly, BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface have a chemistry that is undeniable. Sour Soul is a brooding romp through the world of Ghostface Killah, as he lavishes tracks with a gritty street swagger, cultivated by the cutting jazz of BADBADNOTGOOD. In a time where Ghostface was questioned for his ability to rap at the upper echelons, Ironman Starks of the Wu-Tang Clan further solidified his position as an icon of gritty wordplay, throwing quips on “Six Degrees” with Danny Brown when he proclaimed, “Sixth sense, six pack, six degrees of separation / My evil third eye blinks with no hesitation.” It’s easy to see that if you haven’t listened to Sour Soul, it’s time your treated yourself to a sublime feast. –Soleib
Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
“I just wish he would release more music, like, he drops some good **** and then disappears” my brother mused on Thanksgiving evening. Little did either of us know that by some biblical grace, some fantastic wizardry, Pusha T would directly respond to his assertions on “Untouchable”, the second track on Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, proclaiming “Yuugh, I drops every blue moon / To separate myself from you kings of the YouTube / I am more U2, I am like Bono with the Edge.” Pusha T seemingly emerged from the ether, donning a braided crown and taking no prisoners, as he not only dropped an album in December, but also ascended the throne of G.O.O.D. music. So, is Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude any good? Well, asking that is like asking if Sean Penn is the plug- yes, oh God, yes! Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude is Pusha T at his finest, as if the mystical “cruel summer” of 2012 never ended, Pusha T reaffirmed his relevance with high octane tracks like “M.F.T.R.” and “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets”, while exposing his versatility with regard on content on “Sunshine”. We’re a long way from Clipse first album, Lord Willin’, but Pusha T is still at his pinnacle, making his latest album an instant favorite of 2015. -Soleib
Joey Bada$$ – B4.Da.$$
From southern fried trap music to jazzy west coast flows and everything in-between 2015 was a huge year for hip-hop. Last January, a young artist out of Brooklyn named Joey Bada$$ kicked things off with his album B4.Da.$$, which turned out to be a strong contender for hip-hop album of the year. The 15-track studio release is a nod to the ‘90s – hip-hop’s golden era when New York based MCs like Nas, Jay-Z and Rakim once reigned supreme. Joey’s lyrical style is uniquely his own, but at times reveals to a fault that he is a well-versed student of N.Y.C. hip-hop. His lyrical content is introspective and reflective on the black experience in America.
Much like Kendrick he is not overtly political but has gained a reputation for creating thoughtful art about race and racism, the art of rapping and the nuances and contradictions of hip-hop culture by drawing upon what he knows best. His music is a refreshing reminder that you can pay tribute to the culture’s most legendary voices and still create content that is refreshing and relevant. Additionally, B4.Da.$$ features an all-star compilation of beats from producers including DJ Premier, Statik Selektah, J. Dilla / The Roots, Hit-Boy, SamIYam and more. The album’s guest MCs are a little more subtle with select appearances by Chronixx, B.J. The Chicago Kid, Raury, Dyemond Lewis and Maverick Sabre. For serious hip-hop heads Joey Bada$$ used 2015 to become a household name and there is little doubt that he has big plans for the near future. -Robert
“Its like every step bring me close to destiny and every breath I get closer to the death of me. I’m just tryin’ to carry out my own legacy, but the place I call home ain’t lettin’ me.” – from “Like Me”
Protoje – Ancient Future
Ancient Future is Protoje’s third and most recent studio release. It features 11 tracks of his unique take on the traditional reggae sound by blending classic roots riddims with subtle elements of hip-hop and rock as well. He showcases his flow, rhyme schemes and lyricism on tracks like “Criminal” and “Protection,” both of which are hard hitting songs with heavy basslines and soulful vocals. Protoje has the unique ability to make classic music accessible to a younger audience and the best example off the album is his remake of Prince Buster’s “Answer To Your Name”. The upbeat ska / rocksteady classic from 1966 is given a modern twist and his smooth vocals makes it the perfect blend of old and new.
Winta James of Overstand Entertainment is responsible for the albums production and it boasts some of the most innovative riddims in reggae music to date. One of the tracks that is likely to get a lot of play in the near future is “Bubblin,” which is a rhythmic ganja tune and a remake of Zap Pow’s 1978 single “Bubblin’ Over”. The album is full of nods to reggae history and it is clear that Protoje intentionally wanted to pay homage to the “ancient” sounds of reggae, but also offer something new to the genre as well. The most popular track on the album is his upbeat collaboration with Chronixx, entitled “Who Knows?” The catchy chorus and combination of his strong lyricism with Chronixx’s melodic hook made it an easy contender for reggae song of the year. Protoje is a part of new generation of Jamaican artists that are often referred to as the island’s “reggae revival” movement and there are high expectations for what he has in store for 2016. -Robert
Notable lyric “A word unto the wise is enough. You can look, but don’t touch, my relations and such. Cause out here in this jungle we roam, every King has his throne, and if you enter my zone I vow to protect my own.” – from “Protection”
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Drake & Future – What A Time To Be Alive
Admittedly What A Time To Be Alive is rough and unpolished, but that’s also what makes it so strong. Hip-hop has always embodied the idea of raw energy channeled into creative outlets, and that’s exactly what you’ve got here; two artists bridging styles and regional sounds in a well that felt right. The first voice you hear on the album is Future’s, which helps set the tone that this collab won’t just be “the Drake show,” and that’s a worthy gamble. Instead, the album play’s like a Future mixtape with Drake along for the ride atop Metro Boomin’ and Boi-1da productions. The gamble pays off with cuts like “Diamonds Dancing” and “Scholarships” where the polished sensibilities of Drizzy meld seemlessly over Future’s hazy, brooding style. Sometimes the synergy fails to materialize like on “Digital Dash,” but if that’s the raw experimentation it takes to get an album that relishes in the true hip-hop spirit like this, then sign us up. -Zack
Notable lyric: Metro Boom make it boom on these hoes / And me, I just stick and move on these hoes / We got that purple rain for the pain / My n*****, we ain’t change, we ain’t change
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Whereas WATTBA was all about rawness, the selection of Beauty Behind the Madness is all about the polish. Having followed The Weeknd since the House of Balloons days trading Megaupload links to “Wicked Games” on Twitter, it’s safe to say a bigger budget and a whole lot of shine has been the ticket for the Toronto native. It’s like we all knew he was capable making tracks that haunt you like HoB, but also get the heads nodding of even the lamest of lames. That’s why tracks like “The Hills” and “Often” stand out. They essential symbolize the amalgamation of everything he’s done to this point. Throw in a few sprawling epics like “Acquainted” and “Angel” you’ve got The Weeknd album we knew was coming. And that’s not even factoring in mainstream smashes like “Earned It” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” When you look at it like that, it’s hard not to think BBTM might even be the best album of 2015. We certainly had a hunch. -Zack
Notable lyric: To say that we’re in love is dangerous. But girl I’m so glad we’re acquainted
Future – DS2
Jamie XX – In Colour
Alina Baraz & Galamatias – Urban Flora
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
and that Frank Ocean album that never came out. You know it would have been dope af. Seriously though, where the f is it!???
Hit us up in the comments below with your thoughts on our take on the best albums of 2015 or if you have knowledge on the new Frank Ocean album. We’re all ears.