There’s no denying that 2015 was a year of ups and downs. For some artists, they had the opportunity to shine and glimmer across the boards. Kendrick Lamar is quite possibly the most identifiable example, considering his album “To Pimp a Butterfly” not only topped most Album of the Year charts, but it’s also what some are calling the album of the decade. Other artists, however, remained tucked away in the shadows, or got close to the recognition that they deserved, yet were out of arms reach. These artists and albums are ones that should not be slept on any longer. While it is a new year, it’s time to give these albums the true credit they deserve.
Earl Sweatshirt – “I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside”
“Name gettin’ bigger than the difference between us,” Earl Sweatshirt raps, on one of my personal favorites of the year. His newest album showed the true, raw potential that he always had, and this time it’s coming into fruition. With a collection of his brooding, atmospheric beats and boastfully melancholy bars, Sweatshirt created a hip-hop album unlike any other from 2015. Painting landscapes of empty 40oz’s and an even emptier headspace, Earl’s more out-spoken than ever. As much as my 17 year-old self wants to remain in denial, Odd Future is dead–but is that such a bad thing? Earl’s first mixtape, appropriately titled “EARL” was an impressive opener from a 16-year-old, but I’d be lying if I said his lines about murder and rape weren’t try-hard or corny at this point. While “Doris,” his first actual album from 2013 made a strong entrance, there was still much to be wanted.
I’ve ran through “IDLSIDGO” too many times to count at this point and each time I have a grin on my face from the sheer confidence Earl’s began to cultivate. His old, awkward nuances have developed into a cocky punk that’s chest is puffed out. But, realistically he probably just wants to go back home and smoke some weed by himself. The album dabbles in concepts of coping with loneliness–if you couldn’t tell from the album title–as well as resentment towards a lot of people throughout his life. “IDLSIDGO’” is perfectly capable of showing rap at its bare bones. Stripped down, raw, and angry, this isn’t a hip-hop album you’d bump at a party. But, give it a chance alone with Rap Genius open and you’ll be picking your jaw up off the floor.
Isaiah Rashad – “Nelly”
“We can’t be no number one, but we can be the jam,”says Isiah Rashad, who has been in the studio since his release of “Cilvia” from 2014, one of my absolute favorite rap albums from the past five years. A Chattanooga resident who isn’t afraid to show his roots, Isaiah is one of the newest members on TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) featuring big names like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. Yet, Rashad seems to be seemingly unknown to most surface level hip-hop fans. Although “Nelly” is merely a single, it was an absolute blast for Rashad fans to hear. His discography post-Cilvia Demo is relatively null albeit a few features here and there, most where he doesn’t even have a verse. This left fans nearly on their deathbeds waiting for a new track from the man himself. Thankfully with the release of Nelly towards the end of the year, the Rashad drought had ended. Realistically, Rashad isn’t on this list because of the greatness of “Nelly” (although it was an extremely good track), but because Isaiah is the hip hop artist to keep your eye on for the next years to come. He will be blowing up, and you can believe that.
Tunji Ige – “The Love Project”
“You know you made it when your beats could pay rent,” Tunji Ige spits on a new project. The self-made rapper and producer Ige is one of Philly’s finest. The release of his mixtape, “The Love Project” from 2014 was another top pick from that year. With the popularity gained from “Day2Day” featuring ILoveMakonnen and Michael Christmas, Tunji soon had to prove that he wasn’t here just to provide some quick party hooks. Dropping single after single in 2015, Ige kept his fans well fed. “On My Grind” is an ode to the fact that hard work pays off and shows that he is far from a one-trick pony. Tunji is no stranger to production, mixing, mastering, known for leaving his phone off while in the studio.
“On My Grind” and “Function” are a couple of my favorite beats from last year, and for good reason. The opening sample of “Function” hits like a “College Dropout”-era Kanye West beat and soon develops into a ridiculously catchy party-anthem unlike any other. His team, known as the Brain Bandits, are a visual monster, with member Glassface providing some extremely original and innovative visuals for his music videos. It’s better to hop on Ige’s side before you regret sleeping on this young genius.
Zach Ritz is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at ZR812833@wcupa.edu.