Another year another favorite albums list! This year I spent A LOT of time listening to music. On the road, on the plane, in the bathroom, smoking weed, DJing… wherever I had my phone I was probably bumping something loud as fuck. Here is a list of some of my favorite albums of 2019!
When I Get Home by Solange
The Plugs I Met by Benny The Butcher
Everything For Sale by Boogie
I Used To Know H.E.R. by H.E.R
Suga by Kyle Dion
Baby On Baby by DaBaby
Diaspora by Goldlink
Bandana by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
What happens when you mix rapid machine gun cocaine flows with weird eclectic sample chops? You get Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Bandana. Though an odd pairing on paper–Gibbs is a gangsta rapper from Gary, IN while Madlib is a beat scene pioneer from Oxnard, CA–together they crafted my runaway pick for album of the year. It’s hard to describe Bandana. All I can say is when I it makes me want to make more money! “Gangsta” Gibbs never relents on this project, flexing his famously impeccable breath control, as brash and as passionate as ever. Madlib, armed with his trademark eclectic care-free style, matched that energy with a lush and grandiose backdrop. Tack on star studded guest features (Pusha T, Killer Mike, Yaasin Bey, Anderson Paak, Black Thought) and hilariously absurd skits, Bandana is my favorite album of 2019.
Standout Tracks: “Crime Pays”, “Palmolive”, “Situations”, “Half Manne Half Cocaine”
Ugh, Those Feels Again by Snoh Aalegra
If Snoh Aalegra’s years under the tutelage of legendary producer No ID was graduate school, Ugh Those Feels Again is her master’s thesis. Clocking in at 40 minutes, suckers for infectious melodies will surely be hitting the replay button. Draped with cinematic productions, Snoh tells the story of a failed romance in chronological order; “I Want You Around” serves as the courtship stage of dating while the outro “Peace” is the bittersweet end. The mood shifts dramatically between all 3 acts, but her songwriting remain subtle and sophisticated, as if she’s keeping her composure on a sinking ship. With such an old school timbre to her voice she never needs to do too much. But whenever she gives us a sweet little vocal run? Ugh, there goes those feels again.
Standout Tracks: “I Want You Around”, “Toronto”, “Whoa”, “Situationship”
Chasing Summer by Sir
TDE is on a decade-long winning streak churning out talent after talent. You can add Sir to an already full trophy case. He is what you would call a songwriter’s songwriter: a natural crooner able to craft a soulful record seemingly in his sleep. His sharp penmanship is on full display on his sophomore release Chasing Summer. Despite a bevy of star cameos (Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Jill Scott, Smino) Sir holds his own. The music is unapologetically R&B, full of appropriately warm textures and live instrumentation throughout, never leaning too hip-hop or pop. Though Sir sings like a hopeless romantic, his crude and honest takes about relationships are truly refreshing. Cause lord knows we don’t need someone rappin bout fuckin our bitch.
Standout Tracks: “You Can’t Save Me”, “Thats Why I Love You”, “The Recipe”, “Fire”
Igor by Tyler The Creator
The narrative with each new Tyler The Creator album is how much he and his art has evolved. With Igor, it’s no different. The aesthetic is reminiscent of those chaotic yet elegant perfume ads: at first you don’t know where it’s going but dammit now I’m intrigued! He’s always taken influence from his idols (Pharrell, Kanye West) but now he’s developed a sound all his own. The genre-bending sonics, the pitch changing vocals, and the brash sound selections are all uniquely Tyler. Whether it’s a synth solo, a surprise guest feature, or a bridge leading to beat switch, each song is packed with unique moments. We should all give Tyler his flowers. If we haven’t already for his full commitment to performing in blonde wigs and pastel colored suits. Heartbreak sucks, but if it leads to something as beautiful and haunting as Igor, I’ll take one to-go please and thanks.
Standout Tracks: “Earfquake”, “Running Out of Time”, “New Magic Wand”, “I Think”
Revenge of the Dreamers III by Dreamville & J. Cole
At the top of 2019, Dreamville Records began recording their 3rd compilation album. This time however J. Cole opened the sessions to fellow musicians outside of the camp, publicly inviting them with golden tickets ala Willy Wonka, sending hip-hop fans into a frenzy. Fortunately they exceeded high expectations, delivering a solid and surprisingly cohesive Revenge of the Dreamers III. A total of 35 artists and 27 producers contributed to the final product, merely a fraction of the 343 total invited. You have to commend their ability to control the chaos and whittle down the tracklist to 18 songs, a tough accomplishment considering 142 were reportedly made. It was satisfying to see many rare collaborations finally come to fruition, not to mention watching J. Cole rise to be an elder statesman in hip-hop. Once a young upstart, he’s handing off the keys to an entirely new generation. Glad to see the game’s in good hands.
Standout Tracks: “Under The Sun”, “Got Me”, “Dont Hit Me Right Now”, “Lambo Truck”
Youniverse by MOOSE
Apologies for this self-serving take, but my album Youniverse was definitely one of my personal favorites of 2019! Not sure of the exact number but I’ve probably listened to this album maybe at least 200 times front to back. It was quite the two year journey to get to that final release. Humbling triumphs and heartbreaking tragedies influenced what would be my most personal work to date. Sonically it took a lot of experimenting to finalize the productions and mastering. Years of studying my idols and contemporaries led me down a road of new techniques that I implemented for the first time on Youniverse. Using zero samples, I crafted everything from scratch using new sounds and plugins previously foreign to me. It’s the best music I’ve ever made, and I will put it against anyone else’s body of work. Yes, I truly believe Youniverse amazing. And if you have yet to hear it, I urge you to give it a try!
Standout Tracks: “Chapters”, “Youniverse”, “New Bounce”, “Lost In The Sauce”
Ventura by Anderson Paak
After the 2016 release of his critically acclaimed album Malibu, Anderson Paak’s stock rose to mainstream levels. The hype was palpable for his Dr. Dre-produced follow up Oxnard. Sadly the reception was mixed. To appease his underwhelmed fans, Paak delivered an entirely new album merely 6 months after. Unlike the heavier experimentation explored in Oxnard, the much welcomed Ventura saw Paak return to his funkier, more uptempo soul roots. The raspiness of his voice felt right at home with his live band The Free Nationals at the helm. Joining Paak is a who’s who of iconic names: Smokey Robinson, Brandy, a posthumous appearance by Nate Dogg, plus Andre fucking 3000! Salute Paak for pulling Three Stacks out of hiding.
Standout Tracks: “Make It Better”, “Winner’s Circle”, “Come Home”, “Jet Black”
May The Lord Watch by Little Brother
Hip-hop reunions are often rare and bittersweet: it’s usually a money grab for acts past their prime. For Little Brother, they are the absolute exception. Phonte and Big Pooh delivered May The Lord Watch within 2 weeks of their comeback announcement. No gimmicks, just soulful boombaps, grown man raps, and nostalgic easter eggs for longtime fans. It felt like reuniting with childhood friends; no matter how long it’s been y’all pick up right where y’all left off. The album theme is set within a funeral for Percy Miracles, Phonte’s fictional alter ego from their 2003 major debut The Minstrel Show. The two wax poetic about what’s truly important in life, a common discussion whenever death reunites loved ones. Seeing the two perform live in San Francisco was definitely cathartic, considering I’ve been listening to them since I was in middle school. Now as an adult the thoughtful messages they share resonates more than ever. Thank the Lord for bringing them back together!
Standout Tracks: “Sittin Alone”, “Everything”, “Goodmorning Sunshine”, “The Feel”
Over It by Summer Walker
The first time I heard Summer Walker was on a song called “CPR”. Immediately I was hooked by this mysterious songstress out of Atlanta. I was obsessed to learn more about her. In the 2 years since she’s been in the public eye, we learn that she loves making music but absolutely hates the fame. But with the appropriately titled Over It, she finds a zone unmatched by fellow singers. The vocal arrangements throughout Over It are reminiscent to classic R&B records in the ‘90s. The 3 song sequence of “Playing Games”, “Drunk Dialing” and “Come Thru” is so addicting that I find it hard not to replay over and over. Her honest songwriting expresses the frustrations of someone who just wants to be loved. Which makes her reported “social anxiety” more troubling; I would love for her to find comfort outside these sad and somber songs. I truly hope that those in Summer’s camp find her the help she needs.
Standout Tracks: “Playing Games”, “Come Thru”, “I’ll Kill You”, “Drunk Dialing”
Low Tide by Leven Kali
Leven Kali’s Low Tide may have flown under your radar. If it did, I highly recommend giving it a spin! Easily one of the most pleasing listening experiences I had this year. Of course love is theme throughout the album, but Kali does a tremendous job diversifying each track. Uptempo records like “Cassandra” will get you grooving, but he gets in his bag on traditional R&B records like the standout “1 On 1”. Low Tide is such a vibrant body of work, with a very warm and wholesome feel from front to back. In the song “Nunwrong” he exclaims “I believe in love, it makes you feel like nothing’s wrong.” Which is exactly how this album feels. In today’s world we are inundated with negativity. Go listen to Low Tide whenever you need a recalibration.
Standout Tracks: “1 On 1”, “Nunwrong”, “Sumwrong”, “Cassandra”, “Mine”