Thanksgiving, a tradition unlike any other.
Every year, relatives flock in from far and wide to sit down at a table together and , eat, laugh and celebrate everything we have to be grateful for read my albums as thanksgiving foods article.
That’s right, the age old tradition that I started last year is back. In all seriousness, this is one of my favorite articles to write because it’s just so much damn fun. I love Thanksgiving, I love rap music and I love comparing things to other things. I really couldn't be more excited right now - no that’s not a sweet potato in my pants.
As a gentle reminder this isn't some list about the best albums or most important albums, this is me comparing albums to food so, you know, maybe don't take it so seriously. Also, I’m on my fourth glass of egg nog. Enough talk, grab a plate, it’s time for 2015 rap albums as Thanksgiving foods.
A Grass Fed, Free Range Turkey You Raised From Birth, Killed & Prepared Yourself: Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly
Dark Sky Paradise because it’s audio tryptophan? Nope.
What a Time to be Alive because of how people mindlessly gobbled it up? Nope.
Turkey is too important to be either of those albums. To Pimp a Butterfly is the turkey, but it's not just any turkey.
Everybody eats turkey on Thanksgiving, but it means different things to different people. Some people probably don’t care too much about the turkey and where it comes from; they just want some meat on their plate. That’s absolutely fine. Still, it’s important for those people to realize that a free range or organic turkey is simply better; it doesn't come from a factory that churns out turkeys. To some people, going that extra mile to ensure freshness and purity is important. Those people who can’t settle for just any old turkey, those people love To Pimp a Butterfly.
As we’ve seen from thinkpiece after thinkpiece, TPAB is divisive, at least among people who write thinkpieces. I think for some people, going from GKMC, a more traditional modern hip-hop album, to TPAB, a exploratory, unique, heavy listen was a big jump. Fans wanted banger after banger, but instead they were met with an unorthodox, complex and emotional album. To Pimp A Butterfly is meant to be more than just an album you can set to “cruise control.” It’s not meant to just be meat on a plate, it’s meant to be different, to challenge you. For some people, that work just isn’t worth the return, they're fine with settling for the easiest option; that frozen turkey. For those willing to do the work, for those who care about not just the final product but how it’s made, To Pimp A Butterfly is the album for you.
Stuffing: Action Bronson's Mr. Wonderful
Stuffing isn’t the centerpiece of the meal, but for me it’s always the most important side. If the stuffing is sub par it upsets the flow of the entire meal. Make no mistake about it, stuffing makes or breaks a Thanksgiving meal. So go ahead and focus on your tukey, I’ll be over here with more bread on my plate than a church collection. I love stuffing not just because of it’s taste, but also because it’s how you can really see the heart of who made it. As a chef, stuffing allows you to show your personality. Everyone always has that secret ingredient they put in their stuffing that makes it the best. Maybe you put bacon in it, maybe sausage - my family does oyster stuffing and it’s better than anything you’ve ever eaten.
Action Bronson’s album won’t be on many best of lists, nor did it dominate the charts or conversation, but to me it’s the most important album of the year. Like that first bite of stuffing, it’s given me that feeling of pure, unfiltered bliss. Like stuffing, it’s the unsung hero. My year wouldn't be what it’s been without Mr. Wonderful.
Part of the reason I love the project so much is because of how well Bronson’s personality is cooked into the dish. Like Bronson himself, the album is colorful, lively, and brash, but it’s not a joke, it’s also artfully made. Mr. Wonderful’s success hinges on how well the music reflects Bronson’s character. Like stuffing, it’s that extra ingredient (that personality) that makes it such a success. I’m fine with the fact that it won’t get as much love as the other big name albums, as long as you all admit it has it's merits. Like that secret-recipe stuffing, Mr. Wonderful is an experience you can't get anywhere else.
Mashed Potatoes: Oddisee's The Good Fight
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Mashed potatoes are for your soul. They may be light and fluffy but they pack quite a punch; they make you feel whole. They aren’t full of explosions and surprises but they nourish something deeper inside you; it’s comforting. Though they play a crucial role in the Thanksgiving meal, it’s really the only Thanksgiving dish that can be eaten outside of the high holiday. I eat stuffing and turkey once a year, I have mashed potatoes on the regular. That’s Oddisee’s The Good Fight.
As a long time fan of Oddisee, The Good Fight kind of caught me off guard. I'm used to a no-frills, sample heavy Oddisee but The Good Fight had a much lighter feel thanks to the emphasis on live instrumentals (“Contradictions Maze” for example). While it was certainly more colorful, the effect was the same. I felt The Good Fight to my core. This album always makes me to reframe my perspective when I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed. Like mashed potatoes it just goes well with anything and I can consume it anytime. I love mashed potatoes like I love The Good Fight; that's about the highest praise I can give an album.
Cranberry Sauce: Mac Miller GO:OD AM
Ten years ago, if there were cranberries on my plate, Thanskgiving would turn into a Monster’s Inc 2319 type situation. There would be hell to pay; fuck cranberries and the clique they claim. As the years went by though I would always try them, hoping to turn the corner, but no such luck. In my years of sampling though, I realized that, while I don’t much care for them and would never eat them on their own, I respect the cranberry. I’ll always take a fork full of them and mix it in with some stuffing or put it on one of my little day after Thanksgiving sandwiches, but still, I never eat just cranberry.
I’ve given Mac Miller’s GO:OD AM album a fair shake but it’s just not hitting with me. I want to like it so bad because he’s come a long way since “Donald Trump” and is certainly not the emcee I had him pegged as. He’s grown into a bonafide, talented artist who really has something to say. Still, GO:OD AM for me is like cranberries, I’ll just never be all in. I’ll take a few songs here and there and sprinkle them into a playlist, but I’m never going to listen to the album cover to cover. It’s never going to be my thing. Que sera sera.
Candied Yams: Big Boi x Phantogram's Big Grams
I may technically live below the Mason-Dixon line but I’m all northerner. Up until last year I had never tried candied yams (#thanksgivingwithwhitefamilies) and when I heard about the dish I was kind of confused. What exactly is a yam and how does one candy it? Weird, right? Last year I finally got to try one and there aren’t enough fire related emojis to describe the dish.
I knew Big Boi, I knew Phantogram, but the idea of them together on an entire project sounded off. I wasn’t entierly sure of what to expect. I mean Phantogram is glitzy, shiny, pop and Big Boi is motherfucking Big Boi he’s a southern institution. How would they gel? Perfectly, that’s how. Big Grams is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Like candied yams, it takes something uniquely Southern and gives them a sweet, candied flavor. This album is such a treat.
We won't be having candied yams on our table (again #thanksgivingwithwhitefamilies) but to compensate I’ll be blasting “Fell In The Sun” as grandma tries to say grace. Big Boi is my grandma now.
Leftovers: Anderson .Paak's Venice
There’s that first meal with your family, but to me the Thanksgiving celebration isn't complete until the late night leftovers. Eat with your fam, go out with your friends, get loaded, come back and binge on some food all over again. The next day? Turkey sandwiches. A week later, I am clinging to the last bits of leftover stuffing. Even though it may not be fresh out the oven, leftovers still have a huge role in making the holiday.
Anderson .Paak’s Venice has been out for over a year and still remains in constant rotation. I keep waiting for it to lose it's freshness and it's power but I only grow more fond of it with each and every listen. There’s a certain comfort that even just having leftovers in my fridge brings. It’s just nice knowing there’s a little slice of home left. It’s the same with albums like Venice. You begin to lean on these albums to make you feel better. You get comfortable with them, make moments with them, then listen again to remind you of those moments. The main meal comes and goes, but leftovers are forever.
When you return from the internet after a brief turkey break you will undoubtedly be inundated with lists, slideshows and thinkpieces about the year that was. So before all the madness hits, use this as a chance to think back on all those albums that crossed our table this year.
And while you're doing that, use this little break as time to reflect on what you are thankful for. It might sound cheesy, but it’s also good to take inventory of the good things in your life every once instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
I, for one, am thankful for you all. Seriously. You are the reason why I can make rent while doing what I love to do. If you didn’t read, if you didn't comment, if you didn’t tweet, I couldn’t afford to live in a house and eat Chipotle everyday. I'm thankful DJBooth Nation is not built on trolling and lisiticles but is a community that really cares about the music. From the bottom of my sample-loving heart, thank you. Now go eat yourself into a coma.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth]