It’s December, which means that the entire internet is in the midst of pouring over the year like Bunk and McNulty investigating a crime scene. But how come we never look at the year that wasn’t? After all, often what didn't happen can be more important than what did.
Just like New Year resolutions that we finally have to admit we failed to do come December (I totally meant to take that pottery class), it’s kind of a trip to look back and see how we though the year was going to shape up so we can see how wrong we really were, measure our expectations versus reality. 2015 was a great year for that.
Kanye West - So Help Me God/Swish
Among the rants, the interviews, the shoes, the clothes and the memes, it always feels like Kanye is making an impact on the culture, yet in 2015 he dropped more babies than albums.
After releasing “Only One” on New Years eve, "FourFiveseconds" just a few weeks later, and performing "Wolves" under his bedsheet fort on SNL, it looked like Yeezy season was in full effect. Capping things off, he dropped “All Day” and it was lit like a menorah. The release of his next album So Help Me God was a foregone conclusion. It wasn't a matter of if, but when.
Then Yeezy season turned into a months-long debacle that was filled with everything but actual music.
First, he had the name change. Swish?! What is that? If this was a Steph Curry album or a musical based on NBA Jam I’d be cool with it, but how do you go from College Dropout to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Swish?
Making matter worse, it really seemed like Kanye had absolutely zero idea what was happening with the album. That was the biggest shock. Everything Kanye does has historically been perfectly coordinated and planned out. The So Help Me God/Swish timeline felt like the first time in his career he didn’t know what to do; there was seemingly no larger plan being carried out. Still, we all held out hope. I know I did. After all, Kanye can’t be judged on a single here or loosie there.
Sadly, we never got that chance and the 2015 Swish story ended with him telling us he doesn’t give a damn about music and would finish it sometime between now and when he dies. Awesome. We went from him releasing two songs in one month, to him giving Swish one giant “Meh.” We cared about this album so much, only to learn Kanye doesn’t care at all. Making matters worse, someone would always chime in, telling us how amazing it was, how soon it’s coming. Only, it never ever did. It went from being one of the biggest albums of the year to the biggest question mark of the year.
Of all the albums that weren’t, I think Kanye may have taken the biggest L. Of course, all will be forgiven when the album does drop and it's amazing, but there's just not getting around the fact that on a purely musical basis, 2015 was a very subpar year for Yeezy.
Lil Wayne - Tha Carter V
We were supposed to get Tha Carter V in 2014, so when it didn’t come out, we all kind of just assumed 2015 would be the year we got the fifth and final Carter. Sure, Lil Wayne tweeted in December of 2014 about wanting off the label, but how many times have we seen artists take to Twitter, bitch about their label and then go right back to business? Plus, Weezy and Birdman are family. There’s no way they would fight or too long. They would kiss (again) and make up, Tha Carter V would be released, and everyone would be happy. Sorry For The Wait 2 was an appetizer, something to hold us over until the album was ready and the family squabble was deaded.
Then shit got really real and Birdman was indicted for trying to kill Lil Wayne. This whole year has been about Cash Money for me, some of the biggest stories we have done are about how shady the label is, but I never expected Birdman to try to kill his “son.” Think about that for a second. No lawsuit, no rap beef, Birdman allegedly wanted Wayne dead. Gone. Finished. Probably so he could release Tha Carter V and make a killing (break out the tinfoil hats). We got two more mixtapes from Wayne, but truthfully, with how things went down this year, I don’t know if we will ever get Tha Carter V.
We started the year expecting Tha Carter V and left with Birdman trying to kill Wayne. I don’t think any album fell that far that quickly. Kanye’s non-album was a blunder, but at least it didn’t involve an assassination plot.
Drake - Views From The Six
Drake was the most streamed artist on the planet, his DJBooth review is the most popular piece on DJBooth this year, and he now has more number ones than The Beatles. If you had told me that at the beginning of the year I would have assumed Views From The 6 had dropped, but Drake did it all without the actual album.
I’m not the biggest Drake fan, but that’s pretty amazing when you think about it. The projects we got weren't the ones we expected, or even really knew existed before their release, but they were both blockbusters. I wonder if he had planned to drop both Views and IYRTITL, but once he saw how well IYRTITL was doing, pushed Views back (break out that tin foil hat again). It’s pretty crazy to think about how Drake dominated the year and did it all without what is arguably the biggest album of his career.
Frank Ocean - Boys Don't Cry
I feel like an asshole. I just threw jabs at Kanye for being open and honest about not particularly caring about his album, but looking at Frank Ocean’s album that wasn’t, it makes me appreciate Kanye. At least he said something. Frank Ocean basically acted like 2015 never happened. First, there was that time in May, when he created an empty playlist on his Soundcloud . Naturally, the internet was bugging out - was this the album!?! - only to have him delete the playlist a little bit later. He never said a word. Never tweeted. He just deleted it and went on about his day.
Luckily we wouldn’t have to wait long because Billboard confirmed the release of the album in July and as anyone knows, anything that's confirmed is definitely, totally happening.
Oh what? You mean to tell me Frank didn’t drop the confirmed album? Color me shocked! But it was “confirmed”! How? Because Frank Ocean that’s how. Dude is on his own planet.
Frank fooled a lot of you, I’m just glad I know him well enough to know that album was never coming. Here we are in December and still no album. Still no word from Frank either. I’d think twice before putting his album on your 2016 lists. You know when Adele, the singer who ghosted for three years, is on you about your release schedule, you are fucking up.
Isaiah Rashad - Mysterious Untitled Album
I thought Isaiah Rashad’s album was a fitting one to end on because it speaks to the human condition of fandom. Fans of Rashad, like myself, have been looking forward to the follow up to Cilvia EP for a long, long, long, long long, long, long time. It was all quiet on the Zaywop front until August when Isaiah tweeted that the album was turned in. He followed that up with the release of “Nelly,” and when Top Dawg’s head honcho casually confirmed we’d be getting new Isaiah in 2015, it seemed like a forgone conclusion. Who cares that he never explicitly said the album would drop? “new Isaiah” meant “that album we’ve been dying for” and you can’t tell us "Rasheads" anything.
Well, here we are with three weeks left in 2015 and I refuse to give up hope. I should look at Frank, Kanye, Wayne, and Drake and realize that nothing is ever set in stone unless it’s actually happening in that moment, I should be laughing at “confirmed” for Zay like I did for Frank Ocean, but fandom is irrational. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, despite TDE’s “interesting” release history, I can’t help but feel like in two or three weeks time this project is in fact dropping. I’m not going to be mad if it doesn’t, I’m in a good place with my Rashad standom, but it'll still sting a bit to watch an entire year go by without a new album.
Honorable Mention: Detox & Act II
I feel like I shouldn't even have to address these two albums, but some of you are delusional and actually thought these two albums actually existed and even worse, actually thought we would get them this year. Detox is now officially dead and Act II is a vegetable clinging to life but the family refuses to pull the plug. We will never get either of these two albums. Ever. Period. To the people who thought these would actually drop in 2015, this gif is for you.
This business moves a mile a minute, things change at the drop of the hat, and there’s so many moving parts to an album. It’s not nearly as clear cut as this album is done and now it’s released. I think as fans, bloggers and music nerds we can forget about that and we certainly take it personally when things don’t go our way. Looking back on 2015, it shows just how murky it can get and how foolish it is we take announcements, tweets, and singles as a sign of certainty. You would think we would learn, but I guarantee when those most anticipated albums of 2016 articles come out we will all work ourselves into a tizzy. Years change, fans don't.
Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. About that Isaiah Rashad album though...
[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.]