Right now everyone is focused on February 11 and Yeezy season, but there’s 10 more months to go in 2016, which means there's about a bazillion more albums to look forward to, including a number of surprise albums we don't even know exist yet.
The internet has already documented every single album that will drop in 2016 via various lists of various arbitrary numbers, but what if we went small? What if we picked just one each - just one - and gave that album the spotlight it deserves? When you have a list of 163 albums, each one gets kind of lost in the numbers. Let’s anticipate these albums they way anticipated albums are supposed to be anticipated; by writing about our actual anticipation.
The DJBooth writing squad is like a Power Ranger. We each have our own individual tastes and skills that together form an unstoppable bloggin’ super robot. So we thought that by highlighting the one single album we're personally looking forward to we'd end up with a collection of projects that goes a lot deeper than the Drake and Kanye highlights everyone always knows.
It's staff picks time. Let's roll...
ScHoolboy Q, Album Title TBD - Nathan
Recently I had a personal revelation; my favorite rappers are viciously strange. It's not exactly the kind of genre-title that you'll find on Spotify, which is why it took me so long to put words to it, but it really does describe most of my favorite hip-hop.
You can catch me playing purely vicious music - can we talk about what a masterpiece of aggression "Hard In Da Paint" is? - and you can catch me playing some pretty strange music - I still know every word to Deltron3030 - but my absolute favorite emcees somehow manage to be both simultaneously. Ghostface is my favorite emcee of all-time precisely because he's capable of both putting two stomach holes in your abdomen and swimming with mermaids. Kendrick Lamar is somehow capable of turning cartoon samples and abstract metaphors into the kind of song makes me go full Harbaugh. Vince Staples became a regular for me last year when I realized that he was capable of both hangin and bangin and delivering some mind-bendingly complex visuals.
And then there's ScHoolboy Q, the King of the Viciously Strange Rappers. We're talking about a man who just told a story about pooping himself on stage and also routinely drops the kind of bangers guaranteed to single-handedly raise the crime rate. A man who can shatter craniums with a song like "Yay Yay" and then tug at heart strings with one of the realest looks at drug addiction you'll ever hear. A man who made Oxymoron, an often purposefully contradictory album that grew to dominate my 2014 listening habits (pun intended). I even love me some Groovy Q so much that I broke my strict "don't listen to snippets" rule the other week when we finally got an audio preview of his next album.
Goddamn goddamn. Is that Q sounding absolutely vicious over a thoroughly strange and ambient beat? I'm 410% down, let's do this thing.
We still have heard essentially no official word on Q's upcoming album, no release date other than "sometime this year," no title, no singles, and so I'm trying to pump my mental and emotional brakes. I refuse to get so hype that I lose all perspective, but really, truthfully, honestly, this is the most excited I am for an album this year. I need some more vicious strangeness in my life, and I need it delivered by the King.
- By @RefinedHype
BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind - Lucas
Albums are all about us. They are made for us. We buy them. We talk about them. We listen to them. They give us goosebumps. But BJ The Chicago Kid’s album? I’m excited for In My Mind because I'm excited about what it could mean for Brian James Sledge.
For a few years now, BJ The Chicago kid has been one of those artists whose name I see, stop, and immediately listen to...and then I keep listening...over and over and over again. I can't get enough of the way he seamlessly fuses his dusty, vintage soulful vocals with a more modern, hip-hop vibe.
Unreal song and an amazing video to match. Yawk!
For the most part though, I only see his name attached as a feature. BJ has worked with an incredibly diverse group of artists - Joey Bada$$, Kehlani, Freddie Gibbs, Donnie Trumpet, Fashawn, Kendrick, K.R.I.T - but he always fits in so well. While he is rarely the star of the show, he often steals the spotlight. There’s something magical about his voice that just captivates and draws you in; I find myself waiting for verses to end. He can lay down a great hook (see “Like Me”) but it's often the subtle touches that really draw me in. I love the way he finds little pockets to sneak into. A lot of the time he’s not necessarily belting out a powerful hook, but working with the song, living in those pockets, to create an atmosphere, a vibe (see "The Waters").
On Compton's "It’s All On Me” he can be heard crooning in the background, but the really cool part is that its actually his voice being sampled. Bink told me, BJ laid down his vocals specifically to be sampled and I’ve been nerding out ever since.
I mean, how cool is that? How many guest artists could both think of something like that and execute it? He leaves his fingerprints on every single track he graces. Plenty of artists can come in and lay down a hook or a guest verse, but few have the ability to alter a track's DNA; BJ can. He’s the best guest feature in music.
But being a future heavy artist comes with a stigma, like T-Pain or Akon, people begin to think of you only as one thing and as a result it’s hard to translate those good looks into individual album success.
I’m excited for In My Mind not just because "Church" is amazing, but because it’s a chance for BJ, on of my favorite and the most consistently dope artists, to take the spotlight. Even though he’s been driving every song he’s featured on, I'm excited to see what he can do when he’s behind the wheel. Nobody deserves the limelight more than BJ. He’s been making your favorite artist sound dope for years with minimal shine, now it’s his turn to get the love.
- By @LucasDJBooth
Isaiah Rashad, Album Title TBD - Yoh
“The problems of a twenty-something,” Isaiah Rashad raps on “Heaveny Father.” The line comes after a laundry list of confessions and even after he continues to speak into the microphone with the nakedness of a Christian speaking to God. It’s an emotional self-examination in the form of a song. His pen bleeds a river of pain, his voice filled with soul and sin. I remember thinking, this is a rapper who knows his demons. They appear across his entire debut album, Cilvia Demo, from the ones he’s inherited from his father to the ones that he discovered on this road to rap stardom.
It’s this quality of honesty that I connected with, being twenty with my own set of problems it was like riding shotgun with a friend and listening to all his trials and tribulations. For two years the album has been in my ears, it doesn’t quite feel like that much time has passed, I can recall the anxious excitement that came before pressing play on TDE’s new Southern signee not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t love on first listen but a gradual admiration that grew with each listen.
In the two years since its release, Isaiah has been fairly quiet. When I saw his name on Jay Rock’s tracklisting I was excited, but that quickly turned to disappointment when he only appeared on the hook. I thought TDE would give him a feature on Kendrick’s album, give their Southern signee a grand introduction to the world, but the only label member to be given a slight placement was SZA. In all this time, Cilvia never left my ears. From front to back it’s continued to be played as I waited.
When “Nelly” unexpected arrived online, I played it for an hour straight. The time has only improved his pen’s prowess, strong verses with a hook that was more catchy than corny, his voice still has that southern ruggedness from the chain smoking and Tennessee air. Despite being short, it was a pleasant reminder that the feeling you receive when your favorite artist remerges makes the disappearance worthwhile. “Smile,” a song released a few weeks ago, also stayed in my ears hours after its release. The hunger that coated every line on Cilvia Demo is still there, he might sound even more starved than before. The second verse is intense, life’s hard knocks are still guiding his pen.
I have a feeling that his next album will continue to expand on his problems and demons but also solidify his place as one of rap's most promising prospects. For those that heard Cilvia Demo, that really allowed themselves to live with the album, there’s no question that he is talented. His gift with words and fearlessness to stand naked in an industry where the emperors are constantly changing clothes will likely bring one of the best albums of 2016. I can’t wait.