2016 Wrap-Up: The Year’s Most Necessary Music

-Michelle Odedina- Music Dept. 

As 2016 comes to a close, and we get ready to welcome 2017, it’s important we discuss one thing: music. While the narrative presented by many OG’s in the music industry often pertains to the appearance of “mumble rappers” being the death of Hip Hop- 2016 was actually an amazing year for Hip Hop, R&B and all the in-betweens. For the purposes of this piece, I’ve selected some of the most necessary works of music to drop in 2016.

In no particular order, I’d like to start with Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper. Coloring Book is Chance’s third mixtape, and is an interesting mix of Rap, Soul & Gospel. As a Chance fan, it was clear there was a lot of growth between this and his last project “Acid Rap” as expected since the latter did premiere in 2013. This long awaited mixtape was a melodic mix of emotions, hope, inspiration, and pure Gospel – with an impressive list of features backing it up.

Next up is Kaytranada’s 99.9%. This easily one of my top 5 favorite albums as there are so many vibes radiating off of this. 99.9% is a mix of electronic, R&B and a little house with roots still deep in hip hop. Kaytranada has a talent for production, from chilling psychedelic vibes to the comfy house party.  This album features a lot of my favorite musicians out right now from Syd to Little Dragon.

For All We Know by NAO is such a necessary album. NAO tackles love coming from all aspects of life – friendships, self-love, personal growth, and lovers. Her voice sounds like silk & honey, and though it is sweet sounding, it still carries range. Her music is funky R&B and is able to resonate with anyone who listens. NAO’s ability to go deep within her music is going to keep her around in the game with certain longevity.

Spillage Village’s Bears Like This Too Much is just one of the most refreshing albums to hit 2016. The Southern based collective went straight for the jugular with this album consisting of Atlanta duo Earthgang, JID (also ATL Based), Baltimore’s Hollywood JB & JordxnBryant, and features from Quentin MillerJ. Cole and Dreamville’s Bas. What makes this third installment of “Bears Like This” so impressive is the way each artist was able to combine their very distinct sounds and successfully mesh it into an entire project. Each of the sounds work together concurrently and the EP’s production is on another level. I look forward to seeing what’s next in store for JID and Earthgang as well as the rest of the SpillVill collective as they take the industry by storm.

Chattanooga, Tennessee’s own (and TDE signed) Isaiah Rashad is another one to watch out for. His album The Sun’s Tirade is unbearably honest to say the least. Rashad’s album publicly tackles his downfalls as he discusses depression, drug addiction, self loathing and his journey as he evolves into a man. His sound becomes strikingly apparent as he becomes more aware of himself. In this album we watch Isaiah Rashad grow up and find himself as he holds nothing back in his rhymes. I think this is a necessary album because so many of the young people (millennials) of this generation go through these issues unaddressed, and Rashad’s take and ability to project this into an album with such a strong sound is truly inspiring.

Last but absolutely not least is A Seat at the Table by Solange. If I were able to rank all these projects, A Seat at the Table would be my #1. This album was so important to 2016 as it tackled the everyday struggles of being a black woman today. Solange offers a glimpse in what it feels like to be and understand a black woman.  There is so much pain and emotion fostered into this and in a society where black women are too often defined solely by their emotions, she reminds us that it is okay to feel all of these things. We go through these transitions with her – from sad, to mad, to empowered, Solange does not just scratch the surface, she goes all the way in. Solange’s album addresses what’s needed to be said. We watch her go through many ups-and downs crafted by her soft-spoken voice. Even her skits by her parents were necessary in order to really grasp and understand her album. A Seat at the Table still tugs at my heartstrings and is the most necessary album of 2016.