DAR Music: 2016's Best Albums So Far

By @TrueGodImmortal

2016 looks to be a promising year for music for the most part. After a number of high profile releases, 2016 kicked off on the right foot. The 1st quarter of the year is coming to a close and today I wanted to look back at these releases so far and see how they fared quality wise. Let's get started.

*Kendrick Lamar- Untitled Unmastered

-This is the best release of the year so far, and it is an album of what has been called "throwaway tracks" from the TPAB sessions. In a way, you almost wish that these tracks were on TPAB and replaced songs like "Hood Politics" and maybe even "King Kunta". The songs are all untitled and marked with dates (I'm not so sure those dates are truly accurate, but that's me being skeptical as some of the lyrics seem more 2016 than 2013-2014), and every single song is something amazing. My favorites are Untitled 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7, but that means virtually nothing because I also love 1, 4, and 8. Essentially, Kendrick and TDE put together a possible classic EP that almost sounds better than the TPAB we got. For something that was reportedly thrown together and put out after a Lebron James tweet, one has to wonder what else Kendrick has in waiting in the archives or what his next move is musically. The whole world is listening.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

*HS(True God and Shokus Apollo)- The Outsiders 

-You know we had to include some of our official DAR music on the list. Why? Because it's that damn good. True and Apollo return with a short 12 song (13 if you count the bonus track) album that sees them combine their styles for a concise effort. The content sits between being personal, fun, and hopeful. Tracks like "Something About Her", "Never Fold", "Little Mexico", the high energy "Columbiana", and the summer scorcher "Brown Sugar" make this a truly complete album. Is it better than the HS debut "Upper Echelon"? That's honestly possible, as Upper Echelon was a bit more cluttered with about 17 songs,  while this takes a less is more approach. 12 songs of just True and Apollo with no guest appearances and a bit of experimentation musically makes this one of the best releases for the 1st quarter of the year easily.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

*Yo Gotti- The Art of Hustle 

-With his biggest hit this year in "Down In the DM" climbing up charts, Gotti released this album. This album is a solid release full of what you expect from Gotti. It's nothing really special, but it has enough of that classic trap sound and everything you could ask for from Gotti to really make it one of the best releases so far. Would it be on the best releases period once the year is over? Doubtful. But for now it is one of the more noteworthy releases.

Rating: 6 out of 10  

*BJ The Chicago Kid- In My Mind

-My no. 2 project of the year comes from the Chi-Town native, as his album is an amazing experience of listening to pure soul music. He is reminiscent of a D'Angelo or Bilal on some of these songs and you can tell that both have had a bit of an influence on him and his musical style. His best moments on this album come on the flawless "The Resume", which features Big KRIT and on the upbeat yet jazzy soul anthem "Turnin Me Up". He weaves through the album with a calm smoothness that shows in his vocals, and elevates songs like "Crazy" and the ballad to Chicago "Home". BJ has always had potential to craft something great and he reaches that potential with this album. He proves he can stand out from the other artists in the game following the trends or making similar music.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

*True God- The Road to SR3 

-In preparation for an album that will likely be on many top albums of the year lists, Soul Revival 3, True decides to give listeners a Lost Tapes-esque treat in some way. The Road To SR3 is essentially comprised of songs that were either leftovers from the Root For the Villain sessions or songs that were scrapped for the official Soul Revival 3 album. Soul Revival 3 was initially going to be a double album, but True changed the direction and thus The Road to SR3 was born over a 3 or 4 day period, almost in the way that Untitled Unmastered was (but before TDE released it). Songs such as the honest "Love Of The Game", the knocking "Kingdom", a rare experimental attempt at seduction in "Relaxation", and the smooth yet atmospheric "Foreign Soil", which sees True reaching the peak of his stress and asking for a break from the issues in life. This album, initially supposed to be an EP, is a solid listen and even with the leftovers, it Is definitely one of the best projects released so far this year.

Rating: 8 out of 10

*Future- Purple Reign/EVOL 

-I included these two together because they were released so quickly. Purple Reign saw almost a return to form for Future, as it was reminiscent of some of his past mixtape work. Meanwhile, the more polished EVOL features all the big anthems that Future became known for as his stock continued to rise. For Purple Reign, songs like "Drippin", "Salute", "Inside The Mattress" and "Never Forget" are top notch, while EVOL shines with "Lil Haiti Baby", "Photo Copied", "Ain't No Time", "Lie to Me", "Xanny Family", and "Seven Rings". Both are solid projects for the year and Future delivers in a different way with both projects.

Purple Reign: 6.5 out of 10
EVOL: 7 out of 10

*Marlow- Faith x Vices

-The DMV has many up and coming artists musically. One artist who is currently on the rise is Marlow, and he hits us with a dope project in Faith x Vice$. On tracks like "The Desire", "Win", "Keep Faith", and "Reagan Flow", Marlow mixes relatable lyrics with a bit of wit and brutal honesty. Check for it on Spinrilla now and soon on iTunes, Spotify and other music outlets.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

*Rihanna- ANTI 

-This album was met with understandable mixed reviews. Sales wise, it's been certified platinum, though it hasn't truly sold anything close to a million records. Regardless, this album is an interesting piece of work, as Rihanna comes through with her usual abrasive style of anthems, including the huge first single "Work" featuring Drake. The album has been called by some her best work, and by others it's been called a middle of the road album. You'd have to judge for yourself but I think it's a decent listen.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

*Kanye West- The Life of Pablo

-After our initial review of it, I found myself not really interested in hearing TLOP much anymore. For one, it doesn't seem to be finished and there may end up being a different version released, but the one that is out now is a solid release that still somehow misses the mark in important areas like lyricism. The features tend to drown out Kanye a bit too much, while the production on this album is top notch. Upon more listens, it became apparent that the album lacks a bit of replay value, but songs such as "30 Hours", "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1", and the single "No More Parties in LA" are all amazing listens. With 2 more albums set this year, who knows what Kanye has left in store.

Rating: 7 out of 10

*2 Chainz and Lil Wayne- Collegrove 

-Wayne and 2 Chainz combine for a full length project that exceeds expectations in many ways. Wayne sounds more hungry than he has in years and Chainz sounds like he's definitely prepared to make his legacy stronger in hip hop. On songs like "Gotta Lotta", "Dedication", "Bounce", and more, there's a lot of synergy between the two and each shines bright at what they do best. Creatively it isn't anything special, but as far as a solid listen, it works.

Rating: 6 out of 10

*TEAM DAR- Leviticus 

-The third release from the DAR collective is quite possibly the best music released together that they've done. With a more mature and melodic sound this go round, True, Ax, Apollo, and on 4 occasions Speed all combine to make a very solid album. The infectious hooks are all around as True and Apollo split the hook duties throughout the album, as "Good Times", "Sky High", "Like That", and "Follow Me Now" all benefit from infectious hooks on top of solid verses. This album isn't full of too many heavy topics either, but it is a great listen all the way through. Check it out for sure.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

*Anderson .Paak- Malibu

-The Dr. Dre cosigned artist with an interesting flare and voice, this album is a solid collection of songs, though it does actually leave a bit to be desired. Anderson is a very good artist with smooth vocals and his albums has very good production, and songs like "Come Down", "The Season/Carry Me", and my favorite "The Waters" make this an enjoyable listen all the way through. Nothing but good music, though we can tell Anderson hasn't reached full potential yet.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

*Esperanza Spalding- Emily D+Evolution 

-This album being here might shock you. Esperanza is a slept on artist with a lot of talent and this album shows her moving in a slightly different direction with her music. From the opening sounds of "Good Lava", you see her evolution grow into a hybrid of Prince meets a Janelle Monae tinged with a small bit of Andre 3000 sensibility as well. Songs like "Funk the Fear", as well as "Ebony and Ivy" fill out a truly solid album from a slept on talent making a triumphant return by doing what she wants to do. And doing it very well.

Rating: 8 out of 10 

This year is full of possible big album releases, so stay tuned for more dope music, and if you see an album you liked this year missing from the list, post it below in the comments.



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