Peep This Joint: Top 5 Rap/RnB Albums of the Year

As the year winds down, it’s time to look back at all the outstanding albums that released this year!

Reflecting on the 2019 year’s lineup, it’s clear to see the lineup is stacked. From memorable debuts such as YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy to disappointing releases like Chance’s The Big Day and Kanye’s Jesus is King.

Nevertheless, a wide range of artists from all sides of the rap spectrum released music this year as we’ve seen with the dynamic Atlanta duo EarthGang releasing their debut, Mirrorland to the surprising posthumous project, One Of The Best Yet by legendary rap group Gangstarr. 

With not only the year but the decade coming to a close, I felt that it was right to go over what I personally think are the top releases this year for rap and R&B. It was a hard decision to whittle down my favorites to only five, but these are the albums I felt deserve some noise:

YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

Cover from: Stereogum

This album is a phenomenal debut for the young, up-and-coming rapper hailing from Maryland. He initially blew up through a remix of J-Cole’s “1985” that circulated the web and moved its way to the charts. From then on, things have only been going up for the young rapper as shown with his song “RNP,” featuring Anderson .Paak being produced and co-written by J-Cole himself just a year later. The lyrics and production in this project are nothing but top-tier so this definitely deserves to be in the top five of the year.

Tyler, the Creator – IGOR

Cover from: Twitter

Many wondered what direction Tyler would take for his album after the release of Flower Boy, which received both widespread critical and public acclaim. What resulted was the release of IGOR, which Tyler proudly proclaims is all self-written, produced and arranged. The rave reviews of Flower Boy led Tyler to tap into his creativity to create a unique album that sonically differs from his past discography. Exploring the journey of a love triangle, Tyler paints the emotional struggles experienced throughout the album. If you ask me, this project would be the number one release of the year.

Summer Walker – Over It

Cover from: Hypebae

Another stellar debut project that dropped this year was Over It by R&B singer Summer Walker. Dropping in October, this album proved to be a hit as it broke records by becoming the most-streamed album by an R&B female artist ever during its first week. After getting her song, “Girls Need Love” remixed by Drake, her popularity instantly skyrocketed. Her sultry vocals paired with the slow-groove production made this album a top contender for best R&B album of the year. 

Anderson .Paak – Ventura

Cover from: Consequence of Sound

Anderson .Paak came through this year with the release of his album, Ventura. This album came out just a year after the release of his fourth album Oxnard, which received some criticism for his rap-centric approach. It didn’t seem to bother him though as he came out strong this year with Ventura just 5 months after Oxnard’s release. Returning back to the soulful roots with this album, Paak recovered gracefully with this “return to form” album.

Gangstarr – One Of The Best Yet

Cover from: HipHopDx

One Of The Best Yet marks the end of the 16 year hiatus of legendary rap duo Gangstarr, which consists of rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier. The death of Guru back in 2006 resulted in DJ Premier losing access to all of his old verses until recently through legal action. Fortunately, once DJ Premier recovered his partner’s forgotten and unreleased material, he was able to make magic and produce beats that ultimately culminated into the album. One of my favorite aspects of this album was the fact that Guru’s verses have a timeless element since they are very relevant in today’s rap climate. Overall, this is a classic sounding album reminiscent of the 90s that sounds like a treat for backpackers. If you’re a fan of hard-hitting lyrics, this is the top release of the year for that category. 

With so many hard-hitting releases this year, there’s a lot of content to listen to in order to keep up. Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas or suggestions on what projects to catch up on. Peep these joints out!

Written by: Johann Oribello

Peep This Joint: Dave East – Survival Album Review

The buzz around Harlem rapper Dave East is larger than ever with the release of his debut album, Survival executively produced by the legend Nas himself. 

The album recently dropped on November 8th and features a star-studded cast of guest appearances such as Nas, Rick Ross, Teyana Taylor and Ty Dolla Sign. With a total of 20 songs that run for a little over an hour, it’s clear to see that East came prepared to tell his story to the masses.

He holds respect in the rap game as he has released numerous mixtapes and is adept at collaborating with both veteran guests such as Nas and Cam’ron as well as younger emcees like Gunna and A-Boogie. Over time he refined his signature gritty New York sound and it reflects with how polished Survival sounds. Since the release of his first mixtape in 2010, his debut album clearly portrays a seasoned rapper comfortable in his element as he gives listeners a glimpse into different parts of his life. 

A standout track from the album is the song, “On My Way 2 School” where he invites listeners to be in his shoes as he retells harsh experiences walking to school. East vividly paints how violent and dangerous the journey was just to go to school in a rough neighborhood: 

“On my way to school (On my way) / 

Nike’s and Adidas on my way to school (Either or) / 

You ever seen a homicide on your way to school? (Boom!) / 

You never seen your homie Mama cry on your way to school (Never).” 

Another standout song is “Mama I Made It” which is a love letter to the woman who raised him. The track exudes a classic ‘90s feel as East boasts his admiration for his mother. Reminiscing on the past when his mom slapped him when he “used to try to cuss” to brighter days today where “she aint never gotta worry ’bout no rent,” it’s clear to see the love. Having a song dedicated to your mother on an album is always a respectable and welcomed move and Dave East clearly outdid himself on this one.

The Harlem rapper revealed in an interview with legendary west coast radio host Big Boy that he listened to all of his favorite rappers’ first albums to prepare his mindset for his own.

“I went and played 50’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Snoop’s Doggystyle, Nas and Illmatic,” East said. “I played everybody’s first album just to see what their energy was at. Like ‘What time was you on when you knew this was your debut to the world?’.”

Overall the decision proved to be a wise move as his debut album is a shining example of his lyrical gift and vivid storytelling. This album is definitely one of the most solid albums released so far this year and is a must-listen. 

Go peep this joint right now!

Rating: 9/10

Written by: Johann Oribello

Peep This Joint: Mos Def – Black on Both Sides Album Review

October 12, 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of his universally lauded album, Black on Both Sides by legendary rapper Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def. 

This project marked his debut as a solo artist after receiving critical acclaim on his collaborative effort with another veteran rapper, Talib Kweli with their full-length LP, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star that released just a year before this project. 

Released in 1999, Black on Both Sides is a bonafide 90’s rap album that remains a hallmark and defining sound for underground boom-bap hip hop. Despite the vintage production style, Mos Def manages to utilize the sound to create a timeless record that stood the test of time and still bumps even today. 

Especially after the tragic deaths of Tupac and Biggie that nearly closed off the golden age of hip-hop, Black on Both Sides serves as a final hoorah to the definitive era.

Due to the album’s timeless feel despite its sound being centered around boom-bap, the album is universally praised as not only one of the best albums of that era but also of all time. The album stands as an ideal introduction to 90’s boom-bap due to its accessibility and timeless sound.

With passionate and thought-provoking lyrics mixed with an effortless flow dispersed throughout the project, it’s clear to see that Mos utilized the album to restore sociopolitical consciousness into the rap game and bring hip-hop back to its roots/foundation. 

The song, “Mathematics” is a prime example of this which is filled with meticulously-crafted lyrics and effortless delivery. Under a beat laced by legendary producer DJ Premier, the Mighty Mos Def addresses the racist prison industrial complex that particular targets people of color:

“When the average minimum wage is $5.15/

You best believe you’ve got to find a new grind to get cream/ 

The white unemployment rate is nearly more than triple for black/ 

Some front-liners got their gun in your back/ 

Bubbling crack, jewel theft and robbery to combat poverty/ 

And end up in the global jail economy/”

Regardless of the fact that this album came out in ‘99, many of the bars Mos spits are still relevant today. Mos reveals that many social issues that plagued the world then still exist today and time has shown that it has only gotten worse. Further in the same song, he spits about the growing use of government surveillance:

“40% of Americans own a cell phone/

So they can hear everything that you say when you ain’t home/

I guess Michael Jackson was right, you are not alone/”

Besides the overarching effort to spread awareness and enlighten his listeners, Mos does come through with more lighthearted tracks such as “Ms. Fat Booty” where he tells a story of a girl he met at a club who eventually ghosted him. He flexes his story-telling ability and his delivery demonstrates just how vivid of a picture he can paint with his bars. 

Some more standout tracks from the album that you should listen to include “Hip Hop”, “Do It Now” featuring Busta Rhymes, and “UMI Says”. 

As mentioned earlier, this project is flawless from top to bottom and is a shining example of sharp Mos Def’s pen and flow is. With a signature 90’s sound, he manages to create an album that stood the test of time sonically and is still relevant in today’s politically charged environment. 

Go peep this joint!

Rating: 10/10

Written by: Johann Oribello

Peep This Joint: Saba – Care for Me Album Review

Filled with an overwhelming sense of grief and emptiness, Chicago rapper Saba unveils the candid experience of losing a best friend over a senseless murder in his sophomore effort, Care for Me.

The album released last year on April 5 and highlights Saba’s emotions over the death of his cousin, Walter Long Jr.

In a time where mental health awareness is higher than it’s ever been historically, Care for Me provides a refreshing and therapeutic musical experience for those who’ve been through similar grief. 

The project begins with Saba singing, “I’m so alone” on the two-part track “BUSY/SIRENS” featuring R&B singer, theMIND. Lamenting over the loneliness of losing his right-hand man, the rawness of the track is palpable as Saba raps, “Jesus got killed for our sins, Walter got killed for a coat / I’m tryna cope, but it’s a part of me gone / In this packed room I’m alone.” 

Saba’s personal grief intimately captures and processes the darker side of mental health issues that individuals worldwide experience and can relate to. Tracks such as “BROKEN GIRLS,” “GREY,” and “LOGOUT” featuring Chance the Rapper explore notions of heartbreak, loneliness, and insecurities over social media.

Tracklist cover from: Genius

Despite these overarching somber themes, Saba skillfully structures and balances the tracklist with moments of light-hearted nostalgia. One track that exemplifies this is the track “SMILE” which recounts Saba’s childhood experience living with his grandmother. In it he expresses his desire to escape the confines of Chicago that remind him of his gloomier days, “All that I am is my family these days / Moment of madness I can’t seem to evade,” and “Our parents’ parents are from the South / And if I make a million dollars / I’ll vacation in the South.” Songs such as these help even out bleak nature of the album.

The most compelling record overall though is the penultimate track, “PROM/KING” which runs a lengthy seven-and-a-half minutes long. Despite the long runtime, the album reaches a climax with Saba at his most intimate and rawest form as he goes from recounting the details of his prom night where he first met Walter to describing his last interactions with him before receiving the news of his untimely death. 

Saba opens up the first part of the song harkening back to his earlier days as a young high school student rapping, “This remind me of before we had insomnia / Sleepin’ peacefully, never needed a pile of drugs.” Over piano keys and minimal drums, Saba flows effortlessly as he gives listeners the rundown on what happened during prom night. The production then switches as Saba turns the subject matter towards reminiscing on Walter’s final days. In the final bars of the song, Saba paints a vivid picture that reveals how he found out the news of his cousin’s death:

“Ten minutes into the session, I got a call from a number/ 

That I don’t got saved, but I answer anyways/

She says, ‘Hello, Malik, have you or Squeak/ 

Talked to my son today? He was just on the train’/

We got in the car but we didn’t know where to drive to

Fuck it, wherever you are my n–a, we’ll come and find you…”

As Saba spits the final verse, the drums on the beat speed up in an anxiety-inducing pace to convey the same anxiety Saba felt in his chest as Walter’s mother reveals to him that Walter is missing. 

Picture taken from: Genius

Overall, I consider this album to be a perfect 10/10 in my books. Through this album, Saba was able to put words into the same feelings and emotions of depression and anxiety that I’ve been struggling to deal with. In doing so, the Chicago rapper was able to produce a body of work that resonates not only with me, but countless other individuals going through times of grief and depression. If you’ve asked what my top rap album of 2018 was, Care for Me takes the spot.

For the love of hip-hop, please peep this joint if you haven’t already!

Rating: 10/10

Written by: Johann Oribello