Top 10 Hip Hop and R&B
Ariana Grande - Sweetener
Drake - Scorpion
Mariah Carey- Caution
J.I.D - Dicaprio 2
Tierra Whack - Whack World
Pusha T - Daytona
Black Milk - Fever
Kali Uchis - Isolation
Noname - Room 25
Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs
A list that proves that I can sort of keep up with the times! I had an easier relationship this year with this kind of music in terms of what the criticosphere likes. There was a world where a certain 23 minute album was pretty high on the list and maybe even a different 23 album was somewhere on there too, though. But just like the CEO of America, I am trying to drop names as little as possible with people who do horrible things seemingly just so people will drop their names. It could be argued that I've already fed into it now. Anyways, I was even pretty sure I wouldn't put Daytona on the list at one point, but actually the main beef it concerns itself with is actually with Drake, who is, well, another questionable presence. Really, I might be on the wrong side of history by listening to and enjoying the content from a lot of these artists, but only time will really tell what the public decides or what I decide is a step too far to morally enjoy art.
The number one slot is not too controversial here, unless you're a Janelle Monae or Cardi B fan like…most of the internet. I don't like either enough to listen repeatedly, but I sure put on Sweetener a lot! Ariana represents innocent escapism combined with the average-measure harrowing life of being the biggest pop star in the world and she somehow seems to cope with it all pretty damn well. Maybe she's a normal person who is 25 and worth 50 million dollars, or maybe it's that she's just been a professional entertainer for 10 years now. I'm off topic again - Sweetener is full of effortlessly amazing vocal performances, musings on love, loss, and stress, and somehow doesn't get pulled too far off track by the huge hit singles.
Number 2 is where I'm going to lose most people, but Scorpion is Drake's best album and a huge achievement. The biggest problem is clearly the running time, and it reminds me of how people wouldn't give Have One on Me a fair shake (this is a questionable comparison). Drake has been the center of controversy this year and I don't really think he's a good guy or a nice guy, but he's still basically the best at music, which is what I fancy myself a critic of. When he does things musically, the world takes years to catch up, but if you ape him well enough, you might get rich, too. It really comes down to the songs though: there are a lot of hits here - a handful on the first disc, and even more on the second. The key to liking this is appreciating the excess that is on display while appreciating that it is actually a fairly lean set of songs if viewed through Drake's canon and hip hop in general. Set aside 90 minutes and see how it goes for you.
Mariah Carey is someone who Ariana is indebted to vocally, and now it feels like Mariah is indebted to Ariana in production. This ends up being a good thing for Caution, which is a very consistent and modern release for the OG diva. Also new in my life is J.I.D., a hugely talented wordsmith and songwriter who mashes syllables together in a way that feels very fresh if not completely new to the world. Dicaprio 2 is a normal hip hop album in many ways (skits and all!), except it's really good.
Tierra Whack's Whack World is anything but normal and comes with a huge asterisk - it should be watched before listened to. I've found it easy (really easy) to appreciate it in pure aural form after watching, but it's a multimedia experience. I decided to include Pusha T on the list as I mentioned above as it is the best of the Montana releases and really very good. Black Milk's Fever is really an uncontroversial inclusion, as it is just solid, smooth, jazzy hip hop.
Rounding out the list, Kali Uchis Isolation is fun and infectous, Noname's Room 25 is slightly disappointing but only if you've listened to Telefone, and Earl Sweatshirt's weirdo Some Rap Songs is well worth your time.