Best Music of 2015

I know what you're thinking.. we're like a third of a way into 2016 and you're only dropping this now?  I don't have a smart come back to that.  I've just been busy giving you not one dope podcast, but, two dope podcasts on a consistent basis this year, and I've been taking my talents to Dork Shelf to gush about Zootopia and Captain America: Civil War.

Sorry I'm late but now you'll finally know what kept my head nodding last year!

I think you'll find it's not just hip hop on here, and it's not just albums, there were some dope singles too!  Let's get started.

Albums

Rank/Album:
#20- If I Should Go Before You by City and Colour (October 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Ever since I realized City and Colour wasn't a band per se but Much Music's Leah Miller's main squeeze at Made In America, I've been interested.  I've flirted with thinking I'm a fan, because I dig his voice and he got me to like a Tragically Hip adjacent piece of music.  This album was a winner for me because it set a tone and I just happened to be in the mood for it.  It's a consistent piece of work with a voice I appreciate.  Ain't nothing wrong with that!

Rank/Album:
#19- Sremmlife by Rae Sremmurd (January 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
if you were a Kriss Kross fan, you get the appeal to Rae Sremmurd.  What was more impressive than anything else was the versatility in flows on display with this album.  I also have a soft spot for it because it was the music I listened to while I was in the hospital for 9 days last February.  I wouldn't put it as high up as Complex but I still see the value in this fun album!

Rank/Album:
#18- What A Time to Be Alive by Future & Drake (September 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
This has got to be the year of Future for me.  I actively disliked Future at a time.  But he just kept doing him, and I finally came around to his style of music.  While the album as a whole doesn't really feel like one body of work, it's still nice listening to the highlights from this album on repeat.

Rank/Album:
#17: Dark Sky Paradise by Big Sean (February 2015)

Stand out Track:

How:
I've always enjoyed Big Sean's style but felt like his albums had limited re-play value.  This album, however, stuck with me for longer.  I feel like I unfairly sleep on Big Sean, but this album made me feel like the next go-round will be what forces me to see Big Sean as more than someone who could murder you on your own track.

Rank/Album:
#16- The Incredible True Story by Logic (November 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I am a sucker for an album that feels like a narrative!  I feel like I should have been up on Logic before this album, but thanks to the RapRadar podcast and Logic's appearance on the Southpaw soundtrack, I'm finally on board!  Extra points for getting voice actor Steve Blum and the always interesting Will Poulter on the album!

Rank/Album:
#15- Tetsuo & Youth- Lupe Fiasco (January 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Well welcome back, Lupe!  This is the type of output that has me disregarding the other tomfoolery you get into on social media!  Not as personally engaging as your first two albums but the flow is back to matching the unique subject matter.  Looking forward to what's next.

Rank/Album:
#14- The Documentary 2 by The Game (October 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
When has an album sequel ever been that good?  this might be chalked up to lowered expectations but Jayceon actually surprised me and put out a top to bottom solid album!  Vibrant music with dope guest spots and mostly on point delivery from the main attraction!  The Drake assisted song doesn't hurt things either!

Rank/Album:
#13- Yours, Dreamily by The Arcs (September 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I'm a Black Keys fan.  I'm even a solo Dan Auerbach fan, so it's not too surprising that I'm a fan of the latest Auerbach endeavor!  I might just like that it's closer to Brothers era Black Keys, but still!  Some dope cruising around town music.

Rank/Album:
#12- Compton by Dr. Dre (August 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Remember when Dr. Dre said he was going to have an album narrated by Denzel?  Then remember when everyone and their mother was going to be on Detox?  I can't help but wish we were getting Detox in addition to Compton.  Either way, this is a solid album that doubles as a Kendrick and Anderson.Paak showcase so I'm not mad at that.  I'm also impressed that most people are on their A-game for this.  Xzibit and Game being two memorable guests who came out of nowhere.

Rank/Album:
#11- Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd (August 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I liked a grand total of one The Weeknd song before this album.  But what a doosey of a song it was!  I'm glad Abel was able to bring that magic to a much more consistent project!  An album that feels less sparse and much more soulful puts the Scarborough native on the list.

Rank/Album:
#10- Surf by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment (May 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I had very high expectations for the next Chance The Rapper outing and I was glad to see Chance show love to his team and put out a Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment album.  It does suffer from "compilation" set backs like an unfocused sound and carrying degrees of quality in the featured artist but the highs are so impressive.  You don't spit the first bars on The Life of Pablo without making a perfect song like "Sunday Candy!"

Rank/Album:
#9- How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine (May 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I feel like Florence Welch gets better each new album.  This has got to be the most palatable album she's put out to date.  I caught her performing at Osheaga last year and that really helps me connect with this album.  Good times were had by all!

Rank/Album:
#8- Big Grams by Big Grams (Big Boi & Phantogram) (September 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Do you like funky music?  Do you like Big Boi?  That's all that's required to enjoy this album but the seamless meshing of Phantogram and Big Boi is what really ups the ante and makes this album something special.  The concise track list ensures that there is no filter (although I'm not the biggest "Drum Machine" fan).  I'm down to catch a live Big Grams show and if they want to get 3 Stacks on the next album or get him on a remix that'd be fine with me too!

Rank/Album:
#7- Summertime Shootout by Fabolous (November 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Fabolous is a beast!  I know I compared him to Falcon from the MCU because he seems like he's perpetually on deck to be the MAN but this mixtape shows just how versatile Fab can be while pumping out original hits and re-purposing current hits to create something new and special.  This mixtape made me want to go back to writing new verses.

Rank/Album:
#6- To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (March 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Do you know what peer pressure is?  It's knowing you were wholeheartedly disappointed in an album while still feeling it's necessary to have it in your top 10 for the year.  I love Kendrick Lamar, but this album mostly felt like some nice songs and a bunch of rough drafts pieced together with a letter to 2 Pac.  I understand it's there are some noteworthy musical achievements on this album, but this album didn't come together for me like Kendrick's first album.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying I needed this album to sound like Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (even though the improvisational jazz feel to most songs was a bit tiresome for me).  I just wanted the album to feel a bit more cohesive.

Rank/Album:
#5- PRhyme (Deluxe) by PRhyme (December 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I can't help how much I enjoy Royce's delivery.  Getting a full album of Ryan Daniel over Preemo beats is truly a treat.  The original album came out in 2014 but an extended version featuring the likes of Black Thought, Joey Bada$$, and Logic means more bars from Nickle 9 and that's just swell!

Rank/Album:
#4- Darkest Before the Dawn: The Prelude by Pusha T (December 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
Pusha T has been getting progressively more menacing on the mic.  Showing no signs of feeling the pain of losing his brother and partner in rhyme, Pusha crafted quite the follow up to his first solo album!  With the help of Diddy and Timbaland behind the boards and the first verse by Beanie Sigel (post getting shot up) is a nice cherry on top!

Rank/Album:
#3- If You're Reading This it's Too Late by Drake (February 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
There was something about the confidence on display with this seemingly out of nowhere release that made me renew my Drake fan club membership with the quickness.  I know that this album also led to the ghostwriting allegations and Meek Mill (as well as Nicki Minaj seemingly) beef but the way my boy Aubrey conducted himself made me proud of the Raptor's number one cheerleader and T.Dot Hip Hop representer!

Rank/Album:
#2- The Album About Nothing by Wale (March 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
I've always been a Wale mixtape fan and then Wale album 1 time listener.  This was the first album that delivered on the promise that Wale constantly shows on his mixtapes.  It says a lot that even the involvement (and he does legitimately show up on multiple tracks) of Mr. "Kids these days are making it hard for me to be insensitive" in no way ruins the listening experience.  I'm happy he made Wale focus and deliver an amazing album!

Rank/Album:
#1- Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes (April 2015)

Stand out track:

How:
There is only one song on this album that I'm not in love with.  I even went to see them live on a whim one school night!  I knew the one Alabama Shakes song from their previous album but when my now fiancĂ©, Pauline, asked me to get her this album I decided to listen to it too and we ended up messaging each other all day about which songs we like and why till we realized we liked almost every single one!  I have no constructive criticism for this album, it's all good!

Singles

Rank/Single Name:
#10
- "What Do You Mean?" by Justin Bieber

How:
This isn't just mandatory Canadian content.  This is me admitting Justin got one.  I can't help but bop along to this song.  I couldn't get on board with the whole album but I'll gladly play this track and "Sorry" till someone tells me to shut it off!

Rank/Single Name:
#9
- "Sorry Not Sorry" by Bryson Tiller

How:
Sure I heard about Bryson via the Fabolous mixtape but this song still holds up with out Mr. F-A-B-O's contribution.  Plus anything that reminds me of my days playing the arcade version of Street Fighter at the hockey rink is pretty dope!

Rank/Single Name:
#8
- "Auction" by Puff Daddy (ft. Lil Kim/Styles P./King Los)

How:
Because that's the perks of having a Puff Daddy in the game!  Mr. Combs is able to capture a party and put it on wax for everyone to enjoy while reaching back to the Benjamin days with the roster and feel of the song!

Rank/Single Name:
#7
- "March Madness" by Future

How:
As I stated earlier, I was never a Future fan, but there's something you can't deny about this song.  It's not quite the next best rapper but it'll definitely get you hype, and that's gotta be worth something!

Rank/Single Name:
#6
- "Angels" By Chance The Rapper

How:
Chance The Rapper once again proving that he's got some of the most creative visuals!  He doesn't even need the videos since his music alone always has a way of brightening up your day!

Rank/Single Name:
#5
- "Bitch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna

How:
I can't get on board with people who didn't just zone out to this song.  The video might be a bit much, but this is a catchy song no matter how you slice it and it's not even on the album!  This was just for fun!

Rank/Single Name:
#4
- "R.I.C.O." by Meek Mill (ft. Drake)

How:
The song that started the rap beef that a Toronto rapper actually won!  Thank you Meek Mill for making Drake look cool even to some of his staunchest detractors!  And thank you Drake for this dope hook, verse, and overall 2015 filled with Toronto music wins!

Rank/Single Name:
#3
- "Commas" by Future

How:
This was the song that broke the seal.  Once I couldn't justify not getting into this song, I had to re-asses my views on Future.  I almost put this album on the top 20 but there just weren't' enough songs I could stand behind.  Either way, keep doing you, Future!

Rank/Single Name:
#2
- "Back to Back" by Drake

How:
Is this the biggest diss record that doubles as a club song?  Probably not, but boy did it feel good when Drake followed up the timid first response to Meek Mill with this track that people couldn't help quoting.

Rank/Single Name:
#1
- "Vice City" Jay Rock (ft. Black Hippy)

How:
Don't let my bit on TPAB fool you!  I'm a TDE fan through and through.  This song was exactly what I needed to keep believing!  I'll fight anyone who doesn't think ScHoolBoy Q didn't do his thing on this joint!

-YG