Writer Patrick Dennis Jr. on hidden musical gems in 2016

The music world lost a lot of legends in 2016 including Prince, Phife Dawg and George Michael, just to name a few. For many, 2017 couldn’t get here fast enough, but let’s not forget that the past year in music did give us several gems. We heard new artists emerge and established acts return to form.

The albums listed here are in no particular order and I’ve purposely left off albums and artists that garnered mainstream success. These are the albums you probably slept on while Beyoncé’s Lemonade or Drake’s Views played on repeat. Here are my picks for the albums you need to hear from 2016.

SEPT. 5th (dvsn)

So much mystery surrounded the Toronto duo consisting of producer Paul Jefferies (Nineteen85) and singer Daniel Daley before the release of their debut album in April. Like other OVO Sound artists their identities remained hidden for some time, as the music spoke for itself. The alternative R&B sounding album peaked at number 17 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart led by the single “Hallucinations.” SEPT. 5th is a perfect example of the shift in today’s R&B music. The combination of Daley’s smooth vocals and Jefferies’ trap-inspired beats make for one of the best R&B albums of the year.

Malibu (Anderson .Paak)

This may have been Anderson .Paak’s third studio album, but for many Malibu represented the first time they got to hear him in all his glory. The California native experienced a breakthrough in 2016 as the former church drummer boy brought his gospel-inspired melodies to the forefront. With his raspy voice, .Paak delivers a soulfulness that is full of character and volume (“Heart Don’t Stand a Chance”). Being the drummer he is .Paak pounds in elements of funk (“Lite Weight”) and isn’t afraid to drop a few bars as well. Malibu features guest spots from The Game (“Room in Here”), ScHoolboy Q (“Am I Wrong”) and Rapsody (“Without You”).

99.9% (KAYTRANADA)

If his debut album is any indication of what this Montreal native is capable of, the rest of the music world better take notice. 99.9% is a cross genre album that will easily satisfy fans across the board. With guest appearances from Craig David on “Got it Good”, Phonte on “One Too Many”, AlunaGeorge on “Together” and Anderson .Paak on “Glowed Up”, 99.9% is an album you can play from start to finish without skipping a track. Kaytranada’s versatility is on full display throughout the album as he guides listeners through a rollercoaster of musical masterpieces.

PHO (Ari Lennox)

While Ari Lennox may be a newcomer on the scene, her noticeable musical influences are far from it. Lennox sounds like a young Erykah Badu, especially on “Yuengling” and her breakout song “Backseat”. Her sultry vocals and sensual lyrics speak to a woman who commands attention and knows what she wants on “Cold Outside”. In 2015, she signed onto J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, so here’s to hoping we hear more from her. With only seven songs PHO is a tease, but one that is well worth it.

We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (A Tribe Called Quest)

What can only be described as a fitting end to one of the legendary crews in hip-hop history, the final album from ATCQ is a true masterpiece in which every member truly shines. The album is a rap nerd’s fantasy and features appearances from Andre 3000, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. “Black Spasmodic” is a throwback to many of the crew’s earlier sounds. Phife proves why he was known as the 5-foot assassin with his unapologetic flow. For an entire generation that grew up listening to A Tribe Called Quest, the album is a welcome break from today’s rap trends. Make no mistakes though, this album was made for 2016, from the subject matter to the beats. Songs like “Dis Generation” see the group bridge the generational gap and pass the torch to artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, and J. Cole.

Main Photo © Anthony Ameyaw & Urbanology Magazine