Let me preface my list with saying that I hate lists. I hate ranking music. Music is subjective. I initially made this list as just my 25 favorites of 2015, but ended up forcing myself to rank it just to see what that practice would even be like. So this list is just about as subjective as a list can get. I tried to ignore any sort of objective views that I have, but they probably played a little role.
Something I noticed: my favorite songs really tended to be those that had the most plays, as well as title tracks. Won’t try to read something into that, just interesting.
The next thing I should say is this list is just my favorite hip-hop projects of 2015, it’s not inclusive of other genres. It’s also only my favorites that are available on SoundCloud. I don’t really know why I decided to do it that way, but I did. Some of these are mixtapes, some EP’s, LP’s, albums, etc. They’re all at least 5 songs.
Lastly, I want to point out that I think how recently I came across something and how much I’ve listened to it play a definite role. 3 of my Top 10 are projects I barely listened to until December. Leather Corduroys’ ‘Seasons’ came out on December 31st, 2014 (yes I’m still counting it for 2015) and I didn’t even know Leather Corduroys existed until November. Realistically, this list is still probably a work in progress.
With all this being said, I think I did a darned good job of placing things appropriately. If nothing else, just ignore where I put anything and listen to all of these projects.
25. 50 Cent – The Kanan Tape
Yes, he’s still releasing music. The Kanan Tape is pretty much just vintage Fifty. And it features Post Malone. So I like it.
Favorite Song: Tryna Fuck Me Over
24. Kirk Knight – Late Night Special
Kirk Knight has made a name for himself over the last four years with production credits and features on Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era’s work. The Pro finally came through with his own project this year, an almost exclusively self-produced effort. It’s clear that Kirk has a certain style of production reserved for himself. He’s no exception to the fact that all of Pro Era can just straight up spit, showcasing his lyrical prowess throughout the project.
Favorite Song: I Know
23. Hurt Everybody – 2K47
The coming together of Supa Bwe, Carl & Mulatto really materialized in 2015, 2K47 being their first effort as a group. It’s an aggressive, bold project, and it hits in a lot of the right places.
Favorite Song: 2K47
22. your old droog – Kinison
When your old droog came out with YOUR OLD DROOG EP and no one knew who the hell he was, there was a popular theory that it was really just Nas under another moniker. That’s not the case, but the point is: he’s mistakable for Nas. Not such a bad thing. He followed his debut with two EP’s this year, the first of which I preferred.
Favorite Song: Rage Against The Machine
21. Emmitt James – Hunger Pains
After an early 2015 move from Milwaukee to LA, Emmitt James dropped Hunger Pains in June. It’s super personal and musically enjoyable.
Favorite Song: ATM Fees
20. D.R.A.M. – GahDamn!
ChaCha isn’t even on here. D.R.A.M. had a great year, even with a bit of controversial press – all press is good press. His October project is one of my favorites.
Favorite Song: $
19. Lucien Parker – Take A Breath
The Minneapolis/Madison MC dropped Take A Breath in November and is heading out on tour in January. It’s a feel-good, reminiscent project with lots of jazzy vibes. As a friend described it, “it’s just nice”.
Favorite Song: Take A Breath
18. Taylor Bennett – Broad Shoulders
I was really impressed by this one. Drastic improvement. I just straight up did not like Bennett’s previous efforts. The overall quality of sound, production quality is much better. He really comes into his own, and doesn’t deserve to just be referred to as “Chance’s little brother”.
Favorite Song: Broad Shoulders
17. RahRah The Savage – Oh My Goodness
RahRah The Savage leans much more towards singing than rapping on his late 2015 effort, whereas his January project ‘Still Hungry’ is more focused on rapping. It was a good move – he has a catchy voice.
Favorite Song: By The Light Of The Sun
16. Towkio - .WAV Theory
SOX family makes another appearance. Towkio put together an awesome project in his own right. It’s very upbeat and fun for the most part. There’s rarely boring loops on .WAV Theory, there’s always something different and interesting going on throughout each song.
Favorite Song: Heaven Only Knows
15. Leather Corduroys - Season
Joey Purp and Kami de Chukwu feed off each other in the best way on ‘Season’, carrying a very effortless flow through the project. It seems Joey Purp may now be paving his own lane, so it remains to be seen if we’ll see another Leather Corduroys project soon.
Favorite Song: Badmon
14. Future – 56 Nights
In the year of Future, I became a Future fan. Of the ridiculous amount of work he put out, DS2 was my favorite, but 56 Nights a close second.
Favorite Song: 56 Nights
13. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf
A very diverse, cohesive and sonically pleasing project. It belongs to so many people. It’s cool how many people came together to create something. For whatever reason, this just lacked lots of replay value for me.
Favorite Song: Familiar
12. Odd Couple – Chatterbox
This had all of the replay value for me. Odd Couple has his own style of production. When I think “Odd Couple type beat” there’s a definite sound that comes to mind. He brings a bunch of dope artists to rap and sing over his production on this project, and it turned out super well.
Favorite Song: What Kings Do
11. Mick Jenkins – Wave[s]
Drink more water. Mick Jenkins came through in a big way on his sophomore project, not doing anything dramatically differently, but really building on what he established with The Water[s].
Favorite Song: Your Love
10. London O’Connor – Circle Triangle
If there were one project on here I had second thoughts about considering hip-hop, it’s this one. But, it is. It’s far from conventional, with lots of inspiration from electronic music among other genres, but it’s hip hop. I hope this list can help showcase what a diverse genre hip-hop is.
I like this. It’s cool.
Favorite Song: OATMEAL
9. Von Alexander – VON
Vonny Del Fresco became Von Alexander in 2015 and put out his first project under that moniker. Von really found his voice with this one, an improvement on his early 2015 ‘Memoirs’, with a big jump in plays to show for.
Favorite Song: Dreams
8. ILOVEMAKONNEN – ILOVEMAKONNEN 2
I love Makonnen. Okay no, that was way too corny. But it’s true. I was surprised how good of a follow-up this was. It bangs, like, crazily hard.
Favorite Song: Flippin All Night
7. IshDARR – Old Soul Young Spirit
IshDARR was Milwaukee’s biggest success of 2015, garnering national and even international attention for his OSYS project, including a European tour. Rightfully so. There are no misses on this one, hit after hit.
Favorite Song: Vibe
6. Trapo – The Black Beverly Hills EP
This project is so brief, powerful, to the point. Trapo has a gritty sound beyond his (17) years, and more than delivered on this debut.
Favorite Song: Tree
5. Cousin Stizz – Suffolk County
Suffolk County is full of slow-flow tracks that I can’t stop playing. It took me a good while to even get through it because I kept stopping and replaying tracks before I could get to the end.
Favorite Song: Fresh Prince
4. Smino – blkjuptr
Smino has a unique voice and mesh of rapping and singing. He’s quite good at both. Truthfully, I struggle to describe this project or compare it to something more than any other on this list. That’s a good thing. I’ll go with a Chance The Rapper comparison cause surely that won’t insult anyone.
Favorite Song: Runnin
3. Milo – So The Flies Don’t Come
“Wordsmith” is such an accurate thing to call Milo. He paints a picture like no one else, so intricate it can take more than a few listens to see. Milo has an established and respected discography, and “So The Flies Don’t Come” is my favorite to date.
Favorite Song: Zen Scientist
2. Mic Kellogg – Breakfast
Oh, the production. Oh, the vibes. The fact that Mic Kellogg did basically everything on this project himself blows me away. What I was describing with .WAV Theory rings even more true with Breakfast: there are so many sounds going on. Not a dull second. And this is a debut project… heavily looking forward to what’s next.
Favorite Song: Head Up
1. Kweku Collins – Say It Here, While It’s Safe
Numero uno. This just hit home with me super hard. It’s beautiful. Both in terms of what Kweku is saying and the sounds of the project. Again, I have an appreciation for producing your own music, and Kweku does the great majority of the production on here. SIHWIS is a prime example of blending genres with a hip-hop core, something common on this list.
Favorite Song: Howl