Unless we develop some Men in Black technology to blissfully erase it from memory, 2016 will limp to the finish as one of the bleaker years in recorded history. It’s safe to say that the only true victors of the last 12 months were Anderson .Paak, YG and Gucci Mane. And even then, the Atlanta trap pioneer was locked up for half of it.
No, 2016 was the equivalent of an acoustic ukulele serenade from Crazy Town, except Donald Trump played the role of Shifty Shellshock, lasciviously cooing false promises in the ears of Ivanka and the silently rotting majority of Middle Americans.
For all the gloom and despair, bright spots emerged. In particular, West Coast rap continued a glory age unseen since Dr. Dre left Death Row. The beat and funk scenes continued to evolve and expand, influencing everyone from Radiohead to Bruno Mars. Frank Ocean finally dropped a new album, which might not have been the masterpiece some claimed but captured the torpor and ennui of the year with understated elegance.
G Perico, Kadhja Bonet and Cam & China dropped some of the best official debuts of the decade. Local underground heroes DJ Dodger Stadium somehow wound up being the hidden soul of Kanye’s The Life of Pablo. And if nothing else, we’ll always have “Fuck Donald Trump” to scream while speeding on the freeway, protesting or staring Stuart Smalley–like in the mirror — a minor victory amidst madness.
With that in mind, it’s time for that semi-annual tradition — ranking albums via haiku — as both Basho and Bowie intended. These are my favorite albums from the second half of 2016.
10. Daedelus, Labyrinths (Magical Properties)
Stumbling through the maze
Alfred always finds the map
A modern legend
9. Dawn, Redemption (Local Action)
Bad Boy to Blackheart
New Orleans meets avant beats
Best rhythm and blues
8. The Gaslamp Killer, Instrumentalepathy (Cuss)
Beauty in chaos
Post–near death experience
The Killer finds peace
7. Cam & China, Cam & China EP (self-released)
Best siblings since Clipse
Crush broke boys and the trifling
They gonna make it
6. Delroy Edwards, Hangin’ at the Beach (L.A. Club Resource)
A trip to Big Sur
Leads to warped, dazed rebel beats
A cold beach classic
5. Kadhja Bonet, The Visitor (Fat Possum/Fresh Selects)
Of psychedelic soul bliss
A timeless visit
4. Vince Staples, Prima Donna (Def Jam)
War-ready from womb
Best Long Beach export since Snoop
The king of the norf
3. G Perico, Shit Don’t Stop (So Way Out)
Like Too $hort meets Quik
Except a South Central G
Gangsta rap can’t die
2. NxWorries, Yes, Lawd! (Stones Throw)
If there’s a drought here
Anderson is winning big
A Lord’s evidence
1. Isaiah Rashad, The Sun’s Tirade (TDE)
Fights substance abuse and fame
He found the topics
The Next Five:
clipping., Splendor and Misery (Sub Pop/Death Bomb Arc)
XL Middleton + Eddy Funkster, XL Middleton + Eddy Funkster (Mo Funk)
Frank Ocean, Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry)
Schoolboy Q, Blank Face (TDE)
Boogie, Thirst 48 2 (Interscope)
Ty Dolla Sign, Campaign; Tim Presley, The Wink; Newman Wolf, Please Keep Talking; Morgan Delt, Phase Zero; DJ Mustard, Cold Summer; Warm Brew, Diagnosis; Zeroh, Emissions/Tinnitus; Blu + Fate, Open Your Optics to Optimism; Crem’e, Close Up; Josef Leimberg, Astral Progressions; Dumfoundead, We Might Die; Far East Movement, Identity; Low Leaf, Palm Psalms; King Henry, Don’t Stay Away; Mild High Club, Skiptracing; Local Natives, Sunlit Youth; Weyes Blood, Front Row Seat to Earth; Devonwho, Luz; Adrian Younge, The Electronique Void.
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