Written by Caroline
2016 has been an amazing year for hip hop. Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West have dropped some gems helping the genre to continue to be an unstoppable force in the mainstream music industry. That’s not all there is to hip hop this year, however, and there are some amazing albums that have flown beneath the radar.
J Dilla – The Diary
The Diary was meant to be J Dilla’s debut as a major-label MC, but the project was abandoned in 2002. Due to record label bureaucracy, the mainstream public wouldn’t get to experience Dilla on the mic and he instead followed a more underground route. Now, years later, The Diary has been released. We can finally get a good idea of what J Dilla was all about as an MC.
Whatever you think of his rap skills, the overall album is a stunning mix of funky beats and impressive cameos from Bilal, Snoop Dogg and Nas. With all that to consider, you’ll definitely want to listen to The Diary and experience a well-hidden piece of rap history.
RJD2 – Dame Fortune
The sixth album from hip hop producer RJD2 is a great mix of old and new. We catch glimpses of the kind of cinematic beats that he’s produced in the past while looking forward to a newer style that features dark synths and progressive rock. Dame Fortune is a fantastic effort from RJD2, with so much going on that some listeners might feel like it’s too much. We’ll let you be the judge of that. Every track stands on its own as a solid, inspiring piece of art.
Masta Ace – The Falling Season
The Falling Season is the 11th studio album from hip hop icon Masta Ace. While he is best known for his braggadocio approach to lyricism, his 1990 debut Take a Look Around was more social commentary than anything else. In The Falling Season, Masta Ace returns to the roots that he planted over 25 years ago.
The album is a prequel to his life as a hip hop star and with it’s almost like listening to his life story over 24 tracks. Standouts include “Juanita Estefan” about his childhood crush and “Young Black Intelligent” about his freshman year in high school. With plenty of bumping beats and some very thoughtful lyrics, The Falling Season is worth listening to more than once.
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
The Impossible Kid takes a look at Aesop Rock’s childhood through his distinctive approach to songwriting. It contains abstract lyrics that are full of hallucinogenic imagery. It is also a demonstration of Aesop Rock’s talent as a producer. His samples feature garage band riffs, piano keys and plenty of synth sounds, making for a diverse and dreamy mix that serves as a beautiful backing to his thoughtful lyrics.
Saul Williams – MartyrLoserKing
Saul Williams is world-renowned as a spoken word poet but remains a hidden gem in the hip hop world. He has previously released five studio albums, but the hip hop community has yet to take really take notice of his lyrical mastery. MartyrLoserKing demonstrates his powerful songwriting skills as he comments on social justice in the digital era. The music is surreal and industrial. The lyrics are thought-provoking and heart-rending. If you’re in the mood for some musical activism, then MartyrLoserKing makes for a great listen.
Koi Child – Koi Child
Koi Child is a jazz/hip hop collective formed by Kashikoi and Child’s Play, and its self-titled debut album was produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. The album is a fantastic effort that should have hip hop heads eager to hear more. Koi Child seems inspired by artists like The Roots and De La Soul and influenced by Parker’s psychedelic touch. The result is a sound we haven’t really heard before from any hip hop artist. It deserves a lot more recognition as an amazing album that could take the genre in a new direction.
Put these albums on your playlist immediately and prepared to be amazed at what the hip hop community has been missing out on this year so far. They are all available on streaming services like Spotify, Google Play Music and Apple Music. If you find that you can’t stream any of these albums due to regional access issues, a Virtual Private Network like Buffered VPN should give you the access you need to give them a listen. If you like what you hear, go out and buy the album in order to support the artist!
Have we missed any hidden hip hop gems? Leave us a comment and let us know which albums you think should make the cut.
Author Bio: Caroline is a music blogger with a love of everything hip hop. From mainstream giants like Kanye West to more underground artists, she’s into it all.