Prince is Dead. Phife is dead. Sharon Jones is dead. Kanye is in the hospital. And Donald Trump is president. Let’s not deny the fact that 2016 will go down as one of the craziest years in history and with every passing day it seems like it will get worse before it gets better.
But this article is not about dwelling on the negative. It’s about celebrating the positive. We have made so many creative strides that we have taken. 2016 was a damn good year for culture. Don’t forget that.
The Best Underheard Music of 2016
Low Leaf – Palm Psalms: A Light to Resolve All Darkness
Yes a lot of big albums dropped this year but this ear worm from our spirit animal Low Leaf stays on repeat.
BADBADNOTGOOD – IV
Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD – Sour Soul (2015 album but including it here anyway)
These Canadians are consistently one upping themselves with their groundbreaking intersection of jazz, hip-hop, and everything in between. Their 2016 album IV is more experimental than past, but is a solid look, while hip-hop heads will need to stream the slept on Ghostface collaboration from 2015.
Yuna – Crush (feat Usher)
The most slept on R&B song of 2016.
Charlotte Day Wilson – CDW
Mesmerizing voice. Still speechless.
Christine and the Queens – No Harm Is Done (feat Tunji Ige)
This song is from 2015, however Christine and the Queens has been bubbling up in America in 2016.
Tom Misch – Reverie EP
Another solid release from one of my favorite voices of 2015.
Bas – Too High To Riot
Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component
Innate James – Quebec Place
Claremont James – The Quest for Milk and Honey
All four of these rappers bring something new to the table. If you were frustrated by hip-hop in 2016 (and you shouldn’t be), give these projects a spin.
Proof That Hip-Hop Is Not Dead Yet
Dave Chappelle is Back
New Tribe Album
J-Cole – “False Prophets”
Old school hip-hop may have taken a blow from “mumble rap” (old man right here), but there were so much solid material in the genre this year that it was hard to notice.
Kanye Being Kanye
You love him. You hate him. But the dude dropped one of the more interesting (if incoherent) albums of the year in Life of Pablo. In addition, his stage show will go down as the most iconic in history. Get well soon Kanye and please run for president in 2020.
You can Now Experiment in Music….and Get Paid Too
Donald Glover – Awaken, My Love
Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Let’s just think about this. All three artists made some of the more risk-taking albums that music has seen in a while. Awaken, My Love will not even going to make my top 10, but I must respect Donald Glover for taking switching up the game. Kendrick’s b-side album got way more spins than the “official” Pimp A Butterfly album in my iPhone, and Ocean’s two album drop was the cinematic high-brow art that the culture didn’t expect or know it needed.
Drake – Views
This is the album that everybody loves to hate. It’s too long. It’s too dreary. Drake is whiney. As much as I wanted to hate this album, I always come back to it. Because Drake has the best producers in the world right now (view the YouTube video below). Also, only Drizzy can ride, One Dance, a UK Funky-inspired track to become the number one song in the world. This album is way more experimental than people give it credit for.
Knowles Stay Knowlin’
Solange – A Seat At The Table
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Beyoncé – Formation at the Super Bowl
The Knowles sisters combined activism with pop music in a way that most artists would be scared to do. They spoke their mind and (at least Beyonce) is still collecting checks. People will study this.
Dudes who Came up (or need to….)
More people need to be up on this dude. Kay continues to make amazing danceable, and soulful, electronic music. Let’s hope more people notice in 2017. Also, the BEST VIDEO of 2016.
SO glad to see this dude blowing up this year. Most people know Malibu, but please check the Nx Worries release too.
Reasons Why Apple Still Takes My Money
Julie Adenuga on Beats 1
Abstract Radio (Q-Tip)
How many people actually listen to Apple Music Beats radio? I have the slightest idea (and Apple won’t tell you) but I hope it’s in the millions (it’s probably not). Regardless Julie Adenoma is my default listen every weekday, and Pharrell’s Othertone and Q-Tip’s Abstract Radio remind me of my radio show in college, giving artists the freedom to do whatever they want, ratings be dammed.
Rihanna – Anti
Drake feat Rihanna – Too Good
Rihanna has truly impressed me this year. Anti is probably the best pop album of the year (if it wasn’t for Lemonade), and saw her taking more risks than ever while still maintaining her “good girl gone bad” persona.
Jazz is still alive
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Josef Leimberg – Astral Progressions
The Best Music Stories of 2016
The best rap story of 2016. An openly gay rapper challenging the rap norms playing (and winning) said rap game. It was bound to happen.
Just a happy dude.
Yep, We’re Still in The Golden Age of Television
Chewing Gum (Netflix)
It’s about time the Black Experience can be reflected on screen without resorting to tired tropes, slavery, or Tyler Perry references. These three shows demonstrate that we can be as awkward an insecure as the rest of ’em.
This Is Us (NBC)
Watch the Thanksgiving episode. Cry. Realize that it’s the best Thanksgiving episode of any television show ever. Also realize that Sterling K. Brown needs all the Emmys. Again.
Netflix Allowing Video Downloads
When you must Netflix and Chill and you didn’t pay your internet bill.
Game of Thrones – Battle of the Bastards (HBO)
The most epic TV scene ever. I would pay good money to watch this in a theatre. And then pay to watch it again.
Last Chance U (Netflix)
Much is made of NFL Stars, but not much is discussed about the 99% of people who struggle just to get on the roster.
Warning. This documentary will make you want to throw things at your TV.
American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson (FX)
OJ Simpson: Made in America (ESPN)
I thought we would be tired of talking about OJ Simpson but I was wrong. Both of these projects came at the perfect time in America, and the former deserved all the Emmys it got.
Adam Ruins Everything (TruTv)
This dude single-handedly let you know that all of the things you grew up with are nothing more than a corporate conspiracy. Stay woke.
I Am Princess Shaw (Netflix)
Pretty cool music-related documentary, and a good reflection of what people do to “make it” in the industry these days.
There is Only One Move You Need to See This Year Tho…
Best movie of the year hands down. Still leaving me speechless.
The Tesla Model 3
Tesla Dropped a Car and it seemed like everybody on my timelinie paid $1000 to be on a waiting list. Not mad at this (but will choose to spend my $100 elsewhere).
In an era of “post fact” and “fake news” these hipsters are doing their best to fight the good fight.
The PRISMA App
Will this put artists out of business? I hope not, but it’s amazing to see what technology can do in the palm of your hand.
If you love tech, love apps, and tolerate that Silicon Valley lifestyle, then Product Hunt is for you.
Snapchat for Introverts. Most of y’all know that I hate Snapchat, so I’m not mad at Instagram straight jacking Snapchat’s stories this year. So far, the stories on IG are way more poignant and less “look at me I’m doing things!!!” You know what I’m talking about.
The Best YouTube Video Essays You May Have Missed
Vox – Rapping Deconstructed
KaptianKristian – Godzilla – The Soul of Japan – I’m not a comic book nerd by any means, but it’s such a rarity these days to see someone tackle a subject with such passion. Whoever this KaptianKristian is, he’s turned me on to things, like obscure Japanese Anime, that I would never check otherwise. Also the music selection is fabulous.
Nerdwriter – DECONSTRUCTED – DRAKE – Feel No Ways
The Listens of 2016
Embedded Podcast – The Immigrant (NPR)
Listening to this podcast episode will make you feel things. Glad to see NPR going past the inflammatory headlines to focus on the people behind the story.
Again, not a comic book nerd, but I support and listen to FanBros weekly. Their mix of comic book culture and activism is sorely needed.
Open for Business
Entrepreneur? Get inspired here.
Very Smart Brothas
Cause people need to be called out for their shit.
I was mad when ESPN publication Grantland folded. The Ringer is basically the same writers, and the same style. Not original, but I’m not mad nonetheless.
The Shaw Bijou (Washington, DC)
Leona (Los Angeles)
Cool to see people you know realize their dreams and open restaurants. Can’t wait to check all of these soon.
Crew Collective (Montreal)
New York Public Library (53rd Street Branch)
The new offices away from home. I’m a sucker for good design and free wi-fi.
The Flight Deal
Purists may hate, but these three things have allowed more people (and more people of color) to see the world than ever before.
Normalized Relations With Cuba
Because why not? Get your $200 flights before this is reversed next year.
These Harlem dudes are bringing Ginger drinks to the masses. This drink is life.