REVOLT's Year End Review kicked off Monday, as we explored the #FirstTake albums, debuts that knocked it out of the park. Today, we go to the opposite end of the spectrum: Albums that were tragically, confusingly, slept on.
This year in music saw many of our favorite artists, both old and new, release albums marked by unexpected risks and surprising turns. The projects below took us along on journeys well worth the price of admission; however, for some reason, their flights of fancy went unappreciated by the masses. That's too bad; guess they just have to #RestUp. Here are REVOLT's picks for the year's most unexpected, yet underrated, releases:
YG, Still Brazy
Leave it to YG to turn turbulence into triumph. On Still Brazy, the Compton rapper is, well, still “unbomfortable.” In channeling his cask of frustration, YG discovered the magnitude behind his voice and came out as a mouthpiece for both his city and this generation. “FDT” fittingly captured the tone and chronicled 2016 more than any other record released within — and outside of — rap. The depth behind “Blacks & Browns” creates what is arguably one of the most poignant collaborations in recent memory. “Who Shot Me?” is YG at his most vulnerable. Although he got snubbed for a Best Rap Album nod at the 2017 Grammys, no one can deny Gizzle’s balm, brooding, and beautiful opus. Word is bond. —Ralph Bristout
Jesse Boykins III, Bartholomew
JB3’s 2014 project Love Apparatus featured electro-R&B tracks that were ethereal, even cold at times, he admitted, having been recorded in pieces while on tour in frigid European countries. If that album was atmospheric, 2016's Bartholomew was oceanic. Delivered after a move to Los Angeles, Bart sticks to similar lyrical themes of self-love, acceptance, and appreciation for women, but musically, the album sounds downright sunny. Not only did he lighten things up, he also departed from Love Apparatus by securing a bevy of features. Luke James, Dej Loaf, Noname, Trinidad James, and more step into Boykins’s world, but he never gets upstaged. Making a strong case for the gravity of Boykins’s individuality, his guests meld and mesh energies to create art on his terms. You'd think all that star power would be enough to draw a crowd, but alas, JB3's uphill climb continues. —Driadonna Roland
ScHoolboy Q, Blank Face LP
Of the year’s prolific releases, ScHoolboy’s second major-label album went overlooked even as one of the more solid projects to drop. The TDE emcee managed to offer an album depicting his perspective on life in the two years following Oxymoron, and more importantly as a father. While the changes aren’t dramatic to the music, the album’s lyrical content builds upon a newfound level of compassion and comfort. But even though it was backed by the Kanye West-featured “That Part,” it seems listeners didn’t bother to give the Blank Face LP a fair shake, as it seemed to be forgotten by summer’s end. Throughout the 17-track set, Groovy Q takes listeners on another journey through the shell-cased asphalt of South Central, jam-packed with bouts of violence, gang life, of course, and an impressive moment of reflection in the form of “Black THoughts.” The Blank Face LP may find its respect when the [marijuana] smoke clears. —Rob Hansen**
A$AP Ferg, Always Strive and Prosper
Evolving from the rowdy and rugged Trap Lord, his 2013 debut, A$AP Ferg becomes Hood Pope on the follow-up — his most earnest, ambitious, stimulating, and personal project to date. It’s almost like the rapper’s own self-produced version of Boyz N The Hood, as he dedicates the 18-tracks to recalling his coming of age, in which he played both the roles of Doughboy and Trey, through a myriad of sounds. There’s house-driven pop (“Strive”), 1970s-style soul (“Beautiful People”), '90s R&B (“I Love You”), and shrieky EDM (“Hungry Ham”) — all of this is pieced together to highlight the vibrant hues within Ferg’s as-told-to effort.
As an undeniable record within Ferg’s short discography, Prosper failed to get the attention it rightfully deserved. Still, that’s no fault of his own. The rest of the music map will just have to play catch up. Long gone are the days when Ferg played A$AP Mob's second fiddle. Trap Lord is gone; all hail the Hood Pope. —RB
Mick Jenkins, The Healing Component
If you've been following Mick Jenkins's career then you know that his debut album The Healing Component, was the huge build-up from his three previous mixtapes, Trees and Truth, The Water[s], and Wave[s], that finally answers the question, “What is the meaning of love?”Rarely do rappers talk about the true meaning of love, but throughout his career, Jenkins has been constantly trying to define it through the use of conceptualized bodies of work; on THC he finally gets it right. Much like fellow Chicago native Chance The Rapper, Jenkins' THC delivers messages of promise, optimism, aspiration, and the idea that all you need in life is faith and love.
However, after going above and beyond his fans’ expectations, for some reason THC didn’t impact hip-hop this year the way many people expected, and literally almost everyone was talking about Jenkins. Perhaps love is too complicated of a subject for most to think they understand. Everyone has their owns ideologies of what love is; maybe Mick Jenkins’s answer wasn’t it. —Asia Howard
Ari Lennox, PHO
PHO is only 22 minutes long and yet, by the end, you know exactly who Ari Lennox is as an artist. There’s no gratuitous fluff or gimmicks, every second optimized to introduce you to the Dreamville signee in a way that won’t leave you with questions. Powerful with a nasal lilt, her voice recalls Amy Winehouse, as does her storytelling, and she delivers modernized R&B that gives charming and nuanced nods to jazz and funk. Plus, she can make an expletive sound like a lullaby. —Danielle Cheesman
Mac Miller, The Divine Feminine
The Divine Feminine is the album no one saw coming; personal, tender, sexy — just one spin of the two-step inducing single "Dang!" feat Anderson. Paak told you this joint was gonna be different. And it was; Feminine was the perfect marriage of hip-hop and R&B that was a complete departure from the stoner-frat-bro persona Miller had come to be known for. With every saxophone trill, the groovy album showed us that anyone is capable of change, as Miller matured from the guy you were ashamed to say you dated to the man you introduce to your parents. —DR