We’re keeping things simple: #SimplyTheBest. Justin Bieber, Big Sean, Drake and Future, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd released the pound-for-pound best projects of 2015. Here, we examine these albums and explain just why they all stayed in heavy rotation throughout REVOLT’s HQ this year.

Justin Bieber, Purpose

Purpose is an album Justin Bieber had to make. Not just for the sake of his fans, but rather an introspective take on of his growth through trial and error. And say what you will about the 21-year-old Canadian crooner, but Justin Bieber is well on his way of becoming the next pop icon of his generation.

Coming full circle from his early hair-tossed, sympathizing boy-band lyrics on his debut studio album My World 2.0, Biebs has cleaned up his style, for a shift into what seems to be a more humble, confident and grown-up state of mind. It’s no longer just about image or controversial headlines, Purpose is a translation to Bieber’s high-profile life, the relations he’s had along the way and a reflection to his devotion as one of the biggest contributing names to the state of pop and R&B.

The project is accompanied by his tell-all sense of lyrical transparency, which resounds on an experimental pop chord, with a few slightly coveted country-rock ballads for everybody to attach to in so many ways. Justin Bieber’s Purpose is a snapshot of where he is, and his destiny to turn skeptics into born-again Beliebers.—Shanté Merida

Big Sean, Dark Sky Paradise

If there was any award to pin on Big Sean this year, the most fitting honor would be Most Improved Player. Sure, he’s worthy of a Most Valuable Player nod (Find out why on the remixes to “Commas” and “Used To”), but overlooking the big hurdle that this Detroit Lion climbed in 2015, graduating from underdog to big dawg, would be like denying Cam Newton’s stake as a franchise quarterback. While he’s showed signs of potential in the past, thanks to the made-for-radio Finally Famous and Hall of Fame the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer, Sean hoists himself above the clouds as a dominant emcee on his third and best record yet, Dark Sky Paradise.

With material as solid as his Rollie, the music on his junior set finds Sean finally coming into his own as top contending MC. “Paradise” remains one of the year’s most unfuckwittable records, while the Grammy-nominated “One Man Can Change the World” happens to be as beautiful as its award-winning music video. “Blessings” and “I Know” are among the RIAA-certified gems from the LP, and, yes, the ubiquitous “IDFWU” gave Sean his biggest career smash with a 4x Platinum outing.

“I just gotta thank God that we got it,” he raps on the “Way up” meme-generating smash “Blessings.” After spending years engulfed in dark clouds, Sean finally found his silver lining on this album, which should set an interesting series of events for the rapper from this point on. This wasn’t luck folks, it was destined.— Ralph Bristout

Drake & Future, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late/What A Time To Be Alive/DS2

If, and more importantly when, someone dials up Lifetouch to print the 2015 yearbook for “This Year was Dope A.F.H.S.” please be advised that all superlatives heretofore and within shall be awarded to Drake and/or Future. These guys’ entire year is the LP of the aforementioned 12-month-set. ALL THE TROPHIES TO AUBREY AND NAYVADIUS.

Most Likely to Succeed: The Jungle Tour

Most Spirit: 56 Nights

Most Creative: Beast Mode

Best Couple: What a Time to Be Alive

Class Clown: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (i.e. by virtue of that punchline of a title aimed at Cash Money and the subsequent artwork memes…)

Most Athletic: (tie) DS2 and “Jumpman”

Best Dancer: Drake in “Hotline Bling”

Best Hair: Future (only when Esco isn’t around)

Most Accomplished: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (17.3 million Spotify streams in the first 3 days and 1.1m+ copies sold year to date)

Most Quotable: “March Madness”—Hannah Rad

Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is unlike any album that came out this year. Shit, it’s unlike any album that’s come out in the past 25 years. The Compton native was so thoroughly inspired by the climate and politics of this country (Black Lives Matters, etc.) that he drew from elements of black culture dating back to Garveyism and the Black Panthers and mixed them with ‘70s funk, ‘80s soul and ‘90s consciousness to produce an album that was impossibly current and as urgent as this morning. It was an astonishing feat, especially considering the content on the album: devoid of easy radio fare and stacked with complex topical issues such as skin color (“Complexion (A Zulu Love)”), self worth (“u” and “i”) and the presence of a higher power (“How Much a Dollar Cost”).

As the months since the album’s March mountaintop release roiled by, others dropped projects that galvanized hip-hop, be it A$AP Rocky’s critically-acclaimed set, Big Sean’s masterpiece or Drake’s continued dominance. That K.Dot’s music wasn’t ubiquitous made many presume that he was absent from the hearts and minds of fans. Then last month, the TDE star burned bright at was announced he was the leading nominee for the 2016 Grammy awards.

So, no he ain’t get shot up a whole bunch of times…or make up shit in a whole bunch of lines…and he ain’t mumbling, like say a Future line…but the real shit you get when you bust down his lines….

What more could he say?—Jayson Rodriguez

The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness

When Abel Tesfaye arrived in 2011 with his revelatory House Of Balloons mixtape, he was fully submerged in the Toronto underground: no available image and represented only with a quizzical moniker—The Weeknd, a neologistic word running a vowel deficit. (I always figured we were meant to feel the “e” in the music, if you follow.) As deeply skewed and drugged-up his take on R&B was, it came with key characteristics that shone far too brightly for left-field obscurity, like samples of cool-kid jams by Beach House and Siouxsiee Sioux, and also that voice.

At the time, we could dream of an alternate, hipper-reality where The Weeknd was our R&B savior and, like Sufjan Stevens was our singer-songwriter as poet laureate, though I don’t know that anyone expected half of that dream to come true within the time of Obama’s second term. But such is The Weeknd’s accomplishment, with the magnificent game-changer Beauty Behind The Madness, an album that improbably straddles this specific moment in the art-damaged underground’s nocturnal and narcotic sensibilities and Michael Jackson’s timeless glory. Abel made a record that spanned moods and rang true to his origin, all with an eye toward crafting singles that could chart, and corralling chart toppers for feature slots (like Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey).

It was a perfect storm of quality music and multi-media promotional synergy, really: a great album, with a song that received the promotional heft of the film industry with the “50 Shades Of Grey”-featuring “Earned It,” and a breakout performance on Saturday Night Live with pop princess Ariana Grande. Music business people study up, this is how it’s done. With the songwriting help of Max Martin and ascendent pop force Shellback, a dab of MJ, and the anxious grime and hedonistic regret of the after-hours club… in 2015, everyday was the Weeknd.—Amrit Singh

2015 REVOLT Year-End Coverage | #BreakingGround | #CrossTheLine | #NoRules | #RestUp