Will Hagle watched Lamar Odom before he was a Kardashian.
If aliens come down to Earth, they’d be appalled at how we rank our music each time we rotate the sun. When the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, we start anew. But a year is not arbitrary. It’s humanity’s best measuring tool for cultural success. 2015 ended just a few days ago, but every forthcoming musical release will be judged alongside an entirely new crop of albums. 2015 was one of the better years in rap history, but I’ve already forgotten about everything that didn’t make my top 25 list. So here is another list of the albums we can hope to have during this rotation around the sun. The only thing I’m looking forward to that’s not on this list is Lupe Fiasco’s trilogy of new albums, which will probably in some way mention that aliens are coming down to earth.
Kanye West – SWISH
Kanye West — SWISH
Official Release Date: Fall 2015
New Release Date: February 11, 2016
Kanye is transitioning. His musical influence is waning, and he feels it. For any other artist, the pressure to once again deliver after releasing a groundbreaking album would be insurmountable. That hasn’t deterred Kanye in the twelve years since The College Dropout’s release, but this feels like the first time it’s a real possibility. Singles are never an accurate gauge of what the next Kanye LP will sound like, but they typically have more staying power than anything he put out last year. Kanye fans’ 2015 was plagued with doubt. The longer Kanye waited, the more we heard Paul McCartney ballads, the more we hit refresh on our Yeezy Boost shopping carts, the more uncertain we became.
At least Swish’s release is now tweet official. And at least there’s another GOOD Friday series to push our faith in either direction as the weeks progress towards that date. Kanye’s meticulousness about reuploading “Real Friends” due to a “slight distortion” in a sample has restored some confidence.
By all accounts, Swish has been done for some time. As penance for releasing its throwaway tracks under the name King Push, Pusha T has called it “incredible.” Hopefully it is. We will have exactly the runtime of the album to make that determination and assign a numerical rating. The future of hip-hop, so help us god, will be changed forever.
Kevin Gates – Islah
Official Release Date: December 11, 2015
New Release Date: January 29, 2016
Up-and-coming is an overused adjective for promising talent, yet it’s the perfect descriptor for Kevin Gates. 2015 was a breakout year for rap’s most beloved sexual deviant, and all three of the hit songs he released (“Kno One,” “La Familia,” and “Really Really”) are set to appear on Islah.
The album is named after his firstborn daughter, a choice he connects to the potential for the project to alter his life for the better, as she did. It hints at an album more grounded and focused than the mixtapes that precede it. This is the only non-Swish album on this list with a set release date, and in some ways that makes it the only one worth looking forward to.
Drake – Views From the 6
Official Release Date: 2015
New Release Date: Hopefully never
By the end of the year, I will know at least two of the songs from this album by heart without ever intentionally listening to any of them. Ugh. It is too easy to hate Drake. It is equally pathetic to uncritically worship him. Either way, Views From The 6 and the cultural discussion surrounding it will be unavoidable.
Our best hope is that Obama will take executive action before leaving office, instilling an anti-Drake public nuisance law. Or that our next president’s inhumane immigration law will at least prevent this from ever happening again. For now, our only option is to build up a tolerance. Views from the 6, whether we want it or not, will be in our heads.
There were rumors that the album was going to be released on January 6, because that would make sense. That day has passed, and now speculation will continue to be cast upon every upcoming day of numerical significance. I’ve been trying to work through my lifelong irrational OCD avoidance of the number six, but everything about this only reinforces my compulsion.
Riff Raff – Peach Panther
Official Release Date: June 24, 2015
New Release Date: ????
The most disappointing part of summer 2015 was that the release date for Riff Raff’s duel album release came and went. The one that most likely won’t be terrible is called Peach Panther. The other, supposedly a rock album, is called Purple Panther. There is still no set release date for either, and the only information we’ve received is that Justin Bieber will be on one of the tracks. With Riff Raff, there’s no point in speculating what this album will sound like or if it will ever even come out.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
Official/New Release Date: TBA
Aside from the fact that the studio time begins this month and Zach De La Rocha will be granted another feature, little has been disclosed about RTJ3. There is not much to know. The title insinuates it will be a continuation of Killer Mike and El-P’s unexpected yet entirely deserved mainstream hip-hop dominance. It will be good. If 2016 goes as I’m planning, Bernie Sanders will walk to the podium for his acceptance speech as “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck (pt. 2))” blares over the speakers.
YG – Still Krazy
Official Release Date: TBA
New Release Date: Hopefully 2016
YG’s My Krazy Life helped me through a really rough time. Its March 2014 release coincided with a breakup and not having a job in a new city with too few friends. The moment I started feeling better was when I popped the earbuds in, found a treadmill, and made my feet move in front of me, left then right.
Sorry for derailing with a personal story, but I’ll never be able to disassociate that album with that time of my life, and I’ll always be grateful that I latched on to a piece of music that made me optimistic about the future for the first time in too long. My Krazy Life isn’t the type of album you’d expect to have that type of impact, but it has evoked different reactions in everyone who’s heard it because it’s a great album and that’s what great albums do.
YG, like my emotional turmoil, was quiet in 2015. His musical output was slowed by a near-fatal shooting, yet he still released this site’s song of the year in “Twist My Fingaz.” That song is expected to appear on Still Krazy, which is expected to appear sometime this year.
The stakes are higher for this second album, but the distinct sound of My Krazy Life has only set YG up for sonic expansion. “Twist My Fingaz” hints at a shift away from DJ Mustardization, as has his reported collaboration with Atlanta producers like London on da Track.
Wherever you are in life when Still Krazy comes out, brace for it to push you in a better direction. Nah, but really, I ban’t wait.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Official Release Date: On Jan. 1, 2015, Macklemore promised a Twitter fan he’d be hearing a new @Macklemore album in 2015. “Believe that,” he wrote.
New Release Date: Unannounced
Despite hinting at a new album, Penn and Teller took 2015 off so that To Pimp A Butterfly could amass almost as many Grammy nominations as the record-holding Michael Jackson. Out of fear of appropriation, they acted appropriately. As did the Recording Academy.
As you can tell by my description of YG’s album, I, like all of 2015’s Best New Artist nominees, am white. That means I am required to hate Macklemore out of sheer jealousy and self-loathing. My brain wants to despise the container it resides in as it bobs up and down to “Downtown,” but it can’t deny that all parts of the body are interconnected. That song was pop rap at its utmost cheesiest, and yet it made Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz and Melle Mel YouTube famous in 2015.
It’s been three-plus years since The Heist was released. Since then, Macklemore has had an awards ceremony-related blunder, a spiraling descent into dark times, a recovery, a marriage, a daughter and a terrible song written in her honor. In a few short years, he’s hit all the TMZ highlights of Kanye’s career. If you’re concerned SWISH might be bad, you should be concerned this album might actually be kinda good.
Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole – Reminiscing
Unofficial Release Date: #Feb16
The King of New York and the Prince of Fayetteville have been teasing their own throne-watching collaborative project for several months. Most recently, they remixed each other’s songs during a thing they called “Black Friday.” Kayla Duckworth, Kendrick’s sister, let it slip that the project, entitled Reminiscing, is scheduled to be released in mid-February. There is a leaked album cover showing Kendrick and J. Cole’s faces morphed together. There is nothing funny or interesting about this write-up because there will be nothing funny or interesting on this album. But some things, like these two or a nice glass of Earl Stevens Function red wine, are better off dry.
Mannie Fresh – BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix
2016 is poised to be a big year for rising EDM artist Mannie Fresh. Responsible for fusing the bounce sounds of his native New Orleans with the dance floor heat of house legends like DJ Pauly D, Mannie Fresh’s real big beats will have you backin’ that paella-filled azz up all night in Ibiza’s most legendary clubs. We can only expect his BBC essential mix to build on the massively epic nature of We Got This, the EP he released along with Ruen, Mister Gray, and Spin late last year. Mannie Fresh is EDM, and EDM is life.
Seriously, though, is no one else concerned about this?