Historically, November and December are pretty humdrum months for new music. Late year releases are typically only throw away’s and Christmas albums. Sometimes you’ll see one or two big middle-of-the-road releases from someone like Michael Jackson–or in the case of 2015, Adele and Justin Bieber–just in time for Christmas. But nothing awe-inspiring. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully expect Justin Bieber and Adele to release good, maybe really good albums, but earth-shattering, paradigm shifters are what the summertime is for.
Not so fast.
If you’re a fan of rap and R&B (which is where the real action is in pop music, sorry indie rockers) you might have noticed a bit of a pattern in recent years. Namely, that for a long time now, we’ve seen the biggest, most forward-thinking albums of the year released, often by surprise, in November or December.
Not to belabor the point but consider the following LPs, all were released in either November or December and in one exception (Kendrick Lamar) late October:
2014: D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s Black Messiah
2013: Beyoncé’s Beyoncé
2012: Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city
2011: Drake’s Take Care
2010: Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Assuming you’ve heard all of these, you know that they’re no run-of-the-mill rap platters, they’re five of the most critically-acclaimed albums of this decade. Even if you have only a cursory interest in hip hop, you’re probably at least aware of them. The point is, by any standard, they’re modern-day classics. And if you’re unfamiliar with them, I promise, you’ll be better off for getting to know them.
So, what’s going on here? Are the world’s best rap and R&B artists involved in some kind of conspiracy to unleash at least one bomb ass rap album every holiday season? Who knows. But there’s no denying that this is a clear pattern. In fact, I could extend this even further into the past. Consider Kanye’s 2008 album 808 and Hearbreak, Gucci Mane’s 2007 album Back To The Traphouse, and Clipse’s 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury—all released late in the fourth quarter of their respective years. And as any rap connoisseur can tell you, they’re are all classics. Indeed, the only year in the last ten that didn’t see an indisputable late-year masterpiece was 2009, and even that year got a pretty decent one in December with Gucci Mane’s The State Vs. Roderick Davis.
In other words, it isn’t crazy to wonder if there might be another hip hop masterpiece in the next few weeks and today I’ll discuss a few of the artists that just might deliver on that promise.
1) Kanye West
At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 2015, Kanye West released his first single of the year; the beautiful, “Only One.” It was a somber, singer-songwriter type of thing. Like M.J. before him this was a collaboration with Paul McCartney. It was completely unlike anything we’ve ever heard from Kanye. Which isn’t a bad thing. West has always bucked convention–even his own conventions–so it was sort of perfect, and a great tune to boot. This was Kanye’s meditative way of kicking off what would become arguably the best year hip hop has ever enjoyed.
That was a long time ago, though. And ever since Kanye has been trolling us with the prospect of his new album that still hasn’t come. Could it be because he’s going to finally drop Swish sometime before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st? Possibly. Many of his albums have come out in December, actually. But then again, in the likely event that he doesn’t, to tide you over, here’s an album’s worth of amazing new music from him from this year.
2) Frank Ocean
Here’s another guy who’s been taunting us for months with the prospect of an album that hasn’t come. Here’s how he did it: Frank Ocean tweeted the photo off to the side along with the following cryptic message in March:
“’I got two versions. I got twoooo versions’ #ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY'”
A lot of people interpreted this to mean that Ocean had a new album coming out in July. When July came and went with no album and no word from Def Jam or Ocean everyone was so sad.
Maybe he just wanted to give us all a little Chanukah present instead?
3) Isaiah Rashad
Unlike Kanye West and Frank Ocean, Isaiah Rashad has definitely confirmed that he will be releasing new music in 2015. Who knows what that means, maybe a song or two, maybe a full-length. No matter what, this is supremely exciting news for two reasons: 1) His last effort was amazing. And 2) Despite the fact that he’s only released one new song this year, it’s, well, “the jam”:
4) Ty Dolla $ign
Of all the artists I’m writing about today, Ty Dolla $ign is the only one with a solid release date for new music (his new album, Free TC, is coming out, for sure, on November 13th). Everything we’ve heard from the album so far is pretty great, too. Both “Blasé” and “Solid” have been in heavy rotation in my life since their release, but more than anything, I’m excited to hear what this Jagged Edge collab is all about.
Let’s be honest. Rihanna’s albums have never been that great. But there are a lot of reasons to think this time might be different. Not the least of which is that RiRi seems to be uncommonly focused right now. Then there’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” the Kanye West produced banger of epic proportions. Unfortunately, as of this writing there is no set release date for Rihanna’s new album, Anti. Though, it is worth mentioning that each of her last four records have come out in November.
Note the video below is NSFW.
We might not be seeing Joyride for a while. Why? Tinashe has released two tracks in the past few months and both of them bricked–neither charted. That said, if you’re not feeling “Party Favors” it’s probably because your dick is broken.
YG has been working on Still Krazy for a while now and honestly, I’d guess it wont come out until next summer, that’s when his music sounds the best–during BBQs. Still, here’s to hoping.
In other YG news, he released a joint tape with a couple lesser-known MCs (Blanco & DB The General) just a few weeks ago. You should check it out. Word of this record might not have reached you because the critic-industrial complex collectively shrugged at it–searching the internet I can’t find a single review (though, I’m sure there is one somewhere). I suppose I could write one myself but I’m not going to. Anyway, who knows why no one cared about this thing, possibly people were turned off by the unapologetic throwback to ’90’s era G-funk. And if that’s a bad thing, count be in as a bad boy! Cuz as far as I’m concerned, this thing just freaking goes! A completely awesome effort without a drop of filler. Check it out below:
Jeremih is one of the most exciting people in R&B right now. This morning he dropped an absoulute stunner of a song, “Oui.” One hopes this means his long-delayed Late Nights: The Album is on the way. Never mind that all his official albums kind of suck. Those of us in the know have been bumping his Late Nights mixtape for years now (It might be one of the hottest mixtapes ever made, just so ya’ know). On top of that, over the past couple years he’s given us a billion other reasons to be stoked for his upcoming album in the form of a one show-stealing feature after another: “Don’t Tell Nobody,” and “Freak Of The Week” are just two of his best. Check out “Planes” below:
9) Young Thug and/or Future
Every couple of days there is a new rumor on the internet about a possible upcoming (and indeed imminent) mixtape from either Young Thug or Future. Right now there are rumors about both. Who knows if they’re real, but more often than not, they are. All I can tell you for sure is this: these guys have already given us more than enough great music this year. First of all, Future is on an unprecedented roll. He’s released five (yes, FIVE!) excellent long-players in the past twelve months. Young Thug is only somewhat less prolific, having releasing only two (but also a grip of great features and one offs). I would be remiss to expect any more from either of these guys this year. Yet here we are amidst rumors:
Metro Boomin and Young Thug have a finished project, apparently stalled by Young Thug’s label 300. A Migos/Young Thug collab is apparently coming out on Halloween along with possibly a Slime Season 2 mixtape. As for Future, he’s evidently working on a sequel to his Beast Mode tape with Zaytoven, and a Monster 2 mixtape is supposedly imminent as well.
Geez! How do these guys do it? Clearly, I need to find myself some purple Actavis.
I saved the most unlikely of all for last…then again, who knows. I mean, this is pure speculation on my part. After all, there hasn’t been a single unsubstantiated rumor about a new Beyoncé album (except this one). Yet, there was that song with Drake that sneaked onto the internet a few weeks back (check it out below).
Now that I think about it, maybe this means a new Drake album could drop any day now instead. Hmmm…there I go, starting rumors. Ignore me! Or rather, don’t. I’m feeling cocky. And besides, I have a pretty good track record on my predictions.