2015 was a year, and like all years, a lot of things happened in it, things that were good sometimes and bad other times. What’s changing as the internet continues to transform every moment into audienced performance and every platform into communal space is that terrible things instantly gain ironic value that used to take decades to ferment, since social media allows us to Mystery Science Theater 3000 their awfulness, while great things struggle to get noticed for the sheer volume of content we now have at the ready. This probably spells doom for the rest of the decade, but on the musical front, 2015 was a sweet spot between challenging, inspiring art and delicious, gauche dreck. First, the dreck…
Worst albums of 2015
Lil Dicky, Professional Rapper - I tried to write about what made Lil Dicky’s album a mortifying black hole for me the week it came out, but when I realized this meant I would have to listen to it more than twice, I threw in the towel. In the interest of tying up that loose end I’m listening to it again right now, and dear Lord. Ten minute story song suites about begging for sex and slowly turning the girl off, music videos about how adorable and funny it is that he’s white and also raps, who enjoys this stuff? Professional Rapper is like a Larry David rap album: high production value, but all the gags exist exclusively to make you uncomfortable. If this sounds enjoyable, peace be with you.
Kid Cudi, Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven - In retrospect we should’ve suspected something was up with Scott the minute he dropped a song called “Judgemental Cunt” and invited fans to stop being fans if the new music didn’t connect. That’s what you do when you’re in the stu creating fake Guided by Voices interludes and mewling Kurt Cobain homages. Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven sounds like my ‘90s alt rock past resurrected to destroy my future like Beloved to a point where there’s not one, but three Beavis and Butt-Head skits on it. Speeding Bullet is the bullshit you work through on the way to the good shit. Playing it feels like eavesdropping on a very expensive musical psychotherapy session. Scott. Scott? Come back to us, Scott.
Yelawolf, Love Story - Yelawolf is one of the best rappers of his generation, but he has no clue what to do on a retail album. On 2011's Radioactive he melted down on bad pop rap, and he finally worked up to a follow up this year with Love Story and instantly decides instead of being a rapper from the country, he should be a full blown country rapper. The last few years of Bubba Sparxxx releases are proof this particular mix can be pulled off, but messy experiments like "American You," "Have a Great Flight," and "Fiddle Me This" suggest Yela might not have it in him. And after his grueling remarks about the Confederate flag this year, maybe it's best he pursues another audience after all.
Worst memes you all still find funny, ranked
Homer Simpson disappearing in the bushes
Favorite albums I regretfully heard very few of you talk about
Sam Outlaw, Angeleno
Oddisee, The Good Fight
Dr. Yen Lo, Days with Dr. Yen Lo
Favorite albums y’all hyped this year that were really only dece but did land a few bangers
Big Sean, Dark Sky Paradise
The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness
Future, 56 Nights
Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion
Favorite album you didn’t hype this year but will come in time to wish you did
Dr. Dre, Compton
Favorite newish music that got me through the year
Favorite not-newish music that got me through the year
Favorite non-Traveller country slappers
Favorite Traveller slappers, ranked
“Sometimes I Cry”
“Nobody to Blame”
Favorite Future releases, ranked
Monster, if it didn’t come out last year
Honest, if it didn’t also come out last year ***
What a Time to Be Alive
Favorite things I wrote this year
Fell Asleep and Forgot to Die: Mac Miller’s Good Morning - Getting to know Mac this year has been an awesome experience, and I’m glad things are going well for him in New York. I met Ja Rule at the NYC GO:OD AM tour stop last week, and I still can’t believe any of that night happened.
50 Times Hip-Hop Was Real - I randomly blurted this title out loud in-office as a gag and died laughing over a month ago but then it became something very real and very absurd that I quietly wish more of you would click on and share.
The Queen Speaks: An Interview with Erykah Badu - Erykah’s music has astounded me for eighteen years, and I finally spoke with her and found out she’s exactly as amazing as I imagined.
Self-Proclaimed "One-Hit Wonder" Post Malone Talks the Future and Premieres the Video for "Too Young" - Finding out Post Malone was just a chill teen who doesn’t know where all this crazy celebrity shit came from was all right.
Meek Mill: Better Than Jay Z? - Meek flopped on the Dreams Worth More Than Money dismount so spectacularly this summer but that’s not my fault.
Blur The Magic Whip review - If you told me in 2003 that I’d write the Pitchfork review for the next proper Blur album I would’ve spit.
Most grueling writing experiences this year
Memes Worth More Than Money?: Meek Mill and Drake’s Rap Battle Isn’t As Clear Cut As It Seems - I hate having to methodically spell out common knowledge like I did in there but that diss war got me fucked up this year.
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly review - I want every snarky internet rap nerd to feel the fire of a couple hundred neckbeards simultaneously picking apart your every word and cursing your name around the net. There aren’t enough consequences for people being able to say what they want online.
Chinx, Welcome to JFK review - It took me a month to write the damned thing because of the trembling terror of it being the only article people in a certain sector of the net might ever read about Chinx.
Favorite times I got roasted this year
When the nice things I wrote about J. Cole’s album in prose apparently weren’t nice enough for his fans and label
When Troy Ave complained about me panning his mixtape live on Hot 97
Whenever the forum kids thought they could get me outta here but didn’t realize I’m kind of a machine that siphons their infamy as fuel but also, like, a genuinely friendly person with a soul and feelings
Favorite times my slick talk was vindicated
Nobody buying the Troy Ave album
Nobody buying the Raury album (Let the record show that low key Raur deserved better)
Favorite albums by artists I ostensibly find draining
Wale, The Album About Nothing
Lupe Fiasco, Tetsuo & Youth
Joey Bada$$ - B4 Da $$
Favorite Actions, ranked
Favorite times I almost lost it watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens
*** A lot of ride or die Future fans decided his goose was cooked after Honest dropped, which I always found perplexing. The prevailing critical idea that Honest was this lovey-dovey stylistic detour fueled by his love of Ciara is a lot of fabrication and narrative and ultimately completely unnecessary to the argument that Hendrix had a really good 2015. There are exactly two identifiable love songs on the proper album and like, two more, max, in the bonus tracks. Most of that album was about being a dirtbag and trapping, as per usual, so singling it out as all that against thread like people keep doing this year is a disservice to reality. But really, if you can only appreciate Future when he’s being a monster, if you can’t follow him through like “Look Ahead” and “Blood, Sweat, Tears,” are you really down?