Safe to say 2016 was a year of ups and downs. That being said, one of the biggest ups of last year was the array of materials that the music gods blessed us with. From a long overdue Frank Ocean album, all the way through to the mainstream reemergence of the UK Hip-Hop and Grime scene ( and I’m not talking about that Skepta – Amnesia or Dizzee Rascal – Bonker UK Hip-Hop, that TRAP SHIT ), 2016 certainly did not disappoint. With this in mind, here are some of the songs from the last year that I’m still listening to now!
Solange (featuring Sampha) – Don’t Touch My Hair
This, for me anyway, came completely out the blue! All I had ever known Solange Knowles to be good for was delivering Jay-Z that 3-piece special (with chips and a lychee Rubicon), a couple years back, in that elevator – what a difference a couple years makes. Off of her critically acclaimed album A Seat At The Table, ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ was the song that instantly got replayed on the spot. Some prefer Weary, Cranes in the Sky or F.U.B.U. but for me, this song has everything. A clear message, incredible production, SAMPHA (who we’ll get to in a minute) and a refreshingly different visual. You can tell she’s been chilling with Devonté and Kindness. In a year which, to most, was a shambles, Solange delivered (easily) the most pleasantly surprising project of the year and one of my personal favourite songs.
Ramriddlz – Bodmon
“Shawty wanna be my wife, cos I beat it out the park”…the opening bars of this song, completely sets the tone. Ramriddlz will forever remain an enigma to me. His ability to, unbeknownst to him, make some of my most and least favourite music is mindboggling. Bodmon, however, throughly resides on the most favourites end of that spectrum. This song is the exact tune every man should listen to before he goes to link any gyal! Produced by RJF & Sevn Thomas, Ram rides pon de beat like a true Jamadian should (the 6 God would be proud). With a clear theme throughout, and his consistent references to things that well all love to do as hapless 20 somethings, the Sweeterman slides through with an instant classic and with the cult following my man has, I’m sure he’ll (for the most part) produce much of the same this year (Supa Saugod already RINGING OFFFFFF!!!)
P.s. I know ‘technically’ this song came out in 2015, but it wasn’t ‘officially’ released until 2016. Don’t try it!
Later X Casisdead – Before This
Another one to last the test of time is this synth heavy, disco/soul/UK Hip Hop masterpiece from Norwegian duo Later and the infamous UK hot-spitta Casisdead. My cousin was the first person to put me onto this song, around Easter time last year, and I can’t thank him enough. From the very beginning of this track I couldn’t help but start to sway my shoulder and bob my head along (in a trance like state) to this slightly surreal song. Both LATER and Casisdead move through this track and trade blows like they’ve worked together forever and even though this is (to my knowledge) the only track that they have together, here’s to hoping they link-up more time in the future. The 80’s nu-wave and disco influence is evident from the off, and Casisdead delivers some crisp and colourful lyrics to perfectly supports the sweet and sultry utterances of Linn (of LATER). Easily the most slept on and underrated song on this list.
Sampha – Timmy’s Prayer
Told you we’d get to him! The South-London crooner seldom produces anything that doesn’t stand the test of time and Timmy’s Prayer is no exception to the rule. After a relatively quiet 2015, the ever-reclusive Sampha blessed his fans with a glimpse of what could be coming in his upcoming album Process. Timmy’s Prayer resonates so well with me, and has lasted as long as it has on my iPhone because, it’s so relatable. Every line of this song hits harder than Amanda Nunes did Ronda and the fact that Sampha is singing them, makes for an absolute sonic dream. Sampha’s clearly back to focusing on his own music, and I couldn’t be happier. But until that album drops in February (praying hands emoji), Timmy’s Prayer can keep me ticking over just fine. Also, although I’m not wheelin’ this up like the aforementioned ‘100 Degrees Plastic‘, that he performed for The Fader, is also incredible. Welcome back King Sampha!
Frank Ocean – Nights
As dead as everyone would have you believe that 2016 was, we did see the timely and much overdue Frank Ocean project – Blonde – we’ve all been waiting 4 years for! Picking a single track from this album is a full-time job in and of itself, but the one song that I always seem to come back to is Nights. I’m an absolute sucker for a two-part song (The Weeknd’s ‘Party and the After Party’ still gets banged, 5 1/2 years on) and this is the perfect centrepiece for a perfect album. The song is (pretty much) a look at Frank’s struggles with drug addiction and hardship after Hurricane Katrina. Kicking off with a quasi-rappy type couple of minutes which, as a standalone track, would probably not be as epic as you’d expect. But, ever the mastermind, this is just a warm-up to the second half of this song where we see Frank (albeit with a higher pitched voice) switch it up, almost like switching to the b-side of a cassette, and bless us with one of the best minute and a halves I can remember listening to in a while. Effortlessly and soulfully riding the new beat like Captain Philips, Mr. Ocean delivers a heartfelt reflection of hard times gone by. I can’t actually count the amount of times I’ve uttered “1998 my parents had the Acura, oooohhhh the legend”.
J. Cole – Neighbours