#5E Top 10 Albums of 2016
2016 is nearly at an end. Now it’s safe to say that we all look at 2016 and say good riddance. It’s been a rough one when we look in the scope of the whole world. High profile deaths, proxy wars, backwards views are becoming mainstream again. It has been crap to say the least.
But no matter how bad the world, whether it be your personal world or the world around you is, we will always have music to take us away from it all and say that it’s not the end of the world. To give thanks to all the artists that have dropped great bodies of work, we here at The 5th Element present you with our End of Year lists. To kick-start the series I will give you my Top 10 Albums of 2016.
My only criterion for this list is that I didn’t take into account album sales, awards or any of that. I simply picked the albums that made the biggest impressions on me. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what music is all about?
So without further ado. Here is my Top 10 Albums of 2016. Starting with a veteran hailing from East London.
10. Made in the Manor – Kano
It’s kind of poetic that Kano starts off my Top 10 because he’s officially been in the game for over a decade now. His debut album “Home Sweet Home” dropped in 05 and since then he has been a leader in the UK Hip-Hop/Grime scene.
Moving to now and he’s still getting it done with “Made in the Manor”, an album with a mixed assortment of love for his hometown, his family and of course the game that made him one of the best known spitters in the country. If you want bangers, straight grime, this album has it. If you want some urban poetry, this album has that too. Made in the Manor is a solid project that will please hard-core Kano fans and also give budding grime/British Hip-Hop fans such as myself a great example of what the British rapping elite have to offer.
Favourite Tracks – Hail, T-shirt Weather in the Manor, New Banger, This is England
9. HERE – Alicia Keys
Another veteran, this time in the R&B/Neo-soul genre. Alicia Keys continues to provide music as graceful as herself. “HERE” is Keys’ 6th Studio Album and despite mixed reviews I take it for what it is. Beautiful music from an artist that never fails in moving the listeners emotions.
Whether it’s love or anger, Alicia’s dexterity is displayed in full bloom on this record. She spits, she sings and of course her go-to piano is always prevalent. She’s got longevity on her side. The fact she can still be great after all these years is testament to her love for life and music.
Favourite Tracks – Illusion of Bliss, More Than We Know, In Common
8. Stillness in Wonderland – Little Simz
In October I went to see holder of my no.10 spot Kano live. Before him was an artist who I heard of but never caught her music. That artist was King Simbi, Little Simz. You can guess that I enjoyed her performance and you’d be correct. After the concert I went to peep her debut album “A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons” and I enjoyed it. I liked it so much I currently have three of her songs on my regular rotation.
With that said I couldn’t wait to hear “Stillness in Wonderland” and after a few months I was rewarded for my patience with a great upgrade from her 1st album. This album provided what the album cover suggests, a look into her ‘Wonderland’. Scratch that, a journey through her Wonderland. With great features from Syd Tha Kid and SiR. Simz displays solid lyrics throughout and gives us the message that we have our own individual Wonderland but at some point you’re going to have to leave and get back to the grind of reality. She is certainly pushing for success, driven by the fear of letting her people down. Well if you’re reading Little Simz, you’re doing great. All hail King Simbi.
Favourite Tracks – LMPD, Shotgun, No More Wonderland
7. Love & Hate – Michael Kiwanuka
I have been pretty lucky when tuning into new talent. I got into Little Simz just when she was dropping her sophomore album and I struck the same jackpot with Michael Kiwanuka and his own sophomore album “Love & Hate”. Mercury Prize nominated, (and in my opinion should’ve won, no disrespect to Skepta) this album is full of soul and passion with Kiwanuka’s voice constantly giving the impression that he’s going to break down and cry. This album stops you from doing what you’re doing. From the 1st track “Cold Little Heart” you know that this will be a great listen.
You may have already heard “Black Man in a White World” because of obvious reasons but realise that isn’t the be all and end all. This album goes into multiple areas and Kiwanuka is an amazing tour guide through those areas.
Favourite Tracks – Cold Little Heart, One More Night, The Final Frame
6. Velvet Portraits – Terrace Martin
Now if this was any year before 2016 I wouldn’t have listened to anything like “Velvet Portraits”. But 2016 was the year I made an effort to broaden my horizons and this was the furthest I have ventured. A jazz album infused with West Coast Hip-Hop/G-Funk.
I knew of Terrace Martin before the album because he has worked on multiple projects with Kendrick Lamar including "To Pimp a Butterfly" so when I saw that Martin had an album of his own, I thought I’d jump in. He is a great multi-instrumentalist that got some help from the best of the best including Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper and Lala Hathaway. This is an album that will take you to multiple places. Head bobbing, gyrating, swaying, this album is a great example of who Terrace Martin is as a musician and what he’s inspired by.
Favourite Tracks – Push, With You, Patiently Waiting
5. Growing Over Life – Wretch 32
This is a passion pick for me because I believe that Wretch 32 has gotten 0 love when it comes to this album. Even though Skepta’s “Konnichiwa” and Kano’s “Made in the Manor” have gotten the plaudits, I personally think that Wretch 32 has the best British Hip-Hop album of the year.
Immediately by the first track “Antwi”, an emotionally charged tribute to Richard Antwi, this album gives us a window into Wretch and who he is as a man, father, son & brother. Some rappers find it hard to bear all and still be lyrically on point but Wretch does it with ease. Talking about the murder of Mark Duggan, thanking his mother and sister for keeping him on track and his child for giving him a reason to keep pushing. Wretch 32 has had a lot of things on his mind since his last album and managed to get it all on this album. “Growing Over Life” is a beautiful album and it’s a shame that it hasn’t gotten love this year.
Favourite Tracks – Antwi, All A Dream, I.O.U
4. Malibu – Anderson .Paak
Nearly forgot about this album didn’t you?! As I was looking up albums that dropped this year I quickly thought about the genre-less sensation that is Anderson .Paak. “Malibu”, Paak’s sophomore album warmed everybody up even though the early year winter was in full effect. If he dropped this album in the summer I guarantee you it would’ve gotten more awards than it has.
This album is summer in an album. I feel like if I ever get the chance to go to California, specifically Malibu, I would blast this album as soon as I enter. This album is funky as *expletive*. Every song I want to move to. If I was in the Antarctic I wouldn’t need any thermal clothing, I would just blast this and Malibu would come to me.
I honestly can’t break down this album professionally, I just love it, every beat behind Paak is memorable. Simply genius.
Favourite Tracks – Am I Wrong, Room In Here, Celebrate
3. Black America Again – Common
One of my favourite artists of All-Time made a return to his best form. All the other albums on this list could’ve been released at any time and they’d be great. The timing of this album added to the greatness of this album. The Western World, specifically minorities, needed this album. Common’s “Black America Again” provided hope and empowerment while also displaying Common’s elite lyricism.
He highlights on women, race and of course his home town of Chicago. In terms of quality this was a return to the days of “Be” and “Like Water For Chocolate”. Common produced his best album in a decade with this and what a time to get back to his best.
Favourite Tracks – Love Star, Unfamiliar, Little Chicago Boy, Letter To the Free
2. For All We Know – NAO
I have been weighing this album with my no.1 for over a week and I didn’t want to cop out and make them both first. So even though this is no.2 on the list, understand that I find this album on par with the first. I have decided but there is no space between them.
With that said, debut album “For All We Know” by Neo-Soul/Synthpop artist NAO gives me goosebumps and "out of body" experiences on multiple tracks. This album is so unique in its sound, tone and voice. Oh my days her voice is out of this world. It is so high pitched but it doesn’t grind on your ears. It’s soft and angelic, it’s just so beautiful.
Some songs are funky, some songs contain such deep bass you’d think it would conflict with her vocals but they perfectly complement them! Her voice sometimes echoes and it literally gives me chills. There aren’t enough compliments in the world for this album.
This year I have been open to new artists and if it wasn’t for our Women’s Advocate Monesha suggesting NAO to me just days before this album dropped, I don’t think I would’ve ever gained a deep love for this album and artist as I do right now. Sensational.
Favourite Tracks – In The Morning, Bad Blood, Blue Wine, Girlfriend
1. Long Live The Angels – Emeli Sande
It had to be her. The Queen. That’s right, Adele can kick rocks! This is the Adele I ride with. (Sande’s birth name is Adele)
After a four year hiatus, Emeli Sande made a triumphant return and from the first listen of this record I knew this would be no.1 for me. Nobody else can compare to Sande. Her voice, her songwriting, she’s just elite in every facet. There are not many artists that could take a four year break from releasing an album and then pop up without missing a single beat. Emeli Sande can. She did. And it’s outstanding. This album has no weakness. She puts her all into every song and you can recognise that dedication.
Even though I consider NAO’s album on par with this. I can unequivocally say that when it comes to the pure art of singing, all hail to the graceful Queen that is Emeli Sande.
Favourite Tracks – Breathing Underwater, Happen, Garden, Highs & Lows, This Much is True
Honourable Mentions (Alphabetical)
• And the Anonymous Nobody - De La Soul
• Awaken, My Love! - Childish Gambino
• BlankFaceLP - ScHoolboy Q
• Coloring Book - Chance The Rapper
• Don't Smoke Rock - Smoke DZA & Pete Rock
• Durt - Ray BLK
• Freetown Sound - Blood Orange
• In My Mind - BJ The Chicago Kid
• New Skin - Jones
• Project 11 - Jorja Smith
• Searching - Knox Brown
• The Divine Feminine - Mac Miller
• The Get Down: Original Soundtrack From The Netflix Original Series
• The Void - Jovel
• Trust The Shooter - Royce Da 5"9
• We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service - A Tribe Called Quest
• Yes Lawd! - Nx Worries
• 4 Your Eyez Only - J. Cole
• 10 Years of Akala - Akala