Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top 25 Hip-Hop Beats of 2016

While it wasn't a particularly noteworthy year for hip-hop on the whole, 2016 was a banner year for production. Combing through the nearly 50 hip-hop releases I heard from this past year to find the finest achievements in beatmaking was a brutal task and I can honestly say that there was about 60 beats that were worthy of making this list. After weeks of re-listening to tracks and tinkering with this list, here are my picks for the 25 best hip-hop beats of 2016.

2016 hip-hop releases that I've heard:
2 Chainz-Daniel Son; Necklace Don
2 Chainz-Hibachi for Lunch
2 Chainz and Lil Wayne-Collegrove
21 Savage and Metro Boomin-Savage Mode
Aesop Rock-The Impossible Kid
A$AP Ferg-Always Strive and Prosper
Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book
Danny Brown-Atrocity Exhibition
Dave East-Kari Chanel
D.R.A.M.-Big Baby D.R.A.M.
Flatbush Zombies-3001: A Laced Odyssey 
Future-Purple Reign
Gucci Mane-Everybody Looking
Gucci Mane-The Return of East Atlanta Santa
Gucci Mane-Woptober
Gucci Mane and Future-Free Bricks 2: Zone 6 Edition 
Gucci Mane and Lil Uzi Vert-1017 vs. the World
Injury Reserve-Floss
Isaiah Rashad-The Sun's Tirade
J. Cole-4 Your Eyez Only
Juicy J-#MustBeNice
Kanye West-The Life of Pablo
Kendrick Lamar-untitled unmastered
Kodak Black-Lil B.I.G. Pac
Lil Uzi Vert-Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World
Lil Uzi Vert-The Perfect Luv Tape
Lil Yachty-Lil Boat
Mac Miller-The Divine Feminine
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis-This Unruly Mess I've Made
Michael Christmas-Baggy Eyes EP 
Migos-3 Way EP
Migos-Y.R.N. 2 (Young Rich Niggas 2)
Rae Sremmurd-SremmLife 2
Riff Raff-Peach Panther
Riff Raff and DJ Afterthought-Balloween
Run the Jewels-RTJ3
ScHoolboy Q-Blank Face LP
Travi$ Scott-Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
A Tribe Called Quest-We Got It From Here.. Thank You 4 Your Service
Vic Mensa-There's Alot Going On
Vince Staples-Prima Donna
YG-Still Brazy
Young Thug-I'm Up
Young Thug-Jeffrey
Young Thug-Slime Season 3 

25.Rae Sremmurd-Set the Roof (Producers: Mike Will Made It and DJ Mustard)
24.ScHoolboy Q-Ride Out (Producer: Sounwave)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o65asqixosk (Note: This isn't the studio version, but it's one of the rare covers that sounds just about exactly the same as the real song).
23.ScHoolboy Q-Big Body (Producer: Tyler, the Creator)
(No YouTube link available)
22.Young Thug-Future Swag (Producer: Wheezy Beats)
21.YG-Gimme Got Shot (Producer: Swish)
20.2 Chainz and Lil Wayne-Bounce (Producers: Infamous and T@)
19.Lil Uzi Vert-Hi Roller (Producer: Maaly Raw)
18.Kanye West-Feedback (Producer: Kanye West)
17.Flatbush Zombies-Trade-Off (Producer: Erik “Arc” Elliott)
16.Danny Brown-When It Rain (Producer: Paul White)
15.Future-Seven Rings (Producers: TM88 and MP808) 
14.Run the Jewels-Call Ticketron (Producer: El-P)
13.Gucci Mane-Multi Millionaire Laflare (Producer: Southside) 
12.Danny Brown-Dance in the Water (Producer: Paul White)
(No YouTube link available)
11.Gucci Mane-Bales (Producers: Bangladesh and Trabeatz)
10.Migos-Can't Go Out Sad (Producer: Ricky Racks)
9.Run the Jewels-Panther Like A Panther (Producer: El-P)
8.Future-Photo Copied (Producers: Metro Boomin and Southside)
7.Lil Uzi Vert-Canadian Goose (Producer: Maaly Raw)
6.Danny Brown-Ain't It Funny (Producer: Paul White)
5. Travi$ Scott and Young Thug-Pick Up the Phone (Producers: Vinylz and Frank Dukes)
4.ScHoolboy Q-Dope Dealer (Producers: Metro Boomin and Southside)
3.Gucci Mane-Wop (Producer: London on Da Track) 
2.Young Thug-With Them (Producer: Mike Will Made It) 
1.Travi$ Scott-Sweet Sweet (Producers: Murda Beatz and Cubeatz) 
(No YouTube link available)

Friday, January 13, 2017

NFL Divisional Round Predictions

Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Correct: Texans, Seahawks, Steelers Incorrect: Giants)
Overall Record: 3-1

Seattle Seahawks over Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have consistently proved me wrong throughout 2016 and I'm sure head coach Dan Quinn desperately wants to eliminate his former employers from the playoffs, but I just can't give them the edge over this Seahawks squad. The Seahawks have a physical defense that's capable of shutting down their high-powered aerial attack and I don't think the Falcons front 7 is talented enough to stop Thomas Rawls if he gets going like he did last week against the Lions.

New England Patriots over Houston Texans: There hasn't been a more unevenly matched playoff game since the Tim Tebow-led Broncos traveled to Gillette Stadium back in 2012 (for reference purposes, the Patriots won that game 45-10). The Patriots hammered the hapless Texans 27-0 back in Week 3 with rookie Jacoby Brissett making his 1st career start under center. With Tom Brady back at the helm and the Texans still possessing the saddest offense in the NFL, there's no reason to believe the Patriots can't win by 30+ points. Unless you're a masochist that gets off on watching powerhouse football teams dismantle much weaker opponents, there's no reason to watch or care about this inevitable slaughter. 

Kansas City Chiefs over Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers laid an epic 43-14 beatdown on the Chiefs in the regular season, but that game was in the friendly confines of Heinz Field before Andy Reid's squad had really found their footing. Even in predicted icy conditions that give an edge to their prolific running attack led by Le'Veon Bell, I don't expect the Steelers to be on the winning end this time around. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest places to win in the NFL, and I don't trust the notoriously road-challenged Ben Roethlisberger to be able to head into this hostile of an environment against this formidable of a defense and pick up a win.

Green Bay Packers over Dallas Cowboys: I'm absolutely astonished by the percentage of national media members and fans on social media that are assuming this is going to be a guaranteed win for the Cowboys. The Packers have won 7 games in a row, are coming off a game in which they shat all over a Giants defense that had been playing better than any other defense in the league during the second half of the season and have a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that pulls legitimate gridiron magic out of his ass every single week. Unless Ezekiel Elliott can keep the Packers offense off of the field for most of the game, I don't see a way in which the Cowboys unreliable defense can contain this explosive offense for a prolonged period of time.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Best and Worst of Jamie Foxx

The "Best and Worst" series profiles the best and worst work of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week I take a look at the filmography of "Sleepless" star Jamie Foxx.

Films starring Jamie Foxx that I've seen:
Held Up
Any Given Sunday
The Kingdom
Law Abiding Citizen
Due Date 
Horrible Bosses
Django Unchained
White House Down
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Horrible Bosses 2

Best Performance: Ray (2004)
It's a safe choice going with the role that netted Foxx an Oscar, but Ray is far and away his best work as an actor. Foxx's turn as blues legend Ray Charles in this underrated biopic is one of the most astonishing performances I've ever seen. This is the type of fearless, well-rounded and authentic-feeling performance that every actor should strive for when they're tasked with playing a real person. 

Worst Performance: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Like a lot of things in both Amazing Spider-Man films, I have no idea how the hell this managed to go so wrong. Foxx seemed like a great choice to play a villain in a superhero film, but his turn as Electro was basically just two hours of shameless overacting and yelling bad lightning puns at Spider-Man. Sad!

Best Film: Django Unchained (2012):
While I am a hardcore Quentin Tarantino fanboy, Django Unchained was the first movie of his since Kill Bill Vo1.1 that I was truly in awe of. The acting from Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Leonardo DiCaprio and Don Johnson is fantastic, the pacing is incredibly brisk for a film that is nearly 3 hours long and above all, it manages to work as both a darkly comedic revenge tale and a no-holds-barred look at the atrocities of slavery full without ever coming across as disjointed or disrespectful. 

Worst Film: Any Given Sunday (1999) 
My affinity for sports films is well-documented on this site. To get a feel for how of a sucker I am for the subgenre, I non-ironically count long-forgotten films like Draft Day, Coach Carter and Gridiron Gang among my all-time favorites. One of the very small number of sports dramas that failed to meet my incredibly low standards was Any Given Sunday. Oliver Stone somehow managed to make a movie centered around football-which is my favorite sport by a pretty significant margin-starring Al Pacino in full Tony Montana-yelling mode boring as shit. If it wasn't for Pacino's constant yelling and Foxx's thoroughly believable turn as arrogant quarterback Willie Beamen, I would've fallen asleep an hour in. Everything from the feel of the football scenes to the way that locker room atmosphere is depicted feels disingenuous and the acting aside from the aforementioned parties is god awful (Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz and LL Cool J are particularly bad). Of the small portion of Stone's filmography that I've seen, this is easily the biggest misfire.          

Thank you for reading this week's installment of "The Best and Worst of". Next week, I'll take a look at the best and worst work of "Split" star James McAvoy .

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top 10 Most Anticipated Albums of Winter/Spring 2017

10.Boris the Blade-Warpath (Release Date: January 27th)
9.Hour of Penance-Cast the First Stone (Release Date: January 27th)
8.Warbringer-Woe to the Vanquished (Release Date: March 31st)
7.Havok-Conformicide (Release Date: March 10th)
6.Within the Ruins-Halfway Human (Release Date: March 3rd)
5.Overkill-The Grinding Wheel (Release Date: February 10th)
4.Mastodon-TBD (Release Date: TBD March/April)
3.Action Bronson-Blue Chips 7000 (Release Date: TBD March)
2.Darkest Hour-Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora (Release Date: March 10th)
1.Migos-Culture (Release Date: January 27th)

Also looking forward to:
Code Orange-Forever (Release Date: January 13th)
Sepultura-Machine Messiah (Release Date: January 13th)
AFI-AFI (The Blood Album) (Release Date: January 20th)
Kreator-Gods of Violence (Release Date: January 27th)
Riff Raff-Aquaberry Aquarius (Release Date: January 29th)
Big Sean-I Decided (Release Date: February 3rd)
Iron Reagan-Crossover Ministry (Release Date: February 3rd)
Six Feet Under-Torment (Release Date: February 24th)
Suicide Silence-Suicide Silence (Release Date: February 24th)

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 in Music: A Year in Review

While it was a massive shitpile of a year for mankind on the whole, 2016 was an absolutely glorious year for music. This past year had everything from young artists making huge steps forward (Travi$ Scott, Allegaeon, Tove Lo) to triumphant comeback stories (Gucci Mane, Death Grips, blink-182) to continued excellence from the finest in metal (Fallujah, Revocation, The Dillinger Escape Plan), hip-hop (Danny Brown, Run the Jewels, Migos) and pop/R&B (Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Banks). Of course that abundance of success was slightly counteracted by some disheartening disappointments from promising up-and-comers (Chance the Rapper, Beartooth, A$AP Ferg) and reliable veteran juggernauts alike (Deftones, letlive., Mac Miller). Below you'll find a ranking of every EP and LP I heard in 2016 from worst to best with star ratings and standout track selections, my picks for the 50 best songs of the year and a whole lot of other miscellaneous best/worst of lists. Hope you enjoy!     

15.Charli XCX-Vroom Vroom (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Trophy")
14.Gucci Mane and Lil Uzi Vert-1017 vs. the World (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Secure the Bag")
13.TWENTY88-TWENTY88 (3/5) (Favorite Track: "On the Way")
12.Turnstile-Move Thru Me (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Move Thru Me")
11.Vic Mensa-There's Alot Going On (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Dynasty")
10.Carly Rae Jepsen-E.MO.TION Side B (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Higher")
9.Lamb of God-The Duke (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Culling")
8.Skeletonwitch-The Apothic Gloom (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Well of Despair")
7.2 Chainz-Hibachi for Lunch (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Good Drank")
6.Kiiara-lo kii savage (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Gold")
5.Gucci Mane & Future-Free Bricks 2 (Zone 6 Edition) (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Kinda Dope")
4.Michael Christmas-Baggy Eyes EP (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Intercontinental Champion")
3.Vince Staples-Prima Donna (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Loco")
2.Migos-3 Way EP (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Can't Go Out Sad")
1.21 Savage and Metro Boomin-Savage Mode (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "No Advance")

141.Lil Yachty-Lil Boat (1/5) (Favorite Track: "Minnesota (remix)")
140.Future-Purple Reign (1.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All Right")
139.Riff Raff & DJ Afterthought-Balloween (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Working Everyday")
138.Rob Zombie-The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Get Your Boots On! That's the End of Rock and Roll")
137.Kodak Black-Lil B.I.G. Pac (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Vibin in This Bih")
136.Thomas Giles-Velcro Kid (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Immersion Highway")
135.J.Cole-4 Your Eyez Only (2/5) (Favorite Track: "For Whom the Bell Tolls")
134.Devin Townsend Project-Transcendence (2/5) (Favorite Track: "Failure")
133.A$AP Ferg-Always Strive and Prosper (2/5) (Favorite Track: "New Level")
132.Clams Casino-32 Levels (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All Nite")
131.D.R.A.M.-Big Baby D.R.A.M. (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Broccoli")
130.Blood Orange-Freetown Sound (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Hands Up")
129.Sia-This is Acting (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: ""Bird Set Free")
128.Textures-Phenotype (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Shaping a Single Grain of Sand")
127.Lil Uzi Vert-The Perfect Luv Tape (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Of Course We Ghetto Flowers")
126.Macklemore & Ryan Lewis-This Unruly Mess I've Made (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: ""Light Tunnels")
125.letlive.-If I'm the Devil... (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "A Weak Ago")
124.Sum 41-13 Voices (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "A Murder of Crows")
123.Red Fang-Only Ghosts (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Shadows")
122.Lady Gaga-Joanne (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Hey Girl")
121.Deftones-Gore (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Prayers/Triangles")
120.Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Juke Jam")
119.Juicy J-#MustBeNice (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Trap")
118.Regina Spektor-Remember Us to Life (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Small Bill$")
117.Childish Gambino-Awaken, My Love! (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Zombies")
116.Red Hot Chili Peppers-The Getaway (2.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Getaway")
115.The Fall of Troy-OK (3/5) (Favorite Track: "401k")
114.Wheeler Walker Jr.-Redneck Shit (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Eatin' Pussy/Kickin' Ass")
113.Steve 'n' Seagulls-Brothers in Farms (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Aces High")
112.Young Thug-I'm Up (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Fuck Cancer (Boosie)")
111.Jessy Lanza-Oh No (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Going Somewhere")
110.Beartooth-Aggressive (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Hated")
109.Volbeat-Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie (3/5) (Favorite Track: "The Gates of Babylon")
108.Wormed-Krigshu (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Neomorph Mindkind")
107.gates-Parallel Lives (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Empty Canvas")
106.Solange-A Seat at the Table (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Weary")
105.Nails-You Will Never Be One of Us (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Life is a Death Sentence")
104.NxWorries-Yes Lawd! (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Starlite")
103.Lil Uzi Vert-Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Hi Roller")
102.Chevelle-The North Corridor (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Last Days")
101.Beyonce-Lemonade (3/5) (Favorite Track: "6 Inch")
100.Nick Jonas-Last Year Was Complicated (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Close")
99.Mac Miller-The Divine Feminine (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Dang!")
98.Carnifex-Slow Death (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Black Candles Burning")
97.Hail the Sun-Culture Scars (3/5) (Favorite Track: "Entertainment Lies")
96.Whitechapel-Mark of the Blade (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Tremors")
95.2 Chainz-Daniel Son; Necklace Don (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Get Out the Bed")
94.Riff Raff-Peach Panther (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "I Drive By")
93.Trophy Eyes-Chemical Miracle (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Heaven Sent")
92.Megadeth-Dystopia (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Dystopia")
91.Bury Tomorrow-Earthbound (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Burden")
90.Despised Icon-Beast (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Drapeau Noir")
89.Young Thug-Slime Season 3 (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "With Them")
88.Weezer-Weezer (The White Album) (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Endless Bummer")
87.Plini-Handmade Cities (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Cascade")
86.Aborted-Retrogore (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Coven of Ignorance")
85.Fleshgod Apocalypse-King (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "And the Vulture Beholds")
84.Rae Sremmurd-SremmLife 2 (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Start a Party")
83.Invent, Animate-Stillworld (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Celestial Floods")
82.Architects-All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Empty Hourglass")
81.Strugill Simpson-A Sailor's Guide to Earth (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Welcome to Earth (Polywog)")
80.Rihanna-ANTI (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Kiss It Better")
79.Injury Reserve-Floss (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "All This Money")
78.Dark Tranquility-Atoma (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Force of Hand")
77.Dave East-Kari Chanel (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Keisha")
76.Wovenwar-Honor is Dead (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Compass")
75.CZARFACE-A Fistful of Peril (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Czar Wars")
74.Avenged Sevenfold-The Stage (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Sunny Disposition")
73.A Tribe Called Quest-We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Conrad Tokyo")
72.Gojira-Magma (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Shooting Star")
71.Metallica-Hardwired... To Self Destruct (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Spit Out the Bone")
70.The Zenith Passage-Solipsist (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Dreamsphere")
69.Korn-Serenity of Suffering (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Die Yet Another Night")
68.Silent Planet-Everything Was Sound (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Understanding Love as Loss")
67.Ordinance-The Ides of March (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Bloodwine")
66.Moon Tooth-Chromaparagon (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Igneous")
65.Deviant Process-Paroxysm (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Persecution")
64.Night Verses-Into the Vanishing Light (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Drift")
63.blink-182-California (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Kings of the Weekend")
62.Anderson.Paak-Malibu (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Season/Carry Me")
61.Gucci Mane-Everybody Looking (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Waybach")
60.Drake-Views (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Weston Road Flows")
59.Aesop Rock-The Impossible Kid (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Lotta Years")
58.Anthrax-For All Kings (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Breathing Lightning")
57.Denzel Curry-Imperial (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Zenith")
56.Young Thug-Jeffrey (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Harambe")
55.2 Chainz & Lil Wayne-Collegrove (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Bounce")
54.Kendrick Lamar-untitled unmastered.(Favorite Track: "untitled 07|levitate")
53.Norma Jean-Polar Similar (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "An Ocean of War")
52.Animals as Leaders-The Madness of Many (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Glass Bridge")
51.Kanye West-The Life of Pablo (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "No More Parties in LA")
50.ScHoolboy Q-Blank Face LP (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Dope Dealer")
49.Flatbush Zombies-3001: A Laced Odyssey (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "The Odyssey")
48.A Day to Remember-Bad Vibrations (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Paranoia")
47.Death Angel-The Evil Divide (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Father of Lies")
46.Isaiah Rashad-The Sun's Tirade (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Free Lunch")
45.Tove Lo-Lady Wood (3.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Don't Talk About It")
44.Hatebreed-The Concrete Confessional (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Us Against Us")
43.Descendants-Hypercaffium Spazzinate (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Shameless Halo")
42.Hope for the Dying-Legacy (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Flame Forged")
41.Abnormality-Mechanisms of Omniscience (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Synthetic Pathogenesis")
40.Trap Them-Crown Feral (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Revival Spines")
39.First Fragment-Dasein (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Mordetre Et Denaissance")
38.Killswitch Engage-Incarnate (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Strength of the Mind")
37.Anciients-Voice of the Void (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Worshipper")
36.Painted in Exile-The Ordeal (4/5) (Favorite Track: "House of Cards")
35.Kvelertak-Nattesferd (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Svartmese")
34.Toothgrinder-Nocturnal Masquerade (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Diamonds for Gold")
33.Gucci Mane-The Return of East Atlanta Santa (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Walk on Water")
32.Serpentine Dominion-Serpentine Dominion (4/5) (Favorite Track: "The Vengeance in Me")
31.YG-Still Brazy (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Twist My Fingaz")
30.Dance Gavin Dance-Mothership (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise")
29.Gucci Mane-Woptober (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Wop")
28.Amon Amarth-Jomsviking (4/5) (Favorite Track: "On a Sea of Blood")
27.Meshuggah-The Violent Sleep of Reason (4/5) (Favorite Track: "By the Ton")
26.Polyphia-Renaissance (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Culture Shock")
25.The Weeknd-Starboy (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Sidewalks")
24.Obscura-Akroasis (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Perpetual Infinity")
23.Thank You Scientist-Stranger Heads Prevail (4/5) (Favorite Track: "The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook")
22.After the Burial-Dig Deep (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Deluge")
21.Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Seven Seals")
20.Future-EVOL (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Seven Rings")
19.Periphery-Periphery III: Select Level (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Flatline")
18.Car Bomb-Meta (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Black Blood")
17.Banks-The Altar (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Gemini Feed")
16.Frank Ocean-Blonde (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Pink + White")
15.Allegaeon-Proponent for Sentience (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Gray Matter Mechanics-Apassionata Ex Machinea")
14.Travi$ Scott-Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Sweet Sweet")
13.Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Again")
12.Every Time I Die-Low Teens (4/5) (Favorite Track: "The Coin Has A Say")
11.Migos-Y.R.N. 2 (Young Rich Niggas 2) (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Trippin")
10.Death Grips-Bottomless Pit (4/5) (Favorite Track: "BB Poison")
9.Vale of Pnath-II (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Reaver")
8.Ariana Grande-Dangerous Woman (4/5) (Favorite Track: "Bad Decisions")
7.Touche Amore-Stage Four (4/5) (Favorite Track: "New Halloween")
6.Run the Jewels-RTJ3 (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Panther Like A Panther")
5.Revocation-Great is Our Sin (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Crumbling Imperium")
4.Entheos-The Infinite Nothing (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Perpetual Miscalculations")
3.The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Honysuckle")
2.Danny Brown-Atrocity Exhibition (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Ain't It Funny")
1.Fallujah-Dreamless (4.5/5) (Favorite Track: "Adrenaline")

Biggest Surprises:
1.Ariana Grande-Dangerous Woman
2.YG-Still Brazy 
3.Descendants- Hypercaffium Spazzinate
4.Norma Jean-Polar Similar
5.2 Chainz and Lil Wayne-Collegrove  

Biggest Disappointments:
1.Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book
2.letlive.-If I'm the Devil...
3.Mac Miller-The Divine Feminine 

Most Underrated:
1.Entheos-The Infinite Nothing
2.Vale of Pnath-II
3.Migos-Y.R.N. 2
4.Travi$ Scott-Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
5.Banks-The Altar
Most Overrated:
1.J.Cole-4 Your Eyez Only
3.Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book
4.Solange-A Seat at the Table
5.Devin Townsend Project-Transcendence

Top Album Covers:
1.Flatbush Zombies: 3001: A Laced Odyssey 
3.Travi$ Scott-Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
4.Death Angel-The Evil Divide
5.Young Thug-Slime Season 3 

Worst Album Covers:
2.Tove Lo-Lady Wood
3.Kanye West-The Life of Pablo 
5.Metallica-Hardwired to... Self Destruct  
Top Discoveries:
1.Car Bomb 
2.First Fragment
3.21 Savage
4.Moon Tooth
5.Silent Planet

Top 50 songs (in alphabetical order)
(Note: I'm excluding YG's "Twist My Fingaz", Killswitch Engage's "Strength of the Mind" and A$AP Ferg's "New Level" from this list because they were singles released in 2015)
2 Chainz & Lil Wayne-Bounce
After the Burial-Deluge
Allegaeon-Gray Matter Mechanics-Apassionata Ex Machinea
Anderson.Paak-The Season/Carry Me
Ariana Grande-Bad Decisions
Ariana Grande-Into You
Banks-Gemini Feed
Car Bomb-Black Blood
Dance Gavin Dance-Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise
Danny Brown-Ain't It Funny
Danny Brown-When It Rain
A Day to Remember-Paranoia
Death Grips-BB Poison
The Dillinger Escape Plan-Honeysuckle
The Dillinger Escape Plan-Nothing to Forget
Entheos-New Light
Entheos-Perpetual Miscalculations
Entheos-Terminal Stages of Nostalgia
Every Time I Die-The Coin Has a Say
Fallujah-Amber Gaze
Fallujah-The Void Alone
Frank Ocean-Nights
Frank Ocean-Pink + White
Future-Seven Rings
Gucci Mane-Walk on Water
Kanye West-No More Parties in LA (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Meshuggah-By the Ton
Metallica-Spit Out the Bone
Obscura-Perpetual Infinity
Painted in Exile-House of Cards
Polyphia-Culture Shock
Revocation-Crumpling Imperium
Revocation-Profanum Vulgus
Rihanna-Kiss It Better
Run the Jewels-Legend Has It
Run the Jewels-Panther Like a Panther (feat. Trina)
ScHoolboy Q-Dope Dealer (feat. E-40)
Serpentine Dominion-The Vengeance in Me
Thank You Scientist-The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook
Touche Amore-New Halloween
Travi$ Scott-Sweet Sweet
Travi$ Scott and Young Thug-Pick Up the Phone (feat. Quavo)
Tove Lo-Don't Talk About It
The Weeknd-Sidewalks (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Vale of Pnath-Reaver
YG-Gimme Got Shot
Young Thug-With Them

Top 20 Albums of 2016

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): 
After the Burial-Dig Deep
Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake
Thank You Scientist-Stranger Heads Prevail
The Weeknd-Starboy

There is not an artist on the planet right now that frustrates me more than Future. Despite his regular flashes of grimy trap brilliance, the constantly fluctuating level of effort behind his songwriting and rapping had prevented me from ever getting really into any of his projects. Riding high off of the  breakout success that 2015 brought him, Future was finally able to piece together a strong collection of tracks with his early 2016 release EVOL. This is every bit of the catchy, gritty and low-key vulnerable record he's been aspiring to make since he underwent his codeine-soaked renaissance on 2014's Monster. Fingers crossed that we can see more of this laser-focused side of Future Hendrix on his upcoming wave of projects.    
Standout Tracks: 1.Seven Rings 2.Photo Copied 3.Maybach 
19.Periphery-Periphery III: Select Difficulty:
While it sure as hell won't bring them any new fans, Periphery III is a rewarding 75-minutes for anyone that's on board with the Maryland-bred sextet's emo-tinged brand of djent. Just about every song beautifully blends metalcore aggression with textured prog melodies and the entire band continues to push the boundaries of what they're capable of as musicians.    
Standout Tracks: 1.Flatline 2.Marigold 3.Habitual Line-Stepper 
18.Car Bomb-Meta:
I honestly hate myself for sleeping on Car Bomb for so long. Meta combines pummeling Meshuggah-style grooves with a Dillinger Escape Plan-esque level of chaos to form a unique, exhilarating behemoth of a record that eviscerates everything in its wake. If the rest of their discography is as unrelentingly heavy and balls-to-the-wall insane as Meta, my fragile brain might explode.    
Standout Tracks: 1.Black Blood 2.From the Dust of This Planet 3.Gratitude
17.Banks-The Altar:
Beyonce's Lemonade was the popular choice for breakup album of the year, but the sophomore LP from Banks left a much bigger impression on me. Banks' reflection on her broken engagement is a powerful exploration of the wide range of emotions that come with ending a serious relationship while also serving as a stirring showcase for her vulnerable yet powerful vocals.  
Standout Tracks: 1.Gemini Feed 2.Poltergeist 3.Mind Games

16.Frank Ocean-Blonde:
Following a seemingly endless amount of misdirection from his camp and false speculation from industry insiders surrounding its release, Frank Ocean finally released his long-awaited follow-up to his widely celebrated 2012 debut Channel Orange in August. If his subsequent releases end up being as great as Blonde, I'll happily deal with numerous delays and gimmicky internet publicity stints on every album cycle. Despite lacking the volume of attention-grabbing highlights or bold tonal changes of its predecessor, Blonde's more minimalist approach does a better job of showcasing Ocean's unparalleled knack for writing sincere, emotionally-transparent lyrics and creating music with an immersive atmosphere that gets under your skin from start to finish.    
Standout Tracks: 1.Pink + White 2.Nights 3.Ivy 

15.Alleageon-Proponent for Sentience:
Alleageon's troubling trend of lineup shakeups after every album cycle hit its apex when founding vocalist Ezra Haynes suddenly quit the band in September 2015. He served as the glue that held the band together when guitarist/primary songwriter (and now only remaining founding member) Greg Burgess overindulged in technicality and his departure had the potential to sink the band before they fully hit their stride. Not only did the subtraction of Haynes not end up hurting Alleageon, it led to the creation of their finest album to-date. The versatility of new vocalist Riley McShane (Son of Aurelius) has allowed Burgess to further experiment with classical and straight-up prog arrangements without sacrificing any of the group's signature tech-death bite. Hopefully Alleageon can hold onto this lineup for a little while because Proponent for Sentience sounds like the prelude to something really special.    
Standout Tracks: 1.Gray Matter Mechanics-Apassionata Ex Machinea 2.From Nothing 3.Cognitive Computations
14.Travi$ Scott-Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight:
Travi$ Scott's transformation from internet message board darling to legitimate hip-hop superstar has officially been completed on Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. The promising, but tonally-confused MC that was found on 2015's Rodeo has been replaced by a charismatic oddball that has successfully taken his idol Kid Cudi's place as the king of psychedelic hip-hop.    
Standout Tracks: 1. Sweet Sweet 2.Pick up the Phone (feat. Young Thug and Quavo) 3.Goosebumps (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
13.Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive:
After a brief detour to the world of straightforward death metal on their 2014 debut The Wreckage of Stars, Black Crown Initiate has returned to their progressive death metal wheelhouse with great success on Selves We Cannot Forgive. This record has all of the grandiose landscapes and hard-hitting riffs that made their 2013 EP Song of the Crippled Bull so captivating along with further experimentation with the melodic elements (acoustic guitars, string arrangements, etc.) and much-improved clean vocals from guitarist Andy Thomas. This record firmly reminded me of why I felt Black Crown Initiate had the potential to be an elite metal band a few years back and I hope they stay on their current grand-scale prog-death course for the foreseeable future.   
Standout Tracks: 1.Again 2.Bellie the Machine 3.Transmit to Disconnect  
12.Every Time I Die-Low Teens:
It's a testament to the quality of Every Time I Die's music that my least favorite album of theirs since 2009's New Junk Aesthetic still managed to be among my favorite records of the year. It may lack the spark of hardcore punk rage that made their last two records so special, but it was fun to hear them go back to the more "melodic", southern rock-inspired sound that defined their mid-2000's releases. As long as riff lords Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley continue to bless us with divine licks and vocalist Keith Buckey doesn't lose his cynical, snarky edge, Every Time I Die will continue to kick major ass. 
Standout Tracks: 1.The Coin Has a Say 2.Fear and Trembling 3.I Don't Want to Join Your Stupid Cult Anyways

11.Migos-Y.R.N. 2 (Young Rich Niggas 2):
2016 marked the year where hip-hop fans started to take Migos seriously and January's brilliant Y.R.N.2 was an early sign that it was going to be a special 12 months for the previously unheralded group. The Atlanta-based trio brushed off their ugly 2015 full of underwhelming pop-influenced releases and legal trouble by kicking off the new year with a raucous return to their high-energy trap roots that is easily their most well-rounded and consistent release since 2014's No Label II. If the quality of this tape and their July EP 3 Way are any indication, you can expect their upcoming LP Culture to be similarly high on my best-of 2017 list.
Standout Tracks: 1.Trippin' 2.WOA 3.Chances

10.Death Grips-Bottomless Pit:
No 2016 redemption story was more shocking or triumphant to me than that of industrial hip-hop/cyberpunk/yelling hobocore group Death Grips. I had completely lost faith that they would ever deliver another high quality release until Bottomless Pit came along and reminded me of the type of in-your-face, teeth-kicking destruction they're capable of when they're firing on all cylinders. After being somewhat underwhelmed by the uneven electronic and avant-garde experiments they put forth on their past few releases, it was so refreshing to put on one of their records and just be in awe of the raw aggression, utter insanity and unlikely earworm hooks present in every single song. Bottomless Pit was the perfect soundtrack for a year that made me want to frequently scream at the heavens and rip my hair clean out of my head.      
Standout Tracks: 1.BB Poison 2.Bubbles Buried in This Jungle 3.Houdini

9.Vale of Pnath-II:
Vale of Pnath was a band that had appeared to have fallen of the face of the earth over the past few years. They had been oddly quiet on both the touring and recording front since releasing their pretty impressive debut The Prodigal Empire in 2011, so I figured they had become another casualty of the cruel modern music industry. Their AWOL status came to a sudden halt when they rose from the ashes of prolonged inactivity this past summer with two new members (vocalist Reece Deeter and guitarist Eloy Montes) and a new record in II, which absolutely blows the doors off of The Prodigal Empire. The new incarnation of Vale of Pnath has added a pretty substantial dash of symphonic and melodic death metal to their repertoire, which gives them an epic, European-inspired feel you don't find in a lot of new technical death metal. II is an absolutely killer comeback record from Vale of Pnath and I hope to hell they don't fade back into limbo for another half-decade after this release.  
Standout Tracks: 1.Reaver 2.Klendathu 3.The Serpent's Lair

8.Ariana Grande-Dangerous Woman: 
Outside of her staggering vocal power and range, I found nothing particularly noteworthy about Ariana Grande's previous releases. The dull songwriting and often obnoxious choruses that plagued her earlier work made the runaway success of Dangerous Woman a complete and utter shock to me. This record sees Grande successfully utilizing a wide range of production choices that perfectly complement her outstanding vocal ability and delivering an abundance of strong hooks that rent out real estate in your brain for months at a time. I've yet to hear another record in this current pop Renaissance pop movement come anywhere close to matching the variety, consistency and memorability of Dangerous Woman.  
Standout Tracks: 1.Bad Decisions 2.Into You 3.Moonlight

7.Touche Amore-Stage Four:
Touche Amore has become icons in the post-hardcore/screamo community by delivering  emotionally-charged music that strongly resonates with its listeners, but their past records are almost jovial in nature when compared to the earth-shattering devastation that is found on Stage Four. Stage Four focuses on the grieving process vocalist Jeremy Bolm endured when his mother was diagnosed and eventually passed away from stage four cancer back in 2014. Every single track on this album is so well-realized, intimate and viscerally gut-wrenching that you feel like you've experienced a loss of your own by the time it's over. It's a deeply powerful and absolutely agonizing listen that hasn't left my thoughts since I first heard it back in October.
Standout Tracks: 1.New Halloween 2.Rapture 3.Skyscraper

6.Run the Jewels-RTJ3:
This record serves as a reminder of why people should wait until the year is officially over to release their year-end best lists. El-P and Killer Mike gave their fans the best holiday gift possible by releasing their hotly-anticipated third LP nearly three weeks before its previously announced release date. While the Christmas release date was a surprise, the quality of RTJ3 was anything but. RTJ3 is another set of infectious, incendiary bangers that reaffirms why Run the Jewels are the best duo in hip-hop today.   
Standout Tracks: 1.Panther Like a Panther (feat. Trina) 2.Legend Has It 3.Hey Kids (Bumaye) (feat. Danny Brown)

5.Revocation-Great is Our Sin:
Modern metal's most consistent act has delivered yet again on their fifth LP (and sixth overall release) in the last eight years. Their most thrash-influenced effort since their 2009 breakout album Existence is Futile is another rampant success story full of adventurous songwriting, headbang-friendly riffs and frontman David Davidson's genre-bending guitar solos that remains constantly exhilarating over the course of its 48-minute runtime.  
Standout Tracks: 1.Crumpling Imperium 2.Profanum Vulgus 3.Only the Spineless Survive

4.Entheos-The Infinite Nothing:
I don't know who or what was responsible for their transformation (they had no member changes until after this album was released), but something magical happened to Entheos between the release of their solid albeit completely unspectacular EP Primal in the summer of 2015 and the recording of their masterful 2016 debut LP The Infinite Nothing. Entheos seemingly blossomed into a spastic force of nature powered by Evan Brewer's jaw-dropping slap-bass lines, Navene Koperweis' inhuman drumming and above all, frontwoman Chaney Crabb's frenzied vocal delivery overnight and I couldn't possibly be happier about it. Technical death metal is in an amazing place right now and the strength of The Infinite Nothing is enough to catapult Entheos to a prime spot in the genre's talent-loaded hierarchy. 
Standout Tracks: 1.Perpetual Miscalculations 2.Terminal Stages of Nostalgia 3.New Light

3.The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation:
Dissociation is a poetic swan song for a band that defied convention at all costs for the entirety of their nearly two-decade career. It's chaotic, beautiful, violent, unpredictable and absolutely breathtaking to behold. In other words, it's a quintessential Dillinger Escape Plan record. The metal world isn't going to be the same without Dillinger Escape Plan in it and I'm beyond thankful to have been alive while they wreaking havoc on the entire musical community.      
Standout Tracks: 1.Honeysuckle 2.Nothing to Forget 3.Dissociation
2.Danny Brown-Atrocity Exhibition:
Beneath all of the zany flows and whirlwind energy, Danny Brown's music is driven by an immense sense of pain. None of Brown's work has ever highlighted his internal struggle better than the fucked-up masterpiece that is Atrocity Exhibition. Atrocity Exhibition is a frantic, twisted ride through the personal hell that Brown endures every day. Largely driven by suffocating, sample-heavy production from British electronic producer Paul White, Brown weaves an immensely effective narrative about how he numbs his struggle with depression and anxiety by indulging in copious amounts of drugs and casual sex. Atrocity Exhibition's subject matter and bizarre production choices will alienate a good amount of audiences, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the best hip-hop album of the 2010's to-date.  
Standout Tracks: 1.Ain't It Funny 2.When It Rain 3.From the Ground (feat. Kelela)

After flashing immense potential on 2011's The Harvest Wombs, 2013's Nomadic and 2014's The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah has finally made their masterpiece with Dreamless. The Bay Area progressive/technical death metal act has improved upon the emotionally-driven formula they introduced on The Flesh Prevails with smoother transitions between the two sides of their sound, a greater emphasis on Scott Carstairs' awe-inspiring guitarwork and stellar production that lets all of the layers of their music breathe without overpowering one another. Dreamless is a simply stunning record from a young band that I feel has the potential to go down as extreme metal legends if they continue on their current path.
Standout Tracks: 1.Adrenaline 2.Amber Gaze 3.The Void Alone

Saturday, January 7, 2017

NFL Wild Card Predictions

Texans over Raiders: This weekend's most hotly anticipated game also happens to be the hardest one to pick a winner for. No one knows what the hell the Raiders will look like with an erratic rookie quarterback in Connor Cook running the offense and The Texans are the gold standard when it comes to finding new ways to lose in the playoffs every January. However, I think the Texans huge advantage on the defensive side of the ball-particularly in the secondary-will be enough for them to earn the prestigious honor of getting railed by either the Patriots or the Chiefs in the Divisional Round next week.

Seahawks over Lions: The Lions season-ending 3-game losing streak that cost them a shot at winning the NFC North has now put them in the awful position of having to travel to Seattle on Wild Card weekend. On the plus side, their complete lack of a running game and the absence of safety/defensive leader Earl Thomas makes the Seahawks nowhere near as frightening as they have been in the past few years. That being said, I still don't have enough faith in this young Lions squad to go on the road and take out the most battle-tested playoff team in the NFC.

Steelers over Dolphins: Behind running back Jay Ajayi's ridiculous 204 yard-performance and a pair of interceptions from their defense, the Dolphins picked up an impressive 30-15 win over the Steelers in Miami on October 16th that kickstarted their unlikely playoff run after a brutal 1-4 start. I don't expect the same result this time around. This is a much more aggressive, well-rounded Steelers squad than the one that defecated all over the field in Week 6 and I don't think that the Dolphins defense has the depth or firepower to contain Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown for 4 quarters.
Giants over Packers: The Packers have ripped off 6 straight wins and have a certified playmaking wizard in Aaron Rodgers at quarterback that gives them a shot to beat any team on any given day, but even with all the fallout from Bieberyachtgate, I can't bet against an Eli Manning-led team with this strong of a defense in the playoffs.