To kick off the RLGT Year End Review, we start with one of the most important facets of the review: Our choices for best artists of the year. Of course, this was a long list that had to be narrowed down to only 5 choices, so it was quite difficult (just look at our “Honourable Mentions”), but as always, we wanted to provide you with a list that offered some opinions that you might not see on every other list. Catch new lists every other day this week, leading up to our top 10 songs of 2015 & our year end #NYE2016 playlist on the 31st! Happy Holidays from redleafgoldteeth!
RLGT Year End Review: Best Artists of 2015
Rae Sremmurd (Hospey):
What a year it’s been for the 2 wild dread-heads from Tupelo, Mississippi, Slim Jimmy & Swae Lee, making the shift from “Dem Outta St8 Boyz”, growing into the power party-rap group Rae Sremmurd. Signed by Mike Will-Made-It back in January 2014 and adopting a backwards interpretation of his “Ear Drummer” label and becoming Rae Sremmurd, the duo gained mass hype late in 2014 with their 2 first singles of “No Flex Zone” and “No Type”.
Keeping the momentum going, their debut album Sremmlife was one of the first great albums (and great surprises) of 2015. Tracks like “This Could Be Us” and “Come Get Her” showed versatility while not trying to be something they weren’t. Not claiming to be lyrical or insightful, the boys of Rae Sremmurd followed their rap roots with fun, trappy tracks that could light up any party, but with some bright flashes of substance and the aforementioned versatility. And just when it seemed like #SremmSeason was over, Sremmlife 2 was officially announced for a possible late December 2015 release (unreleased at time of publication).
Though easily hated on, Rae Sremmurd stayed true to their style, and moved closer to perfecting it in 2015. Don’t believe it? Well E-Bro didn’t either, and well we know how that turned out for him… Even Pusha says they’re up-next. Expect a big 2016 from these guys.
Young Thug (Thomas):
What are you to do when the whole world is hating on you? Do you wear dresses and stack money as tall as Ludacris’ afro? Do you stand you stand up or turn to a pussy? Do you ride in the pussy like a stroller? Look as good as your dad on a Friday? There’s so many things you can do in defiance, the best of which would is becoming an idol in your own time. Young Thug did exactly that in 2015. It’s no surprise that Atlanta is the reigning mecca in rap, dissolving boundaries and blurring lines as to what it sounds like and what it talks about. Thugger is the most daring of its renaissance, painting pictures with chirps, yelps and squeals, un-annunciated turns of phrase and skinny jeans. He’s effeminate without losing an ounce of testosterone, nonsensical and wildly entertaining, melodic and hard as fuck. He’s reached a zenith balancing progression and subversion, and continues to climb higher underground. His run of mixtapes (Barter 6, Slime Season 1, Slime Season 2) and plethora of one off collaborations with just about everyone from Tinashe to Jamie xx crisscross cultures at dizzying rates, making him as much of a critical darling as a cult figure. Consider this: last year he put out three mixtapes by himself, and two more as the figurehead of some greater outfit. This year, three more followed, all mind-boggingly consistent given their scope. “Lifestyle” was the runaway song of the year in 2014. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” has mounted most lists in or near the top spot this year. A track record like that doesn’t come around often, if ever, and especially not from a figure as divisive as the 24 year old ATLien. Young Thug’s stock is rising; this is the calm before the storm. Slime season is upon us.
Talk about a breakout year. Future was once the 6th Man of the Year but is now a clear-cut MVP; Future is the sack of potatoes turned McDonald’s french fries. Let’s forget about Ciara and Russell Wilson because 2015 has been nothing but a year of celebration for the Altanta native. With the release of 56 Nights, DS2 and WATTBA – all within the same year – Future’s gritty auto-tuned infused voice has undoubtedly become a household favourite within the Hip-Hop community. With one of the most hyped album roll outs and the second most solo outputs this year, let’s not shy away from the fact that Future has been also heavily involved in the feature game in the recent years. Tracks like “3500” (Travis Scott), “DnF” (P Reign), “Blasé” (Ty$) and “Jump Out The Face” (Meek Mill) had us more turnt up then a carousel at a carnival.
Future’s biggest W of this year had to be his collaboration with the 6 God on What A Time To Be Alive. This project is special, and not because it had two big stars on it, but because it continued to redefine the industry with their free release to the public. Drake and Future’s relationship has grown tremendously within the past years and their vibes in the studio produced some magical work. Clearly Future didn’t care about album sales, as DS2 and WATTBA were released within 3 months of each other. All he cared about was putting out bangers… on bangers… on bangers. That is what makes the ‘Future’ the present.
It’s rather interesting that a character like this one, is situated and striving in a place as “hard” as the big ATL. Father’s demeanor, style, speech tendencies all align with the typical new age Brooklyn hipster stereotype.But seriously, we wouldn’t be surprised if this dude had a screenplay written up, to go along with 400 different coffee bean/tea bag reviews on a god damn David’s Tea forum.
His rapping isn’t overly skilled either. While he does have some clever lines here and there (don’t expect to have your mind blown with any of that “lyrical, spiritual, miracle, spherical” BS), he also produces his own beats, and they’re pretty dope. What does this man do very well then? Simply put, swag the fuck out – his songs just make you feel like you’re the shit. Listen to “All Black Hummers” and tell me you don’t want to do a little dance. He’s further evidence that rap nowadays is less about the lyrics, and more about how it makes you feel. Recently erecting his own record label, the uniquely named “Awful Records” (which Vancouver’s own Tommy genesis happens to be a part of), expect a big year in 2016 from Father and the whole Awful crew!
Johnny Rain (Husson):
It’s almost been an entire calendar year since the undisputed underdog RnB champion brought forth his commercial debut. He’s a little bit of Frank Ocean, he’s a little bit of Drake, he’s a little bit of The Weeknd, he’s a little bit of everything you could ask for, he’s Johnny Rain. The name isn’t something that you’ll be super familiar with just yet, but the name is definitely something from 2015 that you should get yourself acquainted with.
Johnny Rain brings forth several similar sounds and blends them into a fantastically inimitable musical endeavor. The California-native released 11 early on in 2015, and followed the debut album with an EP (EP1) to close out the year, the year that we’ll all remember as the start of Johnny Rain. 2015 was a dubious year for RnB. The Weeknd solidified his position as one of the biggest artists in the world while Frank Ocean continued to tease his sophomore effort. Johnny Rain slide under the radar and released two projects that exemplify the continuous outstandingly evolving progression of the genre that has made its way to the forefront of the music industry.
Do yourself one last favor in 2015 and get acquainted with the name Johnny Rain.
Honourable Mentions: Fetty Wap (in fact he WAS easily one of the best this year… we just didn’t feel like writing about him, again), Drake (because of course), Travi$ Scott (Days Before Rodeo & Rodeo were production materpieces), G-Herbo (Keeping “Drill” on the map), Soulection (The Tribe aint showing any signs of slowing down), The Social Experiment (From Cole’s album, to SURF, it seems like the SoX were apart of everything)