10 Best Albums of 2015

2015 has come and gone, but the music that made the last 12 months still remains. Though the airwaves last year may have been filled with sultry R&B, bizarre viral hits and more Justin Bieber than a lot of people find tolerable, in all corners of the musical spectrum, some of the best music in years was rolled out. From Kendrick Lamar’s anthemic album for change to Adele’s triumphant return, from the personal heartbreak of Purity Ring to the raw mourning of Sufjan Stevens, here are 2015’s 10 best albums.

01. To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

Incorporating jazz, funk, soul and disco into more traditional hip-hop beats, Kendrick Lamar and his producers flipped the script on what a rap album was supposed to sound like with To Pimp a Butterfly. Lyrically dexterous and potent as ever, Kendrick showed that after two years of touring the his breakout LP good kid m.A.A.d city, he was nearly possessed with an unstoppable ability to write with the verse heard around the world and shortly thereafter his magnum opus in To Pimp A Butterfly. The choice of collaborators was careful and calculated and the pieces outside of music drawn in like the phone call from Dr. Dre, helped to create the greater narrative within To Pimp A Butterfly.

 

Just as many fans seemed to lament mainstream rap’s slow decline into repetitive trap beats and mindless rhymes, Kendrick became a savoir not only as a musical figurehead, but also as one of the more important figures for social change within hip-hop culture.

Not the first artist to touch on the rising racial tensions in the United States in the past two years, these troubled times in the African-American community provided an opportunity for Lamar to be the mainstream artist to fill that gaping musical void. Others like D’Angelo tried, but it never caught on as it could have. In the post-Ferguson climate and the disappointment, disbelief and anger surrounding the injustice of police brutality towards minorities in the United States, To Pimp A Butterfly helped provide a musical outlet for the disenfranchised.

On the surface, To Pimp A Butterfly shouldn’t have been as successful as it was. It was brash, not built for radio and challenging for the casual listener. However, Kendrick and his collaborators were able to write something that despite its being quite far from the mainstream that was able to appeal to mainstream fans, hardcore listeners and critics alike.

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