Over the last month, three of rap’s best artists released albums. They’re all very good albums, but I had already made up my mind on the best albums of 2016. This list did not include these albums.
Therefore, I am writing about them, giving them their own separate article, because they deserve recognition. The three artists, J. Cole, Run The Jewels, and Kid Cudi, all delivered after long absences. Run the Jewels had been gone after releasing in 2014. The same thing was true for J. Cole, and Kid Cudi hadn’t given us a good album since 2014 as well.
4 Your Eyez Only, J. Cole
After releasing the platinum album with no features, as 2014 Forest Hills Drive has come to be known, J. Cole is back with 4 Your Eyez Only. A message to the next generation, 4 Your Eyez is a message of peace in a time of racial tension. It describes another piece of Jermaine Cole’s world, and gives us a peek into a new perspective of being a black man in America. 4 Your Eyez also deals with Cole’s recent success, and a world that’s changing too rapidly for the burgeoning rap star. The second half of 4 Your Eyez Only is the better half, and it’s one of the best five song collections I’ve heard this year.
Run The Jewels 3, Run The Jewels
Another product of the successful merger between El-P and Killer Mike, Run the Jewels 3 is the long-awaited sequel to their albums in 2013 & 14, two of the best albums by a rap duo. 3 doesn’t disappoint, but it’s not as good as Run The Jewels or its immediate follow-up. Still, one of the best things in the rap world right now is Killer Mike rapping over El-P’s beats, and that remains a crucial piece in Run The Jewels’ collective repertoire. The best group of songs is in the middle of the album, from “Stay Gold” to “Panther Like A Panther”.
Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, Kid Cudi
After missing with 2015’s Speeding Bullet to Heaven, Kid Cudi returned a changed man, having entered rehab and made himself better. His rap game didn’t suffer for it, as it returned to Cudi’s peak form of Man in the Moon and albums around that time. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ hits its peak with “ILLusions” and keeps going. Cudi’s albums features very few features, but makes the most of those who do appear, including Willow Smith and Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000). The single, “Surfin'”, appearing as the last song on the album, was one of the best individual rap songs of the last year.