Tag Archives: Dark Sky Paradise

My Top 10 Albums of 2015

This year’s top ten album list was a little bit of a surprise to me.  If you don’t know already, I am a pretty big fan of rap music which means that most of the music I listen to during the year tends to be rap and hip-hop.  In turn, this leads to top ten lists that are mostly comprised of rap albums.  This year was a little different.  This year’s list, although still mostly rap, branched out a bit and brings some diversity to the table.  As usual, I should note that this list is my top ten albums that I listened to this year and is not indicative of the all the albums that came out in 2015.  The simple fact is there was a lot of music that came out this year and sometimes I didn’t have the time to listen all of it.  I can’t speak for albums that I haven’t listened to so I wouldn’t feel right putting them on my list, regardless of their critical reception.  With that out of the way, let’s get to the list…

Honorable Mentions: Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson, Ludaversal – Ludacris, Everything Is 4 – Jason Derulo, Revenge of the Dreamers II – J. Cole and Dreamville Records


10. Title – Meghan Trainor

title cover
via Idolator

The world was introduced to Meghan Trainor in 2014 but we didn’t get her debut album until 2015.  Title is a strong debut for one of the more trending pop artists of 2015.  Not only does it include “All About That Bass,” the song that put her on the map, but it also includes lesser known tracks like the album’s intro “The Best Part” and the fun “Walkashame.”  Not to forget, the album also contains “Lips Are Movin” and “Dear Future Husband,” two of her other more popular songs.  The album has a diverse sound and there is a lot to like about it.


9. Dark Sky Paradise – Big Sean

dark sky paradise
via Idolator

For his third studio album, Big Sean reflects on his life and gets a little introspective.  It’s a change of pace when compared to the rapper’s previous albums and this change works really well.  Dark Sky Paradise was also largely produced by Kanye West, a.k.a. the album has a great sound as well.  You are already familiar with “I Don’t F*** With You,” one of the album’s premiere tracks, but the atmospheric and deep “Blessings” is another song that deserves a listen.  The album also has a strong introduction with “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” where he reflects on some of the past decisions that he has made in his life.  “One Man Can Change the World” proves that Big Sean opens up big time on his album, making it a necessary album on Sean’s discography.


8. GO:OD AM – Mac Miller

good am cover
via Idolator

Mac Miller’s career trajectory has been a little hard to predict.  He started off small with his release of Blue Slide Park and then moved to bigger and better (and profoundly different) things with Watching Movies with the Sound Off.  With his latest release, GO:OD AM, Mac seems to have dipped a little bit in terms of mainstream recognition, but certainly not in quality.  This also marks his first major label debut. GO:OD AM is a nice collection of tracks that mix some of the “trippy” Mac with his older sound.  “100 Grandkids” is the song that I point to because it is a good representation of what you are going to get with the album.  Other standouts include “Brand Name,” “Rush Hour,” and “Weekend” featuring R&B superstar Miguel.


7. At.Long.Last.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

at long last asap cover
via Idolator

2015 treated rapper A$AP Rocky pretty well…for the most part.  The death of Rocky’s good friend A$AP Yams was a punch to the gut, but he seems to be doing pretty well with a starring role in Dope and a great album with At.Long.Last.A$AP.  His sophomore album not only shows off the rapper’s talent, but it also acts as a dedication to his late friend Yams.  The album kicks off with the deeply meditative “Holy Ghost” but then moves on to the trip-fest that is “L$D.”  The album also contains “Everyday,” a collaboration between Rocky, Mark Ronson, Miguel, and Rod Stewart.  Yep, you heard that right.  A$AP Rocky was not afraid to experiment with different sounds and feels on the album, making it a unique experience.  Finally, the project wraps up with a touching tribute to A$AP Yams.  It wasn’t the best track on the album, but the energy was there.


6. Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd

beauty behind the madness coverI will never stop being fascinated with The Weeknd’s voice.  It’s the single aspect that got me instantly hooked when I listened to his indie project Kiss Land.  For a time, The Weeknd was mostly underground, shying away from the mainstream light.  Beauty Behind the Madness is the artist’s first foray into the mainstream light, and he handles himself pretty well.  There’s a little bit of everything on the album to cater to a lot of tastes.  “Can’t Feel My Face” harnesses a strong Michael Jackson influence to cater to the masses while songs like “Often” and “The Hills” harken back to the artist’s previously dark sounds.  The album gave us the best of both worlds on top of some of the year’s best production.  All The Weeknd needs to do is just keep being himself and all will be good.


5. Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco

tetsuo & youth cover
via Idolator

You’re probably looking at this album and probably wondering where the hell it came from.  I am going to go ahead and declare that Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth was the most underrated rap album of 2015.  I consider Tetsuo & Youth a smart man’s rap album.  There is everything from instrumental melodies to nine minute masterpieces.  Lupe also tackles topics like religion in tracks like “Madonna” and “Adoration of the Magi.”  The album’s best track is “Prisoner 1 & 2” which provides a unique perspective on incarceration and racial profiling.  These aren’t the only hot button issues that the album takes on either.  There is a lot to Tetsuo & Youth and it all comes together in a well-rounded package.  The album came out pretty early in the year and I knew the second after I finished listening to it that it was going to make it on this list.


4. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples

summertime 06 cover
via Idolator

When I think about it, this might be the second most underrated album of 2015, although it gained wider mainstream acceptance due to word of mouth.  Vince Staples’ debut project is an interesting one because it is rooted in a story.  Over the course of the album, the rapper goes into the summer of 2006, a season that really changed him as a person.  Similar to some of the other albums on the list, Summertime ’06 is a reflective experience.  “Life Me Up” and “Birds & Bees” are great examples of the rapper opening up about his childhood and his life growing up on the North Side of Long Beach.  The double album has a cohesive theme that sticks the whole way through.  Summertime ’06 came out of nowhere for me and now I am looking forward to what is to come from Vince Staples.


3. Compton: The Soundtrack – Dr. Dre

compton cover
via Idolator

Who said the old man couldn’t hang out with the new guys?  Dr. Dre, who hasn’t released an album in almost sixteen years, proves with Compton that he hasn’t missed a beat.  Compton came out around the same time as the movie Straight Outta Compton, which really boosted the rapper’s resurgence in 2015.  The longtime producer was dormant for the longest time but he comes back with an energy uncontested by many.  Dre pays homage to his past with tracks like “Genocide” and “It’s All On Me” while at the same time looking where he has come since then in tracks like “Talking to my Diary.”  There is a lot of Dre on the album but there is also a bunch of guest features including the likes of King Mez, Justus, and Candice Pillay.  There is also a good bit of familiar voices like Eazy-E, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg that lead to some great collaborations as well.  The album has the old school Dr. Dre sound with a modern feel.  This could be the rapper’s last album, but what a way to shut it down.


2. Our Own House – Misterwives

misterwives 2What!?  An indie pop album from a New York based band as my second best album of 2015?  This was exactly the way I felt when giving this album a comfy spot high on the list.  My fascination with Misterwives’ music started with a free download of their song “Our Own House,” which later led to my purchase of the entire album.  It’s a really fun and energetic album.  “Reflection” and “Best I Can Do” are great examples of the energy that I am talking about.  The album goes to some deep places as well with “Oceans” and “Coffins.”  The group is super talented, fusing the fantastic voice of lead singer Mandy Lee with a mix of different instruments, yielding a final product that is unlike anything else on this list.  The album really resonated with me, making it perhaps my biggest surprise discovery of 2015.  The album is also great for blasting on long drives.  Trust me, it has happened.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

tpab cover
via Idolator

It’s almost like Kendrick Lamar can do no wrong, right?  Kendrick is probably one of rap’s hottest commodities, having himself one of the best years he has had in a while.  It wasn’t going to be easy to top his previous album good kid, m.A.A.d. city but he did it.  He topped that album with To Pimp a Butterfly.  What an album.  Kendrick Lamar is one of the best lyricists in the game right now with a deep talent for storytelling.  Almost every song on the album is phenomenal, with standouts like “King Kunta,” “Alright,” “How Much a Dollar Cost,” and “The Blacker the Berry.”  Kendrick also dives into a bunch of cultural and social issues that have taken hold of our current society, making it one of the most relevant albums of the year as well.  I’m pretty confident in saying that this relevance won’t just stay in 2015 either.  I’m not lying when I say that this is an album that is going to be talked about years from now as one of the greats.  Yeah, the album is that good.  You should probably listen to it.

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Review: Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise

via Hip Hop DX
via Hip Hop DX

Dark Sky Paradise (2015)

Big Sean

Rap / Hip-Hop

Label: G.O.O.D. Music & Def Jam


Let’s take a moment and look at what has been happening in rapper Big Sean’s life the past couple of years.  His sophomore album Hall of Fame proved to be a sophomore flop, he had a pretty public break-up with now ex-girlfriend Naya Rivera, found a new (and even more public) girlfriend in Ariana Grande, and he recently signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label.  That’s a lot of fuel for a big fire.  With Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean’s third studio album, he manages to kindle those flames to produce his best album yet.

If you want a summary of the things Big Sean reflects on his introspective album, all you have to do is refer to the opening track “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers).”  Big Sean keeps it raw and goes into the sorts of themes that are scattered all over the album, including the girls he has been with, the successes he has had, and some of the mistakes and struggles he has had to deal with along the way.

via juice.de
via juice.de

With a title like Dark Sky Paradise, you would think that Big Sean would follow the apparent progression from his struggles of his past to the paradise that he’s a part of now, but this is not the case necessarily.  It seems like a missed opportunity to me, but it’s hard to argue with how an artist decides to order their tracks.

The album has a really strong start with some pretty heavy beats.  “Blessings” and “All Your Fault”, which feature Drake and Kanye West respectively, go into the successes that Big Sean has had, and how he is literally “blessed” to be at his level.  Both Big Sean and Kanye West go bar for bar on the last verse of “All Your Fault”, which was probably one of my favorite moments on the album.

via xclusiveszone.net
via xclusiveszone.net

These songs then lead to the massive commercial hit “I Don’t Fuck With You”; a song that can be possibly linked to Sean’s relationship with Naya Rivera.  At the surface level, there doesn’t seem to be too much depth to the song.  However, E-40 lends a great verse with his signature style and Big Sean once again gets introspective with the last verse, which he later revealed that he wrote with Naya Rivera on his mind.  The song also contains some good production from DJ Mustard which makes it a heavy-hitting banger.

It was at this point that the album started to trail off a bit for me.  “Play No Games”, featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, and “Paradise” both were average songs that didn’t really do it for me.  However, I can’t deny that the sound of “Paradise” was probably one of the best sounds on the album.  “Win Some, Lose Some”, the first duet with Jhene Aiko, and “Stay Down” were not that special either.

via themostrequested.tv
via themostrequested.tv

It was Big Sean’s second duet with Jhene Aiko, “I Know”, that was one of the highlights on the album.  The two trade verses on a track about the struggles that someone in a rough relationship is going through.  The two both offer their support in a sexy and soulful duet.  “One Man Can Change the World” was another soulful track that dived into the subject of Big Sean’s grandmother, who recently passed away.  She was the “father figure” of sorts during his childhood, and he owed a lot too her, which he talks about on the track.  Sean also brings on Kanye West and John Legend, who were both fitting features on the track of tribute to Sean’s grandmother.

Although there were a couple of missteps along the way, Big Sean hit hard with Dark Sky Paradise.  It’s a cool experience to see the rapper go through his life and the problems he has had to put up with, and then reflect on how they have impacted his life.  There’s some moments on the album where he talks about what it would be like to “lose it all.”  It’s a good reflective question to ask yourself once in a while, but with an album like this, it’s hard to see Big Sean really “losing it all.”  He has picked himself back up from the disaster that was Hall of Fame and has moved on to his Dark Sky Paradise.

dark sky paradise score