After the whirlwind 2015 we experienced, I won’t lie, I was expecting a bit of a lull as the calendar turned to 2016. Boy, was I wrong. Kanye West released two new tracks (“Facts”, I’m ignoring you) and killed Wiz Khalifa in the process (only to have Amber Rose win the whole charade), David Bowie released what is now his last album, Blackstar, a week before his passing. Wolf Parade announced they’re coming back, while Rihanna finally did. So no, January didn’t give us any time to catch our breaths. What it did give us are these great new tracks.

Top Ten Tracks of January 2016

10. The Range – “Florida”

9. Future – “Inside The Mattress”

8. Matthew E. White – “Cool Out” [ft. Natalie Prass]

7. Iggy Pop – “Gardenia”

6. Jessy Lanza – “It Means I Love You”

5. Dawn Richard – “Not Above That”

4. Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”

3. Rihanna – “Higher”

2. David Bowie – “Dollar Days”

1. Kanye West – “No More Parties In L.A.” [ft. Kendrick Lamar]

Best Albums of January 2016

5. DJDS, Stand Up And Speak

4. Future, Purple Reign

3. Rihanna, ANTI

2. David Bowie, Blackstar

1. Anderson .Paak, Malibu

Here’s a Spotify playlist featuring 8 of the 10 tracks listed above. Rihanna’s “Higher” and Kanye West’s “No More Parties In L.A.” are unavailable on the streaming service at this time.

And here’s a running playlist of all the songs worth playing in 2016:


CURRENT: Young Thug – “F Cancer (Boosie)” [ft. Quavo]

Last year, southern rap icon Boosie Badazz (formerly Lil Boosie) was diagnosed with and successfully beat cancer. One of rap’s more tragic heroes, Boosie Badazz continued to defy odds with his 2015. Perhaps that’s why he’s as much of an inspiration to today’s most promising rappers, including the ever-great Young Thug and Migos’ Quavo. The two collaborate on “F Cancer (Boosie)” a track that could have been an ill-advised PSA but is instead a raucous, joyous cry of beating the unbeatable. There are no hallmark moments here, just two of our best rappers celebrating a forefather and putting the power back in his hands.

CURRENT: Dawn Richard – “Not Above That”

Dawn Richard, formerly of all-girl group Danity Kane, released one of the best pop albums of 2015 in Blackheart, the second album in her trilogy culminating this year with RED*emp*tion. She recently released the stellar first single, “Not Above That” – featuring production from electronic music artist Machinedrum. The combination of the two results in a forward-thinking, kinetic track, with its aggressive production a perfect accompaniment to Richard’s clear intentions. “I want it all,” she sings during the chorus. And if there’s any justice in this world, she’ll get it.

CURRENT: Rihanna – “Love On The Brain”

After many false starts, ANTI arrived late last night. The album is different from other Rihanna albums in that there aren’t any standout dance floor anthems such as “Only Girl (In The World),” “Rude Boy,” “Umbrella,” or “We Found Love,” or even songs that reach the anthemic heights of “Diamonds.” Instead, ANTI is populated by left turns, with the only constant being Rihanna in the center. Like previous albums, she takes on many guises throughout Anti, from dancehall queen to trap queen, but always in command. One of the biggest winners from the lot is “Love On The Brain,” a retro-soul inspired song that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Alabama Shakes record. The way she sings, “I’m tired of being played like a violin / What do I got to do to get into your motherfuckin’ heart,” is at the heart of one of her best vocal performances to date. She don’t wanna fight because she knows what she wants. It’s right there in the title.

ANTI is available on Tidal.

CURRENT: Rihanna – “Work” [ft. Drake]

Anti has arrived. Since Unapologetic dropped in 2012, fans have waited for new music from Rihanna. After her string of 2015 non-album singles – “FourFiveSeconds,” “American Oxygen,” “Bitch Better Have My Money” – the Barbados-born singer is finally back with her first LP in over three years. Before the album found its way onto Tidal, Rihanna unleashed the Drake-featuring cut “Work,” which takes the tropical vibes of their previous collaboration “What’s My Name” as well as Drake’s own massive “Hotline Bling.” In some ways, it’s reminiscent of January’s other mega-collaboration; the one between Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. “No More Parties In L.A.” felt intentionally old-school, unencumbered by current trends. “Work” similarly feels low-key and relaxed, forgoing an attempt to create something new to instead create something honest.

Anti is out now on Tidal – and for free download with an email address (which will also get you two free months of Tidal as well).

Revisit “What’s My Name”: