In an era where singles carry the industry, and albums are just collected singles, and mixtapes are albums, TDE in 2016 approached their releases like Def Jam in 1998 — stuffing them to the gills. Each album featured the patented TDE approach of Two Songs For One, pioneered on Kendrick’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst, the 12-minute capper on Good Kid, Maad City and followed by the seven-minute “Prescription/Oxymoron” on Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron. Check the track totals and album lengths this year:
Ab-Soul, Do What Thou Wilt.: 16 songs, 77 minutes
Isaiah Rashad, The Song’s Tirade: 17 songs, 63 minutes
Schoolboy Q, Blank Face: 17 songs, 72 minutes
Kendrick Lamar, untitled unmastered: 8 songs, 34 minutes
Having the patience to make it past 10-12 songs in one sitting for any music fan is trying. TDE’s position is it’s better to have more and not need it than to not have enough. Long gone are the days of GZA’s philosophy of making albums “brief son, half short and twice as strong.” Blank Face would be a top 3 album if it closed with the title track, and Ab-Soul’s fascination with Lupe and Eminem would be better served in under 40 minutes.
This would be a deterrent if not for the artists themselves choosing to eschew the pop charts they so clearly had their eyes on in the aftermath of Kendrick’s breakthrough Good Kid four years ago. Schoolboy’s Blank Face was a popcorn movie of an album, action-packed, fun, violent, and full of beloved heroes like Tha Dogg Pound, Jadakiss, and E-40. Isaiah Rashad’s The Sun’s Tirade was breezy and introspective, more than capable of soundtracking cookouts for the next 5 years. Ab-Soul doubled down on his Conspiracy Brother impulses on his third album Do What Thou Wilt, becoming the millennial Ras Kass in the process. And Kendrick’s untitled unmastered, while sloppy in parts, was an interesting bookend to Pimp a Butterfly — 34 minutes of outtakes and “How the hell was THAT not a single?” moments jampacked into 8 songs.
This playlist is the easiest way to enjoy the high points from TDE’s best overall year top to bottom without having to take on too much Netflix truther documentary talk from Ab-Soul, nihilistic glee from Schoolboy, unfinished jazzy ruminations from Kendrick, or mumble mouthed charm from Isaiah.