The first half of 2016 has reminded me that this life we live is a short one. One minute, you’re cyphering “Us Placers” with friends in the back of a Honda Odyssey, and the next, life’s swallowed you up and you’re wondering where all the time went. From Troy Ave staining New York’s live hip-hop scene to Donald Trump amplifying awareness of the shit-stained American political system, 2016 has been packed to the brim with sobering events, and now more than ever, our collective divining rod is looking to unearth some good vibes.
Thankfully, this year also marks a glut in “comeback” albums from some of hip-hop’s greatest who’ve been hiding in the shadows for too long. Some of these cats haven’t been heard from in decades; others have been on the periphery or driving in other lanes. Like all of us, they’re human beings working hard and smelling whatever roses they can get under their noses. As musicians, fans, and human beings in 2016, reveling in each other might be the best medicine we’ve got. So here are 10 comeback projects that we are either currently enjoying or waiting to drop later this year.
Masta Ace – The Falling Season
Former Juice Crew MC Masta Ace’s storytelling is some of the most potent in all of hip-hop. When he’s rapping about getting sized up by his man Bobby on the first day of school, you can practically smell the joint he’s puffing on. That talent for viscera has turned albums like Disposable Arts and Long Hot Summer into classics in the underground, and his tale of high school a 90-minute bus ride away is no exception. With guest spots from Your Old Droog, AG of D.I.T.C., Torae, and more, Ace’s title of King of the Concept Albums is still solid.
The Avalanches – Wildflower
Has it really been 16 years since the world basked in the technicolor sample extravaganza that was Since I Left You? The “Frontier Psychiatrist” video is still one of the most bizarrely original videos to drop in the last decade, complimented by the Australian trio’s knack for sampling psychiatry records over break beats. Last week, they announced their long-awaited second album Wildflower and dropped “Frankie Sinatra” featuring Danny Brown and MF Doom that sounds like an eerie trip through a carnival hosted by King Houdini. It’s enough to remind us why they were so captivating in the first place.
De La Soul – And The Anonymous Nobody
De La Soul has been consistently holding it down for the weirdos since ’89, a major feat considering most of their peers have either moved on or fallen off since then. And The Anonymous Nobody has been 12 years, 200 hours of jamming, and $600,874 in Kickstarter money in the making. Though August 26 is still two-and-a-half months away, they’ve made the pain worth it with singles and grooves to spare. As influential as they are, De La’s been misunderstood and slept on for decades, so here’s your chance to get in on some old-school vibes mixed with 2 Chainz, Roc Marciano, David Byrne, and Little Dragon.
Depression is a hell of a force that can silence even the fiercest wordsmith. The rain clouds were hovering over Detroit MC Elzhi’s head for quite some time, which delayed his followup to 2011’s Nas tribute Elmatic and caused fans to file a lawsuit against him. He’s opened up about his struggle since then, no where more eloquently than on Lead Poison, where El ties together killer concepts (“Hello!!!!!” and “Two 16’s” are masterclasses in concept song structure) and heady bars together and continue to keep his head above water.
Mr. Lif – Don’t Look Down
Sometimes, we just need to get away. A tour bus accident and recording studio flood forced Mr. Lif out of the rap game for a good seven years while he picked up the pieces of himself. Don’t Look Down is the puzzle Lif managed to piece together spread out over 10 tracks of honest rapping and ethereal beats that you would never find on I Phantom.
J-Zone – Fish-n-Grits
We all thought J-Zone had given up on the rap game forever, but changing times have coaxed him back on the soapbox once again. He’s threatened hanging up the microphone on more than one occasion, but with an album like Fish-n-Grits accented by witty concepts and Zone’s newfound love of live drumming, we’re beyond glad he hasn’t.
Jurassic 5 – Untitled
California legends Jurassic 5 hung it up with their fourth and final album Feedback from 2006 – or so we thought. The legends dropped the funky new single “Customer Service” late last week and have kept real quiet since then. It’s anyone’s guess if this leads to a new album or not, but hearing new Jurassic 5 is never a bad thing.
Fat Joe & Remy Ma – Platas o Plomo
Fat Joe and Remy Ma dabbing to “Panda” was one of the highlights of Summer Jam, but their booming single “All The Way Up” signaled the duo’s return to the stage in a huge way earlier this year. After all the breakups, Remy’s six year prison stint, and decades of constant evolution, the Terror Squad’s most fearsome MCs are ready to drop a bomb on the music industry with Platas o Plomo, coming eventually. Either way, Joe and Remy have yet another hit on their hands.
Phonte – No New Is Good News
This one is tricky. It’s been five years since the North Carolina music staple dropped his solo album Charity Starts At Home, but he’s kept busy as a member of the ever-growing Foreign Exchange. Since he’s said time and time again that he’s not sure whether or not he’d ever release another solo project, we should consider September’s No News Is Good News a sign that he’s still got more to say on his own. He’s a fierce lyricist with a beautiful croon, and I’m glad that 2016 will give us the best of both Tigallos later this year.
Domo Genesis – Genesis
For an MC with as much skill and relaxed charm as Domo Genesis, Genesis has taken a minute to come to fans. His collaborations with Alchemist (No Idols) and Hodgy Beats’/Left Brain’s MellowHype (MellowHigh) left fans waiting to hear Doms on his own terms for a full project, and this year, we finally got some soul-infused bars from the Cali MC. His uncertainty and anxiety about his come up from OF’s Radicals to now is palpable for his baked-in fanbase, and a struggle that infuses Genesis with more heart than we realized we wanted.