21 Artists And Internet Icons Rate 2015’s Best Music

A guide to everything that was good this year, by the people in the know.

December 10, 2015
Femi Adeyemi, founder, NTS Radio

It’s safe to say that I spend 60% of my day listening to new music. For that reason alone it’s almost impossible to decide what my favorites for this year have been. So I've decided to use my iTunes as a tool to measure what my favorites have been this year. Simply looking at the play count and seeing what’s been played most is a pretty accurate indicator of the tracks that I've been rinsing, but still sound fresh. Below is my top 10 if the year according to my iTunes 2015 tracks playlist:

Savant, “The Neo-Realist” (203 plays)
Something between the Talking Heads and Craig Leon. Reissued by RVNG Intl. out of N.Y.C.
Travis Scott, “Antidote” (185 plays)
I actually can't explain how I felt when I first heard this. It triggered some sort sensation in my brain—still feels the same every time I hear it. A favorite of mine and my 4 year old nephew.
Ethereal f. Alexandria and Archibald SLIM, “Agarophobia” (173 plays)
My favorite track from his mixtape Final Fantasy.
Dej Loaf, “Try Me (Midas Hutch remix)” (148 plays)
DJ Martelo put me onto this one. Actually don't know why I love this so much, it just feels right.
Endgame x Kamixlo f. Blaze Kidd & Uli-K, “Sniper Redux” (142 plays)
London fam doing some incredible stuff. One of my special tunes of 2015 for sure.
Ta-Ha, “Lil Bit” (127 plays)
Honestly, if I’d heard about this track when it first came out it would be the most played in my playlist. As it goes, Ta-Ha only just came into my life a couple months or so ago, and I'm a little obsessed with her music. Get her EP Tuareg Shawty for the full experience—my one to watch for 2016.
Abra, “Roses” (111 plays)
Another one from the Awful camp—another one to watch for next year.
One Cloud, “Always The Flowers” (108 plays)
One Cloud is Andrew Aged, half of the group Inc. I don't think this track was actually officially released but you can get it on his Bandcamp. Someone put pressure on these guys to put more music out—the world’s waiting.
Kelela, “Rewind” (106 plays)
I loved this so much I just basically did what the track told me to do.
Amnesia Scanner, “As Angels Rig Hook” (89 plays)
I always knew this 14 minute track/play/science experiment was always going to be in my top 10 of the year from the first minute I heard it.

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BONUS!
Sun Runners, “Eddie Fiction” (67 plays)

From the mighty Lord Tusk—gets a mention because he was lovely enough to name it after me. Cop the whole EP on Bandcamp.



Samantha Urbani, musician

Most under-eulogized death: Demis Roussos.
Front man of my all time favorite Greek psych band Aphrodite’s Child—who made one album where every song was “A Whiter Shade of Pale” but better, and another album that was basically Dark Side of the Moon, years before Dark Side of the Moon, but better—passed away last January. I stayed in one room for a week in lonesome mourning, making Aphrodite’s Child covers no one will ever hear. No one on the internet really talked about Demis Roussos dying, and that made me very sad.

Least overrated songs: “Where Are Ü Now,” “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry.”
I want to hear them all a million times forever in a row and so do you and that's more than okay; it's great.

Most poorly attended-by-my-peers but totally sold-out Webster Hall show: UB40.
Where the fuck were you guys, at Baby's All Right watching your friend play who plays there every 2 weeks? Are you insane? Bye.

Most likely to be an unspoken Young Thug influence: Enya.
Their voices are the same exact drug to me.

Best album: To Pimp a Butterfly
Obviously.

Best piece of art: To Pimp a Butterfly
Obviously.

Best Press Conference: Billy Corgan / Marilyn Manson.
...........did anyone else see that?



Coach K, co-founder, Quality Control Music
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In 2015 I really enjoyed how our label Quality Control Music (Migos, OG Maco, Rich The Kid, Young Greatness, Johnny Cinco, Skippa Da Flippa, Jose Guapo) grew as a whole. We had some ups and downs but that's what creates the story.

One of the livest moments is watching the dab craze that's going on and really knowing that it came right out of our studio 1479. It started out as slang amongst our QCM artists and extended family (Young Thug, Peewee Longway, LiL Duke 60) that used to hang out at our first studio 1479. They used to say ‘swag’ is old—we don't say that anymore. ‘Dab’ is the new lingo meaning your style your lifestyle. Then from there came the dance.



BloodPop, musician and producer

YUNG JAKE
YUNG JAKE is a multimedia rapper I’ve been working with, and I’m very excited about his future. He represents the next generation of hip-hop to me—he is singular with technology and the club at the same time.

TĀLĀ
One of my favorite up and coming producers. Everything she puts out gets better; she’s gonna have a big year in 2016.

Hiromi Kishi, Director at Galaxxxy
Kishi San did my new logo and shaped the palette of streetwear in Tokyo. A lot of her work has inspired the sounds in my records.

AltspaceVR Virtual Reality Dungeons & Dragons
Finally I can play Dungeons & Dragons without leaving my parents' basement or my bed.



Craig Jenkins, writer

My favorite running gag of 2015 was hip-hop's patent refusal to submit to being anything pundits forecasted. If you were a 'real hip-hop' head lamenting the commercial viability of ‘lyrical’ rap, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly went gold. If you were annoyed the music has remained too fun-loving in the wake of a rocky year for black youth, Vince Staples and No I.D. dragged you into the mouth of hell on Summertime '06. If white rappers stressed you out after a year of pop shenanigans from Macklemore and Iggy Azalea, Mac Miller brought pure love of craft back to the fore with GO:OD AM. If you were a Future fan annoyed with the lovey-dovey tone of his marriage album Honest, you got a fierce quadruple shot of Evil Nayvadius with Beast Mode, 56 Nights, DS2, and What a Time to Be Alive. If you felt drained by the Atlanta strip club complex's death grip on trap, Patterson's Fetty Wap dominated the charts. If you felt like New York doesn't sound enough like New York anymore, Puff Daddy came through at the 11th hour with MMM, a vision for Big Apple rap that retained a local flair but still communed with other scenes, and Jadakiss continued his 20-year rain of #BARS. If you worried about the proliferation of good underground rap, Mick Jenkins, Goldlink, Oddisee, Michael Christmas, and scores more came out swinging. If you hate how hard it is for rappers to get heard without courting a major label, Chance the Rapper and his Social Experiment continued to grow releasing all their music for free. If you were a J. Cole fan... J. Cole rather successfully continued J. Cole-ing.

Bob Marley famously sang, One good thing about music: when it hits you, you feel no pain, but the inverse is true too: Ain't no think piece ever gonna block this culture's drift to where it wants or needs to go. Hip-hop is older than most of us who make a living in and around it, and I am certain it will outlast us all. The sooner we find comfort in our lack of control and submit to the thrill of the ride, the more marvelous everything gets. I try to muster a little more chill every day, and I beseech my colleagues to do the same.



Honey Dijon, DJ

Wbeeza

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Whenever I’ve dropped one of Wbeeza’s unique tracks this year, it’s destroyed the dance floor. Although he has been around for a few years now, he’s an unsung underground hero, and makes house music like no one else. His drum programming is original and distinct. He just released an amazing EP on secretsundaze this Fall— and check out his track “Creek” on Arma Records. Incredible talent.



Jlin, musician

One of my biggest inspirations this year actually hasn't been music at all, but a choreographer by the name of Avril Stormy Unger. She is a performing artist based out of Bangalore, India. She first captivated me with her production entitled "Fearless", which has quite influenced my recent productions. Avril's performances bring awareness, intensity, passion, and sensuality all in one package.



Ian Isiah, musician and ambassador, Hood By Air

Obviously Dirty Sprite 2 did it for me. "I Bangz Wit Future Heavy." Coachella was definitely lit this year wit Drake. First time ever seeing an iPhone being blown up & charged up on a stage. Plus I copped the loud pack off Venmo. Favorite song this year has to go to Yo Gotti, "Down In The DM.”



Karley Sciortino, writer

Favorite song: Skrillex and Diplo f. Justin Bieber, "Where Are Ü Now"
This year, I’ve been having a major (fantasy) love affair with Justin Bieber, and "Where Are Ü Now" is musical MDMA. For the past few weeks I’ve been listening to his album on repeat and imagining that he’s my boyfriend while... ya know.

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Favorite music video of the year: Blood Orange, “Sandra's Smile”
Dev Hynes is the most interesting young musical artist around. And he has sexy dance moves.

Favorite Album: Joey Bada$$, B4.Da.$$
Also wish Joey Bada$$ was my boyfriend. I interviewed him a couple months ago and he was the sweetest, most charming guy. So talented... and not even old enough to legally drink!

Favorite live performance: Kelsey Lu McJunkins
I saw her play a few times in 2015. OMG, it’s like a religious experience. When she sings I literally forget to breathe. She’s so powerful and southful, and her voice is simultaneously strong and delicate. And she has the best style in Brooklyn.



Finn Mactaggart, creative director, PC Music

BIGBANG's "Bae Bae" video was a serious visual treat this year. So impressive actually that I'm now teaching myself Korean. Everything from G-Dragon's psychedelic Allen Jones-esque furnishings to Taeyang's riff on the "Bound 2" video to T.O.P.'s erotic floral paradise is immaculate. Seungri also pulls off a ridiculous amount of white in a single frame—total over-exposure is something I want to see more of in music videos. While it lacks narrative, the video is so utterly stuffed with symbolism and is so outrageously confident in just how gorgeous and full it is, that it never once makes the mistake of turning itself into a short film, despite the fact that BIGBANG's promotions for this album heavily reference movie posters. Their message is that the aesthetics of cinema, condensed into a shorter than three minute video, are even better than film itself. And, unless you just watched Mad Max: Fury Road, they might be right! Just to add to the sense of richness, an amazing thing about their album this year is that for one of the tracks they made individual music videos for each member of the group. Try making four music videos for only one song, Beyoncé!

When I'm researching how I'm going to pull off events like our Pop Cube launch party in New York this year, I always find insane party concepts, like from London's Area Nightclub or some really overblown set design like Excision's stage set up for "Robo Kitty." This was a live event in 2015 I really wish I hadn't missed. But I'll at least try and get my hands on this kind of projection mapping soon.

When I think back on 2015, it will definitely be defined by SOPHIE's song for Namie Amuro and Hatsune Miku, "B Who I Want 2 B." The song related heavily to a pretty rough time I was going through in Tokyo which friends like him really helped me through. For all its buoyant sound design and artificial gloss, the point is that it is a gorgeously composed song which is both poignant and potent.



Jam City, musician

Now seems too early to reflect on a whole year, I’m still processing it all and will be for some time I reckon. But I remember: Incense burning at the first Earthly night, Zendaya on “My Jam,” the sounds and energy of Body Party & Caller Tune, July’s anti-austerity march, conversations and collaborations with [director] Canela Blue Roan, playing guitar loudly in front of my mum and dad for the first time, that undeniable rush of seeing smashed windows again in London high streets. The fleeting feeling that something is beginning to happen; a certain low-level, ambient sadness starting to fade. An exhaustion finally wearing off. And the humbling experience of getting to pick up on that very same energy not just at home, but in cities around the world. I think more than any year recently, 2015 felt volatile, and I don’t think any of us want to let go of that feeling again. Dream ‘16!



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Bibi Bourelly, musician

Meryl Wood, “Lazy Wood”

All these other rappers on TV right now are trying really hard to brand themselves as fuckin' ‘rap rock stars’ and it’s cute and all but they really aren’t. This shit is where it’s at.

I’m not sure how many people are on this song, but the way he rides the beat is sick. He has an incredible understanding for time and sound and having a conversation with the music which is effortless (as it should be). He’s going back and forth with percussion in the beat and isn’t just rapping over a record; he is talking to the record. Can you hear it?

Not everyone has that kind of relationship with sound, so it should be praised. Shit feels good. Not gonna lie, don’t understand all of the lyrics, but I don’t even think that matters cause I hear sick ass words and phrases in there that get me hype. Babe you look like a brand new ounce...Out the pussy I was glistening... I hit my head against the wall...skeet , skeet. Shit has 33K Soundcloud plays and deserves more.



Jarri Van der Haegen, founder and editor, Disco Naïveté

I’ll always remember running around like a child in a toy store at SXSW. Most notable moments were Christine and the Queens' debut U.S. show at my Hype Machine showcase (with the Disco Naïveté logo up on the wall—like, what?), crying to Tobias Jesso Jr. and Ibeyi in a church (I mean…), dancing like a possessed man to Marian Hill that same night in that very same church, hanging with my VUURWERK boys at my official showcase with Pukkelpop, squealing front-row to the lovely Ryn Weaver, and so on. A non-stop high, resulting into sleepless nights, only to get up again in the morning and do it all over again. Something like SXSW made all of my internet scribblings more tangible, have it feel more real. It was an incredible, overwhelming experience which made me realize really how much music means to me.



Jubilee, DJ and producer

Esco and Metro
Is there anything better than these two wilding out on the roof with Future during "Where Ya At?" No there isn't. Having fun—dancing, dabbing, whatever—is a cool new trend and I am so down.

JME
Not just the album that came out this year, which is pure fire, but just him in general. JME is pretty much everything music needs right now. He is smart and promotes happiness and health while knowing when to get aggressive at the same time, he is good looking but not a dick about it, he has his own style, and can we just talk about last year when he was driving around giving sleeping bags to the homeless and tweeting about it? Also this. He is just a breath of fresh air in the music industry right now at a time when grime is on the rise, and I am excited to see what will happen with him.

Rosie Perez on The View shouting out Le1f, Cakes Da Killa and Juliana Huxtable
I can't even put into words why this was so great. If you know you just know I guess.

Accepting Bieber
It's been really fun to watch a whole bunch of grown men haters have to admit that they are really starting to love Justin Bieber. Not a day goes by when we see another brand new Belieber post something along the lines of "I never thought I would have a Justin Bieber song stuck in my head and here we are." Set yourself free boys. We are glad you are starting to see the light.

DGAF Obama
Man’s got nothing to lose right now. He is speaking his mind and we are all here for it. My personal two favs were the recent "pop off" comments and shouting out Jamaica. Gwaaaan Barry.

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Zora Jones
If you have been listening to dance music for a while or even really on the internet you have probably been patiently waiting for Barcelona's Zora Jones to release something....ANYTHING, and this year she came at us with full force. First a bunch of edits, followed by a full record on Fractal Fantasy which she runs with her bae and sometimes DJ partner Sinjin Hawke. This is Zora's year and it is only going to get better.

Monica Lewinsky
Monica has been coming out lately as an activist for online bullying and finally getting to tell her side of her story. Alongside starting her TED Talk and speeches with thanking all of the rappers that have shouted her out in the past (genius), she has brought to light a lot of things that many of us were too young to think about when all of that cigar nonsense was going on. Could you imagine what it was like being the first person ever to get ridiculed on the internet? That wasn't even an option before her. It didn't even exist. All I remember when I was young was being told Monica was a slutty intern on TV, AOL, SNL, whatever. No one ever stopped to maybe think that this wasn't all completely her fault. Shout out to Monica for rising above the bullshit and acting towards it. 2015 is wild.



Elijah & Arnold, founders, Uncle & Prophet
Chuck Grant, photographer

Barrie-James O'Neill, aka Nightmare Boy

He is a pal of mine, so I’ve had the pleasure of listening to him live around the house and on stage. His voice is pure and angelic, like whiskey infused with honey, and a sound that mixes folk, blues, and surf. He is a true artist, never without a guitar or ukulele, always tinkering on the piano. His music is very much an extension of himself, honest and often heartbreaking in melody and message. My fondest memories with Barrie are of him playing on the baby grand piano, bathing in the L.A. sunlight and cigarette smoke, infusing whatever song he’s working on with good conversation and dry Scottish wit.



Austin Daboh, music manager, BBC Radio 1Xtra

Section Boyz
Alongside Stormzy, J Hus and others, Section Boyz are defining the sound of inner city Britain. They are the most important group to emerge since Boy Better Know—and with the right music, could make an impact as big as So Solid Crew.

R.S., "Fire In The Booth"
Funniest music moment this year!

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Chip x Bugzy Malone x Tinie Tempah
I’ve never spoken publicly about this, but I can’t talk about music in 2015 without mentioning it. There, I’ve mentioned it. Now let’s move swiftly along…

The rise of Boy Better Know
This was the year that BBK came of age, with new fans joining the existing fans pushing the group to new heights. 2015 also saw the group (particularly Skepta) getting mad love from the U.S. That can only be a good thing.

Jones, "Indulge"
Sometimes you just hear a tune and love it. This song was put on the BBC Introducing Uploader, and when I first heard it, it just blew my mind. Go burn some incense candles and put your phone on airplane mode before starting this one...

1Xtra Live
There’s a whole network of staff that pull together to create 1Xtra’s broadcast 24 hours a day. 1Xtra Live is a chance for us to just sit back, watch 10,000 people vibesing and say “rahhhhhh….we actually done this.”

Protoje
What other station would fly to Jamaica and record a session with Protoje, 10 months before the song becomes a hit? That’s why I love what my colleagues do.



Michel Gaubert, sound director

I was lucky to meet Kelela in Paris this October and have a great music conversation with her. She has a beautiful voice, and the unique talent of surrounding herself with the best beat makers around: Kingdom, Bok Bok and Arca to name a few. Her constant research into sound always gets me.



Joe Fox, musician

I saw Nas perform at a fashion party and couldn't help but vibe out. It was Nas playing to 90 people—all acting super unfazed and unimpressed. Meanwhile I'm rockin' out like I'm ten years old and it's my first concert.

A young man named Ian Connor gave me a Jim Carroll Band t-shirt. The shirt was kinda dope so I rocked it for a few weeks. I'm at a party in L.A. and a French guy comes over and starts enthusing for 30 minutes about the Jim Caroll Band. We move to talking about music in general and I think, 'well this party's kinda lame, but this drunk French guy really knows his shit about music.' "That's Daft Punk," a voice whispers in my ear.



Paloma Elsesser, writer and model

My musical year was pretty much dominated by female crooners. Now that I think about it, my life has been dominated by female crooners (Kate Bush, Diana Ross, Carole King). I guess this year was not so different. My talented friend Kelela sent me down her futuristic-soul rabbit hole and I haven't come back. One of my fondest memories this year was listening to "All The Way Down" in a jenky rental car on the coast of Jamaica with two of my closest homegirls: tropical rain slapping the windshield, and my heart transfused with a wholeness I hadn't felt in years.




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21 Artists And Internet Icons Rate 2015’s Best Music