Top 10 Records with Willy James

“Hip hop is power music.”

Willy James. Photo: Peter Leeman for The Sprout Fund.

My favorite type of music is eclectic, and depends on my mood. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I’m open minded and can sit and listen to just about any genre.

The only consistency is that I’m a big hip hop head and a listener of anything catchy that makes its way up the pop charts on Spotify. Like Charlie Puth’s “We don’t talk anymore” ft. Selena Gomez. Upon first hearing it, I listened to it for hours. And then from that point on, only occasionally played from time to time. I added it to my “starred” playlist, which is also host to “The Blacker The Berry” by Kendrick Lamar.

It’s a common trend in all my favorite songs: feeling compelled by a particular feeling from a sound and attempting to replicate it a plethora of times over.

Hip hop is power music. The most hardcore tracks are strong for when I feel the most accomplished, that’s when a track like “Make it Out” by Desiigner has the most impact for me.

I’ll often reach out for entertainment from over the pond, too. Nick Brewer is a rapper from the UK and my two favorite tracks of his happen to be collaborations: ZDot’s “Like That” and Vanessa White’s “Don’t wanna be your lover”.

Making a top 10 best of all time (or classics) album list is a herculean task, because for me, it’s a rare event when every track on a whole album is pleasing. And my taste can change. And the albums we call classics get boring for me. I’m a true millennial.

My dad just walked in and upon hearing about this article on top 10 albums, replied “They still make those?” [referring to albums.] Which is why Drake’s concept of a ‘playlist’ (“More Life”) can work in 2017. It’s not against the rules, it’s open season now.

There are 3 times I’ll listen to an album front to back: when the old stuff gets boring, when I’m trying to get a feel of the overall sound — maybe to contribute to discussions with an informed opinion, or when changing to a playlist would be really inconvenient. Like an advertisement you’re stuck watching or something.

As I’m sifting through my “starred” playlist, here’s a list of 10 albums I’m currently listening to, or like, in no particular order.

1. Kayne West — The Life of Pablo
Kanye pushes to make his music mean something artistically with every album, I like it.

2. Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (and the Untitled album — does that make this 11?) / 
Kendrick is that dude.

3. Lupe Fiasco — Tetsuo & Youth
I’m a big Lupe fan. He could have stayed going the radio route with Atlantic (see: “Lasers” album, 2011) but instead he chooses to stay true to his art, even when that sound isn’t being sought out by pop culture. Maybe on the next list I’ll put his latest album DROGAS Light on the list — at the moment, I haven’t given it the time to fully listen through it.

4. Snoop Dogg — BUSH
Snoop *really* changes his sound on this Pharrell-influenced album.

5. Migos — Culture
I’m a big fan of adlibs.

6. Justin Bieber — Purpose

7. Drake & Futur e— What a Time to be Alive

8. Kanye West Presents Good Music Cruel Summer
*Swerve.*

9. Rae Sremmurd — SremmLife 2

10. Big Sean — Dark Sky Paradise


Willy James is a Pittsburgh filmmaker. Check out his recent video about Banjo Night at the Elks.