What’s it really like taking the ‘Ye’ class at Concordia?

A deep look behind the scenes at Concordia’s new course dedicated to Kanye West

It’s late March 2022 and while browsing through electives on MyConcordia, the last thing you expect to find is a whole class dedicated to one of hip hop’s most controversial figures, Kanye West. 

We’ve seen the Twitter frenzy and we’ve seen the Hypebeast article. Three weeks into the semester, you and around 200 other students are cramming into room 110 in the Hall building’s auditorium every Thursday to listen to what professor Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman has in store.

“Honestly, anybody can come to the lectures.” said human relations student Alfred Umasao. “The professor doesn’t really care if you’re not in his class.”

If you’re curious about the nature of the course, look no further than the course outline to get a hint of what it’s like. The syllabus is presented in a PowerPoint format with artistic pictures and font, sequenced in typical Kanye creativity. 

“The purpose of this class is for you not only to appreciate Ye for his work, his vision and his addition to culture, but to also build a critical thinking of public domain, ownership, self-actualization, the world and more importantly, a realistic lens on celebrity, industry, media, community and power. Nobody’s Perfect. Why is Ye so influential?” reads the first page of the PowerPoint.

Umasao, who’s been to all classes so far, has nothing short of praise for the topics discussed so far. 

“It’s less of a Kanye-based class but more of an intrusive self-reflection where you’re on your own and have to think about who you are as a person. One of our assignments for example is ‘What made you disconnect as a five year old’ and like ‘How would you reconnect with him/her.’”

One of Alsalman’s ways of getting his students to feel comfortable in this environment is to play some chill Kanye beats before the lecture begins. Finance student Alissya Ghader describes the first day of class as entering a jam packed concert. 

“The teacher somehow managed to put us all at ease from the second we walked into the first class by blasting some Kanye beats until everyone got settled in which gave me the same feeling as entering the doors of a concert venue.”

Professor Alsalman interacts with his students in a way in which they can feel comfortable expressing themselves. Ghader says that the professor even opted for some Gen Z relatable humor. She also echoes Umasao’s previous comments about how immersive the class is. 

“He said that he’d like for us to not only see this as a “Kanye Class” but more like a venue for exploring contemporary issues especially within the rap industry and how Ye was able to make something out of himself by overcoming it all,” Ghader said.

One of the course’s assignments, called ”Kaneyetive Dissonance,” calls on students to examine a controversial moment in the rapper’s history and to explain critically why Kanye is or was problematic, whether the incident was racialized and whether or not the rapper was right or wrong.

The course has also faced some criticism for its apparent “meme” approach to the subject of Hip Hop and whether or not it should be taken seriously as a university program. 

That being said, the class does come with a hefty bill. Jenna Wilson, a Concordia student who works at the bookstore, says that the two books Alsalman’s students must buy for the course aren’t cheap and were at one point in back order. The course pack, written by Alsalman himself, costs $99.25. There’s also a smaller book called “Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” bringing the total to around $130 for the course.

Another student who preferred to remain anonymous told The Concordian that he still has mixed feelings for the course.

“I found it quite mixed, honestly… I’m not really sure of the whole point of the class. In some ways I feel like everybody there is just a Kanye fanboy/girl and that people don’t take it seriously.” 

Graphic by Joey Bruce


“The class of life”: Concordia’s new Kanye West course

The university is offering a first-of-its-kind course examining the life and work of Kanye West

Concordia has never had a shortage of unconventional classes: Video Games and/as Literature, Science Fiction, The Movie Soundtrack, and Sexual Representation in Cinema are all examples of unique courses available to Concordia students that aim to put an academic lens to the world of art and pop culture. Concordia is hardly the first or only university to host classes such as these — the University of Victoria at one point offered The Science of Batman and The Created Medieval History of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth — but one of Concordia’s newest courses may truly be the first of its kind.

Kanye vs. Ye: Genius by Design will be offered at Concordia in the fall of 2022, in the faculty of interdisciplinary studies in fine arts. The course was designed and will likely be taught by Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman, a rapper himself, who has long taught courses centered around hip hop at Concordia such as Hip Hop: Beats, Rhymes and Life.

This is not the first time that Alsalman has centered a course around one particular artist, having taught classes on Lauryn Hill and A Tribe Called Quest in the past.

“I’ve always taught my hip hop courses using artists or albums as a central theme and seeing how much influence Ye had on so many of my students throughout the years — I felt this could be a compelling, interesting examination of one of the greatest artists of our generation,” said Alsalman.

Classes like this are Aslaman’s way of giving back to a culture that shaped who he is today.

“Hip hop is the most important culture of our generation. It requires to be studied and understood and respected. This is my way of giving back to a culture that birthed my entire way of being and sustenance,” said Alsaman.

The course will centre around much grander themes than just West’s own music and personal online hijinks.

“America and race, industry vs. artists, truth and consequence, media representation of the intellectual,” said Alsalman when asked about the course’s themes.

With a figure as controversial as West, the course is likely to elicit a multitude of reactions. This is something that Dr. Eldad Tsabary, the coordinator for Concordia’s electroacoustics department and unit head for the faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies in Fine Arts, is well aware of.

“As an academic course, I’m sure it’s going to be difficult sometimes and I’m sure it’s going to be emotional sometimes. But I think that’s also part of what Fine Arts is good at. You know, I like to study science. Arts is a really good vessel for exploring and studying topics that do have a multi-layered kind of nature to them,” said Tsabary, who played a role in approving the course to be taught at Concordia.

West is both loved and loathed by many, but Tsabary and Alsalman have both made it clear that this course is not about singing his praises, or tabloid drama.

“You can study any topic of interest from the point of view of curiosity and discussion, right? And there’s a lot to discuss. You know, it’s not about putting Kanye on a pedestal,” said Tsabary.

While he is a fan of West’s work, Alsalman is also aware of his problematic nature. However, he has said it is not something that worries him when teaching this course.

“I don’t listen to the noise. As a cultural practitioner and professor, I have to look at things in totality and not do the internet skip rope around narrative. I am also well aware of American media manipulation. That being said, there has always been problematic public moments with Ye and we will talk about those in a critical lens, as opposed to taking sides or blaming. I want to see why, not what,” said Alsalman.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done around hip hop culture and representation of Black and Brown communities in our schools and I want to chip away at that at Concordia and help build the presence more and more through my work.”

Ava Weinstein-Wright is a third-year student at Concordia in Honours Sociology and Anthropology, who is signed up and is excited to take the course this fall.

“I think that music or TV shows or just even clothing and fashion can be a great gateway into further analysis such as political analysis, gender analysis, class analysis, like it’s really important.”

Even though she is excited to take the course, Weinstein-Wright has some concerns about it.

“My concern with this course is that people aren’t going to take it seriously considering the height and clout that it’s gotten considering it’s reached national news.”

The university has received a lot of media attention with magazines like Complex talking about the course – something that its future professor predicted, although not this early. “I thought this would happen while I was teaching but this was a pleasant boost and surprise,” said Alsalman.

When asked why students should take this course, Alsalman had one simple response, in a written statement to The Concordian.

“Because it’s the class of life (Kanye voice).”

Graphic by Lily Cowper

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS : Baby Keem – The Melodic Blue

Baby Keem is only getting started

Californian rapper Baby Keem is one of hip hop’s most prominent up and coming figures. After an XXL freshman appearance in 2020, he was poised to conquer the world in 2021. Keem has been under the spotlight over the past couple of weeks, releasing two singles with Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar, the latter being Keem’s cousin. He also was a feature on the song “Praise God” on Kanye West’s Donda.

The Melodic Blue marks Keem’s first studio album, and showcases how talented and creative the 20-year-old is as a musician –– him being credited for 14 of the 16 tracks on this record. Throughout the album, Keem isn’t afraid of switching up a song’s mood completely by incorporating beat switches on multiple tracks. While this can be interesting and offers a new look on certain songs, it feels a little bit out of place at times, and in some cases is poorly executed. The opening track “trademark usa” suffers from that ambition following a questionable switch in the middle of the song, which cuts all momentum it had gained in the first part.

Keem’s greatest quality throughout the record is his versatility and willingness to experiment. He isn’t afraid to deviate from his usual full-of-energy baby voice with some more lowkey autotuned ballads like on the songs “scars” and “issues,” which makes for some of the most entertaining songs off the album. The track, “south africa,” has by far the most infectious chorus on the record, which is on par with the closing track, “16,” which sees Keem singing a catchy hook in beautiful fashion over an 80s-influenced drum loop.

The Melodic Blue might be a slight change of pace from his previous mixtapes when it comes to experimenting with new ideas, but it still has its fair share of abrasive bangers, like on the songs “family ties” and “range brothers,” both featuring legendary MC Kendrick Lamar.

Praise is due to Baby Keem for the fact that he is not afraid to experiment with all kinds of new sounds, but in some places it can be a detriment to this record. He is trying so much to be different from his peers, that sometimes some of his ideas fall short of being fully polished. The fact that this release is all over the place and that it could be more focused sadly drags the quality of the record down a little bit.

Overall, The Melodic Blue is ambitious for a debut album and it unquestionably proves that Baby Keem has all the potential in the world to drop a classic album someday.


Trial track: “family ties”


Score: 6/10

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Kanye West – Donda

Donda is finally here.

After over a year of delays, teasing and announcements, Kanye West’s tenth studio album has been released at last. Donda, named after West’s late mother, was originally slated for a July 2020 release, but turned into frequent delays that saw it pushed further and further with no official tracks ever coming out. This led to a series of listening parties hosted by West throughout the summer, leading fans and listeners into what has been one of, if not the most anticipated album of the year.

Donda marks West’s first album since 2019’s JESUS IS KING, and continues to create sounds that bring together genres like gospel, rap, and ambient. However, the album falls short on listeners with its overbearing length. Coming in at a whopping 108 minutes of playtime, Donda is a difficult listen for one sitting, and is now the longest project in West’s discography.

Thematically, Donda is not much different from the artist’s last two bodies of work, ye and JESUS IS KING. West’s raps focus on his Christian faith and his family with the help of choirs, synths, and organs, leaving this album almost as a continuation of these older projects. Tracks like “Come to Life” and “Pure Souls” could just have easily come from JESUS IS KING.

Like any Kanye West album, Donda is ripe with features from a plethora of artists such as The Weeknd, Playboi Carti and Travis Scott, just to name a few. Throughout the 27-track project there are a great deal of highlights surrounded by moments that are questionable. While some features are incredibly compatible with their beats such as Jay-Z on “Jail,” there are also features whose verses simply lack a connection with the track, like the late Pop Smoke’s verse on “Tell The Vision.”

There are a great deal of homages to Donda West, such as West rapping “And if I talk to Christ, can I bring my mother back to life?” It’s moments like these that offer a glimpse into the love that West has for his mother and touch back to the idea of a tribute album. On the other hand there are insipid verses such as Baby Keem’s on “Praise God,” that seem to be nothing more than random words over a beat. While the diverse range of collaborators can draw in listeners of other fanbases, some end up souring the notion that this album is supposed to honour someone’s life.

Powerful tracks like “Hurricane” or the beautiful “Jesus Lord” are moments where this album excels, but they get lost in a sea of too many tracks on one record. As a result of this long and seemingly unending listen, Donda sounds like the work of a perfectionist who didn’t know where to stop — which is a shame for the casual listener that will not listen to almost 30 tracks straight.

At its core, Donda would have made for an incredible 12 to 15 track project if fewer songs made the final cut. With the amount of talent poured into the writing and production credits there is something to be said about West’s perfectionism, but at the same time the album is too long for its own good. As a work with multiple tracks that serve as multi-minute interludes and songs that have part ones and two, this album feels like it has too much going on to be a cohesive body of work.

Trial track: Come to Life



Graphic by James Fay


Dope.Gng, brotherhood, and their latest album, Drogue Maison

The Montreal rap duo details their symbiotic relationship while making their latest full-length project

Dope.Gng is for the ragers. The Montreal-based hip hop duo, made up of rappers Zilla and Yabock, isn’t here to reinvent the rap wheel. What they are here for, however, is to obliterate your speaker system with booming bass and a smorgasbord of creative melodies that’ll stay stuck in your head for days.

Though they haven’t been around for a long time, Dope.Gng understands the importance of identity. They originally started out as Dopamine, a harmless musical project with the intent of just dropping bangers on Soundcloud. The more they continued to drop music, the more they started to take it seriously.

“We wanted to make [Dopamine] serious and a central part of our lives,” Zilla told me over a Zoom call. “We wanted to put our all into it and rebrand.”

With that, Dopamine died and Dope.Gng was born.

In 2019, Dope.Gng unveiled their first mixtape, Fiend, a low-stakes project that would showcase the young duo’s ability to rap, and more importantly, create hits. In that rookie effort, you could hear glimpses of Kanye, Kid Cudi, and Travis Scott, but really, the comparisons are surface level.

After dropping Fiend, Dope.Gng refused to stop. They followed it up with countless singles, videos, and live performances, all of which helped fuel the creation of their second full-length project Drogue Maison.

Zilla and Yabock treat Drogue Maison like their firstborn. While they still love Fiend, they went into it knowing it was just a mixtape. This new project, a much more dense and focused one, sounds like the two young Montrealers know exactly where they’re headed.

Despite a drug-heavy allusion on the album’s title, drugs weren’t actually the central theme to the project itself.

“[Drogue Maison] is actually a reference to our apartment,” Zilla continued. “That’s where everything went down. We have a home studio and everything was actually made in the house.”

With both rappers living together and creating in the same space, it was vital for Zilla and Yabock to not only be coworkers and roommates but to be brothers too. Their duality on Drogue Maison is the driving force behind the album’s cohesiveness and the chemistry they show when rapping back and forth on the album.

“When I’m making music alone, sometimes I think I need [Zilla] to come and complement it with his sauce,” Yabock added. “I make better music when he’s around.”

Dope.Gng’s symbiotic relationship is, on its own, proof that Drogue Maison is the floor and not the ceiling when it comes to their potential. They both repeatedly claim that the quality of their music stems from trust and teamwork.

“If I’m stuck with a verse or if I need a rhyme, I’m gonna ask [Yabock]. We’re a team, we’re not gonna be fighting over intellectual property,” concluded Zilla.


Photo Credit: Béatrice Félixe



Underrated albums of 2020, Vol. 2: Kacy Hill – Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again

Kacy Hill’s GOOD Music tenure was uneventful. Now as an independent artist, her music can shine without lofty expectations

When Kacy Hill first emerged into the mainstream as a feature on Travis Scott’s “90210,” it was apparent that she was a star in the making. Prior to that, Kanye West’s infamous GOOD Music label had signed her to a deal after West heard her promotional single “Experience” on his The Yeezus Tour in 2013. Clearly, he saw her potential before anyone else did — a very Kanye thing to do.

Though Hill has a soothing voice and a good ear for beats, she was, for the most part, mishandled by GOOD Music. All the music she released under West’s imprint had pretty much gone by the wayside. With a disturbing lack of label-backing and nearly zero marketing for her debut album Like a Woman, it seemed like her career came to a jarring halt nearly as soon as it began.

GOOD Music has received its fair share of criticism for squandering young talent —  like Desiigner, Cyhi The Prynce, Valee — so it’s understandable that Hill decided to cut ties with West’s once-legendary label. With her departure from the imprint came a more stable release cycle for her music. Despite not having dropped a full album in 2018 or 2019, she released a handful of loosies that would keep whatever fans were still tapped in after her split.

Then came her sophomore album Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again. Released entirely independently, Hill’s newest album is not only a return to form but an indication that she’s confident in her own lane of indie-pop.

Kacy Hill made her album without it sounding like a glaring attempt at re-emerging into the mainstream. Her songwriting on tracks like “Much Higher” and “Everybody’s Mother” proves that she can not only sing the hell out of a dreamy pop ballad but write one with extreme care and tenderness.

The sole feature comes from Francis and the Lights on “I Believe in You” and the pairing is as natural as you’d expect. The group is also a GOOD Music signee but their chemistry together is simply an example of what could’ve been if the label had treated her music with the same level of importance that they treat Big Sean and Teyana Taylor.

Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again is the type of album you’d put on a Sunday evening in August. It sounds like the summer ending, despite an early May release. It’s chill, relaxing, and thoughtful enough to keep your attention both by the gentle instrumentals and by Hill’s introspective and reflective songwriting.

It’s also a testament to releasing music independently. GOOD Music clearly had a winner on their label and didn’t know what to do with her. It’s a shame that this is such a common occurrence in 2020, as independent artists have proven time and again that they know best when it comes to their own music. Is it surprising? Not really. At least Kacy Hill figured it out.


How album sequels have changed over the years in rap

Can album sequels contribute to a greater legacy or tarnish a masterpiece?

Album sequels are often a dice-roll. Sometimes, an artist will bounce off the momentum of their previous album and deliver a worthy follow-up. Other times, though, they’ll be a lazy cash grab to capitalize on the success of the first entry just to boost first-week album sales.

The purpose of a direct sequel is to revitalize the themes explored in the first entry and create a unique body of work that both echoes its predecessor and pushes it forward in an innovative way.

JAY-Z’s classic The Blueprint became its namesake for a lengthy series in which its sequels became watered-down versions of what made the original so good. The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse was a far lengthier album than the first, while The Blueprint 3 might be one of the worst of his career. The albums came out within a few years of each other so neither of the sequels was considered to be overdue or absolutely necessary; they just came to be.

Conversely, an artist like Raekwon can drop one of the best albums of the ‘90s in Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and then drop its sequel a decade later. In this case, it can certainly be argued that the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 was better than the first.

But what separates JAY-Z’s sequels from Raekwon’s?

Well, it depends on what the series is based on.

Cuban Linx is a mafia-inspired album, where the themes and lyrics are heavily lifted from the lifestyles of those involved in organized crime. The sequel was no different. When comparing the creative processes of both albums, they couldn’t be more different.

In the first entry, Raekwon only used RZA-produced beats while the second featured production from 15 different producers. However, when listening to them back-to-back, it’s clear that the albums are similar in concept.

These days, sequels are different. They come faster and they don’t necessarily represent the same idea they once did. Roddy Ricch’s Feed Tha Streets series came out within a year of each other. They sound similar only because Roddy’s hunger never left. His newest release, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, is a clear step away from that series in favour of sounding more like Future and Young Thug.

Kanye West is also teasing the release of Jesus is King II, the potential follow-up to his Christian-rap album from 2019, and if his statement is true, we’ll be getting it sooner rather than later.

Then there’s also Wiz Khalifa who dropped Rolling Papers 2 far too late, when no one cared about Wiz Khalifa in the same way anymore.

Rappers aren’t trying to make movies with their albums anymore. Now more than ever, the sequels feel less like a narrative follow-up and more like a successor used to bank on the momentum and popularity the first entry created. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost.


A look at Kanye West’s influence on hip hop before the release his new album

“Jesus is King” is set to drop…at some point

When he isn’t stirring up the world with controversial political and cultural remarks, Kanye West is making headlines in the world of fashion. Musically, West hasn’t made news, apart from the cancelling of Yhandi back in September of 2018.

While the musical phenom has been laying low this year (certainly by his standards), that notion will surely change when his upcoming album Jesus is King is released. While many may argue that this will result in Yeezy once again disrupting the hip-hop hierarchy, I would argue that his position in said structure – as King and Supreme Ruler, has never faltered.

West arose in a time period dominated by hip hop artists whose lyrics generally evoked expensive lifestyles and gangster personas, with the unspoken consensus being that these were themes that needed to be discussed in order to be taken seriously in the industry. At the time, West earned his credibility through his creativity as a producer for the record label Roc-A-Fella.

In releasing his debut album, The College Dropout, the self-promoted rapper did two things; he bridged the gap in hip hop that emerged between mainstream and underground empires over the last decade, and created a successful “regular guy” rapping persona that was significantly more relatable to listeners.

Wearing his original pink polo, West modified the prerequisites to having a fruitful career in the genre by rapping on subjects like materialism, religion, and family. By changing the general perception of what a rapper must be, he paved the way for new sets of talent that may have never emerged otherwise.

West induced a plethora of musical concepts consumers are exposed to today. The confident Late Registration formed a celebratory and grandiose feeling while he introduced instrumentation from other genres that hadn’t been heard in rap music before. If West needed any more justification of his dominance, he got it when hard-hitting Graduation outsold 50 Cent’s Curtis in a clash between contemporary and traditional rap. The album started a trend by blending hip hop and electronic music.

The most influential of his works is none other than 808s and Heartbreak, where a heavy-hearted West experienced a personal crisis and let it out in the form of exceptional ballads intertwined with auto-tune and a TR-808 drum machine. The result was a project so unique that critics at the time struggled to label it rap.

Kid Cudi, who helped in the making of 808s, saw all of his major albums that followed a similar archetype make the top-five on the Billboard Top 200. Auto-tune as a technique in rap became more popular after 808s through artists like T-Pain, Future, Travis Scott, the Weeknd, and Young Thug, who have made it a staple on most of their projects.

Drake, who has made a name for himself in his use of emotional breakdown and sorrow in his tracks, has gone on the record and said: “I [have] the utmost respect for Kanye West. I’d even go as far as to say he’s the most influential person as far as a musician that I’d ever had in my life.”

The fact of the matter is, West is the forefather of modern rap and R&B. He doesn’t need to headline mainstream news to be a part of it. Like how children emulate their parents’ values through their influence, Yeezy is constantly reminding the public of his musical supremacy through his effect on other artists’ works.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Speaking your mind in the spotlight

Kanye West’s support for Donald Trump highlights a larger conversation about famous people’s opinions

We all have a right to voice our opinions. In fact, I’ll be voicing mine throughout this article. It doesn’t mean you need to agree with it, but it’s always nice to open our minds to a different perspective. Oftentimes, I think people say things without expecting repercussions. But if your words were more powerful than other people’s, would you be more careful about what you said?

In my opinion, a celebrity’s words have a big impact on their fans. People can be easily influenced by their role models and, therefore, swayed to agree with something solely because of the person who said it. Or, people can also completely disagree with any statements made by celebrities and withdraw their support as a result.

When rapper Kanye West tweeted a picture of his “Make America Great Again” cap in April, people did not react well. West later tweeted, “You don’t have to agree with Trump, but the mob can’t make me not love him.” Although West has the right to be a Trump supporter, there are obvious reasons why so many people do not support the President and were so shocked when West revealed he did. I believe Trump is blatantly racist, sexist and quite childish. It’s obvious to me that this isn’t someone who should be spoken highly of by other famous people.

Although West said on Twitter that he wants to be open about his opinions and thoughts rather than be controlled by the popular opinion, it can be argued that he should be more cautious about the things he says because of his influence on the public. If he openly states that he supports Trump or supports a specific statement Trump has made, this may sway West supporters to think something that’s problematic is not so bad if West supports it.

Things can often be misread or taken out of context, so celebrities should be used to thinking twice about anything they say. We all have a right to express our opinions, but when your words have a larger impact on the public, that right needs to be exercised with more caution. I’m not saying things should be purposely left unsaid, but words travel fast, and with the popularity of social media nowadays, it’s easy for something to be seen or read by many more people than anticipated and for its impact to be far-reaching.

Kanye also argued in a tweet, “I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” Though this is true, being a celebrity does come with the responsibility of keeping in mind how your words influence your fans. Explanations must often be given to justify words and actions. If you give your opinion with no justification, it can be taken the wrong way. With an explanation, people can at least understand the reasoning behind your thinking and be considerate of it.

We do not have to agree with everything a person says, but we can respect their words. Or, if we do not want to accept them, we can at least acknowledge the fact that there is a reasonable explanation behind their opinions. Whether our words will be heard by one person or thousands, we should always be aware of the possible repercussions. Everyone can disagree with something or be disagreed with.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, and to speak it, no matter the size of their audience. However, those in the public eye should always be more conscious of how their words and actions will be received.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante



The best albums of 2016

An influential year in music with the release of many great records

With many hit albums released in 2016, here is my list of the must-listen-to records from this year.

David Bowie – Blackstar

The year started with the loss of music legend, David Bowie. Blackstar  is a deeply personal look at death and only becomes more powerful with the passing of the singer himself. Bowie brings us right to the edge and forces us to peer into the abyss with this album. It is his most beautifully morose work to date. The blend of experimental jazz alongside his classic elastic voice and pop sensibility reminds us why he is one of the most iconic pop stars of all time. His knack for ballads isn’t lost either, with “Dollar Days” providing a beautifully nihilist view on life. Every song latches onto the soul, as the lingering strings and horns glide through the album. David Bowie transcends death, and Blackstar is the most haunting album of the year.



Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

The Canadian poet sadly passed away earlier this month, but like Bowie, he left us with a reminder of his greatness. His 14th full-length LP may be his most somber project yet. A deep, church choral background accompanies him on the title track. The unmistakable sound of Cohen’s grisly voice sends shivers down spines whenever he sings. Much like Blackstar, You Want It Darker marks the end of a legend’s journey. The rich and tight production serve as the perfect backdrop for Cohen and his uncanny ability to tell beautiful, concise stories. With each song, Cohen accepts his fate and inherently resigns himself to death. The description of the album on iTunes says it best: “At 35, he sounded like an old man—at 82, he sounds eternal.”


The Darcys – Centerfold

Retro 80s pop and funk mixed with a sense of cool swagger is rarely heard, not only from Canadian groups, but from any group. This project is such a dramatic departure from The Darcys’ usual heavy, tone-focused albums. It features suave instrumentals from Jason Couse and Wes Marskell, combined with old-school funk guitar and electronic-oriented production. These melodies bring us straight to the beaches of Miami at spring break. At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than an album that’s just plain old fun. The groovy, retro guitar licks, laid back drum lines and Couse’s silky voice provides us with a neon-laced dance pop record that holds nothing back.



Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Kanye out-dueling Kendrick Lamar on “No More Parties In L.A.” is reason enough for The Life of Pablo to appear on this list. However, there are many other reasons to love this project. Kanye’s classic egotistical and insecure persona shines, but is also accompanied by a new sense of accomplishment. On his previous records, Kanye seemed troubled and burdened by fame. On The Life of Pablo, he seems to have finally begun to enjoy himself a little, and as a result, we get the best production and beats to ever grace a Kanye West album. His lyricism hasn’t taken a hit either. “No More Parties In L.A.” and “30 Hours” showcase his rhyming prowess. Multiple listens to The Life of Pablo only make it better, with new details emerging every time.


Florida Georgia Line – Dig Your Roots

I’m from Calgary, so I had to put at least one country album on this list. Florida Georgia Line has been at the forefront of the “bro country” movement. With Dig Your Roots, they tone down that frat boy mentality and deliver their most intimate material yet— all of this while still putting out some fun, light and classic tunes like “Life Is A Honeymoon” and “Summerland.” Musically, this album is not terribly original—it doesn’t need to be. Its familiarity is part of the charm, kind of like visiting your old favourite hangout spots. This is the kind of sunny country music that makes you want to kick back, shotgun some beers and tailgate with friends. No country album this year made me want to get up and dance more than Dig Your Roots.


Gord Downie – Secret Path

For those who don’t know, Gord Downie is the lead singer of one of the most respected rock bands of all time, The Tragically Hip. Secret Path is an obvious passion project for the terminally ill songwriter. Downie tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a First Nations boy who died while escaping from a residential school 50 years ago. “This is Canada’s story,” Downie has told us in multiple interviews as well as on his website and in the foreword of the graphic novel that accompanies it. It is a dark corner of our past we rarely acknowledge, but is essential to our identities. The singer brings it all to life with haunting acoustic guitar riffs and ghostly vocals overlapped with subtle piano riffs. It brings Wenjack’s suffering out from the basement of Canadian history and into the spotlight. Pounding, unrelenting drums propel each song forward into the next, making the album a journey. The top-notch production is something to be expected at this point from Downie. With Downie, however, it is never just about the chords and beats. The story is what makes the album one of Canada’s most quintessential albums in years.

Exit mobile version