2016: The Year of WINS and Losses

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I work for a company that has a weekly practice, engrained and inherent in the cultural fabric since its inception. Every Friday afternoon, we gather around at each of our office locations to celebrate our WINS. WINS comprise of any and all contributions made by individuals, teams, and the company as a whole. No matter how low a week goes, even and especially during the most grueling of times, we make sure to count our blessings and victories.

2016 certainly had its WINS and best moments to reflect upon, some of which include:

  1. More than a handful of women in the political arena shattered sky-high glass ceilings for women everywhere.
  2. The victims and families of the Charleston Church Massacre were given reprieve when Dylann Roof was found guilty on all 33 federal charges.
  3. Protesters gained victory in fight over Dakota Access Oil Pipeline.
  4. Unemployement rates finally stabilized to the pre-Great Recession era.
  5. Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar for Best Actor.
  6. The Global Fund raised nearly 13 billion dollars to help fight AIDS, TB and malaria for the next three years, which means up to 8 million more lives will be saved
  7. Cubs won World Series after 108 years waiting.
  8. Chance The Rapper became the first independent artist to be nominated for a Grammy award, seven to be exact.
  9. Rising artists shined brightly with deeply personal, provocative, politically-charged, spiritual, and emotional lyrics and melodies. This was the year to highlight rap, hip-hop, R&B and honor everything in between.

Then, we quickly swing to the other side of the pendulum. This year also had some of the ugliest and worst moments – a turbulent year, filled with countless trials and tribulations.

There’s this peculiar sentiment that 2016 was one of our most trying years. How can it not feel that way when it seemed we woke up every day, week, or month to domestic and international terrorism, hate crimes, and anything but a humanitarian Syrian crisis?

We also had a highly contentious, controversial Presidential election that revealed a deeply divided nation and a heavy aftermath.

Black Lives Matter truly became a trending hashtag due to its frequent occurrence, stirred on further with retaliations.

And, we had some of the most heartbreaking passings of iconic, music legends.

There’s no doubt that this was a tough year, but if we put it in perspective, we realize how relative it all is depending on the time period we live in. This year isn’t our first cake walk around being a deeply divided nation, with the practice of slavery, and its enduring effects in the Civil War and segregation. If we reflect back on the past years, decades, and centuries, we could say that chaos in our world is in fact the only constant.

  1. 2008 marked the beginning of the Great Recession, a major worldwide economic downturn, and the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  2. 2005 was hit by Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the United States.
  3. 2001 goes down in infamy as one of the most highly coordinated terrorist attacks in the United States that look the lives of nearly 3,000 people and injured 6,000 more.
  4. We lived through the Vietnam War era in the 1960s and 1970s, where millions lost their lives and spurred on the greatest anti-war sentiments across the world.
  5. In 1963, JFK’s life came to a tragic end, leaving a legacy as one of the most daring, influential, and accomplished presidencies surrounding domestic and foreign policies.
  6. From the 1910s to 1940s, our world endured two major World Wars and the Great Depression.

I recently had a relative pass away. This also isn’t a new occurrence for my family. We’ve endured tragedies through homicides, drunk drivers, and unnaturally natural causes before peaking 40. Just when we thought 2016 was almost over, we had another homicidal tragedy strike; the victim who breathed his last breath was my 35-year-old nephew, an accomplished lawyer from Chicago, who leaves behind a committed wife, two, young daughters, and a devastated mother and father who doted on their only son.

But somehow, even in the toughest, tearful of times, surfaced a beautiful and touching story. While I couldn’t bear the grief of another funeral, my sister shared her heartfelt experience with me. Through her, I learned that more than 700 people were in attendance to pay their respects at his funeral. He was surrounded by loved ones – family, childhood friends, and college buddies – who celebrated the memories of him and the life he led, recounted his impact on them, and cracked a few meager laughs through the tears. They also gave their unwavering, undying commitment that justice would be served and that his legacy would reverberate through them and his family.

For a year where it seems like iconic music legends dropped like flies from the sky, this is our chance to celebrate their lasting legacy in the lives of their listeners and future generations of musicians.

A few days ago, my brother recounted his first memories of George Michael, the musician who ironically experienced his ‘Last Christmas’ this year.

“First time I heard ‘Careless Whisper’ was in 1985, sitting on the top deck of a double decker bus in Singapore. A guy was playing it on repeat on a big boom box sitting at the front of the bus. He wore the poignant melancholy of the song on his face…completely captured the heartbreak of the tune. What a voice, talented musician, creative spirit. This world is being emptied of the old greats, artists, musicians, who were the constant companions on my journey from youth to manhood. They helped paint the world in interesting colors, gave me soundtracks and markers for memories and milestones…it helped me to define  my place and space in it. It is as if they are letting go for us to finish the rest of the way with whatever time remains, on our own.”

While I didn’t grow up alongside these musicians, I can sympathize with his sentiments. But, I see it as them passing the torch onto their inspired listeners, and hopefully for other artists and musicians in the present and future generations with the potential to leave a similar and lasting impact and legacy. Meanwhile, they will keep a watchful, musing eye on us amongst the stars.

The beauty of music is truly that it serves as “markers etched forever in the mind, a reminder of a memory, a particular place and time, and in the days of youth, striking a new emotion not felt before.”

Let’s etch our memories of 2016 by marking new memories, reminding ourselves of the old, and letting the fervent energy and emotions carry us into 2017.

The Best of Times


Rap & Hip-Hop


Kanye West – Life of Pablo

Recommendations:

  1. Ultralight Beam
  2. Feedback
  3. Highlights
  4. Wolves
  5. Real Friends
  6. Fade
  7. Saint Pablo

Drake – Views

Recommendations:

  1. Keep the Family Close
  2. Feel No Ways
  3. Redemption
  4. With You

Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Recommendations: They’re all too good to pick a few!

Vic Mensa – There’s Alot Going On

Recommendations:

  1. 16 Shots
  2. Shades of Blue
  3. There’s Alot Going On

J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only

  1. Change
  2. 4 Your Eyez Only

The Hamilton Mixtape – Various Artists

Recommendations:

  1. My SHot
  2. An Open Letter
  3. Satisfied
  4. Dear Theodosia
  5. That Would Be Enough
  6. Immigrants
  7. Who Tells Your Story
  8. Dear Theodosia – Reprise

Common – Black America Again

Recommendations

  1. Joy and Peace
  2. Black America Again
  3. Little Chicago Boy
  4. Letter to the Free

Saba – Bucket List Project

Recommendations:

  1. Bucket List
  2. California

Chance the Rapper & Jeremih – Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama

  1. All the Way
  2. Snowed In
  3. Chi Town Christmas
  4. Merry Christmas Lil Mama

R&B


Beyonce – Lemonade

Recommendations:

  1. Pray You Catch Me
  2. Hold Up
  3. Don’t Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White)
  4. Sorry
  5. Daddy Lessons
  6. Sandcastles
  7. Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

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John Legend – DARKNESS AND LIGHT

Recommendations:

  1. Penthouse Floor
  2. Darkness and Light
  3. Love Me Now
  4. Right By You (for Luna)
  5. Temporarily Painless

Alicia Keys – HERE

Recommendations:

  1. The Gospel
  2. Kill Your Mama
  3. Illusion of Bliss
  4. Work On It
  5. Cocoa Butter
  6. Girl Can’t Be Herself
  7. Where Do We Begin Now

Solange – A Seat at the Table

Recommendations:

  1. Cranes in the Sky
  2. Mad
  3. Don’t Touch My Hair
  4. All of the ‘Interludes’

Anderson .Paak – Malibu

Recommendations:

  1. The Waters
  2. The Season | Carry Me
  3. Am I Wrong
  4. Without You
  5. Silicon Valley
  6. The Dreamer

Frank Ocean – Blonde

Recommendations:

  1. Ivy
  2. Pink + White
  3. Be Yourself
  4. Nights
  5. Solo (Reprise)
  6. Facebook Story
  7. Futura Free

Rihanna – ANTI

Recommendations:

  1. Yeah, I Said It
  2. Love On The Brain
  3. Higher

Emeli Sandé – Long Live the Angels

Recommendations:

  1. Garden
  2. Tenderly
  3. Highs & Lows
  4. Babe

Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

Recommendations:

  1. Me and Your Mama
  2. Redbone
  3. California

Kid Cudi – Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’

Recommendations:

  1. Frequency
  2. By Design
  3. Flight at First Sight/Advanced
  4. Surfin’

Electronic, Pop & Rock


Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Recommendations:

  1. 33 *GOD*
  2. 21 Moon WATER
  3. 00000 Million

James Blake – The Colour in Anything

Recommendations:

  1. Radio Silence
  2. Timeless
  3. f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
  4. I Hope My Life – 1-800 Mix
  5. My Willing Heart
  6. I Need a Forest Fire

ZHU – GENERATIONWHY

Recommendations:

  1. In the Morning
  2. Electrify Me
  3. One Minute to Midnight
  4. Hometown Girl
  5. Good Life

Sia – This Is Acting

Recommendations:

  1. Alive
  2. Cheap Thrilles
  3. The Greatest
  4. Jesus Wept

Sting – 57th & 9th

Recommendations:

  1. I Can’t Stop Thinking About You
  2. 50,000
  3. One Fine Day
  4. Inshallah

The Worst of Times


David Bowie (January 8, 1947-January 10, 2016)

Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming. – David Bowie

We could always hear the future in Bowie’s music, as did the East Germans at the Concert for Berlin in 1987. No wall could keep the sounds of freedom from crossing the great divide. Musicians were heroes, even if just for one day…

Glen Frey (November 6, 1948-January 18, 2016)

Except for a few guitar chords, everything I’ve learned in my life that is of any value I’ve learned from women. – Glen Frey on Interview Magazine

Maurice White (December 19, 1941-February 4, 2016)

With all these trials and tribulations, yo, I’ve been affected / And to top it off, Starks got ejected. – “8 Million Stories” from Midnight Marauders

Prince (June 7, 1958-April 21, 2016)

 On the state of the music industry
“Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”
– at the 2015 Grammys

On letting the music speak for itself
“I don’t want to get up on a soapbox. My view of the world, you can debate that forever. But I’m a musician. That’s what I do. And I also am music. Come to the show for that.”
– to The Guardian

On identity
“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”
– to Rolling Stone

On conventions
“A strong spirit transcends rules.”
– in The Guardian

Source: http://people.com/celebrity/prince-dead-at-57-his-most-inspirational-quotes/

Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934-November 7, 2016)

“Dear Uncle Leonard,” the email from the boy began. “Did anything inspire you to create ‘Hallelujah’”? Later that same winter day the reply arrived: “I wanted to stand with those who clearly see G-d’s holy broken world for what it is, and still find the courage or the heart to praise it. You don’t always get what you want. You’re not always up for the challenge. But in this case — it was given to me. For which I am deeply grateful.” – Leon Wieseltier via NYTimes

Sharon Jones (May 4, 1956-November 18, 2016)

100 days, 100 nights, to know a man’s heart / 100 days, 100 nights, to know a man’s heart / And a little more, before, he knows his own…- Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

George Michael (June 25, 1962-December 25, 2016)

I still believe that music is one of the greatest gifts that God gave to man. – George Michael

2016’s Words To Live By


“Love does not despair. Love gives us hope that change is possible.” – Stephen Colbert

“If you take away the labels, you’ll realize we’re far more alike than we are different.” – Ellen Degeneres

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.” – Willie Wonka (Gene Wilder, June 11, 1933-August 29, 2016)

“Strong men – men who are truly role models – don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.” – Michelle Obama

“When they go low, we go high.” – Michelle Obama

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish, whether that’s in politics or other fields.” – Michelle Obama

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.” – Michelle Obama

“I’ll keep saying I’m a feminist until there’s no reaction.” – Justin Trudeau

“Love is out there. Search on.” – Google.com/2016

“Love Trumps Hate.” – Democratic National Committee

“My wife’s the reason anything gets done / She nudges me towards promise by degrees / She is a perfect symphony of one / Our son is her most beautiful reprise / We chase the melodies that seem to find us/ Until they’re finished songs and start to play / When senseless acts of tragedy remind us / That nothing here is promised, not one day / This show is proof that history remembers / We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers / Remembrances that hope and love last longer / And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside / I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story / Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda

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