Exclaim!'s Top 27 Albums of 2016 So Far

23. BJ the Chicago Kid
In My Mind

It's been a banner year for Chicago musicians: Chance the Rapper, Kanye West and Bryan James Sledge. BJ might be the least prominent of those three kings, but he's no less capable of producing monumental work, as he's proven in 2016. In My Mind exists at the crossroads of forward-thinking hip-hop, layered soul and gospel tradition.

"Church" mustered those sentiments harmoniously, "Resume" turned a curriculum vitae into something NSFW and "Wait Til the Morning" proved that an uptempo ballad can make us empathize with a scoundrel. That notion of church, divisive to many, is the bedrock of In My Mind, reaching its zenith on the Old Testament tale "Jeremiah," but what BJ is really evangelizing is the idea of devotion and calling, in many ways more effectively than those collecting tithes. With him the humility of a working session musician, BJ delivered one of the breakout albums of 2016.
Michael J. Warren