The end of the year is here – 2016. In many ways, 2016 was terrible. Hip-Hop was at war with itself, as generations, sentiments and cultures clashed. Still, musically it demonstrated that Hip-Hop still had a lot of range. Here are some of the most noteworthy rappers of the year, who continue to improve and expand the art farther and wider.
Chance The Rapper
No label, no problem. Chicago artist, Chance The Rapper, claimed 2016 as his own. With the release of his third mixtape “Coloring Book” and the success of his Magnificent Coloring Day which was held at Wrigley Field, Chance proved to the world that he was here to stay. Yet, the defining moment of his career happened outside of Rap. Chance The Rapper spearheaded a movement that allowed digital albums to be eligible for Grammy contention. This success paired with numerous business ventures solidified his legacy and made him the most sought after artist of 2016.
Despite a swirls of rumors and rap beefs, 2016 was another year where Drake continued to impose his will on the world of music. This year brought the Toronto Rapper not only the highest grossing single of his career but album as well in “Hotline Bling” and Views. He followed up this success with a viciously popular Summer Sixteen tour, a short film, and another project titled More Life. Drake used 2016 as his creative playground, proving to Rap that “Success is the Best Revenge.”
Throughout the years, Kanye has proven himself as one of Rap’s pillars that never disappoints his fans. And the year of 2016 was no different – for the most part. This year brought Mr. West his sixth number one album, while propelling him into a widely successful tour. The success of the The Life of Pablo as well as the continual growth of his clothing line and music label allowed Kanye to claim 2016 as one of his many “G.O.O.D. ass” years. The end of the year seemed like an implosion, with a mental breakdown and an ill-timed meeting with the president-elect. Still, it did not erase his influence.
Rap’s latest novelty, Young Thug, continued to grow into a household name in 2016. This year, Thug brought to a conclusion his “Slime Season” mixtape series with its third installment. He then transitioned into his “Jeffery” mixtape where the content was only matched by the cover art. Throughout the year of 2016, Young Thug became a staple in Rap culture by pushing the boundaries of gender and lyrical content. His musical presence and social impact made Young Thug one of the most influential artist of any genre in 2016, love it or loathe it. .
Lil Uzi Vert
Hip-Hop’s newest Rock Star, Lil Uzi Vert, took 2016 by storm. The Philly native released two highly popular mixtapes in “Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World” and “The Perfect LUV Tape.” Yet it doesn’t stop there, Uzi spent 2016 performing at almost every college campus and music festival in the United States. This combined with being named as one of the acts selected to accompany The Weeknd on his recently announced world tour, made 2016 a memorable year for the emerging artist.
Travis Scott’s has been littered with questions, which he answered highhandedly in 2016. This year, La Flame released his highly anticipated sophomore effort, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. With this project, Scott proved that he was not only a versatile producer but a well rounded lyricist as well. Along with the success of his album, Travis also began to take a more focused approach to the world of fashion working along side companies such as Adidas and Yves Saint Laurent. His activity made it this year the perfect platform for which Scott could propel himself into the world of “superstardom.”
2016 proved to be Project Baby’s most successful year. Despite run ins with the law eventually leading to him being incarcerated in September, Kodak set the world of Rap on fire. The success of singles such as “Skrilla” and “Maneuvering,” allowed his to be apart of XXL’s Freshman Class. In addition to releasing his popular Lil Big Pac mixtape, Kodak used this year to expand the reach of his Sniper Gang music label. This hard work and a late year release will give Kodak a chance to solidify his status in Rap.
Outside of dropping one of the most popular albums of the year, YG400 used 2016 to expand his social impact. While My Krazy Life made the whole world “Bool, Still Brazy had them yelling “F*ck Donald Trump!” This exemplified YG’s growth as not only an artist put a cultural icon. This impact is a result of his nonstop hustle. Outside of an album, YG launched a clothing line, showcased his eye for talent by cosigning emerging Oakland Rapper, Kamaiyah, and dropped a mixtape. 2016 made for a year where YG got to showcase his skills to the world.
2016 marked a new era for Gucci Mane. In May, Wop finally became a free man. With this freedom, the world was welcomed to a slim, drug free, more coherent Gucci. Many people feared this change could impact the quality of music we are used to hearing form Gucci. They were wrong. True to Wop, Gucci left the cell and went straight to the studio. He released a slew of projects including the number one album, Everybody’s Looking. He also graced hipster rags and haughty mags like Vogue. The transformation of Guwop grabbed everyone’s attention. He took this chance to remind 2016 that the Rap world is his child. And of course, Guwop loves the kids.
As part of Hip-Hop’s newest wave, 21 Savage was able to differentiate himself in 2016. His unique way of blending Southern Trap sounds with the lyrical content that made Chicago’s Drill genre popular made him one of this year’s more likable artist. He followed that accomplishment by releasing Savage Mode; his joint album with powerhouse producer, Metro Boomin. The success of this album propelled 21 onto several successful tours including one with Young Thug. This increase in popularity even spawned a copycat named 22 Savage. Yes, it is like that.
Even though he did not release a solo project, Quavo set himself as one of the hottest artist of 2016. Throughout this year, Quavo, blessed a magnitude of artists with unforgettable featured verses. His skill set and popularity solidified his spot as the “Beyonce of the Migos.” However, his solo success did not limit them. Quavo and the Migos not only signed a marketing deal with G.O.O.D. Music, the were also featured in the hit television series, “Atlanta,” and released a hit with “Bad and Bougie.” Yet this group success paired with his hot streak as a solo artist, allowed 2016 to be the year Quavo flexed his ability to standout.
The resilience of D.R.A.M. was on display in 2016. After surviving the blow dealt to his momentum by Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” D.R.A.M. released the popular mixtape “Gahdamn!” He utilized the success of this project and multiple tours to set the stage for the release of the single “Broccoli” featuring Lil Yatchy. This served as the lead single for his debut album, Big Baby D.R.A.M., which had superstar list of collaborations. The popularity of his album along with the respect he receives from the music industry enabled D.R.A.M. to showcase his genius in 2016.
Hip-Hop witnessed the coming of age of Rae Sremmurd in 2016. With the release of StremmLife 2, the energy of Slim Jimmy and intelligence of Swae Lee began to become more understood by the world of Rap. This album proved that they are not just a radio fad, while still featuring one of the biggest songs of the year with “Black Beatles.” Their growth as artists made them the most influential acts of 2016. They also catapulted the “Mannequin Challenge” into one of the most interesting social media phenomenons ever.
ScHool Boy Q
Everybody’s favorite Crip made a monstrous return in 2016. This year, ScHool Boy Q accompanied the release of the Blank Face LP with a popular short film under the same name. He also embarked on a successful tour with TDE label mate Isaiah Rashad. In 2016 Groovy Q successfully showcased his artistry while staying true to his gangster roots. Simply put, Blank Face LP is one of the best, well-told albums this year.
Childish Gambino/Donald Glover
Hip-Hop’s ultimate Renaissance Man, Childish Gambino, unleashed his varied set of skills in 2016. While Gambino did produce and release various musical projects this year, the thing that kept him buzzing throughout the year was his self produced television show, “Atlanta.” Glover’s show was met with critical and commercial acclaim. It’s 10 episode season was one for the most popular debut seasons in FX history and has already been renew for second season. The success of his show as well as his continual dedication to music made him one the most talked about artist of 2016. Childish Gambino went all the way left with Awaken, My Love, but still gets props over here for the fearless, retro approach to life.
Philadelphia ambassador, Meek Mill, remained a topic of discussion in 2016. Wether it was rumors or beef you couldn’t open a blogsite without seeing Meek’s name. Yet no matter what was circulating around him, Meek Mill continued to release hot music. This year for Meek saw a litany of tracks (diss or otherwise) as well as the release of his DC4 and DC4.5 tapes. His ability to wade through the drama around him and produced quality music made him one of the most talked about artist of 2016.
For a while New York had been experiencing a proverbial “drought” when it comes to releasing quality Rap music. A lot of artists have been buzzing in the city, yet they lack the classic New York sound that has been a staple in Rap since its conception. The emergence of Dave East has changed that. In 2016 the Harlem native grew to become one of the most popular artist in the city. He released his widely acclaimed Kairi Chanel mixtape and actually opened doors for a new generation of New York lyricist. This year Dave East embraced the pressure of being New York’s next MC and used it to establish a foundation for a promising career.
The public at large has an opinion about Chicago Hip-Hop, but G-Herbo managed to become an ambassador of sorts. He stayed busy by being a part of 2016 XXL’s Freshman Class, but he did something much more. He grew up. He continued to spit fire and articulate the plight of a Chi-Town millennial. To satisfy fans, he released a mixtape “Strictly 4 My Fans,” which was well-received until he drops his official debut, Humble Beast. We can’t wait.
Once again Tity Boi proved his status as the Sensei of the Trap. In 2016, 2 Chainz released two mixtapes “Daniel Son; Necklace Don” and “Hibachi For Lunch.” He was also featured on some of the most popular songs of the year namely, Chance The Rapper’s “No Problem.” His joint album with Lil Wayne, “Collegrove,” allowed the world to hear Wayne on a complete project. His barrage of musical material gave certainly kept his fans entertained in 2016.
Cedar Block’s finest, The Game, proved the longevity of his gangster in 2016. He regularly straddled the line between menace and militant. His philanthropy and Instagram regularly kept him in conversations, while his music stood as quality releases. His 1992 album, two compilation albums, singles, and tour proved Game to be an active veteran in 2016.
• Chance The Rapper
• Kanye West
• Young Thug
• Lil Uzi Vert
• Travis Scott
• Kodak Black
• Gucci Mane
• 21 Savage
• Rae Sremmurd
• ScHool Boy Q
• Childish Gambino/Donald Glover
• Meek Mill
• G Herbo
• 2 Chainz
• The Game
• Dave East