Favorite 32 Projects of 2016 (with explanations)

Hip-Hop in 2016: the Year of Love; For the Culture

Such a stacked year.

The top 10-15 albums could all compete for AOTY. Projects like Introverted Intuition, Bears Like This Too Much, Smino’s Blkjuptr, and Big Baby D.R.A.M being near the bottom of the top 30 and projects like Young Dolph’s Rich Crack Baby, ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face, and Big K.R.I.T.’s #12For12 not even making the list is revelation to how much quality was released this year.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

#1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu // Oxnard, CA // Alternative R&B

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  • Extremely melodic.
  • Very lyrically inclined.
  • Veteran song structuring ability.

Standout songs: Come Down, The Season / Carry Me, Parking Lot, Heart Don’t Stand A Chance

2. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from here…Thank you 4 your service // Brooklyn, NY // Hip-Hop (Boom-Bap)
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  • Some of the best boom-bap in 2016.
  • In line with ATCQ’s Midnight Marauder and Low End Theory classics.
  • Hard to stop listening to, like putting down a good book.
Standout songs: Conrad Tokyo, Ego, Dis GenerationBlack Spasmodic

#3 NxWorries – Yes Lawd! // Oxnard, CA // Hip-Hop, Funk, & Neo-Soul

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  • Knxwledge and .Paak fit together seamlessly.
  • Super melodic; heavy funk + blaxploitation influences.
  • Lyrically animated.

Standout songs: Suede

#4. YG – Still Brazy // Compton, CA // Gangsta Rap

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  • Surprisingly socio-political.
  • Distinct West Coast production with no Mustard features.
  • Best sophomore album in years.

Standout songs: Who Shot Me?, Twist My Fingaz, Still Brazy, Word is Bond, Police Get Away Wit Murder, I Got a Question (feat Lil Wayne)

#5. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book // Chicago, IL // Rap & Gospel

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  • Great mix of gospel & rap.
  • Focused Chance > Acid Chance
  • Mixtape of the year.

Standout songs: Blessing 1 & 2 (feat Noname & Ty$), No Problem (feat Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz), Angels (feat Saba), Mixtape (feat Young Thug & Lil Yachty)

#6. KAYTRANADA – 99.9% // Canada // Alternative Instrumental

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  • Variety of sounds.
  • Sonically colorful.
  • Musically ambitious and cohesive.

Standout songs: Glowed Up (feat Anderson . Paak), Got It Good (feat Craig David), You’re The One (feat Syd Tha Kid)

#7. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade // Chattanooga, TN // Hip-Hop

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  • Doesn’t sound like any other contemporary rap.
  • Mellow vibes.
  • Best non-Kendrick TDE project?

Standout songs: Free Lunch, Park

#8. Frank Ocean – Blond(e) // Odd Future Land // R&B & Soul

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  • Lots of raw emotion.
  • Delicate yet complex production.
  • Plays like a movie.
Standout songs: Ivy, Pink + White, Self Control

#9. Kendrick Lamar – untitled, unmastered // Compton, CA // Rap & Hip-Hop

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  • Best compilation album since Nas The Lost Tapes
  • Hopefully this is eventually titled and mastered.

Standout songs: Track #3, Track #7

#10.  Noname – Telefone // Chicago, IL // Spoken Word Rhythm

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  • Great exhibition of how to merge spoken word + rap.
  • Lyrically profound.
  • Good/suitable beat selection.

Standout songs: Diddy Bop (feat Raury & Cam O’bi), Reality Check (feat Eryn Allen Kane & Akenya)Forever (feat Ravyn Lenae & Joseph Chilliams)

#11. Phonte and Eric Roberson – Tigallerro // Greensboro, NC // R&B & Rap

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  • Good mix of R&B and rap.
  • Grown man music; soothing.

Standout songs: Waiting 4 Ya, Hold Tight, 3:45, It’s So Easy

#12. Saba – Bucket List Project // Chicago, IL // Hip-Hop
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  • Socially aware.
  • Spoken word influenced.
  • Great song concepts and skits.
Standout songs: “MOST“, “Church / Liquor Store”
#13. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3 // RTJ // Hip-Hop & Rap
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  • Very politically aggressive in the same vein as Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted album.
  • Gorgeous alternative production by El-P.
  • Rough and tough deliveries every verse.

Standout songs: “A Report The The Shareholders // Kill Your Masters“, “Everybody Stay Calm“, “Legend Has It

#14. Solange Knowles – A Seat At The Table // Houston, TX // R&B & Neo-Soul
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  • Extremely vibe-y; strong messaging.
  • One of the strongest albums from the Knowles camp
Standout songs: “F.U.B.U”, “Mad”, “Don’t Touch My Hair” 
#15. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition // Detroit, MI // Experimental Hip-Hop
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  • Great intro, interesting production.
  • Fits unorthodox flows into tight places.
  • Ambitious production throughout
Standout songs: “Downward Spiral

#16. Kamayiah – A Good Night in the Ghetto // Oakland, CA // Rap & Hip-Hop

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  • Female MC from Oakland with charisma.
  • Numerous slaps/bangers.
  • Good production.

Standout Songs: How Does It Feel?, Come Back, Fuck It Up (feat YG)For My Dawgs

#17. Tory Lanez – I Told You // Toronto, ON “The 6” // Hip-Hop & R&B
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  • Effective story/concept album.
  • Cinematic feel.
  • Best Toronto album in 2016.
Standout songs: “To D.R.E.A.M“, “Flex”, “Cold Hard Love”
#18. Dave B & Sango – Tomorrow // Renton, WA // Hip-Hop
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  • Dave B floats over Sango’s bouncy production.
  • Intimate, easy listening project.
Standout songs: “Nothin”, “Parallel
#19. Lil Uzi Vert – Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World // Philadelphia, PA // Hip-Hop & Rap
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  • Uzi deploys a plethora of original flows and cadences over bass-y production.
  • This LP has some of the bangers of the year including Money Longer.
Standout songs: “You Was Right“, “Ps & Qs”, “Money Longer
#20. De La Soul – …and the Anonymous Nobody // Long Island, NY // Alternative Hip-Hop
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  • Creative, sonically engaging.
  • Well executed.
  • Original teachers of Hip-Hop STILL teaching.
Standout songs: “Whoodeeni (feat 2 Chainz)”, “In Memory of … (US) (feat Estelle & Pete Rock)
#21. Ab-Soul – Do What Thou Wilt. // Carson, CA // Hip-Hop
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  • Very wordy and lyrical.
  • Hidden messages throughout album.
  • At times feels like an easter egg hunt – constantly hunting for hidden gems in the album.

Standout songs: “Womanogamy“, INvocation (feat Kokane), “D.R.U.G.S (feat Mac Miller)

#22. Meek Mill – DC4 // Philadelphia, PA // Street Hip-Hop
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  • Plethora of flows and emotions.
  • DC4 is Meek’s best, most cohesive project.
Standout songs: “Lights Out (feat Don Q)”, Blessed Up,  The Difference (feat Quavo), Blue Notes
#23. Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component // Chicago, IL // Hip-Hop 
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  • Project based on LOVE.
  • Mick deploys amazing rhyme schemes and concepts throughout.
Standout songs: “Spread Love“, “Drowning (feat BBNG)
#24. D.R.A.M. – Big Baby D.R.A.M. // Hampton, VA // R&B, Soul, & Hip-Hop
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  • Soulful yet poppy.
  • Moody yet bright and exciting.
  • Great merger of different sounds; inspiring rhythms.
Standout songs: “Cash Machine”, “Broccoli (feat Lil Yachty)“, “WiFi (feat Erykah Badu)”
#25 Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) – December 99th // Brooklyn, NY // Alternative R&B/Hip-Hop
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  • Eerie production like on Local Time.
  • Mixture of singing/rapping, sing-rapping (vibing).
  • Melodic tunes and riddles throughout.

Standout songs: “Shadow In The Dark”, “IT GOES

#26. Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine // Pittsburgh, PA // Hip-Hop & Funk
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  • Well executed concept album.
  • Great piano +chords.
  • Lots of funk, R&B, and pop influences throughout.
Standout songs: “Congratulations (feat Bilal)”, “Dang! (feat Anderson .Paak)
#27. Spillage Village – Bears Like This Too Much // Atlanta, GA // Hip-Hop
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  • Real life/down-to-earth rap in the same vein as J. Cole and Bas.
  • Great verses from a variety of MCs throughout the album.
#28. Lance Skiiiwalker – Introverted Intuition // Chicago, IL // Hip-Hop & R&B
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  • Colorful production.
  • Spastic drums.
  • Overlooked release from TDE camp in 2016.
Standout songs: “Sound”, “Reality
#29. NBA YoungBoy – 38 Baby // Baton Rouge, LA // Street Hip-Hop
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  • Raw, gutter, southern rap album.
  • Reminiscent of Boosie, Webbie, Gucci, and other pre-Trap South artists
Standout songs: “38 Baby“, “Down Chick”
#30. Smino – Blkjuptr // St. Louis, MO // Hip-Hop & R&B
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  • Bouncy and uptempo at times but still lyrical.
  • Relatable lyrics over left-field Soulection/Monte Booker type production.
Standout songs: “Blkjuptr
#31. BBNG – IV // Toronto, ON “The 6” // Jazz & Hip-Hop
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  • Fast-paced, uptemp, at times.
  • Intricately placed features.
  • A musical experience.
#32. A Boogie & Don Q – Highbridge the Label // Bronx, NY // Street Hip-Hop
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  • In-your-face album.
  • Lit NYC on fire this year.
  • A Boogie keeps album afloat and interesting with his melodies.
Standout songs: “Bag On Me”, “Not A Regular Person“, “Fucking You Tonight remix”
A Year In Review
2016 gave us some great moments, including the ultra-hyped LEMONADE surprise album/video by Beyonce, Curren$y dropping a project every month for a total of 12 projects on the year, album releases by living legends Kanye West, Drake, and A Tribe Called Quest, and more!
We were treated to a swath of high-profile releases such as Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, Drake’s Views, Beyonce’s Lemonade, and J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only. Listeners also enjoyed a wide range of independent Soundcloud releases including Jay IDK’s Empty Bank project.
Hip-Hop in 2016 was a year centered around the theme of love. Whether it was Mick Jenkins releasing a concept album of love The Healing Component, Lil Uzi Vert crooning to his girlfriend Britney all over Lil Uzi Vert vs The World, or Ab-Soul unexpectedly delving into intimacy and infatuation on Do What Thou Wilt., 2016 was the year Hip-Hop artists stressed the importance of LOVE.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
 Despite social and human rights violations against African Americans in America, Hip-Hop in 2016 was largely focused on love and positivity. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary to this “feel good” year was Anderson .Paak, the artist formerly known as “Breezy Lovejoy”. Anderson .Paak was the centerpiece of Dr. Dre’s 2015 Compton album. .Paak followed it up by dropping two of the best albums in a stacked 2016 year: Malibu and Yes Lawd! (as the group NxWorries).
2016 was the year of love in Hip-Hop. And despite a plethora of great releases from a number of artist, 2016 was the year of Anderson .Paak’s.
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2016 Releases: #1 Malibu (#1), #3 Yes Lawd! (featuring Knxwledge, as NxWorries)
Malibu is musically ambitious, drawing on a wide array of instrumentation while Yes Lawd! is more familiar with a singular producer, Knxwledge, handling most of the production. Yes Lawd! is unforgivably pimpi-ish in the same vein as a blaxploitation film. Two very different albums from Anderson .Paak but infectious in their own way.

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