Top 10 Rap Albums of 2016
Honorable Mentions: DJ Khaled - Major Key; Schoolboy Q - Blank Face LP; Isiah Rashad - The Sun’s Tirade; A Tribe Called Quest - Thank You 4 Your Service; De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody; Neef Buck - Forever Do Me 8; Smoke DZA - Don’t Pass Trump The Blunt
10) Dave East - Kairi Chanel
It’s really now or never for the Harlem MC, and although 2016 didn’t solidify his spot he definitely moved his chess pieces in the right direction, with a 15 track mixtape that definitely had some 🔥🔥🔥 on it - It Was Written, From The Heart, Slow Down, & Don’t Shoot being the standout records. Otherwise Nas protege still has a lot to prove, and his 2017 Def Jam debut will likely be the deciding factor on whether or not he can truly contend for the crown.
9) Joe Budden - Rage & The Machine
TBH Joe should leave the podcast game alone… Drink Champs got that… and truthfully Joe and Rory offer absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of anything, and that podcast is not enjoyable to listen to at all… otherwise Joe Budden is still one of the nicest MCs in the game, and his 2016 raps certainly proved that - as records like Uncle Joe, By Law, I Wanna Know, & Idols were the definition of pure lyricism and delivery. Otherwise Wake is insane but wasn’t on the album, yet all the same beneath the fuckery Joe Budden was definitely spittin in 2016.
8) Bas - Too High To Riot
This year J Cole’s friend from Queens became more than just a sidekick, but instead a legitimate artist with quality music of his own - emphasis on quality - where over the last few years Bas has seemingly found his niche as a dope MC. With that being said 'Too High To Riot' is leaps and bounds better than his previous offering 'Last Winter', as records like Methylone, Dopamine, Clouds Never Get Old, and Penthouse stand as some of the best Hip Hop to released in 2016 bar none. Furthermore the underground classic Night Job is also on this cohesive and criminally underrated project, which showcases one of the best J Cole verses of the year.
7) Kanye West - The Life of Pablo
Nobody was more of a clown than Kanye Kardashian in 2016… in fact there’s likely never been more of a clown in Hip Hop history than Kanye Kardashian period; yet beneath the debauchery he still has his name attached to a lot of classic Hip Hop music. Keyword: name-attached; as there’s no telling what the creative process with Kanye is at this point, yet all signs point to Kanye doing the absolute minimum (even though most publications don’t talk about it). Even still TLOP has some 🔥🔥🔥 on it, with records like Famous, Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 (in spite of Kanye), Waves, Real Friends, & 30 Hours that were some of the most memorable records to come out this year.
6) Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
14 tracks and 22 features, 'Coloring Book' is straight flames but I could never give all that credit to Lil Chano from 79th, even though he’s the #1 media darling who music journalists give all the credit in the world to. Nevermind he’s legitimately Hip Hop’s silver spoon baby (the son of a prestigious politician, been a family friend of the Obama’s since his youth, Spike Lee - who he misguidedly takes shots at - is apparently his godfather ((AND NOBODY IN MEDIA EVER TALKS ABOUT ANY OF THAT SMH)), but he genuinely has the entire industry behind his success - as he’s neither a producer or a true lyricist yet it’s his “sonical progression” that’s to thank for his unprecedented rise to the top. All sarcasm aside he does have some heat on the feel good 'Coloring Book', with records like All Night, Juke Jam, Mixtape, & Blessings I & II as a few of the standouts. Time will tell if he ever truly lives up to his reputation however, yet nonetheless this mixtape/album will always be a great addition to his growing catalogue.
5) Drake - Views
This record breaking album was destined to be a double disc album - at 20+ records it probably would have been received better as a double disc album - either way it will always be thought of as underwhelming despite hosting a ton of hit records - records like Controlla, One Dance, Hype, Faithful, Childs Play, & Hotline Bling that made an undeniable impact regardless who the true creator was. For the record Drake and Kanye are in the same category for better and for worse, and in spite of all the negatives the albums they put out in 2016 are still worthy contenders.
4) Rae Sremmurd - Sremmlife 2
This one might actually be underrated on this website’s review from earlier in the year, as it was released in late summer yet as time went on it was clear that this album definitely deserved more credit - even disregarding the viral sensation that connects a 'mannequin challenge' to the global smash hit Black Beatles - which somehow all makes sense - yet either way the album itself actually has tons of knocks on it, including records like the aforementioned Black Beatles, Look Alive, Came A Long Way, Take It Or Leave It, and their new single Now That I Know which is sure to do even more numbers going into 2017. With that in mind the Sremmurd brothers are legitimately still working 'Sremmlife 2' and to great results, and due to a balance of impact and quality (despite a lack of clear substance) the collection of music in these 14 tracks are certainly a force to be reckoned with.
3) Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered
Even Kendrick’s ‘throwaways’ are better than most MC’s best records, at least that’s how it was presented, yet even if this was considered a legitimate release the quality from the Compton MC would still be undeniable. Untitled 03, 06, 07, 08 are honestly all 'Good Kid Maad City' and 'To Pimp A Butterfly' worthy, and as a follow up the mystique behind this particular release was certainly well planned and executed. Now the new year puts new expectations on the era’s most critically acclaimed MC, and for that reason his next move will likely be the most critical moment of his career.
2) The Game - 1992
Here’s an MC that every media personality is apparently afraid of… as it’s legitimately embarrassing how Hip Hop media doesn't cover The Game for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Not even the likes of J Cole is as categorically ignored by Hip Hop media as The Game is, and I’m 100% certain that it’s all about relationships, and subsequently has nothing to do with the music at all. It doesn’t take a genius to realize unanimous praise for YG and widespread indifference for Game doesn’t add up when it comes to skills, and that’s furthermore the case when it comes to records, as tracks like The Juice, I Grew Up On Wu-Tang, Baby You, and What Your Life Like should all be widely celebrated as some of the best Hip Hop to come out this year - based of course off any criteria known to Hip Hop in the first place. Additionally The Game’s 92 Bars for Meek are also found on this record, and credit is further due for being the MC that none of these rappers want a problem with.
1) J Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only
A story that’s unlike all the others, as it’s one story intertwined with another, and due to its approach it’s essentially a story that’s unprecedented in Hip Hop. “My story ain’t the only one I’m tryin to tell” J Cole once said, and while so many times throughout his career he’s delivered on that promise (scan his catalogue and listen closer and you’ll hear it), this album is the first time he dedicated an entire concept to it... a concept album from Cole... essentially creating a lane within the genre that allows the content to go beyond the artist’s own experiences, licensing the idea that artists can find inspiration from the world outside of their own - as if it's no different than a classic film or a novel where the direction has no limits on where the storyline can potentially go . In essence that’s what J Cole achieves with '4 Your Eyez Only', as thinking of it as a legitimate STORY is what puts it into a category of it’s own, and allows an artist like Cole to be likened less to names like Future & Lil Wayne - and likened more to names like Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens... and I know that's just too much for the internet to handle...
Nonetheless he's indeed the modern version of many great artists before him (Hip Hop's John Lennon/Bob Dylan perhaps?), and with records like For Whom The Bell Tolls, Change, Neighbors, She’s Mine 1&2, and the epic title track - (all of which are best played in the order the album (and story) presents them) - J Cole has himself a masterpiece that per usual is ahead of it’s time - and only years later will this album ultimately get the respect it deserves. Cole also plays the guitar all over this album, which is just another reason among many others to give this man the crown 👑.