In this specially curated playlist, DJ Double M goes deep into the best rap music from 2016. Welcome, as One Quart presents The Year In Rap.
The Year In Rap by DJ Double M
Rap music is alive and well in 2016. In addition to many, many fresh and new artists we saw some great comebacks from legends like Gucci Mane, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Atlanta continued to dominate with its famous trap sounds and big names Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future and Kanye West, who all released solid albums. In addition to that the UK Grime scene stayed creative and lively.
What a time to be a rap fan!
The songs are in random order.
Future: Al Sharpton
Atlanta’s big gun Future stayed in super productive mode in 2016. So hard to pick just one or two great songs from him, but I decided to go with ‘Al Sharpton’. Fly Shit Only, Photocopied, Xanny Family and Too Much Sauce could all have been placed on this list as well.
Maxo Kream: Big Worm
Houston underground reality rap meets UK Grime sounds. If you’re wondering, the beat is sampled from Wiley’s classic ‘Morgue’.
Spark Master Tape: All About The Money
After two years of total silence, the mysterious Internet-era rapper of unknown origins came back with a bang. Down pitched rapping voice and dark, bass-heavy beats. Uncommercial and unconventional hip-hop at it’s best.
Schoolboy Q: Groovy Tony
Super dark track from the Blackface LP. Sounds like dirty concrete. Reminds me a lot of Pusha T’s solo material.
Tech N9ne & Krizz Kaliko: What If It Was Me
Mid-West rapper Tech N9ne is not only the most technical rapper but also a vivid storyteller. ‘What If It Was Me’ opens up on how bad the terms between the African-American community and police are.
Vic Mensa: 16 Shots
Police brutality and #blacklivesmatter was a huge topic in 2016. In addition to Tech N9ne, Vic Mensa and MTV rap veterans Jay Z and T.I. took part in the debate with new music. ‘Warzone’ isn’t the best song on T.I’s Us or Else EP, but the simple video is powerful. T.I. expresses himself calmly and shows maturity.
Vic Mensa’s ’16 Shots’ is so full of anger that the chorus sounds like bullets coming out of a handgun.
Meek Mill: On The Regular
Drake bodied the Philadelphian rapper in 2015 and it was whispered that Meek Mill’s career was over. ‘On The Regular’ is a powerful opener for his comeback mixtape DC4.
Chance The Rapper ft. Jeremih, Francis & The Lights: Summer Friends
23-year-old Chance The Rapper is still unsigned and a great example of a modern artist who doesn’t need a record label. His new, soulful album Coloring Book is so good that it was really hard to choose just one standout track.
Noah Kin: Void
The best kept secret in Finland. Rapper/producer Noah Kin walks his own path and doesn’t take any short cuts. Hopefully 2017 is his final breakthrough year.
A$AP Ferg ft. Future: New Level
There is a mad energy on this one. As a DJ I love it when people react to music by yelling or screaming. ‘New Level’ grew quickly as one of those tracks that makes the crowd roar and make mosh-pits in nightclubs.
Night Lovell: Boy Red
Canadian teenager Night Lovell made one of the most sinister rap songs of 2016. Great party track and one of the most played tunes in my DJ sets this year.
By the way, don’t get scared. The rest of his Red Teenage Melody album isn’t this brutal stuff.
Kanye West: Fade
Kanye West: Ultralight Beam
The standout tracks from the brilliant Life of Pablo LP. ‘Fade’ is an ambitious blend of house, hip hop and alternative R&B. Chaotic, ‘Ultralight Beam’ flirts with gospel and demonstrates Kanye’s madness at it’s best. Though Kanye isn’t a great rapper, I respect his music. Mr. West always tries to bring something new to the table and set trends. These tracks are great examples of his musical ambitiousness.
Desiigner: Timmy Turner
Veteran producer Mike Dean’s polyrhythmic beat would make this list just as an instrumental. “Poor man’s Future” Desiigner provides catchy hooks and now I’m an addicted to this song. “Timmy, Timmy, Timmy Tuuurner…”
De La Soul ft. Damon Albarn: Here In After
De La Soul came back with a Kickstarter-funded album and started flirting with adult rock. Hip Hop hippies might be past their peak, but this song proves that they are still ambitious. Grown man’s rap music.
A Tribe Called Quest: We Are The People
Just when I said the good old boom bap sound is dead, A Tribe Called Quest comes in with the 90s east coast flavor. And it suddenly sounds fresh. The whole album is brilliant. R.I.P Phife Dawg.
Flatbush Zombies: R.I.P.C.D.
Brooklyn’s underground heroes haven’t been this close to early Wu-Tang Clan sounds before. Did I say boom bap is dead? Apparently it isn’t. YAY!
Kendrick Lamar: Untitled 7 (Levitate)
It tells quite a lot about Kendrick Lamar that his collection of unmastered leftovers must be taken into consideration when selecting the best rap album of 2016. Song number 7 (or ‘Levitate’) demonstrates Kendrick’s lyrical skills better than the others on Untitled Unmastered.
The 19-year-old rapper from Boston, MA is definitely one to watch in the US rap scene. Happiness brings back that good old story telling rap. You can download the Eraser Shavings LP for free from Token’s website. If you love classic hip hop, you should do it.
Rob Stone ft. J. Davis & Spooks: Chill Bill
Haunting whistle sample from Kill Bill and heavy 808 drums are the key elements of this surprise hit from summer 2016.
Pusha T ft. Jay Z: Drug Dealers Anonymous
Always solid G.O.O.D Music A&R never fails. D.D.A was released about the same time as the ‘All The Way Up’ Remix and for a few weeks it felt like 2001: new music from Jay Z everywhere.
Mick Jenkins: Drowning
Drowning is at the same time psychedelic and minimalist. Weird up-tempo part at around 4 minutes flips the script but in the end the song returns to normal form.
This is the heartbreaking opener of poet/spoken-word performer Noname’s album Telephone. The lyrics are about a departed grandmother and brother. The protagonist longs for her own childhood and wonders who will remember her when she’s gone.
Isaiah Rashad ft. Kendrick Lamar & Zacari: What’s Wrong
TDE collective’s least known rapper Isaiah Rashad has kept his label and fans waiting for new music since early 2014. It was worth all the years of silence. The Sun’s ‘Tirade’ sounds timeless and the highlights of a solid 17-song entity are ‘Free Lunch’ and ‘What’s Wrong’.
J. Cole: False Prophets
J. Cole’s new album 4 Your Eyez Only was released so late that no songs from it made it to this list. False Prophets leaked in the Autum and was finally released a few weeks ago. Laidback flow and down-to-earth lyrics are J. Cole’s trademark. That’s what J. Cole does and he does it well. Somehow the guy still lacks charisma.
Post Malone ft. Lil Yachty: Monte
Post Malone’s debut album was also released last week, so it was way too late considering this list. ‘White Iverson’ and ‘Too Young’ are both my absolute favorites so I have high expectations of the album. Post Malone is musically extremely talented. Can’t say that same of all the new rappers.
August 26th mixtape was released before summer and it showcased Post Malone’s versatility: a Fleetwood Mac cover, blues-influenced ‘Oh My God’ and this slow trap heater ‘Monte’, all on the same record. As an NBA-addict I love the basketball references on this track.
Danny Brown: When It Rain
The whole Atrocity Exhibition album is great, perhaps the best of Danny Brown’s career so far. Crazy beats are pretty impossible to rap to, but not for Detroit’s own maniac.
YG feat. Drake & Kamaiyah: Why You Always Hatin?
Famous producer DJ Mustard and YG broke their longstanding bond due to a disagreement over money. This seems to be bad news for YG. He had to look for new producers. YG’s sophomore album Still Brazy uses modern sounds blended with classic west coast gangsta styles. Lyrically Still Brazy is darker than YG’s debut album and it is only a good thing.
This specific song borrows the classic 7 Days of Funk -bassline and all the three rappers do their thing with flavor. By the way, the Oakland-born rapper Kamaiyah is the first female rapper in many, many years from California with real chance of making a big breakthrough. Remember her name!
Young M.a: Ooouuu
That old New York 90’s boom bap died several years ago. It took a while, but now Big Apple has found it’s own new sound. In this NY Bangerz produced song lesbian rapper Young M.a kicks the door in with her Timberlands and steals your girl. One of the biggest rap hits in summer 16…and absolutely out of nowhere.
Fat Joe, French Montana, Remy Ma & Jay Z: All The Way Up (Remix)
Another modern New York banger, but this time with the veterans on the mic. “Nothing can’t stop me/I’m all the way up”… need I say more?
French Montana ft. Drake: No Shopping
No Shopping is another example of the modern rap sound of the east coast. This song is all about escapism: “Sippin’ on the drank, I ain’t tryna think…”
P Money: Stereotype
UK grime soured in early 2010 when the MCs started to make pop music. It took a while, but the last couple of years grime has been hot again. Motor mouth P Money is one of the hardest MCs in the UK and Swifta Beater’s production is always on point. What could go wrong when these two are on same track?
AJ Tracey: Naila (Murlo Remix)
Skepta, Stormzy and Wiley might be the biggest grime artists now, but young AJ Tracey has a potential to get on their level. The original ‘Naila’ was nice, but Murlo tweaked it to an absolute club banger. The best tune from the UK in 2016?
Wiley ft. Devlin: Bring Em All/Holy Grime
One more from the UK. Wiley is a key figure in the grime scene and his long awaited Godfather album should be in stores early 2017. ‘Can’t Go Wrong’ was the first single off the forthcoming LP but ‘Bring Em All/Holy Grime’ showed that this veteran MC still got bars.
Gucci Mane: All My Children
Gucci Mane was released from jail in May and a few weeks later his surprisingly even album Everybody Looking was released. Gucci is a legend and more or less the father of Atlanta trap. So the claim “all these rappers are all my children” is pretty much true. All the rest of the artists on this list can be seen as “Gucci’s children”. Special shout out for the dumbest video of the year!
Rae Sremmurd: Look Alive
Turnt up/retard rap artists seem to come and go quickly, but Rae Sremmurd duo has been solid since summer 2014. Two albums and two digits of club friendly banger tunes. Lyrically Rae Sremmurd is indifferent, but the Brown Brothers beat almost all of the competitors in their niche with musicality.
I chose ‘Look Alive’ over mega hit ‘Black Beatles’. The latter has a catchier hook, but the beat of ‘Look Alive’ (produced by Mike Will Made It) should be used as a tutorial for all modern trap producers. Perfect harmonies combined with raw energy.
Young Thug: Drippin’
Young Thug: Harambe
Atlanta rapper challenges hip hop norms musically and aesthetically. Thugger defies sexuality stereotypes and his personal rapping style gives flashbacks from O.D.B. Easily one of the most fascinating artists in the U.S rap scene. These two songs demonstrate the wildness of Young Thug.
Lil Yachty ft. Quavo & Skippa Da Flippa: Minnesota
“Cold like Minnesota, cold like Minnesota…“ I guarantee you’ll find yourself humming on this song sooner than you think.
Lil Yachty’s performance on Ebro in The Morning show fueled the discussion on new rap. Old school heads like Pete Rock took furious shots at the young Atlanta-born artist. And yes, I used word artist. Lil Yachty isn’t a rapper in a classic way like Rakim. While we’re waiting for a better term that defines Lil Yachty, let’s just call him an artist. Oh, and remember to check the hilarious Lil Yachty 1 Night video on YouTube!