THE TOP 16 HIP-HOP RELEASES OF 2016


16.

Artist: K-Rino

Album: The Big 7

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Overall Rating: [N/A]

Favorite Tracks: [N/A]

K-Rino somehow released 7 full length LP’s all at once last year, and while I admittedly haven’t heard them all yet (sorry, but this is like a career’s worth of work all released at once), what I have heard so far was enough for me to include this as some of the best work any artist released in 2016. It’s hard to really place something like this on a list, sure I could have tried to listen to all 7 albums and placed the best one on the list, or the best 2… But from what I’ve heard I have a feeling I’d be putting 7 albums on, and you can see where things start to get a bit complicated, or how this falls in a grey area. I mean, this has never been done before, I don’t think in any genre let alone hip-hop. So for what it is, I felt it needed a spot if only to raise the awareness that this man released 7 full albums of (what appears so far) to be really high quality, high-caliber-lyricism.


15.

Artist: Rittz

Album: Top of the Line

Release Date: May 6, 2016

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Top of the Line, Day of the Dead, Until We Meet Again

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it, Rittz has the smoothest flow in the game. In “Top of the Line” Rittz is back and sounds just as hungry as his debut, and solid sophomore follow-up. What I appreciate the most about this album is that he experimented with some different flows and they really worked well. Rittz glides across each beat with what seems like little effort, or like it’s just second-nature for him, a breeze in the wind. “Top of the Line” is a tour de force of lyricism. Rittz shows his versatility yet again on this album, going from styling out on one song, to deep and introspective lyrics on the next. I really don’t think Rittz has put anything out that isn’t dope so far, and hope he continues that trend next year.


14.

Artist: SnowGoons

Album: Goon Bap

Release Date: December 12, 2016

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Keep Runnin’ (Chris Rivers), Problems (Locksmith, Skrewtape & Rite Hook), My Advice (Pumpkinhead aka PH)

The Snowgoons dropped Goon Bap in December, and it felt like an All-Star game of hip-hop. Dubbed as “paying homage to the 90’s Boom Bap Hip Hop era”, they definitely did just that and did it great justice. I counted about 51 total emcees on the roster? Considering the amount of verses they got from various top-tier underground rappers, they assembled this project rather flawlessly, nobody really sounds out of place. We got some collaborations I never thought we’d hear. The PH song is not to be missed at the end. And they put on a lot of my personal favourite up and coming lyricists in; Chris Rivers, Passionate MC, Token, Recognize Ali. This album shouldn’t be missed by any fans of hip-hop.


13.

Artist: Vinnie Paz

Album: The Cornerstone of the Corner Store

Release Date: October 28, 2016

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Writings On Disobedience And Democracy, Steel Sharpens Steel, Nineteen Ninety Three.

While not my personal favorite from Vinnie’s solo works, The Cornerstone of the Corner Store still far surpasses 90% of the other shit coming out. Heavy beats, hard rhymes, and a bunch of dope features. We also got a sequel to the brilliant “You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train” off his last release “God Of The Serengeti”, in “Writings on Disobedience and Democracy”, which I’d say is one of the top verses of 2016.


12.

Artist: Joe Budden

Album: Rage & The Machine

Release Date: October 21, 2016

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Serious, I Wanna Know, Idols.

While not musically above his previous release “All Love Lost”, Rage & The Machine felt like Joe just kind of rapping without overthinking everything, he sounded relaxed and in his element. AraabMuzik produces the entirety of the project so it has a very cohesive feel throughout, all the beats are pretty hard, with the exception of the couple singles “By Law” and “Flex”, which had a more mellow feel. AraabMuzik never really disappoints with the beats, he provided a nice variety for Joe to flow over. It’s Joe and AraabMuzik both doing what they do best.


11.

Artist: Czarface

Album: A Fistful of Peril

Release Date: November 4, 2016

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Two In The Chest, Czar Wars, All In Together Now

Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric team up again, continuing where they left off with 2015’s fantastic “Every Hero Needs A Villain”, they’re back at it again to cause some more destruction. I really don’t think they missed a step, usually with a follow-up like this it might fall a bit flat or not meet the expectations set by it’s predecessor, but that’s not the case here. “A Fistful of Peril” is consistent from front to back.


10.

Artist: Dave East

Album: Kairi Chanel

Release Date: September 30, 2016

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Favorite Tracks: Don’t Shoot, It Was Written, S.D.E. (feat. Cam’ron)

Raw lyricism meets the new school, Dave East is the future. “Kairi Chanel” is near flawless, with high replay value. A nice variety of sounds, beats, flows, vibes and features. Dave East sounds like he’s motivated, hungry and like he’s making music with a purpose. East is a serious problem, and not to be overlooked. I’m anxious to see what he releases in 2017, I feel this album will be tough to top. 


9.

Artist: Run The Jewels

Album: Run The Jewels 3

Release Date: December 24, 2016

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Favorite Tracks: Talk To Me, 2100 (ft. BOOTS), Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)

Killer Mike and El-P are back, and the energy is just as high as ever. The synergy between the two is unmatched, and they gave us another strong album in the RTJ series with this one. Revolutionary punchlines, delivered with intensity and honesty throughout. If you weren’t already a fan I’d say now’s as good a time as any, as they don’t seem to be letting up or have any plans to any time soon. RTJ3 is just as strong of an offering as their previous two releases, I appreciate them for calling out a lot of the bullshit going on in our society, and they’re doing so with a lot of style, there’s really nothing to knock on this album.


8.

Artist: Tha Soloist x Dr G x DJ TMB

Album: Cosmic Arena Hopeful Child Vs. Momentary Master

Release Date: December 30, 2016

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Favorite Tracks: Centaurus (Newborn Nebula), Ursa Major (The Protostar), Andromeda (Main Sequence)

Tha Soloist was busy this past year, also releasing 6 other projects in 2016. Although every project was strong in it’s own right, (Penalty of Living being another top tier release to me), Cosmic Arena: Hopeful Child vs Momentary Master stood out to me as his strongest offering. The beats fit Angel’s aggressive presence on the mic. They’re heavy beats but all have a nice melody to them, which complements his introspective lyrics. The mixing is also some of the best I’ve heard from a Soloist release. I loved the old-school meets new-school feel of this release especially. The scratches and sampling is some of the best I’ve heard, ever I think. It does feel as though you’re listening to a seasoned hip-hop veteran, battling thru various obstacles within the cosmos.


7.

Artist(s): Apollo Brown & Skyzoo

Album: The Easy Truth

Release date: September 30, 2016

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Favorite Tracks: A Couple Dollars (ft. Joell Ortiz),  They Parked A Bentley On The Corner, Innocent Ambition

This is the essence of hip-hop, in it’s purest form. “The Easy Truth” probably won’t appeal to kids today, but that’s all the more reason they need to hear it. If you’re unfamiliar with Apollo Brown’s work, the instrumentals and production is definitely that “vintage” boom bap hip-hop feel, down to the hissing and all that. Skyzoo delivers on every song, there’s really no weak part on the album. I do think this project will become like the Blu & Exile “Below The Heavens” of this decade… next decade people will be truly appreciating it, or you could get hip to it now!


6.

Artist: Ugly Heroes

Album: Everything In Between

Release Date: June 24, 2016

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Favorite Tracks:  Heart Attack, Roles, Notions, Peace of Mind, This World

Red Pill, Apollo Brown, & Verbal Kent brought us one of the most down to earth, relatable hip-hop albums ever with “Everything In Between”. I really don’t have any complaints about this album, they talk about everything from wealth inequality, alcoholism, loyalty, racism, love, relationships, depression, etc… Throughout this album you really feel like you know these guys on a personal level almost. And in this day and age honesty is a rare trait it seems. There’s no weak points on the album, every song holds it’s own.


5.

Artist: Aesop Rock

Album: The Impossible Kid

Release Date: April 29, 2016

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Favorite Tracks: Lazy Eye, Mystery Fish, Defender

I had begun writing a review for this project shortly after it’s release, and never finished writing it. But this album is easily one of the best of 2016, and personally became my new favourite release from Aesop Rock. I loved the various concepts he tackles throughout The Impossible Kid, I loved the beats, I loved his toned-back approach this time around. Impossible Kid surpassed my expectations which were already high for it. Not to be missed.


4.

Artist(s): Recognize Ali & Sultan Mir

Album: Too Visible To See

Release Date: September 20th, 2016

Overall Rating: 10/10

Favorite Tracks: World’s Greatest, I Can’t Take It, Rainy Dayz

What more is there for me to say on this one? Peep my review of it here, where I scored it a perfect 10 out of 10. It has a 90s golden era feel to it, Recognize Ali is the future, Sultan Mir is a powerhouse producer, combined they gave us a masterpiece last year in “Too Visible To See”.


3.

Artist: Nino Bless

Album: AudioTrip 2

Release Date: December 16, 2016

Overall Rating: 10/10

Favorite Tracks: Highs/Lows, ReGeneration, Mind Altering

Nino Bless is someone I’ve been following closely for the past few years, though I was introduced to him through Joe Budden’s “Slaughterhouse”, off his Halfway House LP, I only recently started to give him a serious listen the past couple years. I had “ROAM 3” in heavy rotation for about a year after it’s release, Illuminati Reject was another solid release. Now AudioTrip2 has a bit of everything, from a lyrical standpoint it’s probably the most lyrical album of the year. Nino has been a top tier lyricist for years now though, what sets this one apart and lands it in such a high spot on my list is that he feels more comfortable, confident and focused than ever. I don’t know what’s next for Nino but good luck topping this one brother.


2.

Artist: Common

Album: Black America Again

Release Date: November 4, 2016

Overall Rating: 10/10

Favorite Tracks: Pyramids, The Day Women Took Over, Little Chicago Boy, Letter To The Free.

Common’s “Black America Again” marks a triumphant return for Common Sense. His emceeing skills are in full effect here. Common unleashes a barrage of politically charged bars over soulful backdrops. Common sounds motivated, and as if he’s fully aware he has a platform to really put out the kind of music that can change the world. This album is pure art, all the production is brilliant, the singers are all top-notch. Common Sense still gets busy;

“I walk like an Egyptian on a mission to listen to conditions
Envision a vision of what we wishing
I’ve been commissioned to deprison the prism of your mind
Spit the wisdom of the one divine
Close encounter of the wonder kind, front a line
Shift the paradigm with a pair of rhymes”


1.

Artist: J. Cole

Album: 4 Your Eyez Only

Release Date: December 9, 2016

Overall Rating: 10/10

Favorite Tracks: Immortal, Deja Vu, 4 Your Eyez Only

J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only is a modern day masterpiece in my eyes, the album is clear, concise, it accomplishes what it sets out to do. This release has definitely converted me to a fan of J. Cole, while I wasn’t too crazy over his last few releases. This album has everything you could want from a hip-hop album. If it were something released by Tupac or someone back in the 90s it’d still be getting talked about today as one of the classic releases. And I think in 20 years we’ll still be mentioning it.  I really don’t want to spoil anything, I’m just glad I gave it a chance, listen with an open mind, and then listen to it again.


 

Honorable mentions:

The Game – 1992

Ill Bill – Septagram

De La Soul – Anonymous Nobody

Lloyd Banks – All or Nothing: Live It Up

Lloyd Banks – Halloween Havoc 3

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

Elzhi – Lead Poison

Oddisee – Alwasta

Copywrite – Blood Bath and Beyond

Ka – Honor Killed The Samurai

Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade

Demrick & Dizzy Wrist – Blaze With Us

Homeboy Sandman – Kindness For Weakness

Ras Kass – Intellectual Property SOI2

TI – Us or Else

Ab-Soul – Do What Thou Wilt ‘DWTW’


WORST ALBUM OF 2016:

YASIIN BEY – DECEMBER 99TH

Artist: Yasiin Bey & Ferrari Sheppard

Album: December 99TH

Release Date: December 9, 2016

Overall Rating: 1/10

Favorite Tracks: They all suck equally.

Mighty Mos you better redeem yourself for this shit…

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