Superlatives are not just for seniors anymore. The rappers on this list were relevant (or irrelevant) enough this year to land them a spot in the 2016 Hip Hop Superlatives by yours truly. I broke it down into fifteen superlatives for fifteen different rappers. Remember that this list is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather contains only those who best fit each category in my opinion.
Most Likely to be Successful
This heartless rapper out of Atlanta entered the scene with mixtapes that included the word “slaughter” in their title. He has a street-style in his music that carried over from his time in the Atlanta projects. His most recent mixtape, “Savage Mode,” had breakout hits “X” and “No Heart” which peaked at numbers 36 and 57 on Billboard’s Hot 100. He worked with Drake (#28 on Billboard), Future, Dae Dae, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, Young Dolph and YG all in 2016. It also helps that he was named a XXL Freshman, given a Ferrari by Drake, had a meme made over his knife tattoo, and has a copycat rapper named 22 Savage.
What more can be said about Mr. West? Not much, but this year he did add to his repertoire of ridiculous and questionable stunts. First, he released “The Life of Pablo.” While T.L.O.P. had a large amount of hype behind it, the messy release hurt its sales. Kanye mostly made news based on his statements. He had the controversial Taylor Swift line, called Bill Cosby innocent, beefed with Wiz Khalifa on Twitter over a misunderstood tweet, fought allegations of getting fingered by Amber Rose, and most recently cancelled the rest of his shows and went to the hospital for exhaustion. All of this is after ranting about voting for Donald Trump and calling Beyoncé out for pulling strings to win an award at the upcoming VMAs.
With possibly one of the best comebacks of the decade, Gucci Mane was released from an Indiana state penitentiary on May 26, 2016, after spending almost three years there on drug and gun charges. And he got straight to work. The East Atlanta Santa dropped arguably one of his most coherent and lyrical albums, “Everybody Looking.” He followed it up with a mixtape (“GucTiggy”), another great album, “Woptober,” a collab project with Future, and a collab project with Lil Uzi Vert. He left prison healthier than he has looked in years with a shiny smile and a new motivation. Gucci reached his first number one single on Billboard with Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles.” He has also released a multitude of singles with artists like Bryson Tiller, Akon, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Common, Chris Brown, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Juicy J, Travis Scott and of course, Migos.
Most Likely to Drop Out
After getting the award of a 2015 XXl Freshman, signing to Quality Control Music, and releasing a hit that broke into the Billboard Hot 100 (“U Guessed It Remix [feat. 2 Chainz]”), everything was looking up for the young Atlanta rapper. However, the hype quickly died after a continuous stream of underwhelming projects. He has released eight projects this year, none of which has made any impact outside of his small and dying fanbase. The most notable thing that OG Maco did this year was his “For Scott” EP, which was a project in support of Scott Mescudi, or Kid Cudi, who recently went to rehab for depression. Like others, the EP was not so great. Hopefully OG Maco improves his sound in 2017. Unfortunately, it looks like not much will change.
Chance the Rapper
The critics’ darling returned in 2016 with his commercial mixtape, “Coloring Book.” This tape is arguably the happiest he has dropped to date. Just looking at the tracklisting displays the vibe Chance was going for on this project. “Coloring Book” features both positive rappers Lil Yachty and D.R.A.M., two songs named Blessings, and the Chicago Children’s Choir. Even the songs about drinking and smoking have incredibly light and bouncy hooks and production. Outside of music, Chance is known for being a very friendly guy as well. He created the Warmest Winter Initiative, which raised $100,000 to pay for 1,000 winter coats given to homeless Chicagoans. He is nominated for seven Grammys in 2017, had a mixtape that landed in almost all year-end lists, and even performed at the White House.
Most Likely to be a Politician
This Chicago native first gained traction with his debut mixtape, “INNANETAPE,” which featured passionate rapping about his life and struggle to succeed on the South Side. Over the next couple years, he transitioned into more of an EDM rap style with a higher focus on beats rather than lyrics. His original fans were not too happy, but it seems that he has found a nice mix between the two styles with his release of “There’s Alot Going On.” This mixtape not only has lyricism, but also powerful production. What stood out was Mensa’s discussion of police brutality, especially in his hometown. His take on conscious rap covered topics of how “Chiraq” affected him, the police brutality in Chicago (specifically Laquan McDonald’s death by 16 shots), and the futility of the war on drugs and guns. Mensa backs up his music by attending rallies in Chicago and being extremely vocal on Twitter.
“Super Mothafuckin’ Future.” The Dirty Sprite Legendary, Future Hendrix, has been all over the radio for the past couple years and dominating the charts. Outside of lean and Xanax, which he actually claims to not be addicted to, what does he spend all of his money on? Just one look at his outfits and you might be able to guess. Donned in Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Cartier jewelry, Future is styling everywhere he goes.
This character out of Houston, Texas, released his first album, “Neon Icon,” to surprisingly positive reviews. Over the years he has established his… interesting… style, adopting nicknames such as the Peach Panther, the Versace Python, and the Neon Derek Jeter. He dropped an album and a mixtape in 2016, both of which flew under the radar. The now muscular Jody Highroller is experimenting more and more with his music, but sticking to his exotic metaphors and outlandish lifestyle. Take the music video below for example, which is for his song, “Only In America”, but features James Franco as the star of the video dressed up as “the white Gucci Mane with a spray tan.” Buy tickets to see him at the Charleston Music Farm on January 11th here!
Mac Miller and Ariana Grande
This newly paired duo have been relatively quiet about their relationship, but following the release of Miller’s newest album, “The Divine Feminine,” the media swarmed around the two asking them questions on their status. While Ariana’s album, “Dangerous Woman,” was massively popular in 2016, it was Miller’s love-inspired project that really displayed the two’s relationship. If you have not seen my article on Miller yet, check it out here.
This is the rapper your backpacker friends are in love with. He is relatively popular in his own niche of rap, but outside of that you will not here Rashad anywhere. He became known after signing to the TDE record label (which is known for their lyrical rappers), being a 2014 XXL Freshman, and his “Cilvia Demo” project. This year, he dropped “The Sun’s Tirade” which is now constantly compared to his first project and argued over whether it is better. He now has two well-received projects under his belt. If he stays true to his laid-back groovy style, he should do just fine in the future.
The word eccentric simply cannot be used in the hip hop community without mentioning Thugga Thugga. This man has been perfecting his nonsensical style for almost five years.. He has released three commercial mixtapes in 2016. “I’m Up” focused more on lyrics (not that they were too technical) and vocal connotation. However, his next mixtape, “Slime Season 3,” had bangers on top of bangers. Almost every song on that mixtape was energetic and powerful. “With Them” and “Digits” were two hits that took off after the mixtape’s release. Finally, he released “JEFFERY” to finish off his 2016 run. Young Thug even changed his name to “No, My Name is Jeffery” during the week of the mixtape’s release. No words…. Maybe even more interesting is the mixtape’s cover, which is a picture of Jeffrey in a dress designed by Lyor Cohen. The mixtape itself, is fantastic, and possibly his best to date. It includes lyrical mastering, numerous intelligently placed big-name features, vocal contortions, melodic hooks, and stellar production. In the past, he has commented on Lil Uzi Vert’s Instagram selfie, “sexy,” and claimed that he does not even like sex that much. However, Thugga has six kids between four women. Jeffery is an enigma.
Most School Spirit
This up and coming musician from Massachusetts is rising to the top and taking Boston with him. You might know him from his feature on the “Chill Bill Remix,” but he has been grinding steadily over the past couple years. His mixtape, “Suffolk County,” addressed his life in Boston and features a Boston local, Jefe Replay. He reps Boston in every way he can, including on his praised 2016 mixtape, “MONDA,” which was named after one of homies in Boston who died of cancer a couple months before the project’s release. He is also good friends with Michael Christmas, who is another Boston rapper on the come-up. “Where I Came From” and “500 Horses” perhaps best personify his life in the 617.
Most Likely to be Held Back
At only 19 years old, Kodak Black has been in and out of prison so many times this year, I do not think anyone can keep up. I know I cannot. Either way, the charges he is facing right now are possibly his most serious yet. To give some perspective, this South Florida rapper has been one of the hottest acts to come out of the state this year (along with Denzel Curry). He managed to release a mixtape in between his stints in jail, called “Lil B.I.G. Pac,” which had prominent features and a style that is similar to that of Boosie Badazz (who is actually featured on the tape). Project Baby is now facing first-degree sexual assault charges from an event that occurred in Florence, South Carolina. Black is out on $100,000 bond at the moment, but is facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. As of December 7, 2016, he is reportedly banned from South Carolina.
Straight from Dade County, Florida, Denzel Curry dropped one of the most praised underground mixtapes of 2016 earlier this year. He gained a following from his dark, almost metal rap in his first two mixtapes. However, the difference between those tapes and his newest release, “Imperial,” is his production and overall maturity. Curry used exhilarating and intense production to convey topics ranging from his street life to reflective motivation. His piercing words flow immaculately over the dark beats. His XXL Freshman status helped him gain an even bigger following, which he used to his advantage
No, not A$AP Rocky. Aesop Rock. Rivaling Curren$y’s work ethic, Rock has released countless albums reaching all the way back to 1997. His newest effort, “The Impossible Kid,” is without a doubt one of his best. The self-produced project gets intensely personal and creative, addressing his depression, relationships, and on one song, his cat. Rock packs every syllable possible into his carefully worded verses. For an example, check out this 21-minute lyrical breakdown of ONE verse from the song, “Dorks,” off of “The Impossible Kid,” This album satisfies even the most critical of indie fans. Buy tickets to see him at the Charleston Music Farm on January 17th here!