The Top 25 Hip-Hop and Rap Albums of 2016 Presented By Killing The Breeze
2016 was a strong year for rap with a ton of great new records from a multitude of artists, ranging from Drake to Macklemore. The variety and output of music over 2016 was exceptional in comparison to previous years. No matter what kind of hip-hop fan you are, there’s a rap song that came out last year that’ll get you on your feet. The power of the internet can be thanked for that.
Don’t Get It Twisted, The Full-Length Album Still Mattered In 2016
Hip-Hop was as competitive as it’s ever been in 2016, with rappers vying for great ratings and reviews, record sales (and streams) and that coveted Grammy nomination. Whether they call them albums, albums-before-albums, LPs, EPs, projects or mixtapes, the attention to detail and time spent in production and mastering is at an all-time high.
Which is why we still love to give the great ones their just due. A lot of discussion and debate went into creating this “Best Rap Albums of 2016” list, as several artists pushed the year-end deadline to the very last millisecond, but we’re confident in our picks and would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
25) This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
This album is ambitious in its production, lyrical themes and supporting cast. A deeply introspective meditation on identity that gives a nod to rap’s past and present.
24) Happy Camper – Hoodie Allen
Imagine Chance the Rapper doing pop and you have this album.
23) Church Clothes 3 – Lecrae
Lecrae is now a household name as strictly a Christian rapper, which is a very rare denomination.
22) Therapy Session – NF
This successful Gospel rapper is focused on fame after the success of his debut LP. He stays in stride contrasting the dark side of celebrity with his gratitude for being famous.
21) Fishing Blues – Atmosphere
These guys have not changed their style in years and that’s a good thing.
20) I Told You – Tory Lanez
Rich vocals, catchy hooks and spellbinding beats make his first album seem more polished than raw.
19) The Art of Hustle – Yo Gotti
Yo Gotti sharpens and displays his battle techniques on this one.
18) Everybody Looking – Gucci Mane
Gucci got out of the bling and gave us a jewel.
17) Slime Season 3 – Young Thug
Raucous and raw, complete with barks, wails, woos and dribbled verses over that percussion he’s known for. The final installment of the series that launched his career.
16) Evol – Future
Evol is more intense and less syrupy than DS2. It’s still champagne, sex and fame but with confidence and muscle.
15) Islah – Kevin Gates
Street anthems and pure emotion straight from Baton Rouge.
14) Rage & the Machine – Joe Budden
Hide the women and children. Joe Budden is coming after everyone.
13) 1992 – The Game
Game used personal memories from 1992 to create this autobiography of sorts. It’s a vintage, West Coast love letter to his formative years.
12) Jeezy – Trap or Die 3
Jeezy’s back with a bunch of hustler’s anthems. Trap beats all day and night. About damn time.
11) Layers – Royce da 5’9″
Royce is a rapper’s rapper who has been doing it forever and this album is where he put it all together. It’s cinematic boom bap production that is both confident and cool.
10) Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight – Travis Scott
This album is about Travis recognizing that he’s rich and famous now, and the trouble that comes along with it. The storytelling makes the album feel like a score of Travis’ own movie. A street masterpiece that’s not necessarily quintessential hip hop.
9) The Divine Feminine – Mac Miller
The musical imagination of the nimble rapping boy wonder. Singing and rapping over gospel and R&B shows a relaxed mind producing creative, eccentric music.
8) 4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole
This is J. Cole testifying. There are no guest appearances. It’s a discussion of social ills, black lives and doing the right thing over jazz and strings. Ultimately, this album is about hope.
7) Major Key – DJ Khaled
It’s DJ Khaled so it’s an all star game. Name a rapper and seemingly they’re on this album rapping over dope beats with each one trying to outdo the one before and after.
6) Untitled Unmastered – Kendrick Lamar
This album is all Kendrick, provocative and multilayered. The title is generic, though the release was anything but. Jazz solos and funkadelic grooves are a nod to hip hop’s deep roots and expressive political conscious.
5) Blank Face LP – Schoolboy Q
West-Coast-flavored gangsta rap with a bunch of guest appearances of stars from the past and those of the future. It’s as simple as that.
4) The Life of Pablo – Kanye West
The troubling genesis of this album gives way to Kanye’s Twitchy genius. As Kanye himself said, it’s a gospel album with a lot of cussing. It does seem spiritual at times. Featuring Chance the Rapper and Rihanna, it feels like Kanye is saying this is what hip hop will sound like if it were up to me.
3) We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest
It’s Tribe. Instrumental beds, creative samples, supple rhyming and serious knock. They’re moving minds and butts with tracks featuring Andre 3000 and Kanye West, among others. This is a reminder that perhaps no one has been more influential, nor more important, than Tribe.
2) And the Anonymous Nobody… – De La Soul
It’s De La Soul reaffirming imaginative hip hop. The album is comedy and sadness over psych rock, disco funk breaks, and live instrumentation. De La shows us once again they’re impervious to wackness.
1) Views – Drake
With immaculate vocal turns and sleek production, “Views” is Drake’s tour through the city that made him. A meticulous contrast to the off-the-cuff brilliance of recent mixtapes, he taunts adversaries with speaker-rattling anthems, revisits his humble beginnings and rekindles his seductive chemistry with Rihanna. The extremes we see on this album, from Carribbean warmth to icy lament, meld with unflinching vulnerability and unapologetic self assurance to make “Views” a victory lap for Toronto’s lead ambassador.