The Top 25 Hip Hop Albums Of 2016


Alright people, I’m back with my most thorough list yet with the top hip hop albums of 2016. Take note, no traditional mixtapes or projects that were labeled and distributed as such were considered for this list. Even if it was a free release, there’s a difference between a mixtape and free album made available through streams. If it generated revenue through a digital retailer or distributor, it can’t be considered a true mixtape. Got it? Awesome. Also remember, these are the albums I PERSONALLY felt were the best. I’m sorry (not sorry) I won’t be able to please everyone. Now lets countdown from 25-1.

25. Common – Black America Again

Common dropped his 11th studio album this year and the man sounds as sharp as ever on the mic. The jazzy backdrops are reminiscent of Common of yesteryear. With uplifting and profound lyrics about the plight of Black America, love, and freedom; the Chicago veteran delivers a strong effort with this one. Standout Tracks: The Day Women Took Over, Black America Again, & Pyramids

24. Gucci Mane – The Return of East Atlanta Santa

When Guwopp came home from a prison bid, the hardest working trapper in the game did so with a vengeance. He dropped three albums, mixtapes, and a couple EPs. The strongest of these offering was third installment in his East Atlanta Santa series. The flows are tighter and some of the strongest in his career as of late. The production, which is always a Gucci standout, delivers as well. Out of his three albums this year, this one definitely had the perfect balance of everything we love about Guwop. Standout Tracks: Stutter, Drove You Crazy Feat. Bryson Tiller, & I Can’t

23. Snoop Dogg – Coolaid

The Doggfather is still going strong 24 years after his Deep Cover debut, dropped a damn good album with Coolaid. With production from the likes of heavyweights like Just Blaze, Swizz Beats and Timbaland; Snoop was provided with what he needs to do what he does best – talk that talk, have fun and deliver that west coast gangsta life. You got to love Snoop. Standout Tracks: Side Piece, Oh Na Na Feat. Wiz Khalifa, & What If Feat. Suga Free

22. Tory Lanez – I Told You

Though, Tory Lanez is technically labeled a R&B artist who also raps, I have him pegged as a hip hop artist who happens to do both equally well. Though, never the strongest vocalist, the debut album of the Toronto kid is full of bars with catchy R&B melodies, hooks and verses. Sometimes he goes full on singer on tracks like Luv and Say It, but on tracks like Question Is Tory drops introspective bars that can rival alot of MCs today. I Told You is pretty much a concept autobiographical album detailing the lows and highs Tory endured to make it to this point of his career. This album is definitely a strong starting point. Standout Tracks:  All The Girls, Cold Hard Love, & I Told You/Another One

21. Rittz – Top of The Line

Strange Music has long been one of the strongest independent labels around. Mostly due to the success and cult fan base of its CEO and flagship artist Tech N9ne. However, veteran rhyme spitter – Rittz has crafted a successful lane of his own. On his third full length album, Rittz offers his most well rounded, appealing album yet. The infectious hooks and heartfelt bars are in full forces on here. His rapid fire flow is crispier than ever. The songwriting is strong and radio ready records are catchy. Rittz dropped yet another winner for Strange Music. Standout Tracks: Nostalgia, MVP, & Inside of the Groove

20. T.I. – Us Or Else

Released as an EP, this projects stands as one of the strongest efforts in the southern legends catalog. Over only 6 tracks, Tip tackles issues such as racial unrest, police brutality, and issues facing Black America.  Lyrically, Tip delivers performances worthy enough to stand up against anything he has done previously. It’s a must listen. Standout Tracks: Warzone & We Will Not

19. Dreezy – No Hard Feelings

Hailing from Chicago, Dreezy burst onto the scene with her debut album this year and boy was it special. Boasting a top 40 hit in Body featuring Jeremih and a fan favorite radio hit in Close To You featuring T-Pain, Dreezy proved her staying power is legit. Part rapper/part singer seems to be the go to style nowadays, though Dreezy is vastly efficient at both. She can rap circles around most guys, yet has a singing voice that comes across as smooth and melodic. Definitely one of my favorite projects this year. Standout Tracks: Invincible, Afford My Love Feat. Wale, & Ready

18. DJ Khaled –Major Key

Historically, I’ve never been that big of a fan of Khaled albums, however, he truly put together a cohesive body of work with Major Key. The king of Snapchat gathered acts such as Jay-Z, Nas, Drake and J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar together. ON ONE ALBUM! There were too many bangers to count, and DJ Khaled actually has me waiting on, “another one.” Standout Tracks: For Free Feat. Drake, Nas Album Done Feat. Nas, & Holy Key Feat. Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and Betty Wright

17. A$ap Ferg – Always Strive And Prosper

Always one of the strongest MCs in the A$ap Mob collective, Ferg delivered his second solo album this year and really stepped it up big time. The album boasts features from Missy, Migos, Schoolboy Q, & Future among others, but the star of the show throughout remained Ferg. His witty and energetic delivery made him shine like never before. From heartfelt records like about the importance of his grandmother (Grandma) to dealing with the balance of relationships and fame (Let You Go), Ferg showed a versatility that leaves me waiting to see what else he has in store. Standout Tracks: Uzi Gang Feat. Lil Uzi Vert, New Level Feat. Future, & World Is Mine Feat. Big Sean

16. Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto

One listen to newcomer Kamaiyah’s debut LP, and you can’t help but start to bob ya head and bounce to the funky production. Signed to west coast stalwart YG, Kamaiyah can be labeled as a female version of her boss but with more melody to the gangsta. From top to bottom, AGNITG, is a solid debut for new Bay area hip hop queen. Standout Tracks: Break You Down, Swing My Way, & Fuck It Up Feat. YG

15. Ab-Soul – DWTW

After last year’s disappointing These Days album, Ab Soul, recently released his DWTW album. Lyrically, Soul is probably at his best on here. Rapping over dark, sparse production, really allows him to get into the most comfortable pocket he probably has ever been over the course of a full project. Ranging from topics about religion, humanity, women and relationships to drug abuse, there’s a part of him all over this project. A perfect cap to a strong year for the TDE camp. Standout Tracks: D.R.U.G.S., Womanogamy, & The Law Feat. Mac Miller and Raspody

14. Jeezy – Trap or Die 3

The third installment of his infamous Trap or Die series, comes in the form of a return to basics of sorts for Jeezy. Going back to the formula that made him a legend in the first place, Trap or Die 3 undeniably captures the essence of the trap rap era that Jeezy spearheaded and popularized. We hear Jizzle back in his comfort zone and though it is a tried and true zone, it’s refreshing at the same time. Standout Tracks: All There Feat. Bankroll Fresh, Never Settle, & Goldmine

13. Drake – Views

Views was the biggest and highest selling album release this year. The album that made Aubrey a bonafied pop star, spawned his first billboard 100 #1 hit as a solo artist, and furthered separated him from his hip hop peers on the grand scale. However, the album overall was one big ball of redundancy. Its just that Drake’s talent allows him to make records that still tend to stick with you despite how redundant and tried they might sound. Views is simply an album that you will have to respect its impact no matter if you hate it or love it. Standout Tracks: Controlla, 9, & Weston Road Flows

12. Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

I admit. It took me a long time to get to a point where I could actually begin to understand Travis Scott as an artist. But BITTSM, is where it all came together for me. It’s just a catchy, melodic banger of an album. All the features brighten up the show, but Travis has definitely zeroed in on his sound and is developing into an artist that will be making hits for years to come. Standout Tracks: Goosebumps Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Pick Up The Phone Feat. Young Thug, & Through The Late Night Feat. Kid Cudi

11. Royce Da 5’9 – Layers

Royce has been a monster for years. But the one knock on his as been his ability to craft a consistent project where the songwriting skills matched the rap skills. He definitely delivers on that potential on Layers. We get a glimpse into the mind of the man responsible for so many memorable bars of the years/ Personal tracks such as Tabernacle, Pray, and Startercoat really showcase the growth in his craft. Standout Tracks: Layers Feat. Pusha T and Rick Ross, Gottaknow, Dope!

10. Run The Jewels – RJ3

The album that caused me to delay this list due its surprise release. RJ3 is a solid step up from its predecessors. Killer Mike and EL-P sound as in sync than they ever have before. The rhymes sharper. The beats more lush and hard hitting. Run The Jewels continues their run. Standout Tracks: Don’t Get Captured, Legend Has It, Panther Like A Panther Feat. Trina

9. Joe Budden – Rage And The Machine

When he was diss records at Drake, Joe Budden was hard at work crafting what eventually turned into Rage And The Machine. An album he did with aarabMuzik behind the boards on every track, Joe delivers in my opinion the best album of his career. The soulful production puts the veteran MC in a space to match the personal lyricism he has always been known for. His pen is as sharp as its ever been and the songwriting on Rage definitely shows it. Standout Tracks: By Law, Idols, & Uncle Joe

8. Kanye West – Life of Pablo

I also list Life of Pablo on my most disappointing albums of 2016 list. Only for the simple fact that this is Kanye West we are talking about and his standard is different from others. I just felt like the project could have been so much more. Maybe it was the rollout. Maybe it was the hype. Nonetheless, despite my disappointment the album is actually a really good album by any other standards. Kanye at his most abrasive and controversial self. Part of the album has a gospel feel. Parts have a classic Ye feel. Other parts are mixed. But whatever the part, no one can deny that Pablo was the most divisive album of the entire year. Standout Tracks: Real Friends Feat. Ty Dolla Sign, Famous Feat. Rihanna, & 30 Hours

7. Kendrick Lamar – untitled, unmastered

What do you get it when a batch of leftover, unfinished records from the sessions that spawned your most recent number one, controversial, and arguable classic album surface? You get a damn near identical project that’s great in its own and better than most MCs finished albums. Standout Tracks: untitled 08, untitled 05, & untitled 02

6. Kevin Gates – Islah

There was no denying Mr. Never Get Tired in 2016. His album Islah remained a force for most of the calendar year. Spawning a couple hit singles and several other bangers, Islah was the proper introduction of Kevin Gates to the mainstream. Infectious hooks and killer bars, Kevin Gates put together and album that will make you love him. Standout Tracks: Thought I Heard, Kno One, & 2 Phones

5. J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only

J. Cole’s follow up to his now double platinum (with no features) album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, has had mixed receptions with the masses. I on the other hand have had enough time to let this album digest and from beginning to end there are no weak moments. The production can at times drag. However, the story telling is sharper than years past. The verses tighter and more meaningful. People moaned about his over use of melody and harmony but the tone of the album made it acceptable. I think a year from now people will only then begin to appreciate 4 Your Eyez Only for the great body of work that is. Standout Tracks: 4 Your Eyez Only, Deja Vu, & Neighbors

4. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Chance The Rapper is a MC I always thought was overrated and overhyped. I really like his Acid project but I simply couldnt understand all the praise being thrown his way. Then Coloring Book dropped and the hype went into super-warp overdrive. My first listen review was that it was a good project but would be forgettable. Months later I still find myself listening to this project and my whole outlook on him changed over that time. The soul and gospel feel of this record is so unlike anything else released this yea. He has anthems No Problems radio friendly bangers Juke Jam and songs with great songwriting Angels. I might not of understood before why Chance was being dubbed the next greatest thing in hip hop, but you know what? I can legitimately see why now. Standout Tracks: Mixtape Feat. Young Thug & Lil Yatchy, Blessings, & All We Got Feat. Kanye West

3. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face

If Oxymoron was Schoolboy Q’s introduction to the mainstream, Blank Face is his permanent seat at the table. Its the album where he truly lives up to the potential placed upon him years ago and placed him among the elite MCs in hip hop. He takes you on an up and down ride chronicling the pitfalls of gang life, violent upbringings and the importance of family in today’s society. Q really hit it out the park on this one. Standout Tracks: Neva Change Feat. SZA, By Any Means, & Blank Face Feat. Anderson Paak

2. Game – 1992

Game is a legend. Its about time he recognized as such. His catalog can be put up against any MC in the history of rap and stand strong. 1992 is no different and is his most focused project in years. A sort of concept album that takes you into the mind of a young Game. A young Game growing up in LA during probably the most tumultuous time in that city’s history, the year 1992. From the riots, to the Rodney King trial and everything between, Game harnesses the emotion of the times to deliver some of the best rhymes of his career over samples that work beautifully with the theme of the project. Standout Tracks: Bompton, Young Niggas, & What Ya Life Like

1.  Dave East – Kairi Chanel

It was a very difficult decision but the best album I personally heard this year was Kairi Chanel from Dave East. The Nas/Def Jam signee’s major label debut is just a home run right out the gate. A talented storyteller and songwriter, East really surprised me this element of his arsenal. The imagery on records like Don’t Shoot, Keisha, and Slow Down featuring Jazzy Amra, are just incredible. The features really stood out as well. Fabolous, Cam’ron, 2 Chainz and Beanie Sigel all lend their talents to his debut and all deliver standout verses. East is being credited for rejuvenating the NY hip hop scene, and if Kairi Chanel is the first chapter in his story, he definitely has the potential to go down with some of the greats from the region. Standout Tracks: The Real Is Back Feat. Beanie Sigel, Type of Time, & From The Heart Feat. Sevyn Streeter

– Article Written by Ray Simpson –