The Best Hip-Hop Tracks of 2016 » VSB

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The Best Hip-Hop Tracks of 2016

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A month or so ago, Panama suggested I listen to “We Did It,” a track from Lil’ Yachty’s Lil Boat “mixtape.” He said it was worth peeping because it might be the single worst rap song of all time.

Because Panama is one of, like, three or four niggas I know with whom I can have a hip-hop conversation on a near-academic level, I took seriously his claim. Indeed, the track is like every celebrity death, terrorist attack, Donald Trump election, gorilla assassination and iPhone headphone jack removal from 2016 in audio form. It’s the Holodomor of songs. I wouldn’t even wish for it to be pumped into Dylann Roof’s solitary confinement cell on repeat.

When I imagine mid-30-somethings in 2035 reflecting wistfully upon the “halcyon” days of Lil’ Yachty and cursing whatever the hip-hop is of that day, it makes my toes itch. It also makes me wonder if I’ll still be able to make a robust year-end list like this – as I’ve done every year for 14 years – decades from now. Hell, will I even care about hip-hop when I’m in my 50s?

Fortunately, like incontinence and erectile dysfunction, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that for a while: it’s still challenging for me to put my favorite music on a playlist that can fit an 80-minute CD-R. (Yes I know…my conditioning has been conditioned). Thanks to a lot of internal debating over the wealth of great music this year, my list took some finessing, which is why you’re just now seeing it.

Sorry it’s late, but better that than never, yeah?

1. “Limitless” – Smoke DZA & Pete Rock (feat. Dave East): It warms my cold, dead heart to see Pete Rock, one of my top-three favorite producers of all time, having a renaissance of sorts. His production made this list three times. DZA is a capable emcee, but Don’t Smoke Rock matters most as the best-produced album of the year.

2. “February” – Elzhi: As far as highly talented emcees with trash outputs go, Elzhi ranks just above Jay Electronica. The former Slum Village emcee took forever and two days to drop his crowd sourced album Lead Poison, but it was generally worth the wait. My guy 14KT is on the boards for this plaintive, piano-driven track, and he’s never been better.

3. “1st Gear (Technoviolet)” – L.E.$.: The E36: Technoviolet album comes courtesy of L.E.$., a Texas-by-way-of-Louisiana rapper and producer known for working under Curren$y’s Jet Life Entertainment brand. You won’t find it on Spotify or Apple Music, but the whole Fast and Furious-themed tape is worth a listen.

4. “Memory of….(US)” – De La Soul (feat. Estelle and Pete Rock): This is basically the hip-hop version of Adele’s “Hello,” only it won’t ever make you wanna cut your ears off with a serrated knife due to overplay. Pos and Dave’s dulcet voices perfectly fit the song’s content, and the Chocolate Boy Wonder does his damn thing on the boards.

5. “How Great” – Chance the Rapper (feat. Jay Electronica and Chance’s cousin Nicole): I didn’t get into Coloring Book as rapturously as…everyone else. And I’m still aggravated that there’s not a properly mastered version of the album considering all the hosannas Chance has gotten for it. But Jay Electronica over a gospel sample? Here for it.

6. “No More Parties in L.A.” – Kanye West (feat. Kendrick Lamar): To be clear, “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. I” has the best beat of 2016. But Yeezy ruins it by talking about bleached assholes and, y’know, not actually rapping. This Madlib-produced gem captures everything that was ever appealing about Kanye as a rap artist and throws in a K. Dot verse for good measure.

7. “Don’t Ever Play Yourself” – DJ Khaled (feat. Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss and Kent Jones): Get past his entertaining social media feeds and you’ll find Khaled is good for the occasional dope track. This ominous joint reminds me of 90s posse cuts of yore, and happens to feature a bunch of rappers from my favorite ones.

8. “TorcH” – ScHoolboy Q (feat. Anderson .Paak): The Blank Face LP surprised me by being one of my favorite albums of the year. This opening salvo has a hook that makes me wanna punch everybody within a mile radius.

9. “Bad Boy on Death Row” (O.G. version) – Dave East (feat. The Game): Between his Kairi Chanel album and a ton of dope loosies and collaborations, Dave East had a fantastic year. The instrumentation of this track is slightly remixed on Kairi Chanel, but I enjoy the original slightly better.

10. “THat Part” (Black Hippy Remix) – ScHoolboy Q (feat. Black Hippy): The album version with Kanye West is pretty useless; this remix retains the dope beat and adds a Kendrick verse that ranks among the year’s top three verses.

11. “The Jungle” – Nick Grant: Grant is a South Carolina emcee who came from outta nowhere with his ’88 mixtape, a tight project most notable for the “Royalty” Remix with Big K.R.I.T. and Killer Mike. “The Jungle” is straight Millennial fight music and I’m looking forward to a “proper” album release from Grant.

12. “Temptation” – Asher Roth x Nottz x Travis Barker (feat. Royce Da 5’9”): I’ve never had any use for Blink-182, but I’ve kept an eye on Travis Barker’s recent foray into hip-hop because his drums work wonders in the genre. Rawther as a whole is worth checking out because Nottz is always dependable and Asher Roth is what Macklemore could be if Macklemore didn’t suck.

13. “Dead Pre$ident Heads” – Royce Da 5’9”: Royce is still in my top five dead or alive, and there’s very little more satisfying in all of music than hearing him snap hook-free over a hard beat for an entire track.

14. “I Wanted Mo” – Dizzy Wright: Wright may be the only Las Vegas rapper I’ll ever appreciate. He’s been quietly putting out hot material over the last four years or so, and I strongly recommend digging into his numerous projects on Apple or Spotify. You can hear in his music the influence from his biological uncles, Layzie Bone and Flesh-N-Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.

15. “Hold the Drums” – Smoke DZA x Pete Rock (feat. Royce Da 5’9”): I had another beatless wonder originally on this list, and I figure some of you are side-eyeing me over having so much Royce. But this joint isn’t even about him…it’s about Pete Rock’s beautiful production. No track has spent more time on repeat in the last month.

16. “A Couple Dollars” – Skyzoo & Apollo Brown (feat. Joell Ortiz): Apollo Brown is a Detroit producer who shines much brighter when working with some rappers more than others. Skyzoo is one of the best and most consistent underground New York emcees ever, so it’s no surprise that he’d bring something special out of Apollo. If season 4 of The Wire were transformed into a song, it would be “A Couple Dollars.”

17. “I Grew Up on Wu-Tang” – The Game: Jayceon always seems to be good for at least one year-ending track, thanks mainly to his fantastic ear for beats. Every track on the 1992 album has samples, and The Spinners’ “We Belong Together” sample shines on this cut.

Dustin Seibert

Dustin J. Seibert lifts heavy weights and plays all his video games on hard mode to find peace. He has a better ear for hip-hop than anyone else you know. He writes like the English language is going outta style because the steaks in his freezer are dependent on it.

  • mr. steal your costco samples

    Loved “Same Drugs” though.

    I’m old.

  • HouseOfBonnets

    *Sees topic and author, automatically pulls up on thread with a chair*

    • Val

      The first shade of the new year. Lol

      • Other_guy13

        Well timed too

        • HouseOfBonnets

          It’s an art to be honest, everyone can’t do it and I’m proud to say I learned from some of the best lol

      • HouseOfBonnets

        In the case of Dustin I say it with love lol

        • cakes_and_pies

          I thought we were sticking with calling him “Dusty”

          • Baken Greese


          • HouseOfBonnets

            I didn’t know we were doing that lol

            • cakes_and_pies

              That’s what Agatha called him. It stuck for awhile.

          • Kellyjpoisson

            Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !ur72c:
            On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
            ??;?? http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash362ShopDesignsGetPay$97Hour ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!ur72c:….,….

          • Estellenneal

            Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !ue86c:
            On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
            ??;?? http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash376DigitalMobileGetPay$97Hour ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!ue86c:….,….

        • Dustin John Seibert

          *Apple hugs emoji*

          • HouseOfBonnets

            ??? Happy 2017 Dustin

    • Tasha Lawrence?

      I was just coming to state the same! I like Dustin doe. The topic, HATE it. But who am I but just a simpleton on this earth?!

      • HouseOfBonnets

        I like Dustin but I know it’s gonna be something everytime he makes a VSB post lol

    • Janelle Doe




  • Except for Smoke DZA De La and Chance I haven’t heard none of those songs

    • HoneyRose

      When I saw the headline and author of this post I thought “I already know I ain’t never heard none of the songs on this list.” I was surprised I’d even heard one (Chance; my hubs has had Coloring Book on repeat for a while.)

    • The Professor

      Pretty dope list of songs actually I know them all

  • Val

    Alls I know, yes I just said ‘alls’, is that Special Ed and MC Lyte are and have always been underrated. That’s alls I got.

    • TeeChantel

      MC Lyte is definitely underrated. She has been one of my favorite rappers for a long time now.

      • cdj

        She’s my favorite female rapper too (favorite male rapper is Big Daddy Kane). I thought about her the other day, because I just heard that song “Oooouu”. I thought to myself, “this girl sounds simple, she’s no MC Lyte.” I guess this makes me officially Old.

    • MC Lyte never got her real due. I saw her on a Legends tour and she killt it. . (‘Cept for Big Daddy Kane, he was there too.)The crowd was screaming for her to come back out.

      • Cleojonz

        The best rap song of all time hands down I don’t care what anybody says, fight me on this, is Kane’s Set if Off. It’s a perfect storm of everything. I know I’m showing my age with this but IDC IDC IDC.

      • 7EightyOne

        Ahhh. That tour. With the Roots providing the music. Magical hip hop

    • Freebird

      Lyte was an innovator and one of the best pure MCs male or female ever. Close to flawless in her prime.

      Special Ed was a wordsmith.

    • Cleojonz

      Yo paper thin was my favorite Mc Lyte joint.

      The mission was dope but I love The Magnificent.

  • miss t-lee

    Best part of “No More Parties” is the Suzie sample.
    Agreed on the De La track.
    Le$ is decent, I’ve liked other tracks more.

    As far as the rest? Ok.

    • That De La track reminded me of the Common song he had with Chantay Savage “Reminding Me of Sef” different subject matters but a lot of reflection going on.

      • miss t-lee


  • Didn’t listen to much hip hop in 2016 outside of Vince and Tribe. Was a weak year

    • Michele Gilliam

      Yeah I’m surprised none of the songs from Tribe’s album was on here.

  • The Smoke Dza and Pete Rock joint is good. Also loved ATCQ and Dela’s efforts.
    I was shocked to find out Nick Grant was from Walterboro. Hope the kid makes it.

    Favorite Tracks:
    Nobody Speak: DJ Shadow ft Run the Jewels
    Really Doe: Danny Brown ft Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul, and Earl Sweat Shirt
    Sean Price: Rap Professor
    1st Day Out tha Feds: Gucci Mane
    Phresher: Wait a Minute*
    Caroline: Amine
    MFN Right: 2 Chainz
    Really Really: Kevin Gates

    *There’s nothing like having a shuffled playlist go from A Blind Boys song straight to Phresher and EVERY ounce of your soul agreeing with what just happened.

    • miss t-lee

      Your list is solid.

      • It really wasn’t a great year for rap.

        • miss t-lee

          It’s wasn’t. I’ve listened to other genres I love this year way more than rap.
          Outside of my older faves that are still dropping albums.

    • DM.

      Great list.
      First Day… is a highlight for Gucci. Its my morning drive anthem. MFN Right is dope too.
      Caroline is mad corny but i still like it, the beat is nice or whatever.
      The Kevin Gates was slept on.

  • Baken Greese

    Who y’all got on the Chris Brown vs Soulja Boy fight

  • The Pedagogue

    Great list. I found a lot of solace in music this year, especially the Dave East and Smoke DZA albums. So much fantastic hip-hop dropped that I’m sure Dustin could have gone on for days about the various gems 2016 brought us.

    Albums also worth peeping..
    Bas/Too High To Riot
    Ab-Soul/Do What Thou Wilt
    The Lox/Filthy America…

    • Agree on The Lox. They hit us with one out of NOWHERE.

      • The Pedagogue

        Jada’s solo album (Top 5 DOA) was nice too. Probably the first time that I’ve said that about one of his solo efforts. Usually (IMO) his album production isn’t on par with his lyrics or vice versa. This time, everything flowed nicely into one cohesive album.

    • Derrel Anthony

      Two daps to you for mentioning Bas. That album is criminally underrated.

      • The Pedagogue

        Came out around the beginning of the year, so it ended up being one of the most frequently played albums of the year for me. His previous efforts are fantastic as well.

  • Baken Greese

    Maybe it’s the south in me, but all these songs are wack

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      It’s the South in you,, plus he extra backpack

      • Baken Greese

        Lmao @ extra backpack

    • He’s full Backpack. He makes me look like a Trap Stan.

      • Baken Greese

        Right…at least he could have put a Bankroll Fresh song in the mix

    • miss t-lee


    • Saaame

    • The Pedagogue

      I dug most of the songs on the list, but I’m a bit of a backpacker. His tastes are clearly not up your alley, so what songs/albums got your head nodding this year?

      • Baken Greese

        I’m ashamed to admit some of the artist and songs I liked this year, but here goes a few.

        Bankroll Fresh album
        Gucci mane albums
        Black Beatles was hot
        Migos ‘Bad and Boujee”
        Jeezy and BF ‘All There’
        21 and Future ‘X’

        • carib


      • Professor

        I’m a bit of a backpacker myself and I dug almost all of them. Some I would switch out but not because he made bad choices I just have different ones

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