2016 has been a phenomenal year for Hip Hop. I've probably said that for the past couple years, but I honestly feel like the genre is getting stronger. More different forms are taking shape and catering to a much larger audience than ever before. I like to think I listen to a large array of artists in regards to Hip Hop, so I figured I'd sum up my favorite projects of the year thus far in hopes to turn people on to some new artists and to reaffirm that just because someone doesn't like an album doesn't mean it doesn't have its merits. I'm not saying that these projects I'm writing about are perfect by any means, but they definitely bring something to the table. Keep in mind these are my personal favorite projects so far, and I'm by no means a reviewer. These projects are just really what I enjoyed and there's definitely a few missing, so if they're not in this list it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them.
1. "Imperial" - Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry is finally getting the recognition he deserves. "Nostalgic 64" definitely garnered him some attention, but this year he finally became a XXL Freshman which is just getting his name out there even more. As a millennial with a short attention span (as most of us have) it's becoming increasingly more difficult to listen straight through an album. In a world full of filler tracks Imperial is not that, and that puts it in high regards for me as an album that is a straight start to finish listening experience. The album starts off with extremely high energy with "ULT" and it keeps up with the pace of high intensity lyrics and flow until the second half of the album where it slow down a bit, but not in a necessarily bad way. At only ten tracks long it fills a lot in and is probably one of the best projects put out this year.
2. "August 26" - Post Malone
The preamble to the album "Stoney," August 26 actually brought a lot of quality tracks to the table and does its job of holding the fans off until the album. "White Iverson" was the "Panda" of last year and I'm sure a lot of people didn't think Post could follow up with more quality work, but August 26 brought some variety in and showed he wasn't just a one-trick pony. His slurred rhymes in the first track work surprisingly well and from that point after there isn't really a dull point in the mixtape. The features work really well on this project from Lil Yachty's verse on "Monta" to Jeremih's excellent contribution on the song "F**k." Even Jaden Smith makes a surprise appearance and actually brings a lot to the song "Lonely." The writing in the songs isn't very ground breaking and introspective but with some catchy lyrics and solid production, it will at least keep me entertained until the full album release.
3. "I Told You" - Tory Lanez
Tory Lanez debut album was released not too long ago, but it quickly sets him apart from the rest. At an hour and twenty minutes the album is definitely feeding long time fans, and while the skits may get a little burdensome after a few play throughs of the album Lanez definitely tells a fantastic story of his come up as an artist. Not to say the skits aren't good, on the first listen it's good idea not to skip these parts as it has a lot of background for the tracks that are about to play. Lanez shows his range in a variety of tracks and the first half definitely sets itself as a powerhouse album of 2016. It slows down a little bit in the middle of the project but finishes strongly with the tracks "Say It," and "LUV." What may be the best track is "To D.R.E.A.M." which he comes in strong with the bars, than a minimalisitic hook filled with floaty autotune (don't exactly know what I mean by that, but it sounds right) utilizes the interesting and impressive production. Do yourself a favor and stick around for the last minute of the song, because once it's over you'll be thinking that was one of the best songs from 2016.
4. "Hotel Paranoia" - Jazz Cartier
This album was one that really came out of nowhere for me. His previous project "Marauding in Paradise" had a lot of promise, but the increasing quality and polish on "Hotel Paranoia" was definitely a step up from "Marauding." With the help of his in-house producer Lantz, the album brings a little bit of everything for a Hip Hop fan. It's versatile in that it has banger tracks like "100 Roses" and "Red Alert," but at the same time having some tracks that tell an interesting story as well as having some turn down (slightly R&B) tracks. "Black and Misguided" is the highlight on the album from the production to the lyrics it might be the best track he's put out to date. It's not quite on the level of Kendrick introspection, but it's definitely an interesting and melodic track that tells a great story. While I'm becoming a bigger fan of Cartier's lyricism and writing what will keep you going with the album is Lantz's production. While sometimes the words can get a little stale (few and far between) Lantz keeps you interested with a very impressive showcase of beats. A quality project and it's gonna be exciting to see the next work he puts out.
5. "Silhouette of a Sunkken City" - Spark Master Tape
I'll admit that up until recently I had no idea who Spark Master Tape was, and was a bit confused when every song I heard from him after my discovery he was rapping in low-pitched vocals, but if you can look past the heavily altered voice you'll find a few songs you'll really enjoy in this project.
The key to this album is short sporadic songs with gritty lyricism and unique, well-produced beats. The anonymity of "Spark" brings a lot of uniqueness, but I can see why some may see this as a gimmick that gets old. In this project, it works very well and while the production is mostly darker in tone, a few lighter hearted tracks shine through and bring some great energy.
6. "Too High To Riot" - Bas
Another short album with limited features, but a great one none the less. From the first track named after the title, you know it's going to be a slightly thought-provoking album with some social commentary, but not in an over burdening way.
Signed by Dreamville, he works with the likes of J. Cole but still finds his own style in this project. A lot of dreamy production and sharp lyrics make this an easy top for me. Since it's fairly short if you haven't heard it yet just throw it on, you won't be disappointed.
7. "The Perfect LUV Tape" - Lil Uzi Vert
Uzi Vert has been putting a lot of work in this year with two projects, features, and some singles so I wouldn't be surprised if he dropped another one before the end of the year. You know what to expect with him in his lyricism and flow but "The Perfect LUV Tape" melds together what makes him so unique. To talk about this tape I'll talk about the production first, which is what brings together a lot of this album. His first mixtape "LUV is Rage" had what felt like a darker tone and production style, which I vibed with. But on this project, most of the songs have a feel good vibe. He works best with this kind of production. His lyrics won't win him any awards but his delivery and style make him an enjoyable artist to listen too. A great team of producers and Uzi himself come together to create the pinnacle of why I listen to him and churned out a really fun project.
Some honorable mentions I either didn't have enough time to write about or haven't listened too enough times are "There's Alot Going On" by Vic Mensa, "Here's Half" by CokeBoy Zack, "Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight" by Travis Scott (future article about that one alone), "Malibu" by Anderson .Paak, and "Slime Season 3" and "Jeffrey" by Young Thug. Once again there are probably a few left out but hopefully I'll be able to write about them soon.