Top 5 Hip Hop Albums of 2016

By Caleb Kritchevsky, Managing Editor

2016 was a memorable year for hip hop music. Many famous artists produced projects, and some stuck out from the bunch. While some albums from popular hip hop artists like Drake’s “Views” or Kid Cudi’s “Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin” predominantly fell flat, the genre’s best exceeded expectations. Many artists produced great projects this year, but I’ve narrowed it down to five great projects that I believe to be the best of 2016.

5) “Untitled Unmastered” by Kendrick Lamar

After Kendrick released “To Pimp a Butterfly,” one of the most highly praised hip hop albums of all time, he began to errantly reveal untitled singles that evidently didn’t make the cut for his previous albums. Then, he put them all on one album, and still didn’t title any of them. Even though these songs didn’t seem to suffice for his recent albums, they still create an interesting, dynamic compilation album that has more complexity and narrative heft than some fully realized projects from other artists.

4) “Coloring Book” by Chance the Rapper

The highly anticipated third mixtape from fan-favorite Chance the Rapper was released early in 2016, and despite the monumental expectations and doubts surrounding this project, it didn’t disappoint. Chance’s unique, gospel influenced style combined with his excellent production and features allowed “Coloring Book” album to have a profound cultural impact. While there are a few uninteresting missteps on the tracklist, the overall character of this album is fascinatingly unique, and something that only Chance the Rapper could create.

3) “No, My Name is Jeffrey” by Young Thug

Young Thug has had generally bad critical reception due to his strange mumbling vocals, but some of his projects have shown flashes of a compelling style that is exclusive to Young Thug. “Jeffrey” fully develops Young Thug’s unique style with a consistent tracklist that has no major missteps. Young Thug has essentially created a wild sound all his own, with strangely engaging production and vocals. This is the kind of project that can influence the rest of the music industry simply because it’s so different from anything else considered “hip hop,” yet it works surprisingly well.

2) “Run The Jewels 3” by Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels is a hip hop group formed by artists Killer Mike and E-IP that has produced some of the most compelling projects of the past decade. The pair have continued their success with “Run the Jewels 3.” The ability of the artists to simultaneously create hard-hitting, socially relevant music is almost unmatched by anyone in the industry today.  Run the Jewels’ forceful and borderline bombastic style allowed them to have one of the most visceral albums of 2016. Their clever, socially relevant verses flow seamlessly with their production, creating an undeniably clean and consistent product.

1) “ We Got it From Here….Thank U 4 Your Service” by A Tribe Called Quest

Nobody saw this album coming. A Tribe Called Quest is a heavily influential hip hop group that split up after 1998 due to creative differences, but decided to secretly record this album following the 2015 Paris attacks. Upon release, this album blew many hip hop fans away with it’s timeless style and well-written verses. A Tribe Called Quest proved that their old-school style still works, and that it’s a lot better than a lot of hip-hop music today. This profound 16-track escapade is essentially a parting gift from the group to the hip hop industry, and the tracks and verses on it will likely remain significant for years to come.

Photo from List Challenge.