Now that we’ve entered the second half of 2016, we wanted to take the week to share our Midyear Report — breaking down the top albums, songs, and emcees of the first six months.
The first half of 2016 featured a number of top flight emcees dropping albums. But only a few delivered quality work over quantity. And then there were those who didn’t do much, but made the most of their time with memorable rhymes that have us only anticipating what is coming for the rest of the year. The House of Dope went to work and dug through the verses that were dropped this year, debated a little bit, fought somewhat and came up with our list of the top 10 emcees of 2016 at the All-Star break. Meaning, if there was a hip hop All Star game, these are the 10 rhymeslingers we’d put on the field.
A 46-year-old JAY Z is still capable of outshining your favorite rapper. He’s only dropped four verses this year: one that’s for the streets (“Drug Dealers Anonymous”), one for the trap (“I Got The Keys”), one for the club (“All The Way Up (Remix)”) and a formerly vaulted song about police brutality (“Spiritual”), and yet they are still light years ahead of a lot of its contemporaries. Blame Lemonade, maybe? — Meka Udoh
At this point in the game, there should be no reason why Styles P’s name isn’t uttered when conversations about who the greatest rappers of all time arise. Just like his LOX partner-in-(c)rhyme Jadakiss, Pinero certainly fits into the Top DOA bracket — although his discography may not be as extensive as other contenders. Throughout the past six months, the Ghost has showed off his ravenous appetite as an emcee, delivering multiple weekly loosies and collaborating with Puff Daddy, Lil Kim and King Los on “Auction,” Your Old Droog & Joey Bada$$ (“Just Rhymin’“), Black Thought (“Making A Murderer“), and others. — JES7
Alright, let’s write a list of what 2 Chainz has done in 2016 so far:
— He dominated his features. The artist formerly known as Tity Boy added the necessary energy to make Future’s “100it Racks” repeatable, was the standout on Kanye’s star-studded Cruel Winter single “Champions” and Problem’s “My Squad.”
— He rapped “I’m so high, me and God dappin'” on Chance’s “No Problem,” which is just an absolutely beautiful visual. Not only is 2 Chainz the highest he’s ever been, but God was completely cool with it. God doesn’t mind if you smoke marijuana, kids.
— He dropped an album
with featuring Lil Wayne, and the two used each other to elevate their energy and competitive edge to make stadium-shaking bangers like “Gotta Lotta” and “MF’N Right.”
— Then there’s “Smoke Break,” one of the most perfect songs of the year. The track blended signature jazzy, smoke-infused Statik Selektah production and a relaxed version of 2 Chainz taking a (smoke) break from his energetic style this year to step back and appreciate how much money and material possessions he’s accrued.
He’s 38 and only getting better. — Patrick Glynn
Ziplock P has always delivered quality rhymes going back to his Exclusive Audio Footage days, and it has only gotten sharper over the years. Although delivering a prelude to King Push in 2015, he is clearly saving his best for the album with heaters like “Drug Dealers Anonymous.” But he also isn’t afraid to spread the wealth, whipping up potent lyrical product with Baauer (“Kung Fu“), Logic (“Wrist)” Rico Love (“Please“), Major Lazer (“Night Riders“) and Royce 5’9” (“Layers“), among others. Like Allstate, you’re in good hands when you hear a Pusha T verse. — Meka Udoh
He might not be the “best” rapper on the list, but in a time where music is often released and forgotten due to the rapid pace and volume of content on the internet, Curren$y doesn’t let you forget. Spitta once rapped, “Showing no signs of letting up, still kick you in the head like I think you on the verge of gettin’ up” on 2011’s “Scottie Pippen.” Five years later, he’s seven album deeps six months into the year, working with Alchemist (The Carrollton Heist), Sledgren (Revolver), Cool & Dre (Stoned On Miami) and round of other frequent collaborators to make sure — even at 35 — he’s never taking his foot off the gas of his Corvette. — Patrick Glynn
Who knew that YG would be one of the more socially conscious rappers out? Sure enough though, it happened with his second album Still Brazy. A continuation of his breakout debut My Krazy Life, Fo’ Hunnit kept it G throughout the project but then showed off a side that not many had seen from him before on songs like “Blacks & Browns” and “Police Get Away With Murder.” And, like N.W.A. before him, the Secret Service came a-calling after they heard “FDT.” Pro-Black and unafraid to ruffle some feathers? In times like these, rap needs more of that. — Meka Udoh
To say that Dave East has been on fire this year would be one of the greatest understatements of 2016. The Mass Appeal-signed Harlemite deserves all the accolades and praise he’s received, especially following his weekly drops of original songs, EastMixes and guest verses. The XXL Freshman is now looking to continue his winning streak with the announcement of his next project, Kairi Chanel, set to release later this month. When the East is in the house, OMG. Danger! — JES7
He’s almost Chance the Artist at this point. And as I’m writing this, I’m realizing how lame that is, but Lil’ Chano has developed into something much bigger than a rapper from 79th Street on the Southside of Chicago. Outside of the gospel he dropped on his third “mixtape,” the independently released Coloring Book, Chance delivered the best moments on some of the year’s top sonic experiences, from Kanye’s “Ultra Light Beam” and Hundred Waters’ “Show Me Love (Remix)“, which brings four minutes of euphoria to the world every time it’s played. Chance has progressed from the questionative teen to the young adult with motivation and goals, and 2016 has been his coming-out party to the mainstream — a party he never cared to attend but is preaching his word to anyway. — Patrick Glynn
Although Kendrick Lamar didn’t necessarily drop any new material this year, what was released in 2016 was stellar, to say the least. When an emcee’s cutting room floor songs are better than just about everyone else’s best work, you know you’ve got a something special. Kendrick Lamar’s untilted/unmastered yielded lyrical gems such as his work on “untitled 03” where he laments about the lives of minorities and the menacing “untitled 05.” And, of course, there was his superb guest spots on Kanye’s “No More Parties In LA” and Beyoncé’s “Freedom.” The output may not have been high, but the quality certainly is there. And he’s consistently dope. — Andreas Hale
In short, Royce has proven that he is rap’s torch bearer for pure lyrical ability in 2016, clearly outshining everyone else in both this list and in rap in general. Both Layers and Tabernacle: Trust The Shooter were simply marvelous displays of music, with Royce rapping his head off on each one. His half year has already been better than many rapper’s entire careers, and 2016 isn’t even over yet. — Meka Udoh