10. Kanye West
What more can be said about Kanye that every other website hasn’t already reported on? With the huge release of The Life of Pablo, continued success for the Yeezy Boost 350 and his YEEZY fashion line, and continually grabbing headlines, Kanye has been inescapable this year. Although the end of 2016 has not been too favorable for Ye and we would have liked to see a complete Saint Pablo tour, Kanye had an overall productive year. Hopefully Yeezy is on the road to recovery and will see a positive 2017 rather than one which sees him fall from the top after a rocky last couple weeks.
If you have been listening to any heaters this year, you have been listening to Quavo verses. The Migos member has been making a name for himself on his own as he continues to pop up featured on some of the best tracks this year. Whether it’s “Bad and Boujee” or “Pick Up The Phone”, Quavo always produces a verse that doesn’t disappoint. Most recently appearing on the star studded Yo Gotti track “Castro”, Quavo has seen himself come a long way from the days of “Versace”. With word of a solo project on the way, 2017 could turn out to be an even bigger year for this talented Migos member.
8. 21 Savage
If you are a fan of trap then you probably cannot count the number of times you have heard “21 21 21” this year. After being relatively unknown last year, 21 Savage was named to the XXL 2016 Freshman list and has not looked back since. From collaborating with Metro Boomin on the fantastic Savage Mode, to featuring on many big name artist’s songs, 21 Savage has carved his own lane in the rap game. His simple yet effective lyrics, calm vocal style, and GTA-esque lyrics create for one of the most intriguingly enjoyable artists right now. The big question will be how 21 is able to grow in the coming months, but for now we can appreciate how far he’s come. From obscurity to one of the hottest features of the year, 21 has had a great year.
With a successful collaboration with Puma yielding the Shoe of the Year as well as one of the best albums of the year, nobody can deny Rihanna has had a great year. Her Fenty x Puma Creepers sold out as soon as they were released and have been sought after by music fans and streetwear enthusiasts alike. As if that wasn’t enough, her album Anti is arguably the best R&B album of the year and definitely deserved a Grammy nomination although it was unfortunately snubbed. Rih Rih created a masterpiece of a project showing immense growth from her “Umbrella” days and more passion and vocal range than previous releases such as “Bitch Better Have My Money”. With help from Travis Scott who reportedly worked closely with her on the sound of the album, Rihanna moves between digital, spacey beats and more authentic, instrument driven tracks all while belting out with some of the best vocal range we have heard from her. Anti is the best Rihanna project yet and 2016 was a year that showed her grow to a new level of artistry.
6. ScHoolboy Q
2016 saw the release of several short film meets with music videos from ScHoolboy before the release of his fourth studio album. In addition to releasing one of the best rap albums of the year in Blank Face LP and having it nominated for a Grammy, ScHoolboy also went on tour with Joey Bada$$. This was a year of significant growth as an artist for Q and it culminated in the creation of an album that is on nearly every year end list. All this coming after nearly leaving the rap game after growing tired of the fame and wanting to spend more time with his daughter. With TDE possessing so much fire power on its roster, it really says something that ScHoolboy had the best year of the bunch.
5. Gucci Mane
One of the names we have seen come up again and again this year is that of Gucci Mane. Following his release from prison earlier this year, Gucci has gone on to record and release three projects in six months, these being Everybody Looking, Woptopber, and The Return of East Atlanta Santa, in addition to a joint EP with Future and another with Lil Uzi Vert. 2016 has been Guwop’s triumphant return to the Rap scene and he’s come back better than ever. Having lost a lot of weight, newly sober, and now engaged to his long time girlfriend, Gucci has his life on track and is doing better than ever. Everybody Looking was a commercial success and has helped garner him new fans as well as some big name collaborators including Kanye West. After releasing so many projects in such a short amount of time, it will be interesting to see if Guwop can continue this output into 2017.
4. Frank Ocean
Not much can be said about Frank Ocean’s 2016 that hasn’t already been said. After many, many teases Frank finally surprised us with the artistic and beautiful Endless. A visual album meant to be played as a one continuous track, Endless served as the appetizer for the phenomenal album to come. Blonde was one of the most unexpected projects of the year. Not only did we never have a firm release date, but nobody could have predicted the various vocal effects, twists, and turns that lay in the curves of possibly the best album of the year. Frank released his masterpiece in unison with the first issue of his Boys Don’t Cry magazine. Frank may return to the cave he’s been hiding in for the last few years, but at least he gifted us with two amazing projects, both of which will take time to fully digest. Time, after all, is the one thing we are guaranteed with Frank Ocean.
3. Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper has had an especially big year in 2016. From working with Kanye West on The Life of Pablo, to the release of his third mixtape Coloring Book, to collaborations with New Era and the Chicago White Sox, Chance has been everywhere this year. 2016 was big year for underground rappers making the crossover to more mainstream audiences and Chance was no exception. With a commercial for Kit-Kat and artists like Yeezy and Lil Wayne featuring on his mixtape, Chance can now consider himself a superstar. Coloring Book was critically acclaimed, being the first project to chart on the Billboard 200 off streams alone and also receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. Chance even surprised us last minute with a holiday project with Jeremih. With all the success and attention Chance has gotten, it is still amazing to think that he is an independent artist. Only time will tell what his ceiling will be. One thing is for sure, Chance’s debut album will be a huge project to say the least.
2. Anderson .Paak
If you don’t know who Anderson .Paak is, that needs to change. After playing a significant role in the creation of Dr. Dre’s 2015 Compton, .Paak started the year strong by playing Coachella. Not only was he a performer, but he surprised fans by bringing out T.I. the first weekend and Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre the second weekend. Later, he was named to XXL’s 2016 Freshman List. Oh yeah, did I also mention he released not one, but two of the best albums of 2016; those being Malibu and Yes Lawd!, the latter with producer Knxwledge under the name Nx Worries. 2016 has been an incredible year for .Paak, being a sought after collaborator by many artists as well as being very productive with his own musical output. Don’t be surprised to see Anderson .Paak back on this list next having made the jump from best new artist, to full blown superstar.
1. Donald Glover / Childish Gambino
It is easy to agree on one thing in this year of division and that is that Childish Gambino, real name Donald Glover, has had a huge year. Glover created one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows of this year with FX’s Atlanta. Not only did he write for it but he also starred in it and has since been nominated for and won multiple awards for his efforts. On the music front Gambino started with his Pharos Experience which drew fans to the desert of Joshua Tree to experience all new music. It would later turn out that this new music was actually his new album entitled “Awaken, My Love!”. Featuring no rapping at all, this album is one of the best albums of 2016 all while emulating a sound more akin to 1976. All of this occurred while Glover landed the biggest acting role of his career, this being that of Lando Calrissian in upcoming Star Wars spinoff focused on Han Solo’s story. To say the least, Glover has had the most well rounded year of any artist, and surely has done well to capture America’s love all in the second half of the year.