2016 was politically and socially gut-wrenching, but the soundtrack to this turbulent year was superb. Whether you’re a crate-digging backpacker or a mumble-rap aficionado, there was plenty of ear candy from 2016’s Pez dispensary.

This year, HipHopDX is distinguishing between the best rap songs (a.k.a. the most lyrically and sonically potent) and the ones that had the most impact culturally. That’s why we’ve made two lists: the 50 Best Hip Hop & Rap Songs Of 2016 and the Top 50 Most Lit Songs of 2016. The goal here is not to widen the divide between purist and partier but to give excellence its due. Peep game.

2016 proved lyricism is alive and well in Hip Hop, despite cries for the return of the ’90s. Rappers like Royce Da 5’9, Skyzoo and eLZhi gave us supreme bars backed by equally stalwart production. But mainstream rappers such as Chance the Rapper and YG carried their lyrical weight, too, as evidenced in this list. Check out the year’s finest rap tunes below.

50. Big Sean – “Bounce Back”

Producer: Metro Boomin, Smash David, Hitmaka & Amaire Johnson

49. Flatbush Zombies – ”New Phone, Who Dis?”

Producer: The Architect

48. Mac Miller f. Anderson .Paak – “Dang!”

Producer: Pomo

47. Azizi Gibson – “DJ Khaled”

Producer: Millz Douglas

46. Travis Scott – “goosebumps”

Producer: Cardo, Yung Exclusive, Cubeatz, Mike Dean

45. Skyzoo & Apollo Brown – “Care Packages”

Producer: Apollo Brown

44. Pusha T f. Jay Z – “Drug Dealers Anonymous”

Producer: DJ Dahi

43. Isaiah Rashad – “Free Lunch”

Producer: Cam O’bi

42. Denzel Curry – “ULT”

Producer: Ronny J, Nick Leon & FNZ

41. Travis Scott f. Quavo & Young Thug – “pick up the phone”

Producer: Vinylz, Frank Dukes, Mike Dean, Allen Ritter

40. T.I. – “Black Man”

Producer: Lil’ C, MP808, Mars & Rossi

39. YG – “Still Brazy”

Producer: Ty Dolla Sign & Swish

38. Bas – “Methylone”

Producer: Ron Gilmore

37. Vince Staples f. A$AP Rocky – “Prima Donna”

Producer: DJ Dahi

36. The Game f. Lorine Chia – “The Juice”

Producer: DJ Quik

35. The Game – “92 Bars”

Producer: The Chemists Create, Drumz & Rosez

34. Nick Grant f. Watch The Duck – “Get Up”

Producer: Watch The Duck & Karriem Riggins

33. J. Cole – “Everybody Dies”

Producer: J. Cole

32. T.I. – “War Zone”

Producer: Mike & Keys & Mars

31. Danny Brown f. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt – “Really Doe”

Producer: Black Milk

30. Buddy – “Shine”

Producer: DJ Khalil, Mike & Keys

29. J. Cole – “Neighbors”

Producer: J. Cole

28. A$AP Mob f. Juicy J – “Yamborghini High”

Producer: Hector Delgado

27. YG f. Nipsey Hussle – “FDT”

Producer: Swish

26. A Tribe Called Quest f. Busta Rhymes & Consequence – “Mobius”

Producer: Q-Tip & Blair Wells

25. Joey Bada$$ – “Devastated”

Producer: Powers Pleasant, Kirk Knight & Adam Pallin

24. Skyzoo – “Friend or Foe 3”

Producer: DJ Premier

23. A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People”

Producer: Q-Tip & Blair Wells

22. Dee-1 – “Sallie Mae Back”

Producer: Justen Williams

21. J. Cole – “4 Your Eyez Only”

Producer: J. Cole, BLVK, Childish Major, Chargaux, Theo Croker, Nate Jones

20. DJ Khaled f. Nas – “Nas Album Done”

Producer: DJ Khaled, 808-Ray, Cool & Dre

19. Royce Da 5’9 – “Tabernacle”

Producer: S1 & J. Rhodes

18. Dave East – “Type Of Time”

Producer: Cardo

17. Chance The Rapper – “All We Got”

Producer: Kanye West & The Social Experiment

16. DJ Shadow f. Run The Jewels – “Nobody Speak”

Producer: DJ Shadow

15. Gucci Mane – “1st Day Out Tha Feds”

Producer: Mike WiLL Made-It

14. ScHoolboy Q f. E-40 – “Dope Dealer”

Producer: Metro Boomin & Southside

13. Kanye West f. Kendrick Lamar – “No More Parties In L.A.”

Producer: Kanye West & Madlib

12. A Tribe Called Quest f. Consequence – “Black Spasmodic”

Producer: Q-Tip & Blair Wells

11. Kanye West f. Ty Dolla $ign – “Real Friends”

Producer: Kanye West, Boi-1da, Frank Dukes, Havoc, Mike Dean, Darren King, Noah Goldstein, Sevn Thomas

10. Kendrick Lamar – “Untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016”

Producer: Cardo, Yung Exclusive. Frank Dukes & Egypt Dean

When LeBron James got Top on the phone, we never expected K. Dot to “Levitate” to Beyonce levels and hit us with an unannounced “album” out of the blue. But it happened.

09. ScHoolboy Q f. Kanye West – “THat Part”

Producer: Cardo, Yung Exclusive, Sounwave, Cubeatz

Groovy Q spits lively braggadocio over an infectiously eerie beat, and Kanye’s quotable-filled verse is the cherry on top.

08. Fat Joe & Remy Ma f. French Montana & Infared “All The Way Up”

Producer: Edsclusive and Cool & Dre

Arguably the National Turn-Up Anthem of 2016, Terror Squad’s glorious return was worth the wait.

07. Kanye West f. Andre 3000 – “30 Hours”

Producer: Kanye West, Karriem Riggins & Mike Dean

Yeezy has had a rough year and “30 Hours” is like an eerie premonition of what was to come. “The voices won’t stop talking to me/just leave me alone,” he raps with precision, reminding us why he’s in the upper echelon of contemporary MCs. Name one genius that ain’t crazy.

06. Chance the Rapper f. Ty Dolla $ign, Raury, BJ The Chicago Kid, Anderson. Paak, Nico Segal, Lolah Brown, HaHa Davis – “Blessings”

Producer: The Social Experiment & Cam O’bi

Chance displayed just why he’s Kanye’s favorite prodigy, closing out his album with a beautiful melody coupled with a sobering outlook on his life.

05. Royce Da 5’9 – “Hard”

Producer: AntMan Wonder


Nickel Nine marks his success, soundtracking a slow victory lap with triumphant horns and humorous reflection.

04. Travis Scott f. Kid Cudi – “through the late night”

Producer: Cardo & Cubeatz


A foreboding Auto-Tune anthem for nocturnal ragers everywhere, La Flame and Cudder teamed up to bring us one of 2016’s most repeat-worthy tracks.

03. Kanye West f. Kid Cudi & Kelly Price – “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”

Producer: Kanye West, Mike Dean, Rick Rubin, Metro Boomin, Allen Ritter & Noah Goldstein

Bleached assholes aside, Kanye proved that saying the most nonsensical things could equate to arguably the most memorable verse of the year. Just drop this joint in the club and try to disagree.

02. Chance The Rapper f. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne – “No Problems”

Producer: Brasstracks

What do you need? Gospel, anthems, bangers? No problem. There isn’t a lane that Chance, Tunechi and Tity Boi didn’t swerve into on this monster record.

01. Kanye West f. Chance The Rapper, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream & Kelly Price – “Ultralight Beam”

Producer: Kanye West, Mike Dean, Chance the Rapper, Swizz Beatz Rick Rubin, Plain Pat, DJ Dodger Stadium, Noah Goldstein, Derek Watkins

The Life of Pablo was a monumental album and West recruited a laundry list of talented artists to contribute to the project. Co-produced by Swizz Beatz and Rick Rubin, the song swells with an angelic choir, Price’s impeccable voice and Chance’s baptismal lyricism, adding more musical depth to an already intricate opus.

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Check out more of DX’s year-end content below.

The 2016 HipHopDX Year-End Awards

The 20 Best Rap Albums Of 2016

The Best R&B Of 2016

The Best Mixtapes Of 2016

The Most Slept-On Rap Albums Of 2016

The 50 Best Songs Of 2016

The 50 Most Lit Songs Of 2016

The Steve Lobel “We Working” Artist Of The Year

The Worst Rap Albums Of 2016

Remembering Those We Lost In 2016