2016 is halfway complete. Time to look back at the awesome and awful of the half year. Whether you agree, disagree or have your own suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. Leave your commentary in the Community Section. Brought to you by your friendly HipHopDX staff.
Russell Simmons & All Def Digital: How do you rebound from a potentially business killing mishap? Follow the RushCard model. After a planned migration to a new transaction processor signaled doom for the controversial prepay card service, leaving roughly 130,000 users unable to access funds, Simmons responded by offering free service for five months, over-cooperated with regulators, set aside $25 million for spurned customers and became more hands-on in daily operations. RushCard is back on track at the same time as his digital media company, ADD, pioneers fresh conversations for urban consumers. Not only has the outlet raised an additional $10 million in funding, but it also announced partnerships with Spotify, NBCUniversal and HBO and expanded into social justice by hosting its first “Town Hall” series last month. Uncle Rush is in the zone.
Master P & No Limit Boys: One of the most legendary leaders in music history is in the midst of a multilayered onslaught that includes an upcoming biopic starring Queen Latifah, fresh music, and a nationwide pop-up tour. To be around the No Limit Boys is a righteous experience. Listening to what’s now at least 10 different tracks released this year doesn’t feel like an old rapper trying to relive the glory days. P, Lambo, AceB 47, Blaq-N-Mild, J Slugg and company are genuinely offering a distinctive sound with talented artists who are simply more interesting than the majority of the rest of your playlist. If you’re sleeping on P; if you think MoeRoy is nothing more than a Future offshoot; if you believe that musically Master P has little left to offer, you should punch yourself in the face. No Limit Boys are for real and they’ve compiled one of the best first half’s of 2016.
GRAMMYs: The Recording Academy made major announcements this year. The biggest: Granting streaming-only projects GRAMMY consideration. Artists like Chance The Rapper, Future and Young Thug now have the opportunity to receive the recognition deserved on music’s biggest stage. The organization also limited voters to participating in 15 categories instead of the previous 20, “to encourage members to vote only in those categories in which they are most knowledgeable, passionate and qualified.” Expect next year’s rap nominees to be more legit than ever.
Troy Ave: Lord Jamar said it best in his recent interview with DJ Vlad: “It’s real nigga shit, but legally he’s fucked.”
Drake: Who else could drop a mediocre album chock-full of hot singles and eventually get mentioned alongside the likes of Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer? (Despite the probability, that isn’t a bad thing this time around.) There hasn’t been a major tour announcement nor did the Raptors sniff NBA Finals oxygen but Drizzy’s Views just keeps dominating playlists, streaming sites and radio. Now that the hotter months are in, it’s “Summer ‘16” just like he predicted and that song isn’t even on the album.
Chance The Rapper: It’s a fact that Chance has yet to sell any of his projects and he’s still making more tour money and getting higher DX ratings than the bulk of his peers. While we have yet to see his latest branded hybrid of Hip Hop and gospel turn into a full-fledged subgenre, the artistry he put on the showroom floor in Coloring Book is the type of career-building that ultimately leads to a lasting legacy.
Gucci Mane: When you look and feel better in terms of physical fitness, you tend to be an overall better person, mentally and functionally. Just one watch of the “First Day Out the Feds” video makes it clear that this isn’t your traphouse’s Radric Davis and he appears less like the character he’s created for himself all these years. Every outlet wants to talk to him; every rapper wants to work with him (and he’s landed some key placements from the likes of Kanye West and Dreezy already). I think the rehabilitation will stick around for a while this time.
Joe Budden: There’s only reason why Joseph would be eligible for either category on this list and that’s to come at the king with a raggedy trenchcoat and shotgun with a loud bang (Wire reference). I don’t care how many Drake haters are gassing his mentions with this, that and the third. I’d rank that diss a cool #1132 on the list of all the rap disses I’ve ever heard in my life. Even more disappointing was the fact he didn’t let “the beef” happen naturally. Drake can’t be killed by bars because his music is too trendy. Hopefully this will leave Joey unscathed to be able to deliver something a bit more timely.
Rick Ross (and the entire MMG): What good is having an empire if you never use it? The annual MMG Weekend recently took place and while it’s cool that the crew are counting their blessings, we haven’t seen much output this year from one of the most talented rosters in Hip Hop. Rick Ross allegedly signed to Epic earlier this year but it’s been MIA like his area code. Meek Mill’s DC4 EP’s were rock-solid back in January but you probably wouldn’t remember them if I hadn’t said anything. (Ditto for Rockie Fresh’s That Night I Went to… series.) Wale’s Summer on Sunset felt like a placeholder just to remind everyone he was still around, Stalley needs to capitalize off the Cavs’ win and Gunplay can’t let a little thing like album sales keep him heating up the streets. Moving in silence is only reserved for criminals with something to hide.
Drake: Drake’s on such a hot streak right now he seems incapable of taking an L that will actually drop his stock. Lukewarm reviews for his latest release haven’t prevented it from becoming a commercial juggernaut, topping the Billboard 200 albums chart for nine straight weeks (and counting), and generating well over a billion (with a ‘B’) plays from streaming platforms. As someone who lives in Toronto, I can also say that he’s helped redefine the city in the world’s eyes for the better. Gone are the days of being asked by out-of-towners about our (late) “Crack Mayor” Rob Ford. Now, people want to know what’s good in “The 6ix.”
Chance The Rapper: Man, is this kid likable. Chance’s third mixtape hit like an explosion at a paint store, splashing bright colors into an often joyless soundscape and netting well-deserved praise from critics across the board. Chance proved that rap with a positive message can still resonate with audiences, and high-profile co-signs from Kanye West and other major stars have helped spread the good word.
Tsu Surf/Tay Roc: Going into their rap battle with DNA and K-Shine at URL’s “Double Impact,” first-time partners Tsu Surf and Tay Roc were generally considered the underdogs against the more experienced duo. On their own, the two are among battle rap’s biggest stars but there were questions about how their styles and energies would mesh together. They laid every doubt to rest within the first few bars of the battle, putting on arguably the most explosive performance of the year so far. The video has generated more than 1.7 million views on YouTube since dropping on April 14 — the most for any English-language battle this year — and is considered by fans as one of the clearest wins of 2016. The battle was cut short when tempers flared, which has only built more anticipation around the upcoming rematch on July 9.
Troy Ave: Troy Ave is already on several other people’s lists so I’ll skip the laundry list of his offenses in 2016. On May 25, the NYC rapper’s life changed completely when he lost one of his oldest friends in a shooting at Irving Plaza, and a day later, when he lost his freedom after being arrested on charges of attempted murder and weapons possession. When it comes to losses in 2016, Troy Ave’s were definitely the most public, but sometimes people forget that they were possibly also the most tragic.
Hip Hop Concertgoers In New York: It must’ve sucked to be a Hip Hop fan in New York City in the first half of 2016. A slew of rap concerts were canceled for a variety of reasons, among them bad weather, venue closures and the fallout from the Irving Plaza shooting. Things seem to be getting back on track now, but any further incidents will only reopen the wound.
Music: Already in 2016 we’ve lost two of the most iconic musicians of all time, with Prince and David Bowie passing away in the first half of the year. Hip Hop mourned the deaths of many more, including names like Phife Dawg, Bankroll Fresh, Lor Scoota, Attrell Cordes of P.M. Dawn, Big Kap and Cadalack Ron.
Gucci Mane: What better story has crossed our timeline than the news that Gucci Mane was released from prison? The Trap King wowed everyone with his new physique, and also how effortlessly he jumped back in the studio. Yes, with the amount of material he released from prison, it almost felt like Gucci Mane hadn’t left us, but isn’t the world a better place with #Guwopsnaps and videos of jam sessions with Zaytoven on the Gram?
DJ Khaled: There have been many highs and lows in Hip Hop so far this year, but we can always count on DJ Khaled to give us something to smile about. Yes, the “I Got the Keys” video maybe didn’t live up to the hype, but who else rallies people around him like DJ Khaled? And c’mon, the song goes so hard. He also got to tour with Beyonce. That’s winning. Whenever you are in doubt or second guess yourself, there are few places better for an instant pick-me-up than the Miami artist’s snapchat. DJ Khaled stays winning and inspires us to do the same.
Chicago: Now that the controversy of Spike Lee’s Chi-raq is behind us, the Windy City has been showing what it’s really made of. Even though Kanye West doesn’t really rep his hometown, Chicago can still take ownership for the success of The Life of Pablo and every headline Yeezy has made. But beyond that, Chance The Rapper has a wildly popular, historic mixtape in Coloring Book, Vic Mensa is continuing to build his presence and got a lot of people thinking with his There’s Alot Going On project, Jeremih is everywhere right now, Young Chop is grinding, Lil Bibby is working and Lil Durk is doing his thing. The list goes on. Oh and Common is just great.
Lil Wayne: Please let me start off my saying I love Lil Wayne. Weezy F. Baby is the reason I care about rap in the first place. But he needs to realize that his fans are worried about him and his life choices. He hasn’t really been making music, which is fine, but instead he’s being reckless. His last series of strokes had the world on edge. And his beef with Birdman seems to be in a deadlock. We need to see a ray of sunshine in the storm that Lil Wayne is in.
Troy Ave: We all know Troy Ave likes to keep it real, but he needs to leave the streets in the streets. Troy Ave is still sitting in jail after he was charged in a shooting that left his friend dead. This comes after he disrespected Joey Bada$$ by laughing at Capital Steez’s suicide. Not cool.
Taylor Swift: I know she’s winning everywhere else, but T-Swift has a shaky presence in the world of Hip Hop. She tells people not to bother her while she listens to Kendrick Lamar, but she freaks out when Kanye West name drops her in a song. Kanye says she approved the controversial “Famous” line and Kim K even claims the singer sent a letter from her lawyers making sure footage of her approving the lyric never sees the light of day. People blast Kanye for his outrageous ego, but this article makes a pretty good point that maybe Swift has the same pride as Yeezy.
Gucci Mane: There are either two things that happen once a rapper gets released from spending years in jail. They maintain their momentum and continue their success like Boosie Badazz or they make really bad creative decisions similar to Shyne. Sir Radric Davis managed to not only build anticipation while serving his time behind bars for multiple violations through dozens of mixtapes and albums, but transitioned into civilian life better than ever. First, the most noticeable was the more slim and less drug addicted Guop. Then there was the music that ironically feels a lot smarter this go around. The hunger is still high through his “First Day Out Tha Feds” released less than 24-hours from his prison release. Ladies and gentlemen, the Trap King has returned.
Remy Ma & Fat Joe: New York Hip Hop is in an interesting transitional period. The biggest debut single from Brooklyn’s own Desiigner has been accused of copying Future. Meanwhile, Remy Ma & Fat Joe’s “All The Way Up” represents an old guard staying true to themselves and actually winning while doing so. Since dropping earlier this year, the single has done fairly well on the charts and streams have reached the millions. Then there’s the Jay Z assisted remix that added more allure to the French Montana and Infrared assisted track. Whether or not Desiigner eventually becomes this year’s back-to-back single chart winner, Fetty Wap or forgotten one-hit wonder Mims has yet to be seen. However, it’ll be great to see more veteran New York emcees like Remy Ma & Fat Joe follow suit as “All The Way Up” could lead to an interesting trend in the future.
Oddisee: Sure, everyone hugs around Chance The Rapper as the current indie God. However, let’s be honest, getting an exclusive deal with a tech giant worth more than all three major record labels combined sounds as wonky in term usage as when everyone called Macklemore & Ryan Lewis indie which still gets debated to this day. Someone truly doing well on their indie grind is Oddisee. The Mellow Music emcee/producer is on a creative high at the moment streaming back from 2015 The Good Fight to this year’s Alwasta and The Odd Tape Instrumental album. Then there’s his tour schedule which included several sold-out shows. Plus, the D.C. native is equally out rapping and out producing a large amount of well established artists in the game right now.
Troy Ave: Past the Major Without A Deal fiasco, taking shots at Capital Steez on wax wasn’t as bad as attempting to explain himself and conservative thoughts on suicide during an edition of Sway In The Morning. Then there’s the reality that his diss tracks never really reached past his own fanbase and couldn’t even put a dent in Joey Bada$$’s popularity that’s still continuing to grow. Then there’s the shooting and the subsequent footage that rocked Hip Hop in an age where gun control is the number one conversation in the nation.
Birdman: The face of Cash Money gave The Breakfast Club the shortest interview in the radio show’s history and reinforced his reputation as one of the most corrupt label heads in recent memory.
Iggy Azalea & Azealia Banks (Tie): Iggy Azalea has yet to musically follow-up to “Fancy” and is currently making the tabloid rounds thanks to her former fiance Nick Young. Even the semi excitement of the Australia native working with D.R.U.G.S. who worked on her breakout debut Ignorant Art hasn’t produced anything noticeable. Meanwhile, her arch nemesis Azealia Banks got kicked off of Twitter and drug to hell by a Disney pre-teen.
Chance The Rapper: Chance had an explosion of popularity to start 2016. Kanye West’s much hyped and tweeted release of The Life Of Pablo saw him credit the album’s influence to Chance himself. When the album dropped, Chance gave us one of the best verses of the year on the opening track, “Ultralight Beam.” Chance then shifted focus on his own project dubbed Chance 3 that was alluded to within TLOP. The project dropped and received an extremely positive response from his fans, all while signing a deal with New Era hats to back up his merch for his Social Experiment crew and the branding for the project.
Kendrick Lamar: Fresh off of President Obama cosigning “How Much A Dollar Cost” as his favorite song of 2015, Kendrick continued to win over the hearts of music lovers in 2016. He quickly bounced back with his Untitled Unmastered project in March of 2016 as well as countless festival performances (one with legendary Earth Wind & Fire) and a recent White House performance to top off a wildly successful first half of the year.
Kanye West: 2016 began with Kanye hyping the world for the fast approaching Yeezy season. His twitter rants garnered the viral attention that Kanye is now a master at surrounding his album releases with, including the infamous and ever-changing tracklist piece of paper with the featured artist’s names as well as having the world guess on Twitter what TLOP could possibly stand for to win a free pair of Yeezy Boosts. Speaking of Yeezy Boosts, Kanye also held a fashion show for his new season of his Yeezy fashion line with adidas that sold out Madison Square Garden in a matter of minutes. The show included a first listen of his new project The Life Of Pablo which garnered wild success in the following months. He has since had a number of Pablo pop up stores with his album merch which now fills the streets like his impromptu performance in New York after his set was canceled at the Governors Ball music festival. Kanye again recently made headlines with his win over exposing Taylor Swift’s consent to his controversial line in “Famous” as well as releasing the NSFW video for the track.
Troy Ave: Largely considered a mediocre rapper and an A list scumbag for mocking Cap Steez’s suicide via Twitter, Troy Ave was involved in a concert shooting to start off 2016. Rumors and memes swelled around the incident, including Troy shooting himself and his own best friend and bodyguard. Troy was seen as the gunman on the venue’s surveillance camera and arrested, making him look like one of the year’s biggest fools.
Future: It’s hard to swallow when your baby mama (Ciara) finds a new man that seems to make her the most publicly happy she’s been in years. Its an even worse look when you diss her as the mother of your child and get slapped with a lawsuit for defamation of character. The last straw comes when you drop shots within your new song about pulling up on Ciara’s new man, Russell Wilson who has the reputation of being nothing but a religious outstanding guy.
Birdman: After getting exposed by his son and label mate Lil Wayne for holding his music hostage, Birdman made his biggest impact this year for throwing a hissy fit The Breakfast Club. In an attempt to tell off Charlamagne, he ended up looking like a child throwing a tantrum while unintentionally dropping the viral quote “Respek.” It didn’t stop there. As Birdman decided to make money off of the incident by making a song and merchandise from the “Respek” sensation, only to be met with a lawsuit from a company claiming they had copyrighted merchandise using “Respek” years ago.
Kanye West: With the release of The Life of Pablo, 2016 has been Kanye’s year. His merchandise is booming. He’s propelled adidas to new heights because of his creative genius and rippled the internet once again with his “Famous” visual. Everything he has done is solid. No fighting paparazzi. No family troubles. He’s put out great music and clothes for his fans to consume. No complaints here.
Game: After an extremely successful two disc release in late 2015, Game followed up Streets Of Compton, an A&E soundtrack/documentary. Game has been on a roll so far in 2016. It was very thoughtful to dedicate an entire documentary and soundtrack to the city that made him who he is today. He’s had solid interviews, and for the first time in a while, he didn’t start off a freestyle with the “Red Rolls, White Ceiling” bars that he’s been using for years.
Lil Yachty: Yachty dropped out of school to start making music and is already a XXL Freshman. He’s featured heavily by many artists, and is aiding in ushering in a new sound along with Lil Uzi Vert and Kodak Black among others. Anyone could put any of those three on the winners list but Lil Yachty always seems so happy. He’s just a young guy in the game right now trying to find his niche. Sure, he gets hate-on but the kids absolutely love this guy right now and from all the money he’s making, I don’t see him stopping any time soon.
Tyga: Is he dating Kylie or nah? The world may never know. The main reason I have him on this list is because the Hip Hop world now only cares about Tyga when it involves his relationship. He’s unfortunately fell to the Kardashian curse that haunts Lamar Odom. Not to mention that no matter when he drops a song, I have two options: to not listen at all, or listen and give him a chance only to be highly disappointed with the songs outcome. He has fallen off. Come to think of it, he hasn’t dropped much music in 2016. Explains a lot…
Iggy Azalea: She found out Nick cheated on her, she canceled a tour, and she even released a good track called “Team.” Unfortunately for the “Fancy” rapper, no matter what she does in 2016, she gets hate. I don’t think she’s a good rapper at all but by no means do I think she’s ruining Hip Hop. She’s out here trying to be a respectable artist but anything she says or does receives so much flack that unfortunately, she’s on my list of losers. Here’s hoping she drops a solid album sooner or later because lord knows she needs it.
50 Cent: You can bet your bottom dollar that 50 Cent will be in the news almost weekly these days. Unfortunately for him, unless something about his TV show Power, the news on Fif is more times than not negative. He hasn’t made a solid tape in who knows how long, he won’t get off the stage after being repeatedly told to do so, and got arrested overseas for dropping an F-bomb when he knew he wasn’t supposed to. Hopefully Power season 3 is successful and 50 keeps his cool come the second half of the year.