Rising stars shined in 2016. While established artists dropped some of the year’s best albums, burgeoning acts surfaced to add a refreshing twist to a big year in music.
From Anderson .Paak, who signed a deal with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath imprint, to Desiigner, who topped the charts after teaming up with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, the Class of 2016 found ways to learn from the past while making a name for themselves.
But that doesn’t mean they were afraid to challenge the establishment. Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert found ways to deliver their brand of rap while shunning some of rap’s revered legends. Meanwhile, newcomers like Tory Lanez and 21 Savage engaged in feuds with some of their elders on and off wax.
Whether showing respect to history, or defying it to try to make their own, here’s a look at Rap-Up’s 10 Best New Artists of 2016 (in no particular order).
Yes Lawd! Anderson .Paak ended 2015 with a bang on Dr. Dre’s Compton. From there, he took 2016 by storm, dropping the highly-touted Malibu in January, before touring the globe on an extensive and crowd-pleasing run. On top of high-profile guest appearances on tracks like Mac Miller’s “Dang!” and Chance the Rapper’s “Blessings,” he also dropped the critically-acclaimed Yes Lawd! LP as NxWorries with Knxwledge. What makes it even more impressive is that he did all of this before delivering his Aftermath debut, which is slated to arrive next year.
It was a litty 2016 for the Canadian rapper-turned-crooner. Following the success of “Say It” last year, the young gunner came into the year firing on all cylinders with his New Toronto tag, even sparking a light feud with fellow T. Dot MC Drake. He moved a “Level Up” with A$AP Ferg on tour, dropped many collaborations (like “Litty” with Meek Mill), and unleashed several loosies through “Fargo Friday” drops. Plus, he finally delivered his debut album I Told You, which earned him a Grammy nomination for “Luv.”
Brrrraah! Seemingly out of nowhere, Desiigner danced and dabbed his way into the rap game with “Panda,” a song that impressively reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. After signing with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, the Brooklyn MC showed he was more than a one-hit wonder, delivering “Tiimmy Turner” and appearing on his label’s “Champions.” After hearing his New English project in June, fans found themselves wishing for Desiigner’s debut LP the way Tiimmy was wishing for his burner.
This year, 21 Savage emerged as one of rap’s newest (tattooed) faces. He teamed up with Metro Boomin to unleash Savage Mode, an EP that spawned “No Heart” and the Future-assisted “X.” Savage was also named a XXL Freshman and placed No. 10 on MTV’s revived “Hottest MCs” list. Through all of this, 21 even managed to become a headliner in the tabloids thanks to a high-profile beef with Tyga over Kylie Jenner.
Lil Uzi Vert
Coming off his Luv Is Rage buzz in 2015, Philadelphia’s Lil Uzi Vert attacked the game in 2016 with a flurry of projects. In all, he unleashed two solo efforts, Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World and The Perfect Luv Tape. As if that wasn’t enough, he capped off the year with a Gucci Mane joint project, 1017 vs. The World. Plus, the XXL Freshman made waves by appearing on major collaborations including DJ Esco and Future’s “Too Much Sauce” and “Froze” with Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill.
The year began full of mystery and excitement for the OVO-signed act. But with the release of SEPT. 5TH, the duo of Daniel Daley and Nineteen85 found even more buzz, allowing them to tour the continent with Drake and Future on the “Summer Sixteen Tour.” Once that was done, dvsn brought its soulful act to PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “Summer’s Over” run, capping off its biggest year yet. While the mystery is somewhat gone, it seems fans like what they’ve uncovered from dvsn in 2016.
Sailing into 2016, Lil Yachty was a little known rapper from Georgia. In just one year, he released two EPs (Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2) and became one of the genre’s most-talked-about newcomers with his top 50 hit “1 Night.” His D.R.A.M. collaboration “Broccoli” took that even higher, peaking at No. 5. On top of this, he was named a XXL Freshman and appeared alongside LeBron James in a Sprite commercial. Not a bad way to enter the rap game.
In 2014, Dreezy was dubbed the “crown princess of Chicago rap,” but it was in 2016 that she truly broke out with her Interscope debut. Boasting guest appearances from Gucci Mane (“We Gon Ride”), Wale (“Afford My Love”), Jeremih (“Body”), and T-Pain (“Close to You”), the project gave fans a deeper understanding of the 22-year-old Chi-town MC/singer, elevating her profile to new heights.
After making Beyoncé and others dance to “Cha Cha” last year, D.R.A.M. made everyone want “Broccoli” in 2016. While he wowed fans with his debut Big Baby D.R.A.M., it was the Lil Yachty-assisted “Broccoli” that truly took his career over the top, giving D.R.A.M. his first top 5 single on the Hot 100. With an optimistic smile, Big Baby captured the attention of many fellow artists, sparking collaborations with Chance the Rapper (“D.R.A.M. Sings Special”), Young Thug (“Misunderstood”), and Erykah Badu (“WiFi”).
Straight out of Brooklyn, Young M.A. blasted onto the scene with an infectious and charismatic presence on “Ooouuu.” Peaking at No. 19 on the Hot 100, the song became an anthem for New York and brought a new female voice to the game, while spawning remixes from Nicki Minaj and 50 Cent. Since dropping “Ooouuu,” M.A. has unleashed a few new tracks, clearly gearing up for a big 2017.
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