45. Audio Push – 90951
Years of strong mixtapes and trying to shed the one-hit wonder label finally worked out well for California rap duo Audio Push in 2016 with their debut retail album 90951. In terms of pure rapping ability, Price and Oktane are among the best doing out of southern California today, with great flows, funny and creative bars, and great hooks. At just 12 tracks, there’s little to skip over on here, with a pretty consistent set of west coast beats from Hit-Boy and his HS87 camp. The duo even dips into political hip hop on this album, and their perspectives are both welcomed and well-executed. – Mitch
44. Smoke DZA & Pete Rock – Don’t Smoke Rock
One of the most unexpected collaboration albums of 2016 – stoner supreme Smoke DZA and legendary producer Pete Rock – ended up being one of the strongest. What Smoke DZA lacks in topical diversity is made up for with great flows and a terrific ear for production and collaborators. Pete Rock‘s boom-bap magic returns for a full length album, and he keeps the sound modern while still having his own classic touch all over the album. Guests ranging from Jadakiss to Big K.R.I.T. to Rick Ross drop verses but DZA remains the most entertaining throughout, and the star of this just plain enjoyable hip-hop album. – Mitch
43. Caleborate – 1993
The Bay Area in general had a booming 2016 and they are really on the up and up in the rap scene if you ask me. Caleborate is certainly one of the best new faces making the region hot again and this year the college dropout dropped 1993. He’s one of the most cognizant rappers from the area and you’ll catch that on songs like “250 A.M.” where he drops lines like “A n*ggas dream worth way more than our house”, that perfectly expresses the gentrification that Oakland’s gone through. The album’s a portrait of the city along with a description of himself and Caleb executes it all nicely. – Trixx
42. Kodak Black – Lil Big Pac
Kodak Black spent most of his 2016 in prison. Ironically, his Lil B.I.G. Pac mixtape was also released while he was behind bars but that did not stop the project from elevating Kodak’s standing within the rap game. The 13 track project has a number of bangers on it – led by ‘Vibin In This Bih’ which featured one of Gucci Mane‘s first-post jail verses. The biggest surprise of the tape is the thought-provoking tracks that look at the system in the United States and the lifestyle that Kodak is from. ‘Can I’ is a standout track that has Kodak questioning if he can do what he enjoys without dying or being put in jail. The biggest track from the project is ‘Too Many Years’ featuring a show-stealing hook from label-mate PNB Rock. The regretful track has both artists reminiscing on things they have done in the past which they wish would have gone differently. The hook is one of the highest points of PNB’s career and will have you singing it like you just came off a four year bid.
Kodak is often packaged in with the new-age mumble rappers but Lil B.I.G. Pac is confirmation that this 19 year old artist has a voice that needs to be heard. – malbin
41. Lil Uzi Vert – The Perfect Luv Tape
Lil Uzi Vert had one hell of a year. He packed his listeners with two full-length projects, an EP with Gucci Mane, and countless loosies and guest features. While his first project of the year – Lil Uzi Vert Vs The World – featured some of his biggest songs to-date (‘Money Longer,’ ‘You Was Right,’ & ‘Ps & Qs’), his second release The Perfect Luv Tape serves as the project worth listening to first.
The 10 track project boosts features from Playboi Carti, Offset, & Future who all provide noteworthy contributions to the projects. The project’s standouts come from solo Uzi tracks, including the boastful opening cut ‘Do What I Want.’ The tracks that help separate this project from Uzi’s other 2016 releases are the project’s final three tracks. ‘Erase Your Social’ is Uzi’s statement on social media over one of 2016’s most interesting trap productions. Following that is ‘Ronda (Winners)’ – a track dedicated to Ronda Rousey following her knockout loss to Holly Holm. The Metro Boomin produced cut provides a lushly colorful soundscape for Uzi to get busy over. Lastly, ‘Seven Million’ competes with some of Uzi’s aforementioned bangers for his best song of the year, namely due to Future‘s ridiculous chorus on ‘Seven Million.’ Say what you want about Uzi but this kid is putting out quality music and is destined to become one of the brightest new rap stars. – malbin