Who locked it down in 2016? – by region 

Bay Area hip hop – Caleborate

Last year Caleborate dropped Hip Hop Excursion’s song of the year: Want it All. This year, Caleb brought us his second EP, 1993. He also released Bay-style rise-up singles, 08 (Carter Flow) and Good Great, along with the playful collaboration Cheat Codes with his brother, R&B singer Cash Campaign.

There are so many reasons Caleborate stands out. How many artists talk about their student loans, riding their bicycle to a date, being bald and young, and freeing the ankles?!


TDE – Isaiah Rashad

TDE is so influential as a label that I’m giving it a “region” designation. This year Isaiah Rashad brought us The Sun’s Tirade. This album is all about life, about a feeling. It also revealed that Rashad has grown exponentially as a lyricist (listen to Cilvia Demo and Tirade back-to-back to see the growth).

This year Rashad exemplified the beauty of cadence. If you don’t know what I mean by that, listen to Park.

As a side note, one thing I love about The Sun’s Tirade is that it’s like Seinfeld, each song is about nothing, yet about everything. I’m happy he didn’t “pick a topic” as suggested by the voicemails sampled on the album.

The South – Sylvan LaCue

LaCue is bringing real hip hop back to the south. At a time when artists around the country are trying to mimic the southern turn-up style perfected by, what I like to call, “ass and tities rappers” like Young Thug, LaCue is the self-recognized Loner who is delivering substance. In 2016 he released Far From Familiar and Televised after the election.

DMV – K.A.A.N.

People always ask me who are my favorite hip hop artists. I always sigh because I don’t know who my favorite artist is, I don’t think I have that kind of loyalty to a #1 (it might be Logic). I do, however, know my second favorite, K.A.A.N.

He is a poet.

He talks about pain, politics, and soul crushing feelings. But he is also hilarious, he often slides jokes into some of his fastest flows.

My official opinion of K.A.A.N:

He spits fire,

gets carbon,

and gives you diamonds.

I like nothing more than introducing people to K.A.A.N.’s music and seeing their face as the flow sets in,

“Now you in love with the cadence”

 -K.A.A.N., Water

His catalog is ever expanding, I think it’s at 300+, and he probably couldn’t even tell you how many songs he dropped this year.

Minnesota Hip Hop- Prof

It was a busy year for Rhymesayers, Atmosphere released Fishing Blues, but I think this year goes to Prof for representing the spirit of Midwest hip hop. Some highlights were Time Bomb and Prof’s fire verse on Dimitri Killstorm’s Royals.

Chicago – Oddisee

This year Oddisee released AlWasta. The social justice and political messages were powerful. I can’t wait to see what he brings us now that our country has spiraled down even more since his last release.

Interior – Josh Sallee

This year Josh Sallee dropped his second album, Hush Hush. This was one of my favorite albums of the year. The narrative and assassination theme, for me, brought back the joy of listening to an album straight through.

Josh & Blev also brought us the single Sheesh

“Happy New Year baby…”

Last note on Josh, of all the performances I saw in 2016, the top two were:

Logic freestyling in Brooklyn and Josh performing Front Pew in Kansas City.

NYC – Dave East

Dave East brought us Kairi Chanel this year. He is an excellent story teller, although his ego on social media unfortunately has started to wear away my support of him.

My favorite song on the album is Keisha which was clearly inspired by Mos Def’s Ms. Fat Booty. Listen to them side to side.