When it comes to hip-hop, many say 2016 was the year of Chance the Rapper.

Because of the media frenzy that occurred whenever he opened his mouth, others would say 2016 was all Kanye.

Elsewhere, the breakout of Noname was the most resonate of the past 12 months. Whichever type of hip-hop you like, chances (or, maybe Chance’s) are something you really enjoyed came from Chicago. In the event you missed any, here’s some of our 2016 Chicago hip-hop favorites.

Chance the Rapper
Chicago’s new favorite son had such a massive 2016, that limiting the scope to his excellent groundbreaking Coloring Book seems to be missing half of what he accomplished. Several meetings with President Barack Obama, a perfect Muhammad Ali tribute at the ESPYs, the best Kit Kat commercial in years, and the year’s two best SNL performances made Chance arguably the biggest rapper without a physical album on store shelves. Good job, Chance!

Kanye West
All right, the name “Kanye West” is a pretty loaded one this year, especially following his most recent hospital stint/visit with the President-elect of the United States. Brush the non-musical elements to the side, you still have Kanye at the center of two major advancements for hip-hop. First, with the Tidal-exclusive distribution of The Life of Pablo album, you have Mr. West managing to George Lucas the game by making it a release with an ever-changing, ever-evolving track list. By tweaking it several times after we’d already heard it, it’s a new way for a listener to have a relationship with a “completed” music release. Additionally, nothing looked like Kanye’s St. Pablo tour. The floating stage above the audience became more of a mega-church experience than a hip-hop house party. It was the hottest ticket this summer and, before it was canceled, was the must-see live music event.

Making her national television debut last weekend on Saturday Night Live with Chance the Rapper, the appearance was a victory lap for the rapper who already was having an amazing 2016. After dropping “Gypsy” from her nom de rap, Noname released her long-awaited highly anticipated Telefone project to well-deserved acclaim. Additionally, she was handpicked by Lauryn Hill to be the opening act on the reclusive star’s 2016 tour.

Lil Durk
It’s only a matter of time until someone labels Lil Durk’s evolving style as “post-drill.” Until then, let’s appreciate Lil Durk 2X for the incredibly focused, visceral release it is. Chicago thumps every time it’s played. Tracks like “Glock Up” show Durk’s blossoming wordplay without sacrificing the runaway-train energy that put him and his peers on the map. Shouts to Def Jam for giving something this regional-sounding a national platform.

Brian Fresco
If you substituted the Gospel influence on Chance’s Coloring Book with the sharpest synths this side of a keytar museum, you’d get Brian Fresco’s excellent Casanova mixtape. One of Chi-town’s most promising, his “Higher” might be the best Chance-assisted track this year.

Joey Purp
The other case for best Chance guest feature was Joey Purp’s “Girls.” Purp’s iiiDrops release showed a different side of Chicago with one of the strongest new voices in a circle of already strong new voices in rap.

Boasting one of the biggest indie breakout this year was Saba. The 22-year-old from Chicago’s west side, Saba slowly elevated himself beyond the city limits with appearances on Coloring Book, Telefone, and more of the city’s biggest releases. Using this new elevation to drop his Bucket List Project, Saba also landed some airtime, performing live on MTV.

Vic Mensa
The founder of SaveMoney, the Chicago collective that counts the aforementioned Chance, Fresco, and Purp amongst its ranks, Vic had one of his biggest years yet with the release of his first EP, There’s A Lot Going On. He also finished his 2016 with one of the year’s best remixes through his take on Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: