As we are only a few hours from entering the new year, we here at Lyrical Lemonade decided to put together a list of the best Chicago projects IN OUR OPINION! Each and every of the artists included created something special this year for the world, but especially for the city, so it’s only right that we acknowledge their efforts.
I want to shine some light on our writers Lane Cowherd & Jacob Lusted really quick, they really helped me a ton on this Top 50 project, thank you guys for being dedicated & for all the assistance, I truly appreciate it!
Also, I want to thank all the supporters out there. Lyrical Lemonade has grown tremendously in 2016, we have gained a few thousand followers on our Twitter in the past few months alone! So to all of our supporters, whether you just came across Lyrical Lemonade or if you have been showing love since day 1, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I promise we have some exciting stuff in store for the fans in 2017.
To Cole & the rest of our writing team, let’s keep improving & getting better every single day. I love all you guys.
Anyway, let’s get to the list! Check out our thoughts on Chicago’s releases from this past year, if you like the list or if you hate the list, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!
Honorable mentions: We forgot to include some very dope projects from Chicago in our original ranking, so our honorable mentions are:
Jayaire Woods – FREETHEFALL
This one just slipped our minds at first but we definitely can’t over look the excellent project Woodside native Jayaire Woods gave us this year, it should have been somewhere in the top twenty five with out a doubt, so our apologies to that man!
Ethos – This August… So Far
One more we missed was the solid project Ethos blessed us with this summer titled “This August…so far.” Once again we forgot about this one at first, but it’s better late then never right? Check out the dope project below!
Josi Green – F O C U S
The last project we tweaked on was Josi Green’s album titled “F O C U S.”
50) Skyline To Park – Space Snow
The one thing that has always astonished me about music is that it lives forever, no matter what happens, once the music is out in the world it lives forever. Many of us have been coping with the unfortunate passing of Space, but he did in fact bless us with a great project titled “Skyline To Park” this year. The album has a total of sixteen tracks in length, and contains one feature, but mainly just a whole lot of dope raps & plenty of wisdom from Space. This project was very impressive, which is why it’s kicking off our list! Be sure you spread this project as much as possible after you listen below, let’s keep him alive through the music.
“I get this feeling when I make songs from time to time
and I think its the reason I’m alive lowkey…”
– Space Snow
49) KoVu – Contrast
KoVu made some noise with the release of his brand new album titled “Contrast,” which is why he landed this spot. This record is a total of nine tracks in length & contains four features from A Barb, Ryan Walega, Nikki Hayes, and Eko Rellz. After a couple listens through, I for one could say that KoVu not only met, but he exceeded my expectations by a great amount. Don’t take my word for it though, you can listen to “Contrast” on several music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify & Tidal, but for now give it some love via Soundcloud below!
48) – Saint Millie – Adderall
Oak Park native Saint Millie has been regularly popping up on music blogs all year. After leaking two singles just days before the release date, Millie finally let loose his project “Adderall” on SoundCloud in late April. The 10-track effort is loaded with heaters and has something for everybody; whether its a banger in “No Heauxs” or a slower, smooth intro-track in “Oak Street Anthem,” Millie shows he has multiple styles in his repertoire. Saint Millie joined forces with only a few artists including Logan, Sicko Mobb and Sir Michael Rocks (The Cool Kids) as well as contributions from C-Sick, Paris Bueller and 808 Mafia amongst several other producers. Right away, Millie’s dark, mysterious lyricism lays out the tone of the project in which he delivers wavy, autotune verses on drugs, money and freaky women further explained in the 808-Mafia produced-track “Freak.” Despite the fact that this is Millie’s first project in two years, his energy and ability to produce chiming, psychedelic tracks is undeniable. After listening to the project, you realize how easy it is to get lost and almost trip out while listening to each song; making the tape that much more unique. I can’t wait to see what Saint Millie has in store for 2017, as I’m sure he’ll be making even more noise this coming year.
47) Freako – Vacation
With this project only being three tracks in length, don’t sleep on Freako’s “Vacation EP.” The project contains only one lone feature, and it comes from his frequent collaborator Adot. He and Freako appear on the middle track “Bool” and make for a crafty and witty song from the two young aspiring Chicago artists. Even though we don’t have too much material from Freako now, we expect him to have a very productive 2017. Like I said before, don’t sleep on “Vacation,” there’s a reason why it’s on our top 50 list.
46) Marcus Nogood – Trouble
Marcus Nogood released a brand new album titled “Trouble” earlier this year, and it was definitely worthy of a spot on our list. This project contains a total of twelve tracks in length, and contains two solid features from GOLDEN & XPOSE. Marcus came through with a really dope project that only leaves me more & more excited to see what he has in store for 2017, 2018, and beyond. Check out the brand new tape below & if you’re feeling it be sure to follow him here.
45) Roy French – Legend Of Lil Lit
Lyrical Lemonade favorite Roy French dropped a tape called “The Legend of Lil Lit” and there’s really only one thing to say about it. IT’S LIT! With its many production styles and Roy’s one-of-a-kind personality, this tape is truly unique. Whenever you’ve got friends asking you who are some new artists to check out, make sure you mention Roy French and show them this tape.
44) Monster Mike – Welcome to Hdub
2016 was certainly a year for the ages. In Monster Mike’s case, it was a year he won’t soon forget after dropping two of the hottest tapes; one to start the year, and one to end it. After leaking a handful of tracks in 2014 and dropping a wild video with Owen Bones over a year ago, Monster Mike finally released his anticipated tape “Welcome To HDub” in early June that followed up his project “Known As Little Sleezy” from February. The tape includes a heavy production team that includes Faded Kye, Linus, Mojek and Clams Casino to name a few, including only two features with PattxPiFF and Owen Bones who appeared on “EASY.” The project includes several styles such as a retro video-game vibe in the intro, Mike’s smooth verses in “Straight Gang” and bass-charged hitters like “Midst Gang” will only keep you coming back for more. The tape is not only filled with multiple bangers but outlines Monster Mike’s story growing up in Chicago and his influences of drugs and other experiences throughout his life, hence the name“HDub” resonating the street where he grew up on Hollywood Avenue in Chicago. With that being said, look out for Monster Mike next year as he’ll surely be making big moves in 2017.
43) Calez – Baby
It would be impossible to find another project on this list that reaches such a personal level quite like Calez’ album. The Chicago-bred artist released his free album “Baby” in October and dedicated the project to him and his wife’s baby. At a steady 13-tracks in length, Calez went and recruited a handful of features including Femdot, Mick Jenkins, Alex Wiley and UG Vavy amongst others with production from Sani, Rollie and Calez himself. After the intro-track and opening poem, you instantly dive into the countless stories of Calez and his path to get where he is today. These stories are further expressed in tracks such as his ode to his child in “Baby,” a bouncier track in “Lose Control” and a standout track in “312” that was given a wild visual a month prior to the release. Right away, Calez outstanding use of autotune is showcased in almost every track while being backed by outstanding synths and chiming melodies; most notably in one of the highlighted tracks “Still Good” featuring Alex Wiley, Mick Jenkins and Donnie Trumpet. All in all, the “Baby” album was Calez’ way of sharing his story with the world and expressing his love for his family and first child. Calez stated in an interview that “Baby is just a piece of our journey” meaning that we can expect much more from the young artist in the near future. Look out for this man in 2017.
42) Adot & Ransah – Eight
Two Chicago natives Adot & Ransah gave us a brand new EP this year titled “Eight,” and it was one of my favorite Chicago projects to drop this year. Really though, can you think of a better duo to attack an EP together on the local level? No you can’t and there’s good reason for that, these two posses some real talent and it showed on this one. Although they both have somewhat of the same style, you wouldn’t be able to tell from this project. This three track EP includes some great production from Cam O’bi, who has been proving to be one of the best producers in the game, and IDKCLETUS. The title track is a ire, hard hitting song that sets the pace for the whole project. The second track titled “Dreamland” offers an amazing instrumental that Adot & Ransah picked apart perfectly. While the last song called “3” offers probably the most ear pleasing sound, putting the cherry on top of this great listen. No need to say that I really liked this tape, which is why it earned a spot on our list!
41) Mike Golden – Just Be A Better Person
Mike Golden, a Chicago singer, gave us a simple yet fun listening project in 2016 with his project Just Be a Better Person. In order to help perfect his project, Mike went out and got Chicago natives Donnie Trumpet and Kweku Collins along with Atlanta native Kelechi to help better the project. Golden put a mixture of different genres on this project which really appeals to me and really gives any listener something to listen to that they can enjoy. Just Be a Better Person is an opus on how to be a better person and I thank Mike Golden for giving the city something special like this.
40) Ausar Bradley – The Six Page Letter
Only about forty eight hours ago Ausar Braley dropped his project “The 6 Page Letter,” and there was no doubt that it had to be included in our list. This tape is a total of ten tracks in length, and contains some solids features from the likes of Femdot, Isaiah G, Plainro, Josi Green, Freejay, Leo Mantra, Christian Jalon, and last but certainly not least Ci La Cole. After the first listen I was at a loss for words, this project is unbelievably good. All in all this project was fantastic, listen to it below & judge for yourself!
39) JR Donato – Why So Serious?
It would be extremely difficult to find another collective that holds a stacked roster quite like the Taylor Gang team. As the line-up continues to grow each year, the future only gets brighter with signees such as 21-year-old JR Donato. After Taylor Gang frontman Wiz Khalifa signed the up-and-coming Chicago rapper in 2014, JR has been busy teaming up with Wiz on several tracks this year as well as having his standout track “All Winter”included on the Taylor Gang collective tape “TGOD Vol.1” from October. Reigning from the Northside of Chicago, the young rapper started out at the early age of 13 and hasn’t looked back since then. On October 14th, JR dropped his lone project of 2016 titled “Why So Serious?” with production from Ricky P, Capcom Cyht, AP Kush’d and Steve Lean amongst others. The tape also includes a small, but star-studded feature list with Levi Carter, Taylor Gang artist Sosa and to no one’s surprise, Mister Cap who teamed up with JR for the closing track “Rotation.” Considering the tape is only 9 tracks long, there was no room for JR to slip; and after listening to the project for the first time, it’s safe to say that every track could be a standout. Whether it’s an up-tempo, bass-charged wave in “Trap Never Closed” or a slowed-down, autotune masterpiece in “Trust No More,” JR has something for everybody, including a couple of stunning music videos for the latter tracks that were dropped just weeks after the release. With that being said, don’t be surprised if JR Donato’s name starts popping up everywhere next year, as he’ll surely be on his grind and putting out more fire for us to enjoy.
38) Common – Black America Again
It would have been almost two years since Southside Chicago legend Common had released a project. In November, Common released his eleventh-studio album “Black America Again” under Def Jam and ARTium Records. The 15-track effort not only includes a spectacular performance from Karriem Riggins and his band, but also features a strong line-up of artists with John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Anderson .Paak and BJ The Chicago Kid who jumped on “The Day Women Took Over.” Considering that Common remains one of the most decorated, experienced artists in the hip-hop scene right now, it is so crucial that we were graced with an album in which he lays out the current state of his country, and what needs to be done to fight against the oppression. Right off the bat, you can feel the frustration in Common’s lyrics which primarily comes off as a bit intimidating at first, but you quickly realize how important it was for his words to be said. This is further expressed in several tracks such as the battle-anthem in “Black America Again,” a smooth lyrical cut in “Joy and Peace” and an enticing story of childhood in “Little Chicago Boy” with Tasha Combs. After taking a listen to the album, it could be argued that “Black America Again” is some of Common’s best work to date. Not only was his comeback album an instant classic, but instead a project that came at the right time to remind us to stay woke on the current state of America. Let’s hope Common carries his comeback into 2017 and shares another special project this coming year.
37) Jeremih – Light Nights: Europe
Def Jam artist Jeremih is 29 years old and is already amongst the most decorated artists to ever come out of Chicago. It has been 7 years since the release of his double-platinum single “Birthday Sex,” and the man has not stopped working and producing hits since that time. In August, Jeremih dropped “Late Nights: Europe” following up his highly-acclaimed project “Late Nights: The Album” in which he released out of nowhere last December. The 14-track tape was dedicated to every continent he hit on tour and saw contributions from several producers including Kevin Cubeatz, The Insomniakz and Soundz while also carrying a star-studded list of features with The Game, Ty Dolla $ign, G Herbo and Wiz Khalifa who jumped on the intro-track “Dubai” with K Camp. Jeremih combined his signature Hip-Hop/ R&B style with a handful of up-tempo, hard-hitters in “Belgium,” “London” and “Oslo, Norway” while also showing his smooth, jazzy side on “Czech Republic,” “British Headboards” and “Copenhagen” with Los Angeles-based singer Sonyae Elise. While listening to the tape, Jeremih takes you on a journey through his experiences in Europe and some reflections of the several after-parties that took place. It’s safe to say that Jeremih did not leave one stone unturned after delivering countless verses about his sexual endeavours that we have become accustomed too in his past projects. With that being said, Jeremih continues to cook up amazing projects every year, and we can expect much of the same in 2017.
36) Ric Wilson – Soul Bounce
From rocking the stage at music festivals to participating in political protests, 21-year-old Ric Wilson has done it all; and he’s only just getting started. The 21-year-old artist was born & raised in Chicago’s Southside of Alsip, Illinois and attended Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Blue Island. He is an active member of the Young Chicago Authors organization and even joins Malcolm London amongst several others volunteers in the “Black Youth Project 100” and the “We Charge Genocide” movement that holds a deep-rooted message on their website described as “…a grassroots, inter-generational effort to center the voices and experiences of the young people most targeted by police violence in Chicago.” This past Summer, Ric dropped his “Soul Bounce” EP in August that included a heavy list of producers such as 3lo, GrizzRivers, Kdagreat and James Gent who helped in tracks such as “Whippin,” “Lord Have Mercy,” and “Butterfly.” The project also includes several notable features including David Ellis, Daryn Alexus, The O’mys and Avery R Young who teamed up to appear on the final track titled “I Got Soul.” Wilson’s music style resonates a heavy influence of soul, rock n roll, and rap all combined to give Wilson his catchy, authentic sounds that make his projects that much more enjoyable. Whether it’s a groovy dance track in “Soul Bounce” or the variety of instruments in “I Got Soul,” the EP is bound to get you rocking to it after the first listen. As noted before, Wilson is a decorated poet which reflects in his lyricism and music style that delivers an uplifting, energy-packed vibe that is politically charged between the lines, and also acts as a reflection of Wilson’s activism and political involvement that included a protest against President-elect Donald Trump earlier this year. There’s no telling what the future holds for Ric Wilson next year, but considering the fact that Noisey included him in the discussion for who’s up next, you can expect nothing short of a Ric Wilson-takeover in 2017.
be sure to check out the websites for the “Black Youth Project 100″ and ” We Charge Genocide” below:
Black Youth Project 100: http://byp100.org/
We Charge Genocide: http://wechargegenocide.org/
35) Appleby – Down Dance EP
23-year-old Chicago product Appleby may just be the most mysterious artist to make any sort of splash this year. After dropping his debut EP “Down Dance” in April, blogs and news sites alike have been trying to find out more about the artist and even what his real name is. At only 4 tracks in length, each joint had to be a banger and saw production from Elias Abid who cooked up incredible, melodic beats for Appleby to rap over. Appleby delivered his masterful autotune along with heavy R&B-influenced synths that sound like something you’d hear out of a Weeknd album. In tracks “Overdose” and “Random Love” with Iris Temple, Appleby and Elias Abid showcase their true potential as one of the hottest duos in Chicago’s music scene. Considering that Appleby’s music career is barely a year old, we can expect him to only get better and have more heaters in store for 2017 and beyond, look out for him to make even more noise this coming year.
34) Supa Bwe & Sunny Woodz – ISSA EP
Lyrical Lemonade favorites Supa Bwe and Sunny Woodz brought us some new music for the holidays as they released their surprise project, ISSA EP about a week before Christmas. The tape was 4 tracks in length and on the first track “No Napkins” the group known as Fight Me was featured and them along with Sunny made for a very solid track. One of Supa’s best tracks of the year. In the final track, “Chain Snatchin,” Sunny and Supa recruited up and coming Chicago artists Warhol.SS and JUJU to really end this project with a bang. All in all, this was a great surprise and a solid way for Supa to end his pretty successful 2016.
33) Ohana Bam – Orientation
Chicago native Ohana Bam definitely had a year to be proud of, as it seemed like everywhere I went someone was either playing his music or mentioning his name. He released a project titled “Orientation,” & it was easily one of the best projects out of the city. This tape is extremely unique on the production side of things, as each and every beat is unreleased Kanye West production, ranging from 1997-2005. The project is a total of seven tracks in length, and after your first listen, I assure you that you will see the undeniable talent he posses. Although I enjoyed every track on this tape, the one that really stood out to me was “Do Or Die,” where you will find him switching up his flow a bit, spitting rhymes so fast it will leave you in awe. Another record I really liked was “Fight With The Best,” he picked apart the beautiful production while talking about his some up, flexing his story telling skills. After listening to it the day it dropped, I quickly came to the conclusion that it won’t be much longer before he completely blows into stardom. Don’t take my word for it though, click play below & judge for yourself!
32) theMIND – Summer Camp
I have to be honest, I didn’t really know what to really expect coming into this one, but I was very pleased with what I heard. First things first, theMIND is a singer and a producer and he showcases both talents on his Summer Camp project. With 11 tracks in length, the best way I could describe the genre of the tape is RnB, but it isn’t exactly like RnB. It’s a little more airy, and will have you up late at night listening to his relaxing voice and the stoner-esk sounds. After hearing this project, I know that you’ll be anxiously waiting for theMIND’s next project to drop.
31) Qari & Morimoto – Don’t Buy That
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard a project from Qari, too long if you ask me. But all that ended earlier this month, as he teamed up with Morimoto for a brand new EP titled “Don’t Buy That.” This tape is a total of four tracks in length, and after the first listen you will be able to tell that every song has it’s own unique sound. The opening track, “Ibuprofen,” you will find Qari spitting bars while reminiscing over some soothing production. While the second song has more of a steady beat for most of the track, before Qari comes in with some catchy lines toward the middle & Morimoto adds some solid vocals to finish it off. The instrumental on the third record might just be the most ear grabbing off them all, it’s a perfect harmony of a bunch of sounds at damn near the same time, along with some magic from Qari. The closing record called “Thought Of You” was my favorite off the tape, it started off great & then the nasty beat switch up mid track made it that much better. All in all, I’m walking always from this one really impressed with both Qari & Morimoto, it’s safe to say that did a great job, which is why they got number 31 on our list.
30) Sterling Hayes – Antidepressant
Coming in at number 30 we have Sterling Hayes project “Antidepressants.” When i first was about to listen to Sterling’s debut project, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although I had heard a few songs prior to the release, i wondered what type of approach he would take to leave his first impression on most listeners. This project is a lengthy one, containing a total of nineteen tracks and a few features from the likes of Joey Purp, Teddy Jackson, & Knox Fortune. From top to bottom this tape is very good & exciting, but the one thing that impressed me the most is how Sterling managed to put together a cohesive project built around one idea, antidepressants. The tape starts off with a lengthy intro from what sounds like a professor, as he gives us plenty of information about antidepressants. It was a great start to a great tape, but it just got better & better throughout the listen. Teddy Jackson started off the tape right after the intro, which completely set the tone for the rest of project, leaving me eager to hear more. The second record Sterling teamed up with Knox Fortune to change some beat boxing intro a banging beat, in which got turned in to what be my favorite song on the project. He continued the tempo with the next song “Fuck U Mean,” which is easily one of the most catchy tunes provided. After this we are gifted with plenty of gems such as “Fuck It,”OTS” featuring Joey Purp, “Burden,” Spanish Diego,” and “A Minute.” All in all, we here at Lyrical Lemonade really enjoyed this project.
29) Logan Cage – Still Iconic
Chicago’s own Logan Cage has been extremely busy this year. After dropping his Summer-EP “The New Wave” in June, his follow-up and arguably his best work to date was his Sophomore project titled “Still Iconic” released back in early October. With production from Logan’s go-to producer Flight, the iconic EP is more or less Cage’s life-story told through his crafty, energetic verses in tracks like “Get It How You Live” and a hard-hitting anthem in “Chicago Nights.” After growing up in Southwest Chicago and later moving to the Southside, Logan’s sound is heavily influenced by his environment and his experiences which he regularly preaches on in his music. On top of that, the project is loaded with bangers while delivering a new energy we have yet to fully experience from Logan, in which he put on full display recruiting Brooklyn rapper Stro and local Chicago rapper Femdot for “3 Man Weave” as well as a stand-out track with Taylor Bennett titled “Play No Games.” The project combines a dark, menacing vibe with a confident, upbeat feel in tracks like “Dr. Cage,” a catchy outro-joint titled “Goodbye”and an absolute heater in “Black And White” which was dropped prior to the release of the EP. With that being said, Logan Cage has delivered some of the hottest tracks that have come out of Chicago’s music scene this year. His masterful lyricism and wordplay have put him amongst Chicago’s most promising young artists, which only fuels the hype and expectations that much more for his future projects.
28) Montana of 300 – Fire In The Church
The self proclaimed rap god, Montana of 300, dropped his highly anticipated sophomore album “Fire in the Church” and I must say that if this album was to play in a church, it would be exactly as the album title indicts. Montana has built up quite a following over the past few years and has become one of Chicago’s more popular drill rappers. If you know Montana, you know his style if an in your face type of rap with bars on bars on bars. Seriously, it’s pretty ridiculous when this guy is at his best spitting rhyme after rhyme. I would say that the best part of FITC besides Montana’s ability to seamlessly come up with hundreds of metaphors, is that each songs’ production and lyrics make you feel the mood that Montana wants you to fee. In the song, “Wifin You” we get a lighter beat that’s a little more charismatic than his other beats and we get Montana singing on the hook which makes you really feel what he feels in the song. Then songs like “Heat Stroke” we get classic Monta
27) Lil Bibby – Big Bucks
As fans patiently waited for Bibby to drop his next album in the Free Crack series, he surprised everyone with his Big Buckz project. Southside, Lil Durk, Metro Boomin, and others helped Bibby make this project, but with those first three names, you know there’s bound to be some fire tracks on this which is the case exactly. “Get It Out The Trenches” featuring Lil Durk, “John Snow,” and “Never Go Against The Family” are straight bangers as they are some of the best material that Bibby put out this year. Overall, this was a great project to keep Lil Bibby fans happy for now until he drops his FC3: The Epilogue album sometime next year.
Listen to Big Bucks here
26) Famous Dex – multiple projects
Considering Chicago’s Famous Dex is undoubtedly one of the hardest working artists in the music scene right now, it would have been disrespectful to recognize just one project. After signing with Rich the Kid’s “Rich Forever” collective in March, the Southside Englewood product hasn’t stopped to take a break from dropping new heat while also gaining a massive social-media following in a matter of months. In January, Dex let loose his first project of the year in “Drippy,” a ten-track effort packed with hitters including “Oh Man Got Damn” and “Drip From My Walk” that also received a fiery visual courtesy of Laka Films. Dexter also recruited ManManSavage, Famous Irv, CamJae-Martin and Pachino who appears on the track “Drip For A Milli” which instantly stood out after the first listen. The “Drippy” tape was nothing short of the ultimate introduction to Dex for a lot of new listeners, and he definitely did not disappoint with his first of many projects of this year.
Fast-forward to September 20th. After dropping his second and third projects of the year in“#OhhMannGoddDamm” and “Heartbreak Kid’ in June, Dexter followed up yet again with his biggest project of 2016 titled “Dexter The Robot.” The DJ Shon-hosted tape came in at a total of 14 tracks, including production from Sega, Big Head and Maaly Raw who helped on the energy-packed joints “Feeling Good” and “Link.” On top of that, Dex recruited a heavy list of features that included Maxo Kream, Trill Sammy, Quavo, Ugly God and Rich The Kid who jumped on the final track titled “Goin For Ten.” Once again, it would be tough to single out one track as Dexter showcases several styles over his heavy-synths, strong bass and catchy lyricism that helped make the tape his best work to date. After running through both projects, it’s very clear that Dexter’s hyperactive, energetic vibe is what separates him from the masses. The fact that Dex seemingly came out of nowhere in 2016 goes to show how fast his influence has spread throughout the music scene. Dex brought something new to the table, and the people loved it. Look out for this man next year, as he’ll certainly be carrying his momentum into 2017.
25) Alex Wiley – Tangerine Dream
The ever popular Alex Wiley took a break from his Village Party album series to deliver us his ep, Tangerine Dream. If you didn’t know, Tangerine Dream is also the name of a 1960s German electronic band. As I’m sure you are wondering this now, yes, I would say this project is slightly influenced by them as many of the tracks’ production have electronic influences on them. The first song on the project actually is a sample from the band’s hit song “Will Do.” With the many the many psychedelic songs featuring Wiley spitting his signature and unique raps, you’ll have no other choice to give Tangerine Dream more than just one listen.
24) King Louie – Tony 2
There is no question that King Louie has already made his mark on Chicago’s music-scene. After dropping his first mixtape “Boss Shit” in 2011, King Louie hasn’t yet let up on his consistency after letting loose the second instalment of the “T.O.N.Y” series with “T.O.N.Y. 2” following up the first chapter that was released back in 2014. After being involved in a shooting last year that nearly took his life, King L took advantage with his album and reassured everyone in the opening moments that he’s still on his throne making hits. On top of that, Louie had no features on the project but recruited a star-studded production team that included Jay Storm, Jack Flash, Bezzel Beats and Cryptonite who jumped on the standout hitter “Shine.” King L’s upbeat tempo and drill style of music have become a staple in Chicago’s music scene in which he had pioneered before Chief Keef and other drill artists joined the movement. In tracks like “Put The Flash On” and “32 Bars,” the King fully showcases his masterful lyricism and bass-hitting beats that are a signature sound since his emergence in 2011. If that doesn’t interest you, Louie also delivered a handful of tracks in which he slowed down his pace and showed a smoother style in tracks such as “Will Ya” and “Slide Tunes” which are perfect for a chilled-out environment. At 29 years old, King Louie is what some would call a seasoned vet in Chicago’s hip-hop scene; but considering the fact that we haven’t seen an album yet, this must be only just the beginning of Louie’s stardom. Look out for the King to make a huge splash this coming year.
Listen to “Tony 2” here
23) Malcolm London – OPIA
Malcolm London is a 23-year-old Chicago native who has become a leading voice for his community and, undoubtedly, for the entire city. Born in Chicago’s Westside, Malcolm hold’s several titles’s as a poet, keynote speaker, political activist and a promising hip-hop artist who is currently on the rise. In 2011, Malcolm took first place at Chicago’s “Louder Than a Bomb” poetry festival and hasn’t yet stopped building on his successes. Since then, Malcolm has recited a powerful poem in a keynote speech at the TED Talks Education Conference in which he spoke about the struggles of High-School and helping in the empowerment of youth. On top of that, Malcolm is also a head organizer with Chance The Rapper for “Open Mike Nights” which is held in the city and dedicated to their late mentor Brother Mike who passed away from heart failure in 2014. In October, Malcolm released his debut-album “OPIA” with executive production from SaveMoney producer EB. The 12-track project cover’s several topics and includes a notable line-up of features with Donnie Trumpet, JamilaWoods, Femdot and SaveMoney artist Vic Mensa who appear’s on “Northstar.” Also included on the album is an informative statement from Malcolm who gave his insight on the tone of the project, in which he stated:
“Ever awkwardly catch eye contact with someone you don’t know for more than five seconds walking down the street, on the train, or at a party from across the room? How intrusive it may feel to have someone staring you directly in the eye & yet simultaneously how vulnerable it feels like someone can see into your soul. Internationally recognized poet, activist & rapper Malcolm London wants you to feel exactly that when listening to his new project titled OPIA, which means the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eyes which can feel both invasive and vulnerable.”
Malcolm’s statement is felt right off the jump. In the opening tracks “New Day” and “Get It Right” you can’t help but feel face-to-face with Malcolm as he preaches on his experiences of shootings, incarceration and working to empower his community and African-American people alike. He thoroughly expresses his optimism and tenacity through masterful wordplay and lyricism that is also heavily recognized in his poems, most notably his TED Talks poem “High School Training Ground.” Nonetheless, Malcolm London is supporting his case as one of Chicago’s most promising artists; it’s safe to say his future is very bright in Chicago’s music scene.
22) Chance & Jeremih
This list simply could not be completed without a Christmas tape. Luckily, Chance the Rapper and Jeremih decided to groove right into the Holiday Spirit and drop off their collaborative project “Merry Christmas Lil Mama” that was released just days before Christmas Day. This happens to be the first Christmas tape that holds a perfect combination of Hip-Hop, R&B and a Christmas-carol vibe further expressed in tracks such as “I’m Your Santa” and “Chi-Town Christmas,” while also mixing an up-tempo, R&B sound in tracks like “All The Way,” and “I Shoulda Left You.” On top of that, Chance and Jeremih joined forces with several local names including King Louie, Lud Foe and Noname including contributions from Bongo, The Drum Gahd an Zaytoven amongst others. The 9-track project carries a Christmas-theme that also covers a wide array of stories in tracks like “Stranger At The Table” and “The Tragedy” in which a homeless man dies from a cold Chicago-winter. For the most part, “Merry Christmas Lil Mama” shows the joyous, uplifting side of the holidays while also giving awareness to the situation of others that are less fortunate. All in all, Chance and Jeremih delivered the ultimate Christmas present for their fans and for the entire city of Chicago. Chance said it best in the description on SoundCloud which simply read “For Chicago.” Nonetheless, we can expect to see many more Chance/ Jeremih connections in the near future. Who knows, we may even get a “Merry Christmas Lil Mama 2” next year.
21) Brian Fresco – Casanova
Brian Fresco played a big part in that historic 2016 Savemoney Summer with his project Casanova. Right away with the first song “Transition,” I think Fresco shows us that Casanova is more or less a victory for him. Just give it a listen and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. This was Fresco’s most personal project yet, and that is one of the most appealing features of the tape. Tracks like “Lonely” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, “Dandelion,” and “Fam” get real sentimental and will have you in your feels. This tape doesn’t just mess with your feelings, there’s bangers too. “Bussin” is sure to get you and your homies on your feet and moshing. What is a Savemoney project without a Chance feature too? Fresco gets longtime friend Chance The Rapper to hop on the club banger “Higher” along with Blue Hawaii. This song in particular seemed like an experiment as its production isn’t something you would really expect to rap over considering what he has done in the past. With this being said, I would say that it was a successful experiment as he created a very unique sound that many will be able to remember him for. Many of these songs actually have a sound that you wouldn’t really expect from Fresco and it is that, along with all the different vibes and feelings you feel from each song that puts Casonova on our list at number 21.
20) Dreezy – No Hard Feelings
Chicago native Dreezy, gave us her debut album during 2016 with No Hard Feelings. Don’t take Dreezy lightly just because she’s a girl. Her raps go hard as she grew up in a tough part of the south side of Chicago. Dreezy Seamlessly can go from her drill rapping style in one song and then sing a beautiful rendition of a more R&B styled song in another. Right from the start in “We Gon Ride,” she shows us why she’s Chicago’s queen of rap by absolutely bodying that beat. She even got the trap god in Gucci Mane to rap on that one with her. Now while she can go hard over trap beats, I personally like her singing better. Like in her radio hit “Body” featuring Jeremih or “Close to You” featuring T-Pain, her vocals are unmatched and she can really move anyone listening to those joints or any song she sings on. Overall, Dreezy is a Chicago gem and we are really glad to have her. Her debut album was a huge success and hopefully we will be getting more full-length projects from her in 2017.
19) Lil Durk – 2X
Lil Durk’s second studio-album “2X” is without question the most important work that emerged out of Chicago’s drill scene this year. The 14-track project is a follow-up to Durk’s debut album “Remember My Name” released under Def Jam recordings in June of last year that received critical acclaim for its heavy-hitting tracks “Like Me” and a banger with Logic in “Tryna Tryna.” Durk’s album delivers a gritty, bass-hitting trap-vibe that is a trademark of Chicago’s Drill music that first blew up on the internet years ago with Keef, Fredo Santana and so many others heavily influencing the early stages of the movement. Lil Durk has become a prominent voice out of Chicago’s Southside and speaks on the harsh experiences that come out of growing up in the Englewood area, while also promoting hard work and striving for success. The album features a star-studded line-up of artists with Future, Young Thug, Ty Dolla Sign, Yo Gotti and Dej Loaf who appeared on “My Beyoncé.” The OTF leader also recruited a strong production team that included Southside, Sonny Digital, Zaytoven, and drill-producer Young Chop who also produced Chief Keef’s early hits such as “Love Sosa” and “I Don’t Like” in 2012. “2X” is proof that drill music is still stronger than ever with its bass-charged bangers and continuos young talent out of the drill scene. We can only hope this is just the beginning for Lil Durk and the OTF crew.
18) Rockie Fresh – The Night I Went To…
Rockie Fresh displayed his verstility on The Night I Went To… keeping him relevant in the conversation of Chicago’s most talented emcees in the game right now. By versatility I mean that he can rap in different styles that appeal to different emotions. Like in the song “Call Me When It’s Over,” Rockie Fresh shows us he can rap in a more affectionate way as he channels a softer voice accompanied by Chris Brown’s vocals to tell his girl to call him whenever the function she is at is over because he will take care of her for the rest of the night. Then we get a track like “Thought About It” where we get a simple yet heavy hitting drum line for the beat and Rockie tackles it was a very serious tone in his voice telling us about important lessons he has learned in his life. It’s tracks like those I just mentioned that show how talented and versatile Rockie Fresh really is and it’s this versatility that lands Rockie Fresh’s The Night I Went To… at number 18 on our list.
17) G Herbo – Strictly 4 My Fans
As I’m sure most of you reading this know, G Herbo was one of the rappers that came into the game during the time when Chicago drill rappers such as Chief Keef, Lil Bibby, and many others took over the music scene by storm and really put Chicago back on the map when it comes to rap. Well, a lot of the rappers that came up with Herbo have more or less fizzled out and only had their time in the game when drill rappers were coming up in 2012-2013. Only the really good ones were able to sustain their relevancy and G Herbo was one of those rappers. This project proves that too. He still is a drill rapper, but it is a more sophisticated type of drill rapping. This project was very personal to Herbo. Most of his raps on this would be considered “gun & money talk,” but his “gun & money talk” has evolved. One way he has evolved on this project is his choice of beats. Take his song “Gutta” for example. He’s got gospel singer in the background throughout the whole song as he talks about what the gutta is like in Chiraq. What drill rappers do you know have gospel singers in the background of their songs? It is this evolution of G Herbo’s rap game that makes this project so great and that is why Stricly 4 My Fans is number 17 on our list.
Listen to “Strictly 4 My Fans” here
16) oddCouple – Liberation
oddCouple has been doing his thing for a few years now, you may know him for producing hits for artists such as Chance The Rapper, Saba, WebsterX, Joey Purp, Taylor Bennett and many more. This year he dropped off an absolute gem titled “Liberation.” This project brings together many talented artists together and features a mix of everything from soulful beats to catchy rap sounds. This man also knows talent when he hears it too as the artists he got for his project are among the likes of Qari, Kelechi, Kweku Collins, Joey Purp, Jamila Woods, WebsterX, and Mick Jenkins to name a few. oddCouple really showed out on this project as he shows us what he is really capable of as he made one of the most memorable projects to come out of Chicago in 2016.
15) Kweku Collins – Nat Love
One project that we here at Lyrical Lemonade really enjoyed this past year was the debut album from Closed Session’s own Kweku Collins. Kweku first caught my attention with his “Say It Here, While It’s Safe” EP last summer, and ever since then I’ve been dying to hear his next body of work. Earlier this year he blessed us with a project titled “Nat Love” that truly made his presence felt in the Chicago music scene. This project is eleven tracks in length and contains a couple impressive features from Taylor Bennett & Jamila Woods, while the production was handled entirely by Kweku himself except for a little assistance from Closed Sessions teammates Odd Couple & Boathouse. If you somehow didn’t hear this tape by now, you’ve really been missing out on some great music. Kweku had an excellent year in 2016, I’m eager & excited to see where he takes it from here.
14) Kembe X – Talk Back
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Kembe X remains one of Chicago’s most promising young artists.After dropping his second mixtape “Soundtrack II: Armageddon” in 2013, the Southwest Chicago product made his return this Summer after releasing his debut album “Talk Back.” The 14-track project was let loose in July after several months of track-teasers, promo and even a stunning visual for his track “Loosie” that was released in May of 2015. On top of that, Kembe recruited a short-but-sweet line-up of features including Alex Wiley, Zacari Pacaldo and Romeo Testa with production from DJ FU, Bentley Hazelwood, Crooklin, The Antydote and California EDM-duo Hippie Sabotage who jumped on the title-track “Talk Back” that was also released prior to the album. Kembe’s project starts off at a slower pace, but then quickly gains traction & energy from the bass-charged hitters in “Welcome To America” and “Squad Day (Work Week)” that also happens to be my favorite joint on the project. Not only did Kembe’s lyricism blow me away, he also made sure to cover several topics such as philosophy, freedom, politics and a brief reflection of his childhood and growing up in Chicago. With that being said, don’t sleep on Kembe X as he’s clearly just getting started; let’s hope he decides to grace us with another project this coming year.
13) Towkio – Community Service EP
We all know that 2016 was already a hot summer for Savemoney with projects from Chano, Vic, Purp and Fresco, but then Towkio took the mic and said that it was his turn. Ever since “Tokyo Shawn” put out his first project, “Community Service,” 3 years ago, his come up had been a little slow compared to his other Savemoney brothers, but that all changed when he dropped a mixtape called “.Wav Theory.” That tape made many highly acclaimed top 50, and even some top 25 mixtapes of 2015 lists. Towki’s career took off after that. Then about a year later, in July 2016, we were blessed with the latest project from Towkio, “Community Service 2,” and it’s some his best work yet. Since his first Community Service project, Towkio has surrounded himself with people from Chicago that have amazing musical minds, and he gets consistent work from these guys to create the second Community Service project. With producers like Peter Cottontale, Knox Fortune, Smoko Ono, and others, Towkio made sure his tapes production would be on point. We all know you can’t have a Savemoney project without any features from other Savemoney affiliates so Towkio got Vic Mensa, and Joey purp on this tape. Towkio is a man who raps to his emotions. You can feel what he is feeling as you listen to him rap his songs. In the song “Tear Drop,” Towkio gets real and you can feel the sadness that he is feeling as he raps, but then in “G W M” (Gang With Me), you can feel the cockiness boasting from Towkio’s voice. All in all, Towkio has an impressive follow up tape to “.Wav Theory” in “Community Service 2” and that is why it is number 13 on our list.
12) Eryn Allen Kane – Aviary: Act II
If you truly love R&B/soul type of music, you absolutely need to listen to Eryn Allen Kane because she is going to be one of the g.o.a.t.’s of Chicago soul music, but she will be one of America’s g.o.a.t.’s of soul music when it’s all said and done. The range that this woman has is incredible. It’s a Beyonce or Mariah Carey in the making type of range. Her vocals in all 5 of these songs will have you wanting to hear more after just one listen. I personally can’t wait for her to release more material in 2017. Keryce Chelsi Henry described this project perfectly when she said, “AVIARY: Act II isn’t just a collection of songs. It’s a moving, foot-tap-inducing experience that Kane hopes will help listeners ‘find hope, inspiration, and courage.’”
11) Jamila Woods – HEAVN
Jamila Woods has proven to be one of the most vocal female artists out of Chicago’s Hip-Hop/ R&B scene this year. Born & raised in Chicago’s Southside, the poet, songwriter and political activist has become a leading voice for young girls women across the globe. On top of that, Woods is an active member in her community serving as the Associate Artistic Director of the “Young Chicago Authors” organization as well as a head organizer for the “Louder Than a Bomb” poetry festival for young, aspiring poets. Coming off of her first projects “The Joy” and “Almost Us” a few years ago, Woods released her highly-anticipated debut album “HEAVN” in early July under Closed Sessions Records. The album is a cornerstone for the current state of America in which Woods preaches on hope and positivity within her community while also promoting strength, joy, and unity. Jamila outlines several issues in her tracks like “BLK Girl Soldier” that surfaced in the wake of police violence, a gospel vibe in “Holy” and a proud, unifying anthem in “VRY Black” that includes fellow Closed Session Members OddCouple and Kweku Collins. The album features a strong list of local talent as well such as Saba, Donnie Trumpet and Chance the Rapper in which Jamila appeared on Chance’s latest work “Coloring Book” released earlier this year. Production was handled by a large team of producers with Carter Lang, Peter Cottontale, Jus Love and Ayanna Woods amongst others helping out in the production. Jamila’s astonishing vocals and impactful message of hope & positivity have supported her case as being one of Chicago’s most influential artists who strives to rise above the violence in hopes of a brighter future. Make sure to look out for Jamila Woods in 2017 as this is only the beginning for the talented young artist.
Femdot had a fantastic year in 2016, If it were up to me solely he would have been in the top five, but he is capping off our top ten with his tape Fo(u)r. As you are probably already well aware of, Femdot also released two other projects titled Thr(we) & To(u) this year, and both of those tapes could have easily been in the top 25. However, to be fair & to include more projects from others, we decided to group all the tapes into one & shift the focus to his Fo(u)r tape. Femdot is one of those rappers that raps with great passion & emotion in his voice, which makes it more enjoyable & relatable for the listeners. From the very moment you press play on the intro, you will instantly be lured in with outstanding production & even better bars from the young Chicago native, before falling victim to the beautiful vibes at the back end of the tune. Next we come across the tracks “341” & “97” and to be completely real, these were two of my favorite songs by a Chicagoan in 2016. “341” is a three-in-one track: at first you will hear nothing but aggressive & impressive rhymes, then you hear him pick apart one of the greatest samples in the middle, before finally closing the song with my favorite minute of music of the whole year using the “Don’t Say No” sample. “97” picks up right where the previously track left off, as Fem comes firing with more catchy bars for the first minute & a half. Then at the middle of the joint, Fem proves he can create timeless music, offering one of the best verses I have ever heard him spit. The song “Soul” put the cherry on top of the amazing project, where you will find Fem rhyme about his life up to this point, absolutely flexing his unmatched story telling skills. All in all, this was easily one of the best releases of the year, there’s no doubt about that.
9) Mick Jenkins – THC
With his highly acclaimed EP “Waves” dropping last August, Mick Jenkins follow-up to the EP was his debut album “The Healing Component” holding the title as one of the most dynamic projects out of Chicago this year with unmatched vocalism conveying a powerful message of love, hope, and unity against the brutality carried out by law enforcement in the United States. On top of that, the Alabama-born rapper preaches on philosophy, religion and a prominent influence of drugs further described in tracks “1000 Xans” and “Plugged” produced by IAMNOBODI. The 15-track project was released in September and was recognized for its wavy singles “Spread Love” and “Drowning” that included a striking visual enacting the early history of America in the 1800’s. Jenkins recruited a heavy list of features such as BadBadNotGood, theMIND, Ravyn Lenae, J-Stock, Noname, Xavier Omar and Michael Anthony appearing on the Outro-track “Fucked Up.” The album also included a strong team of producers with theMind, Noname, J-Stock and many others helping out in the production. Mick Jenkins lyricism produces some of the hardest bars we’ve experienced this year, giving only more expectation into what the future holds for the young artist.
8) Supa Bwe – Dead Again 3
Supa Bwe without a doubt dropped a classic this year, leaving him in every discussion for best Chicago project of the year. The 27-year-old rapper dropped his highly-anticipated tape “Dead Again 3” on the 4th of July following-up his “Dead Again Pt.2” tape from May of last year. Not only did he recruit a stacked line up of features with Mick Jenkins, Chance the Rapper and Twista; the majority of his production, mixing and audio engineering is done completely by himself with some help from UG Vavy. The 12-track effort reflects a strong, emotional message of anger, romance and women further expressed in tracks such as the intro titled “Jubilee” in which Supa explains moving on and enjoying life after a relationship. On top of that, the mixtape combines a rap/ soul vibe backed by chiming melodies and heavy autotune used in tracks such as“Breakfast and Chill” with Mick Jenkins and a love-song with Twista titled “Cowgirl.” Supa Bwe also dropped a unique cartoon-visual with Chance in October for his “Fool Wit It Freestyle” which helped the song reach a whole different level while instantly becoming a standout track on the project. With that being said, there is no doubt Supa Bwe is only just getting started; look out for him to make an even bigger splash this coming year.
7) Lucki – Freewave 2
Lucki has been making a lot of noise in the underground game this past year, and it really all started with his first EP, “Freewave.” That’s when I was first introduced to the Chicago native. Let me tell you that it was like love at first listen. Lucki is one of my favorite type of rappers. That being one who is so skilled that their flow is unique, catchy, and fast all at the same time that sounds great over a trap beat. Lucki has worked with some big names like Chance The Rapper and Playboi Carti to name a few. First things first though if we are going to start talking about “Freewave 2.” Lucki is lowkey legendary for the cover art. It is an amazing remake of Nirvana’s album cover for “Nevermind.” Now Lucki just has one of those voices that goes along perfectly with his flow that causes you get caught in a trance where you can’t do anything except listen. That’s what I found happening to me as I listened to his latest work. The 11 track project is filled with nothing but hot, fast-paced bars being spit over your not so typical/mainstream trap beats. Honestly though, you’ll get a better understanding of what I am talking about if you give the tape a listen. Anyway, these are all reasons why “Freewave 2” by Lucki is number 7 on our list.
6) Noname – Telefone
If you say that you know Chicago hip-hop pretty well, then you’ve most certainly heard of Noname as she has been a familiar name in Chicago hip-hop even before her debut project thanks to her collaborations with fellow Chicago artists such as Chance, Mick Jenkins, Saba and others. Well, it was finally time for those artists to repay the favor and it was her time to take the spotlight. After first listen, all I could think was, “Wow.” I don’t think anyone was expecting Telefone to be as impressive and moving as it is. She more than impressed every music critic who gave this a listen. Like I said earlier, other Chicago artist that Noname previously collabbed with (Chance, Mick, Saba) returned the favor by giving her a feature from each of them to put on Telefone. The nostalgic sound each beat incorporates in each track is so beautiful when accompanied by Noname’s soothing voice. Telefone in many ways is about black women’s pains specifically in Chicago. In some songs Noname will tell you some heartbreaking stories and thoughts about her lack of confidence in herself, abortion, and other gloomy ideas for example, but she always ends the track with you feeling optimistic or like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This project is perfect for easy-listening at say a family picnic in Grant Park. Telefone is an embodiment of Chicago music and is one of the greatest gifts we received in 2016. It will be one of those timeless projects you’ll tell your grand kids about.
5) Vic Mensa – There’s A Lot Going On
Earlier this year, Save Money leader Vic Mensa gave us his first project in nearly three years, “There’s A Lot Going On.” This project contained a total of seven tracks & has only one incredible feature from Ty Dolla $ign, but it’s mostly just a whole lot of fantastic lyrics & verses from Roc Nation’s own. Front to back, this project was an extremely easy listen, even months after it’s release. From the very instant you begin listening to the tape, Vic catches your attentions with some cut throat bars & never slows up. This mixtape was full of highs for me, including the extraordinary idea behind and the amazing execution of the second song titled “16 Shots.” As you are already well aware of, Vic was one of biggest celebrity figures at the protests in Chicago following the Laquan McDonald shooting footage being released to the public on November 24th, 2015. On the previously mentioned record, Vic paints the perfect picture of the situation as he begins the verse with some powerful words, “Ready for the war we got our boots strapped, 100 deep on State street where the troops at? The Mayor lying say he didn’t see the video footage & everybody wanna know where the truth at?” If anyone is credible enough to speak on this subject, Vic is definitely the guy, hell he even had a clash with some over aggressive Chicago police officers at the protest. Right as that one ends, he came right back with a smooth transition that led straight into “Danger,” the third track on the album. On this one he came through with an up-tempo, aggressive record that showed the rebel side of Vic we all know and love. Although he excelled at getting his point across on those songs, he also proved that he’s extremely capable of crossing genres later in the track list on songs like “New Bae,” “Liquor Locker” & “Shades of Blue.” Vic created one of his most melodic in “New Bae,” this one grew on me more & more every single time I listened to it, I often found myself with the lyrics stuck in my head. Up next we have by far my favorite song on the track list, “Liquor Locker” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Where do I even start with this one? Everything about this record was phenomenal: the production, the vocals Vic provides, the amazing work done on the guitar, everything was flawless. Hell, Ty Dolla $ign even came through the back end of this one & dished out easily one of the best verses I have ever heard from him. After that we have “Shades Of Blue,” which was a beautiful slow tempo track that’s main focus was based on the Flint water crisis we as a country faced earlier this year. If there is one thing that Vic really excels in, it’s putting the issues in the world into his records, and making them still very listenable. Last but certainly not least, we are faced with the title track. There was a three year gap in between Vic’s last mixtape “Innaetape,” and his new one “There’s A Lot Going On.” Through the course of that few years, a majority of Vic fans were wondering where his next project, originally called “Traffic” was. On top of that, they were also wondering why he was taking so long to deliver it. Well, in the title track he left no stone unturned, as he explained every question we were wondering all in one song. In just a few short minutes he touched on subjects such as drug addiction, his past relationships, his former band Kids These Days, and much more. I know I speak for a majority of Vic fans when I say that this was much appreciated, because it cleared the air, giving him what felt like a fresh start. Overall, I felt very good about each & every one of the songs provided, Roc Nation definitely has someone they should be extremely proud of.
4) Joey Purp – iiiDrops
After years of anticipation, SaveMoney member Joey Purp re-emerged from the shadows and let loose his long-awaited solo project “iiiDrops” back in late May. The tape comes in at 11 tracks deep and features a notable list of artists including Mick Jenkins, Saba, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper who both join Purp in the SaveMoney collective. Besides that, I found it extremely difficult to single out just one track that highlights the project as there are so many standouts. Starting out with the intro-track “Morning Sex,” Joey instantly lays out the message behind the project outlining his acquired knowledge of the street hustle and the experiences that came along with growing up in Chicago. Not only is each track backed by astounding melodies and instruments, but also numerous verses within the tape that instantly pop-out from the rest and catch your attention immediately. From Chance’s 30-second hook on “Girls @,” Purp’s deep-rooted lyricism on “Cornerstone” and Vic Mensa’s verse on “Winners Circle” to close out the project, “iiiDrops” is nothing short of an instant classic. After taking a first look at the tape, it became evident as to why Joey took over 4 years to put together such a project. It’s as if every track was made to be a standout, and he accomplished that tremendously. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2020 for the next time we hear from Purp.
3) Saba – Bucket List Project
Saba had a breakout tape drop in 2016 with “Bucket List Project,” and it was so good I knew it had to be a top 3 pick on our list. This project came three years after the release of his breakout mixtape “Comfort Zone” dropped, and the growth he displayed is undeniable. There is a total of thirteen tracks on this tape, and contains features from the likes of Twista, Phoelix, BJRKNC, Noname, Joseph Chilliams, Jean Deaux, Matthew Santos, Akenya, Ravyn Lenae, Smino & LEGIT. The one thing that stuck out to me about this offering was that it seemed as if every week I had a new “favorite song” off of it. At first it was surely the upbeat track titled “Stoney,” then it became the brutally honest & thought provoking joint “America Hypnosis,” and before I knew it I found myself listening to songs like “World In My Hands” & “West Side Bound 3” on repeat for hours. Not even just those songs though, every single song on this tape really hit me, it left me with an even greater appreciation for Saba & the art he creates. Chicago has already been on Saba’s music for quite some time now, but I’ll tell you what, it was extremely refreshing to see this guy get the national exposure that he received after this drop, he really deserved it. I can honestly say that this was some of the best music I listened to all year, which is why there was no question that we had to rank him here.
2) Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
Kanye West’s eighth studio album “The Life of Pablo” is arguably one of the most creative, controversial and unforgettable Yeezy-projects of all time. With production from all-star producer’s Mike Dean, Hudson Mohawke and Metro Boomin amongst others, the album included a strong line-up of features with Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Young Thug, Chance the Rapper and several other notable artists. Like the many Yeezy projects before it, TLOP will be remembered for its unique delivery and wild antic’s we saw from Kanye leading up to the release such as tweeting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proposing a billion dollar investment into his idea’s. While it may not be direct promotion for his album, the man know’s how to create a stir around his name that undoubtedly contribute’s to the hype around his releases. Kanye premiered TLOP at Madison Square Garden during his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show in February and made it available on Jay-Z’s streaming-service “Tidal” who claims to be the highest-paying streaming service to music artists. Even after releasing the album, Kanye continued to tweak several tracks’s on the record which critic’s recognized for its unfinished, ever-changing nature making the album that much more memorable. The album also had its controversial aspect’s such as Ye’s diss to Taylor Swift on the track “Famous” which received backlash from Swift who claimed he never had permission for the lyrics which helped inspire the unforgettable music video for the track. With that being said, TLOP was a multi-dimensional work of art that will always be remembered for the controversy and theatrics surrounding the album before and after its release. The various styles of production and a heavyweight line-up of features helped make “The Life of Pablo” one of the most memorable music experiences of this year, only giving more anticipation for what Yeezus brings to the table next.
1) Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
You probably already saw this coming, but coming in at our number one spot is by far “Coloring Book” by Chance The Rapper. Man it’s been quite a ride for Chance, hasn’t it? Four years ago Chance was really just one of us, by that I mean a teenage kid from Chicago who had an undeniable love and appreciation for the music our city produces & really just the city itself. Nowadays, he sits alone atop the mountain of independent music world. In just a few short years, we have watched Chance take over the music scene one extraordinary verse at a time. This project has a total of fourteen tracks in length, and contains a list of very strong features from the likes of Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Jamila Woods, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Bryon Cage, Jay Electronica, Jeremih, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, DRAM, Chicago’s Childrens Choir, Noname Gypsy, T-Pain, Eryn Allen Kane, Saba, and Francis & The Lights. During the build up for this release I noticed that it seemed like everyone was asking the same question, “Do you think it will be better than 10 Day and/or Acid Rap?” Truthfully, I believe that “Coloring Book” is better than both 10 Day and Acid Rap combined, respectfully. Obviously thats not to take anything away from the first two projects, but man this new one is really just next level, it’s Grammy material. Chance took it up a notch this year aside from the tape, he appeared on multiple late night television shows, wrote skits for Saturday Night Live, wrote songs for his idol Kanye West, led a “Parade To The Polls” campaign in Chicago, broke the attendance record at U.S. Cellular Field at his Magnificent Coloring Day show, blessed everyone in attendance when he brought out Kanye at MCD, his hit song “No Problem” took the whole radio business over thanks to his “Rapper Radio” program, launched a customizable merchandise platform for his fans, he gave a outstanding performance on Ellen alongside 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne, he helped put on Chicago artists like Saba & Noname by bringing them on national television to perform with him, hell he even performed at the White House this past Christmas. With the release of the third mixtape I believe that Chance solidified his spot as not only the best independent rapper in the game, but as one of the best rappers in the game period. The career of Chance The Rapper has really been something magical up to this point, something that I predict they will write books about & make movies based on his life in the future. It looks as if things can only go up from here for Chance, I believe I speak for all of us when I say that no matter where he takes it, we will all be here eagerly waiting.