True Too’s Favorite Tracks of 2016

2016 has made for one wild ride. It was definitely filled with its ups and downs, but the music was always around to help us out. Hip-hop had an especially strong year so us fans were definitely thriving. With all of the big albums and newcomers coming onto the scene it left us with an unholy amount of hot tracks. I’m talking the hottest of hot. Like crack-an-egg-open-on-the-sidewalk hot. Luckily for you, the True Too Staff has decided to share some of our favorite tracks of the year as a Christmas gift to all the hip-hop fans out there! Take a look at our standouts of the year while you get all merry off the nog:

“Feel No Ways” – Drake

This song taps into an emotional reservoir like so many great Drake songs have the ability to do. The way he softly croons in “I should be downtown whippin’ on the way to you.” We forget that Drake lives life like none of us can imagine, but can still resonate with us. “I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do;” even if some of us have never exactly felt that sentiment, Drake taps into a broader feeling; the feeling of emotional freedom. “I stopped listening to things you say, ’cause you don’t mean it anyway,” It’s petty, but so is Drake’s brand. When we become attached, we become petty, we develop flaws. Drake is aware of that and taps into it amidst a sonic bliss of Yamaha synths and backbeat percussion. If only the rest of Views followed suit. – Michael Charlebois

“Brown Skin Jesus” – Kemba

It’s not a secret that Kemba’s (formerly YC the Cynic) first album under his new moniker, Negus, got slept on this year; despite being one of the most socially and emotionally charged albums of the year as well as the importance of its themes it has yet to appear on any ‘Top’ lists. However its time to wake up and at least appreciate the outro, “Brown Skin Jesus.” A smoky backing guitar and simplistic percussion help highlight Kemba’s potent lyrics. And holy shit does he flex his pipes on the track’s magnificent hook, showing that he isn’t just a one trick pony. His flip of the opening track’s dark opening into a positive message of hope to finish off the track and the album is brilliant and demonstrates his strong artistic vision. Perhaps now that he’s gotten a Kendrick cosign we’ll start to see Kemba get the recognition he so greatly deserves. – Keelen Wolfe

“Tookie Knows II” – Schoolboy Q

ScHoolboy Q is one of the more versatile and consistent rappers in the game right now. “Blank Face LP” solidified his position as the more eccentric gangsta rapper from TDE, compared to colleague Jay Rock encompassing a more conventional gangsta rapper. His track “Tookie Knows II” is my favorite track from 2016 because it perfectly portrays the sub-genre and is, quite simply, a banger. An overlooked aspect of this type of hip hop is the ability to tell a story. “Tookie Knows II” casts the listener directly into the vividly dangerous life of a crip surviving in the streets. I will go as far as to say this track is the best gangsta rap song since “Patiently Waiting.” It is an impeccable outro to my album of the year. – CJ Maryuma

“California” – Childish Gambino

One of the biggest curveballs of 2016 was definitely Childish Gambino’s album Awaken, My Love!. While it may have been a curveball, the execution was phenomenal. Bino had just finished taking over the small screen with his hit TV show Atlanta; so then naturally he drops a modern day-funkadelic masterpiece. Classic Donald right? I might be one of the only people on True Too who feel this way, but man, “California” is such an amazing track. I was actually at work when I first played this, sitting behind the sound board completely zoning at the wonderful sounds coming my way. Following the also great “Redbone,” “California” instantly shook my world. The track has incredibly lush production and the opening creates the perfect California-esque vibe. The lyrics make for an interesting story, taking a stab at the modern day video/Vine stars as his girl wants to move and become an actress. The hook bares a jarring attractiveness as Bino lets out, “She must of fuckin’ lost her mind,” as the simplistic beat with a tad touch of autotune creates the perfect harmony of future-funk. – Isaac Biehl

“All This Money” – Injury Reserve

Arizona triad Injury Reserve ended the year on a high note with their second album “Floss.” Its second single “All This Money”, however, is a shining star above all the rest, harkening back to the days of Lil Jon bangers and rivaling his “Get Low” for the spot of greatest party anthem. Parker Corey, the trio’s producer, lays down an infectious beat that does an excellent job of emphasizing Groggs and Ritchie’s verses, both of which are fire. Not only is the track a certified banger, it also shows off Injury Reserve’s range, stepping away from their usual laid back and vibey tracks and taking a more materialistic and hyped feel. These guys are one of the most exciting groups in the underground scene today but it won’t be long before they dig their way into the mainstream. – Keelen Wolfe

“We The People…” – A Tribe Called Quest

2016 was a weird year for usually the wrong reasons but occasionally the right reasons. And so, as history will tell it, the new A Tribe Called Quest album was the first post-Trump election album. It was timely because it had songs on it that were explicitly political for a group that had rarely dabbled in politics during the 90’s. We The People… is the best example of this. I mean, the satirical chorus “Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways” is pretty much echoing the sentiments established by the Trump-Pence campaign trail. Add that to the massive synth bass and hard-hitting drums and this song really does feel like a protest. Q-Tip also delivers one of the most outstanding verses of his entire career: “Niggas in the hood living in a FISHBOWL / Gentrify here now it’s in a SHITHOLE.” Phife manages to combine a verse of social commentary with a sprinkling of sports references. It has elements of Old Tribe fused with contemporary commentary and the pairing couldn’t be more perfect and timely. – Michael Charlebois

“Frequency” – Kid Cudi

I am a huge KiD CuDi fan. Despite the recent stumbles in his career, I believe that he is one of the more under-appreciated pioneers in modern hip hop.The first time I heard frequency I immediately broke out in a giant smile. He is back. The single to his newly released album, “Frequency” sees common collaborators Plain Pat and Cudder kicking it back to the MOTM days. Humming, echo singing and tight verses round out the track. The darker undertones and raw emotion from Frequency deliver the passion that we have come to expect from Cudi. Coupled with the rest of the album, I am extremely refreshed in his current career direction. – CJ Maryuma

“Overwhelming” – Jon Bellion

Jon Bellion, the man behind Eminem’s hit “Monster,” released his first official studio album with The Human Condition this year. The album combines pop and hip-hop better than anyone in music is currently doing, or can even compete with. “Overwhelming” is the perfect example of what Bellion can bring to the table as a superstar. He becomes the full triple threat; smooth production, a killer flow, and somehow finds time to smash out the hook with his singing chops. “Overwhelming” is about the topsy-turvy beauty of a relationship. While at times it seems like too much, Bellion can’t help but get enough of it, as he begs for more. The keys and drums on this track are remarkably done, and the beatboxing in the back is truly the icing on the cake. The last minute and a half is a nasty breakdown, and makes for an outright epic closing. – Isaac Biehl

“Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane” – Schoolboy Q

At the end of the day, we all have our favorites when it comes to songs of the year that stood out the most. Schoolboy Q’s “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane” just so happened to be that standout track for me. When the song initially dropped I already thought it was amazing. Q had not released any new music in a while and for him to come out the gates with such vigor and attitude said a lot about the direction of the album as well as his place among TDE’s roster as the Groovy gangsta. Q alongside Jadakiss is a match made in Heaven; with Kiss rapping about his lack of reactions to all of the destruction that is going on around him. What set the track over the edge had to be the switch up to the track, “Eddie Kane.” Not only is the production on this track insane, the lyrics play a major role in making this track so special. Q really wants his audience to understand the mind state that he had back in his younger days and he goes about it in a way that is insanely descriptive; pushing him to another level lyrically. – David Otu

And to my uncle that fucked up the family/That shit that you was smokin’/I was pushin’, residue lie on the cushion/I’ma blame it on your ass cause I ain’t gettin’ whoopings/And your proof is in the pudding/I’m just grandma’s baby, Eddie Kane.

“Dynasty” – Vic Mensa

Vic Mensa returned to form on his 2016 EP There’s A Lot Going On after a slew of shaky singles. While the entirety of the project is quite good, the opening track, “Dynasty,” truly stands out thanks to some clever Mensa bars and a beat switch that’ll rock your world. It’s also interesting to note that some of Vic’s lyrics are allusions to the songs that follow, a touch that makes this even more perfect of a lead in. It was disappointing to learn that he canceled his debut album, Traffic, but a far more personal and developed album is sure to hit us sooner rather than later. – Keelen Wolfe

“Sweet Sweet” – Travis Scott

I’m gonna be honest here and say I really could have chose any Travis song or feature this year and put it on the list because your boy La Flame was killing it. His sophomore album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was a sonic wonder and “Sweet Sweet” is a perfect example of that. The beat on this thing is insane. Around the 1:35 mark things get real nasty, (the good nasty, like “damn Mark that was a nasty kickflip!”) and when Travis goes “lit-lit-lit” in that faster cadence I lose it. The warped out guitar at the end makes for a great trip the last 30 seconds as “Sweet Sweet” becomes Travis’ rockstar moment. – Isaac Biehl

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