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It’s that time of year again; time for websites to put together lists that reflect the year.  This is my favorite list of all, because it was the one I put together!  This is my top 10 albums of 2016.  The criteria is simple.  It’s whatever I played in the car the most.  That’s it.  It has nothing to do with the impact on others, and record sales mean nothing.  It is all about me and what I listened to the most.  Also, it must be a full length original project.  No EPs, No Mixtapes, and No Re-Releases.  If someone re-releases an album that celebrates its 25th year, that’s really dope, but it’s not allowed on the list.  Lastly, since I too am a struggling rapper, you can’t be on the list if I am involved in the project.  You may drop album of the year, but if I spit a verse, you are out of the running.  So let’s get to it!


10. Craig G – I Rap and Go Home

Release Date: June 3, 2016

Some Production Includes: VaporWorldz

Some Features Include: Ras Kass, Canibus, Jarobi, Kool Keith, Rock, Buckshot

What I Thought:

First up, this is easily the best album title of the entire year.  Craig G came in the game at a very young age, but by rap standards, he may be an elder statesman now.  Instead of trying hard to adhere to the younger rap fans, Craig G embraces his lane. This causes for both a lyrical and intelligent album.  Even though he is serious about his craft, he still has a sense of humor.  VaporWorldz handles all of the production.  This leads to a very solid sound for the entire project.  Craig G has always been dope, and this album proves that.  Only downside, it’s a digital only release.  I, as a collector, like to buy physical copies of dope albums.




9. Ras Kass  – Intellectual Property – SOI2

Release Date: September 9, 2016

Some Production Includes: Statik Selektah, DJ Lethal, Snowgoons, Apollo Brown

Some Features Include: KRS-1, Bun B, Shabaam Sahdeeq, El Gant, AFRO, Torae, OC

What I Thought:

I didn’t like it being named SOI2.  I am not a big fan of sequels being done years after the fact.  I didn’t like that Sean Price had a feature credit, but it was just chopped up audio from a Youtube freestyle that was used as a chorus.  I think, I literally loved the rest of the album.  Ras stepped away from the industry non-sense and came out stronger on the indy route.  The industry didn’t do Ras justice, but now he is doing it for himself.  He drops regularly, and it’s almost always worth a listen.  Ras is dope, and this project is great, even if I didn’t like the title.





8. Smoke DZA and Pete Rock – Don’t Smoke Rock

Release Date: December 2, 2016

Some Production Includes: Pete Rock

Some Features Include: Rick Ross, Royce Da 5’9, Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T., Cam’ron, Dabe East

What I Thought:

This may have been higher on the list, if it came out earlier in the year. Smoke DZA is solidifying himself as a new school legend, and Pete Rock is the God.  Some purists scoffed at the Rick Ross feature, but that record was dope, and refreshing.  “Hold The Drums” became one of my favorite songs of the year.  Even better, they are saying this is now an official duo, and we should see more projects in the future!





7. La Coka Nostra – To Thine Own Self Be True

Release Date: November 4, 2016

Some Production Includes: DJ Lethal, Statik Selektah, ChumZilla, Marco Polo

Some Features Include: Sick Jacken, Apathy, Rite Hook, Vinnie Paz

What I Thought:
Punch you in the face, white boy, gutter rap??? What more can a white rap fan ask for?  To Thine Own Self has become critically acclaimed. Slaine and Ill Bill go back and forth without the assistance of Everlast.  Everlast backed away to handle some private business with his family.  This may have made for a tougher album.  I have been a fan of Everlast since he and Danny Boy were jumping around, but it just felt more gutter this go round.  It’s dark, and they wear ski masks on the cover, and I absolutely loved it.




6. Royce Da 5’9 – Layers

Release Date:  April 15, 2016

Some Production Includes: Antman Wonder, Nottz, Mr Porter, DJ Khalil, DJ Pain-1

Some Features Include: Pusha T, Rick Ross, Mr Porter, K Young

What I Thought:

Royce dropped a full length and a mixtape this year.  The tape had a Black Thought assisted record called “Rap on Steroids”.  That was my favorite record from both, and it wasn’t on the album.  May have been politics, but that was disappointing.  Layers is just that, an album of various layers to Royce’s life.  He even attacks the subject of infidelity to his wife, and does it in a way that’s hilarious and completely not funny at the same time.  Royce has been dope since rising from Shady’s shadow, and very seldom disappoints.




5. Westside Gunn – HWH4

Release Date: October 31, 2016

Some Production Includes: Daringer

Some Features Include: Stalley, Conway, Smoke DZA

What I Thought:

The album starts with “The Cow”.  The first verse is actually by Conway.  And Conway spits one of the best verses of the year.  That’s how ill these guys are. West allowed his partner in rhyme (and actual brother) to get his shine first.  That’s a love that I wouldn’t be able to explain in this short paragraph.  This project is dark and cohesive with Daringer handling the production.  As you can tell, I love the idea of one producer for an entire project.  Westside Gunn dropped a lot of projects and miscellaneous tracks this year.  The wild part is, no matter how much he drops, it is all so dope. Westside Gunn is still an underdog in the whole world of Hip Hop, but pretty soon, the people who are purposely ignoring him, are going to act as if they were rocking with him from the beginning.




4. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank U 4 Your Service

Release Date: November 11, 2016

Some Production Includes: Q-Tip and co-production by Blair Wells

Some Features Include: Busta Rhymes, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John

What I Thought:

Some of the features struck me as odd.  I felt like Andre and Kendrick did a great job, but before listening it led me to doubts.  I also feared that the album was going to disappoint. I thank God I was wrong.  It was very fun and insightful while being melodic and soothing.  The album was a surprise to fans, after years of ATCQ toying with doing an official reunion.  It is very heart breaking that Phife wasn’t alive to see the release.




3. Skyzoo and Apollo Brown – The Easy Truth

Release Date: September 30, 2016

Some Production Includes: Apollo Brown

Some Features Include: Westside Gunn, Conway, Patty Crash, Joell Ortiz

What I Thought:

If you’re a fan of Apollo Brown or Skyzoo you will love this album.  If you are a fan of dopeness, you will love this album.  Sometimes Sky or Apollo can get a tad bit redundant on an LP, but that just didn’t happen this time.  I am a big fan of both, and they did their thing.  Sky continues to show love to GXFR with Westside Gunn and Conway on the feature. It’s easy for this album to play through, then start over, and you just want to listen to it again.  Only thing, I would have liked a Torae feature, because they always make dope records together.



2. Havoc and the Alchemist – The Silent Partner

Release Date: May 20, 2016

Some Production Includes: Alchemist

Some Features Include: Method Man, Prodigy, Cormega

What I Thought:

This album is incredible.  It’s very smooth and very dark.  Havoc only does gangster music, and I love it.  Alchemist is one of my favorite producers, as is Havoc, but it was interesting to see Hav take a complete back seat to focus on rhyming.  It’s a hard-body album and even had Method Man kick one of his best feature verses in a long time.  This album is still in heavy rotation. And the other half of Mobb Deep, Prodigy, did a feature.  That was a very nice touch.




1. Westside Gunn – FlyGod

Release Date: March 11, 2016

Some Production Includes: Daringer, Camouflage Monk, Tha God Fahim, Apollo Brown, Statik Selektah

Some Features Include: Conway, Skyzoo, Meyhem Lauren, Roc Marciano, Mac Hommy

What I Thought:

This was not only my favorite album of the year, it was also the album I anticipated the most.  Westside Gunn is the future.  He holds his own as a wild shooter amongst the best of the best.  This violent and gritty album still processes an avant garde position that makes it an absolute work of art.  The cover art is amazing, a vector composition of a young Westside with a crown of thorns.  The record, “Mr. T”, is easily my favorite song of the year.  Gunn is the truth and it’s only a matter of time until everyone agrees.



Honorable Mentions:

This list is a top 10.  So I had to leave some stuff off.  It was really difficult to pick this list. Vinnie Paz, Ugly Heroes, Apathy, ThaGod Fahim, Daz and Snoop, Masta Ace, Ka, Torae, and many others put out albums I really liked.  Either way, in 2017 I challenge you to go out and support music. Buy music, merch, and go to shows.  Post on social media the artists you actually enjoy.  Posting artists you hate is just a waste of everyone’s time.

About Stess

Stess The Emcee is just another pissed off rapper that never made it. His travels thru hip hop are many. As an artist he has recorded alongside such notables as Juelz Santana, Rustee Jux, Sha Stimuli, Boog Brown, Craig G of the Juice Crew, CopyWrite, Supreme the Eloheem, Arsonal Da Rebel, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Chaundon and Joe Scudda. He’s performed on stage as an opening act for artists KRS-One, Cee Lo Green, DJ Drama, Big K.R.I.T., Cesar Comanche, Oddisee, Dee-1, and Pastor Troy. His journeys led him to the world of radio, as well. Stess hosts “Diggin in the Crates” on Blazin 102.3 in Tallahassee, Fl. and co-hosts “The Underground Railroad” on 89.7 in Tallahassee, as well. In addition, he provides daily news updates for “The Jay Blaze Show” in Greenville, NC.

One comment

  1. Very insightful and frank reviews!