by Ben Pinette
List week is upon us. Here are the top ten hip hop verses of 2016. Discussion is welcomed in the comments section. Enjoy and thank you for being here!
10) Tyler, The Creator – ‘Telephone Calls’ – Verse 2. Time: 1 Min 10 Sec
A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 is filled with some amazing verses, this ranking as my favorite from the bunch. Tyler spazzes on the track, providing one of the most memorable features of his young career. He actually delivers the final verse on the album – that’s just how good it is. Walk, walk, walk.
9) Elzhi – ‘The Healing Process’ – Verse 1. Time: 1 Min 20 Sec
At first it was challenging to pick the best verse from Lead Poison, but this eventually stood out from the rest. It’s a bold performance, complete with bars of wisdom and beautiful life advice. I can’t think of many other rappers that can write a song this well-crafted AND meaningful (let alone spit it). Elzhi is entirely in his own lane. Congrats on the great year.
8) Meechy Darko – ‘Your Favorite Rap Song’ – Verse 3. Time: 2 Min 20 Sec
What a way to conclude a debut album. The Flatbush MC brings the heat for nearly two and a half minutes, maintaining the listener’s attention throughout the verses’ entirety. Meech is one of those artists that I never get tired of hearing. His style is undoubtably unique and refined – madness in every bar.
7) Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Really Doe’ – Verse 4. Time: 1 Min
Beating out Ab-Soul, Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar on a posse cut is no easy feat. Then again, this is Earl Sweatshirt we’re talking about. You don’t get called a gatekeeper of flow by Q-Tip if you’re just anybody. Earl’s voice on this track is focused as ever, and his lines are exquisitely delivered with the right touch of humor. A genius of the genre; I have a feeling his next album will be monstrous.
6) Kendrick Lamar – ‘untitled 05’ – Verse 1. Time: 50 Sec
This isn’t a long verse, nor is it a complex verse. But, its rawness and feeling of despair hit harder than most songs I heard in all of 2016. The picture Kendrick paints is so painfully real that you almost feel like you’re watching a scene in a movie, rather than listening to somebody spit a 16. My heart aches a little every time I hear the briefcase line – profound and powerful.
5) Kendrick Lamar – ‘Wat’s Wrong’ – Verse 2. Time: 1 Min
Who else could have back-to-back verses on a year end list? Only K Dot. This collab from Isaiah Rashad’s debut album The Sun’s Tirade is phenomenal; was Kendrick born in another dimension? I mean c’mon! His flow switches, high-energy and packed punchlines hit you all at once in a dizzying flurry, leaving you begging for more. Although this might be one of Zaywop’s best verses on the album, King Kendrick steals the show. ANYBODY THAT DISAGRESS IS A F*CKIN’ LIAR!
4) Kanye West – ‘No More Parties in L.A.’ – Verse 2. Time: 2 Min 50 Sec
Wow. Kanye West over a Madlib beat. I’ll argue that this stands as one of Ye’s most iconic verses ever. When this dropped back in February, it served many key functions. First, it garnered a huge buzz for his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo. Second, it marked the first official collab between Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West. Third (and most importantly), it proved to the world that Kanye can still drop an incredible, yet lengthy verse that is reminiscent to his styles of the past. Filled with quotables regarding his newborn children, the Kardashians, his public image and even his own therapy sessions, this will certainly be remembered for years to come.
3) Jay Z – ‘Drug Dealers Anonymous’ – Verse 2. Time: 2 Min
When you only drop one guest verse every six months or so, it better be fire. Hova tore this beat up. Put it in a hammerlock and forced it into a submission. Obliterated it with double meanings and witty wordplay. Simply put, this is vintage Jay. It’s braggadocios, oozing with swagger and reminiscent to the Roc-a-Fella days. Every time I listen to it I’m impressed by a different line, and even more amazed by his ability to make it sound effortless. 30 years in and Jay’s skills have aged like a fine Moscato. Legendary.
2) MF DOOM – ‘Avalanche’ – Verse 1. Time: 2 Min 45 Sec
Alright, alright. This was first teased like six years ago so it’s not 100% super duper authentically fresh, BUT it was officially released for the first time this year, so I count it. It would be a disgrace not to. This is nearly three minutes of pure debauchery. DOOM’s references range from Mr. Magoo to Kris Kringle to Bagger Vance, and nobody is safe. The fact that Madlib is on the boards makes the whole thing perfect. A venomous display of viciously violent vernacular. All hail the Super Villain.
And now to number one….
1) André 3000 – ‘Solo (Reprise)’ – Verse 1. Time: 1 Min
Who saw it coming? Anyone? Maybe by process of elimination? Regardless, no one is more deserving of this honor than 3 Stacks. His flow is just stupid on here. There is no other way to describe it. I’ve never heard anything even close to it, and it will never be duplicated. This is one of those special, once in a lifetime verses that is its own moment in hip hop history. People were talking about this verse almost more than the rest of Frank’s album when it came out! And it wasn’t on some run of the mill project! This was right smack dab in the middle of one of the year’s top records! One that had been hyped for over four years! No matter how many times this comes on, it sounds fresh. It’s a must-listen. The timing is sensational as well, as André leaves right at the peak of his verse. That’s it folks. Pack it up, and head home. There was plenty of worthy candidates to chose from in 2016, but the award goes to Mr. 3000. Bow down to the king.
Vince Staples – ‘Timeless’ – Verse 1
Chance the Rapper – ‘Ultralight Beam’ – Verse 2
Kendrick Lamar – ‘Holy Key’ – Verse 2
Jay Electronica – ‘How Great’ – Verse 2
A$AP Ferg – ‘Young Nigga Living’ – Verse 3
J. Cole – ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ – Verse 4
André 3000 – ‘Decemba Remix’ – Verse 2
ScHoolboy Q- ‘THat Part Black Hippy Remix’ – Verse 4
Jadakiss – ‘Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane’ – Verse 2
R.A. the Rugged Man – ‘Industry’s Outcast’ – Verse 1
A$AP Rocky – ‘Be Somebody’ – Verse 1
Zack de la Rocha – ‘Kill Your Masters’ – Verse 3
Lil Wayne – ‘Mad’ – Verse 2
Anderson .Paak – ‘It G Ma Remix (Josh Pan Opus)’ – Verse 4
Danny Brown – ‘Lost’ – Verse 1
Action Bronson – ‘GT Performer’ – Verse 1
Conway – ‘Andre Drummond’ – Verse 1
Denzel Curry – ‘ULT’ – Verse 1
Ab-Soul – ‘Huey Knew THEN’ – Verse 2
Big K.R.I.T. – ‘Might Not Be Ok’ – Verse 1
Joey Bada$$ – ‘Zenith’ – Verse 2
Mac Miller – ‘Until Then’ – Verse 3
Smoke DZA – ‘Nine’ – Verse 1
Gucci Mane – ‘Vibin is This Bih’ – Verse 2
images courtesy of Reebok, Tyler the Creator, Elzhi, Meechy Darko, Earl Sweatshirt, Patrick Ainsworth, Kendrick Lamar, NBC, Isaiah Rashad, Kanye West, Jay Z, Madvillain, Stones Throw & Prince Williams