Podcast: Who Won the 2016 Hip Hop Title Belt?

IAD_Podcast_Image

Another year is in the books, and 2016 was filled with a variety of great music. But who stole the show in the world of hip hop? Kiel Hauck and Brock Benefiel discuss the theory of the hip hop title belt and which rapper dominated 2016 the most, including Chance the Rapper, Q-Tip, Kanye West and more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Who do you think won the hip hop title belt in 2016? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Advertisements

Top 10 Songs of 2016

best-songs-of-2016

Check out our Top 10 Albums of 2016 here.

Perhaps more than ever, our top 10 songs of the year ran a gamut of emotions: heartbreak, social outcry, bittersweet, hopeful. In a year as up and down as 2016, it only makes sense. These songs cover an array of subject matter, but each one showcases the brilliance of the artist involved.

It’s always hard to pull 10 songs out of the context of a greater narrative and subjectively place them on a list. Nevertheless, we found ourselves reaching for the repeat button on the regular when these tunes graced our speakers. Take a look (and a listen) below to some of our favorite tracks from 2016.

10. Emarosa – “Helpless”

Smack-dab in the middle of the most smoldering and delicate album of Emarosa’s career lies “Helpless” – a bounding track chock full of energy and pop sensibility. On 131, a broken Bradley Walden fights for a lover with gentle pleas and fragile reflections before boiling over in this moment of heat. “If your body’s broken, love, your heart is helpless” he belts on the track’s chorus, using every inch his heralded range. Emarosa has made a career out of defying expectations and battling against the grain of vanilla song structures, but on “Helpless”, they dive headfirst into the most accessible song of their career – and the payoff is delightful. – Kiel Hauck

9. Honeyblood – “Ready for the Magic”

Although I just discovered Honeyblood within the last month, “Ready for the Magic” is a song that utterly captured my attention and hasn’t let go. It’s a perfect punk rock single – aggressive, loud and hypnotically catchy. For a garage punk song from a two-member act, it has more heart and energy than most bands with a fuller roster. A practice in simplicity, “Ready for the Magic” proves that punk rock doesn’t need to constantly redefine itself to be relevant; it just has to be good. – Kyle Schultz

8. Architects – “Gone with the Wind”

Less than three months after the release of All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, the scene received the terrible news of Tom Searle’s passing. As lead guitarist and songwriter for British metalcore giants Architects, Searle left us with one final masterpiece, which took on a completely new and powerful meaning in light of his three-year battle with cancer. “Gone with the Wind” is a powerhouse of a song, relenting ever so slightly for the brittle lines of, “A sickness with no remedy except the ones inside of me”. Not only is the track a lesson in mechanical metalcore perfection, it’s a heartbreaking gaze inside a terrible one-sided fight. “I remember when you said to me, ‘My friend, hope is a prison’”. – KH

7. Green Day – “Bang Bang”

“Bang Bang” is easily the best single Green Day has put out in over a decade, as well as the most aggressive. The entire song is a tip of the hat to the band’s style at the beginning of their careers. It’s also one of the most controversial in the genre, as it tackles the subject of being a mass shooter. A hybrid of classic punk and 20 years of writing the most aggressive rock known to man, “Bang Bang” managed to silence anyone who has complained about the band’s evolving sound over the last decade while still pushing the band to new extremes. – KS

6. The 1975 – “Somebody Else”

Once you dig past the shiny surface of self-deprecating satire and proverbial winks at the camera, I Like it When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It is truly an album filled with a deep sincerity. Perhaps no track on the album embodies Matt Healy’s candid struggle as well as “Somebody Else” – a syrupy, synth-driven slow jam straight out of the George Michael playbook. Not only does “Somebody Else” solidify The 1975 as the leaders of the pack in an age of throwback pop influence, it covers subject matter with which we’re all painfully familiar. Even so, Healy takes it one step further, digging deep into the bitterness of seeing your lover with another: “Get someone you love / Get someone you need / Fuck that, get money”. – KH

5. Blink-182 – “Los Angeles”

The most experimental song on California, “Los Angeles” is a bridge between Blink-182 and vocalist Matt Skiba’s other love, Alkaline Trio. Meshing the sounds of ska, R&B and alternative punk , “Los Angeles” is a distinct track that begins as an Alkaline song before exploding into one of the most Blink-182 sounding bridges ever written. It’s proof that Blink-182, though making a return to their original sound, are still pushing themselves sonically. The result is one of the most memorable songs of the band’s career. – KS

4. A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People”

Released on the very week of one of the most startling and terrifying presidential elections in memory, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service not only served as the acclaimed return of one of hip hop’s legendary acts, it served as the perfect protest music for the moment. Highlighting the affair is “We the People”, which finds Q-Tip mocking the despicable notion that anyone classified as “other” doesn’t belong, beginning a chorus for the ages with, “All you black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go”. It’s an anthem of dissent in a moment that left so many speechless, while simultaneously serving as a beautiful hello and goodbye to a dynamic duo. R.I.P Phife. – KH

3. Brian Fallon – “A Wonderful Life”

The lead single from his solo album, Painkillers, “A Wonderful Life” is the essential thesis for an album tracing the edges of the American Dream. The song is immediately memorable, linking the distance between Gaslight Anthem’s rock sensibilities and Fallon’s solo acoustic direction. The drum’s never ending march, the uplifting guitar, Fallon’s hopeful lyrics and the gang “Oh oh oh oh” vocals never become tiring. Though Fallon’s past work would never be described as dark or depressing, “A Wonderful Life” makes a distinct mark as a song about dreams and hope while cherishing its own bright sound. – KS

2. Kanye West – “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”

You could easily argue “Ultralight Beam” as the track from The Life of Pablo deserving of this spot on our list. A wave of gospel accompanied by the verse of the year, courtesy of Chance the Rapper, showcases Ye as the elevator of new voices. It’s the album’s following track, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” that displays his more complicated and troubling side. Future’s intro of “If Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you” immediately crashes into Kid Cudi’s opening chorus of “Beautiful morning, you’re the sun in my morning, babe”. The track is the ultimate display of West’s duality, morphing from a tasteless story about meaningless sex with a model into a fast-paced confessional booth just moments later. Before we can react, Kanye has already predestined our response: “Everybody gonna say something / I’d be worried if they said nothing”. – KH

1. Yellowcard – “Rest in Peace”

The last great Yellowcard single, “Rest in Peace” is perfect in construction. A straightforward rock song, the track was released alongside a statement that Yellowcard would be disbanding after the release of their self-titled album. Featuring a music video highlighting their career and inviting fans to see them off with one final tour, “Rest in Peace” will always be a symbol of the band’s love of what they accomplished and their loyal fans. With Sean Mackin’s violin leading the charge, Ryan Key’s sprawling vocals, and a swelling guitar solo, “Rest in Peace” tackles everything that made Yellowcard one of the best bands in rock while marking one of the most memorable send offs in music. – KS

Honorable Mention:

Halsey – “Colours”
Frank Ocean – “Pink + White”
Chance the Rapper – “No Problem”
Letlive. – “Good Mourning, America”
Future featuring The Weeknd – “Low Life”
Blink-182 – “Built This Pool”

Posted by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

a-tribe-called-quest

For fans of A Tribe Called Quest, this is a day that none of us thought would ever come. Five years ago, the brilliantly produced Michael Rapaport documentary, “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”, keyed in on the deep divide between Phife Dawg and Q-Tip – a rift that had effectively kept one of hip hop’s most powerful and influential acts at a stalemate for well over a decade.

Rumors of reconciliation in the years that followed the documentary’s release helped many breathe a sigh of relief and make peace before the tragic news of Phife Dawg’s passing in March of this year. What none of us knew is that the alleged reconciliation had led the duo back into the studio with Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to record an album 18 years in the making. The resulting product is damn near prophetic.

You can buy We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service on iTunes.

You can buy We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service on iTunes.

Released on the same week as the election of one of the most despicable presidential candidates in recent history, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service sounds as if it were written during Wednesday morning’s aftermath. It’s an album that reflects the quintessential sounds that defined hip hop’s golden age, laced with a timeless message that feels explicitly powerful at this moment in time.

“Space Program” sets the tone for the two-part, politically driven affair, cleverly keying in on liberal white America’s threats to flee the country during the song’s chorus, reminding us that many are, quite frankly, stuck here. We Got it From Here immediately hits its stride on “We the People…”, a defiant track that finds Tip and Phife both coming correct on a throwback track with a buzzing bass line. “We don’t believe you, cuz we the people / Are still here in the rear, ayo, we don’t need you”, Q-Tip spits to open the track. Later, his words on the song’s chorus hang painfully poignant:

“All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go”

Track after track, Tribe pounds a resounding gong against injustices faced by black America, enlisting help from a variety of fellow truth-speakers. Talib Kweli joins in on “Killing Season”, juxtaposing military slaughter with continued police brutality cases and the murder of black leaders: “It’s war and we fighting for inches and millimeters/ They try to stall the progress by killing off all the leaders/ If we don’t give them martyrs no more, they can’t defeat us”.

In addition to Kweli, We Got it From Here features some of hip hop’s finest, both past and present. Appearances include Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Consequence, Busta Rhymes, André 3000, Anderson Paak, and even contributions from Elton John and Jack White. For as much as the album is a collective rallying cry, it’s impossible to ignore the record’s dual purpose as a celebration of Phife Dawg.

On “Lost Somebody”, Q-Tip and Jarobi share heartfelt lyrics, reflecting on past trials but ultimately confessing their brotherly love to Phife. Q-Tip spits, “Malik, I would treat you like little brother that would give you fits / Sometimes overbearing though I thought it was for your benefit” with Jarobi later dropping the line, “Never thought that I would be ever writing this song / Hold friends tight, never know when those people are gone”.

In the months leading up to his passing, it’s clear that Phife Dawg had little time for sentimentality. Most of his verses are laser-focused on the task at hand, taking aim at everything from Donald Trump to the media outlets that made room for such a political figure. Yet, ever the showman, Phife still finds opportunities to flash his signature bravado, as on “Black Spasmodic”: “I take zero for granted, I honors my gift / Champion pen game, plus I’m freestyle equipped”.

We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service truly feels like a gift. The fingerprints of all four members are clearly felt and each moment of the album is handled with care. Samples are expertly placed by Tip, creating the relaxed vibe of past Tribe albums with the ability to blast through the speakers when necessary to compliment a particular bar or verse. The album is, in some ways, a farewell, yet feels nothing like it. We Got it From Here is purposeful and focused from front to back.

I’ll freely admit my struggle to stay objective with this release. A Tribe Called Quest was my first true musical love – a group I discovered in middle school that would go on to shape my tastes and serve as a touchstone for my youth and the dawning of my own personal worldviews and perspectives. Along with many others, I also find myself disgusted by the outcome of the recent presidential election, aghast at the amount of hate that plagues our country.

For these, and so many more reasons, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service will land as one of my favorite releases of the year. For fans of hip hop, it’s an album that embodies the heart of the genre. These are protest songs. Yet even in the midst of frustration and righteous anger, hope still bleeds through.

R.I.P. Phife Dawg – you’ll be missed.

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.