KayFabe and Hip-Hop

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In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true”, specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature of any kind. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Doesn’t that sound like something that is enjoyed by billions throughout the globe? Yes my friends, I am talking about The Sports Entertainment world known as Hip-Hop. While the culture and essence of Hip-Hop is still very much intact, The advent of “beef for profit’ has been something that  many of the labels have sought after since the first Hip-Hop record was sold.

When Hip-Hop was in its infancy in the late 70’s and Early 80’s, the life blood of the art form was based widely on competition and crew rivalries(Factions). During that time battles took place within the boroughs to see who could lay claim to the proverbial throne. As Hip-Hop fought for acceptance and viability, it wouldn’t be long before labels came calling, seeking to cash in on what would later on become known as manufactured beef.

Much like Wrestling, Hip-Hop is littered with “BabyFaces” and “Heels”.  As early as the 80’s you had your “Face Rappers” like Will Smith and Young MC while “Heel Rappers” could be seen as Ice T and NWA. While the face rappers were radio friendly and safe for mainstream ears, It was the heel rappers that gave Rap its edge and street cred during that time. It was cool to root for NWO and DX…oops I meant NWA and Public Enemy.

On the T.I. track “Tell’em I Said That” he rapped:

Please pay attention to this part of the bull
One time got robbed got shot got shook
Got a job started rhymin’ came up with a hook
Got a chain and some tats came up with a look
Went and made it here
Workin’ talk tough in a book
F*** the image and perception they never tough as they look

This quote from the album “T.I. vs. T.I.P” succinctly describes the current era of  Hip-Hop. The “Image” is what the label heads are trying to sell the consumer on a daily basis as it churns out act after act. In true Kayfabe fashion, many of the artists don’t bother to separate fiction from reality instead they straddle the line. “Am I really this mega rich, doped up superstar?, Or am I just a actor?” Now some may view this as pure conjecture but to the impressionable, try telling them that wrestling…err..um..Rap is fake.

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When the Drake and Meek beef took place, both artists positioned and postured themselves with a story line that seemed like it was ripped straight from the WWE writer room. While Drake used the Titantron…Shucks I meant the OVOFest screen to get at Meek, Meek cut instagram promos like a true mid carder trying to get over and make it to the main roster. Was it good clean fun for those few days that it occurred, sure but how many of us really believed that any kind of real harm would come to either one of them during this spat.

 

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The Lil Wayne and Birdman situation is something I would liken to the “Montreal Screw Job”. Vince McMahon has been billed as a true heel in the industry and the way he treats his artists….I’m sorry I mean wrestlers… is something that is akin to Birdman. Weezy to me is The Brett Hart of the Rap game and was forced to put other rappers over while his own product suffered.

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2017 gave us another WWE like feud…and it even included microphones being tossed on the floor! Again it was mindless fun like an episode of  Raw or Smackdown but for some reason many of us thought there was a legitimate threat of  a real altercation. No Such luck, just more comedic fodder to create memes and music.

In Ending, there is much to love about about both mediums. Both have their merits and adversely both are not without flaw. The gangsters are hyper gangsters while the more gentle rappers are damn near priests on the mic. As the veil of mystery and secrecy has all but dissolved between artist and consumer, it seems to me that the Rap Kayfabe machine has gone into overdrive. We create hashtags out of catchphrases, we walk around in our favorite wrestlers (there I go again) rappers merch, and throw up their gang signs in our pictures. To be clear there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a good time connecting with our favorite artist but we must always remember to take a step back and see it for what it truly is…..Music Entertainment.

 

 

 

The 18 For 2018: The Antcipated

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2018 is looking like it’s shaping up to be another one for the record books. 2017 was an awesome year musically, but it felt like something was missing. I can’t fully place my finger on it but when compared to years like 2015 or 2012, there was a significant dip. 2018 to me feels like there will be much more of a balance and we’ll get stellar releases from Vets and Rookies alike…Below are 18 of the drops I’m looking forward to. Here’s to a most fire 2018!!!

 

1. Nipsey Hussle-Victory Lap

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Finalllllly!…..Nipsey is dropping arguably his most anticipated album of his career. I say arguably because this is literally HIS FIRST ALBUM of his career. Although he has given us a slew of stellar mixtapes and projects…This looks like it will shape up to be a most fitting end to the marathon.

 

2. Lupe Fiasco- DROGAS Wave

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2017’s Drogas Light  yielded mixed reviews from the supremely talented lyricist.  Admittedly he said that the release was purposefully “light” and that the follow up would be a lot more dense and would be what Lupe stalwarts have grown accustomed to. Either way you look at, I viewed Drogas Light as the warm-up and I’m expecting Drogas Wave to exceed expectations…Possible album of the year.

 

3.  Maxo Kream- Punken

 

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If  I was Dr. Jeykll, Maxo Kream would without a doubt be Mr. Hyde. I have often referred to him as my Rap Doppelganger.  Since 2013’s QuiccStrikes I’ve been down with the Kream Klicc so to speak and each release has gotten better.  Expect this album to rattle trunks sooner than later.

 

4. Black Panther: The Album 

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Marvel’s Black Panther has already been forecast as 2018’s First Blockbuster, making well over $100 Million dollars opening weekend. In Recent news, Kendrick Lamar and TDE have been pegged to curate/helm the soundtrack. Based on the sound of the first single “All The Stars” Black Panther will be a moment…An Epic Moment…I  Cannot Wait!

 

 

5. PRHYME- PRHYME 2

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DJ Premier and Royce Da 5’9 are PRHYME. When their eponymous debut came out in 2014, It literally took the year by storm and it was highly ranked in many year end lists. Its been a long 4 years since then so hopefully we’ll get this project sooner than later.

 

6. Travis Scott-Astroworld

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I am here for anything La Flame decides to give…Even the Huncho Jack offering with Quavo has grown on me. So with that being said…Astroworld is the place where The Birds in the trap sing McKnight.

 

7. Drake-TBD

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On Drake’s Playlist “More Life” he said “he’d be back in 2018 to give us the summary”.  Welp, who knows how far into 2018 we will get until we get a proper Drake album…Here’s hoping he comes back with and drops a classic.

 

8.  Judas Priest- Firepower

 

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I must admit I cackled when I saw this purposed cover art for the the forthcoming Judas Priest album…It does give me that feel of 80’s hair metal and that’s something I’m definitely here for. Don’t be surprised if you see me around town in full air guitar mode. It’s bound to happen so you’ve been warned.

 

9. BrockHampton- Team Effort

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After their breakout monster year, Hip-Hop’s first(?) boy band BrockHampton will drop their 4th album in a years time. Team Effort will look to further solidify the group as a true force in Music and satiate their ever growing rabid fan base.

 

10.  Jack White-Boarding House Reach

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Whew its been Four years since Jack White released Lazoretto…but I’m proud to say that the wait is now over. I’m honestly not sure what to expect from this upcoming album so that by itself has me intrigued.

 

11. Elzhi/Khrysis- Jericho Jackson

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2018 will also see the continuing trend of One MC/One Producer led projects. Khrysis who is fresh off his Grammy Nods for his work on Laila’s Wisdom will jump back behind the boards to give underrated wordsmith Elzhi some top notch beats to lace time and time again…Another early contender for Album of the Year.

 

12. Gucci Mane- Evil Genius

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There is no slowing down for La Flare. Fresh off of a normal year which saw 3 releases, Gucci Mane has already announced another album for 2018. I know I’m speaking for myself but I really enjoyed El Gato and I would not mind getting another offering from Guwop without any features.

 

13.  Kid Cudi-TBD

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Hey!, Mr. Raaager, Mr.Rager
Tell me where you’re going, tell us where you’re headed”

The rumor mills are churning with speculation that Kid Cudi and Kanye West are working on a album together. I don’t know about you but an entire project with Cudder and Kanye is going to be a must listen whenever it drops.

 

14. Lil Wayne-Dedication 6: Reloaded

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Dedication 6 showed flashes of the brilliance that still exist within Wayne and still gives me hope that his title of Greatest Rapper Alive remains. “Family Feud”  only further bolstered that notion for me and only brought up my anticipation factor to astronomical levels. If I get at least 10 “freestyles” like Family Feud, I’ll be more than comfortable saying Weezy is back.

 

15.  Cardi B-TBD

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2017 brought Cardi B her first number one song in the country. That momentum should carry her into 2018 with her Debut album that will probably drop late in the first quarter. I’m excited hear the growth and the content to see if she will be a mainstay in the mainstream for years to come.

 

16.  Key!-777DS5Rrv6VMAAbkjI

 

Fatman is back with some new material on the horizon. 2017 saw the release of  Two-9’s album along with frequent collaborations with the A$AP affiliate “AWGE”. It’s great to see Key! get much deserved shine and as of yet, He has not dropped one bad song.

 

17.  A$AP Rocky-TBD

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A$AP Rocky is primed and ready for another solo release.  Its been 3 years since his last solo outing and while it may be have been deemed too artistic for some. It was still lauded as a brilliant addition to his catalog. Look for something epic to drop soon.

 

18. Pusha T- King Push

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This is one of my main question marks for 2018. Along with Tha Carter V, King Push is the now long awaited 2nd LP from Pusha T. If this year comes and goes without this album dropping…I will officially cast it away to DetoxLand…Never to be spoke of again.

 

RapNerdLeeb’s-Top 25 of 2016

The Year 2016 was a year that will undoubtedly go down as one of the most trying times in recent human history. Social unrest and complete upheaval were the norm for the past 365 and a unusually high number of celebrity deaths accented a year that was full of personal lows for many people, myself included. The  music that came out in 2016 offered a mixed range of emotions. While some gave off jubilant vibes, others took on a more somber, darker tone and it created a unique listening experience. Without further delay, here are the Top 25 Albums of 2016.

 

25.   Anonymuz- Vice City

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This project was the first time I had ever heard of Anonymuz but I was pleasantly surprised. His unrelenting flow and lyrical ability coupled with superb production made this a very enjoyable listen and I implore you all to give “Vice City” a spin.

24.  Drake-Views

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2016 saw Drake catapult into the “Hip-Pop” stratosphere  with is most commercially successful album to date. I do find it a bit ironic that this has to be my least favorite of his projects, but hey 4 million+ love this album so what do I really know right?

23.  Gucci Mane- The Return of the East Atlanta Santa

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2016 also saw the return of Radric Davis otherwise known as Gucci Mane or The East Atlanta Santa. When he was released from prison he hit the ground running and dropped three separate albums with this being my favorite of the three…Here’s hoping that Guwop stays with this trend of improving with the music so we can get the ultimate Gucci album that we’ve all been waiting for.

22. Kanye West- The Life of Pablo

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Kanye is a genius for better or worse. He’s also one of the most polarizing figures in the culture. Although this album was an improvement over “Yeezus” ,it’s still hit or miss with a lot of people…I for one will continue to support and I hope he’ll find his way back to the music soon.

21.  The Lox- Filthy America….It’s Beautiful

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After years of waiting, Hip-Hop heads were finally treated to a proper Lox album. To say it was worth the wait might be a bit of an overstatement as many expectations were not met. But the album served its purpose as it held down long time fans of the group and introduced younger fans to a trio that stood the test of time.

21. Bj the Chicago Kid- In My Mind

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Bj is a very talented singer and songwriter. I was more than pleased listening to this album as he displayed all of his talents and brought them to the forefront.  This project is a slow burn but will age very well if you give it a chance.

20. Rapsody- CROWN

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Rapsody took absolutely no prisoners on this EP. Every song was lyrical and thought-provoking. To me this was a declarative statement that if ANY rapper, man or woman wants the proverbial “crown” they are going to have to run it by her first.

19.  James Blake- The Colour In Anything

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Every one that I ran this album by..left me scratching their heads…I know it’s not for everybody but this is poetry. The melodies, the lyrics, the vocal inflections, all make for a very enjoyable listen if you’re into the more nuanced side of R&B .

18.  De La Soul- and the Anonymous Nobody

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De La Soul are underground heroes…I say that because they have consistently dropped stellar material for years and have managed to remain relevant organically…and this album is a testament to their endurance.

17. Elzhi- Lead Poison

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Elzhi has to be one of the most underrated  lyricist in Hip-Hop today. The way he crafts his bars and uses them to create sonic masterpieces is truly remarkable..And I haven’t heard it done quite like him. Go listen to this album NOW!

16. Common Black America Again

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Black America Again saw a return to form for the “Conscious MC” known as Common. I personally favored “Nobody’s Smiling” and its grim/bleak tone but this album felt like the rainbow after the storm. And that is where it’s brilliance lies.

15. Beyonce- LEMONADE

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Truth be told, Lemonade made me a Beyonce fan. This project could have been easily a series of Top 40 anthems and no one would have been mad because she is a brilliant entertainer. I feel that she made a conscious effort to go against the grain and make music that resonated with all women of color.

14.  Kid Cudi- Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’

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Kid Cudi was at a crossroads in his career. With the less than favorable reviews of his previous effort “Speeding Bullet to Heaven”, Cudi realized that his core was alienated and he had to return to a sound and feeling that was more familiar. He achieved that with this record, a sound scape that can only be described as a kaleidoscope of emotions. I love it.

13.  Isaiah Rashad-The Sun’s Tirade

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Isaiah Rashad continued the trend of stellar releases under the T.D.E. umbrella with The Sun’s Tirade. Not relying on the star power of the label’s “stars” Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q, Rashad was able to carve out his individual sound and simultaneously gained traction among the Top Dawg faithful that were solely fans of the other artists on the roster.

12.  Pete Rock & Smoke Dza-Don’t Smoke Rock

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Pete Rock is without question on the short list for greatest producers of all time. Once he decided to team up with underground stalwart Smoke Dza, the response was universally positive. The pairing is surprisingly organic and it gave me some of Smoke Dza’s strongest lyrical performances to date.

11.  J Dilla- The Diary

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Everyone that knows me knows J Dilla is the G.O.A.T. The steady output of posthumous releases in the 10+ years since his death only solidifies his status as the greatest producer to ever live.

10. Chance The Rapper- Coloring Book

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If 2013’s “Acid Rap” was a benchmark for the new generation, then 2016’s “Coloring Book” was the preface of whats to come in the future. Although there  was a slight departure in actual “raps” he more than made up for it with songs that resonated deeply within the culture.

9. Travis Scott- Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

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Travis Scott was quoted as saying “I wanted to get straight to the point with this album”. Did he ever…Every track blended together seamlessly  and this ended up being his most complete project thus far.

 

8.  Ab-Soul- Do What Thou Wilt

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Soul Brother No. 2 returned to the fray with a bold statement to make. That he is a lyrical tyrant that’s not to be messed with. As a wordsmith he’s easily top 10 in the game period. You can tell he actually listened to his fans  and gave them what they wanted, which was supreme lyricism.

7. Maxo Kream- The Persona Tape

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Maxo Kream is a talented MC. Even with his content being less than desirable to the purist out there,  they would be hard pressed to say that he is not a force to be reckoned with. His rapid fire flow and the unrepentant lyrics heard on this album prove that there is such a thing as lyrical “Trap Music” and he’s probably best out at the current moment.

6.  Anderson .Paak- Malibu

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I’ll admit I was late to the Anderson .Paak train as I only just started hearing him on Dr. Dre and Game’s previous projects. Once I got hip and delved into his solo work, what I discovered was a talent that is so raw but yet so progressive that it would be hard to not feel his music on a subconscious level..This album is THAT good.

5. Solange- A Seat at the Table

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Every Solange project has been something special. The perfect blend of love, power, grace, and just all around magic. So it serves as no surprise that ” A Seat at the Table” would be a culmination of all her trials and triumphs. This is literally  2016’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the world is better for it.

4. Childish Gambino- Awaken My Love!

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Childish Gambino came from left field with this album, but I mean that in the  best way possible. I totally wasn’t expecting this record to be pure funk and soul influenced. Every track oozed with so much saccharin nastiness that you might get an ear infection if you’re not careful. Gambino made George Clinton proud.

3. Game-1992

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I’ve been a long time Game fan so I always knew that at his most focused, Game is Top 5 in the current era of Hip-Hop. People spent a lot of time  lamenting over his constant Name-dropping and his chameleon like abilities to rap like whoever was featured on his records. Game put an end to the nonsense and gave his fans and detractors 12 tracks of pure lyrical mayhem with NO features..1992 is hands down my favorite Game album in his entire catalog.

2.  ScHoolboy Q- Blank Face LP

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1. A Tribe Called Quest- We Got From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

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A Tribe Called Quest has a very special place in my heart. Growing up listening to the entire Native Tongue collective taught me individuality. Walking around my house with my hand over my eye mimicking Dave from De La Soul on the “Award Tour” song. Telling my  mom I wanted to be a “Dungeon Dragon”  for Halloween. Getting into trouble playing on the roof wearing a Seton Hall Jersey. Being so hype to watch The Wayan’s Bros. opening sequence in the later seasons just to hear the chords of “Electric Relaxation”.  Losing Phife Dawg this year definitely hurt because for me, Tribe music was the soundtrack of my formative years. Even in early adulthood, hearing the music they created with J Dilla was something that I will cherish forever. This current album was a fitting tribute to brotherhood and overall harmony. It’s bittersweet because in the end, Phife passed on giving us his heart and soul and leaving it all in the booth. Phife…you’re a legend, I want to thank you, Q-tip, Ali Shaheed, Jairobi and everyone who contributed to the sound and shaped my childhood and the childhood of millions of others the world over…..Album Of The Year.

RapNerd Leeb 2016-The Playlist

Welcome to RapNerdLeeb.Com!  To all the new followers thank you for your time and willingness to explore my perspective and to ALL my folks that have been rocking with me since Day One…Thank You for your unwavering support on this arduous journey…This is the end of the beginning…….

Without Further Ado…I bring to you My personal playlist of 2016…these are the songs that kept me going for the past 365 and I’m sure I’ll carry them into 2017…Get prepared to press play!.

1.  Common-Pyramids 

With Common dropping his much anticipated follow-up to  2014’s  “Nobody’s Smiling”, 2016’s “Black America Again”  was a welcomed return to form for the Chicago MC…This track showcases Common at his lyrical apex and proves that he’s as cold as ever.

2.   6lack-Rules 

Now I’ll be the first to admit I was put on to his man’s music earlier in the year with his single “PRBLMS”. I found that single to be catchy and moody and I eagerly anticipated the release of a full length project. Once “Free 6lack” was released in November… I was able to stumble upon this gem of  a song. Don’t sleep ya’ll this is this years Bryson Tiller.

3.  ScHoolboy Q-Tookie Knows II

Now what would my playlist be without some T x D x E Representation!?  2016 saw the return of ScHoolboy Q. Every single and subsequent visual to this masterpiece of an album was truly a work of art. I don’t want to flood the playlist with all his music so just take this entry on my list as a sample size of what his album had to offer.

4. Anderson .Paak- The Season/Carry Me/ The Waters

Bruhhhhh….I don’t have enough superlatives to describe how great “Malibu” is. For lack of better terms I’ll just say that this album pure fire! If you haven’t heard it yet…PLEASE do yourself a favor and go handle that…Thank Me Later.

5.  Pusha T Ft. JAY Z- Drugs Dealers’s Anonymous

Even though Push did the pump fake with his is anticipated “King Push” LP he still managed to bless us with a summer time BANGER…ANDDD he even enlisted the help of The God MC H-O-V….Who arguably dropped the best verse of the year. This song is ridiculous.

6. Drake- Child’s Play

“Views” is Drake most commercially successfu albuml of his career and for good reason…His formula and his ability to craft songs that cater to every genre with ease. Although Views is not my personal favorite when it comes to Drake albums, I have to give credit where its due. Here’s hoping his next album he’ll get back to bars or somewhat close to them.

7.  Meek Mill-Pray  For Em

In the year following one of 2015’s most epic  “beefs”  Many of the Meek Mill faithful wondered would he be able to recover  from the  “World’s Tour, Girl’s Tour” fiasco…Short answer…He did…Not as hard as I would have liked him to..But his lane is solidified after being battled tested.

8.  Bj The Chicago Kid- Love Inside

Bj is one of my personal favorites. His music resonates with me deeply and above that…its just damn good…Another slow groove banger for you to get right with your significant other. Trust Me.

9. French Montana  ft. Kodak Black- Lockjaw

Man I really wish French was able to have proper roll out for MC4…his singles for the project are monstrous and definitely would have had a successful run on the charts. This single is proof of that. Even the casual hip-hop listeners enjoy this song…. And Even with such a polarizing young rapper Kodak Black having such a prominent feature.

10. Beyonce-Sorry

ALL.HAIL.QUEEN.BEY!  “Lemonade” is arguably Album of the year and for very good reason…this album is amazing..Track for track  pure awesomeness..I even tolerated the country song…AND I HATEEE COUNTRY with a passion. But if anyone could make me listen and appreciate that genre, it would be Beyonce.

11. Childish Gambino- Me and Your Mama

Donald Glover you are indeed a wizard sir. This song much like the album is Pure..Unadulterated..Cosmic Funk! My goodness this will be in heavy rotation for much of my 2017 and I’m sure for years to come.

12.  Drama Duo Ft. Via Rosa-Hopes Up

If this song doesn’t get you moving and shaking, snapping and trapping, spitting  and skitting in your cubicle or while you’re commuting to and from work..Frankly you have no soul and I do not wish to ever come in contact with you a day in my life. Period

13.   Isaiah Rashad-Park

Another TDE entry on my playlist is Isaiah Rashad..and underrated and often-times slept on MC in the camp..He delivered a well-crafted, well executed follow-up to his criminally slept on “Cilvia Demo Ep”…You guys have no more excuses..his music is legit, consider yourself formally reintroduced…

14. Gucci Mane-First Day Out The Feds

G-U-C-C-I  M-A-N-E ..Guwop, The East Atlanta Santa, The OddFather, The BurrPrint, Mr. Zone 6…Hit the ground running since being released from prison and hasn’t looked back since. Now he has much better songs than this but considering this is the first song  he dropped since coming home, this was a great launching pad.

15. Nipsey Hussle-Stressed Out

Even though Im STILL waiting for the Victory Lap to drop…I used Nipsey’s “Slauson Boy” Mixtape to tide me over until that day happens. This song was one of my standout tracks on the tape and it rides to this day.

16. Kid Cudi-Surfin

After the year that was 2016…Probably the most challenging of  my adult life thus far, This song served as my personal anthem and as a beacon of hope and I’m sure it did the same for millions of listeners throughout the world..The positive vibes that flow from this record are undeniable and serve as a testament to true creative power.

17.  Solange- Cranes In The Sky

A Seat at the Table is an important album. Critical and commercial acclaim aside, this album is beaming with songs of reality and and triumph. Everything about it is stellar. The clean, melodic grooves and the overall flow of the record make for a groundbreaking listen and deserves to be mentioned alongside albums like “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and “Acoustic Soul” by India Arie…This album is true artistry.

18. The Game-What Your Life Like

I’m not ashamed to say that I am a Game fan. Dude is arguably one the best lyricist on the west coast and probraly in the entire rap game..when hes not drowning his albums with features and just going for dolo with the bars and rapping like himself…He’s in the top 10 of current MCs…Easily

19. Travis Scott ft. Young Thug- Yeah Yeah

If I was counting unfinished songs as real complete ideas…then this would more than likely  be a top 5 song of the year…But I AM counting unfinished songs so therefore..This track rides without a doubt.

20. Kendrick Lamar-Untitled 07 (Levitate)

I’m not sure where this would have fit on To Pimp A Butterfly but since it was included on “Untitled.Unmastered” it was an absolute standout track with tons of replay value..I love this song.

…..And  there you have it good folks of the internet, RapNerd Leeb’s Playlist of 2016! Hope you all enjoyed reading and possibly heard some gems that resonate with you.. Peace til next time…….