15. Boston George & Boo Rossini, Drug War: Da Brickstape If there was ever a single-minded tape that executed everything it needed to in a small space, Boston George's talk of trapping with Boo Rossini for the duration of Drug War: Da Brickstape was it.
Nobody is going to put George on a Mount Rushmore of lyricists, but on this throwback to those mid-'00s street tapes of violence and dark singles ("Strip Club"), George and Rossini tossed out more chest-thumping bravado and sneers than ever before. Additions from Rich Homie Quan, Scarface and Yo Gotti only made the package feel wrapped even better.
14. Travis $cott, Owl Pharaoh What a peculiar year for Travi$ Scott. First, he released Owl Pharaoh, which delivered his mostly chaotic production style and ready-made singles ("Upper Echelon," "Drive") to a national audience. Then he influenced plenty of Kanye West's Yeezus album, got an album credit on Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail, and closed it all down by touring Japan.
OP had plenty of bite, elongated synth changes and thundering bass, but $cott's improvement is going to come with his rapping, since the world seems to be immersed in jocking his production style.
13. Express, Higher Learning If we're talking about projects that followed their concept to near-perfection, Express's follow-up to How to Be a Player sufficed. Higher Learning owns its own ecosystem: militarized, outspoken and (just like your time in college) filled with questions and answers about the establishment before you. "Peace" and "Higher Learning," two clashing tracks of guitar, keyed-up angst and promise, are only two of the standouts here.
List continues on the next page.
12. Anti-Lilly, Memoirs and the '90s Want to see a walking misnomer? Find Anti-Lilly anywhere in the city and he'll spout off about Gucci Mane and all variations of the trap and a triple beam. On wax? The afro'd new jack crafted the only jazz-rap tape you need in your collection with Memoirs and the '90s, cutting through a ton of horn samples and fluid production to simply tell his story.
Anti cruised over select tracks like "Blue Dream" and "A Million Stories" as if he were warped straight from Souls of Mischief's '93 Til Infinity set. Nothing aggressive, just lucid and eye-opening.
11. Fat Tony, Smart Ass Black Boy Overweight Anthony broke big with Smart Ass Black Boy, taking his in-the-moment outlook on life and eccentric chemistry with friend Tom Cruz all over the country and right to the front door of publications like Spin and Rolling Stone. "Hood Party" bridged his Texas cleverness with that of a band of smart asses in Kool A.D. and Despot, damn near achieving a gentrification of Cuney Homes in the process.
It didn't leave Tony completely blind to his Nigerian roots or how his father wanted him to get his degree, but all SABB wanted to achieve was that a boy went to New York, fell in love with the city and made a musical baby.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW