Hip-hop is bigger in 2016 than ever before. Rappers are the new rockstars. The young Mississippi brothers known as Rae Sremmurd joined forces with the fresh-outta-the-feds Atlanta Trap God and super producer Mike Will Made-It and coined themselves the “Black Beatles.” Their single has been No. 1 in the country for four weeks and it even received homage from one of two living Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney, who surely found the song’s mix of creative boldness and divine pop sensibility to be rather familiar.

Though much of rap lives on the Internet, and some of the genre trends are as fleeting as those on social media (sometimes they’re one in the same), it’s fascinating that the landscape doesn’t seem to be post-regional, as was the presumed result of the digital era. Sounds are borrowed freely and cross-country collabs are rampant, but the game is still defined by the movements coming out of different cities.

First let’s start north of the border, where Drake has built a Toronto sound -- with the help of his powerhouse (and alleged sweatshop) -- and taken it global. As his stardom continues to proliferate, so does the number of his critics he must incessantly ward off. His main competition is the Starboy whom he discovered on Queen St. West.

Sound-wise, the West Coast seems to be aware of its legacy more than any other place. The kid from Compton stood strong with an album of demos taken from the sessions for last year’s AOTY, and his neighbor in Bompton stepped up as a surprise political hero while still going dumb Brazy.

The ATL remained the most fiercely competitive town in the whole scene, as has been the case for the past few years. Future quieted down and his primacy is now threatened by the man in the blue dress. The city has been equally fueled by the newcomers, too, with the sugary stylings of Lil Yachty varying greatly from the chilling murder tales of 21 Savage.

Lastly, positivity seemed to reign supreme in one of America’s most violent cities, in large part due to the colorful expressions of Chance The Rapper, whose name now seems to underplay his far-reaching inspiration and spiritual guidance.

With such a ridiculous amount of good (and bad) music dropping each week, an attempted narrative such as the one above is still way oversimplified. But it’s our job to make sense of it all, and one way to do that is to provide an extensive (but still insufficient) list of all the songs that we felt defined this exciting, sometimes agonizing, and often unpredictable year that will soon come to an end. 

Below are 5 honorable mentions. Then scroll through the galleries to find HNHH’s 50 Hottest Songs of the Year.

Honorable Mention: 

Young Thug feat. Travis Scott, Gucci Mane & Gunna - "Floyd Mayweather"
Skepta - "Man"
Desiigner - "Tiimmy Turner"
Jazz Cartier - "I Know"
dvsn - "Hallucinations" 

- Angus Walker