Freedom (feat. Asher Roth, Jonathan Chapman + Leon Q. Allen) – RichGains

First off, RichGains is 1/2 of duo Blended Babies, an excellent production duo out of Chicago. He’s still amazing standing solo and proves it with the second single off his upcoming album Gains. The song has hit Hotnewhiphop, Okayplayer and Fakeshoredrive among many others. It has a political theme, but hits on personal emotions too. Asher Roth has been experimenting quiet a bit as of late, so it’s a good look to have him on it. Rich provides a horn + guitar centric backdrop and makes it all work.

Sunburns – Neon Pajamas (w/ Kweku Collins, Iris Temple, Jaro + San Soma)

Neon Pajamas is a legendary curator of all things music centralized in Chicago. He’s been hosting gatherings for months now at super producer Jaro’s studio, and every session has resulted in dope music. Sunburns is a favorite as so many musical elements meld together. There’s string of conscious rapping, deep vocal performances, and a gorgeous instrumental.

Oouuu (Freestyle) – King Louie

Louie has been pretty quiet in 2016, so it was a nice surprise to get a new video and freestyle from one of my favorite “charting” hits of 2016. I assume everyone knows the song Oouuu. I haven’t heard a better freestyle to the U-Dub produced beat. Louie spills on his usual topics, but as usual, sounds damn good.

Dreamland (prod. by Cam O’bi) + Rise (feat. Dhani Sol + Cuzo Sam, prod. by Aced Spade) – Davion

Dreamland and Rise are completely different tracks. The first one has producer Cam O’bi putting our ears into slumber. There is tons of wordplay, metaphors, and completely packed bars. It’s definitely an easy listening cut.

Rise has Davion a bit more focused and relentless in his flow and narrative. He easily speaks on how nothing will get in his way to achieve greatness. Then the switch up hits us around 1:50. Tribal drum patterns bang, then a soothing beat progresses, than stops. Dhani Sol and Cuzo Sam are credited, and although I’m not sure who produced and who provided the chorus, they both did their thing.

On My Own (feat. Logan Cage) + You Ain’t Twin (prod. by Tylor Fakie) – Famou$

Famou$ is grunge rap at it’s best. He has a distinct personality, and never falters from the music he wants to create. 2 songs really impressed this year. The Logan Cage collab is definitely a hit, but its You Ain’t Twin that has me more hyped. The producer, Tylor Fakie, isn’t afraid to damage our ears with his rattling beat. Famou$’ low warbled vocals and minimal lyrics kinda blew my mind. He also hit us with the music video which gave new life to the song.

Trees – Jo$e Santos

I’ll admit it – I didn’t discover Jo$e Santos on my own. He hit my inbox with the video to Trees as a submission. It was so good that, similar to C$, I had to get his thoughts on the song and visual. We titled his dissection interview as “Jo$e Santos gave me the submission of my dreams + I had to give thanks.” Those are pretty much my thoughts on Trees in a condensed line. The cut is only his 3rd release on SoundCloud, and his best to date.

XX – Lukas G (of New Kingz)

Lukas G hasn’t stopped with the content. Whether he’s releasing songs with his group New Kingz (more on that later) or serving us blessings in solo form, he can’t seem to get away from recording. He definitely has a story to tell and he actually told us in our exclusive interview.

He’s hit us with 4 loosies in the last year alone, but XX is him at his most ruthless. On the song he details what’s been going on with him in the last little while, including lost love, pressures to stay true to his sound, and love for music. It’s pretty incredible. He has so much to offer to the Chicago scene, and in all honesty, has already made his mark. Dougy has provided beats for him in the past, and once again stretches his boundaries to produce a menacing backdrop.

Back To The Basics Freestyle + Nobody (both produced by Aced Spade) -Marko Stat$

There is a backstory to Marko Stat$ music but I’ll keep it short. I was introduced to him through a submission of his video to Free. I loved the beat and reached out to the producer Aced Spade. We did a very well received interview shortly after. Then Marko dropped Back To the Basics and I loved it so much that I hosted a sit down with him.

Pushing that aside, Aced and Marko are a dynamic duo when they link up, and these songs are no different. Aced is a fan of big horns and incorporating different instruments which he brings on the freestyle. Marko spits for over 3 minutes, seemingly without taking a breath. The production on Nobody is jazzier and just as welcomed.

I Kno (prod. by Dougy) – New Kingz

We’ve spoken on the genius that is Lukas G, but Ali is another amazing artist who happens to be the second half of New Kingz. The group’s chemistry is easy to see; including frequent collaborator Dougy. NK has given us some loosies this year, but this is their greatest achievement.

You (The Remix) (feat. Supa Bwe) – dinnerwithjohn

Westside artist dinnerwithjohn tore up 2016 with 8 songs that all hit influential blog sites around Chicago (among others cities.) He’s an ambitious guy, having worked with Mfn Melo, Saba, and OnGaud. Another collaborator is Supa Bwe who’s underground status is HUGE. Supa and john are similar in their approach to songs. A lot of off-tune (but great sounding) singing. Many fans really enjoyed his song Sundress Season released in the summer (appropriately) as it has the most plays in the shortest amount of time. With that being said, I find You to have much more appeal.

Television – Mpulse

If you don’t know about Mpulse and you are from Chicago…what are you doing? He’s one of the hardest working rappers out of the city. On his SoundCloud alone he has 5 full length albums and over 50 loosies. This isn’t even counting his highly regarded 52 Week Campaign, which we’ve been covering extensively. For those unaware: he’s dropping one song every week for 52 weeks (equivalent to a full year.) He’s on week 13, and while there were a lot of favorites to choose from, Television is just out of this world. Every song sounds effortless, but Mpulse hits a new level of intensity and conviction on this one. Detroit Red, the beatsmith on the song, found a perfect pocket for Pulse to enter into.

Alot + Have Nots (prod. by YF Beats) – Murph Watkins + Wheatie

If you can believe it, I still remember the moment I heard Murph and Wheatie’s collab Often which impacted in 2014. I played that shit every time I was on the train headed to Columbia College. The vibe was crazy and classic. It also got a visual shortly after which showed them in the studio.

Yes, Alot + Have Nots are not loosies as both are a part of these two’s collaborative EP Goldie + Slim. BUT, they started off as loosies. I can’t gauge when the actual tracks dropped…some might have hit SoundCloud in 2015. But I can’t be caught up in rules. I just want to share good music. Sunnywoodz produced this one, and when it hit SoundCloud I deemed it another classic.

Then Have Nots impacted. I never thought it would happen, but the song ranks higher than Often. The growth is crazy as they’ve learned how to better craft a full song with more meaningful lyrics.

Bussin’ – UG Vavy

UG Vavy is definitely strategic when he drops music. He’s only put out 3 (solo) songs this year, but take a look at the numbers. Each one has gotten over 90K views…two have hit 100K and 200K. It all seems to be working for him. Back when his most recent cut dropped I even commented on how much I needed new music from him.

Bussin’ has Vavy getting his Kanye on production wise, but goes in a completely different direction lyrically and sonically. It’s basically an extended chorus throughout the 3 minute air time, and has quiet a few sexual innuendoes. All good with me.

Straight From The Bottom – Taylor Bennett

This year, Taylor Bennett released his most successful project to date with Broad Shoulders. He kept it going with this loose cut. His voice sounds raspier and more relatable further accentuated by his meditation on success and humble beginnings. We get an abundance of lyrics and rhyme techniques, that give the song a ton of flavor.

Eclipse – Musa Reems

Musa has gotten such great reception for his recent dive into solo work…its pretty crazy to see. He’s had premiers on These Days and Gowherehiphop (and even with us along with an exclusive interview) and has hit every single Chicago hip hop blog that I can think of. Don’t believe me? Type his name into Google.

He has literally only released 2 singles and one 2 track EP. That’s it. Yes, he built some buzz off his work with his group Children of I.L.L.I.O.S., but he could have easily struggled through his individual endeavors. He didn’t. Eclipse is a crazy ass song. The beat is cooing and soulful, and Musa has complete control on the mic. His ad-libs are extremely impressive. I have no problem comparing him to a early J.Cole.

Side note: He is the most humble and kind artist I’ve ever worked with.

New Goddess – Supa Bwe

You can’t go wrong with a Supa Bwe track. Since the breakup with Hurt Everybody he’s found more success and respect as an individual artist than with the group. He can attack any beat. No features are needing as he can provide choruses, adlibs, melodies, and raps. New Goddess is such a strong song, of course self produced. Those drums tho! It’s a very revealing track – an alternative love song of sorts. It’s hauntingly beautiful and one of his best tracks to date.

Find The Beat (prod. by Jeff Rx) – D. Graves

I love that the chorus to this song sounds like some mid 2000’s high pitched alternative shit. I mean that in the best way possible. D. Graves can also rap his ass off and provide every element of a quality song. He’s kinda a trippy guy (check out the cover art to this song.)

He shared his only project of 2016, Trap Raps Vol. 1 before giving us this one. Jeff Rxp produced, mixed and mastered Find The Beat, so let’s give thanks to both of these guys for joining forces and creating something so epic.

The First Time – Donnie Trumpet

If I tried to explain this mix I probably wouldn’t do it justice. Read this article as has a great explanation of it. In summary, The First Time is “a collection of unused Surf pieces + is an ode to the era.” Take that in any way you’d like. When I heard this for the first time I was floored. Donnie Trumpet (now Nico Segal) has undoubtably had a massive year and this is the icing on the cake.

Side note: You can download FOR FREE.

Home Movies + Foundation (prod. by Knox Fortune) – Kami

One of my favorite Chicago groups, Leather Corduroys, has been stalling a bit with the output. Kami, one half of the group (along with Joey Purp) has entered the solo scene and delivered some amazing singles, so all is forgiven. He switched up his entire sound with Home Movies (with an AMAZING video premiered by Pitchfork) and followed it up with Foundation. It hits hard with a seamless stream of rapping full of yelps and incredible (and almost painful) emotion.

His new album will hit in 2017.

5th Night On The Block – Cassius Tae

Premiering Cassius’ No Heart Freestyle was a great experience. He’s been supportive of us since day 1 and it was easy to give it back as he is so talented. Shit’s been popping for him as of late off of a bunch of loosies. 5th Night is a huge highlight and is a perfect nighttime whiskey sipping banger.

No Service (prod. by safeNsound) – L.A. VanGogh

Back in late August we wrote an extensive artist profile on L.A. along with a write up of this song. To make it easier on my fingers, check it out here. When No Service first impacted I played it almost every day so it was inevitable it would make the list. Just a little update: He just dropped a new compilation EP titled friends first which has been making it’s rounds along the blogosphere.