2016 for hip-hop had a lot of ups and downs. In the last 12 months, we’ve lost Phife Dawg, Shawty Lo and Bankroll Fresh too soon. The issue of hip-hop’s hesitation to discuss mental health broke new ground from Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s willingness to be open about their issues in public. Phenomena that were once trends became the new norm—whether you’re a fan of mumble rap or lyrics, there was an artist and project for you.
One of the high notes of 2016 was that a lot of our favorites dropped new music. Just in December alone, J. Cole, Childish Gambino, Run the Jewels, Post Malone and The Lox came out with an album. This is on top of releases from Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Gucci Mane and others notable acts this year.
But outside of the music itself, the culture birthed some of the most sharable internet moments that exploded on social media. As we approach the start of 2017, here are the 10 biggest viral hip-hop moments from this year:
Amber Rose Claps Back in Kanye West/Wiz Khalifa Twitter Feud
2016’s cycle of rap beefs started in epic fashion when Kanye West announced that he would be changing his album title from SWISH to Waves in January. Wiz Khalifa reacted on Twitter that Kanye was ripping off incarcerated Harlem rapper Max B, who was one of the originators that popularized “wavy” and campaigned for the entire movement.
Shortly after, ‘Ye responded in a salacious rant attacking Wiz, calling out his “cool pants”, saying he stole his whole style from Kid Cudi and mentioning his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose.
Kanye’s comments about Wiz “letting a stripper trap him” and coming for his son Sebastian was the tipping point for Amber. She had absolutely no chill and went all in, pointing out the fact that ‘Ye fancied some ass play. “Awww @Kanyewest are u mad I’m not around to play in ur asshole anymore? #FingersInTheBootyAssBitch.”
Muva had her revenge with that insult and the internet was on fire again, poking (sorry) fun at ‘Ye’s sexual preferences.
Later, Kanye clarified on Twitter that he wasn’t down with that. But shouts to Amber for creating one of the best hashtags of Twitter history.
Birdman Wants Respek on His Name
Birdman, Cash Money’s CEO and surrogate father of Lil Wayne, earned his legendary status as one-half of the platinum-selling duo Big Tymers and mentoring hip-hop’s biggest stars, Drake and Nicki Minaj.
Though those are a few accomplishments, it goes without saying that Stunna should get the respect he deserves. And he made sure to check notable industry personalities DJ Envy, Charlamagne Tha God and Angela Yee to “stop playing with my name” during a short appearance on The Breakfast Club.
More specifically, Birdman wanted them “to put some respek on his name” or the situation could get critical. The delivery and mispronunciation of respect was instant meme gold. Others like “all tree of y’all” and “are y’all finished or y’all done?” flooded timelines.
But the best part about this was Birdman saw this as a branded opportunity, putting out a full song and releasing a collection of sweaters and T-shirts. Still the No. 1 Stunna.
Rachel Roy Gets Demolished by the BeyHive for Possibly Admitting She Was Beyoncé’s “Becky”
When Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade dropped, listeners immediately questioned a few songs that delve into themes of infidelity. With divorce and cheating rumors between Beyoncé and Jay Z in abundance, the album was confirmation that things weren’t so peachy. Their relationship was put in the spotlight again when Bey sang on “Sorry”: “He only want me when I’m not there/He better call Becky with the good hair.” Obviously, all of us needed to know who Becky was.
The BeyHive pegged a few famous women such as Rita Ora, Taylor Swift and Rachel Roy, who is the ex-wife of Dame Dash. (Remember, Dash and Jay Z were once business partners when they worked at Roc-A-Fella Records.) As for Roy, well, her name was previously brought up as the cause of the elevator incident at the Met Gala between Jay Z, Beyoncé and Solange. The connection of Roy as Hov’s side chick was pretty plausible.
A few hours after Lemonade’s release, Roy posted a now-deleted Instagram with the caption that read: “Good hair don’t care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths, always. Live in the light. #nodramaqueens.” Due to online harassment, she set her Instagram to private and addressed the lyric in a deleted tweet. “I respect love, marriages, families and strength. What shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, no matter what, is bullying, of any kind.”
Lesson learned: Don’t mess with the BeyHive.
Drake’s VIEWS Cover Sparks a Ton of Parodies
Drake’s love for Toronto was on full display when his album cover for VIEWS featured him perched on the highest point of the CN Tower. The authentic image, shot by by photographer Caitlin Cronenberg with the art direction done by Nicky Orenstein, immediately got mixed reviews by Drizzy fans.
Once Drake shared the artwork, it didn’t take long for the internet to place a tiny 6 God in all kinds of unexpected situations along with a Parental Advisory sticker. There was even a website that generated your very own VIEWS cover, allowing fans to get creative if you lacked the Photoshop skills.
Desiigner’s “Timmy Timmy Turner” XXL Freestyle
Riding high off the explosion of “Panda” and signing to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Desiigner had all his fans anticipating what his next song would be or sound like. As one of the 10 selected to be on XXL’s 2016 Freshman Class, the Brooklyn rapper kicked an XXL freestyle the internet dubbed “Timmy Timmy Turner” that was a departure from the menacing vibe of “Panda.”
From his finger snaps to his deadpan delivery, the 45-second clip had everyone recreating his video to the point that Desiigner had go in the studio and drop a full song. Produced by Mike Dean, “Timmy Turner” landed on his New English project and later remixed by Kanye West. Who knew Timmy Turner wishing for a burner would get so popular?
Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s Friendship Ends (Again) With #KimExposedTaylorParty
Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s relationship has been shaky since the infamous VMAs incident in 2009. In the past seven years, Kanye apologized, Taylor joked about it when she gifted her friend Ed Sheeran with some jam, and their friendship smoothed over when Taylor presented the Video Vanguard Award to ‘Ye at the 2015 VMAs. Expensive flower arrangements and private dinners aside, everyone assumed ‘Ye and Taylor were BFFs. However, it didn’t exactly last long.
After Kanye debuted The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden in February, he also premiered “Famous.” The track contained some questionable lyrics about Taylor: “For all my Southside niggas that know me best/I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous, I made that bitch famous.”
Kanye defended the lyric on Twitter saying he got Taylor’s blessing, but the singer wasn’t so sure about that. When his wife Kim stepped in and said there’s video proof of Kanye specifically calling Taylor for her consent, the gloves were officially off.
It reached a boiling point when Kanye shared the video for “Famous,” which depicted Kanye and Kim naked in the center of a bed surrounded by other celebrity wax figurines, including Taylor. Taylor never addressed the video, but the backlash was so overwhelming that Kim unleashed a video on Snapchat showing that Kanye and Taylor indeed had a conversation about “Famous.”
Though it didn’t take very long for Taylor to respond on Twitter and Instagram, the #KimExposedTaylorParty nearly broke the internet that day.
Fans Won’t Let Us Forget That J. Cole Went Platinum with No Features
J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive officially went album in September of last year, according to Billboard. Released in December 2014, it took less than a year for Cole to finally earn his first million-selling LP, and his fans celebrated by creating the best meme of 2016.
Cole is known to divide rap fans straight down the middle. This achievement was like added ammunition for his supporters—a gloat so good that the joke took a life of its own with random and hilarious parodies.
If you were still doubting Cole’s fanbase, it was announced the album went double platinum with no features. It was just another reminder that Cole is the most beloved rapper right now.
Yung Joc Gets Dragged for his New Hairdo
You ever wanted to reinvent yourself but sometimes are afraid to take the risks? Yung Joc clearly had all the confidence in the world when a photo surfaced of him rocking a new hairdo. And Twitter had no qualms about roasting him for it.
The Atlanta rapper says the new look was for a role in the upcoming film, The Products of the American Ghetto, but Twitter didn’t care. There were countless memes of Joc’s newly pressed hair that even he had to get in on it, too. In a radio interview with V-103 Atlanta, he admitted that he wanted to do some quality control on the roast sessions. Because Joc was the one getting burned, he knew exactly what memes would go viral. If you can’t beat ‘em, join them, right?
Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” Becomes the Soundtrack for the #MannequinChallenge
Every year it seems like there’s a new challenge to participate in. The Ice Bucket Challenge and the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge are so two years ago; now it’s the Mannequin Challenge. And we have to thank Rae Sremmurd for providing the unofficial soundtrack with “Black Beatles.”
Just like the name implies, the Mannequin Challenge consists of a group of people coordinating a freeze in dramatic positions while someone records it on their phone. The origins are somewhat muddled—a group of high schoolers say they started it in late October while 2 Chainz claims his “Countin” video helped in its popularity. Since then, sport teams, politicians and musicians have created some pretty impressive ones.
It just goes to show the power of the internet. With the help of the Mannequin Challenge on Twitter, “Black Beatles” was able to dethrone The Chainsmoker’s “Closer” to be the No. 1 song on the Hot 100—their first with Gucci Mane. Let’s hope the Mannequin Challenge doesn’t get old in 2017.
The Love for Migos’ “Bad and Bougee”
Migos dropped “Bad and Bougee” this past August as a late contender for song of the summer. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that rap fans started to see why it was so great. Produced by Metro Boomin and featuring Lil Uzi Vert, the No Label 3 offering finds Offset delivering his best hook and verse combo of the year. Quavo comes in with catchy lines like “Still be playin’ with pots and pans, call me Quavo Ratatouille,” which only proves the need for a solo project from him.
Really, it’s the chemistry between Migos and Lil Uzi on their love of exquisite women that’s made this song such a fitting way to end 2016. There’s very few songs that can make a crowd in Nigeria wild out like this:
And there’s an even small percentage of songs that can sync so well with a Sid the Science Kid scene, so much so that you’re surprised PBS Kids hasn’t cut Migos a check yet. Lately, they’ve added rap jingle extraordinaries to their resume (Rap Snacks with a dab of ranch, anyone?):
For more music, check out our picks for the best albums of 2016.
- Words:Eric Diep
- Lead image:Jenny Regan