The Most Anticipated Albums of 2016

These are the projects we are looking forward to the most this year.


Let's concede, up front, that at this moment, there's a century's worth of recorded music at our fingertips, much of that music is life-changing and grand, and none of us will ever fully enjoy it all, not in a single lifetime. The late David Bowie was kind enough to give us just one more taste a few days before he passed away this week.

As ever, the music resumes, and we're never too proud to beg our favorite contemporary rappers, singers, and producers for a glut of new, great, life-changing music in the new year. From Frank Ocean and Rihanna to Kanye West and Drake—here are our 50 Most Anticipated Albums of 2016.


Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

In the four years since The Heist, we just couldn’t escape Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ indie success story. After years of steady growth, the Seattle duo debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, which was impressive for a project released through Macklemore’s own label. As independent artists, they became hip-hop’s new hope. Then “Thrift Shop” blew up. Then they won four Grammys for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (The Heist), Best Rap Song (“Thrift Shop”), and Best Rap Performance. Then they went on two world tours.

After a lengthy hiatus, they seem poised to make a return, delivering songs like the super-catchy “Downtown” that give props to rap pioneers Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz. On a personal level, Macklemore recently become a father to a baby girl named Sloane, showing the world through his song dedicated to her that he’s growing up and taking on responsibilities one day at a time. In our August/September 2015 cover story, the pair promised their The Heist follow-up would come in late 2015, but it looks like they’re waiting for the right moment in 2016. While the tone and direction of their sophomore album is ambiguous, one thing is for certain: Macklemore is ready. —Eric Diep



Baauer's in an interesting situation. Forget "the state of EDM/electronic music/whatever you call music people make on computers" for a minute; his career is a trip. We're talking about a guy who made a track ("Harlem Shake") that got him some fame when it first dropped in 2012, but then REALLY blew up via the song being used in a video that turned “Harlem Shake” into a viral sensation that had little to do with Baauer or his music.

Since then, while he’s worked with the likes of Pusha T, Rae Sremmurd, and AlunaGeorge, he’s purposefully tried to distance himself from that viral success. His upcoming album, both on the feature side and sonically, is the most un-“Harlem Shake”-y that Baauer can go, while at the same time further shortening the gap between hip-hop and whatever we’re calling electronic beats in 2016. —khal


Vic Mensa

Last year was big for Vic Mensa. He signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, collaborated with Kanye West, and made a cameo in Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s “Feelin’ Myself” video. Beyond his famous friends, he also made some big musical strides, releasing “U Mad” with Kanye and premiering the Skrillex-assisted “No Chill” at Pitchfork Music Festival. He’s set to capitalize on all this work in 2016 when he finally drops his long-promised debut album, Traffic. Although fans got to know the calmer side of Vic on Innanetape and his breakout single, “Down on My Luck,” he claims that Traffic will feature more of his newfound edge. In fact, 2015 became a very political year for Mensa as well. He spoke out on police violence in Chicago, and even showed up to the MTV VMAs wearing a “Free Assata Shakur” outfit. For an artist who’s often felt like a second fiddle to the widely praised Chance the Rapper, last year was the time when he finally seemed to claim his own ground. If he can channel these feelings into Traffic and leverage his big-time connections to promote it, the album has the potential to be explosive. —Chris Mench


Textbook Timbo

More than 20 years removed from his work on Aaliyah’s One in a Million, 15 years from Missy Elliott’s Miss E... So Addictive, and 10 years from crafting FutureSex/LoveSounds for Justin Timberlake, Timbaland is ready to make 2016 his next big year. Most recently, his executive production of the Empire soundtrack has kept him in ears and on the charts. His recent mixtape, King Stays King, delivered a spattering of truly exciting moments, like the Young Thug-assisted “Didn’t Do It.” However, even though he’s been consistently productive, Timbo hasn’t been responsible for something legitimately culture- and genre-shifting in an uncharacteristically long time. Though his personal discography work has a few blemishes, a solo Timbaland project inherently poses that game-changing potential. Any Timbaland album promises a few things: spectacular production, a litany of solid guest performances, and the possibility for a few surprises. To say you are not excited for a fully developed Timbaland project, regardless of the year, is borderline blasphemous. Just look at the man’s resume. —Max Goldberg



It’s been over four years since M83 released Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. That hasn’t stopped us from hearing the French visionary’s music at every turn. M83 founding member and mastermind Anthony Gonzalez has been at the helm of several movie soundtracks over the past few years. He contributed songs to Divergent, collaborated with HAIM on Insurgent, and scored Oblivion and his brother’s 2013 film, You and the Night. Of course, the band’s “Outro” track has been soundtracking practically every movie trailer in existence. Fortunately, Gonzalez’ record label, Mute, confirmed new M83 is finally coming in 2016. Gonzalez later revealed that the album is done in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “It’s very epic. There’s a lot of different genres that are not supposed to live together, but I tried to make them live together, which is quite challenging. It’s also quite different from the previous albums, which is what I’m the most proud of.” Even better, he promised plenty of unexpected guests. Many will be waiting to see if he really can improve on 2011’s Hurry. If his past catalogue is any indication, he will undoubtedly find a way to deliver one of the most explosive releases of the year. —Jessie Morris



With 2012’s perfectly crafted EP True, Solange Knowles fashioned herself outside of her megastar sister with seven songs about heartbreak, Jimmy Johns, and sheer yearning. With producer Dev Hynes, of Blood Orange fame, Knowles created pristine melancholy pop—the perfect sway-cry-dancing soundtrack for those slightly turnt (but secretly heartbroken) nights out. True rightfully ended up on 2012’s best of lists, and then Knowles established Saint Records where she’s been discovering likeminded artists and has established it into a multimedia platform.

Her LP has been long rumored since 2012, but not a peep of music has emerged from Knowles. Could that be because of her 2013 falling out with Hynes? Maybe. However, the pair have since repaired their relationship and gave an incredible performance of songs from True at Hynes’ recent Blood Orange show at the Apollo. In an Instagram post soon after, Knowles mentioned eight studio sessions in two weeks with 18-hour work days and that “I'm working really really hard to finish this damn album.” So will 2016 be the year that we finally get True’s successor? God willing because we need new songs for crying on the dance floor ASAP. —Kerensa Cadenas


Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas really stepped into his own last year with his self-titled album, which spawned hit songs like “Jealous,” “Chains,” and “Levels.” Not only was the project a success, but it finally felt like a real musical statement from an obviously talented artist long-defined by his kiddie-pop past. The R&B-flavored tracks were a big departure from anything the Jonas Brothers would have released, and the sound just seemed fit Nick’s voice more comfortably. With his falsettos and his widely admired musculature gaining him a new (and more mature) fan base, Jonas’ next album promises to be his biggest yet. He’s stated a desire to push further into the R&B and hip-hop realms, telling Spin that new songs have drawn inspiration from the likes of Drake and Future. He’s also hopped in the studio with producers from pop kingmaker Max Martin to indie darling Corin Roddick of Purity Ring. If all these moving parts come together in a coherent fashion, the youngest Jonas brother might just be the king of the Billboard charts in 2016. —Chris Mench


Rich Homie Quan
Rich as In Spirit

In 2015, Meek Mill had a rough few months, whereas Rich Homie Quan had a thoroughly unfortunate year. (Much to my embarrassing surprise.) Apart from his slow-burn single, "Flex," which is now the biggest hit of his career, Quan spent much of 2015 struggling on various mixtapes to recapture the magic and hype that continues to bless his erstwhile Rich Gang partner, Young Thug. Still, Quan is a more-or-less reliable hitmaker, and we're hoping that Quan will shake whatever bad juju from the Rich Gang breakup that's still lingering in his clothes. —Justin Charity


Post Malone

“White Iverson” was 2015’s unexpected hit, propelling a total industry unknown to a prominent place on hip-hop radio. From the first chants of “Saucin’ on you,” it was clear that Post Malone had cooked up something special. What was more surprising was his ability to recapture the same magic over and over. As tracks kept rolling out (“Too Young,” “Tear$,” etc.), it became increasingly evident that Malone had the potential to be much more than a one-hit wonder. It’s still not exactly clear what his debut (due out in March) is going to look like, but from what we’ve heard so far, the project shows a lot of promise. If he can keep the cloudy, spaced-out aesthetic feeling fresh and pump the songs with enough substance, than his debut album (thankfully not titled Album of the Year) could carry him to even greater heights in 2016. —Chris Mench


DJ Snake

DJ Snake’s success over the last few years has certainly built up anticipation for his as-yet-titled debut album. Along with churning out several hits with various collaborators—“Lean on Me,” “You Know You Like It,” and “Turn Down for What” immediately come to mind—the Parisian DJ/producer has showcased a versatile style that fans can expect in spades on his upcoming project. “Middle,” the first confirmed single from his album, is the type of hypnotic gem that could heat up in the colder months of the year with its dense groove. He also recently dropped “Propaganda,” a surefire festival banger, though it’s unclear at this time if it will end up on his debut. Still, if “Middle” or the next single takes off at radio, get ready for #SnakeSZN. —Edwin Ortiz



Shura sounds like the 2015 musical equivalent of John Hughes: honest, endearing, and rooted in the 1980s. In 2014, Shura premiered her single “Touch,” to overwhelming reviews and a DIY video that has since racked up over 24 million views. Last year, the BBC Sound of 2015 artist sprinkled a string of soft-spoken synthed-out releases including “2Shy,” “White Light,” and her debut EP, White Light, along with her accompanying short film, “Three Years.” She won over devoted fans including Jessie Ware and BBC Sound Of alum Jungle. However, the year came and went without the release of her debut album. “It’s going to come out when it’s perfect to my ears, not necessarily everyone else’s,” Shura later told us. That time appears to be approaching, as Shura confirmed in Decemeber 2015 that the album is nearing completion. “No, the album is still not finished. But I'm getting there,” she wrote on Twitter. “The good news is. It will be finished before Mass Effect: Andromeda is released.” Since Mass Effect: Andromeda is reportedly set for release in Q4 2016, it’s safe to say we can expect the album to arrive within the next year. —Jessie Morris



This fabled album has been 11 years in the making. The masked villains covered Mass Appealback in 2005 as if they were ready to unleash new music upon the world, and then...nothing. They collabed on random tracks here and there, but nothing official ever came out. That seems to be ready to change. During a Reddit AMA, Ghostface revealed he and DOOM will be dropping an album in 2015. They both wear masks and have a quirky sense of humor but that's where the similarities stop. DOOM is notorious for disappearing for years on end while Ghost hasn't stopped working since the first Wu album came out in 1994. We hope they keep Swift & Changeable as the name. I'm going to make a playlist of the tracks they've released together and watch some kung-fu flicks in the meantime. —Angel Diaz


Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend came up during the wave of indie rock explosion circa 2008 (a year packed with MGMT and Cut Copy and the like), but they left most of their peers in the dust as they got bigger and better, finding their truest (but not final) form in their third and best album to date, Modern Vampires of the City—a goddamn masterpiece—in 2013. They've ditched a couple cardigans since their fresh-out-of-Ivy-League debut, erased memories of their annoying sophomore record (let's call it a fluke), and have come out on top by crafting a sound that's uniquely them—a delightful crossover of rock and pop that's immediately appealing to fans across genres. So yeah, of course we're dying to hear what these guys have in store for the new year. 'Til then, at least we'll have Ezra Koenig's tweets to entertain us.—Kristen Yoonsoo Kim



Due to the general mystery that constantly surrounds the Gorillaz, any lengthy hiatus feels like it could simply be the beginning of a never-ending wait for more music. That’s why, now more than five years after the release of Plastic Beach, the news that 2016 should bring new music from Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett feels like a gift. Albarn confirmed in July that an album is in the works, but it’s still difficult to predict what 2016 Gorillaz music will sound like, which is just how it should be. Each iteration of the band’s sound has morphed in relation to the one that came before it. Plastic Beach’s griminess stood out against Demon Day’s lighter lushness, and that’s a good thing. Albarn has kept himself busy in the years since Plastic Beach, recently working on a musical adaptation of Alice and Wonderland, but he’s publicly stated his attention is now focused back on creating an upcoming Gorillaz project. We don’t know what we’re going to get or when we’re going to get it, but anything coming from the Gorillaz name is worth getting excited about. —Max Goldberg



Fans have been in this position before. HAIM’s Days Are Gone didn’t come out until the band felt it was perfect. During the long journey leading up to its release, the California sisters thrilled us with their Forever EP in 2012, fusing rock, melodic pop, and R&B into power ballads like “Forever” and “Better Off.” With praises from Rihanna, Mumford & Sons, and Florence and the Machine, HAIM still didn’t capitalize on their hype and kept working at their own pace. Their untitled sophomore effort is being done with the same labor of fine-tuning and care, as Alana Haim told BBC 6 Music that they’ve started writing on the road and promised “record two won’t come in six years—it’ll come very soon." While they’ve been generous with the amount of collaborations to make up for proper HAIM material, there’s plenty to be excited about. Ariel Rechtshaid has signed on for production duties again, and anyone citing Kanye West as an inspiration to create a masterpiece is something to look forward to. “We’re getting stuff done. It’s sounding really cool. Essentially the oven has been pre-heated and the oven door is open,” they told Zane Lowe recently. Set your timer, #HaimTime is almost here. —Eric Diep


LCD Soundsystem

Look, I get it. I went to the New York City farewell shows in 2011 too (two of the five). I was sad that one of my favorite groups was disbanding, but I was also thrilled that I had the opportunity to be there for the last hurrah and to get emotional as hell during “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” And “All My Friends.” And “Yr City’s a Sucker” for some reason. Basically all of the songs. Anyway, when LCD Soundsystem confirmed that they would be returning this year, and not just with a full tour but a new album too, I was butthurt for approximately two seconds because my vacuum-sealed farewell moment was now worthless. And then I got over it because, I don’t know if you heard, but LCD Soundsystem is getting back together and touring and making new music. James Murphy and the gang are going to give us even more moments to squirrel away in our scrapbooks. Also, I didn’t get to go to the MSG show, so bring on the do-over. —Christine Werthman



OVO crooner PARTYNEXTDOOR last released an album—PARTYNEXTDOOR 2— during the summer of 2014. Since then he's teased fans with a variety of loose drops without giving away what he has planned for his next album that is expected to come out at some point this year. The direction of the project is unknown, though PND shared seven songs during an episode of OVO Sound Radio back in September. The songs were never officially released, but showed fans that PND definitely has something special in store. Based on his previous work, expectations are sky high for PND in 2016. He'll not only be looked to to supply more quality music, but also provide a crossover hit that has been absent from his career to this point. There's no word on when the album might drop, but as we already know with OVO, they're always ready to throw out a surprise or two. —Zach Frydenlund


dev hynes

Blood Orange, a.k.a. Dev Hynes, released his last album, Cupid Deluxe, in November 2013. Shortly after, a fire destroyed his apartment and everything in it, including his dog. His friend died. He was assaulted by security guards at Lollapalooza. These events could make anyone go into hiding, but Hynes only got more visible. He put out videos and remixes; scored a James Franco movie and a Ferguson short film; jumped on songs with Tinashe, Heems, and others; had an online radio show; worked on Carly Rae Jepsen’s E•MO•TION; spoke out against racial profiling and police brutality; dropped 46 minutes of music “for you to zone out to”; made a song collage about the church shooting in Charleston; and the list goes on. If this is what he does during his “downtime,” guaranteed that he has enough new music ready for another Blood Orange project. The release of his single “Sandra’s Smile,” in honor of Sandra Bland, seems to all but confirm it, and though Hynes never technically disappeared, we are ready to welcome him back. —Christine Werthman


Don't You

Wet has kept everyone waiting years for their debut album. They released their self-titled debut EP back in 2013 on indie label Neon Gold and quickly collected millions of plays as standout singles “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” and “You’re the Best” flooded every single one of your favorite blogs. Their soothing brand of minimalist pop rippled through the Internet as they grew their online presence from their genius (and now defunct) Twitter handle @kanyewet. The Brooklyn trio inked a deal with Columbia Records, but still 2014 and 2015 passed without a debut album. Since their breakout EP, Wet has only released a select number of singles and remixes, leaving a number of fans thirsty for more. Recent releases “Deadwater,” “Weak,” “It’s All In Vain,” and “All the Ways” proved to be tracks that let us know the album will be worth the years-long wait. —Jessie Morris


Big Sean

You know what the most exciting thing about an artist finally hitting their stride is? Realizing that it's just the beginning. Yes, Big Sean dropped his best project, Dark Sky Paradise, just one year ago. Finally everything that was likable about the G.O.O.D. Music shooter—breakneck flows, endearingly goofy delivery, fun catchphrases, and reflective songs that toe the line between inspirational and saccharine—congealed, while he steered clear of some of his lazier tendencies, and pushed himself to make a sonically enjoyable album from top to bottom. But it was ONLY his third album. He's hardly peaked; his powers are merely growing. With a continued flair for scene-stealing guest verses and show-offy loosies like “What a Year,” there’s no cause to doubt him anymore. We don’t even know anything about his fourth album yet, but after the 2015 he’s had, he’s earned our trust. He went way up—can he get much higher? —Frazier Tharpe


A$AP Ferg
Always strive And Prosper

Back in 2013, A$AP Ferg surged onto the scene and quickly laid any possibility of superstar sidekick future to rest. Trap Lord, one of the most underrated debut albums in recent memory, was the best possible first impression Ferg could make. Like the artist himself, the album alternated between high octane energy and genuine introspection while remaining intriguingly weird throughout. Since 2013, Ferg has ridden Trap Lord’s well deserved wake while managing to stay relevant through fashion, just generally being a funny dude, and the solid if somewhat disappointing Ferg Forever. However, now almost three years removed since his last studio project it’s time for Ferg to deliver. Ferg’s upcomingAlways $trive and Prosper is scheduled for first quarter, and there’s no reason to expect a drop-off in quality. Ferg’s claimed to be in the studio with everyone from Pharrell to 40, but ultimately the project’s success will rest with Ferg himself. If he can bring the same unique creativity that made Trap Lord so special then we’ve surely got another classic on our hands. Also, as long as we’re reminiscing on Summer 2013 can we take a second to remember that Ferg had the best “Control” response? —Max Goldberg



M.I.A.'s been touring the world for the past couple years, dropping a slight trail of singles, demos, and guest verses as hints of where she may be headed next. "Borders," her most recent single, sounds pretty consistent with the trap futurism of her last album, Matangi, released two years ago. Considering how tumultuous and politically fraught the intervening years have been, in the West and in general, we'd assume that M.I.A. will return with renewed vigor and purpose on Matahdatah, an album that's reportedly about borders, with a string of high-profile music video releases scheduled to promote and contextualize the new music. —Justin Charity


Ariana Grande

Watching talented artists who’ve been stars from a young age mature in their careers is always interesting. Bieber just finished acing the transformation, but his unmitigated success is certainly an anomaly in a field generally marred with many missteps. Ariana Grande, with her Nickelodeon past now a half-decade behind her, has done well for herself, so far. She’s tallied up an impressive amount of mega-hits for a 21-year-old and her debut, Yours Truly, is a tour de force of a pop album. In our celebrity-obsessed media cycle it might also be just as important that she’s managed to move past a failed superstar relationship and security camera footage of her licking donuts basically unscathed. Ultimately, as it was for the Biebs, her music will have to speak for itself as she makes her next step. Her swinging new single "Focus" is relatively exciting for a major pop release in 2015 and has done well for itself, racking up 280 million views on YouTube since October. There’s never ever been a question about her vocal chops, and if all goes as planned, she’ll surely be flexing them to their fullest on Moonlight. —Max Goldberg


No Way Out 2

Puff's mixtape Money Makin' Mitchhas us beastin' for his sequel to the classic No Way Out. Although Bad Boy Records has been hit or miss these last several years, Puff has shown that he can make good music and seems to be taking it seriously again. MMMsounded very New York and very cinematic, both are staples for Diddy's sound. He's a producer extraordinaire and is the man to bring an updated New York sound to the masses. No Way Out 2 is shaping up to be a movie, especially if he can get Black Rob to contribute—he had some of the best showings on the first go around. Diddy's ghostwriters have to give us a classic. It's the only way.Angel Diaz


The xx

Sure, the xx's last album was a bit of a snooze, but we've still got high hopes for this London group, whose 2009 debut quietly exploded onto the scene and continues to resonate with us, especially the quiet, introverted night owl types. They had a look—mysterious, dressed in all black—with a collective persona to match, but offset by soft lit, melancholy-tinged music (especially charming when harmonized) that's a lot warmer than they themselves would lead you to believe. But also a lot of the excitement for their new album comes from Jamie xx's stellar solo record from last year, In Colour (not only one of our favorites of 2015 but a favorite across most year-end lists). Like, have you heard "Loud Places" from that album, Jamie xx's collaboration with fellow xx member Romy? It's perfection. That's what we could possibly expect on a new xx album. —Kristen Yoonsoo Kim


Rae Sremmurd
SremmLife 2

Somehow, Rae Sremmurd concluded 2015 on a controversial note. Do Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi write their own songs, or is Mike WiLL Made-It their swag rap svengali? In any case, are Rae Sremmurd's fistful of debut singles, which are all certified hits, any good? Is party rap bad? What does it mean to call dismiss a musical groups as a five-hit wonder? Is Rae Sremmurd built to last longer than Hurricane Chris did? Well, we gon see. —Justin Charity


Young Thug

"Pacifier," the debut single from the now increasingly delayed Hy!£UN35, didn't make much impact when it first landed in July, and now it's largely forgotten among all except Thugger's devotees. I previously described it as a trap reconfiguration of a Maroon 5 single, with Haitian and Jamaican flavor, a successful if headscratching experiment for its producer, Mike WiLL Made-It, and now the song leaves me wondering, furiously, what, exactly, a proper bells-and-whistle debut album from Young Thug will possibly sound like. Nothing like Barter 6, I imagine. —Justin Charity


Meek Mill
Dreamchasers 4

Meek Mill has a quality-control problem. For such a physically powerful rapper, with so many great singles and spectacular loosies under his tongue, Meek tends to rollout whole projects packed with more filler than a 20pc order of McNuggets. When Meek faltered against Drake last summer, mumbling through his own diss track entry in a fight that he started, I prayed to summon the Meek Mill who made "Repo"—not a perfect diss track, but an amazingly passionate one that nailed Cassidy into obscurity. Now I pray that the Meek Mill who made "Repo" will return on Dreamchasers 4, which, with or without a second stab at Drake, is a crucial last stand for the flagging Maybach Music Group. —Justin Charity



For those who have long known about the talents of Tinashe, hearing her still be referred to as the “'2 On' girl” can be cringe-inducing. As catchy as that song as it is, her first major studio album, Aquarius, and the mixtapes that came before and after it, make it all too apparent that she is much more than that. Even so, it takes a hit song to pique the public’s interest to learn more. The 22-year-old has made it no secret that she aims to see her star rise with the release of her sophomore offering, Joyride, and like the Weeknd, has turned to the likes of Max Martin to help bring a sound that has generated a smaller but loyal following to the masses. Ideally, such shrewdness will serve her well in her career. Here’s hoping that after Joyride is released, we will inch closer than ever to the point where Tinashe fans con confidently tell the doubters “told you so.” —Michael Arceneaux


Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott first announced her seventh album, then called Block Party, way back in 2008, but it never materialized. And then in 2012, Missy released a pair of singles, and explained that her private struggles with Graves’ disease had slowed down progress on new music. But it wasn’t until 2015 that the Missy Elliott comeback seemed to really kick into gear. First, her cameo at Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime performance put some of Missy’s old hits back on the charts. Then she unveiled “WTF (Where They From),” a bass-heavy collaboration with Pharrell Williams, along with a typically funky, innovating video directed by Dave Meyers. Elliott’s first album in a decade, produced by Williams as well as another Virginia beatmaker who’s helmed most of her greatest hits, Timbaland, seems to finally be on the horizon this year. “I want to say 2016 but I don’t want to give a time,” Elliott told Billboard in November. —Al Shipley


André 3000

After what seems like an eternity of false starts and broken promises, it looks like a new André 3000 project might finally be on the horizon. In a recent interview with Billboard, he alluded to working on new music, saying he’d “like to put out some kind of project,” and noted that he had “been holding back for a long time now.” He also cited some interesting influences, praising Kid Cudi’s polarizing new rock album Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven as well as Thelonious Monk and his work with Erykah Badu. Three Stacks has been notoriously elusive about releasing new music ever since the demise of OutKast, but his new comments have us hopeful that 2016 might be the year he finally delivers. If he can find some time to record between acting gigs, we could finally get the long-awaited solo project from one of hip-hop’s most important figures. —Chris Mench


ScHoolboy Q

With Kendrick Lamar cementing his superstar status and Jay Rock and Ab-Soul dropping low profile independent projects, ScHoolboy Q occupies a unique middle ground in L.A.’s revered Black Hippy crew. His 2014 Interscope debut Oxymoron debuted at No. 1 on the charts, and R&B collaborations like “Studio” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid and Tinashe’s “2 On” made Q a staple of radio playlists. But somehow the album didn’t quite launch ScHoolboy Q’s career to the level that many hoped it would, and the pressure is on for a follow-up album that fulfills his potential and gives the Top Dawg Entertainment roster a second power player. Standout guest appearances on recent albums by Travi$ Scott, the Game, Tyler, the Creator and frequent collaborator A$AP Rocky kept Q’s voice in rotation in 2015, but there’s no firm news yet on what he’ll release in 2016. He told fans in a Twitter Q&A last summer, however, that he was at work on a new album that would be up next in TDE’s release schedule after Jay Rock’s 90059, which dropped in September. —Al Shipley


Childish Gambino

Based on the information we have right now, it’s hard to guess when exactly Childish Gambino’s next album is coming or even what it might sound like. He’s been rumored to be working with a 50-piece orchestra on new music. The new song he premiered at Bonnaroo last year mostly featured guitars and falsetto singing, without a single rapped line. He even caused a stir back in February when he said that he felt “Childish Gambino is a period that should come to a close.” But then again, Donald Glover has always been a bit of an enigma, bouncing back and forth between rapping, acting, writing, comedy, and more. Both of his studio albums have been somewhat conceptual in nature (especially 2013’s screenplay-accompanied Because the Internet). Whatever he has in the works, it’s bound to be creative, unique, and totally unexpected. With any luck, the project will arrive sooner than anticipated. —Chris Mench



Kehlani hit it big last year with her You Should Be Here project. Not only was the self-released mixtape critically and commercially successful, but it helped the 20-year-old launch a soldout tour through the U.S. and Europe, earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and even led to her inking a deal with Atlantic Records. Now, the pressure is on to follow it up with something even better. Knowing Kehlani, she’s likely to deliver. The first hints of the debut album came with the recently dropped the single “Did I,” a hip-hop inspired record with a soaring chorus. Although not a huge departure in style from her previous work, the song does have a bit of a harder edge to it than much of You Should Be Here. If it’s any indication of the project to come, we’re in for something special. Fans shouldn’t have to wait too long, her Atlantic debut is set to drop early this year. If she can create the record everyone knows she’s capable of, Kehlani could be the next big thing. —Chris Mench


Pusha T
King Push

We're getting another Pusha album this year? Sign us up. The Virginia rapper is notorious for taking his time when it comes to releasing projects, but he has a plan this time around. Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude is just a taste of what he has in store for King Push. My Name Is My Name hit us like a Mack truck, so Lord knows what he has up his sleeve for this next one. We expect exquisite shade and not-so-subtle subs over Neptune and Kanye production. What more could you really ask for when it comes to Push? Maybe a Malice verse for old times sake? Or maybe another short film? Are we asking for too much? Probably. But Push is the president of G.O.O.D. Music now, so he can do what he wants. —Angel Diaz


still krazy

The huge success of YG’s My Krazy Life was one of the lone bright spots in mainstream hip-hop in 2014. He blew up the charts with “My Nigga” and “Who Do You Love?,” becoming one of the year’s only major crossover successes and helping to spread the signature sound of DJ Mustard to every corner of the radio. Now, the California rapper is preparing to reach even greater heights in 2016 with his follow-up album, Still Krazy. He’s already released two singles, July’s “Twist My Fingaz” and December’s “I Wanna Benz” with 50 Cent and Nipsey Hussle. Neither song took off quite like the cuts off My Krazy Life, but they showed a lot of promise for the album to come. YG’s brush with death earlier this summer is also sure to provide some interesting fodder for street-wise storytelling. If Mustard and him can cook up some more magic in the studio, YG has the chance to stealth-dominate the rap charts again this year. —Chris Mench


James Blake

Ever since James Blake dropped his self-titled debut in 2011, the English singer-producer has consistently demonstrated his remarkable ability to defy genres with ease. If his 2013 sophomore release Overgrown established how his hauntingly visceral aesthetic could remain cohesive without conforming, look towards his forthcoming third LP, Radio Silence, to presumably exhibit a mastery of the sound he's been cultivating for quite some time. Though Blake has remained mum on the album's overall sonic direction, a few of the biggest names in music have lent a hand in its creation. Last year Blake confirmed that collaborations with Kanye West and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon were in the works, and lest it be forgotten that Frank Ocean notoriously (and silently) appeared on one of his 1-800 DINOSAUR DJ tours across the UK. Nevermind the album's hushed title—2016 is shaping up to be anything but a silent year for James Blake. —Sal Maicki


Danny Brown

Many rappers spend their downtime clamoring for extracurricular attention. In contrast, the happy, tattered pipsqueak Danny Brown seems to have vanished. Subsided, at least. We miss him. We miss his music. We miss his incautious interview manners, his blowing through life and studios with a candid air, and his penchant for saying interesting shit. We hope he's off that lean, and on an imminent tear. Two years ago, Danny Brown released Old. Where is the new? —Justin Charity



It's hard to imagine the third Run The Jewels project being wack; El-P and Killer Mike have linked up for two of the most dynamic hip-hop projects to drop in the last few years. Theirs is a duo that refuses to compromise, bringing in leftfield sonics and apocalyptic boom-bap bangers with hard-hitting lyrics that can be foul one minute, socially conscious the next. There's a reason why everyone from Big Boi to Bernie Sanders supports RTJ; they're just that real. —khal


Jay Z

Magna Carta dropped, you all lamed on it like the god didn't give us a solid B album. Aside from getting that tour money, using music to promote his ventures when necessary and giving a friend here or there a rare guest verse, Jaÿ-Z gradually disappeared. At press time, he's gone full Luke Skywalker, while the game rages on and evolves without him. Is he gone forever? You're a fool to think so. Or maybe I'm a woefully over-optimistic Stan to think he'll return. June will mark the 20th anniversary of his classic debut, Reasonable Doubt, and if we've learned anything over these two decades, it's that the perseverance and dominance of Jay Z is one of contemporary hip-hop's constants. Jigga's going to fade out on his own terms... not off of a critically divisive album and an uphill streaming service battle. Let's be factual, whether Stan or hater: Jigga's been tucked away with something up his sleeve. The encore is coming any day now. How many months do the rest of you rappers have to get your shit together? Who knows, but he's in the game until he says he isn't. Y'all just better hope he gracefully bows out. —Frazier Tharpe



During the course of his career Eminem has captivated us with views from underdog, the king, the careening star, the saved and, most recently, the sequel. So, having ridden the rollercoaster, and even looked back after the ride was over, one has to wonder where an artist of his stature goes from here. But every challenge is also an opportunity, and as a result Marshall Mathers has every door open to him. He could delve back inside himself, and re-evalute all his 40-plus-year-old feels. He could look outside himself, and his bubble, for inspiration and write about the changing world. He could maniacally dial in on the technical aspect of his craft, or go the other way and loosen his rap writing, focusing on the bigger picture of songwriting. He could aim for outrage, or he could demonstrate a new maturity. And then there’s who produces him. He could reunite with Dre, tap another super producer like a Kanye West or even Puff Daddy, or go in with an avant garde choice like El-P or André 3000. Or he could produce the whole thing himself. The point being, we know nothing about this project, and there are ton of fascinating avenues that Eminem could explore on his eighth major label outing. And with all of those dynamic, fertile options available to one of our generation’s most creative minds, how can you not anticipate what will come next? —Noah Callahan-Bever 


Nicki Minaj

The last time Nicki Minaj and mixtape were in the same sentence was 2009's Beam Me Up Scotty, hosted by DJ Holiday and the Trapaholics. It's become a highly acclaimed tape that included popular songs “Itty Bitty Piggy,” “Best I Ever Had (Remix)” and “I Get Crazy” featuring her mentor Lil Wayne. The Minaj from the Come Up DVD days and the international rap superstar that blossomed in 2015 are almost two different people, but their goals are still the same: to raise the bar. In a year since The Pinkprint, Nicki has reached a level of mainstream fame that’s inspirational. Not only has she spit bars alongside rap’s elite, but she’s bested them on their own record. If and when her tape drops in 2016, Minaj will have plenty of instrumentals ("Jumpman," "Hotline Bling," "White Iverson") to spark her brilliance. But above all the excitement of her channeling Harajuku Barbie/Nicki Lewinsky/Roman Zolanski again, Nicki sounds ready to stamp her place as the Queen MC. “The main thing is, I have to set an example for female rappers,” she told Billboard. “I’m at the top of that food chain, and it’s important to lead by example." —Eric Diep



After everyone got over their shock about the surprise release of her industry-changing eponymous fifth album, the general consensus was that Beyoncé could never do it again. And yet, if there’s one thing that’s become certain about the Houston native in her 30s—who at present moment treats members of the press like an old date listed as “DO NOT ANSWER” in her phone—it’s that she’s content with doing whatever the hell she wants. So while we have not gotten confirmation from King Bey herself that she’s been recording, the proof is quietly floating around online. Beyoncé has been spotted filming a music video in New Orleans and rumored to have been recording visuals in her hometown, too. Couple that with a confirmed Super Bowl performance with Coldplay and it’s totally plausible to believe that BeySeason is upon us. Here’s hoping she treats fans to another uptempo-heavy album ala B’Day. Regardless of what she drops and however she chooses to, my body is ready for new Beyoncé. —Michael Arceneaux


J. Cole

J. Cole is a superstar. Flat out. He just aired a special on HBO to kick off 2016 and 2015 was even better, as he toured the country in support of his No. 1 album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The North Carolina rapper is only getting better as his career goes on, and with all of his success, it doesn't look like he has any plans of slowing down. While no new album from Cole is 100 percent confirmed for 2016, he did drop a serious tease of a new project at the end of his "Black Friday Freestyle" in November. "But this February, bet shit get scary when I fuck around and drop...," Cole rapped. He also sent a warning out to the rap game: it's his time and he wants you to know it. We're far removed from the days of Cole being an underrated rapper in the game, and as he continues to prove his place in rap, fans continue to get top tier music. What he comes with next might just be his best yet. —Zach Frydenlund



Future’s very busy 2015 brought two of the year’s top-selling rap albums and two of the year’s most acclaimed mixtapes. So it’s daunting to even try to predict what Nayvadius Cash has in store for us in 2016. One safe bet is Ape Shit, the Mike WiLL Made It-produced mixtape that Future at one point planned to release on Thanksgiving. One of the rappers signed to Freebandz imprint, Young Scooter, has hinted on Twitter that he has a joint mixtape with Future on the way. Beast Mode producer Zaytoven has promised Beast Mode 2, and Future has alluded to another sequel to one of his popular recent mixtapes, Monster 2, being in the works. And “Fuck Up Some Commas” producer Southside has said, perhaps hyperbolically, that Future has “six more albums” and “three more mixtapes” ready to go. We might even finally get Future Hendrix, an album title that he’s been kicking around since 2012. —Al Shipley


Chance the Rapper

After his second mixtape Acid Rap made Chicago’s Chance The Rapper a national star in 2013, expectations were sky high for his next move, which everyone assumed would involve a major label contract and a retail album. Instead, Chancellor Bennett has spent the last three years defying and subverting the traditional career path for a rapper on the rise. Instead of a solo project, he took a supporting role on Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf, which was the first free album made available in the iTunes store, and was downloaded 600 thousand times in a week. And when he finally did release new solo tracks, he unveiled them on network television, debuting “Somewhere in Paradise” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbertand “Angels” on Saturday Night Live. Chance hinted during his SNL performance that his third mixtape might arrive around Christmas, but he then took to Twitter to announce that it wasn’t quite ready yet, putting anticipation at a fever pitch for 2016. —Al Shipley



By simple virtue of her becoming one of the most successful pop acts in history in a relatively short amount of time, anything Rihanna releases at this stage of her career is highly anticipated. However, when it comes to her eighth studio album, ANTi, the eagerness to hear what the Barbadian singer has cooked up has intensified following what’s been one of the most strangest album rollouts for a star of her career level. Though we never had an official release date, Rihanna has released numerous singles, teased quite a few tracks from recording sessions, released multiple visuals, announced a tour, and through her new deal with Samsung, dropped so many (too many?) leading videos teasing the album. Though we still don’t know exactly when ANTi will drop, it is clear that fans are rightfully pressed for new product from one of the most consistent hit makers of a generation. —Michael Arceneaux


Views From the 6

Drake has all the momentum going into 2016, but does he have a classic album in him? Since So Far Gone, rap pundits have hotly debated whether any album in his discography is worthy of the honor. 2015 was the year of Drake proved he was a force to be reckoned within the music industry. He delivered dig after dig at Meek Mill, earned his 13th chart-topping hit with “Hotline Bling,” and got a diss track (“Back to Back”) to be Grammy nominated just to a name a few of his wins. But we’ve come to expect greatness from him, as he’s established himself as a 6 God to you kings in the land of hip-hop. Views From the 6 was formerly announced in 2014, and continued to be teased through subtle hints on “0 to 100/ The Catch-Up,” and “30 for 30 Freestyle.” On Instagram, the OVO crew shared everything from a mysterious billboard in Toronto ("the 6 God is watching") to his go-to producer Noah "40" Shebib promising he won’t let anyone distract him until Views is done. Drizzy fans speculated it would come out in January, reportedly on the 6th. With that date behind us now, it’s only a matter of time until Drake potentially releases his magnum opus. —Eric Diep


Kanye West

It feels like a lifetime ago that Kanye West announced that his seventh solo album would be titled So Help Me God, and began the singles campaign with “Only One” and “All Day,” two very different songs both featuring Paul McCartney. In the year since, the title was changed to SWISH, and the songs “Wolves” and “Fade” were previewed at Yeezy Season fashion shows, but the album’s gestation seemed to stall when Ye and wife Kim Kardashian took personal time for the birth of their son, Saint. By the end of 2015, however, West seemed determined to reach the finish line, tweeting “DON’T ASK ME FOR ANYTHING TILL AFTER I’M FINISHED WITH MY ALBUM.” Within weeks, the new music finally started coming, with the Metro Boomin-produced “Facts” and “Real Friends” featuring Ty Dolla $ign possibly kicking off a new G.O.O.D. Fridays series, and a Feb. 11 release date was announced for SWISH. With contributors ranging from Madlib to Post Malone just on the songs we’ve gotten a taste of so far, it’s anyone’s guess what the final product will sound like. —Al Shipley


Frank Ocean
Boys Don't Cry

Even though it's been three and a half years since Frank Ocean’s excellent debut Channel Orange dropped, it feels like we’re no closer to getting his follow up project than we were all that time ago. He announced the name Boys Don’t Cry on Tumblr back in April and implied that he would release the album last July. Then the month (and year) came and went without so much as a peep from him. A-Trak and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij sent the Internet into a frenzy back in November by hinting at the imminent release of a song called “White Ferrari.” Then the year ended without a note of the song being heard (or even a confirmation that it belonged to Ocean in the first place). Hell, the only reason we even know he’s alive at this point is because he’s FaceTiming with Rich the Kid. Rich the fucking Kid. These are dark times for Frank Ocean fans indeed. And yet, the light at the end of the tunnel remains. If Ocean can recreate—or even one-up—the magic of Channel Orange, then all the waiting will be worth it. Let’s just hope that Boys Don’t Cry isn’t the next Detox. —Chris Mench


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