ABC/Randy Holmes2016 introduced a number of chart-topping songs and surprise hit albums, new artists-to-watch, and a few familiar faces making gossip headlines.
— Rae Sremmurd‘s single “Black Beatles” became a smash hit after being featured in countless Mannequin Challenge viral videos across the Internet. The song eventually climbed to the #1 spot on Billboard‘s Hot 100 and even caught the attention of legendary Beatles musician Paul McCartney, who created a Mannequin Challenge video of his own using the duo’s track.
A handful of albums released to the critical acclaim of both critics and fans this year. Solange‘s A Seat at the Table earned the artist numerous award nominations and television appearances, including a debut performance on Saturday Night Live in November.
— A Tribe Called Quest released their final album, We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, in November, the hip-hop group’s first studio album in 18 years. The full-length project debuted at the number-one spot on the Billboard 200, their first time in more than 20 years.
— Gucci Mane unveiled not one, but three albums since his release from jail in May — Everybody Looking, Woptober, and The Return of East Atlanta Santa. Everybody Looking debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart, the highest ever position for any of the artist’s albums.
— Childish Gambino, alter ego of Atlanta creator and actor Donald Glover, released his new album, Awaken, My Love!, in December. Gaining rave reviews from none other than Questlove, the rapper’s latest studio project was noted as a departure from his previous music, employing a sound reminiscent of the George Clinton-led group, Funkadelic. Awaken, My Love! debuted at the top of Billboard‘s R&B Album chart.
— J. Cole‘s 4 Your Eyez Only arrived to the surprise of many fans, but swiftly became the artist’s fourth consecutive number-one album. 4 Your Eyez Only not only landed at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, but all songs from the project also debuted individually on the Hot 100 singles chart.
Many new artists became household names this year, including Chance the Rapper, whose mixtape album Coloring Book helped the rapper earn seven Grammy nominations, including one in the category for Best New Artist, an invitation to President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama‘s final White House state dinner, and even his very own Kit Kat commercial.
— Andra Day‘s Grammy-nominated debut album, Cheers to the Fall, became a huge success, namely due to the singer’s breakout single, “Rise Up.”
— Sister duo Chloe x Halle saw their stars rise past their initial YouTube success, where they were discovered and signed by Beyoncé to her Parkwood Entertainment management company.
— R&B artist Bryson Tiller received his first Grammy nominations for the 2017 awards in the category of Best R&B Song. The singer also won his first awards at BET Awards ceremony for Best New Artist and Best Male R&B/Pop Artist. Another R&B artist-to-watch, BJ the Chicago Kid, also received three 2017 Grammy nominations and plenty of guest vocal appearances on tracks for artists like Solange, Chance the Rapper, Wale, A$AP Rocky and Common.
— 19-year-old Desiigner was signed to Kanye West‘s GOOD Music imprint in February and released his New English mixtape. The rapper followed up his 2015 hit single, “Panda,” with two other singles this year — “Champion” and “Tiimmy Turner,” which was turned into a remix track featuring West himself. Desiigner was nominated for in the Best Rap Performance category for the 2017 Grammy Awards.
— Chris Brown made headlines again for being arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in August. The singer voiced his frustration on social media, having claimed that he was sleeping during the alleged squabble between himself and the accuser, Baylee Curran. Brown was released on bail and had the support of several celebrities, including Ray J, Bruno Mars and Keke Palmer.
And of course, Rihanna had another standout year. The Bajan singer released her eighth studio album, Anti, which included many hit tracks, which featured her number-one hit track, “Work.” The song featured vocals by Drake and was the artist’s fourteenth number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100. The recording artist was rumored to be in a relationship with the Canadian rapper, who presented Rihanna with the prestigious Video Vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards in August.
Rihanna also embarked on her Anti World Tour in March, which took place in North America, Europe and Asia. In addition, she unveiled her Fenty x Puma fashion collection in Paris this fall, recorded the song “Sledgehammer” for the movie Star Trek Beyond, and announced she’d star in a film herself, titled Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
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