20 Most Shocking Hip-Hop Moments of 2016
2016 was the best of times, with a number of high-profile projects and events helping to shape, shift and strengthen hip-hop culture. Drake, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole all dropped albums, A Tribe Called Quest came out of hibernation, Jay Z and Nas got back to rapping and new blood like Desiigner, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and 21 Savage lead the charge for the new school. But it was also the worst of times, with a number of untimely deaths like Phife Dawg's passing, murders, legal issues and distasteful displays also dominating the headlines and the conversation this year.
The Presidential Election captured the attention of the country, including the hip-hop community, whom was heavily involved, especially in terms of speaking out against Donald Trump's racially divisive campaign. But while many artists and other hip-hop figures stood tall in favor of minorities, a choice few like Azealia Banks would go against the grain and actually side with Trump's campaign. The cosign of his presidential campaign drew disappointing side-eyes and remarks from hip-hop fans.
Death was a major topic of conversation in hip-hop this year, which left a bitter taste in fans' mouths. At every turn, it seemed like the Grim Reaper was waiting to snatch another one of our heroes, legends and upstarts like Bankroll Fresh before their time.
In addition to unfavorable actions like domestic violence and disparaging the community, an ample amount of the lowlights of the year were less egregious, but nonetheless disappointing, whether it be botched performances, outrageous beefs or unpopular opinions. XXL has compiled 20 of the more shocking moments of 2016 that caught the attention of rap fans and created major backlash throughout the year.
Kodak Black was primed for a monstrous year heading into 2016, after gaining major traction in 2015, but a lengthy legal battle would keep the XXL Freshman inactive for much of the year. On April 21, Kodak was arrested following a high-speed chase with police and charged with weapon or ammunition possession by a convicted felon, marijuana possession, several traffic violations and eluding an officer. This was the first of the rapper's multiple run-ins with the law in 2016.
Though he was released a few days later after posting bond, the Project Baby would be sent back to the big house in May due to several open warrants, with the charges including including robbery, false imprisonment, marijuana possession and driving without a driver's license. Kodak would remain in prison until Dec. 1, posting a $100,000 bail. However, his incarceration prevented him from fully servicing his growing fan base or enjoying the fruits of his labor this year.
The hip-hop community was hit with tragic news this past March when it was announced that A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg had passed away after battling diabetes for much of his career. Phife, who was pronounced dead on March 22, became one of the more beloved characters in hip-hop during ATCQ's legendary run through the 1990s, serving as the high-octane yin to Q-Tip's mellowed-out yang. Although fans would get new music from Phife Dawg posthumously via his contributions to A Tribe Called Quest's final album, We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service, the death of the Funky Diabetic served as one of the more bitter moments of 2016.
The presidential election dominated the headlines and general conversation this year, with seemingly everyone giving their two cents on the candidates. Although a majority of rappers publicly rode with democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, a few choice hip-hop figures rode with Republican Donald Trump. His campaign was deemed as racially divisive and disrespectful toward minorities, especially the Black, Latino and Islamic communities.
In February of 2016, Azealia Banks would be among the first to publicly speak in favor of Trump, even going as far as to congratulate the polarizing tycoon-turned-politician via social media following him winning the election. Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA would also speak glowingly of Trump, while Kanye West would admit that he would have voted for Donald Trump out of all of the candidates following the election's outcome. Their public support and endorsement of Trump would not be taken kindly, with each figure being taken to task, respectively, after causing for some of the more disappointing occurrences of the year.
Ok so, I think I'm ready to admit that I'm going to vote for Donald Trump.
— azealiabanks (@AZEALIABANKS) February 1, 2016
I think Trump is the only one who truly has the balls to bust up big business. Hilary is too tied in with them and Bernie has no clout.
— azealiabanks (@AZEALIABANKS) February 1, 2016
Fans familiar with Beanie Sigel's pedigree as a battle rapper were ecstatic at hearing the Philly legend sending a quick warning shot toward The Game on Meek Mill's "OOOUUU" freestyle this past September. But things would take an unforeseeable turn after news spread that the Broad Street Bully had been attacked and knocked out in his hometown of Philly by affiliates of Meek Mill's own Dreamchasers clique.
Apparently rumors of Sigel leaking information to The Game had gotten back to the camp. Philly native Teefy Bey would take credit for doing the deed, explaining his reasoning in an interview and confirming that Beans was assaulted in retaliation to what he deemed as nefarious actions. However, motive aside, seeing the once dominant State Property leader in such a compromised position was a tough for rap fans familiar with him in his heyday as one of the more hardbody rappers in the game.
Honoring rap legends in hip-hop is not taken lightly, and Rich Homie Quan found himself under intense scrutiny earlier this year after botching his performance at VH1's Hip-Hop Honors show. Quan, who was tapped to perform The Notorious B.I.G.'s verse on the Junior M.A.F.I.A. classic "Get Money" alongside honoree Lil' Kim, barely got out a few words before freezing up and completely forgetting the remaining lyrics.
Lil' Kim attempted to step in for Quan and do damage control, but the blunder was noticeably egregious, leading social media to collectively voice their disappointment at his horrific showing while representing for one of the greatest rappers of all time. Rich Homie Quan would issue a public apology, which Kim would accept, expressing his remorse and professing his respect for the career and legacy of The Notorious B.I.G., but the moment remains an unforgettable and highly embarrassing one.
Lil Wayne spent much of 2016 going back and forth with Birdman over his pending lawsuit against his former mentor and business partner, but his comments about the Black Lives Matter movement were met with an enormous amount of backlash. On March 1, during an interview with Nightline, Weezy became dismissive when asked about his thoughts on Black Lives Matter. "I don't feel connected to a damn thing that ain't got nothin' to do with me," he admitted, adding that the term Black Lives Matter "just sounds weird."
Wayne, who also stated that he had never experienced racism during an appearance on the Fox Sports show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, would double down on his Black Lives Matter thoughts, reasoning, "I'm a young, Black, rich motherfucker. If that don't let you know that America understand." When the Nightline interview made its way to social media, the feedback was anything but positive with many people voicing their shock and displeasure at his statements. Although Lil Wayne would later apologize for his remarks, the damage had been done, making it one of the most appalling rap moments of the year.
New York City is no stranger to club shootings, but shock and disbelief engulfed the city and the hip-hop community as a whole when gunfire erupted at a T.I. concert at Irving Plaza earlier this year. The show, which occurred on May 25, was slated to include a surprise appearance from Brooklyn rapper Troy Ave. However, Troy would never make it to the stage, as he was captured on a security camera firing a gun into a crowd of people after a fight broke out in the VIP area.
When the smoke cleared, Troy Ave's bodyguard Ronald "Edgar" McPhatter, who suffered gunshot critical wounds during the melee, was pronounced dead, and two additional bystanders would also suffer gunshot wounds The BSB Records franchise player, who also suffered a gunshot wound to the leg during the incident, was indicted on one count of attempted murder and four counts of criminal possession of a weapon. He has proclaimed his innocence at every turn and was released from jail a month later in June. The Irving Plaza shooting was a tragic moment for hip-hop in 2016, and will not be forgotten anytime soon.
50 Cent's reputation as a bully precedes him, but the G-Unit mastermind reached a new low after filming himself making fun of an autistic man. The incident, which took place on March 3, at Cincinatti/Northern Kentucky Airport, occurred when the rapper encountered Andrew Farrell, a janitor at the airport, and commented that he appeared high due to his sluggish appearance. As a result, Fif began to mock Farrell.
When the video went viral and it was revealed that 50 Cent had actually poked fun at an autistic man, many people were offended, flooding 50 Cent's social media accounts with demands for an apology. 50 would apologize to Farrell and his family in addition to donating $100,000 to Autism Speaks to make amends, but the what was intended to be a humorous moment ultimately resulted in a major fail for the rapper.
2016 XXL Freshman Lil Yachty has quickly become one of the hottest and most polarizing young artists in rap, with the latter being a product of his controversial opinions and dismissive attitude towards the hip-hop legends of yesteryear. In August, the Atlanta native caused an uproar after admitting that he couldn't name five songs by The Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac Shakur, both of whom are universally regarded as two of the most important and influential rappers of all time.
He would further downplay the two legends' accomplishments in a clip that surfaced online, in which he states that Drake is better than both The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac due to his ability to sing, a comment that did not sit kindly with the true school set. But what may be Yachty's most controversial comment was him deeming Biggie as "overrated," which garnered a sizable amount of backlash from fan, critics and veteran artists. Fortunately, Lil Yachty would see the error in his ways and issue an apology after taking a plunge into Biggie's catalog, with the rising rapper's commentary among the most unpopular takes of 2016.
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony member Krayzie Bone was fighting a battle his fans didn't even realize this year. In March, the rapper revealed that he is battling sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the lungs and lymph nodes of the chest. The news gave longtime fans of the Ohio native cause for concern once he had to cut his Canada tour short after suffering an “intense case of pneumonia” due to the disease crippling his immune system.
While Krayzie Bone quickly recovered and was back on the grind in seemingly no time, the fact that comedian Bernie Mac passed away due to complications from sarcoidosis in 2008 brings room for caution. Krayzie Bone continues to give the fans all that he's got, whether in the studio or on the stage. While not much has been revealed of his current fight with sarcoidosis, we hope no news is good news.
One of the more high-profile rap-related deaths this year was that of rising Atlanta spitter Bankroll Fresh, who would be murdered outside of his own recording studio following an alleged disagreement with a childhood friend and fellow Atlanta rapper No Plug. The incident, which took place on March 4, would shock the rap community, with many lamenting Bankroll Fresh's potential. The rapper was on the verge of superstardom at the time of his death. No Plug would later claim he shot Bankroll Fresh in self-defense. As of December, charges have yet to be filed in Bankroll's murder, and the case remains unresolved.
Two months ago, Kid Cudi shocked his fans with the announcement that he was checking himself into rehab. The Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' creator admitted he felt "ashamed" for "living a lie." Cudi also shared that he entered rehab for depression and suicidal urges.
Skizzy Mars also shed light on his battle with drugs in October. The rapper revealed he had previously gone to rehab and was heading back. "i grew up on drugs, rapping about them. first time im saying this. checked into rehab in june and left in september," he wrote on Twitter. "was depressed, anxious, hopeless. i came home and felt like i had more to offer myself nd my fans as far as self betterment. so going back." He's since deleted the tweets from his profile.
2016 was already a heavy year for the city of Atlanta and its rap community when it was hit with more unfortunate news on Sept. 21, when it was announced that rapper Shawty Lo had passed away at age 40 as a result of a fatal car crash. Shawty Lo, born Carlos Walker, was best known for his 2008 hit "Dey Know," as well as his heated rivalry with fellow Atlanta rapper T.I. While the exact cause of the death was unknown at the time, an autopsy later revealed that Shawty Lo was ejected from the vehicle after losing control, suffering blunt force trauma to the head. The news of the rhymer's death quickly spread throughout the hip-hop community, with many of the game's most respected figures voicing their love, respect and appreciation for the pride of Bankhead.
After taking the rap world by storm in 2014, with his viral hit-turned-Billboard smash "Hot Nigga," Bobby Shmurda would end the year in cuffs after being arrested and charged as part of an alleged criminal conspiracy, putting his promising career in jeopardy. Spending all of 2015 behind bars while proclaiming his innocence and his belief that he was being unfairly targeted by the NYPD and the prosecution, Bobby had appeared to catch a break in his case this past May when his lawyer requested to push back his trial date from May 12 until Sept. 12.
However, on Oct. 19, the rapper would ultimately plead guilty to murder conspiracy and was sentenced to seven years in prison (with two years time served credited), with an additional five years of probation. This ended all hopes of an explosive comeback from the Brooklyn rapper, at least for the foreseeable future.
Kanye West's mental health was a hot topic of conversation in November when he began saying some pretty shocking words during his Saint Pablo Tour dates. The first instance came when he announced his support of Donald Trump. "I told y’all I didn’t vote, right? But if I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump,” 'Ye said. Then he called out his "big brother" Jay Z onstage. "Jay Z, call me bruh," he shouted. "You still ain’t call me,” said ‘Ye. “Jay Z, I know you got killers. Please don’t send ’em at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man.”
Following these comments, Yeezy canceled the remaining dates on his tour and was then hospitalized. Psychosis brought on by dehydration and exhaustion and missed medication were linked to his meltdown. He made his first public appearance since leaving the hospital in December, sporting blond hair at a Rick Owens' furniture exhibition, but sent fans and critics into a frenzy when he had a meeting with Donald Trump.
Chicago's rap scene has produced a heap of promising talent over the past few years, and Famous Dex appears to be one of the next artists from the city to blow up in the rap game. Dex, who signed with Rich The Kid's Rich Forever Music and gained a major buzz with his "Took Time" single, made headlines for unsavory reasons after a surveillance video featuring him assaulting his girlfriend found its way to the Internet.
In light of the nation's recent controversies surrounding domestic violence, the disturbing clip would rub more than a few fans the wrong way. As a result, Puma went on the record to announce that they had no ties to the rapper since he was once featured in a photo shoot wearing the brand. Dex would be arrested following the incident and issue an apology following his release. However, the image of him striking his girlfriend would be ingrained in many people's heads and cause Dex's popularity to take a substantial hit as a result.
Rappers showing off their wealth and riches is nothing new, but Young Thug's boastful display of his riches while at an airport recently went a step too far. In a short clip posted on his Instagram account, Thugger is seen berating two female airline employees with a flurry of insults while flashing a suitcase full of money. He refers to the employees as "peasants" and maliciously jokes that they look like "Africans." Thug also offered the employees $15,000 apiece to leave their jobs on the spot in an effort to further humiliate them, much to the chagrin of his fans and detractors alike, including Pete Rock, who publicly took the rapper to task.
The Jeffery creator would take the video off of social media after being hit with an onslaught of backlash and post a series of tweets accusing the airline employees of being disrespectful towards him. However, a formal apology wasn't immediately given, making Thugger's low moment even more distasteful on face value. Although Young Thug's own mother would scold him and demand that he return to the airport to apologize to the women he offended, the gesture was too little too late in the eyes of many, and did little to right his wrong.
Dr. Dre is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and influential rap producers of all time, and while he's faded from the spotlight as of late, ex-girlfriend Michel'le's Lifetime biopic Surviving Compton put the focus on Dre in an unflattering way. Although his infamous 1991 run-in with Dee Barnes, during which he assaulted the former video show host due to Ice Cube making disparaging comments about N.W.A on her show, many fans did not expect to see the abusive version of Dre that was depicted in Surviving Compton.
Throughout the film, Michel'le recounts numerous instances in which Dr. Dre physically and emotionally terrorized her, including one especially troubling scene in which he fires a gun in her direction out of anger. The horrific details alleged by Michel'le would cause the hip-hop community, especially on social media, to revisit Dr. Dre's past transgressions, weigh them against the film and wonder if the Good Doctor was the man they had all come to know. Dr. Dre would not issue a response or statement in light of the allegations. Instead, he threatened to sue Michel'le and Lifetime for defamation, but in the court of public opinion, Surviving Compton was viewed as an indictment on the rap legend and his checkered past.
2016 has been a wild year and Soulja Boy was as part of the festivities as anyone. Aside from making waves due to his reported $400 million deal, which ultimately turned out to be flawed, Soulja Boy kept his name in the headlines by engaging in a string of acts that made the rap world collectively shake their heads in disgust or shame. The first incident occurred in August, when Soulja posted a video of himself brandishing a firearm and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend Nia Riley and her new boyfriend. Riley's new man sued Soulja for $10,000 for the emotional distress and harm the post caused.
Soulja also publicly attacked Lil Yachty over their mutual relationship with India Love, but would retract those statements and apologize to the "Minnesota" rapper, blaming his outburst on a lack of weed and lean. His most recent mishaps involve actor-turned-rapper Shia LaBeouf and Migos member Quavo, both of whom Souljah has engaged in social media beef with. Soulja would upload yet another video of himself to Instagram showing off guns and threatening both parties with physical and gun violence. While Soulja Boy's antics may be humorous to some, they have ultimately been among the more disappointing displays of the year -- including his most recent arrest -- and are sure to leave more than a few people befuddled.
One of the unexpected tragedies that shellshocked hip-hop was the death of DJ Big Kap, one of the most respected DJs in the New York City hip-hop scene. On Feb. 4, Kap, born Keith Carter, would pass away at age 45 as a result of a heart attack, which he suffered while in Atlanta, where he had recently moved months prior to his death. The DJ earned his rep as hip-hop royalty by holding down the 1s and 2s alongside Funkmaster Flex at New York City's legendary nightclub The Tunnel during its heyday in the 1990s. Big Kap had moved down south with plans to promote his Internet radio station Highly Unique Radio, as well as his Burn Unit Crew, a collective of independent artists he was working with prior to his death. As the hip-hop community learned of his untimely passing, rappers like Cormega and Talib Kweli paid their respects to his legacy.