11 of the Most Viral Hip-Hop Stars of 2016
As a rapper in 2016, you're not really poppin' until you've become a viral sensation. And while we're in the age of praising almost anything rappers do or say, an artist has to really push the envelope to stand out from the pack.
Hip-hop's most hilarious challenges, epic reunions and important albums of 2016 have played out live on social media. Whenever a highly anticipated album was released, hip-hop Twitter was the first to dissect it track by track. Drake's quadruple-platinum album Views was premiered exclusively on Apple Music in April and after three years of waiting for a new LP, fans could hardly contain themselves. While Drizzy sat down with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe for a live interview during the night of the release, fans were simultaneously switching between the audio of the 6ix God's interview, listening to the new music itself and firing up their meme generators.
Aside from new releases, taking part in an Internet challenge was the best form of free entertainment this year. And while the "Juju on the Beat" challenge and #SoFarGoneChallenge kept rap's attention for a little while, the Mannequin Challenge got rappers involved and trying to one-up each other the most.
Check out some of the most viral hip-hop moments worth talking about in 2016 below.
Listeners of Power 105’s morning show The Breakfast Club were treated to the possibly shortest interview ever when Birdman stormed into the studio with an agenda of his own.
"Put some respeck on my name. All three of y'all stop playin' with my fuckin' name," said Birdman before storming out. The moment became a piece of viral hip-hop gold. Fans immediately made memes of the heated exchange and Birdman himself made a song and sold merch with the slogan on it.
Drake kept his fans waiting for three years for his latest album, Views. And while the album is now quadruple platinum, on the night it dropped back in April, the new music sent listeners reeling. The emotions Drake showed on Views had people deep in their feelings.
Gucci Mane getting out of prison changed the game in 2016. When fans caught wind that Guwop was out of the pen early based on good behavior, they threw a throwback Gucci party on Twitter. All those #FreeGucci tweets finally paid off.
This one's pretty self-explanatory, right? When we dropped our annual XXL Freshman cover in June, the Twitter trolls came out of the woodwork and made some pretty hilarious memes about the artists that should've—and shouldn't have—made the list.
When XXL shared the freestyle of newly minted 2016 XXL Freshman Desiigner, the Internet thought his snap-assisted song sounded something like a spiritual. Fellow musicians remixed the audio on SoundCloud and reenacted the performance in parody videos.
Lil Yachty has had a history of bumping heads with old school hip-hop vets who called him a "mumble rapper," and for the most part, he's taken the criticism in stride. But he had everyone on the Internet shocked when he said one of the best rappers of all time, The Notorious B.I.G., was overrated. People really came at his neck for that one.
French Montana and Wiz Khalifa excited fans when they shared on social media that Harlem rapper Max B, also known as The Wavy One, had his prison sentence reduced and was getting out of jail sooner than expected: in 2018. Fans were already making plans for who Max should collaborate with when he gets out and making memes of his return.
The rap duo managed to ride the social media trend of the Mannequin Challenge all the way to the top of the charts. Rae Sremmurd's song "Black Beatles," which was used as the soundtrack to people doing the online challenge, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November, making it the pair's highest charting song ever.
— Swae Lee Lee Swae (@iHipsterLee) November 4, 2016
XXL Freshman 21 Savage unknowingly made a viral moment when he answered a question about his famous face tattoo. The video says it all.
Yung Joc shared of photo of his new permed hair in August and, as expected, his sleek tresses got him dragged by social media. Though he claimed it was for an upcoming movie role, the Atlanta rapper was able to laugh along with the Internet. He even said he created some of the memes himself.
Kanye West has been a viral star for the majority of his career, but 2016 really takes the cake. Kanye's crazy year culminated this December when the rapper met with President-elect Donald Trump—one of the most hated politicians in hip-hip right now. As a result, a handful of rappers and a lot of former fans spoke out against 'Ye.