20 Songs to Kick Off 2016 the Right Way
All good things must come to an end and 2015 was no different. Hip-hop may have experienced a landmark year of memorable albums and monumental moments, but time waits for no one and the show must go on (whether you like it or not). However, one good thing about not being suspended in time is the possibilities of the future and all that it can bring, which is usually more exciting to think about rather than dwelling on the past.
After enduring the past 365 days, it's January yet again and that means that a new year is here. 2015 may have been a great one, but we're hoping that 2016 will bring even more good times and growth (or whatever it is you're looking for in life at this moment). But what good is prepping yourself to tackle the year in front of you without some great music to enjoy. DJ Khaled's keys to success are motivational but the right track can inspire you to do just about anything.
Since music is the soundtrack to our lives, there's no room for wack songs in a playlist. In those moments when we feel we have little gas left in the tank to push forward, listening to an artist who inspires through their lyrics is necessary. With that in mind, XXL brings you the must-have tracks to help you mentally replenish and kick off 2016 the right way. From old school to new, Lupe Fiasco to Pusha T, there's something for everyone. Here are 20 Songs to Kick Off 2016 the Right Way.
G-Eazy continued to emerge as a rising star in 2015, releasing his sophomore LP, When It's Dark Out, which more than doubled the first week sales of his debut. Much of that success can be credited to the album's lead single, "Me, Myself, & I, an inspirational number that finds the Bay Area rep embracing his lone-wolf status while on the road to success. His verses are filled with personal affirmations, but the true moment of inspiration comes courtesy of Beba Rexha, who turns in an impassioned performance on the hook. "Oh, it's just me, myself and I / Solo ride until I die / Cause I got me for life / Oh I don't need a hand to hold / Even when the night is cold / I got that fire in my soul," she sings. Lines like that are sure to motivate you to be great and take the bull by the horns this year.
Lupe Fiasco had a return to form in 2015, releasing his fifth studio album, Tetsuo & Youth. The album, which was his most critically acclaimed effort since The Cool, was one of this past year's best offerings and one of the standout selections is the triumphant number, "Blur My Hands." From the hook, sung by Guy Sebastian to lyrics like "It's road rage, without a roll cage / Takes courage to run on these roadways /I know you like "no way", but I'm a full race / All so every soccer Terry Fox molding, go ahead / Don't stop, go ahead," "Blur My Hands" stokes a deep-seeded fire in one's soul every time it's spun.
Scarface may be a vicious dog when unleashed on a track, but proves he's got a few new tricks up his sleeve on "All Bad." While his Deeply Rooted album is stacked from top to bottom, this moving number finds the rapper reminding you to stay optimistic and keep your head above water and eyes on the prize 'cause it could always be worse. Wise words from a decent man, indeed.
Pusha T is akin to preacher Joel Osteen when it comes to speaking to the soul of the hustler. And his sage word of advice on the Darkest Before Dawn cut, "Keep Dealing," should keep the most pessimistic dope boy vying to double up his earnings by the end of the record. When Pusha sneers, "Talk numbers, but never talk ‘em to me though / When you’re the link to what fits in the keyhole / The realest nigga to marathon on the RICO / The last cocaine superhero" on the hook, it's almost impossible for anyone not to be moved to dial up the plug and get busy. Jeezy may have thug motivation on lock, but Pusha, along with Beanie Sigel, provide a hymn for trappers worldwide with this track.
Jadakiss has been one of the more respected voices in rap for nearly two decades and while he wouldn't be confused for a traditional motivational speaker, his bars inspire the streets like few others. Linking up with Styles P, the two drop a slew of gems with their recent collaboration, "Synergy," from Kiss' latest offering, Top 5 Dead or Alive. Intertwining bars in their signature fashion, quips like, "Politics to the side, no one sicker than I /First the devil will try to conquer (then he’ll divide) / It’s my job as a man (to forever provide) / What's the meaning of living (since you barely survive?) / If you came from the dirt (now you touching the sky)," will make you feel unstoppable and ready to tackle anything in your path this coming year.
Rapsody enjoyed a breakout 2015 and proved that will and determination will eventually prevail, even for aspiring rap greats. Those sentiments, as well as her independent state-of-mind, are on full display on her standout single, "Don't Need It," from her album, Beauty and the Beast.
Guest vocalist Merna serves up a valuable sermon on the hook, crooning, "Fuck what them say, I don't need it /Them wanna build you today just to tear you down / I don't let them preach, and I don't believe it / See there's no weight to they words, they can't wear me down." The words encourage you to believe in yourself first and foremost and to stay the course in 2016 and beyond.
Known as one of the more flashy rapper's out today, it's plausible to see how Big Sean's style could outshine his substance at times. But make no mistake, he is as dedicated to spreading positivity as he is dropping braggadocio bars, which he reminds us of on his poignant single, "One Man Can Change the World." One of the choice selections from his third studio album, Dark Sky Paradise, the track is chock-full of sincerity, with lines like
"I hope you learn to make it on your own / And if you love yourself just know you'll never be alone / I hope that you get everything you want and that you chose / I hope that it's the realest thing that you ever know." Sean Don urges you to be rich in spirit and to realize your dreams, regardless of the circumstances.
It's great to be inspired by others, but when that admiration crosses over into envy, you've found yourself in dangerous territory. J. Cole drives home that point with his 2014 Forest Hills Drive track, "Love Yourz." Hearing the lines "It's beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success / Hear my words or listen to my signal of distress / I grew up in the city and though some times we had less / Compared to some of my niggas down the block man we were blessed," will put things in perspective and ensure you'll be focusing on the right things and people throughout 2016.
Meek Mill enjoyed a roller coaster of a year, dropping one of the better albums with Dreams Worth More Than Money and finding himself on the wrong side of memes. But make no mistake about it, the current face of Philly rap is great for inspiring listeners to stack wins, which he did on the album opening salvo, "Lord Knows." Bars like "Every time you be on count, what the topic on? / 250 thou what I dropped it on / See y'all think it's a game 'til FOX be on / CNN, momma picking out boxes for 'em / I want everything, got my own boxers on / Own headphones to get my popping on / I got my own Pumas that I designed 'em for 'em / Stick and moving on these niggas, get my boxing on" speak to being a self-made man, which everyone should aspire to. And when you add in the hook by Tory Lanez, "Lord Knows" is the perfect track to get in tune with the dream chaser in you.
Some people may be more exuberant in displaying their motivation for taking on life, but others tend to brood more and take things a day at a time. Well, Earl Sweatshirt's song, "Faucet," is a perfect choice for the latter set to spin while contemplating how to make their life more enjoyable in 2016. "My days numbered / I'm focused heavy on making the most of 'em / I feel like I'm the only one pressing to grow upwards / It's still fuck you and whoever you showed up with," he raps. Earl crafts an anthem for those fed up with life, but still manage to keep it trucking and moving forward.
Beginning a new year can be an arduous task for those that are already mentally, physically and spiritually spent from the last 365 days. Add in all of the bull society throws at us and it's easy to see how many would want throw in the towel and wave the white flag in the face of fatigue. Kendrick Lamar was aware of these feelings, hence his song "Alright" serving as a rallying cry for those fighting to hold on by a thread. "Wouldn't you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga / When our pride was low /Lookin' at the world like, "Where do we go?" Nigga / And we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho, nigga / I'm at the preacher's door /My knees gettin' weak, and my gun might blow / But we gon' be alright," he barks. K. Dot crafts the perfect song to conjure up a strong fight in those looking to survive 2016 in one piece.
"I'ma chill in the spot, with a spliff I been lifted a lot But I'm still not high enough / All the mills that I got, couple whips in the lot / If there's a list to the top you could sign me up," Mac Miller rhymes on the GO:OD AM standout cut, "Clubhouse." An upbeat offering, the track finds Mac reminiscing on his days at the bottom of the totem while simultaneously celebrating his wins as well -- basically the same thing many of us do heading into a new year anyway. Give this joint a spin to mentally prepping for the months ahead of you.
"Yno" features Rae Sremmurd linking up with Big Sean for an epic cut off of their Sremm Life album that simply goes. Speaking on their rise to the top and fair-weather friends, Swae Lee raps, "A1 since day one we stayed down so we came up / Some of them niggas won't make it with you / They'll lose hope and they'll change up / I can see these niggas hating / But as you can see the bad bitches love it / They wouldn't let us in the VIP back then / Now our names on the flyer if we're coming." He makes it known that the detractors and naysayers can do nothing to stop their winning streak. Definitely great mood music to jump-start your year while chucking a middle finger to the haters.
Future and Drake put the whole rap game on notice with their collaborative album, What a Time to Be Alive, which was one of the biggest releases of last year. Despite being loaded with heaters from top to bottom, one of the more indelible cuts is "Big Rings," which finds both artists celebrating life at the top of the food chain. If Drake rapping, "Man, what a time to be alive / You and yours vs. me and mine / Are we talkin' teams? Are we talkin' teams? / Oh, you switchin' sides? Wanna come with me?," doesn't give you a sense of purpose and a reason to be great in 2016, we're not sure what will.
If you're in need of a little inspiration while gearing up for the year ahead of you, Lil Wayne's 2005 hit, "Money On My Mind" serves as a prime selection for the go-getter in you. Released back when Tunechi was regarded as arguably the best rapper alive, the track features the rhymer at the height of his powers and as focused as ever. Couplets like "I got my hand on the game, yeah I make a grip / Hundred grand in my fist, same on my wrist / Get key money from a quarter, blame it on my wrist / I whip coke like hoes, nigga I'm a pimp / Lil' nigga 'bout to rape the market / If we talking 'bout money, baby now we talking" are fiscally appropriate and should put the battery in your back to increase your dividends with no problem.
Life is precious, yet fragile and is to be enjoyed living in the moment. Why worry when tomorrow isn't even promised? Rick Ross is a fan of this train of thought and promotes it on "Live Fast, Die Young," from his Teflon Don album. Featuring the ever-motivational Kanye West, both MCs celebrate the trappings of success and focus on the present, which is the best guideline when you're winning. "They say we can't be living like this for the rest of our lives / Well we gon' be living like this / For the rest of tonight / And you know they gon' be banging this shit For the rest of our lives," Yeezy rhymes, driving the point home on the hook. "Live Fast, Die Young" shouldn't be taken literally (for those of you who were wondering), but is more of a credo on how we should spend our time on this earth while we have the chance.
A good life is usually had by a person who knows the importance of balancing work and play. And who lives a more eventful life than Wiz Khalifa? The Taylor Gang O.G. knows all about keeping his fun time and business at the forefront, as evidenced by his anthem of a track, "Work Hard, Play Hard." Coming from a blue-collar city like Pittsburgh, Khalifa knows all about getting his hands dirty, a fact you can glean from the hook on the record. Spitting "The bigger the bill, the harder you ball / Well I'm throwing mine, cause my money long / The quicker you here, the faster you go / That's why where I come from the only thing we know is," Wiz shows that success hasn't altered his work ethic a bit. "Go hard / Make sure you do whatever is that you gotta do, that's your job" is some of the most sound advice you can hear when gearing up to take on the obstacles ahead of you.
Jay Z is one of rap's go-to artists when looking for life gems and one of his more unsung lyrical manuals to living is his Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter cut, "Nymp." Opening the track rapping, "Life's a battle / Mean streets eat you alive, blocks'll have you / Tryna' maintain your course through the potholes and gravel /Hot holes and what-have-you, tryin to clock dough," it's clear that Hov is intent on revealing the nooks and crannies of the game on this outing. It's impossible not to be in the state-of-mind to dominate 2016 after hearing Jay rhyme, "I'm a hustler; accept that / No correctional facilities can correct that / I took a step back, I viewed myself, seen where my head was at / It's where that dough is homey, gotta get that." A hustler's poem for sure and a key cut to get you ready for the hustle and bustle of 2016.
"Can I talk my shit again? / Even if I don't hit again? / Dog, are you fucking kidding?" Kanye spits on the Graduation album cut, "The Glory," which features Mr. West going all out for the gusto. Rhyming over rolling piano keys and persistent drums, Kanye's confidence is sky high, with lines like "But with my ego / I can stand there in a speedo and be looked at like a fucking hero" serving as evidence of his joy after reaching the top of the mountain. Reminding us to "get money and stunt and stay glorious," Kanye is in full Tony Robbins mode on "The Glory," which is essential listening for anyone looking to seize the moment with a vengeance.
"I fly with the stars, in the skies / I am no longer trying to survive / I believe that life is a prize / But to live, doesn’t mean you’re alive," Nicki Minaj spits on her 2010 hit "Moment 4 Life," lifted from her debut album, Pink Friday. The song, which features Drake, is one of hope and perseverance and sees the Jamaica, Queens native recalling her humble beginnings, as well as the bright future ahead of her. Rhymes like "Shout out to my haters, sorry that you couldn’t faze me / Ain't being cocky, we just vindicated / Best believe that - When we're done, this moment will be syndicated, I don't know / This night, just reminds me of / Everything that they deprived me of" are a testament to sticking to your guns and looking forward, never backwards.