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Hidden hip-hop gems of summer ’16: A retrospective

Almost every influential artist in hip-hop has either written, produced, or created a melodic, game-changing track that encompasses their unique artistry, not even knowing if that song would be a big hit. These artists take risks in hopes that their fans, as well as the rest of the music world, will understand their vision. However, what may seem risky can quickly turn into a great success story for those gifted individuals — a true piece of raw, unfiltered artwork that has been positively received.

Now, while it’s impressive to have a hit single, timing is essential and summer is a sacred season when it comes to releasing a big hit. Everybody loves a good anthem they can jam out to during the hot summer days as they joyride to the beach or a pool party. And certain summer selections climb to the top of the charts, becoming a “song of the summer.” These are the songs that we make crazy, adventurous yet everlasting memories to. The songs that will be loved for years to come because it will remind listeners of their favorite, and most wild moments of summer ’16.

But like all good things, which can’t last, summer is coming to an end. As we reflect on summer ’16, and the music that’s been in rotation since June, rolling out has decided to celebrate and applaud some of hip-hop’s emerging, breakout artists who have been taking over the airwaves, selling out shows, and climbing the music charts, surpassing some of the hottest rappers in the game, all summer long.

After months of debating and reviewing readers’ votes and submissions, we’re proud to present our highly anticipated summer ’16 cover, highlighting the success of some of hip-hop’s newest talent, who have made their presence known.

This summer’s hip-hop dominators are: 21 Savage, YFN Lucci, Migos, Kap G, Young Dolph and recording producer Zaytoven. We’ve heard all of these artists’ songs played in the club, at parties, and on the radio for months now. Weeks prior to the release of this honorable cover, all of these rising stars, who now hold the crown of Summer Sixteen’s most influential artists, sat down with rolling out to reveal how they felt about being selected for the cover and being named as having one of the hottest songs of the summer.

21 Savage

21 Savage just recently emerged on the hip-hop scene, and has already accomplished more this summer than many others. He recently dropped his Savage Mode project, a collaboration with ATL-based producer Metro Boomin, which includes his summer hit single, “X” featuring Future. The undeniable fan-favorite track relates to anyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship that they’re now free of. After all, what better way to get over an ex than catchy lyrics and a dope beat. One can’t help but to wonder if Savage made that song about someone from his past. “It’s not about anyone in particular, it’s about all them h–s,” says 21 Savage. “X” has been moving up the charts since he released it earlier in the summer. According to Savage, he recorded the song without any expectations. “I knew the song was taking off when I looked at iTunes and saw the numbers and all the views,” Savage also shared his most memorable moments of the summer: “It’s been a real lit summer, especially going No. 1 on iTunes — and I was on the cover of XXL too!” It’s definitely been a successfully lit summer for the Atlanta native, whose rest of 2016 definitely looks promising.

YFN Lucci

YFN Lucci
YFN Lucci has definitely had an eventful summer. The Atlanta native was a special guest on the “Parental Advisory” tour with Kodak Black and Lil Uzi. It was there that Lucci won over the crowd with his hit single, “Key to the Streets.” During the Atlanta show, he brought out Migos and Trouble, who are featured on the song. Their collaborative performance had everyone singing along word-for-word. According to Lucci, he knew that “Key to the Streets” was going to be a hit. “I think all of my songs [are] hits, because that’s what I’m aiming for; when I go in the studio, I’m not just trying to make a regular song,” Lucci explained. Since it’s release, “Key to the Streets” has charted on Billboard’s Top 20. Some of Lucci’s best summer moments have taken place in his hometown, Atlanta. Aside from his popular track, Lucci said his hometown is the place to come in the summer if you are trying to have fun. “When you come to Atlanta, you got to go to Magic City, and hang with the fly crew. … Just hit a strip club, any strip club in Atlanta; you’re gonna have too much fun,” he exclaims. Lucci definitely has the keys to the streets of Atlanta, and is well on his way to obtaining the master key to the hip-hop world if he continues on his currently blazing path.


Off Set, Take Off, and Quavo, better know as Migos, have been dominating the charts for quite some time now. In 2013, they awoke the competition with their top-charting hit single “Versace”, which definitely went down in the hall of fame for best summer song. In 2014, Migo’s rendition of Jermaine Dupri’s song “Welcome to Atlanta”, had fans falling in-love again with the most popular city in the South. In 2015, everybody was “piped up” and now, the Migos have everyone turning up to their latest singe, “Say Sum,” which has a different tone from their typical trap vibe. Still, it’s obvious that the Migos have consistently delivered hits, and we aren’t expecting them to slow down. Their most recent project, “3 Way” is now available online.

Kag G

Kap G
Kap G, the newest, emerging Mexican-American hip-hop artist, has everyone taking photos with other people’s girlfriends this summer. His hit song “Girlfriend” has been commanding the airwaves all summer. Celebrities such as Draya Michelle, Bow Wow and Kylie Jenner have made Snapchat videos jamming to Kap G’s viral single. According to Kap, he was surprised at how fast the single took off. He said, “When I saw it hit a million views in only a month and a half, I was like geez.” He added, “Before I even put it out, everybody had already told me it was a hit. I’m just happy it’s doing what it’s doing.” Even though Kap is preoccupied taking pictures with other’s girlfriends, he says he’s single and looking for a boo. “I’m into intelligent women — I like them thick, cute, light skin, dark skin, Middle Eastern, attractive, pretty, got a head on her shoulders,” he said. Well, ladies, if you want a shot with Kap G, you might have a chance to be his “girlfriend.” Kap G’s song is still getting top plays, and at the rate he’s going, we predict he’ll have a very successful rest of 2016.

Young Dolph

Young Dolph
Young Dolph, who many refer to as “The King of Memphis,” has had quite a few hits during summer 2016. Stepping back a year ago, everyone grew to love his verse on the remix of O.T. Genesis’ song “Cut It,” which was one of the biggest songs of the summer of 2015, peaking at number 35 on Billboard Hot 100. He also received praise for his singles “Get Paid” and “Royalty,” which took over the streets this summer. Dolph explained that “Royalty” was the fastest song that he recorded. “I recorded the whole album in three days. When I did ‘Royalty,’ out of all the songs, it was the fastest song I did. When I heard the beat, I knew the beat was lit,” he said. “When I came out the booth, it came out like a painting. I was dropping a lot of game, and it was just hard.” Dolph never expected that he would be selected to be on the cover of a magazine for having a hot summer song. “When you do stuff, you really don’t focus on the awards — you just be busy catering to your fans. You really just be busy cooking the food up to serve your people, and whatever comes after that, it is what it is,” he says. Young Dolph is currently on his Royalty tour, and recently released a new mixtape. It’s safe to say that Young Dolph’s crown is secure, and that the King of Memphis will continue to hold it down for his city.


Unlike everyone else selected to be on the cover, Zaytoven is not an artist — he is a producer. However, Zaytoven is not just any producer. He’s a super-producer, who has, in fact, produced songs for almost all of his cover mates. His most recent work, in collaboration with MikeWillMadeIt, for Gucci Mane’s Everybody Looking album, is what earned him his spot as most influential producer of summer 2016. Zaytoven has always had a close relationship with Gucci Mane, so according to him, working on Gucci’s new album was a no-brainer. Over the years, Zaytoven has solidified his place as one of the key players responsible for elevating Atlanta’s music scene. Zaytoven’s sincere and unmatched style and sound links back to when his music career started in the church, where he learned to play the keyboard as a boy. “I started off playing the drums. My daddy is a preacher; my mom was the choir director,” he says. “Every little boy in the church wanted to play the drums, so that’s what made me move over to the keyboard.” His church piano lessons definitely paid off when Future invited him to perform with him at this year’s VMAs. In a time when producers are now considered to be just as popular and well-known as artists, Zaytoven spoke to how being in the limelight affected him. “At first, I didn’t want to be in the forefront, but I know now for me to grow and make more money and brand myself, I’m all for it,” he says. All eyes have definitely been on the producer this summer. Zaytoven is set to shine even brighter during the upcoming months as fans are patiently awaiting the release of his Beast Mode 2 project, and forthcoming movie, Birds of a Feather 2.

Overall, summer ’16 was filled with great songs from amazing musical hip hop contributors. Established artists and producers like Drake, DJ Khaled, Metro Boomin, MikeWillMadeIT, Young Thug and many others have had their share of topping the charts this summer, but these emerging stars held their own among the top artists in the game. 21 Savage, YFN Lucci, Migos, Kap G, Young Dolph and Zaytoven have played a key role in branding this summer with memorable tunes.

Written by Niya Hogans

Cover image by James Anthony

Interior images by Royal Bridges


1 Comment

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