Flatly, 2016 as a staff, record label and as a motherf—king crew has collectively sucked. Far too many people have died, and a spoiled, mango-colored racist man surrounded by a bunch of like-minded bigots and sycophants will soon make life hell for many who have survived. However, as draining as this year has felt for many, there are plenty of bright spots to behold. Here, I recap some of my favorite winners of 2016.
Technically, Beyoncé wins every damn year of her wonderful life, but in 2016 she gave us a show-stealing performance at the Super Bowl; released an illuminating visual film for her phenomenal latest album, Lemonade; had an incredible tour; gave one brilliant performance after another on awards shows like the VMAs, the CMAs and the BET Awards; tried to save this country from its stupid self by endorsing Hillary Clinton for president; and continued to be gloriously country, black, Houston and all-around better than her peers. I’m always bowing down.
The initial singles in 2015 were not up to the standard she has set, and the release delays felt painful, but finally, Anti arrived and was Rihanna’s greatest album. And while some may have made snide remarks over her deal with Samsung that led to her giving away 1 million copies for free, that’s $25 million more than they have. Besides, if you turn on the radio, that Rihanna reign still won’t let up.
The singer-songwriter seemingly loves reclusion as much as he does an ole nasty somber song. Yet, close to a year after he initially promised fans new material, Ocean finally delivered on his promise with not one, but two works. The first was Endless, a visual album that turned out to be his way of fulfilling his contractual obligations with his former label, and then came Blonde, which he released independently. Not only does Ocean enjoy complete artistic freedom, but he is now more than ever getting to the “mu-mu-muny/yen and the pesos.”
Although her work did not lend itself to the result she intended, the first lady was by far the greatest political surrogate of the election season. Obama advocated for Hillary Clinton in ways that were superior to those of everyone else—including Clinton herself. Moreover, Obama was able to condemn Donald Trump and all of his despicable ways without even uttering his name. Typically not one to shy away from public beef, even Honeysuckle Lenin didn’t dare come for the neck of FLOTUS. When asked about the election results, Obama didn’t say much but made one thing clear: She meant everything she said.
Of all things to miss about our current administration, I will miss Michelle Obama most. She has been a winner every year, but history will look kindly on this one, for many reasons.
Fans of the Los Angeles-based gem have long known of her genius from her popular Web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, but this year, she made her long-awaited television debut with the HBO comedy Insecure, and it's bigger, brighter and more complicated than its online predecessor. Rae seized upon the opportunity and ran with it. Not only has the show resulted in a Golden Globe nomination for its star and heart, but it has also already been confirmed for a second season. Until then, many will be debating who had it right: Issa or Lawrence. The rest of us will just be happy Issa knocked it out with the show.
Some of us were open-minded but nonetheless slightly skeptical about his new TV series, but Atlanta proved itself to be smart, idiosyncratic, nearly genre-boundless television that proved vital. So much nuance and layers were crammed into 10 30-minute episodes—a testament to Glover’s vision. Long live the South.
Queen Sugar is gorgeous in its subtlety, and brilliant in its complex depiction of a contemporary black family in Louisiana. And there's DuVernay's documentary The 13th, a haunting look at mass incarceration and America’s long-standing tradition of devaluing black life.
There are only two real options for siblings of superstars who also function as artists: Ray J or Janet Jackson. Thankfully, Solange is more so the latter. And before you say it, no one will ever be Janet Jackson, but at the same time, very few get to step out of the shadows of their siblings and let their own light shine as brightly as their talent deserves. Solange has had her own lane for years now, but this year, with her recent and best body of work, A Seat at the Table, Beyoncé’s little sis is doing big things, like landing her first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Most of all, she gave black people music that we need now more than ever.
There are many films about black manhood, but none like this beautiful, moving film about a man who just so happens to be attracted to other men. Director Barry Jenkins and the rest of the cast deserve every honor heading their way in the looming awards season.
Finally, an actual black girl managed to cash in on the Kardashian game that every member of that family has been playing for years. Plus, she had her mom, Tokyo Toni, on E! of all places.
Cardi B managed to do something that very few folks who are a part of the Love & Hip Hop franchise get to do: successfully launch a music career and be taken seriously as an artist. Dyckman’s answer to Trina has a very solid mixtape that she tours the country with. Now we just need more music and maybe a spin-off with sister Hennessy.
Three words: Queen of Instagram.
Remy Ma is correct in her assertion that it is not as easy to leave prison and regain stardom and fortune in the music industry as it may seem. And yet she managed to. Actually, I’ll let Remy explain exactly how well this year has gone for her below:
Young Thug’s Mama
I intended to honor the rapper for “Future Swag” and for being a straight male rapper who argued that gender and gender binaries are not nearly as important as they seem. However, after that stunt at the airport in which he disrespected Alaska Airlines employees by referring to them as "ants," "peasants," "bums" and "black burnt women" who "look like Africans" that “got deported," the honors go to his mama for making his black ass apologize.
A photo posted by ""JEFFERY"" (@thuggerthugger1) on Dec 13, 2016 at 9:41am PST
Peak black-mom behavior. 100 emoji.
A lot of us will be putting the words "F—k Donald Trump" on repeat for the foreseeable future. Thanks to YG, sometimes we’ll be able to dance along to the sentiment.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.