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Head-Roc, The Black Leon ProjectHead-Roc, a rapper so respected that he is referred to as the “Mayor of DC Hip-Hop,” dropped his fifth solo album The Black Leon Project this year. Head-Roc is still the same rebellious spirit he was during the glory days of U Street when he became famous for his dynamic performances at (now defunct) clubs like State of the Union and Kaffa House. The Black Leon Project, a superb collection of thought-provoking lyrics and hard-hitting beats (produced by Black Ink), is the work of a veteran artist still in his creative prime.

Rico NastyRico Nasty is bold, sassy, a little bit naughty, and a whole lot of fun. She’s released a string of irresistible singles this year: “i Carly,” “Dennis Rodman,” and her biggest hit so far, “Hey Arnold (remix featuring Lil Yachty).” Her melodic rap-singing style, zany videos, and badass pretty girl persona will be a winning formula in 2017.

Will Tha RapperWill Tha Rapper scored the number one song of the year with the unapologetically ratchet “Pull Up Hop Out.” Fans love his aggressive, takes-no-prisoners attitude and vocals. Will received the ultimate hip-hop compliment in November when Wale dropped his own freestyle over the gritty track.

Sean PoHip-hop promoter Sean Po, of Adding Influence, organized a series of D.C. rap concerts to help the people of Flint, Michigan who were affected by the lead-contaminated water crisis. Po also procured a truck, and accompanied by rappers Mo Betta and Jay Mills from the Will Rap 4 Food organization, made two trips to Flint, delivering over 19,000 bottles of clean drinking water directly to area residents.

Crank LucasCrank Lucas has paid his dues as a rapper and producer, but it wasn’t until he released a series of hilarious YouTube videos about the hip-hop culture that he received nationwide attention. Lucas is not only a comedic genius and musical wizard, but he’s also mastered every rap flow ever created. His videos have received over 25 million views and were retweeted by celebrities like Kevin Hart, Erykah Badu, Method Man, DMX, and DL Hughley.

Resurrecting QueenzKenilworth Katrina hand-picked 20 of the top female rappers from the D.C. area and formed an elite collective called Resurrecting Queenz. The collective’s first release was a remake of the classic hip-hop anti-violence track “Self Destruction.” The Queenz performed as a group at The Howard Theatre and many other local venues throughout the year. They also collaborated with DJ EZ Street (WKYS) on several projects

Mo BettaMo Betta, one of D.C.’s best battle rappers, also runs his own charity, called Santa Cause, that provides support for sexually abused youth. Mo Betta leaned heavily on his music industry connections to raise over $20,000 for the Safe Shores DC Children’s Advocacy Center.