In a big year for beats and rhymes, it was hard to select a champion from the Nashville contenders. But after listening to countless hours of local rappers and producers, we selected Namir Blade’s trippy collaboration with North Carolina producer extraordinaire L’Orange as the best. Blade knows when to create space between his voice and the loops, the way that a great jazz musician uses the negative space between the notes. While so many MCs want to express their prowess by squeezing every last bar into a verbal assault, Namir Blade wows listeners with a lackadaisical, dreamlike flow that never quite falls behind the beat. Imaginary Everything is a perfect marriage of psychedelic funk and brilliant lyricism.