Only about half of’s Best New Artist nominees are new to Christian hip hop, but some familiar names had their first big release year in 2016. Datin dropped The Roar, Loso dropped Valley of Vision and Street Hymns dropped Slow and Steady — all of which were highly anticipated debuts, and all of which received an anticipation-boost from the trio’s battle rap activity.

Veteran Json shared his platform with three lesser-known artists from his church to birth Dead Heroes, which released a self-titled EP. Another group, Surf Gvng, came out with its retail debut after two free EPs and showed great improvement.

Impressive projects also were put out by recent Freshmen class members Tony Ri’chard (WDRAWLS), Lawren (Pieces), Jered Sanders (Hope Is Dope) and Parris Chariz (Things Change).

And last but not least, K¥NG, the youngest artist on this list, released two projects this year: The Field of Wheat and Aura.