As much as I think year end lists are bullshit, I’m not above them. Let me live and, in turn, allow me to give you a mix of songs to bump, in case you zoned out and forgot to listen to music this year. Hey, it happens.
Despite what people will say every year, it was actually a good year for rap music. The last few years have been. Lots of creative output coming from all over the country and people don’t seem to be mailing it in like they were 5 years ago.
Just to clarify about this list:
1)These are in no specific order
2)I did not include music by people I know or music I worked on. Meaning Hail Mary Mallon, Armand Hammer, Open Mike Eagle , Marq Spekt and Run the Jewels (and others) were all excluded. Why? Cause, even though they all made music that would have easily made this list, I’m kinda sick of musicians making top ten lists that are 80% their friends. If you know about me, you know about these guys. This is more about exposing you to some stuff you might have missed.
3) These are my ‘Favorite”. Not to be confused with the “best”. Nothing in my musical taste is so definitive that I can come out here and claim it’s the best. These are the joints I bumped a lot. That’s all. It’s not that deep.
4)I picked one song per artist. There were a few artists who probably would have had 2 or 3 songs on the list but I opted to spread the love.
5)There’s a chance a song or two on this list came out last year. Well, blow me. I enjoyed them this year so I’mma go with what I know!
Here’s my ten favorites. Download link is at the bottom.
1)Martyrs: Mick Jenkins
Chicago based MC, Mick Jenkins, dropped a strong album this year. While, at times, he gets a little preachy for me, when he hits, it works incredibly well. This song is just a showcase for his booming voice , sharp social commentary and keen ear for beats. It’s grower for sure.
2)Snow Beach: Ratking
RatKing represent the new New York. Unlike other younger “underground” NYC mc’s , they’re not trying to bring back that 90’s sound while rapping on skateboards. They’re approaching it from a much different angle. Sonically, they didn’t really sound like anything else this year. Beat wise, it’s decidedly more abelton live than it is MPC. And Wiki sounds like a reborn version of Cage from the mid 90’s, all while rapping nothing like him. This song in particular strikes a chord with me cause it’s about the city being overrun with NYU kids and other transplants, thus changing the face of the city in a negative way. I feel you, brah.
3)Le feat. OVA: Ugly Frank
This one came out of nowhere. Well, to be exact, it came out of Tacoma Washington. It’s just a fun song where Ugly Frank Raps his ass off over a beat that reminds me of “Nigga what?” by Jay-z but happier. Ugly Frank was definitely one of the more pleasant surprises for me this year.
4)Either you here or with god: Shirt
Shirt Come out guns blazing this year with a video that got some buzz and very solid “mixtape”. He’s an artist I had trouble just picking one song from. I chose this one cause it’s just got such an ill vibe to it. The beat, in particular, is really crazy to me. Not sure if he borrowed it from someone for his mixtape or if it’s original but , whatever the case, he does it justice. Shirts one of those mc’s that make “cocky asshole” work.
5)House Cleaning- Michael Christmas
Aesop put me on to this guy and I fell in love with his album “Is this art?”. He’s definitely the most likable mc of the year for me. Dope beats, laid back funny attitude and just an overall great rapper. His arrow is pointing up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him much more famous a year from now.
6)Undying- Quelle Chris
Much like Michael Christmas, Quelle Chris is an extremely likable guy who makes good music. He’s got a great ear for beats (And he makes many of them too). Detroit hip hop has been a force over the last few years and he’s no exeception.
7)Shots: Vince Staples
Without question, he’s my #1 rapper of the year. He put out an amazing mixtape and a great EP and pretty much bodied every track he was on. He’s not an mc with “barz” but he’s a rapper who simply sounds cool saying anything. He often gets compared to a new snoop dogg, and I can see it, except he’s a better rapper than Snoop ever was. This song is literally one of 8 I could have chosen but I picked it cause the beat is murderous. Just some slow grind psych rock sample with hard drums.
8)48th Street: Your Old Droog
What a year this dude had. For the first half every dumb ass conspiracy theorist (shout out to the dumbest of all who was all up in my comment section) thought he was Nas when, really, the only thing they had in common was a raspy voice. His debut album is chock full of great loops and Y.O.D. relentlessly rapping his ass off. This song, however, is an strange one. It’s Y.O.D. rapping about his love of guitars and an ode to 48th street in manhattan (where all the music stores are/used to be). It’s possibly the oddest topic for a rapper to cover in recent memory but , when accompanied with the slow cooking of the beat is just makes perfect sense. I do wonder if he can actually play a guitar though.
9)Motion Sickness: Shabazz Palaces
Hey guys, weirdo rap hasn’t left us! Shabazz Palaces continued making music that might fly over my head but still catches my ear. This song is a sneaky one. Ish kills it and really embraces the subtle oddity of the track. Also, this track reminds me that I really gotta check out that Clipping album. To be honest, I’ve been kinda intimidated to even approach it. But, i digress…Shabazz Palaces is an example of an old rapper who is constantly evolving. How many mc’s who dropped a hit in 91 can say that? None. Literally. He’s the only one left making relevant music. (Doom might be included here too but he’s trapped in the UK and not making much these days)
10) Godlike- Tree
He made my favorite album of last year and this year he dropped an EP and some loose tracks. This one is just as mellow as it gets. Simple drums over a lazy piano loop. Sometimes that’s all you need.