This was a year of few real trends or dominant moods unless “DJ Mustard” and “Rich Gang” count as adjectives and not nouns. On one hand, the same “mono-culture is dead you guys” crowd writes RIP’s every new year, but on the other hand any list without a Mustard or Rich Gang track is woefully inadequate at best and completely irrelevant at worst. Some things are universal, but only to a unique group of people–this is a paradox that is somehow true.
As usual the rules are no song from a long-player in my top ten is available to be on the list, but multiple songs from the same artist are OK. The way I compile this list is “well is #2 better than #3 and is #3 better than #4?” and I go from there, where, on an island, if I had to live without one song or the other I put the one I want to live with above the other, even in a tight race.
20. “Ebola Freestyle” BeatKing 2014 in a fever dream Audiomack cast-off. Outlives its meme shelf-life by sheer will; aka, it slaps.
19. “Dragons” Princess Nokia The contemplative feminine flip of “Puerto Rican Judo.” “I like you so much that it doesn’t even hurt” is the most beautiful line of the year.
18. “Bennie and the Jets” Miguel/Wale A song I’ve always liked goes through the meat grinder and sounds refreshing and contemporary in a year of so many cynical moves. Wale, in his bitter old man form, has a verse of pure fed-up-ness and ends up saying some relevant shit: “the way this game is set up we can’t let the show go on.”
17. “Grooveline Pt. 2” Schoolboy Q/Suga Free Q’s greatest skill is his ability to sell any flow or delivery and while it’s not always successful if there’s a better flow or sound to emulate than Suga Free’s I don’t know what it is.
16. “Mamacita” Travis Scott/Rich Homie Quan/Young Thug It’s just “Nosetalgia” redux but proof RHQ and Young Thug sound perfect over anything.
15. “Just Have Fun” (second half) Ab-Soul The second half of this song is what is so compelling about TDE in concentrate form. Soul is loose and funny, copping a Migos flow over an ear-worm guitar lick, rapping about feeling bad and drinking and smoking to feel better but feeling bad about doing those things and then kinda feeling bad about feeling good. But, you know, just have fun.
14. “i” Kendrick Lamar There was a Saturday morning this fall where I woke up super late put on basketball shorts and a t-shirt opened the front door to a surprisingly beautiful breeze and sped to the bank to deposit a check while checking my overnight texts then I came home and watched NBA Inside Stuff while eating leftover pizza. This song is that feeling.
13. “Bad Girls” Sage the Gemini The Sage album was quietly good and the Iamsu one wasn’t bad but they were both benefactors of great beats carrying a record. Not only is this the best of the bunch, but it’s charming too–Sage redefines what a bad girl is, and, honestly, per the chorus, same.
10. “Try Me” Dej Loaf This is actually a sweet kind of love song: about self-love, crew love, squad love, clique love, like the 2014 version of “My N***a” but with lines like “do the whole crew, my bitches’ freak nasty.” I first heard this song in a podcast during a segment about the Kobe/Dwight Howard scuffle in the first game of the season. That is all you need to know about my 2014 listening habits.
7. “I Don’t Fuck With You” Big Sean/E-40 It’s so rare when all the right ingredients come together and make something amazing. DJ Mustard + Kanye + E-40 and then somehow Microscopic Sean unleashing his most horrible, high-pitched, petty verses but making it work?? It all shouldn’t work but it does, and more. Bonus points for uncannily sounding like “Axel F”.
6. “2 On” Tinashe/Schoolboy Q I know this is a good song because no one knows any of the words but it’s still a hit and sure-thing dance-floor filler. Its appeal is chemical.
5. “About the Money” T.I./Young Thug This summer I joined the About the Money workout plan, where 45 minutes of elliptical and stretching went by in the blink of an eye. It’s so easy! I recommend it to everyone!!
4. “Yasss Bish!!” Nicki Minaj/Soulja Boy I like Pinkprint but this is a wrecking ball.
3. “Lifestyle” Young Thug/Rich Homie Quan The only song about starting from the bottom we acknowledge.
2. “No Type/No Flex Zone” Rae Sremmurd The common narrative is “No Flex Zone” was chill enough but “No Type” was transcendent; I say, you can’t have one without the other. It was cool how “No Flex Zone” was low-key the jam of summer and then unexpectedly “No Type” was unquestionably the jam of fall/early winter. Who saw this coming? From these guys? At this level?
1. “Kemo Walk” John Walt It’s here the cynicism, insincerity, and worthlessness of PC Music is utterly destroyed; pop and electronic music can co-exist and not to the detriment of one or the other, and without resorting to cheap tricks to get the tired-ass point across. Just for good measure Chicago bop, cloud rap, Future’s auto-tone warble, Atlanta trap, and nearly every dominant rap sound of the past few years is put on top each other, too. A song of such sleepy-eyed joy that quietly held it down all year.
GANGSTA BOO – CAN I GET PAID (PT. II) PRODUCED BY BEATKING
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