Swindail – C’est la Vie (feat. Innanet James)
Swindail is a producer and rising star from Australia. He’s opened for Mr. Carmack, and on C’est la Vie he’s enlisted the help of DC rapper Innanet James. The latter has gotten quite a bit of internet buzz – Pitchfork wrote a piece about him last year, and he released a solid debut a few months later. Innanet James’ smooth, Goldlink-esque style is somewhat neutered on this track. I could draw closer comparisons to someone like Vince Staples’ unwavering delivery on his electronic collaborations with Flume and GTA, or some of his more upbeat tracks on Big Fish Theory. The beat itself that James snaps over lends comparisons to aforementioned GTA; there’s a physicality to the drums and synths that fit the track so well.
Tinie Tempah – Holy Moly
You probably know him off of his crossover hit with Eric Turner, Written in the Stars. Well, he’s a big star in the UK, and he’s been releasing some pretty solid stuff since 2011. Earlier this year, he released his third album, YOUTH, and while most of it is very poppy with pop features, there are a few songs that are straight bangers that he had on 2013’s Demonstration. It’s a straight braggadocio anthem, something that would feel at home with a More Life-era Drake cosign.
Ron Grams – Locations (feat. J.K. the Reaper)
Locations is probably the most simple song on this list. It’s straight bars that leads into a slow, airy hook that gives you time to breathe from the rapid fire verses from Ron Grams and J.K. the Reaper. The instrumental is busy, featuring a myriad of percussion and a wavy, dazey synth. There’s not much more than that, and there doesn’t need to be.
Terror Reid – Uppercuts
Terror Reid is the hip hop alias of OWSLA producer Getter, and his first song, Uppercuts, is absolute heat. It’s written and produced by him, and yes, it sounds like Danny Brown. Once you get past that, you get a slick hurricane of spitting over a slimy classic hip hop beat. It’s great, and shows that the producer has a bit more than production up his sleeves.
Organized Noize – Kush (feat. 2 Chainz & Joi)
Organized Noize is a hip hop production team that’s absolutely legendary. If you don’t know them, you know what they’ve produced – TLC’s Waterfalls, all of Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and all of Goodie Mob’s Soul Food. Their Organized Noize EP which dropped this year was two decades in the making, and the first single, Kush, features a verse by 2 Chainz, and a chorus and verse by Joi. It’s damn chill. It’s just got a nice instrumental, and a pretty weird but welcome outro that reverses some of Joi’s vocals.
Jessie Reyez – Blue Ribbon (feat. Tim Suby)
You may know Jessie Reyez from her recent feature on the outro of Calvin Harris’ new album, but she’s more than just a singer. Her new EP, Kiddo, has her showing off her versatility, and to great effect. Her brand of hip hop and R&B is unique and melds really well. Blue Ribbon is a collab with producer Tim Suby, and the result is something aggressive and messy in the best way. It’s a vomiting of synths and Reyez is honestly all over the place in a two and a half minute track. It’s a little rough around the edges, but perhaps the most interesting song in the whole EP.
DJ Quik – Straight to the City (feat. Problem)
It’s unsurprising Rosecrans went under the radar – it got zero promotion and it’s honestly a blessing the post got over 500 upvotes. Straight to the city is a highlight off of the album. The beat is straight heat, smooth and compliments Problem’s hard-hitting bars. Two legends on an album together. Just listen to the whole thing.
Nef the Pharaoh – Back Out (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
Bay Area’s Nef the Pharoah is pretty damn slept on in HHH. His newest project The Chang Project is a bit long, but a good listen. Back Out is the song with the big feature in the form of Ty$. Nef rides the tropical beat, and Ty does his thing too. It’s not quite game changing, but it’s damn chill, and I like it a lot.
Cashmere Cat – Infinite Stripes (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
Haha, another Ty$ song. Infinite Stripes is the unlikely standout in Cashmere Cat’s stacked and long-awaited debut, 9. It’s the single most unique song on the album, with a dreamy sample that serves as the base for the track. It’s certainly ethereal, like a hip hop version of dream pop band Air France. Ty goes off the whole track, with a spiteful chorus that’s infinitely catchy. And when the opening synth comes back in, it’s pure bliss. The song finishes, breaking apart and fading into the instrumental standout Victoria’s Veil quite nicely.
Young M.a. – Self M.Ade
Y’all know her. Her Herstory EP earlier this year was pretty solid, and this is probably my favorite song on the project. Self M.Ade has a triumphant, drum-led instrumental that fits her rap delivery. It’s a bit more reserved than something like OOOUUU, and maybe a bit better for her sound.
Anik Khan – Tides
Anik Khan is a Queens rapper originally from Bangladesh that really shows his origins. His music is dancey and nearly feel-good, and it has some beautiful horns. And the lyrics: “I think I’m going through a quarter-life crisis, I’m 27 still sleeping on a bunk bed. And what’s for dinner?” And his delivery makes it impossible for me to avoid another Goldlink comparison, but I mean it in the best way. Then the drums kick in and he just spits and spits, and autotune drops in, and the final chorus is set in the best way possible.
Brother Ali – Special Effects (feat. deM atlaS)
“Staring at your picture hanging nicely on the wall, longing to be near you because life is too short, I traveled through the night till morning light broke through the storm, just to see your face again.” Absolutely the best chorus I’ve heard this year, off of one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, with one of the best album covers I’ve seen this year. Brother Ali’s All the Beauty in This Whole Life is eternally slept on – it’s not particularly surprising, but it is disheartening. Special Effects, a standout track about running towards the person you love with no looking back. Ali juxtaposes the different meanings of special effects, lamenting over the fact that pictures and texts are just never the real thing, and finishes his final verse uttering “everything I hold is pressed to my chest, that’s what you call special effects.”
Twelve’len – Human Gods (feat. Denzel Curry)
Over some luscious Nick León production, Florida R&B artist Twelve’len croons over a beat that’s decidedly very indie rock, before erupting into something dreamy and drum-focused in the chorus. Then up-and-coming Denzel Curry spits a guest verse that doesn’t sound a lick out of place. It’s a very potent combination, and results in something that gives Twelve’len a lane of his own in this saturated genre.
Buddy – Find Me (feat. Kaytranada)
Compton rapper Buddy’s EP with Kaytranada is a slam dunk of rap, singing, and some stripped down Kay production. The duo works better than you would expect, with Buddy doing more than enough to keep the song interesting despite the basic instrumental barely changing throughout the duration of the track. His singing is way more than palatable, and he switches back and forth between that and giving jaded introspections about his past life.
24hrs – Nobody
MadeinTYO’s brother has been making dope autotune-heavy dreamy songs for a while, but his newest EP, named Night Shift, might be his best project yet. On Nobody, he dives in atmosphere, flowing over the airy instrumental with restraint, sounding like he’s sitting in an alleyway musing over his newly found fake friends and fame.
David Banner – Who Want It (feat. Black Thought & WatchTheDuck)
Yeah, David Banner’s album actually came out this year. I know that most of you completely forgot about Banner, but The God Box is a really solid project. One of my favorite tracks is Who Want It, a track I knew would immediately earn that spot with the Black Thought feature along. And damn, the track does not disappoint. It’s a rock banger, with Banner and Black Thought both dropping two of the best verses I’ve heard this year, full stop. WatchTheDuck provides a soulful hook to round out the song, and honestly, the whole thing is amazing.
KYLE – Not The Same
I know what you’re thinking. KYLE’s a freshman! How can he be overrated? Well, my answer is, have you actually heard a single song he’s made besides iSpy? Yeah. Well, the Californian rapper has been making hits for a long time, it was only a matter of time before one smashed. The rest of his singles for his upcoming album have been great too, and Not the Same has been subtly making the rounds, making a bit more popular than most of the songs here. But, it was largely ignored on the sub, which is a shame, because it’s come to be one of my favorite songs by him. It loses all the playfulness of iSpy or most Beautiful Loser tracks, but doesn’t lose KYLE’s great taste for making hooks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song blows up and shows that he’s not just making Billboard waves because of Lil Yachty.