The 2016 Intermission: 100 Songs We’ve Enjoyed So Far

07.22.16 1 year ago 14 Comments


Another set of calendar flips, another set of impressive songs collected and shared. The Intermission is always one of the best times of the year because it’s when everyone digs deep into their playlists to share what tunes have earned the most play on a daily basis. The 100 songs that went from liked to loved in a matter of weeks and months.

Those songs are what make up The Intermission, our late, mid-year round-up of the cuts that earned our play and praise. As usual, the range is always pretty expansive and includes the bigger names who’ve become constants over the years along with the newcomers who’ll hopefully continue to make the kind of music that keeps them here for years to come. Right now, rap is enjoying a youth movement led by a crop of artists who are shaping the sound into something more melodic than its ever been. Vibes play a more important role than pure lyricism as they connect with listeners on an emotional level. Still, there remain those artists who take a more sapient approach that places a premium on bars and leave an impression that lasts long after the music stops.

All in all, it’s about good music, the kind that entertains, educates and elevates the art and lives of those listening. The music and culture are growing and evolving into a body so large that even the most aspiring-thinking leaders couldn’t have imagined decades ago.

1. Pusha T feat. Jay-Z – “Drug Dealers Anonymous” [Listen]

Leave it to Pusha to put Jay Z in the mood to grow his hair out and ditch the loafers in exchange for a pair of Timbs. The G.O.O.D. Music president’s first single from King Push continued his streak since last year of providing dope boy tales with social commentary weaved in. It’s not just that he and Hov are former hustlers. They’re addressing the social conditions which led to them both becoming key figures in the game, decade after decade. (Marcus Benjamin)

2. Denzel Curry – “Knotty Head” [Listen]

At some point, Denzel Curry actually released a version of “Knotty Head” with Rick Ross. Considering how fiery and emotional Curry gets on this injection of audible adrenaline, the Ross verse may as well have never happened. Keep in mind, Ross is a rap superstar with a well-regarded lyrical prowess and Curry is an undercard from FLA. Denzel is that impressive. (Beware)

3. Drake – “4PM in Calabasas” [Listen]

Views left many Drake fans disappointed, but the latest installment in his AM/PM series changed all that. He sounds rejuvenated over a Frank Dukes and Vinylz-produced heatrock, throwing jabs in the direction of Diddy and Joe Budden. Drake poked a hornet’s nest, though, as the latter rapper responded with the scathing “Making a Murderer (Part One).” The simmering beef could make for one hot summer. (Eddie Fu)

4. Young Thug – “King Troup” [Listen]

Young Thug is at his best when he’s mixing his impeccable melodies, with his colorful lyrics and the finest production Atlanta has to offer. All of those elements came together perfectly on “King Troup,” and Thug delivered his finest song yet. An ode to his slain friend, Thugger somehow manages to be socially conscious, belt out lines about taking care of his kids and brag about his high fashion briefs all in the course of an incredible four minutes. Peak Thug indeed. (Bansky Gonzalez)

5. Royce Da 5’9” feat. Pusha T and Rick Ross – “Layers” [Listen]

Every now and then, a song will come along that brings the instant screw face. Your body has a seemingly involuntary response to what you’re hearing, and your face scrunches like you bit into a lemon. That’s exactly what “Layers” is, as Royce Da 5’9” recruits Pusha T and Rick Ross to do damage over a beat which would be fitting for a spot on The Omen soundtrack. As the title suggests, each of the three rap about the multiple levels of life and even their own contradictory behavior. It’s one of the best joints of the year, provided by a veteran who only seems to get better with time. (Marcus Benjamin)

6. Future feat. 2 Chainz and Drake – “100it Racks” [Listen]

Purple Reign and EVOL were lukewarm efforts by Super Future, but Project ET shows that perhaps he needed a little less Metro and a little more Esco. The sh*t talking free-for-all “100it Racks” stood as one of the highlights. Drake gets in some nice lines (“I hit threes off balance/I switch hands like Allen”) and Future sets the tone, but the track belongs to 2 Chainz: “Put codeine on a salad/Guess I’m on a codeine diet/Put another hundred in the rifle/Everybody better be quiet.” (Eddie Fu)

7. ElZhi – “Friendzone” [Listen]

With fans drooling for more solo material, ElZhi finally made good on his promise this past spring, delivering his well-received Lead Poison album. Amidst the various styles lining the deep contents of the project, “Friendzone” managed to shine as one of the brightest moments, due to the personable execution of a such a strong and relatable concept. (Beware)

8. Kendrick Lamar – “Untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016” [Listen]

It’s gotta gall other rappers that music which once littered Kendrick Lamar’s cutting room floor is better than anything they released this year. On untitled unmastered’s seventh track, K.Dot blends his now-perfected technique of car speaker-ready message music, with a final warning shot to would be competitors (“You niggas fear me like y’all fear God/You sound frantic, I hear panic in your voice/Just know the mechanics of making your choice and writin’ your bars”). (Greg Whitt)

9. Shake feat. Vado – “New New” [Listen]

It doesn’t take long after the pianos hit for even a deaf man to recognize the storm brewing around Shake. With Vado riding shotgun and an apartment full of entourages, the two spit reinforced concrete through the speakers to represent for the East Coast. With a calculated trickle of material into the market and a tight relationship with YesJulz, this Jersey spitter has us expecting big things in the second half of 2016. (Aspektz)

10. King Vory – “Overdose” [Listen]

For a minute, we weren’t sure if King Vory’s surefire hit “Overdose” was going to get the glory it deserved. Yet, nearly three months after being featured on BEWARE’s Block, the radio-made track made rotation on OVO Radio and now has millions of fans ready to overdose on their love of this Ayo & Keyz-produced singalong. “Hol me down, hol me down, hol me downnnnnnnn.” (Beware)

11. Kanye West feat. Sampha – “Saint Pablo” [Listen]

Kanye’s boisterous antics can overshadow what lies underneath — his version of the truth. On “Saint Pablo,” he pulled a familiar sound from big brother Hov and used to share a sobering version of his thoughts and insecurities. He may not exactly be “this generation’s closest thing to Einstein” but he’s still our ‘Ye and we won’t ever have another like him. (John Gotty)

12. Anderson .Paak – “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” [Listen]

Since Malibu is one of the year’s best, most-complete albums, picking a favorite off Anderson .Paak’s pride and joy is a difficult task. If you ask me today, it’s “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance,” but that could easily change with the next listen. Paak just has this vibe which makes you groove. It’s radio friendly with a mean flow. Anderson is in reaching distance of the crown. (Erich Donaldson)

13. TWENTY88 – “On The Way” [Listen]

Big Sean and Jhene Aiko surprised everyone this year by not only dropping a joint project with TWENTY88, but with the album being one of the year’s best offerings as well. “On The Way,” is the highlight of the nine-song EP, showing off the duo’s chemistry, and giving both a chance to shine in their respective lanes. (Bansky Gonzalez)

14. Gucci Mane feat. Tupac – “On Me” [Listen]

Just like All Eyez on Me, Everybody Looking is Gucci Mane’s fresh out of jail album. He’s well aware of the parallels, as he alludes to feeling like “2Pac when he made All Eyez On Me” while sounding invigorated over a vintage Death Row era beat. Songs which reuse a 2Pac verse don’t always work, but “On Me” shows Guwop and Makaveli are a natural fit. (Eddie Fu)

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