Here we are at the last day of a calendar year once again and only a few months removed from the The Intermission and the first 75 songs we loved. When we started years ago, who knew we’d even see this many Decembers together, as writers and readers?
But we’re here and, as usual, we wanted to share the songs that gave us joy (and job security) for yet another year. As a staff, we gathered up the titles, sans rhyme or reason or any logical cohesion, except that we played these records on repeat so often they deserve mention as the key tracks that stood out from our personal playlists.
As always, there are no rankings here. We couldn’t do that if we wanted to because, as a Crew, every member stands strong behind their choices and blood would be spilled trying to crown one tune above the 100+ others. These are simply our favorites; feel free to add a few of yours in the comments.
1. Kendrick Lamar – “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst”
Let’s face it – every track on good kid, m.a.a.d. city deserves praise. But we’ll give a special shout out “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” a confessional/rally cry that sheds more light on the Kendrick Lamar backstory while lamenting Compton’s dog-eat-dog mentality.
2. Big Boi Ft. Bosko – “Tremendous Damage”
Big Boi has been in the game long enough to feel like extended family. So when the braggadocios emcee comes off as hurting – a clear theme of Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors – we offer an ear. “Tremendous Damage” is one of the most personal songs of Mr. Patton’s career, sharing the emotional struggles that have come with the passing of his father. Hard to imagine that there are still layers of Big to peel away, even at 37. But here we are.
3. A$AP Rocky – “Angels”
His patented Bone Thungs-N-Syrup style over a beat that can only be described as whimsical? Anyone else and we’d be laughing, but A$AP has made a career of churning out great leftfield sounds, a category that “Angels” calls home.
4. Rihanna Ft. Future – “Love Song”
The 2012 “Fire & Desire” this is not, but chances are this will be belted out at the loudest possible decibels at any random New Year’s Eve party.
5. Frank Ocean – “Crack Rock”
The singer’s all-too-real breakdown of crackheads would be a much harder pill to swallow if it weren’t presented in such a got damn catchy manner. Whatever floats your boat, Mr. Ocean.
6. Fun. – “Some Nights”
Fun. brought sing-songy stadium rock all the way back in 2012. Don’t get pissy because you’ve heard from them too much; if a song can get stuck inside your head as frequently as “Some Nights” can, melodically speaking, they’re doing something right.
7. T.I. Ft. Meek Mill – “G Season”
Tip at his trapping best or closer to it than any of us could have hoped. Trouble Man was a late-season highlight, harkening back to a day when the King Of The South moniker wasn’t in dispute.
8. Freddie Gibbs – “BFK”
A warrant has been issued for Freddie Gibbs’s arrest for what he did to that fire M-80 beat.
9. Chief Keef – “3 Hunna”
10. Toro Y Moi – “Rose Quartz”
Toro Y Moi still hasn’t released a studio, CDQ version of “Rose Quartz,” but that’s totally cool. Chaz’s live rendition of the cut from Lollapalooza 2012 is so funky that we’ll subsist until it (hopefully) appears on Anything In Return in January.
11. Petty – “Song Like This”
While the vast array of emotions displayed on his Petty Presley mixtape are what made us appreciate the project in the first place, it was the parched poetry reiterated on tracks like this somber silhouette that really helped us get inside the Nashville MC’s head and appreciate his music even more over time.
12. Jeremih – “773 Love”
Most of Mike Will Made It’s major hits this year came in the form of club-killing rap jams. Yet, when you combine this futuristic wave he cooked up for Late Nights With Jeremih with the Chicago singer’s sultry swagger, this may have been his most unappreciated assist.
13. IamSu! – “Mobbin”
In 2012, this multi-faceted Richmond rapper/songwriter/producer went from writing hits for other Cali rappers to keeping them for himself, with this slumping dedication to rolling deep in every aspect of life.
14. Mayer Hawthorne Ft. Snoop Dogg – “Can’t Stop” (Dam-Funk Remix)
If the string-infused original from Mayer’s How Do You Do debut wasn’t enough, the vintage synth genius Dam-Funk added to this trance-inducing remix was bold enough to reignite the overall sound of the song and extend it’s staying power even further.
15. Freddie Gibbs Ft. Kirko Bangz – “Bout It Bout It”
Freddie was feeling very Percy Miller on BFK and we weren’t mad about it. Between the project’s grimy intro and this should’ve been single, the Gary gangster somehow had us willingly revisiting sayings from 1997 with his thugged out crossover capabilities.
16. Kids These Days – “Bud Billiken”
Named after a fictional character that idealizes bettering Chicago youth and featuring an awesome Crucial Conflict interpolation, this energetic single from Kids These Days’ slept-on Traphouse Rock project showed these Windy City youngsters have the style and talent to become the Roots crew to a new generation.
17. Danny Brown – “Molly Ringwald” (Prod. by AraabMuzik)
Even though we question where Fool’s Gold came up with the title for their Loosies rap compilation, this turned-up quick-hitter from the MPC master and Detroit’s prettiest rapper was ill enough to justify both endless plays and randomly yelling the name of this former ’80s actress.
18. Chels Ft. Paige Allyn – “Out My Window”
Backed by floating pads and whimsical organ blips, this track from NOLA MC Chels’ True School For The Moon Children puts listeners into the mindset of a young old soul who’s seeing the world around her develop at a pace that can be hard to keep up with, unless you’re as calloused as she is.
19. Trinidad Jame$ Ft. Spook, Coop & Snake – “Team Vacation”
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there. Trinidad and co. vividly retell what happens in a few nights spent under the flashing lights of Sin City.
20. Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music”
Seeing and hearing God in our music.