From the struggling twitter-dwellers to the predicted stars of tomorrow, rappers of all types have been trying to ensure that this year will be their year. High quality tracks have been plentiful, but few have reached the true upper-echelon of transcendently exciting, fun, or inspiring music. Luckily, though, there have been seven tracks that stand tall, that will likely still be as impressive once year-end list season rolls around.
Here they are:
7. Future Featuring Pusha-T, Pharrell & Casino (Produced by Mike WiLL Made It) – “Move That Dope”
Of all the entries on this list, “Move That Dope” is most indicative hip-hop radio’s status quo, but if that includes Pusha, Pharrell and Future, the radio might be a good place to love hip-hop. Future, breaking drunk-robot form, uses a human voice to deliver inhuman, confounding flows that challenge the listener in the best of ways. Pusha continues to expertly poeticize his Kanye-sized attitude (“Wearin’ designer s**t that I misspell”) but the true gem is Pharrell, who slides out of the producer’s chair long enough to deliver a wrap-around-the-beat double time verse.
6. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib Featuring Earl Sweatshirt & Domo Genesis – "Robes"
Freddie Gibbs is the meanest rapper currently making music; Earl Sweatshirt is an awkward teenager; Madlib is the most prolifically strange and diverse producer of all time; and Domo Genesis is, by all accounts, average. Here, Earl rocks the sonic bed-head he prefers lately, offering a few spurts of cockeyed self-mythologizing: “Threw his demons off the cliff / The scenic route below, tires screaming in the mist.” The other true highlight is a Madlib beat that leaves chopped bits of soul lying collage-like on the floor.
5. Isaiah Rashad – “RIP Kevin Miller”
When Isaiah Rashad signed to TDE, Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q’s label, expectations were set near Everest. “RIP Kevin Miller,” reveals that the world may be lucky enough to see those expectations met. Rashad sounds like a Southern-tinged mix between Kendrick and 2Pac and works in simple, bold statements: “If I die today / know my legacy is straight / I’m the best they never heard / I’m your brother, just relate.” Both the molasses-thick hook and verses are catchy, their chant-like nature birthing memorable piece of language and music after memorable piece.
4. Dyme-a-Duzin – “White Girl”
Most hip-hop that people throw on for parties has at least a few of the following: a platinum-selling star driving the track, a menacing trap beat, a genre-bending tune, or, on this campus at least, a female or queer rhymer. Dyme-A-Duzin’s wild, jazzy “White Girl” offers none of these, yet is somehow a viable party song. Over a quick snare beat designed to make you jump around, Dymez twists his tongue with a distinct slickness that not only livens up the already raucous party but also casts him as the cool and collected centerpiece.
3. Mac Miller – “Erica’s House”
The funniest rap song of the year’s thus far also one of the best. Mac Miller, cozying to his role as the rap game’s increasingly trippy former-bro cousin, raps like he is bored with the acid he has just taken. He is self aware, he is absurdist, he is hilarious: “Let’s go to Syria and have a war / Stop calling me Macklemore / That's not my name, well kinda…it's kind of my name.” The rest of the lines are too gleefully vulgar to print —journey to Soundcloud and enjoy.
2. Alex Wiley Featuring Mick Jenkins – “Forever”
Boasting two innovative verses and clocking in at under two minutes, “Forever” has the most talent per square second of any rap song in recent memory. Sounding like an immensely talented real-life Eric Cartman, Alex Wiley starts “Forever” with some sputtering sing-rap, his flows as pretty as he is ugly (Google him). For once, though, he is outshined--the calculated and passionate Mick Jenkins spits pure poetry: “Man I been tryna keep it--potent / My people blind and they thirsty, they hungry, they hurting, they searching for water I brought an--ocean,” Jenkins raps, pausing before each final word, pacing his sermon like a true master of ceremonies.
1. ScHoolboy Q – “Break The Bank”
ScHoolboy Q is the best hip-hop artist of the moment. He is far from the best rapper, though: hundreds of people in the world can run laps around Q’s wordplay, imagery, storytelling, rhyme schemes, or punch lines. However, when it comes to grabbing your ear with catchy hooks and a raw, aggressive attitude, the South Central MC is unmatched. “Break The Bank,” is a swerving 4AM ride along with Q at his most sneering and determined. The balance between his sloppiness (a decidedly non-melodic hook) and his craftsmanship (the mirror-image rhyme schemes of each verse) is what sets this coming-of-age drug tale apart from and above the rest.
By Ben Sherak '16