As we prepare to wave 2015 goodbye, I think back on the droves of new songs, artists, and sounds that hit the radio waves and my Spotify Discover Playlist this year, and selected a handful of jams that made an impression on me and the hip-hop audience in general. From conscious to ignorant, intoxicating to sobering, below are my song picks for 2015.
“Antidote” – Travis Scott
A few moments that made it a memorable year for Travis Scott are his album, Rodeo, hitting #1 in the Billboard Rap album chart, his accompanying tour being a success, and managing to humiliate a “nerdy ass” cameraman on stage at Hot 97’s Summer Jam. “Antidote” was a wildly popular song off of Rodeo that speaks to the addict in all of us. Whether your affliction is with drugs, money, or women, Travis covered them all. A must-play when zoning out with the windows up…
“Again” – Fetty Wap
I really didn’t want to like this song. I swear. After the success of “Trap Queen” and “My Way”, I wondered what about Fetty Wap worked. His appearance is a bit daunting and his singing voice isn’t…traditional. But when “Again” dropped, I totally gave in. Sometimes when a song feels good, you don’t question it, you just go with it. I wouldn’t apply that same philosophy in other aspects of life though, but I played “Again” on countless occasions with reckless abandon.
“Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh)” – Rich Homie Quan
The summer time was right for this Rich Homie song. It definitely falls into the “if it feels good, just go with it” category, because you can probably make out 25 to 35 percent of the lyrics at best. Maybe. But with a poppin’ melody, sing-along type hook (ooh ohh ohh), and bouncy beat, you can afford to be a little on the inaudible side. Call me crazy, but I can foresee “Flex” being a go-to jam for several more summers to come. Doing the Quan and drinking a strawberry Jarritos in my head as I type this.
“Back To Back” – Drake
What’s beef? Well, Drake and Meek Mill were famously involved in one after Meek took to Twitter to express his agitation against Drake, who did not help to promote his new album Dreams Worth More Than Money. Taking it further, Meek accused Drake of using a ghostwriter. In an uncharacteristic move, Drake drops not one, but two diss tracks against Meek, and “Back To Back” delivered many a quotable jab against the Philly emcee. My favorite lines in the song are hands down, “You love her, then you gotta give the world to here. Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour? I know that you gotta be a thug for her. This ain’t what she meant when she told you to open up more.” OUCH. I grimaced through my tears of laughter. Meek finally responded the following weak, oh sorry – WEEK, but his diss was amiss, and even his fans pointed their Twitter fingers to the exit.
“Baby Blue” – Action Bronson ft. Chance the Rapper
Our favorite chef turned emcee, Action Bronson, paired with our favorite baby-talking emcee, Chance the Rapper, on “Baby Blue”. This song about an ex who didn’t know what she had til he left her for some top in the front row of an opera, is an awesome stack of cunning lyrics, catchy hook, and smooth production courtesy of Mark Ronson. Chance steals the show with his verse, which is the lyrical equivalent of “I will never hit a woman, but I’ll shake the shit out of her”. With giggle worthy lines like, “I hope the zipper on your jacket gets stuck, and your headphones short, and your charger don’t work, and you spill shit on your shirt.” Chance’s wishes of ill-will to his ex sounds like that of a jilted 3rd grader who got dumped at recess, and I absolutely love it.
“Hotline Bling” – Drake
Ah, the notorious “Hotline Bling”, the song and music video are gifts that just keep on giving. With countless covers of this song from Erykah Badu to Justin Bieber and endless amounts of memes and spoofs of the music video, “Hotline Bling” is practically THE song of the year. Timing was just right with the release of its music video in mid-October, enabling Drake fans to dress up as him for Halloween, and also giving manufacturers time to produce Drake ugly Christmas sweaters in time for the holiday. My favorite part of it all, watching Drake’s sweet dance moves. I laugh as I type this.
“Don’t” – Bryson Tiller
An unlikely leader in the wave of alternative r&b is new comer Bryson Tiller. “Don’t” was a bona fide banger before it even left the world of Soundcloud, clocking in a total of more than 20 million plays. Good God. In “Don’t,” the young crooner tries to convince his crush to leave her trifling boyfriend for Bryson. Written for all who are desperately trying to get out of the harrowed friend-zone. Coining the term “trap soul”, also the name of his debut album, Bryson perfectly describes his sound – vibey and smooth, yet gritty and unapologetic, an artful composition of rap and r&b. Definitely a sound we can all ride with.
“Weekend” – Mac Miller feat. Miguel
When Mac Miller’s GO: OD AM released in September, I would literally play this song at work every Friday in anticipation for the weekend. It’s the go-to for any of us who had a tough week in life, love, work, you name it. Miller describes feeling overwhelmed at times, down and out, and comes to terms with making sketchy decisions, but like any real G, he just dusts himself off and exclaims “I’ll be good by the weekend!” We all just need a break to get back on our feet and reset. Dear weekend, where would I be without you?
“Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
If he isn’t there already, Kendrick Lamar is steadily making his way into every hip-hop fan’s top emcee list. “Alright” from To Pimp A Butterfly, depicts the odds that are stacked against us, and the struggle we go through to fight against our vices. Ultimately, the hook promises we will be alright, and faith is on our side. Unfortunately, Kendrick’s message got lost after a certain news anchor caught feelings after his performance at the 2015 BET Awards. Performing atop a police car, conveying solidarity with nationwide protests against police brutality proved to be too much for Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera, who said, “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years. This is exactly the wrong message.” Wow. Some people will never get it, but for those of us who do, we know that “We gon’ be alright” is a positive affirmation, and an optimistic wish for the future.