The Best Hip Hop Songs of 2021 …(so far)

2021 has been musically impressive with some of the game’s heavy-hitters dropping new songs. This year so far, fans have received new music from Wale, Young Thug and a new posthumous unreleased song from Mac Miller.

Every month, HipHopDX puts a spotlight on the tracks that stand out from the overabundance of releases throughout the year, highlighting everything from Billboard chart-friendly singles to essential album cuts.

“Who Want Smoke (Remix)” – Nardo Wick f. 21 Savage, Lil Durk & G Herbo

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“Miracle Baby” – Alchemist f. MAVI

Alchemist and North Carolina rapper MAVI sound like they were made for each other. Spitting through the swirling textures of Alchemist’s soulful production, MAVI raps with a sense of glory and pride, his bars splintering into topics including metaphysics, the state of the nation and the success he’s experienced over the past few years. Deeply impassioned, “Miracle Baby” is not only the best track from This Thing Of Ours 2, it’s one of MAVI’s best offerings of the year.

“Faces” – Young Thug

“Silly Achilles” – TisaKorean

mr.siLLyfLow, the most recent album from Houston MC TisaKorean is ripe with the absurd raps which first brought him attention in 2019 with “Dip (#thewoah),” but “Silly Achilles” stands apart from the pack. Taking influence from the sounds of Crunk, Bounce and Plugg music, Tisa’s music has the benchmarks of Texas rap, but it’s tweaked with his unflinching humor and captivating, exuberant voice.

“Long Night In Knightsbridge” – Headie One

“Barcade” – Atmosphere f. MF DOOM & Aesop Rock

“Barcade” is the underground rap hallmark of October. Combining the forces of Atmosphere, Aesop Rock and the late MF DOOM, “Barcade” provides a nostalgic feel without sounding stale. As a thick wind blows through Ant’s production, Aesop Rock, MF Doom and Slug drop esoteric bars tackling the realities of living in a dystopian world.

Yeah – Mac Miller

“Light Years” – Wale f. Rick Ross

Wale’s ability to stay relevant for over a decade is a rare talent in Hip Hop. While many rappers have burned hot and quick, Wale’s never taken his foot off the gas. From Folarin II, Wale’s most recent LP, “Light Years,” feels like a throwback to the era of Blog Rap with Wale reminding the listener that he’s been that guy for years, anyone who doesn’t see that fact must have been asleep.

“Range Brothers” – Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar

The alleged familial bonds between Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar produced the most electrifying five minutes in Rap this year. Capitalizing off the momentum from their lead single “family ties,” the duo ratchet up the energy and the absurdity with every word on “range brothers.” There’s a jarring switch from elite rapping backed by cinematic overtures to the unhinged last minute of the track. The finale’s captivating back and forth is stuffed with quotables and ad-libs that rattle in your head for weeks, leaving you muttering “rollie gang” like a madman.

“Intro (Hate On Me)” – Meek Mill

“Wyd” – Tony Seltzer f. Mavi

Brooklyn producer Tony Seltzer acts more like a luxury tailor than producer, precisely molding the production of his tracks to match the tone and energy of his collaborators. “Wyd” features a high-pitched droning that provides a perfect foil to MAVI’s laid-back, low-octave delivery. His rambles conversely feel measured and controlled, with every one of his melancholic words coming through clear as day.

“Off The Grid” – Kanye West f. Playboi Carti & Fivio Foreign

Kanye West‘s DONDA was met with mixed reception, but none can deny the intoxicating energy of “Off The Grid.” Including vintage Yeezus-esque production and some of Ye’s best bars of the album, “Off The Grid” also features arguably the greatest verse in Fivio Foreign’s career and punchy bars from Playboi Carti. Kanye, who also executive produced Carti’s WHOLE LOTTA RED, clearly holds a lot of respect for the Atlanta rapper, as “Off The Grid” sounds like Yeezy’s take on Carti’s frenetic post-SoundCloud sonics.

“family ties” – Baby Keem f. Kendrick Lamar

Baby Keem has had one helluva month. He claimed the best verse on Kanye West’s long-awaited Donda album and has a hit with cousin Kendrick Lamar on “family ties.” The song was released after Kendrick announced his forthcoming album will be his last with Top Dawg Entertainment. It’s too soon to say what the future has in store for the iconic Compton rapper, but if Kendrick’s new album sounds anything like the turbulent hellfire of his verse on “family ties,” fans should be excited.

Keem, too, is due for a new album. Given that he’s released a slew of singles (including the Travis Scott-assisted “durag activities”) already in 2021, hopes are high the album is on its way.

“Down South” – Wale f. Maxo Kream & Yella Beezy

Though the beat, which sounds like a chopped and screwed violin concerto, could support a club banger, Wale and company opt into a meaty, time-traveling philosophical roundtable on “Down South.” Wale stands rightly as the grizzled lead man, asking tough questions about the perilous intersectionality between stardom and drug dealing. Wale is grizzled after of a life spent navigating troubled waters, but Yella Beezy sounds much less scarred as he delivers a bullheaded verse that drips with a Southern drawl and vivid bravado.

Maxo Kream brings the track full circle with a verse that shows both glee and inescapable trauma. He totes guns and threatens the masses but also candidly recalls the death of his brother. In those final moments, Wale’s cynicism is validated with the line, “Can’t even trust my Crips because a Crip killed Nipsey Hussle.” A Southern rapper’s dilemma in three disparate time frames, “Down South” has multi-generational effect. The track illustrates the meatgrinder of the Southern rap scene and the toll it takes on those unfortunately embroiled.

“Nobody” – Nas f. Lauryn Hill

Social media entered a frenzy when people noticed Lauryn Hill was featured on the tracklist to Nas’ King’s Disease II. Ms. Hill’s return to rhyming was met with excitement and a healthy dose of uncertainty as nearly 25 years have passed since the two bards of Hip Hop first joined forces on It Was Written‘s lead single “If I Ruled The World.” Luckily, both legendary MCs have plenty of fuel left in the tank. Nas’ head-nodding flow on “Nobody” exhibits the same dexterous flow he forged in his youth, but it’s Ms. Hill’s explosive verse that truly steals the show.

“Back To Life” – Zion I f. Deuce Eclipse

Bay Area Hip Hop duo Zion I — comprised of MC Baba Zumbi and producer Amp Live — transcended modern day rap. With their ethos firmly in line with the culture’s roots, Zumbi and Amp pumped out celebrated underground classics such as “Silly Puddy” with The Grouch and “Antenna.” Sadly, Zumbi’s life came to a sudden and tragic end on August 13 when he passed away under suspicious circumstances at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California. Right before he made his transition, he and frequent collaborator Deuce Eclipse released a video for “Back To Life,” a bass-heavy banger sun-kissed by Zumbi’s rhyming prowess and unbridled positivity. With lines such as, “We are lights upon a journey, so don’t ever think you’re lost/Learning is the key, knowledge of self is the boss,” Zumbi inherently knew this wasn’t the end. While he may not be here in physical form, his spirit lives on in his music and those who loved him. RIP Baba Zumbi.

“Corvette Corvette” – RX Papi

Rx Papi isn’t afraid to speak his mind. On “Corvette, Corvette,” Pap hurls streams of threats like gusts of wind. Each punchline hits hard, and Dog the Bounty Hunter, DJ Akademiks and Lil Uzi Vert are all in Pap’s line of fire. “Corvette, Corvette,” like most Rx Papi songs, is filled with a sinister energy that fills his lyrics. In one instance, he’s robbing two people on his first day out of jail, then he states with a callous deadpan delivery that he treats every day as his first day. Rx Papi’s nihilism fuels the track’s chaos but at the same time, he couldn’t care less.

“Lil Fade” – Vince Staples

Like the entire self-titled Vince Staples album, “Lil Fade” gets better every time it’s played. The warm, loopy Kenny Beats-produced instrumental coaxes a scrap of optimism from Staples, allowing him to develop a shimmering portrait of his life as he sees it.

The careful cinematography from Staples’ best work is present here, but it’s blurry at first and the scenes don’t seem to connect to one another. The lyrics travel in time, flickering between his current ivory tower and the struggle that raised him. Initially abstract, further listening allows “Lil Fade” to coalesce into a somber and elegant scene.

“Audible” – Remble f. B.A.


“Clash” – Dave f. Stormzy

“Clash,” on top of being a highly anticipated collaboration between two of the U.K.’s most heralded artists, is a celebration. The track highlights two beacons of the British rap scene, with Dave ascending to the top and Stormzy’s place already solidified, trading outstanding verses for over four minutes. Each line delivered is an attempt to outclass the last with both rappers rattling off luxurious purchases in consecutive bars with disarming nonchalance.

The spoils earned from their artistic prowess is listed with a blasé indifference, Rolex watches and crocodile skin purses like are checked off like items on a grocery list. As Dave wades further into the pinnacle of his career thus far, all eyes are watching his next move, yearning for more collaborations of this caliber.

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“What U Sed” – Isaiah Rashad f. Iamdoechii & Kal Banx

Isaiah Rashad pays homage to his Dirty South lineage with his latest album, The House Is Burning. The production is filled with nods to the codeine-induced grooves of UGK’s Pimp C and Outkast — cowbells, heavy bass and cipher-ready soundtracks.

“Wat U Sed” finds Zay in a schism between his two vices: money and women. He recalls a dream where he wasn’t counting dead presidents. He puts the women aside in the search for peace of mind. The track features appearances from the intoxicating Iamdoechii and TDE’s in-house producer Kal Banx. Iamdoechii’s vocals are airy as cotton candy as she provides a show-stealing performance. “What U Sed” makes it clear Zay knows how to have the perfect vibe for those nighttime car rides.

“INDUSTRY BABY” – Lil Nas X f. Jack Harlow

Lil Nas and Jack Harlow take pride in coming up as unlikely stars from their respective openly homosexual and Southern white middle class farm-raised personal backgrounds. They celebrate their come-up together on “INDUSTRY BABY,” gloating about their success in a fickle rap industry.

They’re still riding the wave beyond 15 minutes of fame after Lil Nas X’s Billboard country rap record breaker “Old Town Road” in 2019 and Harlow’s 2020 Tik Tok-driven mega single “WHAT’S POPPIN.” Both artists give their 16 bars on being a product of an industry which eventually opened up for them as Xennials were drawn to be their unhindered self-expression and authenticity.

“WHOLE LOTTA MONEY [Remix]” – BIA f. Nicki Minaj

“WUSYANAME” – Tyler, The Creator f. YoungBoy Never Broke Again & Ty Dolla Sign

Tyler, the Creator is a master at creating cohesive sonic landscapes on his albums. While his most recent album Call Me If You Get Lost, is no exception,WUSYANAME” stands out with its lush instrumentation and teed up features from YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla $ign. Tyler always brings out the best in his guests and this is yet another example. From T’s humorous pick up lines to DJ Drama’s drops, the song should serve as a soundtrack to the summer of 2021.

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“42” – Pi’erre Bourne

Pi’erre Bourne’s skills as a rapper are still being honed, but on “42,” from The Life Of Pi’erre 5, the rapper/producer’s latest album, the artist showcases the maturity and growth he’s undergone over the course of the five-project series. Bourne rides the beat’s pocket as he croons over electric production, full of computerized chimes and swelling synths. Bourne’s been responsible for a number of catchy hooks over his career, but none can hold a flame to the exhilarating chorus of “42.”

“Seeing Green” – Nicki Minaj f. Drake & Lil Wayne

“my life” – J. Cole f. 21 Savage & Morray

Whenever J. Cole releases new music, the world pauses to listen. This held true for The Off-Season, Cole’s latest studio album, which caused Spotify to crash from an overload of traffic. Cole projects tend to be particularly divisive, but none can deny the epic “m y . l i f e”

With production from WU10, Cole and Jake One, “m y . l i f e” is not only the most complete song on The Off-Season, it holds the two best features of the project, including a verse from 21 Savage, whom Cole collaborated with on “A Lot.” Also included is a breathtaking hook from Morray, North Carolina’s hottest rookie.

“Miss The Rage” – Trippie Redd f. Playboi Carti

One thing every Hip Hop fan has come to realize about Ohio’s Trippie Redd is the former SoundCloud rapper is one of the best in the business when it comes to picking beats. Look no further than “Miss The Rage,” Redd’s latest single with King Vamp himself, Playboi Carti. Produced by Loesoe, one of the sonic architects responsible for singles such as Lil Uzi Vert’s “Futsal Shuffle 2020″ and “Miss The Rage” has been highly anticipated since Redd shared a snippet on Instagram in December 2020. 

In the following months, “Miss The Rage” wormed its way into TikTok virality and spread like wildfire across the internet. Now, with the complete track available, one can see how the hype was warranted. In addition to being the best Hip Hop song in the month of May, “Miss The Rage” is one of Redd’s greatest musical contributions to date.

“The Biggest” – Latto

As her first release under the moniker Latto, “The Biggest” finds the 22 year old rap veteran doing some serious explaining. Why she changed her name, why the change took so long, how she plans to go forward, and most prominently why you should still kiss her ass.

Heavy bass, crystalline synth, and the trademark violin provide solid ground for her to unleash a full account of her growth, as well as a condemnation of cancel-happy internet dwellers. Her talent is undeniable, as is her love for her city, but “if it ain’t drama, then it’s overlooked.” She can’t stop the haters, but she can get too big to see them.

“2Face” – Young Nudy f. G Herbo

If news broke that Young Nudy was the actual grim reaper, rap fans would be surprised, but not that surprised. His voice is thin, yet ghastly, ideal for delivering his subversively terrifying bars. The horror he exudes is magnetic, prompting the listener to drop everything and submit an evil henchman application.

“2Face” is perhaps as complete an encapsulation of Nudy’s brand as exists. Still, you come away with only the blurriest view of the man, clearly a master of inspiring devotion while giving nothing away. G Herbo, known for disrupting tracks, falls in line here, as if he too fears the monster Young Nudy.

“No More Parties (Remix)” – Coi Leray & Lil Durk

Coi Leray and Lil Durk are two of the most sought-after artists in rap, so it’s only natural that they would come together for a remix of “No More Parties.” Produced by Okaykhan and the explosive Maaly Raw, “No More Parties” has already netted over 15 million streams on Spotify alone after repeatedly going viral on social media.

The daughter of rap veteran Benzino, Coi Leray has found herself frequently in the news, often for her dramatic interactions with her father. But Leray already has two certified hits in “BIG PURR” and “No More Parties,” and her discography has never looked stronger. Meanwhile, Lil Durk has been one of Hip Hop’s most consistent artists, simultaneously unleashing street-focused anthems and radio-ready hits like “No More Parties.”

“4U” – Pi’erre Bourne

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“Big Boss Rabbit” – Freddie Gibbs

“Wants and Needs” – Drake f. Lil Baby

Drake’s Scary Hours 2 was met with enormous success, even for Drizzy’s high standards. The 6 God proved he doesn’t need more than three tracks to succeed. Drake became the first artist to debut in all three of the top slots on Billboard’s Hot 100 with the release. While all three tracks were bulletproof, “Wants and Needs” featuring Lil Baby stands out. Lil Baby has come a long way since “Yes Indeed,” his first collaboration with Drake. On “Wants and Needs,” the two superstar rappers are in fierce competition, pushing each other into their highest potential.

“Hellcats & Trackhawks” – Lil Durk

Only The Family’s compilation album Loyal Bros might have been disappointing overall, but “Hellcats & Trackhawks” makes the project’s mediocrity completely forgivable. “Hellcats & Trackhawks” serves as a potent reminder of Durkio’s roots in unflinching Drill music, as the Chicago rapper wastes no time in laying an onslaught of bars over thumping production from Nick Slowburnz. Durk has made it on nearly every roundup we’ve done, and it doesn’t seem like he’s letting up anytime soon.

“4 Da Gang” – 42 Dugg & Roddy Ricch

With shots fired at the filming of “4 Da Gang”‘s music video, chaos shrouded the release of the hotly anticipated single from Roddy Ricch and HipHopDX Rising Star 42 Dugg. But the two rappers didn’t let the scandal overtake the song, which finally dropped at the start of April. The two young titans are electric on “4 Da Gang,” blessing listeners with just over two minutes of unrelenting energy over one of the best beats of the year from TayTayMadeIt.

“Lemon Pepper Freestyle” – Drake f. Rick Ross

This is Drake’s peak moment on his three-track potential album teaser Scary Hours EP. The “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” is an appropriate metaphor in the track title for 6ix God’s stans to chew up what’s arguably the most tasteful hot wings flavor on any menu. Drake enlists Rozay to ante up their Midas touch for the collaborative, hookless track as they steer through a barrage of bars about the glamorous celebrity life over an airy, obscurely filtered R&B vocal-sampled instrumental with subtle boom-bap drums to make rap traditionalist and the vibes crowds bop.

“Case Closed” – Young Dolph & Key Glock

Cousins Young Dolph and Key Glock have undeniable chemistry. The two rap like they’re chilling at the cookout, catching family members up on their lives.  But just because there’s camaraderie doesn’t mean there isn’t room for competition. On the standout track from their new Dum & Dummer 2 mixtape, the two enter into a friendly contest over who can be the hardest flexer. Glock boasts about his good credit, sexual prowess and deciding not to buy a Ghost in favor of a Richard Mille… though he makes it clear he could have had a Ghost. Dolph jumps in flaunting his VVS stones in his glasses, making millions off ad-libs and turning fine women into freaks, sound effects included. By the time Dolph and Glock reveal their intentions to drop a country album, it becomes impossible to pick a winner.    

“What It Feels Like” – Nipsey Hussle & JAY-Z

The triumphant brass kicking off “What It Feels Like” sounds like a coronation of the late great Nipsey Hussle’s spirited vocals. He runs another victory lap in the Hip Hop community’s collective heart as his “marathon continues.” The collaborative single featuring JAY-Z has an uplifting, black fist-in-the-air energy, which serves as the perfect match for urban cinema’s most powerful film of the new decade, Judas and the Black Messiah.

“Substance (We Woke Up)” – 03 Greedo & Wiz Khalifa

After listening to “Substance,” the latest track from 03 Greedo and Wiz Khalifa, one thing became clear: Greedo is a helluva singer. Originally released in 2018 on Greedo’s now-infamous The Wolf Of Grape Street, the Los Angeles-based rapper recruited the Wiz Khalifa for a revival of one of his greatest songs.

Khalifa, rapping through clouds of Zaza, drops a perky verse. The original might be over two years old, but it sounds fresher than ever.

“EPMD” – Nas & Hit-Boy

“Sky” — Playboi Carti

After years of waiting, Whole Lotta Red — Playboi Carti’s follow-up to 2018’s classic Die Lit — finally arrived on Christmas. The reception was admittedly more mixed than was to be expected from a hotly anticipated album from one of rap’s true superstars. But whether you love it or you hate it, the project produced some true gems, including “Sky,” a synth-heavy, melody-forward anthem that has quickly outperformed its counterparts, and then went on to TikTok virality.

Art Dealer’s moody masterpiece of a beat sounds like Daft Punk dipped in lean and perfectly upholds the song’s structure, building drama for Carti’s cathartic chorus, which is easily the best hook on the entire album. 

“Throat Baby [Remix]” — BRS Kash f. DaBaby & City Girls

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“My Puppy” — KEY! & Tony Seltzer

Atlanta rapper KEY! closed out 2020 with the most cohesive album of his career, The Alpha Jerk, produced in entirety by New York’s underground bard Tony Seltzer. KEY! raps in a JPEGMAFIA-style stream of consciousness, pumping high-intensity bars that occasionally borderline on screaming. “My Puppy” is the standout track from an overall excellent project.

Tony pairs a whining, distorted synth with rounded, booming drums as KEY! uses the production like a playground, swinging from the monkey bars, taking rides down the slide and doing flips off the swings. 

Check back at the beginning of every month for updates and check out our other lists and our playlist below, which includes all of the songs mentioned in this article and more:

Contributing writers: David Brake, Trent Clark, Kyle Eustice, Jeremy Hecht, Devon Jefferson, Dana Scott, Ben Brutocao, Anthony Malone, Kia Turner, Matthew Ritchie & Josh Svetz.

Editor’s note: Songs from this list were released between December 2, 2020 – October 1, 2021.


“I Am” – Yung Baby Tate & Flo Milli

“We Know The Truth” — Drakeo The Ruler f. Icewear Vezzo, ALLBLACK

Despite the odds stacked so strongly against him, Los Angeles rapper Drakeo The Ruler continues to succeed. For years he fought a backwards conspiracy charge while being inhumanely muzzled and locked in solitary confinement. Last year, he managed to release Thank You For Using GTL.

The album was recorded entirely over the phone from prison, which many have labeled the greatest rap album ever recorded from behind bars. Drakeo works at a breakneck pace and has released both We Know The Truth (and its deluxe) and Because Y’all Asked since his release last November. “We Know The Truth” featuring Detroit’s Icewear Vezzo and burgeoning Oakland MC ALLBLACK, is a West Coast take on Midwestern Drill music.

“Still Trappin” — Lil Durk f. King Von

It might be a new year, but Lil Durk picked-up right where he left off in 2020. The underdog MVP of last year, Durkio landed scores of high-profile features and released two well-received albums in Just Cause Y’all Waited 2 and The Voice. “Still Trappin,” from The Voice and its subsequent deluxe edition, features the best verse from King Von since his passing last November.

Go Grizzly and Hitmaka sonically recreate the streets of O’Block with dark drums and a haunting baritone piano loop. Von and Durk had undeniably cohesive chemistry and “Still Trappin” is a reminder of what could have been.

“LeBron James” J. Stone f. Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy

All Money In rapper J. Stone has consistently elevated the legacy and memory of his dear friend, West Coast legend Nipsey Hussle, since his unfortunate death in 2019. Building onto the blueprint the Nip inspired with The Definition Of Loyalty, J. Stone continued the album saga in 2020 with The Definition Of Pain.

Embedded within the 18-track project is the “LeBron James” collaboration featuring Dom Kennedy and a posthumous verse from Hussle that makes us fall in love with the drive and leadership the Victory Lap legend embodies.

“Overtime” — Baby Smoove

“Tequila Shots” — Kid Cudi

In many ways, Kid Cudi’s The Man On The Moon III is a full-circle moment for the Cleveland-born rapper. It’s the third and final act in the MOTM trilogy, a fitting nightcap for the story of Mr. Rager. “Tequila Shots” is a nod to where Cudi has been and a gaze forward to where he’s heading.

It’s an acknowledgement of the perpetual nature of his tortured mind, but it’s also a declaration that he’s stronger than his weak points. Dot Da Genius and Take a Daytrip assist Cudder in the creation of his micro-universe, plucking nostalgic sounds from the previous chapters of the MOTM saga. Of course, no great Kid Cudi song is complete without a good dash of humming and the “Day ‘N’ Nite” rapper is in peak form.


“Bad Boy” — Juice WRLD f. Young Thug

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“Guard Up” — Pooh Shiesty

The Pooh Shiesty stock is skyrocketing like GameStop; the only difference is there’s no crash in sight. The latest in a series of phenomenal young artists to arise from Memphis, Shiesty slid into prominence through an onslaught of single releases, including his latest “Guard Up.”

Rapping is too easy for the 20-year-old spitter who takes a lackadaisical approach as he maneuvers across the TP808-produced beat, finding pockets with ease, contorting his voice to push the boundaries of the rhyme patterns. The entire rap world seems to have their eyes on Pooh Shiesty as fans await his debut album. 

“Nasty” — Rich The Kid f. Flo Milli, Rubi Rose

“Top (Remix)” — Fredo Bang f. Lil Durk

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“Onna Come Up” — Lil Eazzyy

Lil Eazzyy closed out 2020 with a bang and is looking towards 2021 with big goals. His debut full-length Underrated dropped last November led by the single “Onna Come Up.” Now in the new year, Eazzyy released the remix to his most popular single, adding fellow Chicago rapper G Herbo. The drill-inspired artist unloads a clip of fast raps on a Hugo Buck-produced beat. 

“Let It Breathe” – Joey Bada$$

Pro Era rap fans were undoubtedly hungry for more music from Joey Bada$$ following the release of The Light Pack EP at the tail end of 2020. That’s precisely his temporally aware bars sound so refreshing on his visual single “Let It Breathe.”

Complimented by the mid-tempo muddled boom-bap production provided by Statik Selektah, Joey’s flow meanders between multi-tiered metaphors and brain-splitting aphorisms with the cerebral ideological might of Socrates — had the Greek philosopher hailed from New York City and pushed a lime green Porsche through the city.

“Ox” – Gabe ‘Nandez

New York may be dominated by the sounds of Drill, but don’t get twisted — the Five Boroughs has bars. Even the older heads will become enamored with “Ox,” the latest from hard-spitting New York rapper Gabe ‘Nandez. ‘Nandez’s pen does backflips on “Ox” as he weaves his way across the 101 Beats production. Don’t try to put ‘Nandez in a box: you won’t be successful. The burgeoning rapper can reference the Odyssey, Galactus and “bad bunnies” in the same sixteen. This is New York: all bars, no hook necessary.

“Should’ve Ducked” – Lil Durk f. Pooh Shiesty

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“I Know” – 42 Dugg, Foogiano, TG Kommas

42 Dugg and Foogiano are two of the hottest rising stars in rap right now, each releasing multiple singles and projects that have established them as bankable stars. But on Dugg’s latest collaborative single “I Know,” it’s 21-year-old Boosie Badazz co-signed TG Kommas who shines with his chance in the spotlight, showing off his versatility singing and rapping throughout the track to deliver a performance to get his name on the radar.

“Greed” – LUCKI f. Lil Yachty

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“Last Man Standing” – Polo G

“45 SMOKE” – Slowthai

Slowthai is known for causing a raucous. When he’s not performing live while holding a model of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s severed head, he’s laying filthy bars. Tyron, the latest from the Northampton bad boy, is full of hits, but none are more potent than “45 SMOKE.”

Working with Kwes Darko, Slowthai’s longtime producer, the two created a malicious track, continuing the run of quality music from one of the UK’s hottest acts. 

“I Gotcha” – YFN Lucci

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“Rainforest” – NoName

There are few artists capable of referencing critical race theory, class division and our society’s fascination with consumption in less than three minutes. On “Rainforest,” the latest single from the groundbreaking Chicago rapper,  Noname issues a masterclass in sharing her message while remaining accessible and understanding. She drops loaded metaphors, referencing Frantz Fanon’s seminal text on race, The Wretched of the Earth, Medusa and Huey P. Newton’s autobiography Revolutionary Suicide with the focused pen of a wise sage. Ultimately, “Rainforest” is an exploration into perseverance. As Noname iterates her traumas and anxieties, she finds solace and strength knowing, despite the hindrances, she has and will continue to overcome. 

“Prom Queen” – Smokepurpp

Smokepurpp must’ve been listening to the negative feedback he received from Florida Jit, his underperforming album from 2020. He’s now back with PSYCHO (Legally Insane), a short EP highlighted by the intro track “Prom Queen.” Purpp is back on his bullshit, tearing up his Highschool’s Prom with devious intent.

As he wrangles the phenomenal beat from Mike Zara and DSC Sunny, fans are reminded of how good Purpp is at rapping. He bounces across the beat, finding and manipulating pockets with ease. “Prom Queen” is one hell of a correction.

“Jesse Owens” – Rowdy Rebel & NAV

Rowdy Rebel and NAV: what a combination. Though unlikely, the collaboration brought fans the excellent “Jesse Owens.” Rowdy, newly out of prison, has been on a tear as of late. Before his release, he blessed Pop Smoke with a feature on “Make It Rain.” Now, he’s gearing up for a slew of new music. NAV is the true surprise, though, as he spits some of the hardest bars in his career. 

“Rich N-gga Problems” – A$AP Rocky

“Winter In America” – Freddie Gibbs

Gibbs croons a cover of late revered soul singer and rap progenitor Gil Scott-Heron and keyboardist Brian Jackson’s poignant, political 1974 album title track “Winter In America” for ESPN’s The Undefeated Black History Always/Music For the Movement Vol. 2 EP. Produced by Brooklyn-based jazz artist Leon Michels, the updated track contains Hip Hop-oriented uptempo duple snare kicks, cymbal taps and a sauntering piano medley than the original’s downbeat marching band-style drums.

The same sobering woodwinds remain in Gibbs’ version as the lyrics observe people living in a cold reality that society is still far behind achieving social justice. 

“Real N-ggas Don’t Rap” – Babyface Ray

Babyface Ray isn’t concerned with awards or recognition. On the opening track to his new EP Unfuckwitable, the Detroit rapper details his rise, rapping apathetically with a dead-eyed stare. From sleeping on air mattresses to dressing up his closet with 20K saks just out of boredom, Babyface Ray lays out his journey to becoming a rap star, shrugging at the perks of being famous outside of the money in his bank account. 

“Up” – Cardi B

One thing we know about Cardi B: she always tries to keep it interesting. “Up,” the latest smash-hit from the Bronx-bred rapper, is packed with energy and spicy as always. It was met with a warm reception on TikTok and on the charts, debuting in the second slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Critics have been dubbing Cardi B as a flash-in-the-pan act since the start of her career. The “WAP” rapper proves, yet again, she’s a mainstay in rap. 

“Hit Bout It” – Lil Yachty & Kodak Black

Kodak Black and Lil Yachty combined forces for “Hit Bout It.” While Kodak was incarcerated, Yachty actively advocated on his behalf, making pleas for former President Trump to pardon the young Florida rapper. When Trump announced his list of pardons, which also included Lil Wayne, Yak was shortly freed. Though he dropped music from behind bars, “Hit Bout It,” presents the Kodak fans came to love years ago. But don’t overlook Yachty: the QC rapper has been barring-up his competition all 2021, and “Hit Bout It” is no different.

“Skegee” – JID

The Tuskegee experiments—in which the U.S. Government intentionally injected a group of Black men with Syphilis to study the effects of the disease untreated for a span of 40 years—is one of the many atrocities committed against Black people after abolishing slavery. Reparations and proper reform is substituted with half-hearted apologies and acknowledgement of the horrific, inhumane display to suffice, a promise that it will never happen again. But promises can be empty, and as JID points out on his latest single, “Skegee,” the stranglehold of white capitalism on Black art creates a conundrum when a Black man’s talents are scouted and then recruited for institutional financial gain.

“Gang Signs” – Freddie Gibbs & ScHoolboy Q

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“Talk To Me” – Drakeo the Ruler & Drake

Most rappers go their entire careers without a verse, or even an acknowledgment, from Drake. But Los Angeles-based rapper Drakeo the Ruler caught the attention of the 6 God. Maybe it was Drakeo’s heroic plight over the LA justice system. Perhaps Drizzy was enamored by Drakeo’s unflinching rapping style.

Whatever the reason, the two combined forces for “Talk To Me,” a monumental landmark in Drakeo’s discography which offers a rare glimpse at the reclusive Toronto-born superstar. Drake and Drakeo trade contrasting verses over production from Elias Knight, jordanwtf and E.Y. The rap world is watching to see what the newly-freed Drakeo will do with this new attention.

“LOVE” – Shordie Shordie & Murda Beatz f. Trippie Redd

Shordie Shordie is quickly becoming a true force to be reckoned with in rap. Though he’s been releasing music since 2018, his latest efforts with producer Murda Beatz mark a significant new chapter in the Baltimore singer/rapper’s career. “LOVE” features a perfectly-executed feature from Trippie Redd, moody 808s and soul-wrenching singing from Shordie. 

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“Heartless (Live From LA)” – Roddy Ricch

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“Ima Ball” – Kalan.Fr.Fr

With the release of his TwoFr2 project, Roc Nation artist Kalan.Fr.Fr updated his 2018 flagship effort with a mixed batch of fresh and melodic West Coast sounds. Within the array of intoxicating bangers, Kalan’s hybrid rap and R&B infused style flourish on “Ima Ball.” The catchy repetitive hook and rhythmic cadence lend the track an inherent bounce, allowing the Los Angeles rapper to flex his hit making capabilities. “Ima Ball” also signals his ascension from street level crooner into the position of a commercial artist.

“What’s Next” – Drake

There have been several notable rap songs spanning 30 years titled “What’s Next.” It starts with Leaders of the New School’s single in 1993, Chance The Rapper featuring Lil B in 2015, K Camp three years later, and now Drake. The latter MC’s version has the most infectious bounce and chorus to get a party lit since Busta Rhymes and his former group made rap fans do the LONS-crafted East Coast Stomp dance. Drake rattles off his list of envied excesses over three repeated with a choppy vocal style over the Maneesh and Supah Mario-produced thunderous trap bass drum kicks, hi-hats and spacious hand claps over fuzzy two-chord keyboard stabs. This could be an essential song in DJ playlists at clubs this summer.

“DIET_1.5” – Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats f. Benny The Butcher


“Headshot” – Lil Tjay f. Polo G & Fivio Foreign

In New York, Lil TJay is untouchable. At only 19-years-old the South Bronx rapper has already produced scores of NY classics, first with tracks such as “Mood Swings” and “Zoo York” and now with “Headshot,” awarding TJay a spot in the top 50 of Billboard’s Hot 100 charts. Lil TJay reached out to Brooklyn’s Fivio Foreign and Chicago’s Polo G for assists, and none of the Drill aficionados disappointed. 

“Really Like That” – G Herbo

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“Indian Summer” – Armand Hammer & The Alchemist

The Alchemist-produced album Haram from New York rap duo Armand Hammer will likely be off-putting to many. But if you can look past the slaughterhouse album cover and abrasive sounds, you’ll find some of the most powerfully potent raps of the year. Among those is “Indian Summer,” a masterclass in poetics taught by Armand Hammer rappers Billy Woods and Elucid, backed by an eerie beat from Al. Woods and Elucid share a special bond on “Indian Summer” and that chemistry is apparent as the two wax philosophically about colonization, war and revenge.

“When Tony Met Sosa” – Benny The Butcher


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It’s been over a year since fans have heard a project from Hip Hop boyband BROCKHAMPTON, but time out of the spotlight has seemed to revitalize the group. At least, that’s the impression after hearing their return to the limelight banger “BUZZCUT.” It’s a move they’ve used before, dropping high-energy one-offs in anticipation of the actual project (I BEEN BORN AGAIN, 1998 TRUMAN). “BUZZCUT” follows the trend, serving up a trippy, boisterous banger to make the speakers pop.

“Who I Smoke” – Yungeen Ace f. Whoppa Wit Da Choppa, Spinabenz & FastMoney Goon

Most diss tracks fall into a distinct lane: threats and taunts are spit violently over menacing beats. “Who I Smoke” is not your average diss track. Led by rising Jacksonville rapper Yungeen Ace, “Who I Smoke” balances the inherent savagery of a diss track with a surprisingly fitting sample of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.” In the video the crew smokes stogies on the driving range in their best Titleist and Under Armour gear. There’s something especially captivating and fresh about the combination of ice-cold bars and an airy pop sample. Yungeen Ace’s little dance is just icing on the cake.

“Real As It Gets” – Lil Baby f. EST Gee

Louisville, Kentucky’s EST Gee has gone from rapping in makeshift bathroom studios to landing a track with Lil Baby, one of the game’s hottest commodities. On “Real As It Gets,” the two praise the real and disparage the fake, stressing the importance of authenticity in an industry dominated by false appearances and crafted narratives. Baby is excellent as always, but it’s Gee’s explosive delivery that landed “Real As It Gets” on this list.

“Day Glow” – Kota The Friend


“Better You” – Evidence

“SHOOT MY SHOT” – IDK f. Offset

“Plastic” – Lil Yachty f. Icewear Vezzo  & Rio Da Yung OG

Something changes in Lil Yachty whenever the Quality Control rapper touches down in Detroit; Yachty’s youthful zeal fades away into something much more menacing. Nearly the entirety of Michigan Boat Boy, Yachty’s latest, is excellent, but “Plastic” featuring Detroit’s Icewear Vezzo and Rio Da Yung OG is particularly exceptional. Yachty attacks the beat, sparring with crunchy drums and chimes, blending clever punchlines and villanous threats with ease. Vezzo and Rio perfectly match Yachty’s energy, sliding across the beat while flashing Chrome Hearts and Rolex watches.

“SORRY NOT SORRY” – DJ Khaled f. JAY-Z, Nas & James Fauntleroy

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“Solid” – Young Thug, Gunna & Young Stoner Life f. Drake

“Whipski” – $NOT f. Lil Skies

The eerie sounds of “GOSHA” alerted fans to $NOT back in 2018, but once he found his audience, the New York-born, Florida-raised rapper ran with his abilities. His voice, a grizzled, husky echo is versatile, sounding at-home no matter the style of music.

Along with Lil Skies, $NOT released “Whipski” in early April with 300 Entertainment. $NOT finds the pocket perfectly on “Whipski,” making his raps the star of the show, surrounded by production from Taz Taylor and Internet Money. “Whipski” was also released with a video directed by Cole Bennett.

“RAPSTAR” – Polo G

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“More Life” – Cordae f. Q-Tip

Ghostface Killah recently admonished Hip Hop’s new generation of rap stars to take pride in knowing the genre’s rich history so that they can foster career longevity. Cordae exemplifies the Wu-Tang Clan rhyme god’s advice on “More Life,” bridging the generational gap with A Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip.

Co-produced by Q-Tip, Kid Culture and Eric Hudson, the track is featured on Cordae’s latest EP Just Until… “More Life” sounds like a sunny-afternoon relaxed with spatial yet hard snare kicks and a whiny keyboard groove as Tip sings the hook. Cordae reviews his life’s purpose asking whether to chase fame or happiness and show off his pro tennis world champion girlfriend Naomi Osaka (“My girl a tennis star, you n-ggas out here marrying hoes”).

“Successful” – Young M.A.

“Trenches” – Morray

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“Rih” – Kenny Mason

“80 Barz” – Redman

The Funk Doctor Spot’s latest single title is self-explanatory. No hook is needed as Redman rattles off his barrel load of witty punchlines and comical one-liners awash with pop cultural and obscure Hip Hop references from the 1980s through today.

He congruently stacks them together in a lengthy stanza like a Tetris master over the “80 Barz” semi-electro rap beat. As viewed in his 4/20 Verzuz TV performance with Method Man, the 50-year-old New Jersey representative sounds more spry than he did 30 years ago in this cut.

“Nobles” – The Alchemist, Earl Sweatshirt, Navy Blue

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“durag activity” – Baby Keem f. Travis Scott

Baby Keem is a mysterious figure in Hip Hop. He entered the scene suddenly and unexpectedly with 2019’s Die For My Bitch, highlighted by tracks such as “HONEST” and the earth-shattering lead single “ORANGE SODA.” The younger cousin of Kendrick Lamar, Keem has swiftly progressed through rap’s hierarchy and has now landed his largest guest feature to-date in Travis Scott.

LaFlame and Keem came together for “durag activity,” a lilting, sway-inducing track. Typically, when a veteran MC works with a newcomer, the disparity in talent and experience is evident. But on “durag activity,” the two push each other to new heights, sparring with psychedelic and ominous cadences.


“Freestyle” – Patrick Paige II

Nearly every song is excellent from If We Fail Are We Still Cool?, the latest album from Patrick Paige II, making it difficult to land on just one to praise. Nevertheless, “Freestyle” stood out as one of the album’s best offerings. The floating, looped sample paired with a knocking kick drum from producer Ashton McCreight serves as the foundation for Paige II and his sparring partner Saba to unleash a fury of bars. 

Paige II, best known for his work in Hip Hop and R&B collective The Internet, has stepped into a new, solo career in 2021. The versatile artist is just as comfortable delivering rap-heavy bars as he is crooning sweeping R&B tunes. On “Freestyle,” Paige II flexes his pen for two minutes of pure heat.

“Straightenin” – Migos

Years ago, Culture sent Migos to the stratosphere. Their rugged brand was dissected and scattered about, pushing the Atlanta representatives towards pop collabs, red carpets, and high-profile relationships. Their authenticity wasn’t lost, but it was certainly lost in the mess. Really all it took to recover that is a “little bit of straightenin,” which we get in full on the new single.

All the Migos are back doing their thing. Quavo reclaims his lead role, barking the hook and taking the first verse. Offset and Takeoff sound more than happy to fire molten bars in all directions towards the end of the track. But, by far the best thing about “Straightenin,” is that it took longer than 45 minutes to make.

“Gold Rolex” – Bobby Sessions f. Freddie Gibbs & Benny The Butcher

If you are looking for a musical pairing for the most luxurious activity in your life, congratulations. On “Gold Rolex,” Bobby Sessions enlists feudal warlords Benny, the Butcher and Freddie Gibbs to shame anyone who considers poverty a virtue. The glittering synth sounds like wealth, and the long pause in between verses gives a believable air of importance.

All three rap with intent. Bobby Sessions chose two of the most prolific rappers of out time to compete with, and by the fact he doesn’t get washed assures fan interest for years to come. There is grandiosity and blood radiating from every corner. It’s rap that instills the same feeling as seeing the despair in the DA’s eyes after the fall guy stays solid.

“Groceries” – Pi’erre Bourne

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“Lay Wit Ya” – Isaiah Rashad f. Duke Deuce

After a hiatus that only rivals his TDE boss Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad returned from a long soul search this May with brand new music in the form of “Lay Wit Ya.” Rashad’s battles with mental health and addiction have unfolded publicly, and he’s been transparent about the effects his struggles have had on his music. To the delight of his cult-like following of fans, the Civilia Demo rapper seems to be in a healthier place.

The menacing and rhythmic production from Hollywood Cole serves as a springboard for Rashad and his Memphis counterpart, Duke Deuce, as the two bounce across the song, rapping about women and big wheeled Chevys.

“French Kiss Deux” – Phife Dawg f. Illa J

“Bath Salts” – DMX f. JAY-Z & Nas

The Hip Hop community still feels sullen following the death of legendary rapper DMX on April 9. Even attempting to surmise the accolades of the Yonkers rapper feels futile. Over DMX’s 30-plus year career, the Ruff Ryders legend did it all: from becoming the first artist to consecutively debut five albums at the top slot on the Billboard 200 to being an outspoken activist for mental health.

Exodus, the first posthumous DMX album, arrived in the final days of May with an epic range of features. But “Bath Salts” quickly stood out as the defining track. Featuring JAY-Z and Nas on the same track, a feat which a decade ago would’ve felt impossible, “Bath Salts” is one of the most important tracks of all of 2021. In this gathering of New York rap royalty, three kings of the East Coast come together for the final time. Rest in peace to the guardian of Yonkers, Dark Man X.


“Hurt Like Me” – Saint Bodhi

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“Thot Shit” – Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion isn’t distracted by noise, fake friends or pesky drama. The Houston rap star creates on her own terms, and has developed an unshakeable confidence impervious to opps, as is apparent on “Thot Shit,” her latest single produced by OG Parker and LilJuMadeDaBeat. Rapping as Tina Snow, her brazen alter ego, Meg pummels the beat with a braggadocious flair as she takes full control over her own body and narrative. Sizzling and electric, “Thot Shit” features Megan doing what she does best: creating banging anthems primed for Hot Girl Summer.

“Law Of Averages” – Vince Staples

Vince Staples has become so ingrained in many fans’ minds as one of the funniest and most poignant voices within Hip Hop, that some people may forget how elite he is at rapping. On the Kenny Beats-produced “LAW OF AVERAGES” Vince reminds fans that he is one of the best MC’s in the game, giving a preview of what his upcoming album might sound like. His flows are flawless and his lyrics provide just as many quotables as you would expect from a Vince Staples release.

“Young Thug” – Bbyafricka

“Go Part 1” – Polo G f. G Herbo

Polo G and G Herbo are a dynamic duo anytime they link up. On “Go Part 1,” from Polo G’s Billboard No. 1 album Hall of Fame, the pair of Chicago MCs showcase their unique abilities to mix pain and lyricism, delivering passionate bars tackling themes of survivors’ guilt and lost friends. Polo has no problem standing next to his idol turned peer on the song, leaving fans begging for more collabs out of the two.

“Dummy” – TyFontaine

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“edamame” – bbno$ f. Rich Brian

bbno$ (pronounced baby-no-money) has made the jump from meme rapper to legitimate artist. The Canadian artist started making music after a back injury derailed his promising swimming career, laughing over Chief Keef beats before realizing he actually had a knack for rhythm. He turned his garage band experiments into funny, hyper-aware online songs with collaborators Yung Gravy and Y2K, which helped him develop a cult following. Now, he’s considered a full-fledged, “for real” rapper. But bbno$ hasn’t lost the signature humor, instead, blending it with percussion-heavy and undeniably catchy earworms.

“edamame” may be his best work thus far. Over lively horns and toe-tap inducing drums, bbno$ flexes with a laid-back delivery alongside fellow meme rapper-turned-serious artist Rich Brian. The duo are in lockstep, rapping about getting money, flaunting fake jewelry and keeping the mask on while turning up. It’s a fun party song from two friends who sound like they’re having the time of their lives — and that energy radiates throughout. It’s easy to be skeptical, but a couple listens later and it’s hard to deny this is an enjoyable bottle-popping track fit for what’s left of the summer.

“Steve Jobs: SLR 3 ½” – Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco and Royce Da 5’9 have engaged in a bout of lyrical warfare. The former podcast co-hosts have taken shots at each other over the last month. Tensions escalated when Royce dropped the first diss record, “Silence of the Lambda,” which finds Royce flexing his exhaustive technical ability but not a whole lot of anything else over the seven-minute run time.

Lupe responded with “Steve Jobs: SLR 3 1/2,” a savage response record that focuses on intellectual bars, serrated like a kitchen knife. Lupe takes the time to remind fans of the Backpack Era, taking a jab at the overly conscious rappers. Lupe attacks Royce’s career, his circle and overall rap ability. Like a surgeon, Lupe’s lyrical incisions are clinically sharp and precise.

“Rock N Roll” – Ken Car$on


“The Talk” – Chief Keef

Abrasive, never-ending and one dimensional, “The Talk” is sure to evoke an extreme reaction. Many won’t believe people can genuinely like the song, others will defend it to the death. The key is Keef’s charisma, delivering lines such as “pulled out black and white truck, moo, moo, moo” with full confidence as if it’s the secret to immortality.

“The Talk” stands out among the avalanche of music the 25-year-old Chicago native has released in the last few years. It’s authentic Chief Keef — completely ridiculous, all over the place vocally and purposefully low quality, putting adlibs before lyrics and energy before substance. Spinning it is like boarding a time machine back to whenever “Faneto” first caught young kids by the masses.

“30” – Pop Smoke f. Bizzy Banks

“Megaton 10” – Mix Master Mike, DJ Premier, A-Trak, DJ Craze, DJ Q-Bert, etc.

It’s rare nowadays to hear a turntablist flex on records performing flares, tears, chirps, orbits, backspins, scribble of any other kind of scratch on Hip Hop’s most popular songs. Former Beastie Boys DJ Mix Master Mike recruited eight legendary turntablists to pay homage to the art of DJing, while issuing due flowers celebrating four decades in Hip Hop on “Megaton 10.”

For over seven minutes, Mix Master Mike’s fellow Invisibl Skratch Piklz DJ crewmates Q-Bert, Shortkut and D-Styles, Gang Starr’s DJ Premier, transformer scratch pioneer DJ Jazzy Jeff, Los Angeles-based Beat Junkies’ Babu and Melo-D and Miami-bred DJ Craze bring a cohesive smorgasbord of chops over an up tempo, 1980s-style electro Hip Hop beat. This cut should seep deep into any Hip Hop traditionalist’s psyche.

“Tank Souljah” – WiFiGawd

The creation of alter egos in underground rap is a lost art making a comeback. The pushback over being “too online” is forcing some artists to shroud their work, which is usually released on alt accounts with different sounds from what fans expect. Tread music rapper WiFiGAWD seems to be using this tactic with his alt-rap alias UPTSOULJAH. “Tank Souljah,” released exclusively to Bandcamp, isn’t too far off from WiFi’s usual output, but it’s a lot more forceful than his regular work.

A digital drum package pummels the track as Wifi cuts through the production’s onslaught. Much of WiFi’s music sounds like what a bank robber would be playing through their headphones before breaching the vault — and this is no exception. It’s a song to bump when stepping up to the ATM at 4 a.m., withdrawing two grand before heading to the underground nightclub for debauchery and wicked deeds.

“Not Wock” – Bktherula

“Flood The Block” – Benny The Butcher

One complaint some fans lob at Griselda Records is how much of their music sounds the same, carrying that ethos of underground New York coke raps without elevating the sound. Benny The Butcher has seemed to read these claims, opting to go outside of his comfort zone by rapping on projects produced by both Harry Fraud and Hit-Boy, respectively. His latest EP, Pyrex Picasso, features Benny delivering the coke rap aesthetic on some tracks like he was only built for Cuban Linx. But other tracks, such as the Svika Pick sampling “Flood The Block,” have Benny blending street raps with production which sounds like the opening to an ’80s Japanese anime. It’s more proof Benny’s style doesn’t need to bend to trendy sounds; he can talk his shit over any instrumental.

“5500 Degrees” – EST Gee f. 42 Dugg, Lil Baby & Rylo Rodriguez

EST Gee received some big looks earlier this year with explosive features on tracks including Lil Baby’s “Real As It Gets,” Jack Harlow’s “Route 66” and “I Ain’t Lying” from Lil Durk’s Only The Family compilation tape. But now it appears the Louisville, Kentucky rapper is stepping into his own lane. Amongst the many raucous tracks from Gee’s latest mixtape, Bigger Than Life Or Death, “5500 Degrees” stands ahead of the pack, as Gee transitions from the underground to the spotlight.

Rapping with influences from Michigan stutter-step bars tweaked with a nasally Kentucky drawl, Gee swerves between Enrgy Beats’ jittery hi-hats like Alvin Kamara dodging tackles. Lil Baby and Rylo Rodriguez each deliver top-tier verses, but it’s 42 Dugg who steals the show with his best verse in recent memory, a hazy and melodic hook that perfectly meshes with Gee’s more viscous delivery.


“Griot” – Baby Phace

Success means more to Baby Phace than it does to most. He remembers before his still-burgeoning rap career began to bubble, eating plantains and pork in Flatbush, dreaming of Calabasas villas. That dream seems to be inching closer and closer to becoming a reality, as the New Jersey-based rapper continues to elevate his craft. As a flute whirrs in the background of INFLXBLE and Sunny Laurent’s playful production, Phace finds creative pockets, rapping with a tight control over his melodic machine-gun flow. His ear for quality production, vocal prowess and tight, clever lyrics make Phace an artist to watch over the coming months.

“Buss” – Rico Nasty

“Walk The Beat” – Tierra Whack

Tierra Whack has never created two tracks that sound exactly alike. Her outstanding variety, marked by remarkable consistency, has ensured each track she drops is appointment listening. “Walk The Beat” is the latest of her seemingly random drops, powered by a bouncy, hypnotic house beat with an intoxicatingly catchy heart stopping bassline. Whack flies above the production with a falsetto hook and her high pitched rapping. She sings, “Fancy shoes, fancy clothes/That’s just the way it goes,” with startling efficiency, displaying her penchant for hook-making beloved to everyone that comes into contact with her songs. She continually proves her power knows no bounds.

“In My Blood” – Mo3 f. Morray

The tragedy of rising rapper/singer Mo3’s murder continues to become more stark as posthumous music floods out with each track flaunting an incredible talent taken far too soon. Teaming up with fellow pain-rap crooner Morray, “In My Blood” features both artist competing for who can sound more in anguish. Mo3 attempts to find forgiveness in his heart for the pain the streets and women have caused him, while Morray tries to navigate the pitfalls of fame, weaving through the snakes lining up to plot on his downfall.

Near the end, Morray makes a note of the Dallas singer’s passing: “On a song with my dog, I’m getting features from heaven/I’ma try to emulate you, but I know nobody better.” It’s a direct and heartbreaking sentiment, acknowledging there may be singers and rappers who come up and take their influence from Mo3, but there will only ever be one Mo3, no matter how much people try to live up to his name.

“Matt Hardy 999” – Trippie Redd f. Juice WRLD

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“9 TIMES OUTTA 10” – Gunna f. Taurus

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“Nobody” – Nas f. Lauryn Hill

Social media entered a frenzy when people noticed Lauryn Hill was featured on the tracklist to Nas’ King’s Disease II. Ms. Hill’s return to rhyming was met with excitement and a healthy dose of uncertainty as nearly 25 years have passed since the two bards of Hip Hop first joined forces on It Was Written‘s lead single “If I Ruled The World.” Luckily, both legendary MCs have plenty of fuel left in the tank. Nas’ head-nodding flow on “Nobody” exhibits the same dexterous flow he forged in his youth, but it’s Ms. Hill’s explosive verse that truly steals the show.


“Rocc Climbing” – Remble f. Lil Yachty

While the online jokes about Remble’s enunciated and understated delivery have grown old, his rapping itself remains fresh with each new single. This linkup with Lil Yachty, who apparently is making it his goal to work with every hot rapper around, is clearly his best track since “Touchable.” The two rappers whisper threats like they’re trying to avoid detection at some morbid daycare center as the murky piano production grooves along. Remble and Yachty are a no-brainer collaboration that simply should have occurred sooner.

“Only Built 4 Hermès Linx” – Father f. Tony Shhnow

“Hell on Earth Pt. 2” – Westside Gunn f. Benny The Butcher & Conway The Machine

“Knife Talk” – Drake f. 21 Savage & Project Pat

Drake and 21 Savage unleash a South Memphis evil on “Knife Talk”. The track opens with Project Pat’s nefarious verse from Juicy J’s “Feed the Streets” over a dark piano melody. 21 Savage taps deep in the Three 6 Mafia ethos; his verse is filled with callous threats and ominous “gang shit” chants. Drake provides a balance to 21’s horror on the track by throwing the line, “it’s getting real oppy outside.” Drake and 21 are not only consistent, their energy together is exhilarating.

“Heaven’s EP” – J. Cole

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“Bread Head” – SahBabii

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