The world continues to shift at a rapid pace with so many major global events happening that it’s hard to know exactly how think about time. The only thing that’s been consistent throughout the past few years has been the good music dropping that we’re able to use as timestamps. We’re more than halfway through 2022 and there has been no shortage of dope rap songs. Fans have received music from up-and-coming staples of rap to bona fide legends. In July, fans received unlikely collaborations like Cardi B, Kanye West and Lil Durk, more choice music from Black Thought and Danger Mouse, a return to form for Lloyd Banks and Joey Bada$$ and the unstoppable force that is Glorilla. Here are the best bars of the year so far.
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:
Struggling to find a list of the Hip Hop Albums that have been shifting the culture? Take a look at our lists for Hip Hop, Rap and R&B to get a complete survey of the projects that are dictating the conversation within Hip Hop.
Need some new songs to throw in the rotation but Spotify and user-created playlists are way too long? We kept it simple and added only the best of the best songs from each month to make sure you get the songs you need without a hassle. Peep the lists below.
Editor’s note: Songs from this list were released between December 2, 2021 – September 31, 2022.
“Dark Hearted” – Freddie Gibbs
Two years after the release of his Grammy-Nominated Alfredo album, Freddie Gibbs has finally given his listeners a taste of his upcoming project $oul $old $eperately. On the heels of his Moneybagg Yo-anchored “Too Much” single, the Rabbit shares his Jame Blake-produced follow-up entitled “Dark Hearted.”
Smino f. J. Cole — “90 Proof”
Smino has his hands full. In addition to releasing solo albums such as NOIR and his 2017 debut blkswn, he’s also part of two collectives; Zoink Gang with JID, Guapdad 4000 and Buddy and Zero Fatigue with Ravyn Lenae, Monte Booker, Bari and Jay2.
Despite his busy schedule, the “Wild Irish Roses” artist still managed to find time to record “90 Roses” featuring Dreamville’s Head Honcho J. Cole. Though it’s not the first time they’ve worked together (Smino was featured on Dreamville’s “Sacrifices” alongside EARTHGANG and Saba), it’s the first time Cole has hopped on one of Smino’s own records.
Roddy Ricch — “Stop Breathing”
At this point it has become undeniable; Roddy Ricch is the future of mainstream Los Angeles Hip Hop. 2018’s Feed Tha Streets II set the tone for what Ricch was capable of: hard bars mixed with earworming melodies and hooks, but it was the following year’s Please Forgive Me for Being Antisocial and “The Box” which propelled him into true stardom.
LIVE LIFE FAST from 2021 felt insufficient at the time of its release, but looking back there are still a few records which stand out from the dredge of streaming era music. The Compton rapper is now back with “Stop Breathing,” his follow-up single to “Ghetto Superstar” with G Herbo and Doe Boy.
Quavo & Takeoff — “Nothing Changed”
Quavo and Takeoff’s latest single is titled “Nothing Changed,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s unclear what happened to the Migos, if they broke up or if they’ll continue to release music as a trio, but Quavo and Takeoff’s recent work together under the moniker Unc and Phew suggests that there may be some division in the Quality Control ranks.
Nevertheless, all three members of the group have continued to stay active. Offset has worked alongside Moneybagg Yo, Trippie Redd and SleazyWorld Go, and Quavo and Takeoff have continued to drop, most recently with “Nothing Changed.”
Moneybagg Yo — “Blow”
Kid Cudi f. Ty Dolla $ign — “Willing To Trust”
Despite the fact that Kid Cudi’s Entergalactic album mysteriously leaked online, tagged with fart sounds, two weeks earlier than it’s anticipated release alongside the Netflix series he created, it’s business as usual for the Cleveland MC.
With the assistance of Ty Dolla $ign, who also appears in the series which will be released on September 30, Cudi continues to build the hype of his three-years-in-the-making animated show with the release of his anthemic single “Willing To Trust.”
“Stars” – JID F. Yasiin Bey
“Survivors Guilt” – Joey Bada$$
On “Survivor’s Guilt” Joey Bada$$ open up about the tragic loss of his friend, collaborator and Pro Era legend Capital STEEZ. The emotional tribute sees Joey grappling with loss, friendship and the guilt that comes with seeing success while his friend is unable to physically experience it alongside him. On the more than five-minute song, Joey addresses things that longtime fans have been wondering about like STEEZ’s family and online conspiracy theories about Steelo’s passing. It seems like there are things Joey himself is still coming to terms with, but it’s clear that STEEZ’s spirit has never left his thoughts. The instrumental and tone are reminiscent of Kendrick’s “Sing About Me” as Joey also addresses his late cousin on verse 2. Overall, this song is a standout from 2000 and will definitely hit home for Pro Era fans. – Jeremy Hecht
“God Did” – DJ Khaled F. JAY-Z
“Tomorrow” – Glorilla
“Tony Montana Flow” – Chief Keef F. Akachi
“Tony Montana Flow” proves two things: Keef’s Scarface accent is the best thing in rap this year and Akachi is quickly climbing the producing ranks. In their new collaboration, Akachi puts down a menacing trap beat with an evil synth in the forefront that could easily be interchangeable with the score from Halloween. It’s impossible to not envision Keef rapping with his lip curled and shoulders square, puffing a cigar between bars with how dedicated he is to maintaining the accent with his flow. This comes after the Chi-Town legend dropped 4NEM earlier this year, one of Keef’s most excellent projects. Both Keef and Akachi maintain momentum with “Tony Montana Flow,” and hopefully there’s more to come from these two. – Anthony Malone
“The Root of All” – DJ Premier f. Slick Rick & Lil Wayne
“Aquamarine” – Danger Mouse & Black Thought
If anyone had reservations that Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley and Danger Doom fame) might not be a fortuitous pairing for Black Thought, “Aquamarine” is an otherworldly shushing. Danger Mouse’s beat is a sonorous canvas that Black Though trips to shreds. “Haters and naysayers are buried in cake layers,” Thought barks, hitting his opps with a tombstone piledriver like he’s the Undertaker. On the technical side, his lyrics have so many internal rhymes that its meter chart would give a poetry PhD an aneurysm. The second verse continuously accelerates in pace of delivery and importance, and Black Thought barrels towards the thundering conclusion with the urgency of a general marching his troops off to battle. It’s a fantastic display of individual and collaborative talent that bodes well for their much-anticipated album Cheat Codes. – Ben Brutocao
“Horses on Sunset” – Westside Gunn
“Hot Shit” – Cardi B, Kanye West, Lil Durk
Cardi B is a celebrity second and a gangsta bitch first. Beyond the duets with Bruno Mars and Lizzo, behind the curtains of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Cardi is a ferocious rapper in the old school, stick-em-up style, the kind who still might slide on an opp and can’t wait to put a brand new chopper to good use. “Hot Shit,” co-starring Lil Durk and Kanye West, takes that energy and turns it to 11: “One thing I never gotta call a bitch for is a truce,” Cardi raps with fangs bared. While Cardi handles her business as usual, remaining the best rapper on the track, she does something that no rapper has been able to do in years — get Kanye to rap well. Building on Cardi’s “take no shit, talk your shit” attitude, Ye drops jaws with his tightest verse of 2022. “Pinky swear you ain’t scared when you heard Ye appeared/I’ma hop up out the bushes me and Pusha kill your man.” It’s a relief to hear Kanye actually rapping again, rather than sketching out skeletal songs that resemble voice memos. He’s once again splurging out at Louie Vuitton, bringing his masseuse on the plane, practically screaming with glee: “Cardi where your sister at? I need Henny NOW!” Anyone who misses the old Kanye should be smiling ear to ear, maybe he just needed Cardi to put the dog back in him – Vivian Medithi
“Breath Control” – Logic f. Wiz Khalifa
“Cash in Cash Out” – Pharrell F. Tyler, The Creator & 21 Savage
Seeing Pharrell and Tyler, The Creator on a song together is no shocker to fans who know Tyler’s affinity for N.E.R.D. The addition of 21 Savage may seem like an odd collab at first, but as soon as you press play and get past the repetitive hook, you realize that the chemistry is undeniable between the three. Tyler continues to prove why he is at the top of the rap game right now and 21 displays his usual mix of hilariously frightening bars over Pharrell’s usual bounce.
“Because” – Black Thought & Danger Mouse F. Joey Bada$$, Dylan Cartlidge & Russ
“Step 1” – Sleazy World Go F. Offset
Up-and-coming artist Sleazy World Go is already off to a blazing start this month following the release of his Lil Baby-assisted “Sleazy Flow,” which cracked the top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart on June 6. Building on the tidal wave of momentum he’s channeled thus far, the Midwest native connects with Offset for their “Step 1” collab, a track that sees Sleazy sliding on melancholic pianos and bumping 808s, a departure from his more up tempo tracks, but a welcome diversion. – Devon Jefferson
“The Highs & Lows” – Chance The Rapper & Joey Bada$$
“Ms.Mural” – Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco’s “Mural” is often regarded by rap fans as one of the most impressive lyrical performances of his career. With that in mind, the bar was high to live up to when it comes to creating a sequel. But Lupe did not disappoint when it comes to “Ms. Mural.” The Chicago MC paints a picture over a minimalist instrumental for five minutes straight displaying why he is still one of the most talented rappers to ever touch a mic.
“N95” – Kendrick Lamar F. Baby Keem
“AUTOBOTO” – Lupe Fiasco F. Nayirah
“No Gold Teeth” – Black Thought & Danger Mouse
“All The Way Out” – Boldy James
Boldy James can do a lot with a little, making his name by meshing deadpan raps with dark, minimalist beats. What he proves on “All The Way Out” is that he can also do a lot with a lot. Real Bad Man’s beat is a complex, deeply layered gem. It sounds dangerous, inlaid with the paranoid urgency present in just about every Boldy James song. But there’s also an undeniable bounce and levity gained through a train whistle and off-kilter drum patterns. All in all, it sounds like a beat that could have made the cut on Madvillain back in 2004.
Fortune chose well in pairing this beat with Boldy James, whose ephemeral street vignettes are rarely as vibrant and captivating as they are here. While the song seems at constant risk of being lost in the current of the beat, Boldy’s steadfast direction and inability to get lost in flights of fancy anchors the song to something menacingly fun.
“Bring Some Mo” – Lil Eazzyy F. NLE Choppa
“London” – BIA F. J. Cole
“Plan B” – Megan Thee Stallion
“Dreamin Of The Past” – Pusha T F. Kanye West
Pusha T is a great rapper but evolves to city-flattening God mode when paired with Kanye West. Fortunately, we’ve received quite a few of these collabs throughout the years. Even more fortunately, we recently got a new one. “Dreamin Of The Past” shows off Pusha T’s greatly improved melodicism, bolstering the elegantly flipped Donny Hathaway cover to John Lennon’s entrancing “Jealous Guy.” Infectious confidence radiates from every Hathaway note and Push bar. It is so remarkably compelling that even when Kanye West calls himself “Daddy” via what is evidently a voice memo he made on an airplane, the song isn’t ruined. – Ben Brutocao
“Whaddup (Remix)” – PGF Nuk F. Polo G
“Top Down” – Jayson Cash
“Rock N Roll” – Pusha T F. Kanye West & Kid Cudi
There are certain songs that feel like they are made to be anthems that play behind action scenes in a superhero movie. “Rock N Roll” is one of those songs…although, with Pusha T’s career, it would most likely be played during the plotting of a villainous scheme. The mixture of Kanye, Cudi and Pusha has the nostalgia of the G.O.O.D. old days when everyone got along. From the classic Ye sample chops to Pusha’s menacing flow capped off with what Cudi does best, if this is the last time Ye and Mr. Rager work together, they closed the curtain with a grand finale. – Jeremy Hecht
“Right On” – Lil Baby
“Papercuts” – Vince Staples
“Punch Bowl – Clipse & Nigo
“Free The Shiners” – 42 Dugg & EST GEE
“Telepathic” – Fly Anakin
Off a debut album that amalgamates a 1993 lyrical foundation with a murky playfulness, Fly Anakin’s “Telepathic” with frequent collaborator Big Kahuna OG finds both rappers at peak performance. The instrumental is reserved and muffled, but Anakin’s pithy rhymes cut through the fog, his terse voice demanding of anyone’s attention. “She said it’s a vibe I told her to shut up,” Anakin spits plainly. “When real collide with fake it’s fucked up.” Anakin’s penchant for plainspoken rhymes are elevated by Kahuna’s nonchalance on the hook, as he raps about his enemies “fake demons” and how he’s sitting in traffic with “Big Sharks.” “Telepathic” culminates to be the best track on the project because it all just sounds so effortless.
“Starlight” – Dave
“Diesel” – Alchemist & Kool G Rap
Anything legendary producer The Alchemist touches turns to gold. After winning the 2021 HipHopDX Producer of the Year award Alc has kept his foot on the gas. Over the past few years he’s helped artists achieved new heights, working with leaders of the next generation such as Earl Sweatshirt, Navy Blue and Pink Siifu as well as industry vets including Body James and Curren$y. But on his latest single “Diesel,” Alc linked with the iconic Kool G Rap for a somber bar-heavy track. It’s been fantastic watching the Los Angeles-based producer develop new acts, but there’s something special watching him spar with one of the genre’s OGs. As Kool G unleashes an infinitely rolling verse, Alc’s slow piano sample loops solemnly in the background. No bells or whistles, “Diesel” is proof of the power in simplicity.
“Diet Coke” – Pusha T
As the wait continues for Pusha T’s forthcoming album produced by The Neptunes and Kanye West, fans were blessed with “Diet Coke.” Kingpin rap isn’t new to the G.O.O.D. Music rapper, yet his brick-talk on “Diet Coke” sounds as energized as ever. Rapping over soulful production from Ye and 88-Keys, Push details the journey he underwent, from pushing weight to pushing records, and all the spoils which came with the success.
“Nail Tech” – Jack Harlow
“Don’t Play That” – King Von & 21 Savage
On first listen, the warm production from Kid Hazel wouldn’t appear to be suitable for the raps of Atlanta’s 21 Savage and the late King Von. But once Von’s bouncing, stutter-step chorus rings through, all doubts dissipate. Von, who tragically passed in November 2020, was a promising rapper with an innate gift for storytelling. While his contribution to “Don’t Play That” strays from his usual affinity or narratives, it’s nice to hear him on such a lighthearted track.
“Sl*t Him Out” – Baby Tate
2022 HipHopDX Rising Star Baby Tate knows how to go viral. Months before the release of “Sl*t Him Out,” the sound was already trending heavily on TikTok. Now officially unveiled, fans are able to enjoy the full braggadocious and sensual shit-talking of one of Atlanta’s best. Tate still hasn’t cooled from the enormous highs of her 2021, but it seems like the ascent has only just begun.
“Johnny P’s Caddy”- Benny The Butcher F. J. Cole
“Surround Sound” – JID F. Baby Tate & 21 Savage
WALKIN – Denzel Curry
Like he tends to do in January every year, Denzel Curry has returned unexpectedly. On “Walkin,” the Carol City Star is back in full force. His signature intensity comes through and transforms the angelic sample into something menacing and enthralling. At almost 5 minutes long, the extended run time gives his lyrics some breathing room, as well as providing space for a long, head-bumping chorus that incorporates the cynicism and braggadocio we expect and love. And, as the drums switch around at the halfway point and the hi-hats begin to fire at double speed, Denzel speeds up to a furious, machine gun pace that carries the second half weightlessly.
“Survivor’s Guilt” – Saba F. G Herbo
“So Cool” – Big K.R.I.T
Big K.R.I.T is known for his intense southern drawl, as well as his unwavering aggression. While the former is present on his new single “So Cool” (and as prominent as ever), the latter is washed away entirely, replaced by forcefully serene vibes that suspend all feelings that aren’t related to chilling in a hammock on a tropical beach. In less than 2 minutes, Big K.R.I.T does a complete 180 from his previous work, leaving the listener scratching their head as to the direction of his next album while relaxing and grooving to the greatest extent possible.
“Million Dollars Worth Of Game” – 2 Chainz F. 42 Dugg
It can be really tough to keep track of all the great music from 2021. Luckily we’ve narrowed down the list to only the essentials!
Editor’s Note: Songs from this list were released between May 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021.
“Wave Gods” – Nas f. A$AP Rocky
“Blessings” – Cousin Stizz
Massachusetts experienced a landmark year in 2021, with acts such as BIA, Van Buren Records and Cousin Stizz taking the scene to new heights. On “Blessings,” Stizz reflects on his upbringing, finding gratitude for the past experiences which crafted the man he is today. — David Brake
“2010” – Earl Sweatshirt
“Life of The Party” – Kanye West f. Andre 3000
Kanye West finally released the deluxe version of Donda on Sunday (November 14) much to the surprise of his ever-loyal fans. Although the tracklist was slightly rearranged, the updated version of the Billboard 200 chart-topping album contained the André 3000 collaboration, “Life Of The Party,” which Drake leaked in September in an attempt to outsmart his contemporary. The song features the Outkast legend opening up about the loss of his mother, which fit the theme of Donda, the name of Kanye’s late mother who died in 2008. Many are already calling it “verse of the year.”
“Black Illuminati” – Freddie Gibbs f. Jadakiss
“Murder Music” – Snoop Dogg f. Benny The Butcher, Jadakiss & Busta Rhymes
“Who Want Smoke (Remix)” – Nardo Wick f. 21 Savage, Lil Durk & G Herbo
“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.
“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.
“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.
Contributing writers: David Brake, Trent Clark, Kyle Eustice, Jeremy Hecht, Devon Jefferson, Dana Scott, Ben Brutocao, Anthony Malone, Kia Turner, Matthew Ritchie & Josh Svetz.
OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM NOVEMBER 2021
- “Channel 5” – Key Glock
- “RISK SUM” – Tony Shhnow & 10kDunkin
OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM OCTOBER 2021
- “Silly Rabbit” – TisaKorean
- “SANTANNY” – BKtherula
OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM SEPTEMBER 2021
- “Rocc Climbing” – Remble f. Lil Yachty
- “Bread Head” – SahBabii
OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM AUGUST 2021
- “Walk The Beat” – Tierra Whack
- “In My Blood” – Mo3 f. Morray
- “Matt Hardy 999” – Trippie Redd f. Juice WRLD