2021 has been a good year lyrically with some of the game’s heavy hitters dropping new bars. In November, fans received new verses from Jadakiss, Freddie Gibbs and the long-awaited feature verse from Andre 3000 on Kanye West’s “Life of The Party.”

HipHopDX is putting 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.

The Top Rap Songs of 2021 (January 1 – November 30)

“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.”

“2010” – Earl Sweatshirt

Each Earl Sweatshirt track is a gift that keeps giving. With each listen, his music expands and contracts, sharing textures, lyrics and notes unheard on the first play. “2010,” the former Odd Future rapper’s most recent track, is another excellent addition to his canon, containing heady bars layered between clever references, all over a wonderfully discordant beat from Black Noi$e.

“Murder Music” – Snoop Dogg f. Benny The Butcher, Jadakiss & Busta Rhymes

“Black Illuminati” – Freddie Gibbs f. Jadakiss

Gangsta rap is a tradition that despite rap’s continued metamorphosis — will never die. Freddie Gibbs’ success is proof. Gangsta Gibbs links up with legendary LOX member Jadakiss to spit some truths over a soulful beat. It’s a meeting of the minds that hasn’t occurred since 2012, and the reunion is long overdue.

“Yeah” – Mac Miller

“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

“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.

“Long Night In Knightsbridge” – Headie One

“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.

“GREENER KNOTS” – Maxo Kream

“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.

“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.

“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.

“Take Me Home” – Vince Staples f. Fousheé

On his self-titled album, Vince Staples is self-reflective, reading his thoughts like pages off his memoir (if he had one). On “Take Me Home,” Staples runs away from his demons and the aching past that haunts him at night. He finds solace in the streets, a place dually harmful and comforting.

He’s assisted by Fousheé, who takes hold of the chorus with enchanting vocals. On the outro, she poses the question for Staples: who’s a friend and enemy? Kenny Beats provides subtle guitar strings that work as a melancholic backdrop for Staples, but when he lays the third verse, the song becomes drenched in paranoia and suspicion.

“Clash” – Dave f. Stormzy

“Clash,” on top of being a highly awaited 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.

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.

“Audible” – Remble f. B.A.

 

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

Tyler, The Creator is a master at creating cohesive sonic landscapes for his albums. While his latest, 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.

“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.

“RAPSTAR” – Polo G

“Big Boss Rabbit” – Freddie Gibbs

“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.

“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.

“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.

“EPMD” – Nas & Hit-Boy

“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.

“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 rapper unloads a clip of fast raps on a Hugo Buck produced beat.  With Herbo’s verse added, “Onna Come Up” Lil Eazzyy is no longer on his way up rap’s hierarchy–he’s already there. 

“Overtime” — Baby Smoove

“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 below:

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

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

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM DECEMBER 2020

“We Know The Truth” — Drakeo the Ruler, 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 it’s 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.

“3:30 In Houston” – Benny The Butcher

Benny The Butcher recently revealed to DX he actually didn’t feel famous until he got shot in Houston last year during an attempted robbery. In reality, though, the incident merely boosted his star power rather than manifesting it, and “3:30 In Houston” certainly played a roll in the spike due to the ferocious lyrical nature of his rebuttal to the assailants. It’s a moment in which the Griselda MC’s trademarked street-enamored huste raps and tenacious hardened vernacular shine like a beacon, and serves as a testament to the strength of the chips bearing on his shoulders.

“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 rapper embodies.

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM JANUARY 2021

“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 MC 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 has their eyes on Pooh Shiesty as we approach his debut album. So far he has yet to disappoint.

“AHHHHH, Pt. 2”YN Jay f. Sada Baby

Michigan is undeniably having a moment right now and as a result, there has been a nonstop flood of fledging artists and developing soundscapes emitting from the northern state. Flint rapper YN Jay, also known as the Coochie Man, is one the up-and-coming artists leading the charge and his “AHHHHH, Pt. 2” collaboration with Detroit’s own Sada baby is like a sneak peek into the future of Michigan’s music scene. It’s somewhat of a cross between the scammer raps popularized by Motor City artist Teejayx6 and the drilling hype Sada’s “Whole Lotta Choppas” hit record exudes.

“Joe Exotic”Westside Boogie

 

“The Hurt Business” – Westside Gunn, Smoke DZA, Wale

The Griselda Conflicted film soundtrack was jam packed with the type of bars and lyrical heat that Hip Hop purists dream of. “The Hurt Business” single is like a dream-come-true as it aligns three different type of lyricists on one of the grimies, East Coast boom-bap beats of the year, thus far. Between the stabbing punchlines of Westside Gunn, the foggy finesse of Smoke DZA and Wale’s deductive flow, “The Hurt Business” is like a rap masterclass on how to properly execute barred-up collaborations without losing appeal.

“Welcome Home DMX” – Dave East

“Rap Up 2020” – Uncle Murda

“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.

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FEBRUARY 2021

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

Babyface Ray isn’t concerned with awards or recognition. On the opening track to his debut major label 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 20,000 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. 

“Rich N-gga Problems” – A$AP Rocky

“Last Man Standing” – Polo G

“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’s version as the lyrics observe people living in a cold reality that society is still far behind achieving social justice. 

“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.

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

42 Duggs 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 Boozie Badazz co-signed TG Kommas that 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.

“Skegee” – JID

The Tuskegee experiments—in which the US 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. Events like these haven’t received proper reparations or make rights; instead, it’s expected for a simple apology and acknowledgement of the horrific, inhumane display to suffice, a promise that it will never happen again.

But that’s not good enough and as JID points out on his latest single, “Skegee,” the continued dominance of white capitalism over Black art while monstrosities such as this go unchecked creates a conundrum when a Black man’s talents are scouted and then recruited for institutional financial gain.

“Gang Signs” – Freddie Gibbs & ScHoolboy Q

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM MARCH 2021

“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.

“Day Glow” – Kota The Friend

“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

“When Tony Met Sosa” – Benny The Butcher

“BUZZCUT” – BROCKHAMPTON F. Danny Brown

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.

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM APRIL 2021

“Better You” – Evidence

“Successful” – Young M.A

“Scatter Brain” – Conway the Machine f. Ludacris & JID

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

“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 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”).

“Rih” – Kenny Mason

“SHOOT MY SHOT” – IDK f. Offset

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

“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.

 OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM MAY 2021

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

If 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.

“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.

“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 legend feels futile. Over DMX’s 30-plus-year career, the Ruff Ryders artist 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 have felt impossible, “Bath Salts” is arguably 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.

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM JUNE 2021

“Law Of Averages” – Vince Staples

Vince Staples has become so ingrained in many fans’ minds as one of Hip Hop’s funniest and most poignant voices that some people may forget how elite he is at rapping. On the Kenny Beats-produced “LAW OF AVERAGES,” Staples reminds fans he’s 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 one would expect from a Vince Staples release.

“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 rappers 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 collaborations out of the two.

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM JULY 2021

“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.” Royce flexed his exhausting 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 which are 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.

“Chad” – Isaiah Rashad f. YGTUT

“30” – Pop Smoke f. Bizzy Banks

“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 a running back 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 which perfectly meshes with Gee’s more viscous delivery.

“GD Anthem” – Rooga

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM AUGUST 2021

“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.

“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.

“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.

OTHER FAVORITE RAP SONGS FROM FROM SEPTEMBER 2021

“Intro (Hate On Me)” – Meek Mill

“Heaven’s EP” – J. Cole

“Champagne Poetry” – Drake

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

“Bread Head” – SahBabii

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