It’s that time of year ladies and gents: we’re unveiling our favorite rap records of the past twelve months. There have been big releases from nearly all of hip-hop’s biggest stars and some surprise newcomers as well. We’ve combed the hip-hop-sphere, ensuring that all subgenres are appropriately represented, and that, at the end of the day, the best, and only the best made it to these pages. So, without further ado, we present our 30 Best Rap Songs of 2013.
30. Dom Kennedy – “Black Bentleys”
Had Dom Kennedy released Get Home Safely in July, this song probably would’ve been launched into the bottom half of this list, but instead, this music that was designed for tropical drinks with umbrellas in them was only available in winter. Still, we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave a gem like “Black Bentleys” off of the year end list simply out of bitterness.
29. Rapsody – “Lonely Thought” [Feat. Chance the Rapper]
Chance the Rapper provides a signature Chance the Rapper wig-splitting verse on “Lonely Thought,” something we are quickly getting accustomed to. Additionally, Denaun Porter (of D12 fame) loops up a keeper behind the boards, and oh yeah, of course Rapsody is pretty good, too.
28. 2 Chainz – “Feds Watching” [Feat. Pharrell]
Try naming a song in 2013 with more hilarious punches than 2 Chainz’s “Feds Watching.” Trust us, it cannot be done. “This that category five when I walk up in the strip club / Throw it high, make you and George Washington head butt” is the ‘making it rain’ bar we always wanted but never deserved. When it comes to pure entertainment value, 2 Chainz never disappoints.
27. ScHoolboy Q – “Yay Yay”
Boi-1da gave ScHoolboy Q a certified banger: “Yay Yay” is West Coast drug peddling music in its purist form. With ScHoolboy’s major label debut, Oxymoron, receiving continual delays throughout the year, “Yay Yay” served as a constant reminder of how promising the project was and still is. Despite dropping in the rankings, the haunting masterpiece still earns a spot on our year-end list.
26. Action Bronson – “Contemporary Man”
In “Contemporary Man,” Bronsoliño raps over John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane,” Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise,” and about four other impeccable Party Supplies finds. Somehow, he makes it work, matching each ridiculous new backdrop with the right flair, from aggressive, to gleeful, to victorious.
25. Future – “Honest”
“Name another nigga this hot; I’m just honest.” Few artists out now that generate hits more effortlessly than Nayvadius Cash. Future deftly walks the genre tightrope at all times, but “Honest” is the epitome of that skill, matching signature rap braggadocio with a falsetto that’d make El Debarge blush. It feels like a rap ballad, yet it’s completely self-absorbed. It’s one contradiction after another, wrapped up with an insanely decadent bow, but its charm is impossible to deny.
24. Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip – “Thank You”
Basically, this was a decade overdue.
23. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – “Noble Drew Ali”
Few artists come across as more authentic than Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire. “Noble Drew Ali” is some of his most menacing work yet, carving out a niche for himself as an uncontrollable force of raw rap energy. The song is a manifestation of his authenticity in the form of a warning to the fakes. If he committed to the bars, eXquire could be one of the best out, easy.
22. Jay Z – “Open Letter”
“Open Letter” took quite a dive on our year end list, but it’s still a great record. “Open Letter” was a timely release that followed both Jay’s Cuban vacation with wife Beyonce and his resignation as minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets. In typical fashion, the legendary MC dismisses politics and sports ownership with an indifference that only he can muster. Every line is spewed solely for the purpose of reminding you who he is. He’s Jay Z, rap legend and entrepreneur; the game needs him, not vice versa. The record reeks of hubris.
21. Run The Jewels – “36” Chain”
Killer Mike and El-P clearly bring out the best in each other; Run The Jewels was destined to happen, and thank goodness it did. We picked “36” Chain,” but you can argue almost any Run The Jewels song in its place. That’s just how solid these two are as a unit.
20. Flatbush Zombies – “LiveFromHell”
What do get when you match one of the hottest young producers in the game with the most sinister up-and-coming group? A dark anthem straight out of the fiery depths. Harry Fraud pairs the Zombies with a sample that fits their aesthetic perfectly, and they run with it. Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice trade heretic bars about blaspheming over menacing production befitting of the title. Both entities are on the rise, and as their paths crossed on the way up, we were given one of the year’s best collaborations.
19. Migos – “Versace”
Easily the song of the summer. The list acknowledges.
18. A$AP Ferg – “Dump Dump”
Some songs are designed to be performed and blasted at maximum volume, and “Dump Dump” created more than its fair share of mosh pits at venues across the country this year. A$AP Ferg had himself a hell of a year, legitimizing the A$AP brand in the process, and out of the firestorm that was his exceptionally robust debut album, Trap Lord, came this boisterous jam. The lyrics aren’t exactly something parents can subscribe to, but any show-goer can appreciate its unbridled tenacity and raucous appeal.
17. Pusha T – “King Push”
“King Push” is how you’re supposed to open a rap album named after a phrase from The Wire. It is punch-heavy with percussion that hits like a Liu Kang bicycle kick. Despite losing some of its magic when its true production credits were revealed–“King Push” was originally said to be produced by actor Joaquin Phoenix–the supremely boastful opening still stands on its merits as a powerful and masterfully-crafted tune.
16. Lupe Fiasco – “Animal Pharm”
Just before Lupe reached his breaking point and went crazy, he released this, and it still holds up as a wonderfully complex record that requires quite a bit of studying to understand. All the Rap Genius editors in the world couldn’t unearth the myriad gems hidden beneath the song’s surface.
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