A Handy-Dandy List of Our Strongest Singles For You To Consider When Creating Your “Best of” Year-End Lists
Young Dolph – “Royalty”
Young Dolph knows it’s good to be the king. With “Royalty,” this King Of Memphis standout gives a glimpse into his absurd life of luxury, finding the independent rap star flexing his wealth in a massive mansion he shares with beautiful women, a monkey, a giraffe, and even a white tiger. Even in a year where he released three full-length projects and toured nationally, “Royalty” is a highlight, earning the classification of “The Realest Down South” from Spotify and accumulating over 3M streams views on Youtube and over 2M on Spotify.
Maxo Kream – “Big Worm”
Houston’s Maxo Kream is in contention for having one of the most oversized personas in hip-hop and it’s on full display in the video for “Big Worm,” a highlight from his aptly named mixtape, Persona Tape. Repurposing the classic Grime beat of Wiley’s “Morgue” and earning a co-sign from Skepta, Maxo masterfully blends the sounds of London and Houston in this homage to the Friday character, premiered by Complex. Trapping out an ice cream truck, Maxo serves up what the people want, racking up over 1M SoundCloud streams.
Jon Waltz – “Riot”
Premiered by Zane Lowe on Beats 1 and praised by The FADER as “fantastic” and a “gutsy song about growing up,” Jon Waltz’ latest track was worth the wait. Only releasing music when it lives up to his high standards, “Riot” broke a seven-month musical silence for Waltz. An inventive track with a unique song structure, “Riot” features a brilliant chorus, several infectious bridges, and poignant lyrics that earned placement in USA Today’s FTW 10 Best Songs of the Week and Nylon’s Soundcheck.
E-40 – “On One” ft. AD
The lead single from E-40’s 26th and 27th solo albums The D-Boy Diary, Vol. 1 & 2 , “On One” is certified function music that makes it feel like it’s 2006 again. Premiered by GQ, the bass-knocking slapper features an amped up hook from Los Angeles’ AD that ensures you go dumb until the very end. Earning a spot on Stereogum’s Furious Five, 2Dopeboyz’ Weekly Dope, and Fact Mag’s Singles Club, “On One” proves that even after three decades in the rap game 40 is just a relevant as ever.
Bankroll Mafia – “Smoke Tree” ft. Shad da God & London Jae
Even if rap supergroups were common, Bankroll Mafia would demand attention. As is, they don’t have to demand, they capture it effortlessly. Comprised of T.I., Young Thug, Shad da God, London Jae, and YSL Duke the Atlanta-based group’s self-titled album was a highlight of the year, and no track more so than the stoner anthem “Smoke Tree.” With all five members working together like a well-oiled machine, they proved that too many cooks only makes the kitchen run more smoothly.
A true Texas OG, Trae Tha Truth reasserted his position as one of the most driving forces in Houston’s music scene with his album Tha Truth 2, not that it was ever in doubt. A gritty and more personal effort, Tha Truth 2 had a star-studded guest list, including an appearance from the Atlanta trap’s finest provocateur, Young Thug. The two hooked up on the album’s third single “Slugs“, premiered by Billboard. Darkly melodic, “Slugs” plays Thugga’s high-energy style off of Trae’s laid back vibe, creating the rare type of track where you can turn up to or just kick it to.
Ralo – “My Brothers” ft. Future
As real as they come, Atlanta’s Ralo burst on the scene this year, working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop. On this single for Diary Of The Streets II, he hooked up with Future for a track saluting their Day Ones. Featuring production from 808 Mafia’s Southside, “My Brothers” exemplified some of the best trap Atlanta has to offer. The track shows Ralo “displaying a new mastery of his own flow that should be enough evidence of his potential star power, ” according to Noisey who added that “Future shows up at his most forceful and savage as well, with the whole track being evidence of the bond… the two rappers share,” earning this track a spot on 2DopeBoyz’ Weekly Dope Playlist.
Nef The Pharaoh – “Put You On” ft. Juvenile
For someone whose biggest single to date is called “Big Tymin,” working with a member of Cash Money Records was a dream come true. Luckily for everyone, Nef the Pharaoh got to live that dream and we got experience the results. For his first single from his upcoming album, he hooked up with Juvenile for“Put You On,” premiered by Billboard. Juvenile demonstrated why he is a legend, while Nef stood shoulder to shoulder with his idol. An ode to staying loyal, “it’s joy offered at a dark time and that’s reason enough to keep listening” according to Jeff Weiss of Passion Of The Weiss.
Philthy Rich – “Piss Codeine (Remix)” ft. Kevin Gates, Young Dolph, & Icewear Vezzo
Called “a buffet of great rappers” and a “who’s who of artists with the strongest indie cred and most organic fanbases” by Noisey, Philthy Rich’s star-studded remix to “Piss Codeine” brought together the biggest trappers from around the country. Produced by Zaytoven, the off-kilter intoxication anthem is a perfect encapsulation of what trap music should be. A remix of the opening track of Philthy’s album Real N*ggas Back In Style, the track managed to stand out among the five LP’s of quality material that Philthy dropped this year, earning a spot as the signature song for trap music’s signature vice.
Mistah F.A.B. – “Up Until Then” ft. Boozie Badazz & Iamsu!
“This is an underground hit in the Bay and very quietly one of the best songs of the year. It makes you want to cry and go on vacation at the same time.” – Passion Of the Weiss
Oakland OG and Crown Prince of Bay Area Hip Hop, Mistah F.A.B. put his name back in everyone’s mouth this year with his new album Son Of A Pimp 2. The sequel to his breakthrough album Son Of A Pimp, which was released a decade ago, Son Of A Pimp 2 was a reminder of what Fabby Davis Jr. is; “one of the best rappers the area ever produced,” at least according to Jeff Weiss. That is readily apparent on “Up Until Then,” the breakout hit from the album. Both F.A.B. and his guest Boozie Badazz spit heartfelt verses about the come-up and the struggle, with IAMSU! joining them for the hook. Ever loyal to his soil, F.A.B. shot the video in Oakland, filling it with local landmarks, references, and celebrities.
Bobby Brackins – “Faithful” ft. Ty Dolla $ign
Oakland’s smoothest, Bobby Brackins is already a Grammy-nominated songwriter, and if he keeps putting music out like “Faithful” it won’t be long till he wins one. The lead single to Bobby’s …To Live For EP, “Faithful” features longtime collaborator Ty Dolla $ign, who provides an infectious hook, and bubbling production from frequent collaborator Nic Nac. Premiered by Interview Mag, who called it, “the perfect way to start your weekend,” the song is sultry jam about giving into temptation. The video for the song, which FADER said, “brings shine to the Bay” in their premiere, racked up over 1M views on YouTube and over 1M streams on Spotify.
Caleborate – “08 (Carter Flow)”
Fresh off the success of his critically acclaimed 2015 album Hella Good, Pigeons and Planes calledCaleborate “one to watch in 2016.” The Berkeley native proved them right, releasing an abundance of high-caliber material. On “08 (Carter Flow)” he is at his best. Earmilk wrote in their premiere that “Caleb delivers with two heartfelt verses that showcase his adept wordplay and unfaltering sense of confidence that completely overtake the instrumental” and declared he was “an MC in the purest form.” Serving as the perfect appetizer to his album 1993, he also released a video for the song. Premiered by Revolt, the video intercuts cinematic vistas of his hometown with grainy, nostalgic clips from home movies, Caleborate letting the beat build with his “‘08 Lil Wayne Carter flow.”
Well$ – “’98 Juvie (Remix)” ft. Deniro Farrar
As a tribute track to Juvenile, Well$ and Deniro Farrar do him proud. The two Charlotte-based emcees give us a tour of the city over the “Ha”-influenced instrumental of this single from Well$’ album The Way I’m Living Makes My Mom Nervous. Well$ and Farrar trade aggressive, region-specific rhymes over Sipho The Gift‘s booming symphony of dramatic strings, skittering hi-hats, operatic vox, and marimba. Premiered by 2Dopeboyz, the track earned a spot on Pigeons and Planes’ Weekly Spotify Playlist and was praised by HotNewHipHop as “a riveting ride with a decidedly Southern aesthetic.”
Rexx Life Raj – “Handheld GPS”
Praised by Noisey as “accessible, relatable, and deftly political” and chosen by KQED’s as “[one] of the Bay Area’s Best New and Emerging Rap Artists,” Berkeley up-and-comer Rexx Life Raj firmly cemented his seat at the table in 2016, releasing the critically acclaimed album Father Figure. A contemplative ballad that ponders existential questions having to do with social media and technology, “Handheld GPS”was premiered by Pigeons and Planes and racked up nearly 2M streams on Spotify.
Nevelle Viracocha – “DOUBLE UP”
Coming “highly recommended” by Jeff Weiss of Passion of the Weiss , Nevelle Viracocha is the latest in a long line of intergalactic Southern rappers, but distinguishes himself by bringing a worldly perspective, due to his childhood as a military brat. Every facet of Nevelle’s prodigious talent is on display on “DOUBLE UP,” a standout track and video from his EP, Eff/Pee/Ohh. Wilding out on top of Luis Lopez‘s apocalyptic, herky-jerk trap beat, the globe-trotting emcee shows off his double-time flow, his skill with rhythmic cadences, and his Travis Scott-style melodic vocal overdrive. “This is your song to hustle to every day,” explains Nevelle. “The message is simple, go and get it!”