2015 has been a great year for hip-hop music. With the so many legends returning to the game, it was inevitable this was going to be a strong list. But it’s not just the older players that make things up. New and emerging acts have also come along to put their own twist on things. Hip-hop music has constantly evolved, and within that one genre there are many sub-genres. Just take a look at the following videos to see some gangster rap, grime, soul, funk, jazz and even some rock elements. Mix it all together and this is what you get; our top twenty hip-hop tracks of the year. Needless to say ost of the following contain strong language. But if you’re not easily offended, read on for some great tracks.
20. Snoop Dogg – Peaches N Cream
Doggystyle was without doubt one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever recorded. Since then Snoop’s career has had some questionable moments. For every great track like ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ there was some truly awful chart fodder like ‘Sweat’ with David Guetta, and don’t even get me started on his reggae album. But the guy is without doubt a legend, and it was great to have him back on form. The new album had a real chilled out old skool vibe. ‘Peaches N Cream’ is a ridiculously laid back vibe, that is perfect for summer.
19. Earl Sweatshirt – Grief
18. Ghostpoet – Off Peak Dreams
Mercury nominated Ghostpoet calved his own niche, mixing spoken word and hip-hop. His third album was a chilled out affair, that attracted mass critical acclaim. It featured a collaboration with Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith, but it’s this track that really sums up the album for me. A fantastic live act too if you ever get the chance to see him. He performed at this year’s Tramlines Festival in Sheffield. Read our original review of the album here.
17. Kanye West – All Day *
With the release of SWISH still keeping Kanye West fans waiting with baited breath, ‘All Day’ is teaser that made their hearts skip a beat. ‘All Day’ takes West’s Yeezus sound and develops it with crisper beats, smooth synthesizers and haunting vocal samples. West’s vocal hooks were more evident here than on ‘Only One’ with trademark swag paving the way for some pretty decent rhymes. Even the off-key Paul McCartney ending gives hints of diversity, something we can only hope continues into SWISH.
16. Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams – WTF (Where They From)
Has it really been ten years since Missy’s last album ‘Respect M.E.’? Many a female rapper have tried to take her crown over the last decade, with varying levels of success. But there can only be one winner. Missy’s come back single features the production genius of Pharrell. Her style hasn’t moved on all that far, but does it really need to? ‘WTF’ is funky, sassy, and everything you would expect from the first lady of hip-hop.
15. Public Enemy – Man Plans God Laughs
Public enemy are without doubt on of the most legendary hip-hop crew’s on the scene. They have been making current and credible music since the eighties, and are still as relevant today as when they released ‘Fight The Power’ and ‘Bring The Noise’. ‘Man Plans God Laughs’ was the the title track from their brand new album, which followed on from their recent live album which also came out this year.
14. Anderson Paak – Drugs
Anderson Paak was one of the lesser known artists who stole the show on Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ album. His gritty voice makes him instantly recognisable, and ‘Drugs’ is one of the stand out tracks from his debut long player ‘Venice’. Okay, so morally it is on shaky ground as it talks about the joys of drugs. But hey, this is hip-hop. And Anderson Paak is oe of its rising stars.
13. Lupe Fiasco – Mural *
Making a triumphant return, Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo and Youth was a diverse, immersive album, and no song sums that up more than the second track, the eight minute long ‘Mural’. Aptly named, the song paints a beautiful picture with dainty piano and vocal loops. Fiasco’s lyrics tell of a new world, different to one he grew up in; something he could only fantasize about. ‘Mural’ is a surprisingly beautiful track; the atmosphere it builds up through instrumentation and Fiasco’s colourful rhymes also make it one of the best rap tracks of the year.
12. Vince Staples – Jump Off The Roof *
‘Jump Off the Roof’ is one of the rawest tracks on Vince Staples Summertime ’06. The grime-ridden beats and eerie choral work is looped under Staples own sadistic rhymes makes for one of the darker songs on his debut. He spits lyrics unrelentingly, barely stopping to take a breath, as the topics of drugs, sex and religion are effortlessly covered and torn apart. ‘Jump Off the Roof’ is just one of many reasons why the world should be watching Vince Staples with much interest.
11. Tyler, The Creator – Deathcamp
Tyler, The Creator has always been a particularly controversial character in the game. So it’s great that when he does come out with new music, it is worthy of the media attention that surrounds him. And that’s exactly what he did with the release of his brand new album ‘Cherry Bomb’. On this leading single he mixes rap with rock music in a way that hasn’t been done so successfully since N.E.R.D’s ‘Rockstar’. Check out our original review it it here.
10. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis -Downtown
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have always thought outside of the box. Their single’s ‘Thrift Store’ and ‘Same Love’ took hip-hop, shook it up and put it back together again. Rarely have a band put their own stamp on a genre so early on in their career. On this new track they got together with a whole bunch of hip-hop legends to create this brilliantly old-skool flavoured track.
9. Young Fathers – Shame *
White Men Are Black Men Too was a statement itself, but the song ‘Shame’ was fast paced and upbeat, combined this is fuzzed out lyrics, was the cherry on the cake. The lyrical poetry is based more around the repetitive hook that slates the liars in the world, declaring shame on them. Young Fathers use the simplicity of the song to their advantage, creating a cacophonous sound that borders on tribal. I people didn’t think Young Fathers could up their game, they were wrong. Read our original review of the track here.
8. Method Man – The Meth Lab
Has somebody been watching a little too much ‘Breaking Bad’? It certainly seems it listening to the title track and leading single from his brand new album. This song is dramatic, edgy, and has all the elements that made us fall in love with hip-hop in the first place. Read our original review of the track here.
7. Frank Twitchy – Act Like This
At the end of last year we loved ten rapper Frank Twitchy’s album ‘Melody Project’. (Read our review here). His style is laid-back, smooth, and with an incredible maturity for an artist of such young years. This new track released earlier this year is all those things, and has kept us going until the release of the next album. Hopefully next year, Frank?
6. Chip – Dickhead
You may be more familiar with this artist under his former name Chipmunk. Well, the boy has grown up. The cute young rapper has shaken off his pop star image, and can now be heard producing edgier tracks like this one. Whilst we all loved the likes of ‘Oopsy Daisy’ and ‘Diamond Rings’ this is the sound of an artist grown up. And he wears it well.
5. DJ Yoda – The Baddest
DJ Yoda’s ‘Breakfast For Champions’ project featured a whole host of brand new and undiscovered rappers and singers. This harmonica-lead track is without doubt one of the funkiest tracks in this list. Read more about the album here.
4. Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta *
The driving beat of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘King Kunta’ is what helps make it one of the best songs on one of the best albums of the year. The song, which draws from the likes of Mousberg and James Brown, pushes foreboding funk and tells of K-Dot’s return to Compton and dealing with fame. Kendrick’s flow is effortless over the exquisite beat, making ‘King Kunta’ the most-radio friendly out of his new material. But, even with this, Kendrick doesn’t sacrifice his integrity and sticks to his strict rap agenda. Read our original review here.
3. Mongrels – Chokehold
Legendary Sheffield street artist and hip-hop star Kid Acne got back together with DJ Benjamin this year to put out their DIY EP ‘Low Budget/High Concept’. It featured this ridiculously cool old-skool flavoured track ‘Chokehold’ with an equally quirky and lo-fi video. Read our original review of the EP from back in July here.
2. Drake – Hotline Bling
Since first coming to our attention on Young Money’s ‘Bedrock’, Drake has constantly released killer track after killer track. He’s released two albums this year, as well as this reggae tinged stand alone track. It’s certainly been a great year for him. Just don’t mention Madonna.
1. Dr. Dre – Talk About It
In the year that Dre released his first album in eighteen years, it was inevitable that he was going to take the number one spot. The album featured a host of guest stars, from the legendary to the up-and-coming. What really made this album so special is that it took hip-hop right back to its routes, when it was about the streets, and the gangs, and less about the bitches and bling. Dre was the pioneer of this kind of music, and has stayed true to those ideas. ‘Talk About it’ is the leading track from the new album, and kicked things off in real style. Without doubt the most welcome comeback of the year. Read our original review from its release in August here.
* Chosen and reviewed by Andrew Noel.