During the first half of November 2019, I’ll be looking back on my top 50 songs of 2018. This is both in preparation for my 2019 list, and to perhaps help enlighten some others of some great songs they may have missed.
I’ll be doing this in 10 parts (with 5 songs each), with the first being Monday 4th, and another coming out each weekday for the following 2 weeks. So, with that said, read on, listen to some of the songs, and let me know what you think.
• JID – Mounted Up
JID’s ‘Mounted Up’ is one of the standouts from his 2018 album DiCaprio 2. Mounted Up displays JIDs ability to provide some killer flows and bars over a minimalistic best, whilst also showing his knack for making a short but sweet little hook that is catchy and brings the whole song together.
The beat itself is really simple on Mounted Up, with the bass used sparingly, the drums being basic, and the main feature of the beat being this looped like 8-bit sounding guitar synth. The hook is also simple, but very effective and actually one of my favourites on this album. The hook features JID singing with a real subtle voice effect and is a real nice touch, and the rhyme scheme is simple but catchy, with JID singing; “Okay I’m Mounted Up,
High off the ground, watch me count it up”,
And continuing on the rhyme for the 5 lines of the hook.
Despite the hook being great, it is hardly the focus of the song. With the song being structured as; short hook > long verse > short hook > long verse, the hook only appears twice, and is only a short hook, so the focus is much more so on the verses, both of which are an amazing showing of JID’s skills as a rapper and as a lyricist. This is one of those songs where there will be multiple points in the verses that you think ‘okay, hooks about to come in again’, but then it doesn’t, and JID just keeps coming at you with the bars.
In terms of the verses themselves, JID is just as strong as ever on Mounted Up. He Delivers a wide range of different flows, often changing up flows in the middle of a bar, or flowing off beat but in a good way. His delivery is clean, and his subtle changes in his voice and annunciation of words throughout the song is super entertaining. As can be expected by now, JIDs rhymes and bars themselves are crazy impressive. The one thing that’s obvious on this song is just how talented JID is when it comes to rapping, whether he is flowing fast or stringing together a ridiculous rhyme scheme or changing up his delivery, he does it with confidence and makes it seem so effortless.
Overall I would say Mounted Up is initially not the best song on the album, but is a real ‘grower’, in that it has this addictive quality where it gets more and more enjoyable each listen. The more you pay attention to it the more impressive it is, being totally packed full of solid bars, impressive rhyme schemes, and top tier rap ability
• Gunna – Sold Out Dates (ft Lil Baby)
‘Sold Out Dates’ is peak Gunna and Lil Baby, and is another song that was incredibly left off both artists albums (similarly to Bubblin’ by Paak or B.A.B.Y by Tory Lanez). Released earlier in the year, Sold Out Dates was really the beginning of the whole ‘Guitar based beats’ wave for me in 2018, and both rappers did an amazing job showcasing the beat and also their respective abilities as artists.
The Turbo produced beat is one of many in 2018 to revolve mainly around a guitar, and in my opinion is one of the best of the year. The main guitar riff has almost an indie-rock vibe, with subtle changes to it throughout. On top of that, the drums are used incredibly well throughout the track, with the bass hitting at all the right times, and the main drum beat dropping out at certain points during each verse to really put focus on the guitar and the lyrics, adds that extra layer of polish and is done extremely effectively.
Lyrically, the whole song is about how both artists are making lots of money and selling out shows now that they’ve made it. I mentioned in another write up that I think Lil Baby shines when he is being emotional, but this song is one exception. He showcases his melodic flow throughout, rapping about the money he has made and the things he now owns. Lil Baby has a bunch of nice little flexes in his verse, such as; “I just bought a Wraith I retired the Benz” & “Take a trip round the globe then we do it again, Got ‘em watching my Drip guess I’m setting the trend”. The highlight in Baby’s verse for me personally though is where he incorporates part of the hook into his verse, spitting;
“Sold Out date’s, you know I don’t play,
The last eight months straight,
Got no time for breaks”.
This is not only a nice little touch, but sounds amazing and is delivered incredibly as well.
Now when it comes to Gunna, I think he is kind of the opposite of Lil Baby in that he usually shines when he is flexing his wealth, and this song is a good showing of that. Gunna flows super smooth throughout both his verse and the hook, and his calm delivery along with the drums that drop in and out make the song a real head bopper. Similarly to Lil Baby, Gunna has a verse full of braggadocious bars and flexes, such as;
“My foreigns a toy, I’m still a kid,
Ten K this year for coachella it’s lit”
“New Cartier, Gunna outdone,
N*ggas tryna soak up that drip like a sponge”.
Just quickly, the chorus itself if amazing and really brings the whole song together while defining what the song is about. Although I’m very rarely listening to gunna for the lyrics, this hook also includes one of my favourite Gunna lyrics, and one of my favourite flexes ever period. Gunna nonchalantly raps;
“This cheetah my pet, the condo a cage”.
Not only is this one of my favourite flexes, but one of the best one liners of the year. Apart from that, Gunna’s delivery on the hook is great, and overall his utilisation of the beat is fantastic.
In summary, Sold Out Dates is a perfect example of a melodic, bragadocious, guitar led rap song, a sound that is very prevalent in this day and age. Lil Baby & Gunna both bring their A-game with some incredible flows and simple yet effective bars, all over one of the best guitar beats of the year. This song is an easy ‘Top 10 of the year’ contender, and is a great entry point to anyone wondering why Gunna and Lil baby are as popular as they are.
• G-Eazy – Endless Summer Freestyle (ft. YG)
Endless Summer Freestyle is a fun, care free sounding loosie dropped by G-Eazy in 2018, and featuring frequent collaborator YG. This song not only shows the amazing chemistry between the 2, and showcases their skills as rappers, but features one of my favourite beats of 2018, perhaps even my favourite.
I’ll start with the beat, since I believe that it’s the feature of this song that makes it better than nearly every song of 2018. The beat primarily revolves around a sample of a 1956 song by The Cleftones titled ‘Neki-Hokey’ and as a result the whole song has this real ‘black and white film’ vibe which is unlike anything else in recent memory. The sample alone is exceptional, but G-Eazy also incorporates some well timed drums, in particular a tinny sounding snare and this momentary hi hat rattle, to really give the song structure and make the bars hit a bit harder.
The song is mainly about each artists flaunting their respective lifestyles, but has an underlying message of equality which becomes apparent as well. G-Eazy has the first verse, and start to end his flow is fun, his delivery confident, and he has no shortage of good bars. It’s actually so full of great quotable bars that it’s a struggle to try and pick favourites. Despite G-Eazy being the good looking jock who fucked my girlfriend, its so enjoyable hearing his bragadocious bars and he does it so well. Just going to quote one of my favourite bars of the many;
“Kept my circle tight, in with the same friends,
0-60, 3 seconds, not the same Benz,
I live different, my whip different, my chick different,
Only poppin up with goddesses I date tens”.
G-Eazy’s verse leads straight into YG, who keeps up the energy with his playful flows over the boppy beat. For 2 rappers who I previously thought shone on west Coast Beats, they both do extremely well at riding this 50’s style beat, but that’s more so a nod to their artistry and their chemistry as a pair. YG also delivers in terms of the bars, although he doesn’t have as many quotables as G-Eazy. His verse is much more about equality than flaunting his lifestyle, and in particular I love his delivery on:
“But Harmony ain’t gon like that,
And life’s a fight, live right, jab, fight back!”.
Honestly, the first time I listened to this track I was so impressed by the beat and G-Eazy that I was sure YG would let me down, but it was a breath of fresh air to have him bring the heat as much as he did
Overall this song is just amazing, try giving this a spin, and there’s a 90% chance you’ll like this song within the first 5 seconds. Off the top of my head this is my favourite beat of the year, and both G-Eazy and YG do it justice with their playful flows and memorable bars. This is a must listen, considering it never appeared on a project it flies under the radar easily and may be forgotten with time, so don’t miss the chance to check a stellar song just because it’s not on an album!
• Lil Wayne – Bank Account
Although I would find it near impossible to pick a favourite track from Lil Wayne’s Dedication 6 mixtapes, if I had to, Bank Account would probably be the one. The thing that makes this one stand out to me personally, is that Wayne takes a song I didn’t like previously; 21 Savage’s ‘Bank Account’, and turns it into a true 10/10 masterpiece of a track.
The beat is primarily the same as the original Bank Account by 21 Savage, but I’m pretty certain their are some subtle differences. It’s as if Wayne rapped over the Bank Account instrumental but then had someone mix and master the beat around Wayne’s version, with the 808s being better timed and not as common, and the hi hats being used more sparingly, and even sounding muffled at times. The hook on this is actually next level good, because Wayne takes the original hook, puts a spin on it and makes it much better in my opinion. The whole hook is great, but I’m just going to put a bit of spotlight on the start. On the original, 21 savage spits;
“I got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Ms in my bank account, in my bank account,
In my bank account, in my bank account,
In my bank account”
Which Wayne changes too;
“I got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 bank accounts,
Plus a main account, with insane amounts,
That’s something to think about,
Plus the drank in route, now I’m hanging out”.
He keeps the same delivery and rhyme scheme while just changing up the lyrics to totally change up the sound of the hook.
I’m not going to go into too many details about the verses and the lyrics on this track. Not because it’s lacking, but because this is yet another Wayne song where almost every part of the song is worth a mention. This song is the perfect example of why I think Wayne had the best rapping of 2018. The number of flows, the way he changes them up, and the flows themselves are insanely good. The delivery varies throughout but is enjoyable start to end, his lyrics are coherent and the wordplay is some of my favourite ever. I can’t gas this song up enough, i don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s a lyrical masterpiece.
Overall this song is just about perfect, and is one of the only songs of 2018 to give me literal goosebumps. The way he flips the hook is one of my favourite moments of the year, and the rapping is just too impressive. I’d recommend this song to anyone who likes music, or even anyone who doesn’t, seriously just check this out and if nothing impressed you, I’m not impressed haha. But seriously give it a listen and let me know what you think!
• Lupe Fiasco – Alan Forever (ft. Crystal Torres)
‘Alan Forever’ from Lupe Fiasco’s Drogas Wave album is really something else. The song is a Dedication to Alan Kurdi, a boy who drowned as his family fled to Europe during the immigration crisis of 2015. The song is made as if Alan was still alive, and has Lupe rapping from the perspective of Alan, detailing the events of the life he may have lived. Not only is this perhaps the best written song of 2018, but it has a great beat and enjoyable chorus to add to the overall listenability and enjoyment.
My poor writing skills and informal writing style could never do Lupe’s ‘Alan Forever’ Justice. The writing on it is impeccable, with not only the flows and rhyme schemes on it being impressive, but the lyrical content being some of the most creative and well thought out of 2018. The story revolves around Alan Kurdi, a 3 year old boy who drowned during the 2015 immigration crisis. Lupe raps as if he is Alan, derailing the life that could have been had he not drowned. Lupe takes the horror of drowning and turns it into such triumphs as being a gold medal Olympic swimmer and having Michael Phelps as a coach. It really is some of the most beautiful uses of irony I know of. I could honestly do a full page write up on the lyrical content of the song, on his inclusion of Jonylah (Another person Lupe rapped about in a similar fashion on ‘Jonylah Forever’), on the amazing fashion in which he ends the song, and that’s not even to mention the rhymes and flows he uses to get the message across. But to do all that would feel like spoiling it, I highly recommend giving the song a listen with the lyrics which can be found here, it’s poetry.
The chorus plays perfectly into this novel, and is probably one of the best written choruses of the year. Lupe has a female vocalist, Crystal Florres sing;
“The waves can be your cover,
The beach can be your pillow,
My heart can be your house,
My eyes can be your windows,
To teach you how to swim,
And then we’ll play Nintendo,
Be with all your friends,
Dancing to the tempo”
Not only is the hook beautifully delivered and sensationally written, but I love how it pays respects to the manner in which Alan died, as well as alluding to the fact that Lupe is being a voice for those who can’t. And on a side note, I think the “teach you how to swim, then we’ll play Nintendo” would be corny without context, but in the context of the song it sounds great and is one of the only times I can think of corniness sounding good.
The beat also does an excellent job of adding to the positive vibe of the song. It is composed primarily of a piano playing what sounds like a nursery rhyme kind of tune, and every now and then has a nice little guitar lick that sounds like something out of Toy Story. The drums are minimal, and there are also some subtle samples of children laughing in the background, a great little touch.
Overall this is the feel good song of 2018, with the positive lyrics, upbeat beat and beautiful writing all contributing to the overall vibe. This whole album was incredible, but this was my real standout just based on how amazingly written and how creative the idea is, as well as how perfectly it’s executed. It’s not one of my top 5 of the year, but if you only listen to 5 songs from this top 50, I implore you to choose this as one of them.
Have you heard any of the above songs previously? What are your opinions on them?
If not, I’d very highly recommend giving one or all of them a listen, and letting me know what you think.
Thanks for reading!
– Shan –