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.
I’m getting towards the tail end of the list, and although it’s in no real order, I’ve saved all my favourites for the end, so a majority of these last 10 track are either in my top 10 of the year or very close. Enjoy!
• XXXTENTACION – the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so alone)
As someone who initially didn’t like XXXTENTACION based off of his aggressive flows on songs like ‘LOOK AT ME!’, I really came to fall in love with his music once I discovered his more acoustic, softer music. In my opinion, ‘the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so alone)’ is the perfect example of this acoustic sound, and a great showing of X’s versatility. On the song, X raps about a past lover who he still feels something for, and the song really is a perfect break up song, an incredible rap song, and a spectacular show of a young artist being creative musically all rolled into one.
The beat itself is amazing, and one of the most creative parts of the song. It’s revolves mainly around a vocal sample, which is actually a sample of one of XXXTENTACION’s own songs, namely ‘voice memo 4: the remedy for a broken heart’. The sample really gives the whole song this sad, somber vibe throughout. Apart from the sample, the beat is composed mainly of 2 instruments; An acoustic guitar which strums this slow indie riff throughout, and some basic drums, all of which add to the whole sad, nostalgic vibe of the song.
Another subtle thing X has always done exceptionally is play around with song structures, and this is no exception. The song goes refrain>verse>chorus>refrain>bridge>refrain, with the refrain being just the ‘why am I so alone’ sample being played multiple times in succession. The strange structure really adds to the enjoyability and replay ability of the track, with the listener never really knowing what is coming next, and it taking a few listens to really know the song structure. Overall just another simple thing that shows X’s musical creativity.
The main vibe of the song is really supported through the lyrics and melodies in the refrain, chorus, and bridge. As mentioned, the refrain is a sample, and is just a sample of X singing “Why am I so alone” & “I don’t know why”. This part is delivered full of emotion, with X singing in this sad, regretful tone, that sounds almost muffled at times. The bridge is a step up in emotion, and it’s placement between 2 refrains adds to the feels, with X singing; “She said I, oh I, am falling for you, falling for you,
I, oh I, am falling for you, falling for you”, and so on. But the thing that makes it sound beautiful is the pure emotion in his voice, with X using an amazing vibrato through a majority of the bridge. The chorus, despite only being delivered once, acts an effective chorus, being the most catchy part of the song (debatably), and really playing into the whole vibe of the song. The chorus has X repeatably rap; “Mix a little bit of weed, with a little bit of cash, with a little bit of this, with a little bit of that, we gon’ be al-, we gon’ be al- (right)”. It’s extremely catchy, and delivered super clearly in this sorrowful, nonchalant tone.
As I touched on earlier, this song only has one verse, but it is an absolutely sensational rap verse in every way. The verse comes at the beginning of the song, after the first refrain, and has X rap his ass off about everything from his mental state, to his past lover, to love in general. All of this is done with some of X’s cleanest flows ever, and I’m in no way exaggerating when I say that this may be X’s most impressive verse ever in terms of lyrical ability, flows and wordplay. His rhymes schemes are insane on this, and he is changing them up every couple of bars, while also changing up flows to match and riding the beat effortlessly. This is easily a top 10 song of the year for me, and I’m having trouble picking a favourite bar or set of bars from the verse to quote, so I really do recommend listening and judging yourself.
Overall, this song is flawless all round, and is my favourite sad song of the year. With some relatable lyrics, beautiful singing, and impressive rapping, this song is a great show of versatility and skill. This is the kind of song you could put on for a friend and they would be like ‘this is amazing, who is this’ and you’re like ‘XXXTENTACION’ and then they’re either like ‘oh’ or ‘wow I never knew he had music like that!’.
• Young Thug – Anybody (ft. Nicki Minaj)
Young Thug aka Thugger aka SEX released 3 projects in 2018, all of which were enjoyable, but my personal favourite was his ‘Hear No Evil’ EP. Unfortunately, this was also the one project of his that really flew under the radar, probably due to it only being 3 songs and being released so early in the year. Regardless, this EP has 3 great songs, one being ‘Anybody’ featuring Nicki Minaj (it’s called ‘Amazing’ on Spotify for some reason), which stood the test of the time and remained in my top 10 of so songs for the entirety of the year.
The song has quite a pop sound to it overall, and features both Thugger and Nicki rapping about their expensive lifestyles and about how they’re both a force to be reckoned with. The beat is basic for the most part, with the majority of it just being made up of some drums and a synth that kind of sounds like something out of a fast paced video game level. The one feature of the beat that is real impressive is the subtle backing vocals that make an appearance at times throughout the song, namely the hook. The backing vocals sound like some kind of tribal chant and mesh amazingly with the bass and slightly higher tempo synth on the chorus. A simple beat for sure, but one that’s very effective and mastered excellently, so doesn’t take away from the song at all.
Young Thug delivers both the hook and a verse on his song. The hook isn’t anything specially lyrically, but the melodies used by Thugger throughout it are ridiculously good, and the simple rhyme schemes really add to the catchiness of the hook. Despite the simplicity, this is one of my top 5 hooks of the year, and one I’m still singing along to with enjoyment 18 months later, it’s just crazy fun and enjoyable. Thugs verse is much more exciting lyrically, with better rhyme schemes and some solid bars too. As can be expected with Thug at time, the verse just sounds amazing sonically. His flows and rhymes stay fairly simple while he repeatably changes up his delivery and melodies, making every line sound great. In terms of how it sounds, every part of the verse is excellent, even the transition into his verse from the hook sounds so crisp.
Nicki Minaj has the feature verse on ‘Anybody’, and was the start of an amazing run of features for her in 2018. Although I love young Thug on this, I honestly think Nicki steals the show in this, with a vocal delivery just as enjoyable as Thug’s, but with more impressive bars and flows throughout. Nicki starts her verse with a slightly melodic flow, switching it up to an even more melodic flow a flow bars in, and then peaks with this amazingly melodic flow where she is basically singing the end of each word by the end of her verse. The subtle progression in her flow as she goes on is great, and her delivery is strong through the whole verse. All of this and Nicki is still spitting solid bars and maintaining some decent wordplay. My favourite part of her verse both flow wise and in terms of lyrics is probably the last few bars, which are;
“Jumping in the Bent’, then I switched to the ghost like ‘Who’s you’,
Remember this face, cause I’m the bitch you gon’ lose to,
Drippin’ in ice, who you looking at screw you,
It’s squad goals, when all your bitches pretty like new, new”.
In summary, this is another of my top 10 songs of the year, and one that I was surprised not to see more love. Combining a ridiculously catchy Thugger hook, a great Thugger verse and an exceptional feature from Nicki, this song is one of Thuggers more accessible songs, and a great showing of both artists skills as rappers and as artists.
• Lil Wayne – Groupie Gang
‘Groupie Gang’ is Lil Wayne’s 3rd entry from his D6: reloaded mixtape, and 7th entry total in my top 50 (the last one I promise). Although this song doesn’t have the highs of ‘Bank Account’ or an amazing feature like ‘New Freezer’, but his rapping is just as on point, and the utilisation of the beat is just as fantastic.
On ‘Groupie Gang’, Lil Wayne raps over the beat of Lil Pump’s smash hit ‘Gucci Gang’, and this is yet another case of Lil Wayne making the song his, and giving a much more impressive performance than anything on the original track. The beat is the same as Gucci Gang I’m pretty sure, but there are either some subtle differences or Lil Wayne just raps so well on the beat that the beat itself sounds better. Either way, the beat hits so hard In this version, and Wayne suits the simple piano melody perfectly.
The song has a chorus of sorts, but what Wayne does with it is masterful. Whereas the original has a very repetitive chorus, Wayne’s version has Weezy spitting ‘Groupie Gang’ bar only once before going straight into the next verse, continuing on the rhyme scheme each time. I’ll just use the first ‘chorus’ as an example, where Wayne raps;
“Groupie gang, Groupie Gang, Groupie gang, Groupie gang, Groupie gang, Groupie gang, Groupie gang,
Your bitch fucked til the Uber came,
My clique love drinking Houston drank,
Yeah that’s purple, magenta, and fuchsia mayne”
Weezy spits three full verses on this song, and it would be impossible to type out all the good quotables without taking up multiple pages. His rapping on this is just as impressive as my other favourites of Wayne’s, with the plethora of ridiculous flows, his dedication to maintaining impressive rhyme schemes and his crazy amount of quotable bars and creative metaphors throughout. Reading through the lyrics, this is one of the most impressive of the year, you literally can’t go 2 bars without an impressive bar. How a rapper can come up with so many unique, quality bars this far into his career is beyond me.
‘Groupie Gang’ is everything I love about Wayne. From the ease in how he flows over someone else’s beat, to the range of different flows, to the bombardment of great bars, down to the little things like the lighter flick at the beginning and the pussy eating references. This is one of the most impressive rap songs of the year, and a great one to show to anyone who thinks Wayne can’t rap or only raps about drugs and pussy.
• Aminé – Reel It In
‘Reel It In’ is straight up one of my top 10 songs of the year, and a spectacular showcase of Aminè’s skills as both a rapper and singer. This song is also one of the most accessible in my list in my opinion, with an addictive beat, fun flows, and even a great video (which you can peep here) to match. Of all the songs I’ve written about so far, ‘Reel It In’ is the one that I can’t imagine people not vining with, it’s just insanely enjoyable.
If this beat was on just about any song last year it would be the stand out feature, and if it wasn’t for me loving Aminé on this, then it would be the standout here too. It’s really a perfectly executed combination of instruments that I’ve barely ever heard in hip hop before, and that’s the mixing of the drums, an acoustic guitar, and a flute (or some similar sounding instrument, but for the sake of this review it’s a flute). The drums are just a simple part of the background used to give the song structure, so the beat revolves mainly around the flute and the guitar. The acoustic sounding guitar is just leisurely strumming throughout the entirety of the song, and is playing this peaceful, chill melody that sounds almost ukelele like, something you would here on a tropical beach. The flute is used a bit more sparingly, but is the feature that really makes this beat pop. The flute melody played at parts throughout the song is reminiscent of something you would here played on the ocarina on The Legend Of Zelda. Despite flute based beats being quite prominent in the last couple of years, the meshing of flute with guitar on ‘Reel It In’ really make the best stand out from its competitor’s.
The song features a chorus and a pre-chorus of sorts, and really touches on the main topic of the song which is that despite being quite an anxious person, Aminé still wants to take his moment in the spotlight and flex a little. It’s like he is showing his pride in himself and his dedication to keep striving for success despite what is going on in his head at times. The pre-chorus is a build up of sorts, with Aminé singing it for the most part, starting with an emotional Sounding “I don’t trust nobody cause I can’t be fake” and building up to a triumphantly delivered “It’s that young n*gga shit, might pull up to you bitch like”. At this point, the flutes make their appearance with a climax of sorts, and the chorus starts with Aminé confidently rapping;
“Reel it In (woo),
I got the bag, tell a friend (hoo)”.
He continues on rapping some super catchy and enjoyable bars for the remainder of the chorus, and makes it just an amazingly crafted chorus all round.
Aminé also flexes his skills as a rapper, with 2 verses on this song. Each verse features an impressive showing of versatility and creative wordplay, with a range of different flows and some incredible bars within. I thoroughly enjoy all the different parts of both verses, but my standout parts are the slower melodic flow he uses at the start of the second verse with; “Jesus Christ (Hallelujah), I buy that shit before I even know the price (hey)”, as well as his more sporadic flow which he uses towards the end of the second verse, rapping ;
“I got a thotiana, put her in designer,
She Italiana, she a sorta kinda”.
In summary, Aminé shows off his amazing ear for beats, his skills as a rapper and also his ability to sing beautifully when needed too. Crazy thing about this track is that it feels like a 3-4 minute track, but is literally 2 minutes on the dot. It’s like 3mins30seconds of ideas and content squeezed into a 2 minute time slot seamlessly. Overall, this is just a great example of Aminé’s creativity and talents as an artist, with a touch of ‘super freaking enjoyable’ on the side.
• Carnage – Bed Bugs (ft. Nessly, Yung Pinch & Takeoff)
2018 was a good year for a lot of things. I think it was a great year for female rappers, one of the best years ever for hip hop movie soundtracks, and and impressive year in terms of albums by producers. We saw great albums from Metro Boomin, Esco, Diplo, FKi 1st and Carnage, among others. One of my favourites of the bunch is Carnage’s ‘Battered Bruised & Bloody’, and my personal standout is the song ‘Bed Bug’s’, featuring Yung Pinch, Nessly, and Takeoff.
One of the great things about producer albums is the way they bring the perfect artists in to match the vibe they’re going for with the instrumental, and this is a good example of that. The song brings together Nessly for hook duty, Yung Pinch for a melodic first verse, and My favourite part of all, Takeoff for the hard hitting final verse. The beat is quite simple, composed mainly of some thumping 808’s and some hi-hats, but at parts the beat mellows out to a point where there is just this distorted like keyboard melody playing in the background. Simple for the most part, but all 3 artists ride the beat wonderfully and really make the whole track an enjoyable listen.
The hook is one of the best parts of the song (they all are really), and is delivered by Nessly, an artists I had never previously been able to get into. The hook begins with Nessly belting out 4 solid bars over the keyboard part of the beat, before the drums and bass make their entry and Nessly delivers the rest of the verse in this beautifully sung melody. The lyrics within are great too, with bars such as;
“Will you be there when the lean runs out?
Tell my secrets don’t you run your mouth,
Let you in but I might kick you out,
Pull out something new and take a different route”.
Yung Pinch has the first verse, and delivers the majority of it in a similar melodic way to how Nessly handles the hook. He flows on the beat with ease, and steps his verse up a notch when the bass comes in part way through his verse, changing up his flow to a more up tempo rap flow. He also has some great lines throughout, my favourite of which is;
“Whenever you round she wanna leave, whenever I’m there she excited,
I got her wet like Poseidon, you hating don’t try to deny it”.
Takeoff from Migos has the final verse, and is the perfect contrast to Pinch and Nessly, having a much deeper voice and lower tone and therefore making the bars just hit different. Stylistically though, Takeoff raps in a similar way in terms content and delivery, having a much slower and more mellow delivery than on your usual migos track. The verse itself if short and sweet, but showcases Takeoffs insane flow plus his ease of flowing smooth over any kind of beat. He also has one of my favourite parts of the song lyrically, which is;
“She told me she want attention, don’t like what I’m sippin’,
She said make a decision, the pour out my drink in the drain in the kitchen,
Overall this is an incredibly made collaboration between a well known producer and three not very well know rappers. Considering Yung Pinch and Nessly aren’t too mainstream, and are artists I’m yet to dig into, and Takeoff very rarely does solo features (in comparison to Quavo & Offset at least), this was a great showing of the talent of three artists that people aren’t too familiar with. One of my top ten songs of the year, and one I would highly recommend giving a spin and showing your buddies.
Have you heard any of the above songs before, and if so, what are your opinions on them?
If not, I’d love it if you were to give them a listen and let me know what you think!
– Shan –