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.
The following entry is the final part, and therefore contains what may be my top 5 favourite songs of 2018. Enjoy!
• Saba – PROM / KING
The track ‘PROM/KING’ is a clear standout from Saba’s 2018 project CARE FOR ME, being nothing less than a lyrical and poetic masterpiece. This is my favourite storytelling song of the year, and features Saba rapping for almost 7 minutes on a number of topics close to him, most notably his experience at prom, and the death of his cousin and fellow Pivot Gang member John Walt.
As mentioned, this song is a full 7 and a half minutes, and the first 7 minutes of that is literally just Saba rapping, so as you can imagine there are way too many good bars too quote the impressive ones. This song is one of my top 5 favourite songs of the year, and despite not being my favourite, it by far has the best writing of any song in 2018 in my opinion. Saba’s ability to keep the listener interested for the entire 7 minutes is insane, with him telling the story of his prom, his relationship with his cousin, and the death of his cousin in the most vivid ways, all without sacrificing any of the intricate rhyme schemes and wordplay you’d expect in a great rap song. His delivery is clear through the whole song, and his flows are frantic, abstract, constantly changing, and yet always sound at home on the beat. It’s just the overall combination of lyricism, wordplay and ability to tell a story with such visual imagery that make this my favourite song lyrically of the year.
The final 30 seconds, and the only part of the song that don’t feature Saba rapping, contains a beautifully sung outro. The outro is actually a recording of John Walt, the cousin Saba raps about in the song, who was fatally stabbed back in 2017. The outro is not only beautiful melodically, but is a great way to end the song, and an ode to the the life of John Walt. Strangely enough, I was actually a big fan of John Walt’s music myself, and loved his ‘Get Happy 2.0’ mixtape, so highly recommend giving that a listen for something different and to pay your respects.
The beat is superbly crafted as well, and adds to the song immensely, undergoing multiple changes as the song goes on, changing the mood to match Saba’s lyrics at the time, much in the same way that movies have the music change to create suspense/sadness etc. The beat starts with a piano, which is prevalent throughout a majority of the song. The piano melody is quite low, and is slightly distorted to give it this eerie vibe for the whole first half of the song. The bass and some some very subtle hi hats come in next and drop in and out as the song goes on. At the transition point from PROM to KING we hear the addition of some female backing vocals, and the piano part of the beat becomes less distorted for the next couple of minutes. We also see an appearance from a crashing symbol and a much more frantic drum beat for a while, before the song takes another turn in mood, with the piano returning to the eerie vibe. I could go on forever, but as the song progresses the drums take charge and really start to control the pace of the song. Overall the beat is just crafted perfectly around the song, and for the whole 7minutes I can’t fault it.
In summary this is my number 1 recommendation if you’re looking for a well written rap song. The storytelling is insane, Saba’s flows and delivery is incredibly impressive throughout, and the beat is masterfully constructed to compliment it all perfectly.
• Blackwave. – Swangin’
‘Swangin’ by Blackwave. was probably the biggest surprise for me in 2018. From the very first time I heard it it has been one of my favourite songs of the year, and remained in my top 5 for the entirety of 2018. It was surprising to my that I found a song I liked this much by a duo I had never heard of before. The surprises continued when I checked them out further, and realised that Blackwave. are a Belgian Duo, the first Belgian hip hop act I think I’ve heard. The surprises continued further when I followed them on Instagram, and they only had 6000 followers! These guys are seriously super talented, and this song is a great showcase of that. They also happened to have just released their debut album ‘Are We Still Dreaming’.
The song itself isn’t perfect, with the lyrics being nothing overly impressive, but it features some of the highest highs of any song in 2018. The beat is wonderfully made and has my favourite moment of the year, and the vocal deliveries, flows, and melodies are super impressive throughout, and even work to add to that ‘moment’ I mentioned. As I said, the lyrics aren’t anything new, touching on topics such as making money and flexing their new found success. Blackwave. consists of a rapper Jay Walker, who delivers the first verse and hook, and a rapper/producer Willem Ardui who handles the second verse.
One of the best parts of the song is the beat, which for the most part is made up of some spacey drums and atmospheric synths. The thing that takes the beat to the next level is the subtle little effects used throughout, and in particular the effect used in the middle of the song. The song features to use of some female backing vocals throughout the track to add another layer of enjoyment, as well as some moments where the whole beat slows to a stop, such as at the 2 minute mark, which really puts the focus on the bars and melodies at the time. During the latter half of the hook, there is also the presence of a mandolin sounding instrument, sounds like something you would hear in a Jackie Chan fighting scene. Now, the main feature of the beat that blows my mind, and is my favourite singular moment of 2018 is a section in the middle, where the beat drops out completely, before Will delivers this beautifully sung bar before the beat comes back in with this ascending, spacey synth sound. It’s honestly impossible to put its greatness into words, if you only have 30 seconds to listen to music today skip to the middle of this song.
I won’t dwell too long on the lyrics and vocals of this track, with the beat being the highlight. Jay delivers the first verse, and does so with a confident, clear, and overall just super enjoyable flow. He switches up his flows, incorporates some great wordplay and rides the beat with ease. Jay also handles the chorus, which is super catchy and a great addition to the track. Whereas his verses were much more rap-based, the hook is much more melodic, with Jay blurring the lines between singing and rapping. The second verse is performed by Will and is the standout, with his vocal delivery really complimenting that ‘moment’. The way he comes in with this amazing acapella melody is insane, and he continues it on for the entirety of his verse, sometimes changing up to more of a rap flow but without sacrificing that melodic delivery. Despite the song being nothing special lyrically, Will has my favourite bars with;
“I’m not a dealer but I move units,
On the run,
I ain’t got a gun but I shoot movies,
Just for fun”.
Overall this song is such a pleasant listen, with the immaculately produced beat and stellar vocal performances throughout the song. This is a song everyone should hear once, and a duo everyone should support and try to get into while they’re still mastering their craft. Top 5 song of 2018 with the best moment of the year.
• Metro Boomin – No More (ft. Travis Scott, Kodak Black & 21 Savage)
‘No More’ is an underrated song from Metro Boomin’s 2018 album ‘NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES’, and is my favourite from the album and one of my top 5 tracks of the year. The song features Travis Scott, Kodak Black and 21 Savage, and has all three artists bring their A-game and deliver an exceptional performance. The thing that makes this track stand out for me, and that takes it to the next level is that it does something really creative musically, and something we very rarely see, and that is having all three feature artists deliver both a verse and a hook. It may not seem like much on paper, but it’s a simple quality which makes this song so amazing to me on every listen.
For a bit more context, the structure of the song is Travis Verse > Travis Hook > Kodak verse > Kodak Hook > Savage verse > Savage hook > Kodak Hook, so each artist delivers a heartfelt verse and then a hook to match, with Kodak closing out the song with a final hook. The incredible thing is that each of the artists hooks are delivered amazingly, with each artists rapping with emotion and gliding on the beat with ease. On top of that, each of the three Hook are all different lyrically, but all relate to each other, being rapped in similar styles, with the same scheme, and all on the topic of doing drugs ‘no more’. To make things a bit more clear, Travis starts his hook with; “I just pour ‘til I can’t pour no more, I slow down but it ain’t slow no more”, Kodak starts his hook with “I pop pills til I can’t feel no more, tryna be faded but I can’t hold no more”, and Savage starts his hook with “I sip Drank until I can’t no more, pour up the lean til I can’t no more”. It’s different, but makes this one of my favourite structured songs of the year.
The verses themselves are all super impressive all around, with each artists bringing their signature sound to the table whilst all providing some emotional deliveries and bars within. Travis Scott has the intro verse, and although it’s short and sweet, it really sets the vibe for the song, with Travis delivering 4 slightly slurred drug-cantered bars in his signature auto tune style. Kodak is second, and delivers an putstanding performance on both his verse and hook (when I said his other features in the top 50 were probably my favourite, it was because I had this in mind). Kodak’s delivery is cold and full of emotion, and he has a much longer verse than Travis, touching on topics such as drugs and his problems dealing with the excess of drugs as he becomes more successful. 21 Savage has the final verse and hook, and it is honestly my favourite of the bunch. Savage continues on the druggy atmospheric vibe of the song, rapping in a number of flows in his usual monotone ways, but in this case the lack of life in his voice really adds to the song as a whole.
Metro Boomin’s production is incredible on this too, with the beat complimenting each rapper fantastically, setting this spooky, almost graveyard vibe. Metro combines some basic trap drums with this eerie, repetitive guitar riff, and doesn’t really sway too far from that simplicity for most of the song. The song does feature a little skit at the end with a totally different beat, something more reminiscent of a blues club, but this outro features no rapping so I like to think of it as not really being part of the song. The only downside actually to this song is that the little skit isn’t a separate track, but apart from that, 10/10
Overall this is one of the best made and most enjoyable songs of the year to me. It often gets overshadowed by other 21 Savage songs on the same album, such as 10 Freaky Girls with its hilarious first verse and Don’t Come Out The House with its meme-worthy whisper flow, but in my mind this song is even more deserving of the spotlight, showing the skills of Kodak, Travis and 21 Savage as artists.
• Dizzee Rascal – Don’t Gas Me
This song is just ridiculous. The song ‘Don’t Gas Me’ is from the ‘Don’t Gas Me EP’ released by Dizzee Rascal in 2018. This song is upbeat, fun, frantic, and at the same time ridiculously impressive. This is one of the only 2 songs of the year I consider ‘Song of the year contender’, and with good reason.
The beat really sets the pace for the entire track, and although it’s quite simple, it’s incredibly busy sounding and an exciting instrumental in its own right. The beat starts with just a simple drum beat, just a high tempo bass and some claps mainly, and this continues throughout the song. It doesn’t take long for the star of the beat to begin, a high tempo electronic synth which sounds like something out of a video game arcade. As this starts, the bass changes up to this rapid, distorted bass line that sounds more like something from a dubstep song or edm festival. Throughout the song, there are actually a bunch of subtle little sound effects in the back ground which play into the really playful nature of the song. This beat isn’t actually as simple as I may have thought a few minutes ago, the main beat is but there are so many layers that come apparent as the song progresses, but all of them combine to make this super fun, boppy instrumental.
Somehow, Dizzee Rascal somehow manages to match, and possibly even outclass the beat with his high energy flows, confident delivery and killer wordplay. For the entirety of the three verses, Dizzee raps with the hunger and energy of someone new to the game and eager to impress, but is actually a veteran of the game just flaunting his rap skills and having some fun. The delivery is consistently high energy and frantic, with the flows changing up consistently through each verse. Possibly the most impressive part of all is the wordplay and lyricism, with Dizzee spitting a range of memorable bars all through the use of intricate and at time abstract rhyme schemes. At times he rhymes the last words of bars, at times the middle words of the bar, and at times both. This is another example of a song that would be a struggle to narrow down to just a few bars, so check it out yourself and prepare to be impressed!
Just a couple other little things that really add to the song. Firstly is the chorus, which is also upbeat and fun, with a great rhyme scheme. On top of that is ridiculously catchy and the beat during the hook compliments it perfectly. And also, I love the way Dizzee starts each verse in a similar manor, starting the first with “Feel so good I might rock my sliders, walk through the manor giving out high fives”, starting the second with “Feel so good I might buy me a crib, so I look correct when I one-two step” and starting the final verse with “feels so good I might find me a wifey, but her some diamonds have her real Icey”. I could go on about the subtle showings of genius in this song more, it’s really full to the brim with impressive moments.
Overall this is really a perfect song. Perfect for a party, Perfect for the gym, perfect to show your friend who likes rap music or your cousin who likes edm, or even your mum who likes pop music. I honestly can’t fault this song, it is one of the funnest of the year and at the same time has some of the best wordplay of the year, and all of this over 15 years into Dizzee’s career. If I had to recommend literally only one song for you to listen to, it’s this one. Whereas I can imagine the average listener disliking my other favourites, I can’t imagine someone not liking this at all.
• Maxo Kream – Love Drugs
I’m just going to start by saying that ‘Love Drugs’ From Maxo Kream’s 2018 album Punken is my favourite track of the year. When it comes down to my ‘top 1’ song of the year, I don’t really base it on best beat or most impressive lyrics, it’s really comes down to my enjoyment of the song as a whole, and this song is one that I just can’t stop listening to, having this addictive quality making it better on each listen.
The annoying thing I think is that I really can’t put my finger on why I love this song so much, it’s quite simple but the combination of the catchy hook with the atmospheric beat and Maxo’s raw emotion and honesty through his lyrics just make this song next level enjoyable for me. Love Drugs is a drugged out trap song at heart, that featured Maxo detailing his love for drugs, and how no matter what goes on, he always has drugs to fall back on. Despite the light-natured metaphors and lyrics throughout, Maxo utilises the best and his bars to beautifully depict what life with a drug addiction is like, and is one of my favourite songs on the topics of drugs ever made.
The beat lends itself perfectly to the vibe and the subject of the song, creating the drugged out atmosphere. The beat contains similar components to your usual trap song, with familiar sounding synths, rattling hi-hats and even the cliche trap horn, but the thing that is different in this case is that it seems like it is all shifted down a tempo, really creating this slow, eerie druggy vibe. This isn’t ‘cocaine high’ kinda music, it’s ‘comedown’ music. The beat follows this formula for the most part, complimenting the vocals perfectly, and at times has the 808s hit that little bit harder (such as on the hook) to really give the bars themselves more of an impact .
The chorus itself is actually spectacular too, and another of my ‘favourite hooks of 2018’. The hook is delivered excellently, sounds great, is incredibly catchy, and has bars and metaphors just as solid as the verses. The chorus focuses on how Maxo thinks love with girls is temporary, whereas the love for drugs is forever. The first part of the hook focuses on the ‘temporary love’ provided by a lover, with Maxo rapping;
“Lil mama why you got a n*gga stressin?
Lil mama why you gotta ask questions?
Why you worried ‘bout the hoes I’m texting?
Why you going through my phone text message?”,
And towards the end of the first part starts to transition to the drug talk, with one of many insane metaphors/Similes;
“Takin’ Perc’s to the face like a selfie,
Molly rocks, imma roll like Elvis”.
At this point the 808s kick in and Maxo moves into full drug-talk mode, rapping with a more melodic flow;
“I choose the percs over you, aye,
I choose the syrup over you, aye,
I put the herb in the leaf like it’s autumn,
I’m on the syrup like a pancake or waffle,
Just like a baby I sip out the bottle”.
This part of the chorus is the perfect example of Maxo just describing things in such a vivid and lyrically impressive manor. The hook continues on, with Maxo delivering a few more amazing drug-based metaphors with his addictively melodic flow. The chorus overall is sensational, and easily one of the best of the year.
The song actually only features one verse, although it feels like multiple different sections with Maxo impressively changing up his flows multiple times within the verse. The verse itself is easily on par with the chorus, with Maxo being painstakingly honest, and utilising the same melodic, emotive delivery to deliver droves of insane drug references and metaphors. The verse is almost entirely made up of bars I find impressive, so I’ll just quote a couple for time saving purposes. The first touches on his distaste for long term love with someone else, with Maxo spitting;
“Call me bout nothin’, huffing and puffin,
Everyday fussin’, making up assumptions,
Insecure bitch think I’m always doing something,
Worry bout no ho, I’m chasing that money”, and my other favourite section focussing more on his reliance and dependability on drugs, rapping;
“Mary Jane never talk back,
Molly don’t give me no slack,
Lil drank, Ac’ know how to act,
Married to the dope ain’t never turning back.”
Overall, this is just a flawlessly executed depiction of the life of a drug addict, delivered via an insanely enjoyable song. The Haunting, but beautifully crafted instrumental, and the way Maxo describes things just make this song perfect to me, it’s really unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. Although it’s my favourite track of the year, I can see how people could not enjoy this, but regardless I’d love it if you were to give it a listen and let me know what you think!
Have you heard any of the above songs before, and if so, what did you think?
If not, give them a listen when you get a chance and let me know what you thought!
And that’s it, the end of my top 50 for 2018! Did you find any fresh dogs you hadn’t heard before? What’s in your top 50?
– Shan –