40. “Havana” – Camila Cabello, Young Thug (4)

Forgive me for originally thinking “Havana” was a shameless, nostalgic cash grab. To my surprise, Camila Cabello is actually truly 100% born-on-the-island Cuban, and has as much right to Havana as she does to Mexico City, Miami, or East Atlanta. And while I still object to glorifying pre-revolution style and fashion as the international Cuban template, at least Cabello had the presence of mind to bring along Young Thug. That always makes things better.

39. “P.O.V.” – dvsn (2)

Maybe you’ve heard OVO crooners dvsn outside of the bedroom, but why exactly?

38. “2017-38” – Kaytranada

Kaytranada owes at least 15% of his fortune to public radio.

37. “Blink” – easyFun

Listening to easyFun is like rubbing crushed Sweet Tarts all over your face.

36. “Witness” – Benjamin Booker, Mavis Staples

We saw far fewer stories in the news of police shooting black people. Watching a fascist ascend to the presidency will distract away from those stories, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Benjamin Booker understands that even when we aren’t watching, he still might be privy to an encounter he didn’t want to see, or worse.

Others: “The Slow Drag Under,” “Right On You



35. “Congratulations” – Post Malone, Quavo

Ask Iggy Azaelia, it’s not easy to be taken seriously as the deadly serious white guy making trap music, especially when the Internet finds you a perfectly fine Bob Dylan impersonator. But Posty did it, somehow, without giving up his braids, beard, or belly, finding a niche in post-Drake emo rap that kids have no issues claiming as hard anymore.

34. “Cruise Ship” – Young Thug (5)

Young Thug released a mixtape with Future this year, but considering it’s best song doesn’t see a lick of Future, he probably didn’t need to.

Others: “200

33. “Creature Comfort” – Arcade Fire (3)

The once-biggest band in the world released a bad album this year, with the one saving grace a shiny anthem that reminisces about their first record. Me, too.

32. “Rules” – Hoops

I miss the halcyon days of 2011 when surf rock dominated the indie rock zeitgeist. Hoops does too, apparently.

31. “911/Mr. Lonely” – Tyler, the Creator (3), Frank Ocean (2)

“chirp, Chirrrrrp/CHirp, CHIRRRRRP”

Others: “Boredom,” “I Ain’t Got Time



30. “Feel The Same” – Bully (2)

Same, here.

29. “Put Me On Somethin'” – P Lo, E-40

Call it mid-aughts nostalgia if you’d like, but as long as DJ Mustard keeps getting top-40 hits, it’s hard to say the hyphy movement ever died. All I know is when you get a Bay Area rapper clad in nothing but orange and black getting bumped between innings at Dodger games, you’ve got yourself a hit.

28. “Pills” – St. Vincent (2)

Soundcloud rappers and St. Vincent shared something in common this year: a fascination with drugs. Soundcloud rappers mostly did it with flutes and dirty bass; St. Vincent used a harpsicord.

27. “Oh Baby” – LCD Soundsystem (2)

James Murphy still has it! Sometimes!

Others: “Tonite,” “Call The Police

26. “I LIKE U” – NIKI

I guess bubblegum trap is a thing now.

Tangent: Travis Scott performing “Goosebumps” 14 times in a row is live music’s greatest achievement

Travis Scott is an excellent artist, and judging from his taped performances, he seems to put on an excellent show. I probably won’t be going to a Travis Scott show anytime soon because I value my life, but bless anyone who does.

On May 12 at a show in Oklahoma City, Travis performed his hit “Goosebumps” 14 times in a row to set a world record for most times a single song was performed during a concert. What’s even more impressive is that every repetition seemed as energetic as the last, both from Travis and the crowd. What’s most impressive is that no one died. This is the greatest thing to ever happen at a concert.


25. “Respeita” – Sango, DKVPZ

A YouTube description calls American DJ Sango and Brazilian rapper DKVPZ’s collaboration as “favela funk.” Considering I don’t understand what DKVPZ is saying, I’ll just go with that.

24. “Concrete Angel” – Hannah Diamond

“Concrete Angel” begins like a lot of pop/techno crossovers; nothing special, right? But then a minute and a half in, the music fades out, ceding to a soft yet soaring melody, the first of three surprises the song provides. Miss Diamond isn’t a particularly impressive singer, but her innocence and trust in producer A.G. Cook provide the perfect template for the PC Music mastermind to work his computerized magic.

others: “Never Again

23. “Bambi” – Jidenna

Remember “Classic Man?” It was that 2015 smash done by an industry plant with a sartorial schtick, if you needed a reminder. Well, that debut album finally broke through the bureaucratic tape for a super late release earlier this year, and…maybe Jidenna isn’t such a puppet after all?

22. “Mi Gente” – J Balvin, Willy William

The nicest thing I can say about Beyoncé’s Spanish is that she tries. Her presence does not make the remix of J Balvin’s international smash better than the original, however.

21. “The Story of O.J.” – Jay Z (3)

Hoo boy, where to begin? How about with the video’s fantastic art direction? Or the fact that this is the first interesting thing Jay Z has done this decade? Or making a song so politically charged that no white bloggers can sincerely dissect it? Congratulations HOV, you’re retroactive Grammy’s are currently processing.


Tangent: Geriatric rappers

171130140017-jay-z-t-magazine-intv-3Prophets of Rage, a supergroup composed of members from Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill released their debut album this year. It sucked, but it was supposed to suck. Well-intentioned as it was, proletariat screams from once-popular punk bands don’t age very well. Rappers age even worse.

Except for this year, apparently. Old as hell Fat Joe got the ball rolling last year with the not-terrible “All The Way Up.” French Montana used that momentum to de-age fifteen years with “Unforgettable.” 37-year-old Gucci Mane regained mainstream relevance. 37-year-old Yo Gotti found it for the first time. Future ruled the world and is closer to 40 than 20. Big Boi released a well-received album and is closer to 50 than 30.

Run The Jewels had the most impressive story for a while: Killer Mike and El-P, both 42 years old, seemed to have hit their peak with RTJ3, the best album either rapper has ever released. Even more impressive, however, is the oldest rapper to ever get a number 1 album: Jay Z, at the ripe old age of 48, sounding mature and as hungry as he was at 28.

Just what in tarnation is happening?


20. “Rake It Up” – Yo Gotti, Nicki Minaj

If you’re going to make a strip club anthem, you might as well go all out. Make the trunk rattle. Put some body glitter on it. Have Nicki hop on a verse, even if she’s just reprising her role from “Throw Sum Mo.” And make sure you give it a stupid hook, preferably using garden tools.

19. “Money” – Riton, Kah-Lo, Mr Eazi, Davido

It’s hard to hear international voices on Western radio without a cosign from a white DJ these days. Blame Diplo if you want. So thanks to Riton for curating, but does he need to get top billing?

18. “Blood Under My Belt” – The Drums

Alas, The Drums haven’t lived up to the promise that their 2010 debut predicted, but they’re still chugging along far beyond what early aughts contemporaries Surfer Blood or Harlem or even Best Coast could accomplish. “Blood Under My Belt” keeps the listener hooked by never receding to the one chord, something only the most courageous of pop stars could pull off.

17. “Stay Happy” – Broken Social Scene

I still have no idea how BSS is pulling this off.

others: “Protest Song,” “Please Take Me With You