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We’re about halfway through 2013 (ALREADY HALFWAY? #SkipSpring #TooMuchMollyNotEnoughTime) so I’ve compiled the best work of 2013’s first half. (Except for that one song I left out, that you’ll undoubtedly remind me about in the comment section). Check back in December for our official Top 100 list and check out our Top 100 for 2012.
50. Banana Clip Theory, Big KRIT
49. Take My Life, Pusha T ft. Andrea Martin
48. Guild, Earl Sweatshirt ft. Mac Miller
47. Young Lady, Kid Cudi ft. Father John Misty
46. 3rd World Girl, Antwon
45. Work (Remix), A$AP Ferg ft. A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Schoolboy Q, & Trinidad James
44. Kush Coma, Danny Brown
43. High Art, The Dream ft. Jay-Z
42. Coins, LE1F
41. Herb Shuttles, The Underachievers
40. Yay Yay, Schoolboy Q
39. Jamba, Tyler, The Creator
38. Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro), Chance The Rapper
37. Cee-lo, Future ft. Wale
36. Ghetto Symphony, A$AP Rocky ft. Gunplay & A$AP Ferg
35. Started From the Bottom, Drake
34. Immortal, Kid Cudi
33. Suit & Tie, Justin Timberlake ft. Jay-Z
32. Light Blue, Lupe Fiasco
31. WTF, Big KRIT
30. Memories Back Then, T.I. ft. Kendrick Lamar, B.O.B., and Kris Stephens
29. Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell & T.I.
28. Chain Smoker, Chance The Rapper
27. 5 AM in Toronto, Drake
26. Kiss Land, The Weeknd
25. Open Letter, Jay-Z
24. Millions, Pusha T ft. Rick Ross
23. Crooked Smile, J. Cole ft. TLC
22. Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix), Kendrick Lamar ft. Jay-Z
21. Bad, Wale ft. Tiara Thomas
20. Can I Holla At Ya, J. Cole
19. Giving Up, Lil B
18. U.O.E.N.O, Rocko ft. Rick Ross & Future
17. Girls Love Beyonce, Drake
16. Think Of Me, Childish Gambino
15. Lose Yourself To Dance, Daft Punk ft. Pharrell
14. Looks Good With Trouble (Remix), Solange ft. Kendrick Lamar
13. No Bueno, Angel Haze
12. Whoa, Earl Sweatshirt ft. Tyler, The Creator
11. Trust You, Pusha T ft. Kevin Gates
Gucci Mane as a waterfall. Just ‘cause
10. Get Lucky, Daft Punk ft. Pharrell
9. Colossus Tyler, The Creator
Eminem’s Stan has grown into a such meme now (stanning is a verb) that you have to mention it in discussion of raps about fans. “Colossus” shares this in common with Stan, but not much else. In an album that expands his many nicknames and alter egos, this track feels the most like Tyler himself. It’s his Twitter feed set to music; wishing the best for his fans, wishing his fans would leave him alone, wishing law enforcement the worst. And let’s not forget about the music, with its tension-building piano composition.
8. The End Is Near, Ab-Soul ft. Mac Miller
Though its title predicts the end, this strikes me as the ghost of Rap Game future. Mac Miller is making strides this year (hanging out with TDE, Odd Future, and, well, us at Rap Genius) and he impresses here with his production here and a more assured flow. Meanwhile, Ab-Soul has used the first half of this year to ramp up his punchlines. This song is an example of that, but his appearances on Chance’s Smoke Again and his own Bubble Gum Blues point a future filled with layered bars. Not to worry, Rap Genius will decode it for him.
7. Animal Pharm, Lupe Fiasco ft. Thom Yorke
Well, on the subject of layered lyrics, here is an allegorical track from Lupe Fiasco. WARNING: it’s a labyrinth. Rap Geniuses have been known to go missing, parsing through these lyrics.
6. U.O.E.N.O, Black Hippy (Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul)
They’re 15 U.O.E.N.O. remixes on Rap Genius and you ain’t even know it. This the best U.O.E.N.O. remix and you probably already knew it.
5. New Slaves, Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean
You definitely get style points for projecting your face on apartment buildings. But what’s more interesting is that Kanye’s mention of privatized prisons. Along with the emergence of Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper, we’re seeing backpack rap that wants to blow up… on the side of buildings.
4. They Die By Dawn, The Bullits ft. Jay Electronica and Yasiin Bey
Mileage may vary on the Western-tinged instrumentals or Yasiin Bey’s narration over them (I think they’re both great), but Jay Elec’s verse is indomitable:
Look the judge in the eye like a man
Not a dove, not a lamb, not a slave, or a church mouse
You a king, you a god, you a holy El
Get out this hole and give these motherfuckers holy hell
So overtime, I perfected my rhymes and
That’s why I shine like I climbed out the holy grail
Mainstream dropout, white widow cotton mouth
Out in Queen’s Park with a crew of dirty stopouts
3. Pusha Man/Paranoia, Chance The Rapper ft. Nate Fox & Lili K.
2. Power Trip, J.Cole ft. Miguel
J. Cole premiered Miss America last year, a visceral conscious rap song with the following outro: They’ll never feel my pain/
And they’ll never play this shit on the radio. It seemed more defeating than defiant. What would a J. Cole radio single sound like? Well, after all of that you receive this. Power Trip is unfuckwittable. There are strong verses that don’t get bogged down with punchlines or self consciousness, there’s a hook you can sing along to, and it’s all over some of J. Cole’s best production.
1. Black Skinhead, Kanye West
The screams! Before, Yeezy’s trademark “haaah” had a limited emotional range, from confidence (Don’t make me pull the toys out, huh) to bewilderment (it’s what we hear before that Blades of Glory sample, “I don’t even know what that means? (No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative”). Here, the “haahs” register as paranoid chants and lend the song a wily, urgent vibe unseen since we toasted to the douchebags.
DEAD ISLAND, Kitty
Rap Genius, Kool AD ft. Lakutis, Mayhem Lauren, DVS, & Dallas Penn (best song title of the year if you ask me)
Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix), Lauryn Hill (compulsory mention)
Valley of Kings, Blue Sky Black Death ft. Cam'ron & N.O.R.E. (BSBD goes HAM. I hope we see a Killa Cam record in this year)
The Cauldron, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire
Yung Rapunxel, Azealia Banks
London Rant, Kanye West (excluded for not “being an actual song”)
Philosophy Sunday, Lupe Fiasco (see above)
Rio, Theophilus London