The end of the year is a time of reflection, a time to look back and remember all the events of the past year. It is no different in the music world. This past year had much to offer in the realm of new music, regardless of genre. In regards to hip hop, there was no album that was the clear-cut front-runner like last year’s “Good Kid M.A.A.D. City.” This year gave us a variety of solid rap albums with plenty of great singles. Without further ado, here is a subjective list of the five best rap singles of 2013.
Danny Brown - Kush Coma
On this track, Danny Brown speedily and seamlessly spouts verses about the various effects of marijuana use over a pulsating helicopter beat. While the lyrical content may seem shallow, once you get past the hazy, kush-clouded surface, the song is rather introspective and dark. Brown himself said the song is actually about being depressed. A$AP Rocky also has a guest verse on the album version of this song. His part is an afterthought when compared to Brown’s verses, though. With Kush Coma, Brown made a song that is both serious and seriously catchy, which is no small feat.
Pusha-T - Nostalgia
Pusha-T and Kendrick Lamar constructed a behemoth of a crack anthem when they made this song. Kendrick’s continued his 2013 trend of jumping on fellow rapper’s tracks and completely overshadowing them. This may be the best guest verse on any rap song this year. Pusha’s verse is really good, but Kendrick’s is great. The two rappers were exposed to the crack lifestyle at a young age and this song details some of their own experiences, Pusha selling it himself in his school days and Kendrick witnessing the usage and peddling first hand by his relatives.
Kanye West - Black Skinhead
The highlights of this track are the pounding, jock-jam beat and Kanye’s angry and aggressive flow, both playing off one another to perfection. Yeezus is full of braggadocios and anger filled lyrics, and “Black Skinhead” is no exception. Kanye cleverly compares himself to King Kong, a wolf, and a king. There is no lack of confidence, bravado, and swagger on this song, but Kanye does it in such a way that it does not sound stale or overdone.
Earl Sweatshirt - Hive
The self-proclaimed “provider of the backdrop music for the crack rock user” possesses expressive bars spat out over a sinister beat. Sweatshirt’s nihilistic delivery makes the song more impactful and dark. Earl is one of the more lyrical, young rappers and Hive does nothing to disprove that as he delivers one impressively thought provoking, tongue tying line after another. Hive has a couple features on it as well, Vince Staples being the more memorable of the two. While his verse does not stack up against Earl’s, it still gets your attention and keeps it for the remainder of the song.
Chance The Rapper - Chain Smoker
Chance The Rapper is an oddball rapper with an initially grating voice. While his voice and flow may initially be a little off-putting, it becomes easily digestible and enjoyable the more you listen to him. Chain Smoker is all over the place, with Chance changing pitches and contorting his voice to better fit the beat and flow with a sped up first verse and a slower more relaxed second verse. He makes it clear that he smokes a lot, does drugs, listens to Frank Ocean, and he looks good doing it.