No order. One song per artist, with one exception. RIP to The Jacka, Yams, Koopsta, Chinx Drugz, Sean Price, Pumpkinhead, The Last Mr. Bigg, Dex Osama, Scott Weiland. Let's do this.
YOUNG THUG - WITH THAT (FT. DUKE)
I was eating wings at a suburban Miami bar frequented by white people who dress like a Bass Pro Shop exploded. This song came on the jukebox and the crackers went crazy, hooting and hollering like they was raising Old Dixie. I was like, "Yo, the eagle has landed." Also the soundtrack to one of my favorite Vines of the year, the one where some urban youths are listening to this song in a convenience store parking lot, and a white man who looks like the living embodiment of Daytona Beach starts groovin like Steve Martin in the King Tut sketch.
KENDRICK LAMAR - ALRIGHT
To Pimp A Butterfly garnered more thinkpieces than listens. Corporate radio tried and failed to make "King Kunta" happen. This was the joint that actually connected with the people. Do you want new wave or do you want the truth? New wave, first and foremost.
DIDDY - FINNA GET LOOSE (FT. PHARRELL)
2015 was a year of ersatz funk, and this was its pinnacle. Bet Kendrick wishes he could've snagged this one for TPAB, but your calls get sent to voicemail when the man who made No Way Out is out for a fantastic voyage.
TATE KOBANG - BANK ROLLS (REMIX)
I can't deny this song, even though it fell in my esteem when I was introduced to the Tim Trees original. How can you not like a song so evocative of the My Brother & Me theme? Let Baltimore have this one.
FUTURE - TRAP NIGGAS + MARCH MADNESS
I'm entitled to one cop-out per list. "Trap Niggas" and "March Madness" were the yin and yang of everything that made Future great in 2015—mournful trap bangers, degenerate quiet storm.
RAE SREMMURD - THIS COULD BE US
One of those songs of such ideal platonic pop form it seems to have been around forever. Rap Game 1910 Fruitgum Company, call it bubblegum rap.
PLIES - I GOT IT
Plies is transitioning from rapper to Instagram celebrity as he languishes in Slip-N-Slide purgatory, but he occasionally still makes music. This was some of it.
YG - TWIST MY FINGAZ
The California Livin mixtape with DB and Blanco was like mediocre BBQ where you just suckin the flesh off some ribs like a goddamn neanderthal, talmbout "Holy shit, this is so delicious, bury me in BBQ sauce," but afterwards you realize you was just deceived by a hickory-smoked high. Do ya dance, YG, do ya dance: this is the music we need from you.
EARL SWEATSHIRT - FAUCET
Ima give this one the Ian Curtis Award of 2015. The joint to play as you string up the noose after watching Stroszek.
ILOVEMEMPHIS - HIT THE QUAN
"Hit The Quan" is "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" with grassroots credibility, making iLoveMemphis the Bernie Sanders to Silento's Hillary Clinton. Does it matter that I never heard anyone listen to this song in public? In one respect the creepiest song of the year, a de facto aggregator of dancing nubiles for the hip and social media-adept pedophile. On the other hand, if the kiddie diddler is diddlin' himself to "Hit The Quan" Vines, isn't this song a brilliant form of harm reduction?
A-WAX - TRIED AS AN ADULT
Everlasting Money was maddeningly front-loaded. Had it been an EP, Wax might have established his rightful position as the Drake for people who went to juvie. I chose this song because I like it when he talks about being a whiteboy.
YOUNG DRO - WE IN DA CITY
I don't know if I like this song as much as I liked hearing Young Dro on the radio again. Choppas come from Yucatan / You da man, you da man! earns this song its spot on the list. My house, my rules!
JOHNNY CINCO & HOODRICH PABLO JUAN - KNEW THAT
Maybe it's cause I fancy the aweemaway as a nod to Young Dro rather than the Temptations, but "Knew That" took me back to a time when Atlanta seemed like a constant source of alien sounds and voices. Poppi Seed Connect was one of the great unheralded releases of 2015. In 2016, I intend to stake out prime real estate on their nuts.
1WAYFRANK - JUUGMAN
This one got some late night lonely feels, like an emotionally remote "I Need Love." This is what Broward County sounds like. Makes me want to sell Xanax in a strip mall after watching Cassie Steele-era Degrassi, fuck my chemistry homework.
SHY GLIZZY - NO SLEEP
Some enterprising director needs to cast Glizzy as a Shakespeare villain, my guy got that role down to perfection.
YO GOTTI - DOWN IN THE DM
After rapping about Instagram on the Concealed tape, Gotti went full-on computer nerd with this absurdist ode to social media mackin. No one can ever accuse Gotti of being behind the times.
MICK JENKINS - P'S AND Q'S
The alliteration gimmick is a little Daniel Radcliffe does Blackalicious, but hearing this song on the FIU radio station's True School rap show made me realize something important. Y'all like Immortal Technique, I like OJ Da Juiceman, but ain't we all hip-hop heads at the end of the day? Death to wack MCs.
DR. YEN LO - DAY 0
Certain innovations in rap music are so simple yet revolutionary, you wonder: a). why no one ever did it until now, b). how anyone ever had the audacity to do it. Wayne stretching the definition of rap when he crooned on "Lollipop." Lil B throwing out traditional rhyme schemes. Yen Lo threw boilerplate percussion out the window. Been done before, but no one ever took it this far with as much success.
CA$H OUT - GET IN THE KITCHEN
Not since Soulja Boy has a presumed one hit wonder gotten so weird wid it. They ain't listenin doe, so they go write another Young Thug thinkpiece.
DRAKE & FUTURE - JUMPMAN
2015 was the first year without a single Drake song I enjoyed. I wish I could excise him from the official version, but he doesn't do enough to ruin the song. Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu wins this year's Trinidad James Award.
KODAK BLACK - BACK
With the juvenile record and rapid rise to fame, Young Kodak could very well be the next Bobby Shmurda. Drake, the Canadian Kate Moss, has already sunk his fangs into Kodak as he's done to so many other young rappers. Incidentally, both Bobby and Kodak got Haitian heritage—just a couple more Zoes who are running this rap shit.
MEEK MILL - BASIC BITCH (FT. MIGOS)
For a while it looked like this was gonna be Meek's year. Although he was beltin out the bangers DiMaggio style, it turned out to be a red herring when his album was filled with more of the turgid blubbery butt-rap he's determined to inflict upon the public. Call "Basic Bitch" the swan song of Meek's cocktease, his last hurrah before awaking Drake's inner Don Rickles.
TRINA - FUCK BOY
"Fuck Boy" is basically the female response to "Basic Bitch," right down to the old school homage. Fuck Gloria Estefan, Trina will always be the Queen of Miami to me.
VINCE STAPLES - BIRDS & BEES (FT. DALEY)
Summertime '06 desperately needed an editor. Vince Staples might be a singularly annoying Twitter presence, but when he was on—man, he was on. The Ralph Ellison to Kendrick's Richard Wright.
MOZZY - BLADADAH
I look at "Bladadah" as Mozzy's "Blitzkrieg Bop": a concise artistic manifesto, a harnessing of energy somehow contained in pop structure, a seduction by assault. Maybe one day they will play this at football games.
MIGOS - LOOK AT MY DAB
Strange how Migos appear twice in my list. On paper it was a terrible year for the 'Gos: their album was hot basura, they got the dry snitch from a New Media outlet, and their flow is starting to sound like Das EFX's in '93. But we at RMH are nothing if not trend-hoppers, and this slice of dabsploitation hit all the right spots.
CHIEF KEEF - W.W.Y.D.
Although Keef and I will never be BFFs, I have learned we can coexist. You can have your bangers, I'll take the joints where Keef indulges in studio wankery like he's been possessed by the spirit of Robert Fripp in '73.
TREE - HOLD UP
It's, like, the blues, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, but he ain't a blue man.
YUNG GORDON - FINNA HIT MY WALK (FT. DJ T-TIME)
As long as there are dancefloors, Miami will keep making dance songs.
LIL HERB - 100 DAYS, 100 NIGHTS
This song meant a lot to me. All there is to it.
BOLDY JAMES - TETERBORO (FT. AZ & RAHEEM)
Guitars blazin like it's the Heatmakerz gettin garish in '03, plus AZ says, "I speak that Pig Latin," something he (or Raekwon) should have already said by now.
THE GAME - QUIK'S GROOVE (FT. DJ QUIK, SEVYN STREETER, MICAH)
YouTube is bein real tightwad about some bullshit called "copyright infringement," which I think is their way of saying, "Yo Game, cool it with the Suga Free impression." In the likely event that this link dies shortly after I post it, all you need to know is that DJ Quik raps about Kegel exercises.
VIC SPENCER - RELAPSE
Listened to this joint back-to-back during a rough period of the year, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. The soundtrack to many furious stationary bike seshes, picture me rollin' in Lycra bicycle shorts.
FRENCH MONTANA - OFF THE RIP (FT. CHINX & N.O.R.E.)
French is less a rapper than a crooner, a cornerstore Sinatra who gets by on presence more than skills. Can't say I was that familiar with Chinx's music, but him and N.O.R.E. revisiting "Bloody Money" was a high point of nostalgia gratification in a genre somehow becoming more self-referential. Bittersweet to go out on a high note.
DENZEL CURRY - UNDERWATER
It's Denzel Curry's greatest asset and liability to be a bedroom Outkast. He's angling toward something, but it's not all there yet. Ima keep listenin.
E-40 - GAMED UP (FT. RAYVEN JUSTICE)
While gallivanting through a "Choices" and Larry O'Brien victory lap, 40 Water got Rick Rock on the horn and blessed us with this amber-encased hyphy artifact.
BERNER & THE JACKA - LIVE WITHOUT ME (FT. J. STALIN)
It's on me for paying scant attention to the Jacka until his passing, but it also speaks to how underrated he was during his lifetime. Very few rappers would know what to do with a song like "Live Without Me." Hardly anyone could pull it off without being sappy.
ZOEY DOLLAZ - BLOW A CHECK
This song represents the death of regionalism that so many alarmists feared at the onset of filesharing. Zoey Dollaz is from Miami, but he could be from anywhere. Speaks volumes that two New York rappers hopped on the remix. Still it's catchy, and that ascending/descending distorted synth section is the reason subwoofers exist.
DJ CHILD - BUSS IT (FT. HUSALAH & GINGER)
Mash Out Babylon had a weirdly Mad Decent vibe to it, but I ain't mind. "Buss It Open" has Husalah and Ginger entering the oeuvre of battle-of-the-sexes raps, and I will never get tired of those.
CHAD - DON'T BELIEVE ME (FT. LIL DRED)
If Chad isn't the most talented athlete/rapper out, then with all due respect to G-Reg of the notorious 7th Floor Crew, he's at least the G.O.A.T. Miami Hurricane. On "Don't Believe Me," he and Lil Dred snap over the jacked instrumental of a song very dear to this aging heart of mine.
JUNGLEPUSSY - NOTHING FOR ME
As one of the very few people who enjoyed the Azealia Banks album, it was easy to embrace Junglepussy's funnier, less abrasive riff on the persona.
AMPICHINO - MARTY MCFLY (FT. DUBB 20)
In a year of Back To The Future nostalgia, Ampichino was smart enough to try and make a buck. He also basically succeeds at rhyming the word orange.
CAROL CITY MAFIA - MUST'VE FORGOT
My favorite random YouTube discovery of the year. Video got the ill handheld panoramas, too.
LIL CHRIS - BAD LIL CHICK
You would think rap media would be all over a dwarf repping Chi-Raq who also makes good music, but it seems like Lil Chris couldn't get arrested even if he did an interview with Noisey. The Martorialist is the only true believer out there beating the drum.
TRILL YOUNGINS - I LOOK FLY
It's like Fast Life Yungstaz woke up in the Bay after spending the past six years in a cryogenic chamber.
HD - BALLA BLOCKIN'
Hard as motherfuckin nails.
FOXX-A-MILL - UNNECESSARY MONEY (FT. MOUSE ON THA TRACK)
The Molly Hatchet of this rap shit.
NEF THE PHAROAH - BIG TYMIN'
Nef dropped the ultimate anthem for those of us who consider Mannie and Baby doin donuts in Bentleys and Lambos a pinnacle of rap music.
WHITE GZUS - STACKIN' N MACKIN'
Ayo, what's the sample on this? Couldn't find this on YouTube, so ya only get the Live Mixtapes link. White Gzus is more AOR anyway.
LIL BLOOD - FINNESSIN AND TWISTIN (FT. LIL GOOFY, DJ, BOO BANGA)
Hate to use this overused meme word, but yo, this shit is hella ratchet!
HONORABLE MENTION: JEREMIH - PLANES (FT. J. COLE)
"Planes" isn't on my list because I don't consider it a rap song, and the rapping there is is a borderline speech crime. Give Cole the U.O.E.N.O. Award for the '1-5. But of every song that flooded radio this year, this was the only one I never got tired of.