We’re fast approaching the middle of 2019, and my, what a year it’s been for rap music! With Tyler, the Creator‘s IGOR being among the most recent of the prestige releases, there’s also been incredible projects from the likes of 2 Chainz, Gunna, Future, and Megan Thee Stallion. While it was no easy feat whittling down all the rap music that’s come out in the first part of the year, we did have some help in determining the best rap songs of 2019 (so far) from Highsnobiety’s premier rap enthusiasts across departments.
2 Chainz – “I Said Me”
2 Chainz set a major precedent for the year when he dropped Rap Or Go to the League in January. Amidst killer features from Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Chance the Rapper, and more, “I Said Me” is a highlight, with 2 Chainz doing just fine on his own. Harkening back to his drug dealing days, things open up with an interpolation of that good ol’ Sound of Music banger “My Favorite Things” (not the only hit this year to incorporate the showtune standard) unfolding into a killer piano riff and deadly bars.
A$AP Ferg – “Pups” ft. A$AP Rocky
Anytime Ferg and Rocky link up, it’s magic, and “Pups” is no exception. Also, who can resist a call and response chorus? “It’s about to get uglier than Balenciagas,” indeed.
BbyMutha – “Spooky Mutha Mansion” ft. Ttbby
In case you aren’t already acquainted with Tennessee rapper BbyMutha, we encourage you to accept her invitation into her “Spooky Mutha Mansion,” just make sure you chip in with the bills, okay?
Chynna – “iddd”
A noted rap game Slytherin, Chynna brings her signature dark and moody vibes to us yet again. Like the wavy instrumentals themselves, her verses creep up in the
cupcakKe – “Bird Box”
Only cupcakKe could turn a meme-worthy Netflix horror film into something that’s even more hard-hitting.
Denzel Curry – “RICKY”
With echoes of his track “Parents” from first major mixtape Nostalgic 64, “RICKY” is a comeback we won’t soon forget. As high energy as ever, the song named after his father has Denzel Curry rapping about his Florida upbringing and his family.
Doja Cat – “Tia Tamera” ft. Rico Nasty
Although the music video and lyrics are an ode to the ’90s – Lisa Frank and Nickelodeon fluorescent excess and all – everything else about the track is the future, not least the two rappers at the helm.
Future – “F&N”
A highlight from Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD, not only is “F&N” a certified trunk-rattler, it’s got absolutely next level vocal effects and the kind of hard-as-nails bars we’ve come to expect from Future.
Gunna – “Speed It Up”
“Speed It Up” is one of those tracks that manages to do a lot with so little. There’s frankly not much going on lyrically, but with its interweaving melodies and Gunna’s staccato delivery, an earworm is born.
James Blake – “Mile High” ft. Travis Scott and Metro Boomin
The entirety of James Blake’s Assume Form is absolutely incredible, but this is the only track eligible for this here list. La Flame cools it down for once, and the results are… very pleasant. Combine that with bolstered production from one of the best in the game, Metro Boomin, and you’ve got yourself a hit.
J. Cole – “MIDDLE CHILD”
In the midst of working on a slew of Dreamville projects, J. Cole started 2019 off right with this explosive single. Meditating on what it means to be “real” and his self-proclaimed status as the middle child of hip-hop, Cole shows us yet again he’s not one to be underestimated.
Juice WRLD – “Robbery”
Juice WRLD is picking up where our favorite emo bands of the 2000s left off, and for that, we salute him. The piano riffs on “Robbery” are basically shedding tears all on their own, and Juice is belting out melodic bars straight from the heart once again.
Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road” ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
I’m not sure there’s anything more to say about this song, but kudos to Billy Ray Cyrus for offering up some of his veteran country music cred to our boy Nas X.
Lil Uzi Vert – “Sanguine Paradise”
Leave it to Uzi to be optimistic in the face of label drama. It’s songs like this that make us certain that Eternal Atake will be worth the wait. In the meantime, we have his out-of-this-world fits to tide us over.
Little Simz – “101 FM”
While this track technically dropped at the end of 2018, not enough people seemed to notice or appreciate it! And considering it made its proper entrance on Simz’ glorious new album GREY Area, we think it more than counts. Anyway, with its subtle Eastern influences, the beat absolutely bangs, and Simz’ flow is out of this world. If you’ve been sleeping on Simz, remedy that by getting acquainted with the scenes of her early days as an aspiring MC on “101 FM.”
Logic – “Homicide” ft. Eminem
In case you had any doubt about Logic’s rap ability and agility, look no further than his bars on “Homicide,” where taking in oxygen is apparently optional. Eminem also does his very best Slim Shady, and the two even included a slice of comedian Chris D’Elia’s spot-on Em impression to keep things meta.
Megan Thee Stallion – “Big Ole Freak”
One of the foremost proponents of the Yeehaw Agenda, “Big Ole Freak” cemented Megan’s status as one to watch, with her self-confident bars soaring over Dirty South-type beats. With the momentum she’s building, impressive co-signs coming in left and right, and the undeniable talent to back it up, we’re pretty sure her tracks are going to keep appearing in “best of” lists for years to come.
Nipsey Hussle – “Racks in the Middle” (feat. Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy)
The second single he dropped after last year’s extremely underrated Victory Lap, “Racks in the Middle” was yet another example of the late Nipsey Hussle’s excellence. “Under no condition, will you ever catch me slippin,” is but one utterance on the track of his commitment to doing his best, and his legacy undoubtedly reflects this sentiment. Aside from all that, it absolutely slaps, and “Racks in the Middle” simply would not be the same without Roddy Ricch’s melodic proclamations.
Octavian – “Bet” ft. Skepta & Michael Phantom
Without hearing the track, it’s a pretty safe bet that a collaboration between Octavian and Skepta would be absolute fire, and lo and behold, it is. A true head-nodder, this is the kind of jam that’s won’t be leaving DJ’s playlists, or your head, anytime soon.
Offset – “Clout” ft. Cardi B
Rap’s royal couple link up once more, and both Offset and Cardi B are completely on point. Offset chops up bars with sniper-like precision, while Cardi holds nothing back in addressing her haters and all the clout-chasers.
ScHoolboy Q – “Numb Numb Juice”
Regardless of what goes down in rap music for the rest of the year, it feels like the urgency and intensity of Q’s “Numb Numb Juice” is set to remain at the forefront of the hip-hop consciousness for months to come.
Skepta – “Bullet From a Gun”
Skepta has never hesitated from “going there,” and “Bullet From a Gun” is no exception. A hard-hitting autobiographical track, the Londoner packs dense heat in less than three minutes – spitting bars about his achievements, his contemporaries, his family, and more, rapping lines such as “Big plans getting discussed, freedom is a must/ Fuck the police, tell em’ eat my dust/ ‘Cause still it ain’t safe, not even in a world full of cops/ I got bored of asking when is this hurt gonna stop.”
slowthai – “Nothing Great About Britain”
Few British rappers seems to be capturing the post-Brexit zeitgeist better than slowthai. While we imagine there aren’t many people in general keen to broach the subject, 24-year-old Tyron Frampton isn’t afraid to go there, weaving biting British clichés around dark instrumentals.
Stormzy – “Vossi Bop”
If anyone’s going to make a memorable comeback, it’s Stormzy, sliding back into it all two years after his incredible album Gang Signs & Prayer. The South Londoner effortlessly Vossi bops over a wonky beat courtesy of Chris Andoh, and the result is a track that was completely worth the wait.
Tyler, the Creator – “WHAT’S GOOD”
The entirety of IGOR is basically perfection, but there’s something about the distorted electric guitar and groovy percussion paired with Tyler’s stream-of-consciousness flow on “WHAT’S GOOD” that gets us going without fail every time.
YG – Go Loko ft. Tyga, Jon Z
Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, YG dropped this Mustard-produced jam, marrying Spanish guitar, mariachi horns, and trap beats. Assisted by Tyga and Puerto Rican hip-hop and reggaeton maestro Jon Z, “Go Loko” is somehow exactly what we needed.