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This year was a peculiar year for music. Artists are still getting used to the internet dictating the next wave of hits, while listeners are still accustoming to the lack of staying power for hits that are rather flash in the pans than generational anthems. In our opinion, a top fifty selection must encompass a range of moods, settings and styles across that spectrum—songs for parties, songs with meticulous songwriting and production, and songs with a message. Some are easy-going and short, some are complex and long; that achieves a balance and appreciation for music of all levels.

As a hip-hop focused platform, the year-end lists provide us a chance to showcase the best of the genre across the UK and US rap scene, but also highlight genres such as R&B, pop and tracks from the other sides of the world. Singles released in the last quarter of 2022 but land on a 2023 album are considered for selection. Grab a bite, sit down, and enjoy Mic Cheque’s standout cuts of 2023.

  • AntsLive, “Number One Candidate”
  • ArrDee & Cat Burns, “Home for My Heart”
  • Byron Messia, “Talibans”
  • Earl Sweatshirt, “Making the Band (Danity Kane)”
  • Gabzy, “Jambazz”
  • Gucci Mane, “King Snipe” (ft. Kodak Black)
  • Kelela, “Contact”
  • Mnelia, “Genesis (Remix)” (ft. Miraa May, Joyce Wrice & Bellah)
  • Nines, “Tony Soprano 2”
  • Niontay, “Thank Allah”
  • Sampha, “Jonathan L. Seagull”

Album: Good Lies

Welsh electronic duo Overmono impressed with their debut garage-inspired electronic album, Good Lies. Its title track effectively samples Smerz’s 2018 song “No Harm”, flipping it entirely to make a massive head-bopper.

Album: .mp3

Two South American singers combined for a viral hit in “No Se Ve”, a creative Spanish-Portuguese banger driven by glitch pop and funk carioca production.

Album: N/A

Odeal and Brazy’s collab is a melting pot of R&B, lo-fi and garage, which oddly finds a balance that works a charm.

Album: Hood Hottest Princess

The polarising Sexyy Red was the face of dirty rap in 2023. Her partnership with Tay Keith proved to be frutiful. “SkeeYee” dominated the internet this year, and while it may not be the best rap song of the year like multiple publications may suggest, it is certainly one of the most fun, catchy and careless ones.

Album: Split Decision

“She don’t listen to UK rap, if it ain’t Dave or Cench,” is the message of Dave and Central Cee’s “UK Rap”. On a global scale, it might be true.

Album: Volcano

British producers recruit Essex-based singer Lydia Kitto for “Back on 74”, one of the most soulful tracks of the year.

Album: Gizmo

Tanikuchan’s alt-rock capabilities shine on “Don’t Give Up”, a short track that makes its simple statement clear and concise.


Jordan Ward channels the funk on his compulsive cut “FAMJAM4000”, drenched in a hook etched to the side of your membrane.

Album: And Then You Pray for Me

Drumless hip hop continued to lead the charge in the underground. Westside Gunn’s “Kitchen Lights” is the best example of its effectiveness this year. All Gunn and Stove need are strings which sound like the soundtrack to a slow motion scene of someone from The Great Gatsby falling in slow-mo.

Album: Outlaw

Victony and Tempoe’s 2022 collab is given a global remix with additions from Don Toliver and Rema, both of which revitalise the track to make “Soweto” an Afrobeats highlight of the year.


Daniel Caesar recaptures the magic of his early work on “Valentina”, serenading a lover in ways we all wish we could but have nowhere near the chops for.

Album: N/A

KayCyy imagines the girl of his dreams on the sensual “My Jeans”, backed by throwback samples and a rocking beat.

Album: My Soft Machine

It was either this or the rock-driven “Devotion” off Arlo Park’s fantastic album, My Soft Machine. In the end, we chose to go for the more tender cut of the two. “Impurities” features minimalism in production coupled with excellent songwriting touching on loving someone exactly how they are (“You’re the rainbow in my soap / You noticе beauty in more forms than most”).

Album: Burning Desire

MIKE was an MVP of the year when it comes to output and quality, rivalled only by fellow rapper Billy Woods and producer The Alchemist. “Golden Hour” is one of many highlights from his album Burning Desire, led by its sweet samples and guest appearance from West Coast rapper Larry June.

Album: Fountain Baby

Amaarae has a generational knack for melody. “Disguise” hits all the stops, from its simple hook down to the harmonies and hurrying strings towards the climax of the song.

Album: Scaring the Hoes

It shouldn’t make sense, and in some ways it doesn’t at first. But eventually it does. That can be said for most of JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s songs this year. Their single “Lean Beef Patty” samples P Diddy, Ginuwine, Loon and Mario Winans’ “I Need a Girl, Pt. 2” and flip it into an addictive experimental hip hop cut.


Killer Mike done hip hop justice this year with “Scientists & Engineers”, representing for the South by featuring two fellow Atlanta giants in Future and André 3000, with vocals courtesy of Eryn Allen Kane.

Album: N/A

Doechii puts down the bars and shows off her vocal ability on the catchy “What It Is”, bragging one of the best hooks of the year.

Album: Heaven Knows

The face of digipop recruited Ice Spice for a remix of “Boy’s a Liar”, and it’s as cutesy as pop could’ve got this year.

Album: Halo

Just like the music video suggests, Bakar doesn’t have a care in the world on the gleeful “Alive!”, one of the few tracks of the year aimed at uplifting the listener and encouraging them to do one simple thing—live life.

Album: In the End it Always Does

The Japanese House dropped some of the finest alt-pop of 2023. Here is a standout from their album In the End it Always Does, a simple yet melodic track that’s hard to put down.

Album: Playing Robots in Heaven

James Blake returned to his electronic roots this year, with one of the highlights being the entrancing “Loading”.

Album: Still Working 2

“Double R’s” fits that unofficial genre of rap songs titled ‘fresh-home rap’. It is a booming yet competent trap song that shows the UK rap scene why we were missing Slim.

Album: N/A

A long-awaited single by Headie One met expectations after being teased throughout the end of 2022. “Martin’s Sofa” showcases Headie One’s songwriting capabilities, relating a personal anecdote to his newfound fame.

Album: Famous Last Words

CASISDEAD’s long-awaited debut album gleams and glistens all across a listen. “Marilyn” is one of the starry-eyed highlights from the record, taken to the next level by the hook by Connie Constance.

Album: Falling or Flying

Jorja Smith’s comeback stuck the landing with “Little Things”, showing her prowess lies in her garage-centred efforts.

Album: Fountain Baby

Amaare’s Fountain Baby has so many highlights that it was hard to limit the list to just one. “Princess Going Digital” is yet another example of her ability to create addictive, futuristic pop.

Album: Desire, I Want to Turn into You

Flamenco production is combined with alt-pop vocals on Caroline Polachek’s “Sunset”. Polachek’s vocal style is the shining star of the track, as is her poetic writing.

Album: I Came Home Late

The tender “Caught Me Running” manages to be so muted yet so magnificent, hitting all the checkboxes for a gripping alt-&B song.

Album: Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse

Metro Boomin stayed busy in 2023, leading the soundtrack for Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse just six months after dropping his sophomore album. The standout cut is “Am I Dreaming”, good enough to surpass Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflowers” as the move series’ best song.

Album: For All the Dogs

While the album may not have stuck the landing, its shining moment certainly did. Drake and J. Cole join forces to reinforce their positions within the historical ‘Big Three’ of the 2010s.

Album: We Go Again

Enny and Loyle Carner are a duo we need to hear more of. Their collab “Take It Slow” can bring a grown adult to tears, addressing companionship and loyalty.

Album: N/A

A single that should have been a smash hit. Jay Rock, Anderson .Paak and Latto are an unlikely trio but hit it out the park with fire verses and a fire hook over a fire West Coast beat.

Album: A Gift & a Curse

The mellow “Bread & Butter” was the perfect comeback single for Gunna. His thoughts relating to the YSL RICO case aren’t avoided, all while maintaining his signature melodic raps.

Album: Utopia

The opening track to Scott’s comeback album is his most explosive intro yet, good enough to be one of the best cuts off Utopia.

Album: Real Back in Style

Gospel production ensures Potter Payer’s convictions are heard on the lead single to his debut album.

Album: N/A

Baby Keem brings out his big cousin’s playful side on their most eccentric collaboration.

Album: A Gift & a Curse

Gunna was unstoppable this year. With the most viral rap hit of 2023 under his belt, there was nothing but a bounce-back in sights for the exiled rapper.

Album: Utopia

The mosh-pit controller of the year. “FEIN” challenged listeners at first, but it eventually made sense. Its rage rap core and Playboi Carti’s confusing vocals proved exactly why Travis Scott remains rap’s best curator.

Album: Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

Yves Tumor outclassed everyone this year with their combination of rock and pop. It was most effective on “Meteora Blues”, coupled with a hook that refuses to escape you.

Album: N/A

While the album never came to light this year, this single served as a reminder of Rocky’s versatility and underrated ability to create resonating songs.

Album: Maps

Billy Woods drops two of the best verses of the year on the poignant highlight off his collaborative album with producer Kenny Segal.

Album: Purple Hearts

A long-formed partnership for a hot minute, Youngs Teflon and Tiny Boost go back to back on “Sharks 2”, over one of the best rap beats of the year. Tef in particular leads the charge with his first verse, which is addictively quotable (“Done it for the guts and the glory / And if we evеr rise it we ain’t shooting feet, we ain’t Tory”).

Album: Soul,PRESENT

Soul, funk and R&B are married on one of the most danceable songs of the year, courtesy of Florida’s Q Marsden.

Album: Utopia

The best song on Utopia comes with “MY EYES”, a gorgeous cut drenched in electronica topped off with vocals from Sampha and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Its peak arrives at the beat switch where Travis delivers a rap verse to rival his very best efforts.

Album: Let’s Start Here

Lil Yachty started here, precisely with this track to kick off his 2023 and album. A seven-minute psychedelic rock centrepiece, “The Black Seminole” goes through phase after phase, before reaching the biggest surprise of 2023, an unexpected epic solo climax courtesy of the brilliant Diana Gordon. Just like with its parent album, “The Black Seminole” achieved an artistic vision that no one saw coming.

Album: RR

Rosalía continued to lead reggaeton with “BESO”, an infectious collaboration with Rauw Alejandro that shows why Spanish can be the most romantic language.

Album: Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)

The closer to Yves Tumor’s Praise a Lord Who Chews.. is the most epic finale of the year. Soaring violins lead the charge for the glamorous hook of an irresistible song.

Album: Real Back in Style

“You ain’t gotta be the richest, just be the realest,” is the opening line to Potter Payper’s debut album. The song is also the album’s title track, and for all the right reasons. “Real Back in Style” put heart into rap in a year where it often lacked. Every line is razor-sharp, incisively written using the blood from Potter’s veins. In three minutes and forty-five seconds, Potter Payper lays down his life story, intentions and drive, over a booming pitched beat and occasional electric guitars. You have no choice but to be captivated.

Album: Split Decision

What happens when two UK powerhouses collide in 2023? You get the longest running number one rap song in the UK, the second highest-streaming rap song of the year globally, and UK rap put on the map permanently. “Sprinter” was the song of the youth, transcending audiences to the point where American supermodels were rapping the hook word for word. And it’s no surprise why. Dave and Central Cee lay quotable after quotable to take over the summer for good (“With bae through thick and thin / She already thick so I’m halfway there”). “Sprinter” is now a staple rap song irrespective of country, the flex anthem of the year, and the best song of 2023.