The Best Hip Hop Songs of 2023 …(so far)

The Best Hip Hop Songs of 2023 …(so far)

The world continues to shift at a rapid pace with so many major global events happening that it’s hard to know exactly how we think about time. The only thing that’s been consistent throughout the past few years has been the good music dropping that we’re able to use as timestamps. Several months have passed since 2023 kicked off and we’ve received heat from Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Sexyy Red, Glorilla, Ice Spice, Boldy James, Luh Tyler, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, RX Papi, Killer Mike, Young Thug, EBK Young Joc, Rundown Spaz and more.Check back at the beginning of every month for updates and check out our other lists and our playlist below, which includes all of the songs mentioned in this article and more:AD LOADING…For some of the best albums of 2023, check out our other lists below:For more of the best songs of 2023, we have you covered with these lists:Looking for some up and coming rappers and underground gems? We’ve done the work for you and highlighted the short EPs, mixtapes and projects to check out if you’re tired of the mainstream album cycle.Editor’s note: Songs from this list were released between January 1, 2023 – September 30, 2023.AD LOADING…“Never Die” – Nas f. Lil Wayne“Not No Xanax 2” – Cash Cobain f. Chow Lee“Not No Xanax 2,” a highlight from Cash Cobain’s Pretty Girls Love Slizzy album, shares more than just the beat and chorus from Nelly’s “Dilemma.” They’re both obsessive and lascivious but the New York rapper just has a knack for making things infinitely more raunchy. “I want your pussy, it’s not a dilemma,” he raps on the opening lines of the track as the aforementioned sample becomes instantly clear. Not one for subtlety, both in his influences and his need for sex, Cash Cobain would rather tell you how it is. That’s also why he asks the girls in the song to follow him on Twitter four times in just over two minutes. Cash Cobain is persistent that way. – Louis Pavlakos“First Day Out Pt.2” – Rundown Spaz[embedded content]“The Weeping Poets” – Vic Mensa f. Jay Electronica“Wrangler” – AJRadicoIf there’s one thing AJRadico wants to make clear on his anthemic new single “Wrangler,” it’s that no one should ever question his loyalty. The Queens rapper splits his time rapping about spoiling his girl at any possible occasion and brushing off the fakes as he makes his way to brunch. Unconcerned and unbothered about the minute things in life that can weigh him down, AJRadico prefers to fantasize about women who look like PinkPantheress and drive around the city in his vehicle of choice, the Jeep Wrangler. – Louis PavlakosAD LOADING…“Hellcats SRTs” – Sexyy Red f. Lil Durk[embedded content]“Wish Me Well” – Little Brother“Wish Me Well” is side A of a Little Brother two-pack, the duo’s first release since their 2019 comeback album, May the Lord Watch. Long-time LB fans’ pulses will surely quicken as soon as “LB bidness” plays over a yearning soul sample supplied by Deonis Cook. The track sees Tiggalo and Rapper Big Pooh ping-ponging back and forth, finishing each other’s short verses like Tip and Phife circa ‘91. Their years-long breaks between releases always raise questions about retirement, but Phonte nixes that off the rip: “This is that dispelled rumor that we not active.” And indeed, the two haven’t lost a step. Building off his recent string of scene-stealing guest spots, Phonte slings clever bars (“Made my first record on an OK Computer/’Cause I saw where the radio was headed”) while Pooh delivers wisened rhymes (“I just want a slice while maintaining my peace/I don’t need the whole pie). “Wish Me Well” is of the classic Little Brother mold and could slot into any of their prior releases without missing a beat. Why reinvent the wheel when the wheel is this smooth? – Alec Siegel“Patty Cake” – Quavo & Takeoff[embedded content]“Hood Rats” – Sexyy Red & SukihanaNo rapper is hotter than Sexyy Red. Car windows blast “SkeeYee,” as they whip past traffic with reckless abandon. DJs liven up even the deadest crowd when they switch to “Poundtown 2,”; “my coochie pink, my booty-hole brown,” might as well replace the pledge of allegiance (her best song is actually “Looking For The Hoes”). Even in the concert venues she’s not attending, her presence is often felt more than the actual rapper performing. It’s a level of dominance that’s been seen before (Glorilla, Ice Spice, Megan Thee Stallion, Bobby Shmurda, etc.) but what separates Red is her ability to carry weaker performers. Lijay is a pretty regular post Carti-core rapper, but Red makes his latest single “I love freaks” an interesting juxtaposition between styles. Sukihana is more known for her antics and personality than her music. Her raunchiness and give no fucks aesthetic clearly wants to position her as a Cardi B-like figure. But Suki feels forced, whereas Cardi echoed the genuineness that made Snoop Dogg one of the coolest rappers alive. She may be on Love & Hip Hop, but she is no Bardi. And so, her best move is to continue racking up headlines like Chrisean Rock. But she’s not untalented, she’s just not interesting enough on record to make an impact. Enter Sexyy Red, who takes the work of making a good song off of Suki, and instead lets her ratchet up her personality to the max on “Hood Rats.” It’s crude, rude, and true to the essence of both artists. Not many duos could pull this off, but Sexyy Red is untouchable right now, she can do no wrong, no matter who she’s paired with. – Josh SvetzAD LOADING…“TESLA” – Lil Yachty“Booty Drop” – Doechii[embedded content]“toxic” – NonameNoname blends Chicago’s deep-rooted history of poetry and soul-embalmed rap with the polyrhythms of traditionally African instrumentation, present here in Saba, Ben Nartey and AJ Halls’ collaboration in the production, bouncing rimshots on every off-beat, keeping pace with Noname’s slick boom-bap. In its introductory skit, “toxic” showcases a feminine-masculine mismatch in the understanding of love. The speaker emphasizes that love is commitment, and Noname expresses that same frustration with “toxic” love from people whose company she wouldn’t even prefer to her own. The yearning is paradoxical and so are Noname’s lovers, having babies with other women even though they had never shown maturity since the beginning. – Yousef Srour“Office Hours” – Nas & Hit-Boy f. 50 CentHail the trumpets, Nas and 50 Cent have officially ended their standing beef. In time for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, the two have finally come together on Magic 2’s “Office Hours.” In honor of the double-entendre, the pair would like to remind hip-hop that they are and forever will be the OGs. And why not celebrate that? They come together with a blood-soaked portrait of Queens and Crown Heights, tattered by the skin of their teeth with stories from their respective pasts. – Yousef SrourAD LOADING…“On The Radar Freestyle” – Drake & Central Cee[embedded content]“MILLIONS” – BIA“MY EYES” – Travis ScottJustin Vernon, commonly known as Bon Iver, has only ever used his vocoder for good. “MY EYES” is no exception. The bubbly use of autotune and the warm cascade of the synthesizers brings to mind “Lens (V2),” a throwaway song played by Frank Ocean on Homer Radio featuring a verse from Travis Scott. It’s a sweet serenade, and from the long list of producers, you can feel the glitched nostalgia of Vegyn and Buddy Ross. – Yousef SrourAD LOADING…“RIOT (Rowdy Pipe’n)” – A$AP Rocky & Pharrell Williams[embedded content]“BLOOD ON MY NIKEZ” – Denzel Curry f. Juicy J“Sprinter” – Central Cee & DaveThe world hasn’t been the same ever since two of the UK’s most enticing emcees, Dave and Central Cee, teamed up for a surprise four-song EP earlier this month. Its lead single, “Sprinter” quickly became one of the best hip-hop songs of the year. Each of their respectively clever flexes roll off of their tongues with ease, as they fill the track’s space up with clever bar after clever bar about their exquisite lifestyles and humorous UK slang. They trade bars in the hook, as they reveal what the track is titled after; “I just put nine gyal in a sprinter / One hundred eaters, they won’t fit in one SUV,” they rap one after another. As they relish in their success, their biggest worry is not being able to fit all of their lady friends into one Mercedes Sprinter van. There are certainly hints of introspection throughout, but it’s the wordplay that takes center stage, like when Dave jokes that he has to take a woman to therapy because she’s got a lot on her chest – but it turns out he just means it’s due to her E-cup bra. “With bae through thick and thin / She already thick, so I’m halfway there,” Dave raps in the hook before letting out a subtle cheeky laugh at himself in the background. This is hip-hop at its best – and most fun. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…“Jonesboro” – Young Thug“Scientists & Engineers” – Killer Mike F. Andre 3000, Future, Eryn Allen Kane[embedded content]“Trapper Of The Year” – Certified TrapperCertified Trapper is the undeniable leader of Milwaukee’s current wildly entertaining hip-hop scene. After signing to Signal Records late last year, he dropped his first properly flushed-out and most polished mixtape to date, the highly-anticipated Trapper of the Year. Known for his unhinged work ethic and unique sound that comes complete with relentless snares and claps on his self-produced beats, his wild dance moves and freestyled lyricism, Certified Trapper is one of the most exciting acts to pop up in quite some time due to the fact that his sound is truly singular; his very own invention. On his new tape’s title track, which serves as the project’s intro and one of its lead singles, Trapper is in prime form. “Trapper of the Year” is simple in its form and subject matter, but his sound is so addicting. In the hook, he melodically declares himself as the trapper of the year over the beat’s prominent claps before using the sole verse to further cement the fact that nobody can compete with him – and this will always be true because he’s invented his own sound and is well on route to taking over the game with it. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…“fukumean” – Gunna“Who Told You” – Drake & J Hus[embedded content]Estee Nack x Westside Gunn – “OLDNACKDONALDHADAFARM”Executively produced by Westside Gunn and released by Griselda Records, prolific Massachusetts rapper Estee Nack’s newest project, Nacksaw Jim Duggan is a dusty offering littered with candid storytelling and gritty lyricism. Although delivered through his signature gruff cadence, Estee Nack lives an exquisite lifestyle and he lets it be known; honey glazes the Backwoods that he’s smoking and his crib in Orlando is so big that there’s too much empty space in it for just him. In typical Gunn fashion, the FlyGod handles the curation aspect of the project, and even provides a guest verse to the outro – the hilariously-titled “OLDNACKDONALDHADAFARM.” Mostly abandoning his obnoxious ad-libs and boastful shit-talking, Gunn hones in and delivers a straight-to-the-point verse reminiscent of his prime FLYGOD era to close out the album; “So ahead of my time, I got a 2022 penny / And a Louis Vuitton loafer, slide over,” he raps in his concluding verse on one of the year’s most raw tracks thus far. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…Kodak Black – “Gunsmoke Town”Baby Keem x Kendrick Lamar – “The Hillbillies”[embedded content]Rio Da Yung Og – “Pooh Shiesty”Continuing his streak as one of the most talented and engaging rappers in the game, even from behind bars, Rio Da Yung Og is a relentless force in the rap game who’s widely become known for his unhinged bars and for championing the sound of his hometown, Flint, Michigan’s fiery Hip-Hop scene. On “Pooh Shiesty,” a low-key standout off of his latest EP, The F Tape, Rio lets loose and riddles off his cannon of acutely-delivered, charismatic bars over the knocking drums and clanging piano loop. “Guarantee they said they know Rio if they be out in Flint / I just got $100K in cash for a sponsorship / Still thanking God for my accomplishments,” he raps nonchalantly. His writing is as sharp as ever, revealing that his Levi’s jeans are actually Chrome Hearts, detailing that he left his girl because of his relationship with Mary Jane, and flexing the fact that he’s charging $6K for a guest verse. #FreeRio. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…Lil Durk f. J. Cole – “All My Life”Chester Watson – “eyes closed”[embedded content]“George Lopez” – Pi’erre BourneAs Pi’erre hacks at the acoustic guitar, he experiments with its six strings to crossover the gallops of a spaghetti western score with the plucks of a Blues Brother. Although the strings feel a bit choppy, fans have been patiently awaiting George Lopez’s premiere since Pi’erre teased the track on Instagram Live 5 years ago, on May 7th, 2018. The ridiculousness of “George Lopez” makes it an instant earworm. The song begins with a single eyebrow raised, “Ooh, goddamn, give me head, George Lopez.” This references George Lopez’s self-titled TV show where he was repeatedly called “big head” by his family (leaving room for the NBA Jam bar later in the song), however Pi’erre’s phrasing sounds a bit-off. Hovering over a slow 808/clap combo, the lyrics sound like a request for George Lopez to fulfill a sexual favor. It’s funny more than anything. It stirs conversation, while never losing touch of Pi’erre’s vision — another step on the road to fellatio. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…“FreakyT (Remix)” – TiaCorine f. Latto[embedded content]“Princess Diana” – Ice Spice f. Nick Minaj“Leave Her” – LuckiProduced by BrentRambo, “Leave Her” is another leak that found its way to LUCKI fans early last year. Listeners were mesmerized by the weightlessness of its single guitar riff, light and arpeggiating, fleeting like a harpist’s strings. Alongside syncopated hi-hats fluctuating between quarter notes and eighth notes, LUCKI’s voice sounds distracted. He can’t help but repeat: “She don’t want me to leave her.” In line with LUCKI’s self-destructive tendencies, he insists: “I do better by myself.” Paranoia seeps into his lyrics, claiming his partner doesn’t actually know him, explaining his own mental baggage. LUCKI’s never restricted himself from rapping about his unhealthy relationship with drugs, but on “Leave Me,” you can tell that he’s also coping with the side effects of his own popularity, cognizant that listeners are getting high because of his own influence. LUCKI pushes his own monotonous range, leaving his voice to quiver as he toys with the idea of leaving his girlfriend. All he knows is that she doesn’t want LUCKI to leave; all LUCKI knows is that he doesn’t want someone in his ear exposing his already-known flaws. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…“Rear View” – YoungBoy Never Broke Again f. Mariah The Scientist[embedded content]“First Show” – Luh Tyler“Fat Racks Pt. 2” – Luh Tyler & BabyTronFlorida’s Luh Tyler is arguably the coolest 16-year-old on the planet. “Fat Racks Pt. 2,” a sequel to his single from last year, continues his lightning hot streak as one of the game’s most exciting new acts. Although this is their first official collaboration, the unison of Luh Tyler and BabyTron sounds so natural, as they organically feed off of each other’s hunger and charisma. In the bar that inspired the title of the song, Tyler proudly exclaims that his stacks of cash are fat while his body type is the opposite. He ends his verse by rapping, “I been steppin’ on their neck, I got the rap game in a choke,” leaving the thumping 808s and twinkling piano loop to breathe for a brief moment before BabyTron steps in to unleash his own cannon of witty one-liners; “30 something woods a day, might catch me sparkin’ a log in church / God forgive me though / Just discovered my family tree, I came from billy goats.” – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…“AIN’T GONNA ANSWER” – NLE Choppa & Lil Wayne[embedded content]“All I Wanna Know” – Lil Keed & Young Thug“SCARING THE HOES” – JPEGMAFIA & Danny BrownOn the title track of JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s boisterous experimental album, SCARING THE HOES, the duo essentially deliver the thesis of the album with an off-kilter track that’s ultimately successful in what it aims to do, which is simply to scare the hoes; an online joke that refers to any nonconforming underground music. This is not music that DJs will be running to play in their sets at the club, but it will certainly be enjoyed by experimental rap heads on a spooky late-night drive. Over an unconventional beat that samples the expeditious clapping and out-of-tune horns of Dirty Beaches’ “Untitled,” the pair play into the old head mentalities that reject this sort of innovative music by taunting their own artistic preferences; “Stop scarin’ the hoes / Play that shit’ll have them touch their toes / ‘We don’t wanna hear that weird shit no more’,” Danny raps on the hook in his signature high-pitched cadence. – Isaac FontesAD LOADING…“Nun id Change” – Yeat“Bacc Like I Never Left” – 03 Greedo[embedded content]“Kant Nobody” – Lil Wayne, Swizz Beatz, DMXDespite over 30 years as a top tier rapper Lil Wayne songs remain expansive adventures. The latest example is “Kant Nobody,” a rambunctious, yet controlled barrage of eclectic punchlines, free associative boasts and tightly wound rhyme schemes. Coasting over a DMX-sampling Swizz Beatz instrumental, Weezy F manages to mention sneezing Dracos, Jeffrey Dahmer and Oprah for quips that are as unpredictable as they are funny. He also gets props for distilling his rich hermit lifestyle in just a few bars: Don’t be on all of that, yeah, that’s my twin, shit, alright/Don’t hit my phone with all that ‘I’m just tappin’ in,’ shit, alright/Fuck that friend shit, alright, I’m on my zen shit, alright/I’m on that DMT, I ain’t on that DM shit, alright.” Precise, yet frenzied, “Kant Nobody” is electric. – Peter A. BarryAD LOADING…“Breakfast” – Kevin Gates[embedded content]“Trappin n Rappin” – Big Scarr & Gucci Mane“Nasty Dancer” – Flo MilliIt’s brash, irreverent, and nasty. It’s got a beat meant to be blasted with all four windows down. It’s the new Flo Milli shit. “Nasty Dancer,” the 23-year-old hip-hop upstart spits absolute filth over a sticky throwback production from fellow Alabaman OG Parker. At a breakneck speed, the 2021 XXL Freshman rejects sugar babies, name drops Doja Cat, and leaves lying lovers in the lurch. After all the affirmations she’s already given us, it sometimes seems inconceivable Flo Milli could have any more gems up her sleeves. And then here she goes again. – Nina HernandezAD LOADING…“Ron Artest” – Babyface Ray & 42 Dugg[embedded content]“Shmunk” – Yeat & YoungBoy Never Broke Again“Zap Zone” – BabyTron & Certified TrapperIt’s a beautiful thing when two rap scenes dip into each other’s worlds. On BabyTron’s latest project Bin Reaper 3: New Testament, Tron takes his punch in expertise and joins forces with Milwaukee’s Certified Trapper. The production features up-tempo 808 claps and a serpentine flute in the background, but Tron’s niche is his ability to rap on any beat. Certified Trapper shines on this track, flaunting twin glocks and standing differently due to having thousands of dollars in his pockets. – Anthony MaloneAD LOADING…“King Snipe” – Gucci Mane & Kodak Black[embedded content]“On Wut U On” – Moneybagg Yo & Glorilla“Princess Diana” – Ice SpiceMake a meme out of Ice Spice and she’ll make it into a hit song; with “Princess Diana” the Bronx rapper lets the people know they have been heard. At first facetious, the comparison between Ice Spice and the former Princess of Wales started out as an online trend; but with her single covers made out of selfies, colloquial lyrics, and a down-to-earth attitude, Ice Spice proves she is a true princess of the people. Producer RIOTUSA splices bass-heavy production with the frantic plucks of a repetitive guitar riff; together, the two capitalize on public opinion and successfully insert Ice Spice into one of the most famous pop culture narratives of our time. – Rebecca BarglowskiAD LOADING…“Prada Steppin” – EBK Young Joc[embedded content]Contributing writers: David Brake, Louis Pavlakos, Rebecca Barglowski, Isaac Fontes, Riley Wallace, Jeremy Hecht, Devon Jefferson, Anthony Malone, Peter Barry, Yousef Srour, Nina Hernandez & Josh Svetz.

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