Adam’s Honorable Mentions
“Irrelevant” by Deko & Yameii Online
“Found my purpose! Was it worth it? Me and Yameii, yeah, cashing big checks… It’s a dumb flex, Yameii!”
“Tick Tock” by WHATSTHAT?
From homegrown talent WHATSTHAT?, “Tick Tock” hits all of the checkboxes when creating a pop hit. The outro to this track is one of the best aspects of his debut album, Frostbite, which I highly recommend you listen to.
“Let You Know” by 2hollis
Experimental to another level. The vocals are really crisp and the autotune is fitting for the style of the track. The only possible miss is the lyrics as they are quite underwhelming and basic. Yet, the production almost entirely makes up for it. 2hollis is an underground artist that deserves lots more attention.
“Amoeba” by Clairo
The only non-forgettable song on Clairo’s Sling, “Amoeba” features an amazing vocal performance from one of the best female lyricists in the world. Unfortunately, the album was disappointing and I would much rather recommend 2019’s Immunity.
“No Friends in the Industry” by Drake
Barely scraping into the honorable mentions is Drake’s “No Friends in the Industry”. Certified Lover Boy, for lack of a better word, was trash. This song along with two others (“Fair Trade” and “Champagne Poetry”) are the only saving graces of an incredibly disappointing album. On the bright side, “No Friends in the Industry” is a banger with great lyricism from an otherwise lackluster project.
“Krunk” by Sad Night Dynamite
This beat is insanely interesting to the point where when I first listened, I had to pause and attempt to understand where SND could begin to originate such abstract song ideas. The lyrical content is a bit on the weird side, but that does not take away from the track’s listenability.
“Charmander” by Aminé
Hyper pop and rap need to be combined more often. This song’s contrasting genres combine for an amazing, unique track. Its stylistic change from Aminé’s typical rap style as we saw on Limbo, is unexpected. Can’t wait to hear more of this style from Aminé.
“m y . l i f e” by J. Cole, 21 Savage & Morray
Absolute banger. J. Cole and 21 Savage on the same track will always result in amazing songs. Morray’s chorus also provides a much-needed break from the hard-rap style that Cole goes for at the beginning of The Off-Season. The album might not be a dub, but this song certainly is.
“Scissorhands” by Maggie Lindemann
Maggie grew to stardom with her single “Pretty Girl” but she’s quickly dropped that stigma. Her EP, PARANOIA, consists of some of the strongest experimentation within pop-punk in a while. This debut seems more polished and thoughtful than almost all the projects I can think of from 2021. Maggie’s passion shines through this song.
“Switching Lanes” by Pi’erre Bourne
The Pi’erre and Carti duo is unmatched. The best trap album of 2021 has some serious contenders for a spot on this list. “4U”, similarly to “Switching Lanes”, has great production. TLOP5 is full of earworms.
“Sisyphus” by Quadeca
Quadeca is a YouTube rapper. But, he’s good at it. Unlike others, Quadeca put time and effort into “Sisyphus” resulting in a track with true, reflective meaning and a search for a purpose in a repetitive life.
“Gravity” by Brent Faiyaz
Amazing song by Baltimore Brent and an even more amazing feature from Tyler, the Creator. On his gradient towards releasing CMIYGL, Tyler dropped one of the hardest verses of this year with a precise flow. January was a slow month for music, but “Gravity” was definitely one of its selling points.
“ARE YOU WITH THAT?” by Vince Staples
After I rediscovered this album a few weeks ago, this track has been on repeat. Vince is always known for his experimentation with rap. His voice sounds fantastic over a thumping yet pulsing instrumental like this. Plus, the bars make me reminisce.
“WHAT KIND OF RAPPIN’ IS THIS?” by JPEGMAFIA
“Uh, are you feelin’ me now? Big dog, make ’em follow the script, like LL when I’m back in the house.” This track, with a runtime of under two minutes, features a single, spectacular verse. Personally, the verse on this song is the best of the entire year. I’ll die on that hill.
“Goodbye” by Bo Burnham
From the Netflix comedy special Inside, this track is honestly much more than it is painted to be. Inside is a real album of songs and should be looked at as one of the best albums of the year, although it is not a traditional album in the slightest. Our perspective into Bo’s quarantine lifestyle ends in spectacular fashion with “Goodbye”. The ending of this track will give you goosebumps.
“Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish
In all honesty, this should be higher, but I’ve overplayed it. That should be a testament to how good this song is though. Billie’s magnum opus (so far) reveals how she truly feels with all of the spotlights on her. Sometimes, it makes relationships hard, and sometimes (most times) we can relate to her struggles, even though we live completely different lives.
“Two Worlds Apart” by Little Simz
Great, great, great track. Little Simz’s voice will grow on you and once it does, this song will be on repeat, I’m sure. The bars are funny, yet meaningful. Plus, it helps that the production on Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is the best of 2021.
“Dealer” by Lana Del Rey
Personally, this song is a 10/10. Lana’s vocals are quite convincingly the best of the year and the production carries a punch that is rarely seen in Lana’s discography.
“Knees” by Injury Reserve
This song is heartbreaking in about every sense of the word. 2021 was a horrible year for Injury Reserve, as they looked to recuperate from the loss of one of the members at the young age of 32. The raw emotion behind this song makes Ritchie’s vocals and lyrics sound real to new levels. Parker’s production has leveled up quickly following their previous self-titled 2019 work. “Knees” is true musical depression. Pain flows through the track and the touching music video is one of the best of 2021. Heavy stuff.
“Jail” by Kanye West
This is easily my favorite track off of Kanye’s tenth studio album, DONDA. Jay-Z and Kanye teaming up is always a spectacle for the ages. When discussing serious topics, such as the lyrics on “Jail,” the duo becomes that much better. Kanye’s mental ‘jails’ are a perfect introduction to the fantasy, and the reality, he paints us on DONDA.
“INDUSTRY BABY” by Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow
If you haven’t heard this song yet, you’re living under a rock.
“OLD NEWS” by BROCKHAMPTON
Impeccable production from BROCKHAMPTON on this track. This track always, and I mean ALWAYS, puts a smile on my face. Also, let it be known that Baird’s feature is one of the best if not the best verse on the entire album. It’s so infectious.
“Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic
Instant classic. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak can both carry any track with ease. Silk Sonic, as a duo, is pretty much unfair.
“Your favorite sidekick” by underscores
IT’S THE NEW WAVE OF THE FUTURE!!! underscores will be a name you hear in the future, I’m sure of it. You might as well hop on the bandwagon now.
“Don’t Need You” by Genesis Owusu
This track is a MUST-HEAR! The chorus on this track is made for belting out in the car. The playful lyricism mixed with the bouncy production is a stark contrast to the rest of the album, which plays around with sinister themes. Smiling With No Teeth is impressive in every sense of the word. Genesis is one of the most versatile artists I’ve heard in a while and “Don’t Need You” capitalizes off of that title to a great extent.
“Headshots (4r Da Locals)” by Isaiah Rashad
Vibes. This song is melodic, smooth, satisfying, and everything in between. Although The House is Rising is a rather unfocused project, “Headshots (4r Da Locals)” is Isaiah’s rap style at its peak. Transfused with aspects of R&B, this track’s vocals are an impeccable follow-up to Isaiah’s single “Lay Wit Ya”.
“family ties” by Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar
The best beat of the year. And, it’s not close. Keem KILLS this beat before Kendrick even gets the opportunity to beat it while it’s down after the beat switch. The lyrical content paired with Keem’s flow makes me certain that Baby Keem will undoubtedly have a place in the rap game for years to come. Do I even need to say that Kendrick was amazing on this or is it just assumed? He really did smoke on our top five.
“SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” by Tyler, the Creator
Simply beautiful. Love and ego almost always make for good song topics. Tyler continues the ‘tenth song being two songs put into one track’ theme on his sixth album. Like almost every other tenth track is the best piece from their respective albums (“911 / Mr. Lonely” of Flower Boy & “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” of Igor case in point), “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” shows Tyler capitalizing off of amazing production and features.
“deja vu” by Olivia Rodrigo
Catchy. Mind-blowing. Masterpiece. Olivia will have one tall mountain to climb if she wants to dethrone “deja vu” as her best song.
“Musician” by Porter Robinson
Harrowing lyrics. This upbeat electro-pop song has some serious monumental moments and a theme that will make you question your place in the world. Nurture is the perfect work of self-introspection and its single, “Musician”, is no different.
Anthony’s List (25 Best Songs of 2021)
Kiss Me More – Doja Cat & SZA
All I can say is Doja Cat was in her BAG on this one. Where I’ve already come to expect quality from SZA, I was extremely impressed by Doja Cat’s performance, giving us one of the catchiest pop choruses of recent memory.
Rumba (Puro Oro Anthem) – Maluma
Over a tropical-esque instrumental, Maluma delivers one of his catchiest performances to date, having an infectious chorus, even if you don’t speak Spanish. I recommend this to anyone who listens to music – ever.
Headshots (4r Da Locals) – Isaiah Rashad
Lofi rap at its best. Isaiah Rashad gives a laid-back delivery over a subtle instrumental, giving us the comeback single we deserved (we don’t talk about “Lay Wit Ya”). Easily one of the most replayable tracks of the year.
Industry Baby – Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow
Lil Nas X doesn’t know how to flop. “Industry Baby” is easily his best single, and it’s not close. Blessed with a Kanye and Take a Daytrip beat, Lil Nas X does his thing on the chorus, and Harlow drops one of his hardest verses, making me excited for what he does next.
Sandman – A$AP Rocky
Rocky is at his best over a psychedelic instrumental. Teamed up with long-time collaborator Clams Casino, Rocky manages to revisit his old sound as a better lyricist and it shows. The chorus is a high point in Rocky’s discography in general, and this track is worth a listen.
Amoeba – Clairo
On my first listen, I was so excited for Clairo’s newest album, Sling. Unfortunately, it was extremely forgettable, but this song was an immediate standout. Her vocals sound refined as ever, over an instrumental that suits her in such a way that I wish she had more of these on Sling.
Hazard Duty Pay! – Jpegmafia
Easily the standout single from LP! (Offline), this song shows Peggy at his lyrical best, floating over a smooth Anita Baker sample. This song couldn’t get any better – unless it was on streaming services.
Close – J. Cole
The Off-Season was branded to be a triumphant return for J. Cole after his mediocre last project, KOD. And well… it wasn’t quite that, but this song has everything that reminds me of why I fell in love with J. Cole in the first place. Easily just as good as many of the songs on Forest Hills Drive, and a must-listen for rap fans.
Don’t Shoot Up the Party – Brockhampton
Brockhampton’s last album, ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE, was relatively disregarded by most listeners this year, but this is a track I can’t stop recommending. This song has all the energy of a Saturation trilogy track, but with the improved production and lyricism from the band. An immediate banger.
Seeing Green – Nicki Minaj (feat. Lil Wayne & Drake)
Probably the most unexpected song of the year. I was very surprised to see a YMCMB track in 2021, and I was even more surprised that it exceeded my expectations. Nicki sounds like she’s hungry again, Lil Wayne does what he always does, and Drake sounds miles better than anything on CLB.
Ballads – J.I.D & Conway the Machine
2021 was a year where rap music THRIVED, most notably with Griselda appearing on every song ever made, always leaving us with incredible verses. This song is no different. J.I.D feeds us with a sample-heavy, classic rap track with an astounding Conway feature, making me believe that a collab album would shake the world.
Leave the Door Open – Silk Sonic
Out of the many surprises we got in 2021, the announcement of a Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak album was probably one of the most unexpected. With that said, the music they brought us was nothing short of incredible, leaving me frankly flabbergasted that music can be this good. If you’ve been living under a rock, stop what you’re doing and listen to “Leave the Door Open,” right now.
Transparent Soul – Willow (feat. Travis Barker)
An ode to punk rock, inspired by the likes of Blink-182, this song is a JAM. Willow delivers a great vocal performance over incredible, thrashing drums from Travis Barker, making for a track full of angst and character. I have nothing but compliments for this song, and at this rate, just check out Willow’s album, Lately I feel Everything.
What Kinda Rappin is this? – Jpegmafia
The most psychedelic rap experience I’ve endured since Astroworld first dropped. Jpegmafia stepped up his, already amazing, production up multiple notches to create his most cohesive album to date with LP!. This song is everything the album did right, with the panning vocals, subtle sample, and an incredible verse delivered by Peggy.
Lemon Pepper Freestyle – Drake & Rick Ross
One of the best hip hop duos of recent memory, Drizzy and Rick Ross, went BANANAS on this instrumental. This is the most refreshing I’ve heard Drake in a while, and then he dropped Certified Lover Boy.
Come to Life – Kanye West
Arguably one of the best songs on Donda, “Come to Life,” is the musical amalgamation of all the highly-documented controversy Kanye’s endured in the past few years, where he addresses topics like his beef with Drake, his divorce, and his mother’s death. An instant classic in his discography.
Sweet / I Thought You Wanted to Dance – Tyler, the Creator
Tyler figured out Pop R&B with Sweet, I can’t even lie. The instrumental is incredibly smooth, Brent Faiyaz floats, adding to an already incredible track. Then, comes I Thought You Wanted To dance, which is the best reggae track I have ever heard, the beat makes me want to move in ways I didn’t think I could, and that tyler verse on the end is the cherry on top.
Deja Vu – Oliva Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo RAN 2021, and for good reason. Over the smoothest pop instrumental of all time, Rodrigo flexes her vocal prowess, all while creating a song that will undoubtedly play on the radio for five more years.
Family Ties – Baby Keem
Baby Keem blessed us this year with this track. Having a Kendrick feature encouraged Keem to drop his best verse, to date, and this instrumental? NUTS. Keem goes harder than I could have ever imagined, somehow beating the incredible Kendrick verse, making for the hardest song this year.
Champagne Poetry – Drake
Ah, the classic Drake intro. Although CLB was absolute trash, Champagne Poetry is Drake at his lyrical best. I’ve never heard Drake rap at the level he has this year (when he’s trying, which isn’t often), and this track is the absolute epitome of that. The instrumental samples a cover of the Beatles, setting the mood for the album perfectly. How do you fumble after this song?
I Drink Wine – Adele
When Adele drops music, we expect nothing but the best… and we got it. Adele came back this fall with her most emotionally mature and ambitious album to date. I absolutely love this record, and this song is everything I love about it. Adele’s beautiful vocals over a choir-like backing vocal, all coming together in one of my favorite lyrical performances on the album, it makes me feel whole.
That Funny Feeling – Bo Burnham / Phoebe Bridgers
Bo Burnham graced us with one of the best albums of the year with Inside, all while managing to also give us one of the best songs of the year. This song is uncharacteristically good, even for Bo. The guitar, grouped with his vocals and semi-haunting lyrics gave me one of the most surreal listening experiences I’ve ever had. Now, if you think this song is good, just imagine the Phoebe cover.
Life of the Party – Kanye West & André 3000
No one is better than Kanye when he’s in his rapping bag… except André 3000. And I can confidently say that André’s verse washes quite possibly every verse I’ve heard from 2021. This is before I even mention the beat, which is IMMACULATE by the way; the brass hits are harder than any music that’s ever been created, and the DMX sample is just icing on the cake.
Happier than Ever – Billie Eilish
I ain’ e’en no Billie could do dis tbh. This song is absolutely incredible, leagues ahead of everything Billie’s done before, and that’s saying A LOT. Ever since she played a snippet of this song when the album was announced, I played it over and over. Once it came out, I heard the second half, and it ruined all music for me for weeks. If you haven’t heard this song, stay mad.
All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (10 Minute Version) – Taylor Swift
Taylor made her best song a better song. I hate Jake Gyllenhaal. Tay Tay 4 Life.