30 Rap Songs You Might’ve Missed This Summer
Keeping up with every new rap release can feel like a full-time job. With new albums and mixtapes dropping every week, one-off tracks popping up on the Internet every day and new artists climbing out of the digital woodwork every minute hoping to pop off, it can get a little overwhelming trying to pay attention to everything. Along with the increased volume of stuff getting pumped out, it has also become easier and easier to stay in a little insulated rap bubble of your own design, whether its a radio-dominated, hit-filled rap world or a smaller, eccentric island you've carved out for yourself on YouTube. Everyone has a niche. Even the niches have niches.
So don't worry if you missed out on some great songs this summer. We all missed out on some great stuff. It's not difficult to call something the song of the summer—by now everyone knows "Versace" and "Type Of Way" were big songs, and even your grandpa probably knows "Get Lucky" was a smash by now—but it's more fun to shed some light on things you might've missed: obscure mixtape tracks, singles that never really took off, remixes and deep album cuts.
Without further ado, XXL presents 30 Rap Songs You Might've Missed This Summer. Before fall kicks in, we sifted through three months worth of music and hand-picked the ones that we couldn't stop listening to. Rapsody impressed us with She Got Game and "Coconut Oil" is fire. Likewise, artists like Rich Hil and newcomer ZMoney are getting looks for their music that would otherwise go unnoticed. Read through our list and let us know what some of your favorites were this summer in the comments. Until next time. --Compiled By Dan Jackson, Eric Diep, Dan Buyanovsky, Dan Rys, B.J. Steiner, Miranda Johnson & Emmanuel C.M.
Previously: The Top 50 Summer Releases Of All Time
"4:30" Kevin Gates
Great storytelling can often be a lost art in modern rap music. Kevin Gates brings more pathos to his music in the first 30 seconds of “4:30” than an entire generation of gangster rappers has in a decade. A harrowing cut about sick-in-the-guts betrayal, Gates drops a story track worthy of his claim that his “life is a movie.”
In true Wale fashion, Wale scored an unbelievably grandiose Just Blaze beat for The Gifted, and no one even seemed to notice. Equipped a backdrop that features Just's spazzed-out live drumming, mood-setting snaps and claps and Wale's swaying vocals, this song is so uplifting it needs to be some Olympian's theme song. Also, the line - "My rapping skills is on Chapel Hill, but U.N.C. it" is… crazy.
"Bird Talk" Fredo Santana
Look at that cover art. A white bird soaring John Woo-style against a dark background. That's how listening to this song makes you feel: invincible. Over warped John Carpenter pianos and some mischievous chirps, Santana paints a stark, unforgiving portrait of life on the streets.
"Brothers" Kid Cudi Featuring King Chip And A$AP Rocky
One of the most underrated duos in hip-hop does it again. Kid Cudi and King Chip team up with A$AP Rocky for a smooth “Bros over hoes” anthem of 2013. This feel good Indicud cut invokes harmony that’s reminiscent to the bond displayed on the movie, Bad Boys. This Cudi produced track’s message is clear, "Brotherhood" is everything.
"Centipede" Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino made it clear that he will be taking a break from acting to focus on his music in career. With that said, the first offering of new music is “Centipede.” Backed by bumping bass and pianos that progress, Gambino shows the scope of his artistry here. For over six minutes, he combines singing and rhyming, before dropping off to let a vocal sample about hustling for money in the hood play out. It’s a sign that his sophomore effort could be the most impactful release of the year.
"Cherry Raindrops" Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire
We hear Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire reminiscence about the demise of a past relationship. The splendid aspect about this record is the switch up in tone from the beginning to end. The track starts off very mellow and mournful, and then midway it switches up into an ultra-aggressive record. It really highlighted eXquire versatile delivery and flow.
"Coconut Oil" Rapsody Featuring Raekwon And Mela Machinko
Rapsody's She Got Game Gangsta Grillz mixtape is full of eye-opening guests, but few can really step to Raekwon when he puts his mind to a track. The beat is at the perfect pace for Rae to groove to, reinforcing his legend status again while Rap stands tall right next to him. And it's hard to argue when Raekwon says, "Yo 9th Wonder, you remarkable."
"Colombia" Young Scooter
Even nabbing Rick Ross, Birdman, and Gucci Mane for the remix this track still never received its just due. With that being said, Scooter crafted one of hottest singles this summer and even though it has not yet reached its peak, it's certain that the Atlanta rapper will soon whip up another club banger or two.
"Dance On The Moon" Travi$ Scott Featuring Theophilus London And Paul Wall
With such a catchy hook and rattling baseline, this song should've been in Ford commercials, or at least in the trailer for The Hangover III. "Dance" finds wunderkind/weirdo Travi$ Scott at his most commercial and accessible, while Theophilus London does his best Avery Storm impression on the hook. Also, H-Town icon Paul Wall swings through for a quick 16 where he literally references every kind of drug. What's not to love?
"D.O.E./The Lights" Tory Lanez
Tory Lanez released the impressive Conflicts Of My Soul mixtape this summer. Of the 15 tracks, “D.O.E./The Lights” is a melodic mixture that transitions to a much slower affair in its second half. The Toronto native is still relatively undiscovered by the mainstream, but he brings a fresh perspective to hip-hop that’ll get him noticed soon. Also check for his singles “Up (Fell In Love)” and “Icey Dicey” off the project.
"Eastside Moonwalker" Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs continues to stake his claim as the world’s greatest rapper that nobody seems to realize is the world’s greatest rapper. “Eastside Moonwalker” from his underrated ESGN mixtape is a cyanide pill in rap form. Nothing hits harder.
"Gadget Ho" J-Zone
After a nearly decade long hiatus, underground rap curmudgeon J-Zone returns on this misanthropic track about dating in the cell phone era. Zone brings his trademark wit and a distinctive Death Certificate-era Ice Cube vibe to the song.
"Gudda" Shy Glizzy Featuring Kevin Gates
On Law 2 Shy Glizzy melded a distinct sing-song cadence with epic, snapping beats and "Gudda" is one of the tape's sharpest, smartest bangers. Dropping references to Pokemon cards and his haters, Glizzy gives us his origin story while keeping things moving and making room for a game Kevin Gates.
"Hillary Swank" Joey Bada$$
While Joey's admission "We don't say swag no more, we say swank…" may never crossover into the mainstream, this jazzy cut from his Summer Knights mixtape is a nostalgic, old-school highlight. With influences in both Tribe and Mos Def, "Hilary" is classic New York rap song from one of the genre's youngest stars.
Ka's The Night's Gambit isn't exactly a summer record. With its stark, minimalistic production and its dense, metaphor-packed rhymes, it probably lends itself more to lonely walks through the cold than to BBQ's and beaches. But sometimes summer gets dark too, and in those moments it's great to have songs like "Knighthood" to brood to.
"Let You Know" ZMoney
ZMoney is about to be on your radars soon. Coming from the pool of budding talent out of Chicago, ZMoney is moving up in his city for the long list of hit songs placed throughout his mixtapes. ZMoney’s appeal comes from his unique delivery, which is often drenched in Auto-Tune, and tales of the street life. “Let You Know”, produced by Paris Beuller, covers all bases of braggadocios rap. Talks of cash, swag and turning your “savage up” are all here. It’s more reasons to check for ZMoney in the coming months.
"Matches" Mac Miller Featuring Ab-Soul
If Chance's Acid Rap was summer barbecue music, this song is the blacked-out-at-said-barbecue anthem. With plinking, upbeat production that sounds like something Mac would've spit on in his Blue Slide days, he and Ab-Soul go back and forth about their mediocre pasts and joke about traversing the strange days of fame.
"My Shoes" Scotty ATL Featuring Starlito & Killa Kyleon
Scotty ATL, Starlito and Killa Kyleon team up for southern cooking, as they whip up an absolute gem with this infectious record. The song isn’t what it appears on the surface, but rather a metaphor of the artists come-up, staying true to oneself, and finding their own path.
"New Brooklyn" Dyme-A-Duzin
This track technically dropped at the end of last year, but its inclusion on Peter Rosenberg's New York Renaissance tape this April gave it summertime listening status. Dyme is another of those New Brooklyn that seem to be streaming out of the borough these days, and his flow over the laid-back-but-bumping track comes off effortlessly. He's not a bad choice to be representing Brooklyn in the next few years.
"Palm Trees" Flatbush Zombies
With so much new rap emerging from young, hungry and amorphous New York hip-hop collectives—A$AP Mob, Pro Era, Underachievers and World's Fair are just a few—it can get a little tough to keep track of them all, but Flatbush Zombies establish their mix of playful rhymes and ghostly samples here. It's a simple song with a beat that hits like mist floating across a lake, but the nasty, brain-grabbing chorus makes it tough to forget.
"Ratanto" Vandam Bodyslam
Vandam Bodyslam has a name that sounds like it came out of an Action Bronson rap-name generator, but his songs are no joke. This track is a bone-chilling 20 car pile-up of grizzled tough-talk, haunted vocal samples and pulverizing drums. With Yeezus-like screams going off in the background and militaristic stutters in the foreground, it will either leave you feeling pumped up or scared shitless. Or maybe a little bit of both.
"Right One, Wrong Time" Spree Wilson
This song screams get up and dance. Spree Wilson’s Life In Technicolor Vol. 1 is one of the best projects that’s came out this summer. This song is a microcosm of it, offering up a blend of vintage '90s ATL bass scene with the energy and creativity of early Andre 3K.
"Sarah's Song" Rich Hil
The son of fashion mogul, Tommy Hilfiger, Ricky Hil drops a gem with “Sarah’s Song,” a record about a mysterious girl who is an object of Hil’s affinity. The song serves as a dark narration of lust and desire. Easily a standout cut from SYLDD.
"She Knows" J. Cole
Although the circa-2011 Cults sample is a bit of a lazy choice, the spooky and removed vocals fit perfectly with Cole's infidelity-heavy confessions. This is as fun as he's ever sounded, mostly because Cole seems to actually not feel so bad for himself here. It's definitely a summer jam (that'll play into fall with ease) that never took off the way it should've.
"Social Status" Deniro Farrar
Charlotte native, Deniro Farrar, teams up clique member DuRu Tha King, for a fun summer anthem with “Social Status.” Deniro distinct deep-toned flow blends in perfectly on this record that bleeds jubilance. The louder you play this, the better your day will become.
"Spaceship II" Alex Wiley
The coolest part about this update is not even that it combined two of Chicago's newest bright spots in Alex Wiley and Chance the Rapper, but that they dug up GLC from Kanye's original "Spaceships" from The College Dropout. Chance has obviously been killing the game recently—touring Europe with Eminem and owned Lil Wayne on his own track on D5—and Wiley's Club Wiley would probably make the list for most slept-on projects of the year.
"Strictly 4 My Jeeps (Remix)" Action Bronson Featuring LL Cool J & Lloyd Banks (ED)
Action Bronson does the remix to "Strictly 4 My Jeeps" by keeping it within the family. What up Queens!
"The Rockers" Action Bronson
Bam Bam Bronsolino continues his incredible run of professional wrestling references as he pays tribute to the neon spandex and flying dropkicks of 80s wrestling tag team, The Rockers. After being thrown through the barbershop window, Marty Jannetty finally gets to one-up Shawn Michaels.
"Trouble" French Montana Featuring Mikky Ekko
We get to hear French, the party banger specialist, spit some introspective rhymes about the price of fame. The song wasn’t included on the Excuse My French album, but you really get a whole different vibe from French Montana as he delivers bars over some hard hitting drums. Montana takes Ekko’s “Pull Me Down” hit single and makes hip-hop gold.
"Who Do We Think We Are" John Legend
John Legend is at his best when he doesn't try too hard. Rather than jump on the EDM&B (hey Robin Thicke) bandwagon, Legend embraces retro sonics and sings his fucking heart out on this classy ballad that reinterprets "Mr. Big Stuff." As always, Rozay is a nice addition, spitting bars that are reminiscent of his scene-stealing appearance on Kanye's "Devil In A New Dress."