No. 1: "Magnolia" by Playboi Carti
Playboi Carti, a model by day and a rapper by whim, opens "Magnolia," from his self-titled debut album, rapping "In New York I Milly Rock." The line is odd: the song's title refers to the Magnolia Housing Projects in New Orleans, not New York, for one. On top of that, Carti is not from New York or New Orleans (he's from Atlanta). Still the competing geographical touchstones find common ground on the bouncy track that is sure to inspire block parties no matter the zip code.
No. 2: "Peek A Boo" by Lil Yachty ft. Migos
Last year Lil Yachty rose so quickly that it's easy to forget the Atlanta rapper made his name off cheery quasi-novelty records like "1 Night" and "Minnesota." But the new Lil Yachty is far more eager to show off his raw rapping talents. On "Peek A Boo" he comes out the gate rapping in an almost blur, until Migos arrive and ride out over the song's haunting production.
No. 3: "Biking" by Frank Ocean ft. Jay Z and Tyler, The Creator
Frank Ocean hadn't released any new music for four years when Endless/Blonde came out; in 2017 he appears to be making up for lost time. "Biking" is the singer's third major single of the year—counting his guest verse on Calvin Harris's "Slide"—with no drop in quality. He achieved that in part by having Jay Z open the song ("Shamgod with the A1 moves") and in part by recruiting old pal Tyler, The Creator for a track. But mainly, it's because Frank, even with some time off, hasn't lost his musical Midas touch.
No. 4: "XXX." by Kendrick Lamar ft. U2
Kendrick Lamar and U2 on the same track might inspire thoughts of an arena rock and rap crossover, but instead the two deliver something far more interesting. There is no mistaking Bono's soulful voice when it appears at the song's world-weary coda, but it's Kendrick Lamar's rapping and intense reflections on nation and self that give weight to the song.
No. 5: "Omaha" by Toro Y Moi
Nearly a decade into his career, Toro Y Moi appears comfortable in his unchallenging easy rock mood. "Omaha," his latest single, sounds like it could have come from his '00s chillwave work, except that he's grown confident enough to strip away the layers of reverb and distortion. The choice is a wise one: on "Omaha" it allows for his sharp songwriting, and not the production, be the track's star.
No. 6: "Stay Together" by Noah Cyrus
Noah Cyrus continues her charge into pop stardom on "Stay Together." This latest song pivots away from her more recent EDM work, even though one of its co-writers is Emily Warren, who helped pen tracks for The Chainsmokers. Her hand in the writing process can be heard in the hyper-specific youthful lyrics ("I went outside to smoke a cigarette / And I shattered my phone on the cement") and the song's overall mid-tempo crawl. It's not quite a ballad, not quite a banger, but Cyrus and Warren have strong chemistry here.
No. 7: "Whippin" by Kiiara ft. Felix Snow
Last year, the Midwestern singer Kiiara scored a massive hit with the pop song, "Gold." The disjointed song chopped and filtered the singer's vocals into an almost post-human instrument. "Whippin," her latest single, with Felix Snow, takes a similar approach on the hook, where again her vocals are sliced and diced into staccato form that you can't dislodge once it enters your ears.
No. 8: "End of The Night" by NGHTMRE & Ghastly
"Subtle" is not usually a word used to describe the monstrous trap stomp of NGHTMRE—or the metallic crunch of Ghastly's big dubstep-inspired tunes. So it's no surprise that "End of the Night" by the two producers is an abrasive stadium-filler with an absurdist ricocheting drop that makes good on the song's apocalyptic title.
No. 9: "You Don't Know Me" by Jax Jones ft. Raye
There is a deceptive ease to Jax Jones and Raye's pulsating collaboration, "You Don't Know Me." The lyrics are slightly standoffish, but its groove is anything but uninviting and practically pushes you onto the dance floor. Simply put, "You Don't Know Me" is a banger, and there's nothing wrong with perfecting that art.
No. 10: "Flex Like Ouu" by Lil Pump
On "Flex Like Ouu," Miami rapper Lil Pump, like so many rappers these days, embraces conciseness, saying all he needs to in under two minutes. He stunts in the club, name-checks his Maison Margiela sneakers, and couldn't sound happier. Maybe there is a motivational speaking career for him down the road.
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