Our Favourite British Rap Tracks of the Year
As you may well know, Noisey exists in a bunch of different countries. We got offices in France; we got people tapping on laptops in Australia; there’s a whole crew holding things down in Denmark. Because we’re a bipartisan community, our year end list usually involves the best of the best from across the world. We shouted about J Hus, Stormzy, and Dave in our Best Albums of 2017 list; Stefflon Don, Giggs, Sam Wise, even more J Hus and, of course, Big Shaq himself in our Best Songs of 2017 list. And yet this also means some of our favourite tunes from our territory miss the chance the be given some shine. So, in an effort to come correct here are some more rap songs we’ve enjoyed that’ve been released in the UK in the last twelve months.
Tom Misch (Feat Novelist) – "The Feeling"
Have you lot heard of the Flower of Life? If you haven’t then here’s a basic crash course: it’s a mathematical equation (the Fibonacci sequence) turned into a symbol that is essentially at the root of all living things. And if there’s one song that comes close to the aural equivalent of the flower of life this year it’s Tom Misch’s collaboration with Novelist. The lyrics are one thing (“There’s more than words and syllables / there’s energy, there’s flavour”) but at the bottom of it all is the song’s bedrock “ The Feeling”, which in this case is the most organic and freeing sounding rap track to have come from the UK all year. Ryan
Nadia Rose – “Big Woman”
How this doesn’t have ten billion views is beyond me because Nadia Rose is on par with Stormzy and Peep Show in the league of impeccable things to happen to Croydon. With lyricism sharp as stiletto acrylics and brass-necked personality stamped all over bars like “Tongue was to get me started, not to piss me off”, “Big Woman” is a manifesto for gassing yourself up before moving to someone. And what a sound manifesto the MOBO Award-winning, BBC Sound Of-nominated MC has provided us with. Smoke piff and eat pussy, by order of Nadia Rose. Emma
slowthai - "Round & Round"
This bassy track is the problem child of a bunch of different genres, and its blend of garage, grime, and rap – replicated on the rest of Northampton (yep, really) rapper slowthai’s material, too – throws up a sound that feels immediately necessary. Here, on “Round & Round,” slowthai’s rhyming is urgent and frenetic, barely contained by the beat, and as a whole, the track has a palpable sense of being on the brink of something explosive. We're pretty certain that slowthai is going to tip over into it in 2018. Lauren
NoLay – “Run Up”
“All my ladies really pretty with a pussy full of gold,” states mother of grime NoLay while grinding down the side of a shipping container like it’s Idris Elba. The trailblazing MC has only gone from strength to strength during her career, with this years’ full-length project This Woman taking on an even more raw and defiant tone, seeing NoLay asserting her own position while taking shitty dudes down a much needed peg or two. Doing what she does best and delivery bars so hard you’d need an ice pick to put a dent in them, “Run Up” is a flex from start to finish. Emma
Nines (Feat J Hus) – "High Roller"
Speaking to J Hus earlier in the year, there was a sense he’d been taken aback at going into the studio with Nines. The man has an air about him, the spirit of a road-rap legend, an aura that all in all leads to the real deal. But you could also say the same thing about Hus and so the collision of these two artists one track is something to behold. “High Roller” is a grand spectacle re: flossin’. It’s as luxurious as it is bragadocious and laid back, bookended with the hooks Hus is so famous as Nines expertly weaves his way between each chorus, chatting slowly about how he’s been spending “crack money” up in “Harrods”. Also one time for that J Hus line “You wouldn’t know money if it slapped you in the face.” Ryan
L-Vis 1990 (Feat Flohio, Cassive) – “Yeah Yeah"
In addition to co-founding club night-cum-record label Night Slugs with Alex Sushon (aka Bok Bok), James Connolly also produces as L-Vis 1990 and clearly has an ear for largely undiscovered talent on the brink of blowing up. The nocturnal aesthetic of “Yeah Yeah”, with its instrumental like dry ice, becomes an unearthly terrain for south London rappers Flohio and Cassive to spar across – delivering quickfire verses and barbs with a raw energy that slaps you upside the head and commands attention. Emma
House of Pharaohs – “Rwm [Run with Me]”
No, I do not give a shit about the fact that this video came out in 2016, thanks for checking. House of Pharaohs, sort of like a British BROCKHAMPTON, are a music and creativity collective that you’ve hopefully already heard at some point this year. If not, let me spell things out a bit. Sam Wise, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern, Blaze Bandanna and AJ YoungSoul are all part of the group, and work on various solo projects at the same time. In June, their Real Faces mixtape crashed into summer playlists across the country and gave an extra boost to single “Rwm [Run with Me]”. It is a booming, slap-you-across-the-face banger. Jay Trench’s part-drill part-trap beat starts off deceptively minimalist in the intro and verses before crash-landing you into a direct route to the AUX cord in each chorus. And fine, if you really want to be pernickety about the dates, you can pretend I wrote this whole thing about dark, recent single “ZAY.” Tshepo
Dave - "Question Time"
Dave was the real hero of UK rap this year, and “Question Time” was his defining moment. Coming post-general election and post-Grenfell, over the course of seven minutes, he took the UK’s Tory government to task, asking the questions on all of our minds. He addressed topics that the people in charge think millennials are too stupid and apathetic to understand, like the NHS, Syria, and police brutality, and did so with intelligence and wit, even imploring the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to do more on behalf of the young people and minorities suffering after merciless cuts and austerity measures. Taking on huge issues with impressive lyrical dexterity but also speaking plainly, “Question Time” was a watershed moment not only in UK rap, but on our music landscape in its entirety, this year. Lauren
Young T & Bugsey (Feat Belly Squad) - "Gangland"
Here, lads, is a rare example of north and south England coming together in perfect harmony – instead of, you know, arguing to the death about what is acceptable to put on chips. Nottingham’s Young T & Bugsy (described by many a YouTube commenter as “the UK Rae Sremmurd) and London crew Belly Squad (fellow purveyors of a fresh diasporic sound currently ripping through UK rap) have linked up to birth what is easily one of the coldest tracks of the year. There’s nothing not to full-body love about this, really: if the slinking-through-the-dark vibes or nimble verses don’t get you, the pre-chorus rhyming “nee-nor, nee-nor” with “need more, need more” definitely will. Emma
MoStack (Feat Mist) - "Screw & Brew"
It might be the thick, fuzzy beat, or the high pitched garage vocal that cuts through and hits every possible pleasure point, but this collab from north London rapper MoStack Birmingham’s Mist is one of the most feel-good tracks to come out of UK rap all year. A euphoric ray of light when it first dropped on the brink of spring, a soundtrack to being half-cut and peering at your friends through clouds of smoke while it blasted from rolled-down car windows or across parks during the height of summer, and now a welcome reminder that winter will end at some point and bring all that back around again – “Screw and Brew” is one of those eternal tracks, like “German Whip” or “Friendly” before it, that refuse to die because they’re all of life’s best feelings manifest as total bangers. Emma
IAMDDB – "Shade"
"Uber Uber everywhere!" Ryan
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