Getty Image/Ralph Ordaz Since Uproxx has already shared the Best Songs of 2022, for the Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2022...
Since Uproxx has already shared the Best Songs of 2022, for the Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2022 list, I once again teamed up with Yoh Phillips to see if we couldn’t excavate some gems from an absolutely stacked year of rap releases. While the glut of new songs meant that it’d be physically impossible for anyone to listen to literally everything – or even a fraction of it, really – what we landed on was more of a list of our favorite songs.
These are the ones we couldn’t stop running back, that we had a gut reaction to, that changed our worldviews at least a little bit. That’s what a great song does, after all. It becomes part of you, whether it’s a hook you can’t stop singing, a beat you hear in your head all day long, or just a line that made you think about things a different way. Here are the songs that made us do that, the Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2022.
An emotional gut check of a song, “Do Better” hails from Ab-Soul’s upcoming album Herbert. In it, he details the past five years of his life, from getting lost in conspiracy theories to almost taking his own life. He vows to do as the title suggests, something we can all relate to and an example we all should follow. – Aaron Williams
“Yummy!” Yeah, J. Cole is still hijacking people’s records right out from under them – something he did a few times this year. “London” constitutes the strongest example, though, with Jermaine flexing his best English accent (he’s no Top Boy), dropping Beatles references, and leaving fans with one of his most amusing verses ever. We don’t believe him about being nervous about the collaboration, though. – AW
Cordae really elevated on his sophomore album From a Bird’s Eye View, but this song was ultimately the standout. While “Chronicles” was the big hit, this song forms the emotional center of the album, recalling how big dreams, when pursued, can take you places you never imagined. Even if those dreams are as humble as copping a $30,000 mid-size sedan. – AW
I tried to get clever with this one, but let’s face it: “Walkin” is probably going to be one of Denzel’s career bests when all is said and done. That beat worms its way into your head thanks to its loopy, soulful sample. But that’s just a delivery system for a motivational message that comes along at just the right time after the last couple of years. – AW
Say what you want about DJ Khaled. I get it. I really do. But. Who else pulls this kind of performance out of Jay-Z? You know the ones. They keep Twitter buzzing for a full 24 hours. They inspire the sort of “away message quotes” that the best Drake songs have been doing for the past decade or so. They make you think. They make you reach for the rewind button. That was Khaled. Give the man a break. – AW
A resolve as foreshadowing: Aubrey’s inclusion of Savage at the end of his polarizing house exercise served as crowd-pleasing on the surface, but prevailed as another irresistible mark of unexpected chemistry. Drake thrives on juxtaposition, opting for cruise control on another exercise in Memphis homage; Playa Fly this time. Aubrey’s comfortable, almost unbothered. Once the beat switches and tension increases, Savage takes full command, his voice piercing as he lands every punchline body. You know it’s Tay Keith, even without the tag. It’s menacing, celebratory, and yet another Degrassi reference. His fellow Canadians Struck Back; somehow, The Boy struck again. – Yoh Phillips
Billy Woods’ use of “Zimbabwe!” as an adlib justifies inclusion alone. That said, this Alchemist-helmed joint crawls along as we watch three iron blades sharpen themselves and each other. The pianos glimmer onward as the vocal chops quickly kick the door back in, and not a single word’s wasted as Earl, Woods, and E L U C I D dance at their own paces, in sync with the mission. We’re in the kitchen, the club, the hellfire, the darkness. There are warnings to heed, decisions to fix, and we’re only in control of what we do with our days. – YP
The most vulnerable song on Freddie Gibbs’ most vulnerable album, “Grandma’s Stove” puts all of Fred’s formidable storytelling skills on display. It’s the kind of song that he’s always had the capacity to make but wisely withheld for his “official” debut album. It’s a testament to how patience, resilience, and a true survivor’s mentality can elevate rap’s most basic mechanics to high art status. – AW
For the past decade, Nayvadius Wilburn’s been operating at a three-hit minimum per album (his latest is I Never Liked You), and that only counts what gets picked as singles. You’ll find at least two more hits in the album cuts; this TM88/Nils/Too Dope joint hits like comfort food you’d find on Pluto. Instantly identifiable by sonics as plush as content, the track is underscored by the haunting allure carrying all of Future’s oeuvre. He’s tread this territory many times over, but he ceaselessly finds new angles; earworms, syncopation, playing with pitch, and non-sequiturs galore. From the opening bells, we’re transported to places we can never access, craving premium desires and excess. – YP
The Breakout-Hit-to-Superstar-Remix Pipeline found Big Glo, mid-ascension with added firepower via signing to CMG, merging lanes with a recently-reinvigorated Cardi B who was primed to continue her summertime momentum. Thanks to the glistening production chaos provided by Macaroni Toni, GloRilla’s original balance between grounded optimism and unflinching confidence grants Cardi permission to kick it into overdrive. Lavish living, public drama, and the price of fame be damned. Quotables and captions abound, making for one of this year’s most aggressively-sellable hit records. The ladies mirror one another in energy and ethos: the homegirls from your hood who came up but will forever run down. – YP
Mantra, manifestation, Memphis. Hitkidd conducted the sound of the city; it’s all in the drum, the snare, the bounce. And by summer’s end, GloRilla lived up to her name: a day-long adventure with an overnight turnaround became one of the most immediately-impactful breakout singles of recent memory. That reach is best measured in the response to this boisterous track at any function since spring — and check the parking lot, too. Her commanding allure combines with a relatability you simply can’t program. The voice cuts through, the quotables abound, and the hook? A centerpiece to galvanize fed-up folks worldwide, at the expense of whoever dares try the team. – YP
For my money, IDK and Kaytranada’s Simple is one of the most criminally overlooked and underrated projects of the year. Shame on all of you for missing out on some of the most innovative production (of which “Taco” is a prime example; “Dog Food” is another) and blunt-but-incisive lyrics hip-hop had to offer in 2022. Dance and hip-hop have always born a kinship but this is the height of that combination thus far. – AW
NY Drill by way of the Bronx, inverted by gentler textures and shipped directly to the zeitgeist. In under two minutes, Ice Spice finessed her hometown framework with a playfulness unseen, her overnight rise gracing the cultural lexicon with a new term for pass-around, down-bad dudes still chasing. RIOTUSA supercharges the drill standard with an ominous warmth, leaving room for Spice’s nimble quips. She indulges her whimsical instincts, radiating confidence to spin new gold from the familiar, and neither overstates nor overstays. And if the dive through her old tweets granted her more converts? Y’all know she’ll be here a while. – YP
When JID sings in the opening verse of “Kody Blu 31,” a standout from The Forever Story, he echoes Sunday school services and bible study sessions with vocals rarely found in such a craftsman of intricate rhyme schemes. It’s a humble hymn, soulful in sound, both melancholy and motivational with sincerity. Although recorded in dedication to a friend, “Kody Blu 31” feels like a universal mantra that will be meaningful for years to come. – YP
Guns, violence, and mayhem were all themes mostly untouched by Dreamville Records until JID came in with his shouting evil twin Kenny Mason for a caliber of crunk turnt to the max. Their tag team on Dreamville’s Gangsta Grillz mixtape standout “Stick” is a Rambo rampage. The high energy feels intended for mosh-pits in festival settings where you can unloose and be free to yell, without a worry, “Stick! Stick! Stick!” – YP
From game show taboo to crossover arc, Latto delivers a record that feels furious and luxurious. This one’s an outline for a boss, guidelines if you will for the streets, the bed, and the bank. Latto’s charisma reaches a fever pitch, trading her usual power-punch cadence for a chilled, easy demeanor that lends power and presence to the accent. Pooh Beatz, FNZ, and Jetsonmade scored a feeling that sounds gives Fashion Week, and cashing in chips, and cashing out and about (the overall vibe of 777). Latto rises to the glamor at her most irresistible; it’s impossible not to feel like one of them ones. – YP
Black bloodshed: the quickest way to sell a record. The trenches: a site of life, as celebrity ensues. What is Durk Banks to do with his brothers gone, as some in the world gloat? This record’s one of the best of its class for every right and wrong reason. It’s menacing, urgent, and driving as Durk drops a dispatch from the wake of war. He acknowledges his grief, briefly. He checks the scoreboard, addressing the opposition. He even speaks to the feds and the fans (one and the same?) who make a spectacle of his reckoning. Durk dances under the same conditions. – YP
Lil Yachty’s one for happy accidents and was long overdue for another undeniable smash. Intentional or not, a leak granted him both: an absurdist earworm, its namesake coinciding with a nation ensnared in ongoing European catastrophes. But the song’s about lean and love and came from a joke about a water bottle. F1LTHY provided the rage for Boat to approach the operatic with deadpan conviction, and the world instantly embraced a left turn artist’s sharpest left turn yet. It’s the most Yachty context ever, and if Poland truly wants him over there, I’d hesitate to accept said invitation at this time. – YP
Mavi’s Laughing So Hard, It Hurts is charismatic, poetic, and tender – all reasons to delve into the album as a whole – but there is a singular quality to “Last Laugh,” the closing track. With brisk and concise reflection, it retraces the Charlotte-born rapper’s steps through crisis and come-of-age in a series of autobiographical verses that end with the assertion, “This tape is my only taped confession.” Confessional writing, stripped of everything except the will to be true, is layered with a conviction to honor the bruises earned to make this music as honest as it could be. – YP
Meg got back in her freestyle bag with this ruthless repartee to the thousands of keyboard critics who spent the past two years poking her over the worst time of her life. While it was probably directed at one or two in particular, its dismissive messaging and incredulous tone can apply to any number of situations for just about anybody who has had to deal with pocket watchers, haters, and trolls. – AW
Normally, it’d take a lot of gall to compare oneself to the late, great Michael Jackson – and even more to make the Michael/Quincy Jones comparison, since that combination yielded Thriller, one of the most successful albums of all time. And yet, you can’t help but wonder, after the Nas-Hit-Boy partnership produced four high-quality, career-reviving projects, if, at another time, we might have all agreed. – AW
Pusha T is a man who knows his role: to revel in wrongdoing and recount the remorse. Here and on his new album It’s Almost Dry, Push excels in reciting the vicious cycle on a technical and visual level, outlining the spoils of war, complete with the sharp corners and gunshots required to attain them. Grandiose yet subdued, the music rolls on like a soundtrack to a montage where our protagonist’s scarred but smiling after coming out on top. He cackles at the competition, he resents silly questions, and he flashes back to every vein in vain and raid gone awry. Still, King Push lives his own myths. – YP
Migos members Quavo and the late Takeoff downsizing to duo Unc & Phew found the Norf Atlanta legends still in pursuit of highly contagious, rhythmically loose rap anthems for the young, rich, and handsome. “Hotel Lobby” delivers. Not quite a hit, but there is something so satisfying about hearing them excited and enthused, witty and assured, exuding never going to fail, never going to fall bravado. So lively, so sturdy, so simple, but it’s fun, magnetic music that ends too soon. – YP
When I finished Rexx Life Raj’s new album The Blue Hour, I was in tears. It wasn’t a terribly convenient time for them either, which just goes to show the sort of emotional impact the deeply confessional love letter to his late mom was. “Sunset Over College Park,” the album’s closer, was the song that did me in. Call your mom. – AW
Titular irony aside, “Let Me Be Great” is one of the shining moments from Sampa’s comeback album, As Above So Below, that made me call it one of the top five hip-hop albums of the year. Ending the album with such a powerful closing statement, Sampa earned that distinction both with the quality of the songs on the project and a razor-sharp sequencing sensibility. – AW
Smino’s return album, Luv 4 Rent, offered all of the psychedelic soul anyone could want. “No L’s” offers a prime example of Smino’s gift for wordplay, referencing both his inability to lose and his ineligibility to operate a motor vehicle. There’s a gift and a curse in everything, it seems to say, and Smi is willing to accept it all, knowing he’s going to keep going ‘til the wheels fall off. – AW
Look, “When Sparks Fly” is undoubtedly the best song from Vince’s magnum opus, Ramona Park Broke My Heart. But even I’ll admit it’s a bit of a downer – and my half of this list is pretty much full of them. Fortunately, I covered that one on our big list for the year, clearing the way for the hood favorite. Turn up! – AW
Boogie is still in his feelings. More Black Superheroes, one of the best-titled projects of the year, finds the Compton rapper oscillating between late-night introspection and offering more topical reflections, but he’s still at his absolute best when he’s admitting his faults – even if it seems like he’s relishing in them more than he’s trying to change. – AW
How it feels atop the throne of a Tonka. As Yeat etches his legacy in a slurry of new formations — be they in the words he invents, or the layering of his voice — this BNYX-helmed record rings bigger and more menacing than anything else on its level. Yeat’s on cruise control for the coronation because there’s no turning away from what he’s becoming. Trimmed with subtle gratitude and a mutating attitude, as the opening clip implies, this is a winner’s theme, bred for live calamity and every subwoofer in sight. – YP
For my money, Compton’s motley collection of rappers had the best releases of the year (yes, I am BIASED. This has been well-established. Let’s move on, shall we?). YG’s new album I Got Issues falls into that category too. How could it not, when he steps out of his comfort zone while still sticking to the formula that made him? For example, crooning like Mary J. Blige – AW
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.
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