1. Drake "Started From The Bottom"
Album: Nothing Was the Same
Producer: Mike Zombie,Noah "40" Shebib
Label: Young Money/Cash Money/Republic
We always knew Drake was calculated. But we're beginning to suspect that he takes his plotting to levels we hadn't suspected. Like, that he writes his rhymes with social media in mind. Can't you picture him, typing the words "started from the bottom, now we're here" on his phone, a little light bulb appearing over his head as he thinks, "Hey, this would make a Facebook status next to some show-offy picture!" Quick, catchy, hashtag-ready phrases that can fit into a tweet or status: That's 21st-century-style writing. And Drake has mastered it. "Started from the bottom, now we're here." It works for so many situations. It's instantaneously personal and relatable whether you're an intern who finally got a job or you just won the NBA championship. In seven short words, Drake is able to sum up the common man's struggle without having to sacrifice his superstar appeal.
As far as the song, it's one of the most distinctive records of the year. Drake isn't quite rapping, but he isn't singing either. He's chanting, syllables choppy and terse. That's why Mike Zombie's drums are so crucial to the appeal of the song. Over the years, Drake and 40 have built a synthy soundscape based on Kanye's 808s, but most of their tunes were so gelatinous and subtle-Zombie's drums bring some much-needed bombast. Meanwhile, on the verses, in his lyrics, Drake takes control of his own narrative, retelling his story of struggle in a favorable light. As usual, he infuriates his haters, while feeding those of us who love him just what we want. Did Drake really start from the bottom? Who knows? Who cares? He's certainly on top right now. —Insanul Ahmed