The 50 Best Songs of 2016

The 50 songs written about here all have at least one fierce champion on our staff; most have more than one. These are the songs we cared about the most.

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In a year where the album suddenly mattered more than any of us could have anticipated, there was less consensus around the essential songs of the year (save a few). Albums like Lemonade and Anti contained definitive statements of purpose, but an equally excellent album like Blonde divided listeners into factions. (If you’ve made poor texting decisions because of “Self Control,” please know that you’re not alone.)

The 50 songs written about here all have at least one fierce champion on our staff; most have more than one. These are the songs we cared about, the ones that mattered to many. These are the best songs of 2016.

Don't agree with our list? Re-rank the top songs in our Facebook Messenger bot.

50. Desiigner "Tiimmy Turner"

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Producer: Mike Dean

Album: N/A

The freestyle that launched a thousand hot takes. Desiigner’s had an intriguing year; the 19-year-old Brooklynite can’t even legally buy beer in his hometown, but he’s now the newest, brightest face on G.O.O.D. Music. For many, the sinister harmonies and new English he employed on “Tiimmy Turner” might sound indecipherable, but the tale it tells, a tortured protagonist (likely) destined for violence and his soul destined for hell, speaks sanguinely to his pursuit of a life outside of what’s predestined for many young black men. —khal

49. Kanye West, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Desiigner, Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, Quavo, and Yo Gotti "Champions"

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Producer: Kanye West, A-Trak, Lex Luger, Mike Dean

Album: N/A

A boisterous party from the G.O.O.D. Music crew, “Champions” exists to show that Kanye is, when so inclined, still more than capable of marshaling the best posse cuts in the game. It’s a motley crew in this case, pairing up some time-tested favorites with (occasionally counterintuitive) newcomers. Gucci Mane, though, shines especially brigh. In one of his first verses after coming out of prison, he sounds calm, cool, and, above all, charismatic. —Brendan Klinkenberg

48. Noname f/ Cam O'bi and Raury "Diddy Bop"

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Producer: Phoelix, Cam O'bi 

Album: Telefone

“I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready,” Noname assures, as one of the warmest beats of the year opens. She kept fans waiting after bursting onto the scene with a scene-stealing verse on Chance The Rapper’s “Lost” back in 2013, but her return surpassed all expectations. “Diddy Bop” is the best distillation of her appeal; a nostalgic missive about summertime Chicago and stealing 20s from your mom’s purse with a novelistic eye for character and detail. It’s overflowing with soul, and marks the true debut for an up-and-coming star. —Brendan Klinkenberg

47. Meek Mill f/ Young Thug and 21 Savage "Offended"

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Producer: Murda, CuBeatz, OZ

Album: DC4

This is mean-mug music at its finest. The overly cynical will be quick to point out that Meek Mill has the third-best verse on his own song. But I've always felt it important to differentiate between the host of a song getting "murdered," per se, and simply getting out-rapped. Meek does fine here, and at the end of the day it's his project, serving as another solid step toward a comeback. Can you really blame him for getting eclipsed in the 2016th year of our Lord, wherein Young Thug's powers grew to unpredictable proportions and 21 Savage grimaced his way into becoming the head of rap's freshman class? Thug does his thing, but it's the Savage who walks away with this song. If you were on the fence about his talents before, after you've heard him start his verse with "I been done shot a nigga" and only get more enthrallingly violent from there, you'll have fallen over to his side, hopefully unharmed for your doubts. —Frazier Tharpe

46. Lil Yachty "1night"

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Producer: TheGoodPerry

Album: Lil Boat

Yachty’s goofy ode to casual sex was a major breakout moment for one of the most polarizing artists of the year. Although he’s delivered solid guest features throughout his career, “1night,” in all its quirky, laid-back charm, proved that he could stand on his own as an off-beat hitmaker. Its wild video—featuring Technicolor glitch art, kittens, and, of course, boats—certainly didn’t hurt either. Whether you love or hate Lil Boat, it’s hard to deny that he killed it in 2016 with a solid work ethic and positive music. —Chris Mench

45. 21 Savage "No Heart"

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Producer: Metro Boomin

Album: Savage Mode

If I were Tyga, I would take a long hard listen to this song before so much as gesturing in the direction of 21 Savage, the cat with the MAC. The Atlanta MC who, while you were playing Nintendo, was playing with pistols. Who was knocking individuals out like Holyfield in the 9th grade. Who knows you love sneak dissing on Twitter, and sees you doing it. Who, fundamentally, grew up in the streets without a heart. “Savage, I was just playin.” [shruggie emoji]. —Ross Scarano

44. Bruno Mars "That's What I Like"

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Producer: Shampoo Press & Curl

Album: 24K Magic

Bruno Mars’ brand of pop R&B shines on his latest album 24K Magic, and nothing showcases the blend of retro vibes and playful lyricism he hits on the album better than “That’s What I Like.” Set to an infectious backdrop from Shampoo Press & Curl and the Stereotypes, the record tunes into Mars’ pursuit of a woman, who he offers his wallet up to, among other things. The result is a melodic feat that you won’t be able to get out of your head, even into the New Year. —Edwin Ortiz

43. Young Thug f/ Wyclef Jean "Kanye West"

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Producer: Cassius Jay, Wheezy

Album: Jeffery

Listening to “Kanye West” with a friend, she admitted that—despite the lyrics—Young Thug makes songs that “sound like the kind of music children would make.” It was her first time hearing the song and, for the rest of the day, “wet, wet” became a persistent refrain, an inside joke between us despite the fact that it seemingly everyone was listening to the widely celebrated album. Jeffery is a bizarre, sometimes perplexingly beautiful romp through Young Thug’s brain; “Kanye West” is the sweet, surprising ode to messy sex that kicks it off. Let me never forget the sound of the real Wyclef intoning Thugger’s birth name like a gentle schoolteacher taking attendance. —Ross Scarano

42. DJ Snake f/ Justin Bieber "Let Me Love You"

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Producer: DJ Snake

Album: Encore

Trap may be DJ Snake’s bread and butter, but he’s no stranger to pop. If you need proof, just throw on “Let Me Love You.” The melody lays the groundwork for Justin Bieber’s tender vocals about a relationship that has him on the brink of heartbreak. It’s blue without getting too deep. “Let Me Love You” stands as a highlight in Snake’s catalog, one that will continue to grow in the coming years. —Edwin Ortiz

41. 2 Chainz f/ Gucci Mane and Quavo "Good Drank"

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Producer: Mike Dean

Album: Hibachi for Lunch

You'd be hard pressed to find a bad verse from 2 Chainz in 2016. He shined with a number of projects,and his Hibachi for Lunch mixtape stood out alongside full-length Collegrove to prove that this dude is always consistent. Its standout, "Good Drank," brought together Chainz, Quavo and Gucci Mane over a hypnotic Mike Dean beat. The smooth trap extravaganza not only features stellar verses from Chainz and Gucci, but boasts a ridiculous—and ridiculously catchy—hook from Quavo: "She said the Molly gave her thizz face, put the dick in her rib cage, whips out, Kunta Kinte, diamonds clear like bombay, take ya babies no Harambe,” the Migos star croons. We'll be alright if you put Quavo on every hook. —Zach Frydenlund

40. Kid Cudi "Surfin"

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Producer: Pharrell Williams

Album: Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin'

Wave riding may be the norm in 2016, but Kid Cudi makes it clear on the triumphant “Surfin’” that he’s not with it—he’s too busy riding his own. Lest we forget, Cudi is the wave creator even stadium status acts have replicated for their own gain. “Makin' what I want and that's a flex/Can't do what you want, now ain't that a bitch?” he sing-raps over Pharrell’s anthemic production. Get on Cudi’s wave. —Edwin Ortiz

39. Pusha T f/ Jay Z "Drug Dealers Anonymous"

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Producer: DJ Dahi

Album: N/A

The long-awaited collaboration by two hip-hop greats delivered on just about everything fans hoped for. Jay Z and Pusha T have rapped extensively about their past lives, but hearing them tag-team hustling on their first song together felt absolutely right. Sampling perpetually angry Blaze host Tomi Lahren’s attempt at a Jay takedown was the cherry on top. —Chris Mench

38. Lady Gaga "Million Reasons"

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Producer: Lady Gaga, Blood, Mark Ronson

Album: Joanne

In 2011, I fell in love with my first Lady Gaga song, when she opened the VMAs with "You and I," a cinematic showstopper. It was the only song of hers I owned and for a long time I figured it’d stay that way. Imagine my delight, then, when she billed her new album as a country-pop-rock hybrid. I couldn't wait for a spiritual sequel to “You and I,” and she delivered with “Million Reasons,” a sparse ballad tailor-made to score the emotional fallout in Act 2 of a Katherine Heigl movie (in a good way). But really, “Million Reasons” is an argument that Lady Joanne's talent is glimpsed best when the costumes are shelved and the stage is bare. My Gaga collection, though? A lot less bare now. —Frazier Tharpe

37. Ty Dolla $ign "Zaddy"

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Producer: Frank Dukes, Jahaan Sweet, Ty Dolla Sign

Album: Campaign

Ty Dolla Sign is the funniest lyricist in contemporary R&B (“You found that rubber in the trash can/I said, ‘When the fuck did you become the trash man?’”). “Zaddy” isn’t a joke song, but it does elicit goofy smiles, a self-aware but not self-conscious feeling of “this is dumb but I could not love it more.” I’m not advocating for saying “zamn, zaddy” in your everyday life, but maybe there’s room in your heart for a zaddy who will run up the budget, who will pull up to do your favorite unmentionable things. —Ross Scarano

36. Mac Miller "Planet God Damn"

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Producer: Vinylz, Frank Dukes, Aja Grant

Album: The Divine Feminine

Mac Miller’s pivot toward love and relationships on The Divine Feminine unlocked a more honest, mature side of the rapper. “Planet God Damn” showcases this growth over an incredibly smooth beat that would have certainly felt out of place five years ago. Mac makes it work now, and guest vocalist Njomza turns in a performance that will keep you coming back for more. “A little more pain, that's just better music,” Mac raps calmly. He experienced that here, and so do we. —Edwin Ortiz

35. Schoolboy Q f/ Kanye West "That Part"

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Producer: Yung Exclusive, CuBeatz, Cardo

Album: Blank Face LP

This song is fun and catchy where the rest of Blank Face LP is gnarly and impenetrable. Q’s verse meanders casually around the expression “that part” and Kanye raps about...Chipotle and the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman? And then there’s a breakdown where the beat—from Cardo, Yung Exclusive, Cubeatz, and Sounwave—uncouples from the foundation like a spaceship undocking and Kanye makes all manner of noises. Kanye doesn’t care about words anymore. He’s almost beyond sound. —Ross Scarano

34. Calvin Harris f/ Rihanna "This Is What You Came For"

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Producer: Calvin Harris

Album: N/A

Has there ever been a voice more suited to digital manipulation than Rihanna’s? Chopped, pitched, filtered—it withstands anything thrown at it to remain immediately recognizable, wholly her own. That indelible quality is deployed with devastating effectiveness by Calvin Harris here, with a subtle helping hand on writing duties from then-girlfriend and reigning pop savant Taylor Swift. The end result is a designer drug of a pop song—perfectly calibrated to not waste a single moment, note, or handclap, it releases as many endorphins as possible in its brief 3 minutes and 42 seconds. Until you hit play again, that is. —Brendan Klinkenberg

33. Childish Gambino "Redbone"

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Producer: Childish Gambino, Vinylz, Ludwig Göransson

Album: "Awaken, My Love!"

Many tracks on Gambino’s polarizing "Awaken, My Love!" are an overt homage to George Clinton and his many offshoots; indeed, "Redbone" immediately brings to mind Bootsy Collins' "I'd Rather Be With You," with glockenspiels and wah guitars clanging in unison over drunken slap bass. It's a pretty unmistakable combination, and Glover and his (uncredited) band nails it. There are some moments on Awaken that veer toward P-Funk pantomime, but "Redbone" is tribute done right. —Alex Gale

32. Drake "Controlla"

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Producer: Supa Dups, Di Genius, Allen Ritter, Boi-1da

Album: Views

On “Controlla,” a man finds himself uncharacteristically sprung. The object of Drake’s affection is seductively selfish, dominant even, and he’s left squirming. “I do it how you say you want it,” Drake coos. “Do things when you want me to.” He may be calling the shots in the sheets (“go fast, go slow”), but, no doubt, she is the controlla in question. That might be why both the two biggest baddies you know (your girl and your mom) consider Drake’s dancehall foray (bolstered by a sample from Beenie Man’s “Tear Off Mi Garment") their favorite song to salsa to. —Shanté Cosme

31. Kanye West "Ultralight Beam"

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Producer: Swizz Beatz, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, Mike Dean

Album: The Life of Pablo

This is gospel music. "Ultralight Beam" works as a spiritual cleanse—each angelic voice drips sounds of soul onto your brain, and then Chance pops up and sets everything on fire. The little girl in the beginning and Kirk Franklin at the end make Kanye’s point clear for him: youthful positivity can keep an adult from going insane living in a world of depression and insecurity. “Ultralight Beam” is audio weed, Xanax on wax, and a bible verse rolled into one. Play it and get high to the Most High. —Angel Diaz

30. Kendrick Lamar "Untitled 07 | Levitate"

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Producer: Frank Dukes, Cardo, Yung Exclusive, Egypt Dean

Album: untitled unmastered

In a year where Kendrick drew more attention for his guest verses than his solo success, "Untitled 07 | Levitate" stood out as a moment of true, standalone virtuosity for the perennial best-rapper-alive candidate. A leftover from To Pimp A Butterfly, the song is as a celebration of all that album achieved for Kendrick. It’s quick, furious, weird, and artful; in short, a summation of what Kendrick is capable of at his very best. And, when you think about how good Kendrick is, remember: he left this on the cutting room floor. —Chris Mench

Don't agree with our list? Re-rank the top songs in our Facebook Messenger bot.

29. Danny Brown f/ Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, and Ab-Soul "Really Doe"

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Producer: Black Milk

Album: Atrocity Exhibition

A musical scholar, Danny Brown knows the art of rap well enough to recruit the best tacticians in the game in Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, and Ab-Soul—and the confidence to be sure that none of them pull a “Renegade.” Each takes a turn picking apart the unworthy over a menacing bell loop from Brown’s fellow Detroit veteran Black Milk. The worst thing about the track is trying to pick whose verse comes out on top. —Ian Servantes

28. Kaytranada "Lite Spots"

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Producer: Kaytranada

Album: 99.9%

Gal Costa: Look her up if you don’t already know. Kaytranada, an ecstatic producer who released the genre-defying 99.9% this year, samples the voice of the influential member of Brazil’s Tropicalismo movement with love, manipulating her song “Pontos de Luz” (“points of light” in Portuguese) into an overwhelming party starter that, while you’re living it, sounds like the best music ever recorded. —Ross Scarano

27. Young Thug "Digits"

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Producer: London on da Track

Album: Slime Season 3

Young Thug’s thinking about his legacy. Underneath London on da Track’s surreal beat and bars about fart noises, “Digits” is a surprisingly poignant song about death and how, in turn, the concept of death defines the meaning of life. Thugger knows he’s going to die, but that’s simply motivation. It’s heavy stuff, made more impressive because it’s delivered by a guy who just a year ago rapped about riding in some pussy like a stroller. Young Thug’s 2016 was defined by maturation as an artist and a person, and no song exemplifies that more than this one.  —Andrew Gruttadaro

26. Sampha "Timmy's Prayer"

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Producer: Sampha and Rodaidh McDonald

Album: Process

When Sampha cries, "I messed up!" I relate to it on a personal level. It's triggering because I know I ain't shit and may never be shit. Ruining a meaningful relationship due to ain't-shitness is one of the worst feelings in the world—especially when your ain’t-shitness has resulted in uncorrectable mistakes. True, when you listen to the song you feel like Sampha’s turning your emotions into art, and that’s a relief. But only for a few minutes. —Angel Diaz

25. Partynextdoor f/ Drake "Come and See Me"

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Producer: Noah '40' Shebib

Album: P3

Partynextdoor isn’t new to getting listeners in their feelings. But on the debut single from P3, every element of the Noah '40' Shebib produced track, from the gloomy piano notes to the spare percussion, is infused with longing. “You don’t ever come to me,” he points out. Party’s voice is lush with emotion; you’ve never heard a more wistful booty call. This is peak thirst tinged with salty tears, like a “come thru” or “u up” text punctuated by sad face emojis. “It’s after 2 a.m. and that’s asking a lot of you right now,” he offers, but it’s probably just lust parading as empathy. Drake’s feature adds more melancholy, injecting this requiem for a relationship that could have been with another layer of lonely boy. —Shanté Cosme

24. Migos f/ Lil Uzi Vert "Bad and Boujee"

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Producer: Metro Boomin

Album: N/A

Migos bounced back from a lackluster 2015 thanks, in large part, to this track with Lil Uzi Vert. Prior to the slow-burning Metro Boomin-produced track blowing up, there were serious questions about the status of the trio going forward. Then the world heard the words “Rain drops/Drop tops” and everything changed. The track is lurching and confident, with the kind of beat that’s sure of its own appeal, and knows not to step outside of the pocket. It’s an unlikely hit, but you try listening just once. —Zach Frydenlund

23. The Weeknd, "Reminder"

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Producer: Mano, Doc McKinney, Cirkut

Album: Starboy

In 2016, the Weeknd became straight-up pop star, and there's nothing wrong with that. His pop humbers make you appreciate it more when he goes back to his darker House of Balloons roots. We don't see it as often now, but Abel taps into that old energy on the Starboy standout "Reminder," where he serves up a fresh message to his peers: As he points out on the hook, R&B in 2016 still runs through him, whether they like it or not. —Zach Frydenlund

22. French Montana f/ Kodak Black "Lockjaw"

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Producer: Ben Billions

Album: Wave Gods

A banger that plays as both a celebration of drugs that literally make your jaws lock up and an anti-snitching proclamation—this is where we’re at in 2016. French is known for cultivating monumental hooks, and his collab with Kodak Black is a beast. As far as coded language goes, “Lockjaw” breaks down federal surveillance, the pursuit of the almighty dollar, and how many guns cats roll around with. The same story as countless other tracks, but over that infectious beat? A 2016 party was incomplete if it wasn’t rocking to this one at some point. —khal

21. Young M.A "OOOUUU"

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Producer: NY Bangers

Album: N/A

While Brooklyn’s own Young M.A first made a splash back in 2014 (word to her “Chiraq” freestyle), her 2016 smash “OOOUUU” had her hometown, Beyoncé, and pretty much the the entire globe on tilt. Instead of her usual furious lyrics, she slowed things down to let the just about everyone to get their two-step on. “OOOUUU” was the surprise party anthem that 2016 needed, and while you should be tired of people saying various new rappers are “bringing New York back,” it’s dope to see M.A put on for the city while breaking the mold for what a woman on the mic should look or sound like. —khal

20. Kamaiyah "How Does It Feel"

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Producer: C.T. Beatz

Album: A Good Night in the Ghetto

I was a little late to Kamaiyah, but once I heard A Good Night in the Ghetto, that was it for me: it was on loop for weeks. Her debut mixtape proved that she’s the hottest thing out of the Bay Area, and “How Does It Feel?” is its clear standout. An inspirational song that’ll make you want to fuck shit up at your job, it’s the rare anthem that immediately proves a mostly unknown artist is a star. —Karizza Sanchez

Don't agree with our list? Re-rank the top songs in our Facebook Messenger bot.

19. Lil Uzi Vert "Money Longer"

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Producer: Maaly Raw, DJ Don Cannon

Album: Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World

No song was more instrumental to the breakout success of Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World than “Money Longer.” The song lays out Uzi’s unlikely road to stardom, and the MC approaches the subject with the carefree attitude he’s preached since day one. “Money Longer” proved his punchy, sing-song style could cross over, and made him an artist to keep an eye on in 2017. —Chris Mench

18. Drake "4PM in Calabasas"

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17. A Tribe Called Quest "Dis Generation"

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Producer: Q-Tip, Blair Wells

Album: We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service

This is the track on We Got It From Here that perfectly captures everything that made Tribe one of the most influential groups of all time. The glorious production is vintage Tribe, with beautiful guitars riding over a funky, propulsive rhythm, while Q-Tip, Jarobi, Phife Dawg, and Busta Rhymes give-and-go like seasoned pros. As beautiful as it is, it’s also sad, because this is the last time this conglomerate will be heard together. The track speaks to the artists who are carrying on Tribe’s spirit today; we can only hope that the torch is kept lit for the future. —khal

16. Travis Scott "Through the Late Night"

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Producer: CuBeatz, Cardi

Album: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight

Fans have long been waiting for a collaboration between Travis Scott and his long-cited inspiration Kid Cudi, and “Through the Late Night” didn’t disappoint. A welcome return to form for Kid Cudi after his polarizing Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, “Through the Late Night” isn’t just a vehicle for Cudder—it’s a banger because of Travis. And while “stroke my cactus” probably won’t be working its way into everyday vernacular, the spaced-out track is exactly what we needed from both artists. —Chris Mench

15. Fat Joe, Remy Ma, and Jay Z f/ French Montana and Infrared "All the Way Up (Remix)"

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Producer: Cool & Dre, Edclusive

Album: N/A

"The remix for the city, let's just start snapping," the GOAT murmurs as he prepared to launch his first verse in almost three full years. The gravity of the moment jumps into focus. Here's Jay Z, spitting his first bars since his wife made a hellified album from the perspective of a woman scorned, on a track with a New York peer, and the only other thing they have in common is mutual disdain. Was this as momentous as it was for everyone outside the niche New York rap historian bubble? Considering both Joe and Remy Ma turned in new, harder verses, I'd fucking say so. And as for the Old Man, is this his best verse? Far from it. But at 46 and a little rusty, who else but the gotdamn Greatest ever can address every issue at their feet in one deftly executed quadruple-entendre of a kicker? Keep your biased slander to a whisper, New York City is busy turning up. —Frazier Tharpe

14. Rihanna "Needed Me"

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Producer: DJ Mustard, Twice as Nice, Frank Dukes, Kuk Harrell

Album: Anti

Rihanna made the Savage's National Anthem with "Needed Me." Who is she subbing when she sings "You was just another nigga on the hit list"? I have some ideas, but the damage has been done, so I'ma chill. No need to add insult to injury. "I never told you, you can have it." Ouch. Hard to go through life knowing you were just an itch Bad Gal RiRi needed to scratch. —Angel Diaz

13. Desiigner "Panda" / Kanye West "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2"

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Producer: Menace, Kanye West, Rick Rubin, Plain Pat, Caroline Shaw

Album: The Life of Pablo

“Panda” defies explanation. It’s a song of Atlanta, by a kid from Brooklyn who sounds like he’s from London. It’s dark, insular, barely comprehensible on first listen, yet improbably one of the year’s catchiest songs. The chorus is just one word—"Panda"—repeated ad infinitum. Kanye got his hands on it and remade it into another one of the year’s best songs—again. Somehow, it went to No. 1. We’re not sure how this happened, or why, or what it all means. Instead, we’re not going to question it too much and just be glad “Panda” exists at all. —Brendan Klinkenberg

12. Beyonce "Sorry"

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11. Frank Ocean "Nights"

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Producer: Michael Uzowuru, Vegyn, Buddy Ross

Album: Blonde

Picking a favorite song from Blonde is an near-impossible exercise. How do you pick a single track from an album this consistently excellent? If there’s one that encapsulates the record, though, it’s “Nights.” The night shift, when the world slows down and makes the monotony of life seem even greater, is ripe for rumination. Frank uses the time to dress down a former lover before the track slows, his voices pitches up, and he indulges in a sweeter brand of nostalgia. It’s destructive and soothing, like a night out and a day in recovery. —Ian Servantes

10. Drake f/ Wizkid and Kyla "One Dance"

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Producer: Nineteen85, DJ Maphorisa, Noah "40" Shebib, Wizkid, Sarz

Album: Views

Drake finally got his own No. 1 song. It took years, and more than a few close calls (sorry, “Hotline Bling"), but from the first listen, the success of “One Dance felt inevitable. The song embodied the platonic ideal of a hit in 2016, pulling elements from across the black diaspora—it’s Drake’s singing in patois, featuring a Nigerian hitmaker, and drafting the singer of a British house anthem—to bear at precisely the right moment. Topping the charts was a mere formality. Drake has always had an unnerving ability to create songs that stick with you, but this is where his full arsenal of skills comes into play. Booming yet delicate, catchy yet adventurous; we’re going to be hearing this song for a very, very long time. —Brendan Klinkenberg

Don't agree with our list? Re-rank our top songs in our Facebook Messenger bot. 


9. Young Thug "With Them"

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Producer: Mike Will Made-It

Album: Slime Season 3

The beat for “With Them” is one of the best of the year—catchy and menacing in equal measures, a bouncy, impossibly simple banger from Mike Will Made-It and, despite a lack of any kind of pop instinct, it catches hold of you in its very first bars. It’s a dare: the kind of beat any rapper could sound good over, the kind of beat to bring your A-game to. Which is why what Thug does with it is so thrilling—structureless, dazzling, bizarre—the hook sounds like a verse and each verse sounds like a combination of hooks. Thug isn’t just leading the pack anymore, he’s creating something entirely new. —Brendan Klinkenberg

8. D.R.A.M. f/ Lil Yachty "Broccoli"

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Producer: J-Gramm, Rogét Chahayed, Karl Rubin

Album: Big Baby D.R.A.M.

This song is, simply, a delight. From the plinky piano chords to the unforgettable flute line, “Broccoli” is aggressively winsome—it’s hard to believe hip-hop can be this twee. The whimsy extends to the rapping: Yachty and D.R.A.M. both deliver star turns here, and D.R.A.M.’s detour into the praises of “salmon on a bagel with the capers on a square plate” remains the most charming moment committed to song this year. It was a surprise when this began climbing the charts, but it shouldn’t have been—who doesn’t want pre-packaged joy?Brendan Klinkenberg

7. Young Thug and Travis Scott f/ Quavo "Pick Up the Phone"

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Producer: Vinylz, Frank Dukes

Album: Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

Young Thug and Travis Scott are like Shaq and Kobe in their prime—stars in their own right, but when they hit together, the chemistry is off the charts. On "Pick Up the Phone," the partnership reaches another level. The sunny trap love ballad is near perfect, and just when you think it couldn't get any better, Quavo delivers a godly verse in which he ends up naming Travis' album, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight. We need a full album of Travis and Thug to happen before the earth explodes. Let us have this one. —Zach Frydenlund

6. Rae Sremmurd f/ Gucci Mane "Black Beatles"

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Producer: Mike Will Made It

Album: SremmLife2

In a year in which Pepe the Frog was turned into a hate symbol, it’s encouraging to see that memes can still be a force for good. The Mannequin Challenge propelled “Black Beatles,” the dreamy standout single lost in a relatively underwhelming Sremmlife 2, to its rightful place atop the charts. Mike Will Made-It’s floating synths and Swae Lee’s penchant for hooks are a powerful intoxicant—it’s a high so good even Paul McCartney himself couldn’t resist.—Ian Servantes

5. Chance the Rapper f/ 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne "No Problem"

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Producer: Brass Tracks

Album: Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper’s #NoLabelsEverything stance has never been more evident or effective than on “No Problem.” His lyrics denouncing record labels bounce over Brasstracks’ bright mid-tempo production, a combo that sounds like Chance is celebrating a victory lap for glowing up dolo. He even got Wayne to go in with a gospel choir behind him. Two Grammy nods for “No Problem” (Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance) should cement the legacy of this record. We have zero problems with that, big fella. —Edwin Ortiz

4. Solange "Cranes in the Sky"

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Producer: Raphael Saadiq, Solange Knowles

Album: A Seat At The Table

How many tears have been shed to this track since Solange gave the hood A Seat At the Table? A Titanic's worth? Her voice rains down steadily over keys, drums, and bass, like the voice of your grandmother when you're sick. When you’re going through some shit and press play on this, you feel like one of the most beautiful people in the world. This is an anthem for mental health, and we needed it. —Angel Diaz

3. Kanye West "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1"

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Producer: Kanye West, Mike Dean, Rick Rubin, Metro Boomin, DJ Dodger Stadium, Allen Ritter, Noah Goldstein

Album: The Life of Pablo

Pure, unadulterated glory in the midst of 2016's misery was rare and brief. Case in point: the long awaited reunion of Kanye and his most prodigal protégé, Kid Cudi, lasts a paltry two minutes and 15 seconds. Would it have been nice if Ye had better things to rap about than bleached butts? Yes. Could more G.O.O.D. Music compatriots have added verses to lengthen the song into something more substantial before it pivots to "Panda"? Totally. But what we have is still a joyous, party-exploding reminder of what Kanye West is capable of when he's at his best. —Frazier Tharpe

2. Rihanna f/ Drake "Work"

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Producer: Boi-1da, Noah "40" Shebib, Kuk Harrell

Album: Anti

“Work” demands to be listened to, on repeat, all the time. Once is never enough. And while it’s true that Partynextdoor’s demo is wonderful in its own right, Rihanna’s edits and performance turned it out most completely. That is to say, accept no substitutes. (What was he thinking, singing about hepatitis?) At the risk of playing myself, I’ll add that there’s something wonderful about the looseness of Rihanna’s delivery, the near-slur in her voice. This year, no song started a party faster, or moved you closer to the person who made you forget about the party. —Ross Scarano

1. Beyonce, "Formation"

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