2. Young Thug, A$AP Ferg, and Freddie Gibbs - “Old English”
For years, Young Thug has been shunned by a lot of hip-hop fans who weren't ready for his high-pitched deliveries and slurred flows. Lately, though, Thug has found a way to incorporate his eccentric styles into something a little more structured. Everything we love about Thug is still there, but it's all reined in. This—plus the fact that artists like Ferg and Gibbs are partnering with him—is making harder and harder to hate on Young Thug in 2014.
Also, hat tip to Ferg for one of his wildest verses yet.—Confusion
3. Bon Iver - "Heavenly Father"
I kind of wanted to hate this song, because, you know, Zach Braff, but I should've known by now that almost everything that Justin Vernon touches is gold. Those pastoral elements are still there, but Vernon, sounding inspired and fresh, employs electronic elements and layers them for an uplifting feel. You can feel the yearning in his voice, so incredibly moving that it's almost palpable. I may not be looking forward to that new Zach Braff movie, but I'm certainly keeping my fingers crossed for more new material from Bon Iver.—Joyce
4. Cam'ron - "Talk About It"
While we wait for Cam'ron and A-Trak's collaborative Federal Reserve, Cam keeps us satisfied by releasing the first volume of his First Of The Month series. On it is standout track "Talk About It," where Cam is as lyrically strong as he's ever been. Though it's a new song, it's one that would've been just as home on Purple Haze. And fans of old Cam, you know that's a good thing.—Katie K.
5. Broods - "L.A.F."
New Zealand duo Broods has always shown signs of being able to make high quality pop, but they've been stepping it up lately. With their last song, "Mother & Father," they had one of their catchiest, most polished songs yet. With "L.A.F.," they prove that they're going to keep moving in the right direction. It's hard to imagine Broods not gaining some serious mainstream attention before the year's over. They deserve it.—Confusion
6. Allan Kingdom - "Positive"
I have no idea how many times I listened to Allan Kingdom's "Positive" this week. It's a big number. His entire Future Memoirs project is outstanding, but from the very first listen, it was "Positive" that had me in a trance that I haven't wanted to escape since. Music at its core is about self-expression, and the Bobby Raps-produced cut (which Allan revealed he freestyled in its entirety) is self-expression in its purest form.
Where the Minnesota native is typically collected, here he spills everything on his mind with no holds barred, allowing himself five minutes of vulnerability and admitted uncertainty. He cries, "Lately I've been thinking about going back to school, may be cool for my character, but am I being too positive?" and goes on to ponder the same regarding whether he should thank his mom and do good for his hood—or if he's just overthinking the situation entirely. "Positive" is a snapshot of an overwhelmingly transitional moment in a young artist's life, and the fact that it's actually a beautiful song is just a bonus.—Tim Larew
7. Gucci Mane ft. Chief Keef - "Top in the Trash"
Gucci Mane has released four albums in roughly the last month… and he's in jail. Even though his team is probably on the outside just compiling unreleased material, there's something really intriguing about this whole scenario. Gucci seems to have a plan, to stay as relevant as he possibly can despite being locked up until what's probably going to be 2016.
On his latest album, Trap House 4, Gucci keeps his momentum going, gifting us with the Chief Keef collaboration, "Top in the Trash." Over a staccato, piano-driven beat from Mike WILL Made It, Gucci hits punchline after punchline, while Chief Keef drawls aimlessly on about something or another (but that's why we love him). It's a perfect song to start your mornings, as Gucci raps, "I use Cristal for listerine, I brush my teeth with pure codeine."—Jules Muir
8. ZHU - "Faded (Lido Remix)"
ZHU's rise from anonymous phenom to one of the brighter spots in the growing dance music scene has been a highlight for 2014, but even greater is Lido and his dominance over the remix scene, as well as his I Love You EP for Pelican Fly. Having Lido adding his 200 cents to ZHU's "Faded" was a huge joy for those of us who love chilled beats, the catchiness of "Faded," and Lido's start-stop rhythm he laid for this... it's pure excellence. Hopefully you're faded with your booboo bear, and not talking to them via cellphone like "wish I was with you, #murica." Party hard, but party safe.—khal
9. OFEI - "WOW"
OFEI's music fits uncomfortably in any singular genre classification. Not quite soul, not quite electronic, it pulls from various sources to create a sound simultaneously forward-thinking and timeless—not in the sense that it is "classic," per se, but rather that it feels out of sync with any particular time.
On "WOW," a mournful piano melody provides the basis for OFEI's arresting, powerhouse voice, an instrument unto itself. The only elements that pull us into the 21st century are the synthesizers that erupt on the soaring hook, and even though feel of a piece with another time. Unusual music, to be sure, but affecting in a way unlike much being released.—Jon Tanners