40. XV - "Awesome"
Classic hip-hop boast meets a mesmerizing beat. Perfect for days when you need to dust dirt off your shoulder.
39. Big K.R.I.T. - "The Vent"
A grim soliloquy on modern life and career confusion, the track threatening to come undone under the whirlwind of its own heft.
38. Young Jeezy Feat. Jay-Z and Andre 3000
© Def Jam
Drug-as-lady metaphors are nothing new in rap, but damn do these guys make it sound good. Jeezy and Jay-Z take turns recalling their love affair with Lady C (I, Jay-Z, take this unlawful lady to have and to hold until the task force roll"), while Andre 3000 brings it home with a literal and remarkable take on matrimony.
37. Drake - "Marvin's Room"
© Young Money
In which Drake drunk-calls an ex and looks pathetic doing it. That Drake is willing to wear his heart on his sleeves is a commendable act in a genre obsessed with machismo.
36. Raekwon Feat. Rick Ross - "Molasses"
© Ice Water
Everyone chips in to make this a memorable song, especially Rick Ross who drops the year's most important rhyme here: "Twitter thug, I'm the Timeline Strangler."
35. Phonte - "The Good Fight"
Phonte riffs on funemployment with the eyes of a man who's won some, lost some ("If you're thinking about quitting you should probably wait, 'cause everybody gotta do a job that they hate) and the nose of a pragmatic visionary ("Everybody prays for the day that they see the light, but the light at the end of the tunnel is a train").
34. Freddie Gibbs - "187 Proof"
No preambling. Straight rapid-fire from the opening snare. Gibbs makes music with the streets in mind and "187 Proof" is no different. It's also typical of Gibbs to speak from the heart. "I speak a foreign language, I think they call it the truth," he reminds us on the Justice L.E.A.G.U.E. trunk rattler.
33. Kanye West - "Eyes Closed"
© Marco Torres
Supposedly a leftover from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. If that's the case, that session must have been one hell of a royal feast. This little nugget here is old school Yeezy. No self-indulgent rhymes. No 7-minute tailoffs, as on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Just a teary-eyed boy and a crockpot.
32. Azealia Banks - "212"
Azealia Banks taps into the power of vocal shifts and musical breaks on her smashmouth single. Dirty talk never sounded so good.
31. Lil Wayne - "6 Foot 7 Foot"
Remember how every rapper on earth had his own "A Milli" freestyle? "6 Foot 7 Foot" (produced by the same guy ((Bangladesh)) had the opposite effect. No one wanted to go near this thing. Really, how do you top "Real G's move in silence like lasagna"?