Across all genres, 2019 was a respectable year for music. While it could arguably have been better in the American rap scene, alternatives genres stood out to be counted to deliver catchy, memorable songs that defined the year. Minimalism led the pack when it came to production, song lengths got shorter and trap continued to dominate pop music. This list ranks the 50 Best Songs of 2019 (both rap and other genres) with rankings and selection based significantly on replay value, in addition to overall quality. These songs are also songs that have been revisited consistently on an individual level, without the context of an album (i.e. some quality songs are omitted from this list because they are preferred in the listening experience of a complete album).
From the likes of Kanye West to Headie One, here are the best songs of 2019:
Note: Songs released in December 2018 that are part of a 2019 album or single are included.
- Ariana Grande, Bad Idea
- Country Dons, Sticky Situations
- Daniel Caesar, Too Deep to Turn Back
- Drake ft. Rick Ross, Money in the Grave
- Jamila Woods, Betty
- JB Scofield, OK OK
- Kanye West, Law of Attraction (unreleased)
- Lil Berete ft. Calboy, Mama Papa
- NSG, Options
- Pak-Man, Work
- Polo G, Lost Files
- Roddy Ricch, The Box
- Skepta, Bullet from a Gun
- Tyler, The Creator, I THINK
- YBN Cordae ft. Anderson Paak, RNP
- Youngs Teflon, Lambeth
50. Toro y Moi, “Fading”
Album: Outer Peace
Futuristic producer Toro y Moi came through with an uplifting electronic banger. The vocals on the hook are really what make the track hit.
49. Lil Tecca, “Molly Girl”
Album: We Love You Tecca
How this song didn’t become a TikTok sensation is puzzling. “Molly Girl” is right up that alley, perfect for a videoed group dance craze. “Ransom” may have been the young rapper’s hit of the year, but the overlooked “Molly Girl” equals the track for the purpose of enjoying a short, catchy, mindless trap banger.
48. Bon Iver, “Hey, Ma”
Album: i, i
Minimalism was extremely prominent in music this year. Bon Iver’s “Hey, Ma” insists that less can be more, using only a few instrumental elements and Bon Iver’s recognisable voice to make a beautiful song.
47. Tinashe, “Save Room for Us” (ft. MAKJ)
Album: Songs for You
Tinashe’s quest to revive her commercial career may have to wait another year. But she’ll be there soon if she keeps making music like “Save Room for Us”; a perfect blend of R&B and disco that cannot be resist being left on loop.
46. Mabel, “Selfish Love” (ft. Kamille)
Album: High Expectations
Pop music had a few underrated gems this year. British singer Mabel’s album cut “Selfish Love” was not even released as a single, but if it was it would have ruled the charts. An irresistible hook and bridge makes “Selfish Love” one of the best pop songs of 2019.
45. Kanye West, “Follow God”
Album: Jesus is King
The standout cut from Kanye West’s underwhelming Jesus is King is a song that barely touches the two-minute mark. “Follow God” chops up a familiar sample to make a knocking beat that is matched by Kanye’s addictive flow and rhyme scheme.
44. Travis Scott, “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”
It knocks in a lipkit commercial, and it also knocks at concerts. One of the most highly anticipated songs of the year pulled through, aided by Scott’s sleepy delivery and a heavenly outro to a song that was well worth the wait.
43. Young Thug, “The London” (ft. J. Cole & Travis Scott)
Album: So Much Fun
Three hip hop giants of the decade collided on what may have been song of the summer. “The London” is an instant earworm through its addictive beat, J. Cole’s fantastic verse, Scott’s hook and the quirky euphemisms of Young Thug.
42. K-Trap, “Big Mood”
Album: No Magic
UK drill rapper K-Trap levelled up when it came to making hits. “Big Mood” follows a simplistic formula and flow but it’s the confidence and charisma of K-Trap and his voice that sells the song.
41. Little Simz, “Venom”
Album: Grey Area
The UK’s most blistering microphone champion surfs over a sinister yet minimal beat. Little Simz’ words are annunciated with the sort of venom the track title personifies. “Venom” is simply one of the best rap songs of the year.
40. Blueface, “Bleed It”
Album: Dirt Bag
No matter what the Internet says, Blueface isn’t actually off-beat. And while he is a one-trick pony the appeal of “Bleed It” is hard to deny. Backed by the classic sounds of a West Coast beat, Blueface provides personality all over the song through his comical wordplay and unique delivery. Forget what the internet says for a minute and give “Bleed It” a chance.
39. Lil Baby, “Back On”
Album: Quality Control: Control the Streets, Vol. 2
Lil Baby’s “Back On” made no real commercial waves but regardless it was one of the most addictive trap songs of the year. Baby doesn’t provide a single dull moment, dishing out several quotables over the muddy beat.
38. The Weeknd, “Heartless”
Out of the two singles The Weeknd dropped in the closing month, “Heartless” resonated the most. Metro Boomin takes charge of the thumping trap beat that thrashes the senses from start to finish.
37. Headie One, “All Day”
Album: Music x Road
In what was a big year for UK drill, frontman Headie One proves he is still a formidable force in the genre. “All Day” is a perfect example of a catchy drill song without being one-dimensional. Headie’s flow and unique vocal inflexions make up the characteristics of a brilliant drill track.
36. Hamza, “Addiction”
French rap hasn’t hit the mainstream yet, but it is about time it did. “Addiction” takes AutoTune trap and the smooth styles of PartyNextDoor and Bryson Tiller to make a song that has been on replay for the entire year.
35. James Blake, “Mile High” (ft. Travis Scott & Metro Boomin)
Album: Assume Form
It’s amazing what can be created when two artistic worlds collide. In this case it is the collaboration between English singer-producer James Blake and Houston’s Travis Scott, aided by Metro Boomin. “Mile High” with Travis Scott and Metro Boomin produces a riveting atmosphere that is both moody and pretty. Blake’s vocals switch from groans to angelic cries, elevated to their peak when layered with Travis Scott’s auto-croons (“Lasting like Duracell / 40 days, 40 nights”). It is nocturnal, perfect for a late-night drive.
34. Jme, “Badman Walking Through” (ft. Shakka & P Money)
Album: Grime MC
The standout track from British MC Jme’s latest album is a towering anthem. Shakka takes charge of “Badman Walking Through” in his brilliant hook. It’s a track that immediately elevates the spirit. In the words of P Money, “How’s grime dead when I’m still here cuz?”
33. Snoh Aalegra, “You”
Album: Ugh, Those Feels Again
Swedish-Iranian singer Snoh Aalegra first came to my attention through her sampling on Drake’s 2017 song “Do Not Disturb”. A standout track on her 2019 album is “You”, a chilling ode of romance that captures the essence of infatuation brilliantly. The strings during the chorus are an instant selling point.
32. Gunna, “Outstanding”
Album: Drip or Drown 2
Hate him or love him, Atlanta rapper Gunna had a few slaps this year. “Outstanding” captures the aquatic aura of his Drip or Drown 2 album in the production. Gunna’s laidback delivery provides memorable verses and an even better hook.
31. Blade Brown, “Triple Threat” (ft. Youngs Teflon & Mental K)
Album: Bags and Boxes 4
Seeing this song live confirmed its position in this list. UK rappers Blade Brown, Youngs Teflon and Mental K combine on “Triple Threat”, going back to back in between verses to guarantee infinite wheel-ups. It is this methodical structure in the rapping that truly makes this song; it wouldn’t be the same if the rappers all rapped separately across the track.
30. Nafe Smallz, M Huncho, Gunna, “Broken Homes”
Album: Plug Talk
There were a handful of UK-US collaborations this year. “Broken Homes” may have been the best one. Gunna assists Nafe Smallz and M Huncho over a guitar beat that’s become a staple production mark in the past two years. All three artists compliment each other perfectly, resulting in brilliant chemistry.
29. Denzel Curry, “RICKY”
Denzel Curry’s “RICKY” has one purpose; to be a banger. Curry makes tracks like these with his eyes closed.
28. D-Block Europe, “Home P***y”
Album: Home Alone
Out of the 63 songs (three mixtapes) trap duo D-Block Europe released this year, “Home P***y” is the easy standout. As vulgar as it is, Young Adz provides irresistible melody on the quotable hook to go alongside the song’s piano keys. Dirtbike LB keeps the momentum going in the second half. If the duo focused more on quality over quality, more of their songs could have made this year’s cut.
27. M Huncho, “Birds”
“Birds” is a perfect introduction to M Huncho for those that are unfamiliar with his music. Huncho’s sung raps start off the track before a beat switch takes the dimensions closer to his rapping side. His distinctive voice and the way melodies are delivered are all available on this track.
26. Billie Eilish, “Everything I Wanted”
Billie Eilish ran pop music this year with her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? However her best song of the year was the non-album single “Everything I Wanted”. Yet again minimalism does the trick, isolating Eilish’s delicate voice to create a sense of vulnerability.
25. LD & Mental K, “6 Lords”
English rappers LD and Mental K take drill to a new level on the explosive “6 Lords”. It is so in-your-face, a song perfect enough to soundtrack a cinematic car chase. LD and Carns Hill’s (producer of the song) take on drill separates “6 Lords” from other acts thanks to the haunting vocal sample and abrasive percussion. LD and Mental K go back and forth on their bars, dropping numerous cultural references and wordplay to complete the journey.
24. James Blake, “Barefoot in the Park” (ft. Rosalía)
Album: Assume Form
James Blake and Spanish singer Rosalía combine on the hook to create a graceful duet. Less is more when all the song needs is captivating vocals and a stable metaphor of how a loving partner completes them. The pairing is perfect thanks to the elegance in both artists’ voices.
23. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, “Crime Pays”
Freddie Gibbs cannot resist administering impeccable flows and rhymes on “Crime Pays”. Madlib’s beat ascends gracefully unlike the majority of the beats from Piñata, which were far more rough.
22. Slowthai, “Northampton’s Child”
Album: Nothing Great About Britain
“Northampton’s Child” may be the official end to British rapper’s debut album, but it more feels like the beginning. Slowthai vividly recounts his childhood from bar one in simple yet effective fashion, taking the listener with him into his time machine to relive the trauma (“Northampton General, 1994 / Mixed race baby born / Christmas well a week before / Mum’s 16, family’s poor”). The terrifying twangs and thumping bass are straight from screwface capital to make up the best beat of the album. The song ends at 3 minutes, leaving more to be desired from a captivating yet incomplete life story.
21. Post Malone, “Hollywood’s Bleeding”
Album: Hollywood’s Bleeding
The title track from Post Malone’s latest album is a nocturnal and dramatic banger, packing a variation of production in its 2-and-a-half minute runtime. Malone’s vocal performances continue to be his selling point, particularly during the latter half of the hook (“We’re running out of reasons, but we can’t let go”). Catchy and varied, the song sets the tone perfectly for the album and its suggestive title.
20. Lana Del Rey, “Happiness is a Butterfly”
Album: Norman Fucking Rockwell
Lana Del Rey levelled up in 2019, a standout being the beautiful “Happiness is a Butterfly”. The refrain is the epicentre of the beauty, where the production picks up and Del Rey delivers a gentle vocal masterpiece (“Happiness is a butterfly / Try to catch it, like, every night / It escapes from my hands into moonlight”). Minimalism strikes once again to spectacular effect.
19. Jaykae, “Heartache”
Birmingham rapper Jaykae continues his ‘ache’ song series in what may be its best installment. Jaykae raps for three minutes straight, continuously shapeshifting his flow over the haunting production. These are raps of intent, cutthroat in delivery.
18. FKA Twigs, “Home With You”
The odd song structure to “Home With You” is a genius move once understood. FKA Twigs’ emits a robotic delivery in her verses, portraying herself as void and lifeless. Once the chorus comes, it feels like a flower has blossomed. Twigs goes back and forth between these states, completing a captivating journey of emotion.
17. Kano, “Class of Deja” (ft. D Double E & Ghetts)
Album: Hoodies All Summer
Grime song of the year goes to Kano with “Class of Deja”. Fellow grime veterans D Double E and Ghetts assist the MC in his quest to see who can gain the most wheel-ups. D Double’s classic delivery on the hook and Kano’s back and forth with Ghetts are some of the greatest musical moments of the year.
16. Polo G, “Pop Out” (ft. Lil Tjay)
Album: Die a Legend
Rookie of the Year goes to Chicago rapper Polo G and his smash hit, “Pop Out”. The song creates another promising rap duo; Lil Tjay’s processed vocals provide a complimentary contrast to the rawness of Polo’s voice, who delivers the most memorable rap hook of the year.
15. Nafe Smallz, “8 Missed Calls”
Album: Top Boy: Soundtrack
Nafe Smallz strips it back on the standout track from the Top Boy soundtrack. Usually crooning across his songs, Nafe Smallz raps impressively over the verses all while delivering an enticing hook. The song is a narrative to the street life, absent from the lives of his loved ones to make ends meet. It is a sombre tone, but nevertheless an addictive one.
14. Future, “Baptiize”
Album: The Wizrd
Hands down, “Baptiize” wins the award for best beat drop of the year. The first half is a warm-up for an explosive second half. It is as if the song turns from a luxurious Lamborghini into a raging Transformer causing havoc across the city (“I got ice on ice on ice on ice / Keep that white on white on white on white”). What a song.
13. Lil Uzi Vert, “Sanguine Paradise”
Album: Eternal Atake
“Sanguine Paradise” exemplifies why Lil Uzi Vert is such a lone wolf in the rap scene. His vision doesn’t parallel those of his contemporaries, as “Sanguine Paradise” pushes typical trap boundaries. That’s mainly due to the Mykko Montana sample, but Uzi makes it work to create one of the most addictive singles of the year.
12. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, “Swervin” (ft. 6ix9ine)
Album: Hoodie SZN
Once blacklisted from ever entering my music library, A Boogie wit da Hoodie snuck himself in with “Swervin”. The song is nothing spectacular artistically, but it sure is addictive. The ever-polarising 6ix9ine provides an important contribution with his verse; the song just isn’t the same without his back-and-forth with A Boogie.
11. James Blake, “Don’t Miss It“
Album: Assume Form
Despite its summer 2018 release, the rules will be bended to include James Blake’s “Don’t Miss It”. To get straight to the point: this song is depressing. It drains happiness away from the body. And yet somehow it upholds a sense of haunting beauty. “Don’t Miss It” is a chilling confession of depression and anxiety, most notably professing escapism from the outside world (“I could switch off whenever I like / I could sleep whenever I like / I could leave in the middle of the night”). It feels like the end of the line, like a suicide note, which is what makes it such a chilling listening experience. If you would like to listen to this song, check your emotions first and proceed with caution.
10. Rimzee, “2 Do 1”
UK rapper Rimzee receives the out-of-jail bounce with “2 Do 1”, a template of how to succeed in making a captivating trap song. Rimzee’s flashy bars and the bass-heavy beat are a perfect match to portray the lifestyle on a grandeur level (“Table for ten, got to book in advance / 5 star hotels and Turkish bath / Got on these Dior runners just to jog in the park”). It’s simply the beat and Rimzee’s bars, no gimmicks. It is authentic and clear in its purpose.
9. Dave, “Psycho”
Dave’s Mercury Prize-winning album opens up with a song that will go down as one of the great UK rap album openers. “Psycho” sets the scene, introducing Dave’s trauma with the task of discovering how to “stop all the pain”. It is a haunting opener, full of instrumental shifts and what appear to be mood swings. There is aggression, vulnerability, braggadocio and above all, top-tier skills in rapping.
8. Headie One, “18Hunna” (ft. Dave)
Album: Music x Road
From its January release up to now, Headie One’s “18Hunna” kept its place in the top ten and solidified its staying power. The verses, hooks and subdued production all impress, particularly the memorable verse by Dave. Above all, it sounds like a hit and carries itself like one (it charted at #6 in the UK).
7. FKA Twigs, “Holy Terrain” (ft. Future)
“Holy Terrain” is sole pick-me-up on FKA Twigs’ magnificent album, Magdalene. Twigs sees herself on trap production, even adding a guest appearance from Future into the mix to complete the formula. But she still maintains her artistic identity. The vocals notes she reaches in the hook are what create the magic behind the song.
6. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, “Flat Tummy Tea”
From the moment you press play, “Flat Tummy Tea” is an attack on the senses. Freddie Gibbs skates over the bombastic beat, hitting pockets you never would have thought existed. It is a rap renegade, undoubtedly one of the best showcase of lyricism of the year (“Black n***a, jack tripper, pack flipper / Step out the kitchen and step in the booth and drop heat on these rap n****s / Without a cosign, you probably be fillin’ my grocery bag, n***a / Poison flow, I send opponents from riches to rags, n***a”). The breakdown adds another layer to the song, stripping down the beat as Gibbs drops some political references. For any oldhead searching for ‘real hip hop’, “Flat Tummy Tea” is the track for you.
5. James Blake, “Power On”
Album: Assume Form
“Power On” once again shows James Blake’s knack for romantic metaphors. This time, Blake focuses on taking accountability for mistakes, in an attempt to better a relationship. Once the synthesiser kicks in, “Power On” transports the listener to a depth of hypnosis, the type that one would feel when under the control of “love”. Every second is captivating, from the way Blake’s vocals transform to the poetic lyricism.
4. FKA Twigs, “Sad Day”
“Sad Day” is yet another emotional heartwrencher by the songstress that is FKA Twigs. The track is a spectacular example of avant-garde pop, uniquely defined by Twigs’ experimental sound while carrying a gorgeous pop hook. Heartbreak is the song’s central theme, with Twigs wondering if her partner will stay with her. Twigs’ voice creates such a melancholic aura, which is all the listener needs during the course of the verses. It is surprising how artists are able to convey their sadness into a song and make it resonate with a listener.
3. Future, “F&N”
Album: The Wizrd
“F&N” refused to be dethroned from the top three despite its January release. “F&N” was the clear standout on Future’s 2019 album The Wizrd for reasons only Future fans will understand. “I just took a AK to a dinner date / I just put some VVs in a Richard face”, he raps in the first verse, two simple bars that shouldn’t even be impressive but Future manages to deliver them with such conviction that they become instantly memorable and quotable. At first the trap production is relatively subdued, but explodes into life similar to “Baptiize” in the second half. The burst of energy that arises turned into an attachment for my senses throughout the entire year.
2. Dave, “Streatham”
In 2007, Adele released the song “Hometown Glory”. In 2019, Dave brings the love for ones are slightly closer to home. “Streatham” is named after Dave’s South London residence, a place that defines his childhood and upbringing. Without exactly telling a story, Dave paints a picture of his hometown, his values and the cockiness that’s come with his rise to the most promising rapper out the UK.
Verse to verse, Dave’s bars are meticulous, and the driving force for what makes “Streatham” one of the best rap songs of the year. Genuine fans of rap music will absorb “Streatham” in a heartbeat. The wordplay is flawless, effortlessly administering triple entendres with cultural references that only those from London may understand (“My young G done draws and eights / Now he’s cuttin’ through bricks like the 118“) “Streatham” is a verbal exercise of superb punchlines with too many quotables to mention.
1. James Blake, “Into the Red”
Album: Assume Form
All over his Assume Form album, James Blake translate his romantic infatuation to the listener so they feel what he feels.
“Into the Red” has to be the year’s greatest musical personification of love. It is about going towards the furthest of limits to make your partner feel complete. That can be sacrifice, trust or honesty. “Into the Red” covers all these bases, providing a complete insight into what makes the infamous human emotion so delicate. The track’s production leaves the listener in a trance, assuming the form of an Eastern lullaby that is beautifully composed. The Eastern twangs that creep in after the intro are extremely delicate, serving as the spine for translating the infatuation into a musical identity.
Little details are what make “Into the Red” song so special. To this day it is unclear if it is Travis Scott that sings the “She doesn’t buy” line before the chorus, but I like to imagine that it is. It is short poetic metaphors such as “She was the gold rush” that make the song’s sentiment so thoughtful. It is my love for hearing strings in the instrumental, my favourite type of instrument to hear in a song, making the experience of “Into the Red” feel so grand.
“Into the Red” is a different level of beautiful music, beautiful enough to be my song of the year.
Stream the entire list below on Spotify:
📌 Read and discover the Best Albums of 2019 next.