by Jack Carenza
As a writer, the moments are few and far between where you feel as if you are penning in your genuine language: scribing the words, thoughts or sounds that are inherently etched upon your soul. In these moments, your thoughts run naturally and authentically, with a clarity and simplicity that cuts through even the most complex thought. That is the beauty of the perfect hip hop track– the unique combination of an impeccable beat, matched by purposeful flow. The involuntary head nod when an artist snaps, coupled with the pondering moment when the double meaning of a potent bar strikes.
Today, it is my pleasure to come to you as both: the writer and hiphop head, with the opportunity to introduce a playlist that feels as if it were composed with an innate understanding of my music preferences in mind. From top to bottom, TodaysHipHop playlist represents some of the dopest lyricism, premier features, and genre-bending music in the rap game over the past few years. The Today’s HipHop staff will be regularly updating and expanding the playlist to showcase the freshest out, and will be considering submissions from labels, managers and artists. With 2,000+ listeners on day one, and new heat being added regularly, TodaysHipHop is a must follow, showcasing tracks from some of today’s top hip hop artists in the Chill Lyricist category, including J Cole, Saba, Bas, Joey Bada$$, Kota the Friend, Smino, Isaiah Rasahd and more.
You can sample the playlist below, or checkout the official playlist on Spotify.
With great difficulty, I’ve ranked my top 5 tracks (one track per artist). As the playlist grows, we will periodically provide write-ups on some of our favorite new additions.
You can stream the playlist on spotify HERE.
5) Amphetamine – Smino (feat. Bari, Jean Deaux, and Noname)
Smino has long since been a better rapper than your favorite rapper and a better singer than your favorite singer. Nearly eight minutes in length, and featuring Jean Deux, Bari Allen and Noname, this track leans on dark ambiance, silky-smooth delivery, and lush vocal layering. Amphetamine is the final track on Smi’s 2017 breakthrough album blkswn, and nearly eight minutes in length. Produced by Monte Booker, the instrumental is broken into two parts a bit downtempo and open, with typical Booker organ melodies leaving lots of space for Smino’s lonely tone, and ferocious wordplay to breathe. Several bars stand out in the St. Louis rapper’s first verse, but right off the bat he hits you with an emotional gut shut, followed up directly with some typically clever wordplay: (“Why they take lil bro instead of me?/I hurt when you hurt, we was siamese”). Chalk full of soul, emotional writing, and beautiful collaboration, Amphetamine is a must listen.
4) Life – Saba
Pushed by murky, dark and an almost creepy aesthetic, the instrumentation on this joint sets the stage for Chicago and Pivot Gang rapper Saba to spit with ferocity, honesty, and grit about the experience of a young black man from the West Side. This track is lyrically heavy, painting vivid pictures of struggle, loss, and angst: (“Momma mixed the vodka with the Sprite/They killed my cousin with a pocket knife/While my uncle on the phone/He was gone for more than half my life/He got out a year and then he died”). This track is about tone, Saba’s savage flow, and godamn, the bassline goes in. Be sure to peep the video for some dark aesthetics to match the content. Look for more Saba soon as the playlist grows.
3) Tribe – Bas (feat. J.Cole)
Fans of EA sports “FIFA” will recognize this bop from the soundtrack. Pushed by an upbeat, banging instrumental, this is one of those tracks that hits you with instant good vibes and positivity. Produced by Childish Major, in collaboration with Cole, this song is quite simply a celebration. Bas goes in, his verses emphasizing the finer things in life from the perspective of a Dreamville rapper, and speaking realistically about the good vibes he’s feeling for a lady friend. It’s easy to appreciate Bas as a down-to-earth, humble ass dude. You see little-to-no bravado in his lyricism, and that remains true here, even in a track that discusses the rewards of success in such an optimistic fashion. And of course, Cole goes in: (“God shuffled the cards, dealt me a hand with impossible odds/Put an obstacle course up, look, and I conquered them all/With minimal effort I’m fresher than sock in your drawer/They spinning my records so heavy, I’m topping the Forbes”). If you’re looking for a combination of soul paired with trap drums and 808s, good vibes mixed with a banger, this is your joint.
2) Church – Kota the Friend
Selecting the Kota track from this playlist to write about was the most difficult process. Brooklyn’s Kota the Friend is just about the most consistent spitta out right now, dropping project after project that deserve to be spun front to back. Church comes from Kota’s 2019 sophomore album Foto and exemplifies the sincerity, vision and introspection of his lyricism. In typical fashion, Church is propelled by a lofi style beat, with a pensive guitar rift, and an airy canvas for Kota to paint with his vivid pallette. Kota’s understated delivery, positive messages, and impeccable beat selection make him an irresistable choice for lovers of effortless, meaningful hip-hop. (“Sunday love will not make you forget who you was/You don’t gotta change if you do not want/Bitch love yourself.”) As his name implies, Kota the Friend is the rapper that is there for you when you are feeling sensitive, vulnerable and in need of enlightenment.
1) Under The Sun – (Dreamville, J.Cole, Lute, DaBaby)
Hip-hop has rarely seen the first track on a compilation album go as hard as this one. I vividly remember connecting the monitors and leaning back to listen to Revenge Of The Dreamers III for the first time, expecting an intro or mood setter and hearing this beat drop. Christo, (responsible for much of Dreamville stud J.I.D’s production) cooked up the beat, sampling “I’ll Be Waiting for You” by the Argo Singers. The sample is flame, the drums go in, and Cole’s cadence off the bat is absurd. Kendrick’s two-line hook is enough to get your grandmother going, and strong features from Lute and DaBaby candy paint a delectable collaboration. (“I woke up for some money, ayy, lil’ bitch/Too many opps in here, tell me who you with, ayy!”)
Be sure to follow the playlist for updates for updates as the playlist continues to be expanded, and checkout the exclusive one on one interviews with the artists, on TodaysHipHop.com