Hip-hop remained strong in 2021. As a result, it was another good year for interested individuals, who could choose from a wide range of new offerings. Of course, some of these releases were more enjoyable than others, thus making them more worthy of being remembered.
Here is our opinion of the top 20 hip-hop songs from 2021:
20. “From the Garden” – Isaiah Rashad Featuring Lil Uzi Vert
“From the Garden” is the fourth single from Isaiah Rashad’s The House Is Burning. Chart-wise, it just made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 by claiming the number 99 position. However, it did better on the Billboard Rhythmic chart, where it peaked at the number 34 position.
The song has a fair amount of contrast. On the one hand, it sees Rashad bragging about the lifestyle that his success has brought him; on the other hand, it sees Rashad reminiscing about the economic uncertainties of his childhood. These examples make sense because the song bridges where he is now and where he came from.
19. “Range Brothers” – Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar
“Range Brothers” is much more amusing when one realizes that Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar are real-life cousins. Granted, the United States isn’t one of the countries where people call cousins siblings.
Still, it isn’t a huge conceptual leap, particularly since it is easy for cousins to be as close as siblings. Amusingly, Lamar plays the role of the older, wiser, and better-established individual convincingly, though he doesn’t go as far as to detract from the general theme of the song itself.
18. “Bath Salts” – DMX Featuring Jay-Z and Nas
Sadly, “Bath Salts” was a posthumous release. This is a song stuffed full of references. For instance, the name refers to designer drugs that saw a massive upswing in usage in the late 2000s and early 2010s, thus resulting in some very panicked coverage at the time. Other references can be found in every line, which can be quite interesting for those willing to put in the time needed to decipher everything.
17. “Best Friends” – Saweetie Featuring Doja Cat
People looking for something wholesome can do much worse than “Best Friends.” It is more or less a celebration of friendship, which is one of the things that make life worth living. Better still, Saweetie and Doja Cat seem to be friends in real life, thus giving the song that extra touch of authenticity.
16. “Straightenin” – Migos
“Straightenin” was well-received. For proof, consider how it reached the number 23 position in the United States. The funny thing is that no one seems to have a clear idea of what the lyrics mean, which resulted in a great deal of discussion back then. Sadly, “Straightenin” is the last Migos single. That is because the group broke up after Takeoff’s death in 2022.
15. “RAPSTAR” – Polo G
Polo G further established his skills as a storyteller when he released “RAPSTAR” as a single in 2021. The song sees him musing on his rise to stardom while contrasting that with his earlier experiences. Such songs are not unusual in this genre. However, Polo G handled everything with enough skill for “RAPSTAR” to stand out in that sea, thus earning it a position on this list.
14. “Gyalis” – Capella Grey
As the story goes, Capella Grey got the idea for “Gyalis” in Los Angeles. Its making wasn’t a long, drawn-out matter. Instead, he managed to get everything done fast once he got the initial inspiration. Subject-wise, the song is what it sounds like. After all, the name indicates someone who is a womanizer.
13. “Every Chance I Get” – DJ Khaled Featuring Lil Baby and Lil Durk
“Every Chance I Get” is another song that sees the performers boasting about their successes. The neat thing about it is the skill with which DJ Khaled, Lil Baby, and Lil Durk managed to play off of one another.
12. “INDUSTRY BABY” – Lil Nas X Featuring Jack Harlow
Lil Nas X used “INDUSTRY BABY” to push back at some of the people who have been hostile towards him. It is no coincidence that the song opens with him boasting about his musical successes. Those made it clear that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder, which was a real insult aimed at him once upon a time. Moreover, Lil Nas X used “INDUSTRY BABY” to declare his desire to continue to succeed, so it will be interesting to see what else he releases as his career continues.
11. “Book Bag” – Remble Featuring BlueBucksClan
Remble signed on with Warner Records in 2021. Soon afterward, he released his debut studio album, It’s Remble, which met with a positive response. If “Book Bag” is any indication, the future looks bright for Remble.
10. “Introvert” – Little Simz
“Introvert” is a much bolder, much louder song than one might expect based on the title. That said, that was the point. Little Simz wanted to use her claimed introversion to center herself, thus enabling further personal growth. As such, “Introvert” is meant to be an empowering sort of song, which explains much about its sound.
9. “Thot S—” – Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion’s Good News did well by any reasonable standard. It debuted at the number two position on the Billboard 200. Moreover, Good News went on to sell more than a million copies in the United States.
As such, Megan Thee Stallion had a challenging release to follow up on. Fortunately, she rose to the occasion rather than stumble and fall. This song didn’t just go platinum in the United States.
Instead, it went double platinum, meaning it sold more than two million copies. On top of that, this song was nominated for Best Rap Performance at that year’s Grammys, though it didn’t manage to walk away with the award. As for the song’s meaning, interested individuals should know that Megan Thee Stallion intended it as a way to reclaim “thot” from those who use it to put down women.
8. “Wockesha” – Moneybagg Yo
The lyrics of “Wockesha” make it clear that Moneybagg Yo is rapping about an addictive beverage. Specifically, that would be lean, a drug incorporating prescription-strength cough syrup.
The various nicknames often reference its effects. For example, lean refers to how people have difficulties standing straight after drinking it. Similarly, purple drank refers to how the cough syrup is often purple-colored.
Once upon a time, lean was a phenomenon limited to Houston and its surroundings. That changed around the 1990s when DJ Screw popularized the idea through his music. In other words, Moneybagg Yo is following a well-trod path.
What makes this song stand out is his choice to anthropomorphize the drug. That isn’t an uncommon choice in music or other art forms, particularly since it does so much to emphasize the artist’s relationship with whatever drug they are obsessed with.
7. “Way 2 Sexy” – Drake Featuring Future and Young Thug
“Way 2 Sexy” was the lead single from Drake’s Certified Lover Boy. Some people might wonder if it is inspired by Right Said Fred’s hit song from the 1990s. If so, they should know it isn’t inspired by that song so much as a straight-up interpretation of that song.
Unsurprisingly, Drake and the others didn’t take themselves too seriously on this track, which further added to its charm. Some critics hated it because they thought it was cringy.
They have a point. However, cringy music can be very amusing in its own right. Many people thought that way about “Way 2 Sexy” because it topped the Billboard Rhythmic chart.
6. “WusYaName” – Tyler, the Creator Featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla Sign
“WusYaName” isn’t quite the kind of music one might expect from Tyler, the Creator. After all, the man’s career started with Bastard, which drew comparisons with horrorcore.
Meanwhile, “WusYaName” is a love song that took inspiration from the R&B of the 1990s. It is a remarkable demonstration of the artist’s versatility. Moreover, it is a fine choice for people feeling nostalgic about that particular decade.
5. “Time Travel” – Mavi
Mavi is a rapper from Charlotte. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is a big fan of the Charlotte Hornets, which explains the mention of his desire to buy an ownership stake in the team in this song. That said, Mavi referenced a wide range of things on “Time Travel.”
Something that worked well with its fundamental nature as a self-portrait done in music rather than in colors. There is one choice bit in which he stated he was embarrassed by the scale of his ambitions before mentioning that was still better than being embarrassed by the exact opposite. One can’t help but respect that mix of hunger and thoughtfulness.
4. “Kiss Me More” – Doja Cat Featuring SZA
Doja Cat debuted back in 2014. She didn’t meet with much success in those days. However, Doja Cat went viral in 2018, thus kickstarting a streak of success that has continued to this day. “Kiss Me More” is a wonderful example of her musical output from this period.
It is one of the singles from Planet Her, which is notable because it held the number two position on the Billboard 200 for three consecutive weeks. In part, that success was made possible by the popularity of “Kiss Me More.”
This song reached the number three position on the Billboard Hot 100. Moreover, it was a Top 10 hit in several other countries, thus making the international nature of Doja Cat’s fan base clear.
3. “Family Ties” – Baby Keem Featuring Kendrick Lamar
As mentioned earlier, Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar are cousins. Thanks to that, interested individuals should have no problem guessing what this song might have been about.
Indeed, the cover art for “Family Ties” featured a family portrait of the two, thus making the connection even more obvious to listeners. Regardless, “Family Ties” was undoubtedly one of the best hip-hop releases of 2021, as shown by how it won Best Rap Performance at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.
2. “Up” – Cardi B
Amusingly, Cardi B released “Up” as a single off of her second studio album, which remains unreleased at this point. Of course, this issue doesn’t detract from the song’s enjoyability in any way. “Up” didn’t claim the Grammy for Best Rap Performance, but it did claim the American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Song.
The latter was notable because that made Cardi B the first artist to win it a record-breaking three times. The song is solid, so much so that it deserved everything it received.
1. “pride.is.the.devil” – J. Cole Featuring Lil Baby
This song saw J. Cole musing about the destructive influence that pride can have on people. The lyrics provided numerous examples of how it has negatively affected people.
One example would be how pride forced the narrator to act nonchalantly even though he was terrified when someone pulled a gun on him. Similarly, another example would be how pride ruined personal relationships by forcing people to remain stubborn rather than make necessary compromises. Ultimately, this song is a great reminder of how pride can cause people to go from bad to worse.
You can also read:
- The 10 Best J Cole Songs of All-Time
- The 10 Best Jack Harlow Songs of All-Time
- The 10 Best Megan Thee Stallion Songs of All-Time
- The 10 Best Migos Songs of All-Time
- Quentin Tarantino Talks Music