Words by Jakob Frazier
Look, y’all… I usually try to be ultra-professional in my writing, but I’m exhausted. This year took a toll on everyone. That didn’t stop my wonderful city of Birmingham from releasing some incredible tunes, though. Here are twenty of my favorite songs from this absolute hellscape of a year. A Spotify playlist of all the songs will be listed at the end.
Note: while most of these songs fall into the larger hip-hop or R&B genres, there are a few that stray. Take it as an opportunity to try out something new. Or don’t. It’s up to you. Just don’t be bitter. Please.
“Bitter” – The Frequently (single)
Punchy drums and scattered guitars accompany scathing lyrics from a lover scorned, creating a song perfect for radio.
“Boys Break Too” – Sebastian Kole (Numb)
Kole forgoesthe drums, keys, and synths, instead filling the space with only his voice while lamenting the expectations constantly placed on him.
“Build” – Jahnah Camille (Denim)
Lush chords and gentle strumming accentuate Jahnah’s sweet voice as she looks toward the future with love on her mind.
“DAHLIA” – Mel. Crozby & Richard Daniel (iris.)
Crozby introduces iris. by expressing painfully raw emotions in a drunken stupor over a woozy beat from Richard Daniel.
“Don’t Need” – C.A.m ft. Jaz (Lost Songs EP)
C.A.m employs his cohort Jaz as they both lay out slick, thoughtful verses atop a dramatic, orchestral production.
“Energy” – K1NG ELJAY & InkLine (Kintsugi)
ELJAY matches the vigor of InkLine’s driving instrumental, supplying the listener with cleverly constructed and coolly rapped bars.
“Hardfall” – Gap Toof (single)
Gap effortlessly trades off between humble and proud over a soulful sample, ending the song with a subtle breakdown.
“Heart on Sleeve” – OZU8LACK & Aztecky (Phonk’n’Aztecky)
OZU’s catchy delivery about the difficulty of love combines with Aztecky’s regal synths and sharp drums to produce a radio-ready jam.
“Here Now” – G.I. MAGUS ft. Wisdom Bibbs (Verses the World)
A bouncy beat accompanied by celebratory horns soundtracks verses and hooks from GI and Wisdom in a track about acknowledging their blessings.
“Hoodtep” – You Gene Write & ITP (I and I: Itty and Izzy)
A confident You Gene spits with a particular bravado on this head-nodding, bumping ITP collaboration.
“iiWii” – Love Moor (Motions)
Uncle See’J provides Love Moor with a screaming saxophone sample and riveting drums as she adamantly professes her acceptance of certain situations.
“Moss” – The Monastery (Different World)
An urgent bassline contrasted with subdued drums allows the duo to express genuine heartbreak and contempt over the loss of a lifelong friend.
“Outside” – Richard Daniel (single)
Utilizing a haunting Suaze instrumental, Richard discusses police brutality and racial tension to create a fiery protest song.
“Plot’n” – 729 (Proceed with Caution)
Beginning with a relaxed soundscape, the beat switches to a pulsating, triumphant instrumental that showcases both OZU’s and Erthling.’s strengths.
“Risk” – Dee Skillz ft. IndYah Rashaud (The Life and Times of a Radiant Child)
A frenetic beat and a powerful vocal performance from IndYah Rashaud juxtapose with Dee Skillz’s timid voice in this anxiety-riddled track.
“Snow” – theSportingLife (A Proper Racket)
Gifted a stylish bassline and a smooth piano melody by Black Plastique, lead singer Jovani Occomy sings gracefully about the need for comfort and communication.
“Something New” – Penny Circus (single)
Feelings of apathy and regret make their way through crunched guitars and punctuated drums to make for an unexpectedly upbeat tune.
“Sure About It” – Akil Pratt (Depressed Genius – Genius Version)
This deep cut sees Akil penning a love song dedicated to his wife, backed by an elegant, romantic sample.
“Wasteland” – Black Plastique ft. Corey Brandon & Dolo Fibonacci (Wasteland)
Verses of consciousness and braggadocio from Plastique and Dolo are accompanied by an appropriately abrasive chorus, soundtracked by a dirty, thumping 808.
“Welcome to the City” – Ethos (The City Wants You Alone)
Ethos ponders his confusion and loneliness by way of a somber guitar riff and despondent drums before the song descends into chaos and madness.
Check out the playlist below.
Jakob Frazier, aka Phrasure, a rapper who sometimes writes words that don’t rhyme. He’s committed to spreading word about some of the best MCs from Birmingham, Ala. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram.