Every month, Davey Boy Smith and Rob Pursey put together a bumper selection of stand-out rap and R&B bangers.
Now it’s the end of the year, they’ve rustled up an alphabetical list of 20 of the finest – from Kendrick Lamar’s unforgettable ‘Alright’ to Tate Kobang’s under-the-radar smash ‘Bank Rolls Remix’. Southern Hospitality know that rap lives and dies in the club, and you can check your “real hip-hop” at the door.
The 50 best albums of 2015
The 20 best Bandcamp releases of 2015
The 20 best music videos of 2015
The 30 best album covers of 2015
The 25 best reissues of 2015
The 10 best record labels of 2015
The 20 best free mixes of 2015
Bankroll Fresh feat. Travis Porter & Boochie
Bankroll’s Mr. 2-17-produced masterclass in minimalist piano-based club rap had anyone that heard it two-stepping on the spot at functions from ATL to LDN. Massive.
It was as much of a surprise to the Club God himself as it was to fans at shows, who chanted every word back without knowing they knew them. ‘Stopped’ had more of a pronounced effect on our lives than any of the other perfectly conceived and executed Beat King singles in the most prolific year yet in the Houston rapper’s career.
Funnily enough, in 2015 it took a rapper from Long Beach to bring that surging NY/Philly club energy back. Boogie’s relentless Jahlil Beats-produced blapper is simply one of the most satisfying and palate-cleansing singles of the past 12 months.
Sometimes all it takes is a couple of lines to go clear. After “Lately you say he’s been killing the vibe, gotta be sick of this guy, pull up… skrrrt” we blacked out and Bryson was certified.
Every time Drake made a record like ‘Karaoke’ he was basically trying to make this song. Finally, just as we thought he was lost to competitive rap, he executed it (and all accompanying media) to perfection.
Fetty Wap feat. Monty
Fetty made the absolute best possible career move with his self-titled debut album, capping off a solid year of high-profile features by unabashedly doubling down and expanding on the vocal idiosyncrasies that made him famous. ‘My Way’ is the brashest, and by extension best, example of this.
‘Blow A Bag’ got the most club play and ‘Blood On The Money’ stole our hearts, but ‘March Madness’ was the undisputed best Future song of 2015. 808 Mafia member Tarentino’s hypnotic production summons the kind of singular, black-out rap performance that makes Lil B’s ‘Myspace’ one of the greatest songs of all time.
‘Hit The Quan’
As we write this, iHeart Memphis’s ‘Hit The Quan’ is racking up exponentially more viral metrics, fan video uploads and radio spins, and rightfully so. The Buck Nasty-produced dance anthem, like pretty much everything we’ve heard from IHM, is bursting with unadulterated club energy.
‘Dem Boy Paigon’
Despite the fact that ‘Dem Boy Paigon’ was a YouTube-only link for months, playing it in London clubs at the top of the year was like dropping a bomb in there. By the end of 2015 J Hus’s underground hero status is about to be blown.
Not only is this Pharrell’s best beat of the decade, but seeing a club bounce to a record like this is why Kendrick should always be celebrated with no inhibition.
Kool John & P-Lo
Put bluntly, ‘Blue Hunnids’ is the first song you reach for when taking over from another DJ to instantly upgrade the mood of the club, thanks in no small part to one of the most powerful basslines of the last decade.
‘Strong Arm Flexxin’
As a new wave of Atlanta artists went the weirder, more introverted route, Mr. 2-17 took it back to that explosive ‘Crank Dat’ energy with a string of dance-based solo anthems, ‘Strong Arm Flexxin’ being the most potent example of his infectious sound.
Nef The Pharaoh
Nef The Pharaoh brought that Bay feeling back to the forefront with this one and Sick-Wid-It responded by signing him and releasing an EP full of ridiculous slaps that remains unfathomably slept on.
‘Come Get Her’
Swae Lee has the greatest tone in rap right now, and on each track on ‘Sremmlife’ he was given carte blanche to explore every aspect of it, the final verse being the best example of why he should be everyone’s go-to feature.
Stormzy delivered on every release in 2015, but everything that makes him great is found in his reboot of ‘Serious’ – every section is just hypeness on a next level.
‘Bank Rolls Remix’
The remix to the original freestyle that was both an effortless nod to past rap flows and the freshest-sounding record of the year was also a tune that in an ideal world should have been 50 times YouTube platinum.
The moment Tory Lanez got back on his singing and sampled one of the 90s’ most nostalgic R&B records was the moment he truly stepped out of SoundCloud and into the real world.
Your cool internet friends let off disaffected yawns and pure vitriol when Travis dropped impeccable debut LP Rodeo in September, but nothing quite galvanised dancefloors like the early vocal drop on ‘Antidote’, which no doubt had you reaching for ‘Maria I’m Drunk’ in the cab ride home.
Ty Dolla $ign feat. Future & Rae Sremmurd
Weirdly, Ty Dolla $ign’s least Ty Dolla $ign-ish single was the one that connected most in 2015, despite still somehow being underrated. TM88’s hypnotically claustrophobic production makes for one of the year’s most effective club anthems, and the pure R&B of Free TC comfortably ensured Ty’s legendary status.
There are about five Thug records this year that give a feeling like no other when played communally at high volume, but the acceleration in that first verse and then the confidence to leave so much space in the second is a one-two punch like no other.