Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Top 10 Verses Of 2015

You know, for the overall let down that many saw 2014 as, one thing it was not lacking in was a couple handfuls of absolutely superb verses. Show-stopping, heart-pounding, pulverizing verses that'll stay with us for a long time. And while these next ten are just as memorable, the pack behind them just don't pack as much of a punch. This list spans every corner of the country, from the West Coast dominance to the Chi-town takeover, and every place along Hip-Hop's mainstream to underground spectrum. These were the ten best verses in 2015.

King Louie | Familiar | Surf

Surf sure as hell had some surprises. From Busta Rhymes to J.Cole, the album was packaged with sure fire shocks. Now let's just hope what The Social Experiment is making right now sticks, because it's not just the instrumentation that's driving home a more positive message. From 'Wanna Be Cool's' indication that achieving popularity isn't always a thing to strive for, that being original is really the way to go, to 'Familiar's' tongue-in-cheek dissing of fine females who all attain to be the baddest bitch, despite all looking the same, Surf was filled with progressive thinking in the scope of Hip-Hop. And it was the latter that saw typically braggadocios-centered emcees taking a chance to riff on the girls they tend to attract. No longer were King Louie and Quavo in search of these girls, they were criticizing them for all looking familiar. The former, with a strange assortment of instrumentation thrown behind him, few of which he's been accustomed to, took the spotlight and held it, turning the joyful track and whipping it into lighthearted dissing. Flipping words and phrases given to these girls on their heads, fashionable playing up his boredom with the latest batch of trend-walkers, Louie jokingly paraded through an assortment of one-liners to drive home the point brilliantly.


So, if anyone had any qualms that Driver can still spit as fast as anyone, even himself on 'Imaginary Places,' this final verse off 'Ministry Of The Torture Couch' will conclude that rather convincingly. Not only does he fire off some insanely intricate delectables, he introduces a political edge to his work that's previously been absent, filling the verse with political fervor containing racial imagery and social injustice. This is bookended by Driver's most blunt lines to date, "fuck a cop, fuck a cop, I'm ready to drop a cop." Collectively this forms one of the rappers' best works to date, merging two areas he's excelled in, lyrical verbosity and rapping intensity. There's talk of General Lee, blacks being referred to as sub-humans, Confederate flags, CIA honorees, and owning up to one's own failures, all strewn throughout these rapid fire bars. It's Driver with passion, a great sight to see for an artist still working out the kinks to achieving respect in the underground world.

Lil Wayne | M'$ | At.Long.Last.A$AP

One of Hip-Hop's feature kings in the 2000's, Wayne has been on a slide of late, following the path of other influential artists like Eminem, Public Enemy, and more in creating lackluster releases as often as there greater works. His presence in 2015 though may mark a return. His mixtape was more of the same, but his work on others' tracks, like Tyler, The Creator's 'Smuckers,' show that he still has it in him. Case in point, 'M'$,' accompanying A$AP Rocky with a filthy verse that put the rest of the contributors on At.Long.Last.A$AP to shame. He was back to his fiery ways, speeding throughout his lengthy verse with the ease that made him known as one of the South's grittiest rappers. The way the track drastically shifts upon his appearance is a testament to his work as a whole, able to put naysayers to rest as the sole focus came upon him. His variety of flows, splitting words at ease, gracefully mastering the beat, is the epitome of his southern flow influenced by the legends before him. It's dirty, grimy, full of power and presence, and shows more so than anything else that the aging rapper still has potential in him. 

Vince Staples | Señorita (1st) | Summertime '06

Seemingly every year there's an artist on, or just off, the list that deserves his place in the spotlight for the sole purpose that their overall quality of work in regards to verses forced none in particular to outshine the rest. Enter Vince Staples and Summertime '06, an album littered with high-quality verses. From 'Surf's' hyphenated collection to '3230's' absolute flow-busting 16 to any verse here on 'Señorita,' Staples had far and away the best impact in 2015 in regards to bars, flow, and creativity. Since I have to pick one, his presence on 'Señorita's' opening moments shows just how much potential the Long Beach rapper has. Much of my praise to Summertime '06 went to its ability to gather influence from all corners of the country, removing it from the West Coast rap labelling Staples is used to. On 'Señorita' he heads to the Dirty South for a lesson in the Trap flow, mouthing threw syllables, merging words and phrases, with the fluidity of a seasoned vet. As we saw elsewhere in the year (hint: my #2 on this list), the archetypal Trap flow gets increasingly more interesting with a bonafide lyricist fronting it, weaving technicalities and content into verses typically devoid of them


Ride's always had a way of attracting attention through his voice, presence, and persistence, but never really his lyrics. They often seem scatter-brained or maniacal, obsessing over the emotions packed within them. But on 'On GP,' fans saw a whole new side to the character, one that lifted the mask briefly to remark on those antagonizing him. Never has someone's acceptance of his fanbase seemed so depressing, but here Ride sees them crawling to learn more about his private life, costing the man his sanity, reveling in ideas of suicide. It's a powerful verse that abruptly cuts off Death Grips insistence on the fantastical, bringing fear back to reality in the form of the Grim Reaper, knocking at his doorstep, giving him a noose to use at his discretion. It's brutally expressive and capped by the first use of his personal name (Stefan) ever in a Death Grips song. The leader and his fans seem almost interchangeable at the moment, one without the other wouldn't exist, but it's this codependency that's caused Ride's outburst into revolting back at those constantly slandering his name, his message, and his feelings, bursting inside this echoing bubble of 'On GP's' dense soundscape to stop them in their tracks.


Let it be known that the biggest shock of the year falls on this verse when, after questioning who this emcee spitting like a professional is, I come to learn it's Sam Herring, lead singer of Future Islands. To know that he worked with Milo, prolific underground rapper, not once but twice this year, along with a feature on Busdriver's Thumbs, providing memorable verses in all three appearances, it came to solidify in my brain that Hemlock Ernst was a force to be reckon with. While 'Souvenir' isn't his most technically impressive (that goes to 'Ministry Of The Torture Couch') or his most flowing ('Lavender Chunk') it is his most earnest, thematic, and conceptual. Reminiscing on his childhood days with the comfortability of a rapper well versed, Ernst spits well over 90 seconds, moving through past memories like a dreamscape as vivid as if it happened yesterday. The lyrics are conjuring and imaginative, the style punctual, the sound congenial. Really, there's nothing wrong with it. And while it may come off as by the books, his presence on the two other tracks show an emcee who can offer variety in verbosity. It may be crazy to think but I'm now looking forward to a mixtape from Sam Herring. WATTBA.


Leave it to a non-rapper to make one of the best verses of the year. At the least, Na'kel's verse on 'DNA is a testament to the power of emotion through music. You can lack the technicalities, the flow, the lyrics, and the one-liners if you have a powerful story to tell. According to Earl in an NPR interview, after popping LSD the two were given word that one of Nak's close friends had just died. Paranoia, depression and fear all set in as Earl's friend, said to soon lay down a prototypical verse was now given serious news. What unravels is a man struggling to come to grips with the news, sputtering his own lines, tearing off into disheartened proses, fully engulfed in the moment. It's something that stands outside of music, being structured and pre-organized and all, the only offering we get of on-the-cusp recordings are those that are freestyles, typically defunct of emotion, settling for bars rather than feelings. Na'kel inadvertently created a stellar verse and an insight to a young man's life like music has seldom seen before. For a associate typically known for his wit and humor, joining Odd Future when at their silliest, 'DNA's' album-stopping verse really put perspective on the backstory of one's life.

Lupe Fiasco | Mural | Tetsuo & Youth

What's the definition of a verse? Is it 16 bars, something close, or just a continuous spark of energy until a chorus, bridge, or finale cuts it off? Whatever it is, Lupe obliterated it with 'Mural,' a near eight minute opus that'll put any long verse to shame for years to come. While I felt Tetsuo & Youth fell off at times, 'Mural' stood as a high ground to Lupe's angelic return from a slew of lackluster releases. In it he branches off into every conceivable direction, only thing holding him and the beat together is his lyricism. Intricate, top notch, and metaphor-woven, it's quite a shock to see the song fly by without a single dull moment. If anything it's one criticism is that it's too lyrically involved, forcing repeated listens to fully digest the entire piece. He even takes a stab at impersonating DOOM of all people, flipping inter-changeable sentences like he did on 'Curls.' It's interesting that for how in-depth 'Mural' is, really coming off like Lupe's biography to the world, it's his most intricate track as well, making a welcomer for new fans null despite it being the best track to do so. Regardless, for fans of Lupe, fans of Hip-Hop, and fans of rapping in general you can't get much better than the monolith that is 'Mural.' Truly, to its name, a work of art. 

André 3000 | Hello | But U Caint Use My Phone

My GOAT has once again blessed us with his post 2010's rare verse, this time thanks to his baby mama and legend Erykah Badu. Every feature coming from Andre since his deepening into the shadows has been sensational, and not in the slightest just because of it's rare sighting. It may only be two or so handfuls but each verse, from 'DoYaThing' to 'Sixteen' to Lil Wayne's 'Interlude' to 'Pink Matter' has been nothing short of flawless, proving Dre to still be a formidable force decades into his career. 'Hello' ain't no different, seeing yet another side to 3000's ever-expanding range, throwing in heinous amounts of fluidity whilst dancing over a beat that's essentially non-existent. It's a treat and a testament to Dre's fortitude that he can hold the throne with as little resources as he utilizes here, bouncing off air, stringing together words and phrases like the world's most renowned spoken word poet. On 'Hello' Dre can't seem to come to grips with a long-term on and off relationship, demanding attention through the attention-less phone users, driving up situations, increasing the complexity. In many facets it comes off like a part two to 'Pink Matter's' lustful hopes and desires, seeing the aftermath and realizing no solution lies in the distance. 

Kendrick Lamar | Blacker The Berry (3rd) | TPAB

Sigh. Do I mind that Kendrick has topped the best verse of the year three years running? No. Do I wish someone would best him? Yeah. But the point is, king Kendrick is still on top and from his daunting verse on 'm.A.A.d. city' to 'Control's' show-stopping throwdown to 'Blacker The Berry's' eye-opening finale, Kendrick Lamar has a right to call himself the best rapper in today's era. With the conceptually depth To Pimp A Butterfly administered it was only right the album had a climax. An entire album's worth of black pride, cultural depravity and racial gentrification pent up and lent out only to be relinquished in one single line. "So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street when gangbanging make me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hypocrite." It's devastating, decisive, divisive, really anything that makes art worthwhile. The final verse is lyrically on point, his flow never deviates from the anarchistic beat, and the fact that he can show immense disdain whilst still thinking critically about himself proves that Lamar isn't just a rapper, or a musician, or even an artist, but a mover of feelings, an inciter of emotions, and a pigeonhead for future generations to beacon off of. 

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