Kyle Kohner’s top 100 list countdown continues with numbers 75 through 51. Catch up with part one first and then dive in.
75. “This Is America” – Childish Gambino
Inciting reactionary essays and theorized debates, Childish Gambino creates a piece of music that transcends a contagious chorus. Though it loses its luster without its imagery-filled music video, the rapper’s hyper-political epic song is darkly satirical and one of the most important songs of the Trump-era.
74. “Freelance” – Toro y Moi
Once a chillwave trailblazer, Chaz Bear refines his producing skills to become a synth-funk mastermind with the first single from his forthcoming album, Outer Peace. Showing exactly how far he’s come as a master sound engineer, “Freelance” unleashes futuristic beats and spacey synths, all tied together by Toro y Moi’s intentionally robotic vocals and flow.
73. “Mona Lisa” – Lil Wayne featuring Kendrick Lamar
Though he is arguably one of the greatest one-line rappers of all time, many underestimate Lil Wayne’s ability as a storyteller. But “Mona Lisa,” the centerpiece to The Carter V, puts those doubts to rest. Oh yeah, Kendrick spits his best guest verse ever here.
72. “Pynk” – Janelle Monáe featuring Grimes
Wielding the color pink as a statement of power, Janelle Monae’s “Pynk” lauds self-love, feminity and the color that unites all humans anatomically and intrinsically. Euphoric, futuristic and beautifully harmonic, this single is made even sweeter by the blessing of Grimes’ production prowess.
71. ¨Death Grips Is Online¨ – Death Grips
Driven by heavily anxious and distorted guitar and synth, MC Ride sounds more feverish than ever as he manically contorts his words through the cyberspace of a very video-game-like instrumental performance by Zach Hill.
70. “Only Acting” – Kero Kero Bonito
Using a theater performance as a vehicle to talk about façades and genuine happiness, Sarah Midori Perry and company sheathe an electro-pop interior with bursts of fuzzy noise rock flourishes to create an ironically enjoyable contrast in sounds.
69. “Big Sky” – Orville Peck
The masked riddle that is Orville Peck makes his debut to the world as a newly signed Sub Pop artist with darkly romantic single “Big Sky.” As twangy tremolo guitar modulations color the atmosphere with warmth and Peck’s sonorous voice tethers listeners to ambiguity, the obscure cowboy unravels a unique blend of gothic country that’s most beautiful.
68. “Weight” – Brockhampton:
The emotional linchpin to not only Iridescence, but the existence of Brockhampton as a whole, “WEIGHT” sees the rap group’s frontman, Kevin Abstract, reflect on his sexuality. He does this while recalling the collective’s current state of affairs in light of the departure of Ameer Van, (who reportedly lied to the other members about sexual misconduct allegations directed toward him earlier in the year).
67. “Black Snow” – Oneohtrix Point Never
Sounding as if it were pulled from Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, the mad scientist persona of Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin) devises a forlorn and ominously beautiful post-industrial trip into a chilling fog of sound tethered to reality by the faint snapping of fingers.
66. “Water Medley” – Avantdale Bowling Club
A sprawling, nine-minute song, “Water Medley” sounds as if it is submerged in a body of water. At times disarmingly lush and mellow, the anxiously heady lyrics of New Zealand MC Tom Scott discuss the disparity between the poor and the rich, a topic that captures the best of conscious jazz rap in a nutshell.
65. “God Break Down the Door” – Nine Inch Nails
Easily the best NIN song released in years, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross devise an ominous and mechanical display that pays homage to Blackstar-era Bowie with layers of droning saxophone and horn sections deluging ambient textures and urgent drum and bass.
64. “Charcoal Baby” – Blood Orange
With a resounding and emotionally touching chorus, the delicate lead single from Dev Hynes’ latest album, Negro Swan, “Charcoal Baby” touches on self-confidence and personal insecurities in relation the broader picture of intersectional suffering and alienation.
63. “Party For One” – Carly Rae Jepsen
“Party For One” is a positive sign of things to come considering the heavy anticipation surrounding Carly Rae Jepsen’s forthcoming record. It’s synth pop at its most conventional—but most infectious. Though the production is simple, failing to rival the slight complexity of Emotion, Jepsen’s knack for snappy lyrics and a contagious hook drives this one home.
62. “THE BLACKEST BALLOON | THE 13LACKEZT BALLOON” – Denzel Curry
Likening personal family trauma to a horror film, “THE BLACKEST BALLOON” bleeds pain and anger as Denzel Curry displays one of the heaviest, most vicious flows you will hear all year, discussing the cyclical nature of violence and drug abuse.
61. “Smoking Song” – Mick Jenkins featuring BadBadNotGood
To go alongside BadBadNotGood’s smokey, nocturnal and jazzy instrumental, Southern rap MC Mick Jenkins flows about equally murky subject matter—his rough upbringing—with his loose, stream-of-conscious style.
60. “The Mint” – Earl Sweatshirt featuring Navy Blue
“Brodie on the corner with a piece on his hip/ Give a warning ‘fore you blow it in the sky/ Tip-toe’ in over mortar and a brick/ Bumping shoulders with the devil in disguise…” That’s possibly the best bar spat all year.
59. “Dance Like U” – Okay Kaya
Somber and sparse, “Dance Like U,” is an ASMR-like sensation—crisp and clear as day. A disembodied and minimally instrumental composition goes alongside a poetic vocal melody sent directly from heaven. Kaya Wilkins shows why she is one of the most underexposed and underappreciated voices in pop music.
58. “Gallipoli” – Beirut
Once again embracing their world music and Balkan-folk influences, Beirut’s sound seems lusher and layered this time around. Layers of gorgeous organ and beautiful brass arrangements cloak the title track from the band’s forthcoming album.
57. “Tintin in Tibet” – Mount Eerie
With a rare excitable riff opening the floodgates to distant memories of his late wife Geneviève Castrée, Phil Elverum delivers a love song that brings his beloved back to life for a brief but impactful four and a half minutes.
56. “Stir Fry” – Migos
Braggadocios and overflowing with Migos-isms, the trio spews its most infectious verses yet. With a chorus and composition that will forcibly overtake any unwillingness to dance, “Stir Fry” deserved all the hype and airplay it received in 2018. Normally, songs in this vein become incredibly irritable (“Bad & Boujee”) and die off, but this one managed to maintain its playability.
55. “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” – Empress Of
The centerpiece to Empress Of’s “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” is an incredibly dynamic electro-pop number and a delectable earworm, featuring some of the wittiest and heartfelt lyrics heard all year.
54. “Hard Piano” – Pusha T featuring Rick Ross:
Pusha T and Rick Ross pull from their crime-ridden past of cocaine dealing and evading the law to depict just how far they have come as hip-hop luminaries and successful businessmen. Aside from the duo’s lyrical conviction, Kanye’s beats and piano-laden backing track provide a somber tone to complete the song’s noir atmosphere.
53. “Toy” – Young Fathers
The addictive refrain-driven “Toy” is marvelously addictive. Mixing in hints of soul within a predominantly glitchy structure, Young Fathers taunt listeners’ ears with an intense and frantic electronic beat that will leave an impression long after it’s experienced.
52. “Acid King” – Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock and Tobacco)
An experimental diamond in the rough, “Acid Tree” is a psychedelic trip into the story of 17-year old R “Ricky” Kasso Jr., who killed his friend Gary Lauwers in a cemetery in the name of Satan. With Tobacco’s weird synth wave backing track, Aesop Rock parades his peerless flow, wordsmith mentality and ability to tell a meaningful story.
51. “J-TREE” – Gang Gang Dance
Incomprehensibly wondrous, textured and colorful, “J-TREE” is shrouded in electro-rainforest magnificence as meditative soundscapes build and bleed into a beautiful audio sample of a Standing Rock protestor candidly reflecting on a stampede of buffalos emerging from out of nowhere. That story is contrasted against another horror and disaster.