The Best Songs of 2014

The Best Songs of 2014

20. Cousin Stizz – “Shoutout”

Extra bills go a long way in securing short-term satisfication and long-term success. Boston-bred Cousin Stizz sees this truth and capitalizes — shout out to the money from the drugs. Part smokers anthem, part ode to dealers, “Shoutout” grew into a whole other beast in the months following its July release. If you have a passion, hustle to realize that passion and appreciate green, you can get down to the Drake-cosigned cut. It’s also catchy as hell, and the sleeper pick for banger of the year. —Alex Siber

19. Grumby – “Used 2 Want U”

“Used 2 Want U” is malleable but never manipulative. Production duo Grumby’s finest composition to date dares to accelerate both sides of an emotional coin, elation and regressive melancholy, willing you to dance one listen and reducing you to tears the next. Comprising the grandiose piece are collapsing snares; heartbeat kicks; a larger-than-life amalgam of major chords and vocal samples that scream of longing and desperation. At this castle’s core lies grievance. The shining exterior will keep you moving, but the sadness lurking behind closed doors gives the song its true power. –Alex Siber 

18. Mapei – “Don’t Wait” F. Chance The Rapper

Everything here is pure joy, distilled: Mapei’s loyalty to a brother, sister, lover, whoever; Chance’s tender tweak, which urges us to wait for love; producer Magnus Lidehäll’s clever vocal layering in the first verse. Together, they create a record universal in both tone and subject. Don’t worry about the little things, just be sure to endure them with those who matter most. —Alex Siber

17. Rae Sremmurd – “No Type”

You know those artists you act like you don’t enjoy to be on some holier-than-thou shit? That’s me and Rae Sremmurd. But damn it to hell, I cannot get their songs out of my head. Whether it’s “No Type” or “No Flex Zone,” good luck not randomly shouting out the hook at moments when you probably shouldn’t. By the way, shout out to whoever called them the “ratchet Kriss Kross.” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. —Andrew Martin

16. The Code – “Run”

Whenever I turn to UK duo The Code for some sonic relief, I slip into a foggy state of mind. It’s a welcome change, a visit to an internal sauna only they can unlock for me. A low-key gem from their entirely worthwhile 1|11 project, “Run” blends the pair’s best lyrics of longing and finest autotune grooves. The track befits both lonesome contemplation and starry-eyed dancing, and its emerged as one of our very favorite songs since its release. Enjoy.  —Alex Siber

15. Big K.R.I.T. – “Mt. Olympus”

Big K.R.I.T. came up around the same time as artists like Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, but he has yet to reach the commercial heights of his peers. On “Mt. Olympus,” K.R.I.T. is finally fed up with mainstream hip-hop and unloads his frustrations. The track is his own response to Kendrick’s “Control” verse from the previous year, and he showcases why he deserves to be on top with a rapid-paced flow. K.R.I.T. is sick of people being so slow to pick up on Southern artists, except for those that embrace mainstream trends. He also calls out rappers that have made names for themselves solely from biting Southern styles. K.R.I.T. has previously declared himself as ‘King of the South,’ but “Mt. Olympus” makes a case for him to be king of hip-hop, period. —Chris Gibbons

14. St. Vincent – “Regret”

A special punch in the face is reserved for anyone who tries to delete “Regret” from my iPhone. Granted, that jab wouldn’t inflict any pain whatsoever, and “Regret” is a far cry, sonically, from the futuristic, army-march masterpiece “Digital Witness,” but not one track off St. Vincent is more deserving of the ‘timeless’ label. The rugged triad of guitar stabs beneath each hook vaporize like a magic trick taking aim at states of matter, and nothing can be done but bear witness as Annie Clark tears our world apart. Who would have thought destruction could sound this good. —Alex Siber

13. Pharoahe Monch – “Broken Again”

Pharoahe Monch’s PTSD carries more of personal narrative compared to his previous work. On “Broken Again,” he pens a vivid story about the ongoing struggles brought forth by drug addiction and a strenuous personal relationship. Lyrically he’s as sharp as always, but the most memorable part is the chorus, which has a real Tears For Fears ’80s vibe. It’s exceptionally executed, even making you wish Monch — a top-tier rapper — would sing more often. —Gedi Dabakaeri

12. J. Cole – “Be Free” (Live Version)

People needed to hear their heroes in 2014. Months before any word of a new J. Cole album, the Dreamville maestro released this SoundCloud loosie in support of the Ferguson protests. He’s audibly pained. He voices desires for equality no human should have to. But for all his anguish, Cole never once lets you believe he’s broken — a sentiment worth sharing these days. The version performed live on Letterman made Jermaine the ballsiest, most important TV musical guest of the year and, like the original, didn’t wreak of exploitation. Let this record be a capsule of the injustices that inspired it, and a musical benchmark Cole should aim to best for future efforts. Bravo. —Alex Siber

11. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – “Sunday Candy”

Out of all the tracks credited to The Social Experiment this year, “Sunday Candy” is the only one credited to Donnie Trumpet as opposed to Chance the Rapper. At first it’s not quite obvious why; Chance provides two verses and a hefty portion of the backing vocals on the hooks. But give it a few more spins and it becomes clear that Donnie Trumpet (Niko Segal) is in charge. Chance may be the frontman, but Donnie is undoubtedly the bandleader as his direction led The Social Experiment to make the most fully fleshed out instrumental of their short, and incredibly impressive, career. —Thomas Johnson

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