10) I Got You (Always and Forever) (feat. En Vogue/Ari Lennox/Kierra Sheard)- Chance the Rapper
When I talk to anybody in public about Chance the Rapper, I always very quickly come to the realization that I’m the only person on the entire planet that actually LIKED Chance’s most recent release, THE BIG DAY, despite its flaws. Does it mean as much to me as COLORING BOOK or even parts of ACID RAP (which hasn’t aged as well as most people try to act like)? No. Is it overlong and does it feature far too many references (mostly corny) about being married, to the point that Chance sounds like Tom Haverford in the season one finale of SUCCESION? Yes. Does Chance prove multiple times on the tape that he’s never been a better rapper in his life? Absolutely. The man raps his ass off for 77 minutes.
The first six tracks of THE BIG DAY are all pretty great, save for “Hot Shower,” which is one of the more annoying songs in Chance’s entire discography. My favorite of those is “I Got You (Always and Forever)”. It’s iridescently bright and features a wonderful intro from En Vogue before the hurricane-like beat comes roaring in. It does another thing that much of THE BIG DAY does well: It nails the big feature as a wonderful compliment to Chance. Ari Lennox is soulful and inviting on the chorus, especially when her and Chance go back-and-forth, singing “Always, Always (And forever, ever)”. Her pairing with Chance manages to create a truly authentic stand-in for Chance’s wife, where she believably feels the part, to an effective degree.
Chance bursts onto the track with more jubilant verve than I’ve ever heard from him (the beat and background vocals build perfectly for it to happen, to be fair) and you can feel joy oozing from him in the most charming way imaginable. Even if what he’s rapping at times may feel corny to most (lyrics like “Like the day after the big day/Is supposed to be super bad like we won’t stay/It’s supposed to be super scary like we don’t pray” will make many people roll their eyes), Chance raps with such unmitigated conviction all through the song (and the whole album, to be fair) that it just works. And it’s delightful.
9) Please Me (feat. Cardi B)- Bruno Mars
The first night “Please Me” came out, I listened to it for probably an hour straight. I was getting ready to go out that night, so it just felt appropriate. That same night, somebody tweeted out, “Bruno just dropped a song about begging to put the tip in. Classic confirmed.” Since then, I’ve never been able to shake that description when hearing the song. Quite simply, it’s the most perfect review of the song imaginable.
“Please Me” isn’t a cooler song than the earlier Bruno-Cardi collaboration, “Finesse (Remix)”, by any means, but it is a better song. Cardi is one of the more exciting mainstream rappers working right now, and for my money, Bruno may be the most prolific radio vocalist alive. What this collaboration does far more effectively than “Finesse (Remix)” did is showcase both artists’ strengths. Cardi spits comical bars where she compares her pussy to both dinner reservations AND overpriced water, because, of course she does (The line where she calls another woman’s pussy “basura” also never fails to make me grin). Bruno proves for the thousandth time that his vocal range knows no limits. He legitimately hits new vocal heights as he begs for his lady to “back it up for him” and “twerk it on him so nice”. Bruno makes begging for sex sound cool, which is an impossibly challenging task that he is more than up for. His voice is butter-smooth and outside of Brendon Urie, nobody else riffs with quite such impressive gusto.
I was confident “Please Me” was going to be a number one hit. I thought it made perfect sense, given the state of Cardi’s superstardom, Bruno’s constant presence on the Billboard top 100, and the success of their most recent collaboration. It didn’t, obviously, seeing as it had to compete with “Old Town Road”. It faded out of the picture far faster than I expected, but regardless, Bruno unsurprisingly continued to do what Bruno’s done since the start of the decade: Make deliriously fun and vocally masterful pop music.
8. Volcano- Shy Glizzy
The first time I heard “Volcano”, I was in my usual college bar, Papa D’s, on a Thursday night in July. That night, I got there earlier than the rest of my friends by a considerable margin and there were only two other people in the bar: two sophomore boys from my school. I got a drink and went to play some music but I saw the boys had requested the next six songs. I was a little annoyed, until maybe three or four songs in, when I heard Glizzy’s slippery-somber voice weave through the beat as he rapped about Todd Gurley.
Eventually, the next morning, I found his album COVERED N BLOOD (an album I think I liked more than most critics) and really fell in love with the intro that I heard the previous night, “Volcano”. The first thing I noticed about about it was how minimal it was. The beat has an eerie emptiness to it that’s rather haunting. When considering how personal Glizzy’s music is, it feels like a chilling look into his inner mental state. It also manages to perfectly showcase Glizzy as a writer in an extremely intimate way.
It takes Glizzy almost two full minutes to finish his first verse, which, when considering how harrowing some of the lyrics are (“I come from the bottom like the motherfucking sewer” and “At least you don’t feel this pain, Shawty/You gon’ be okay”), feels almost like not enough time. Once Glizzy makes it to the chorus, he drops grimly amusing bars like, “I shoot just like Klay, that ain’t no joke” and “I don’t drink soda, not unless it’s dirty Sprite”, but it’s the second verse that’s the most memorable: Glizzy hangs out in his upper register crooning/pleading to have his brothers freed from prison and proclaiming he won’t “go back to wakin’ up in the trap early” because “he runs through the money” just like Todd Gurley.
Gurley didn’t see the same level of success in 2019 that he saw in 2018 (where he was named the NFC Offensive-Player-of-the-Year) largely due to the fact that his arthritic knees made it hard for him to be a high-volume player. Unlike Gurley, expect Glizzy to have absolutely no problem continuing his ascent.