7) Birthday (feat. Monty)- Fetty Wap
For the longest time, my bio on dating apps was “Fetty Wap deserved better!!”. Fetty had one of the greatest rap runs of this decade from late 14-15, when it felt like he catapulted into hip-hop superstardom overnight. His ascension seemed to reach its apex after Drake remixed “My Way” in the middle of 2015. Fetty was everywhere. His best song from that run, “679”, still is one of the few “older” songs that, when played on weekends in clubs in NYC, every 20-year-old can passionately recite all the lyrics to. Fetty Wap never stopped making good music, but for some reason, the public stopped caring about Fetty Wap. In 2019, he teamed up with longtime collaborator, Monty, and on his birthday dropped an excellent track named… “Birthday”.
Fetty’s pop sensibilities have always been remarkable. His ad-libs are absurdly memorable and he yelp/sings with a pained cry that makes all of his melodies strikingly catchy. All of his songs have a similar structure in that they usually feature a hypnotizing sung-through chorus and then a more aggressive and bombastic verse. In “Birthday”, the way in which Fetty undercuts himself in the pre-chorus (“oh, she fell in love with my car” x2) only to burst in with the chorus is captivating. He then brings out his best friend/most frequent rap partner, Monty, who is a fine, if not, unremarkable emcee who always seems to deliver when paired with Fetty. In the same way that Slim Jxmmy relieves all of the tension that Swae Lee creates as he lives in the stratosphere of his falsetto on all Rae Sremmurd songs, Monty almost serves the same purpose when he raps alongside Fetty (though he’s not the rapper Jxmmi is); He never is exceptional, but he proves to be the perfect compliment to Fetty.
I often think about which artist from the 2010s that was a massive star with multiple successful records and then totally fell out of the spotlight will be regarded as the most underrated years from now when everybody looks back. If it doesn’t end up being Rich Homie Quan, my money might be on Fetty.
6) EARFQUAKE (feat. Playboi Carti)- Tyler, the Creator
When I think about what makes “EARFQUAKE” work so effectively, the word that comes to mind is “layering”. It starts out rather stripped down for the first 20 or so seconds, with mostly just piano chords, as the lyrics “For real this time” echo on repeat in the background. Then, all of a sudden, bright colors, like pinks and yellows and teals flood the speakers and come pouring in as Tyler croons about a lover that makes his “earth quake”. It’s childlike in its innocence, but it also perfectly captures the feeling of adoration, similar to the way Kendrick’s “LOVE.“, captures the feeling of being helplessly in love in its final verse.
Once the “Don’t leave” pleading-bit comes booming in for the first time and the bass kicks in, another layer gets added and we can really feel the song bounding towards something. And instantly, out of nowhere, as if the album (only four minutes and 56 seconds deep) has been building to this moment for ages, the music creates the image of a crowd clearing out to reveal a spotlight focused solely on the only artist with enough youthful energy to perfectly capture the environment Tyler has so stunningly orchestrated on the song… Playboi Carti hops in and delivers maybe my favorite guest verse of the year, and he’s practically spewing near-indiscernible nonsense. Carti’s one of those artists that can make you realize rap has never had to be about what you were saying, but moreso how you were saying it. He name-drops D. Rose and the fact that his diamonds aren’t Tiffany in practically the same breath. It’s brilliant.
Once Carti finishes his verse, the “Don’t leave” pre-chorus re-emerges but with another layer: women singing “ah’s” in the background in an almost gospel fashion, which gives the song the feeling of rising and floating into the sky. By the time we reach the outro and Tyler slinks back into the track, rapping, “I don’t want no confrontation/You don’t need my conversation/I just need some confirmation of how you feel”, that’s all she wrote. “EARFQUAKE” is a song about layers and feeling like you’re floating once you fall for somebody. It’s blisteringly bright in the best way possible, kind of like being in love.