While having a look at my Spotify library, I realized I had a lot of cleaning up to do. Here are 19 songs, some new, some old favorites, I am taking with me into 2019.
Track One – Love It If We Made It – The 1975
This tune from The 1975’s latest album released in 2018, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, is my favorite from the project. It is angsty, with Healy expressing his feelings on the state of our society today, including issues such as racism, police brutality, and drug overdoses, while still being a mood-boosting pop song.
Track Two – Sandra’s Rose – Drake
Drake once again created an album that will forever be an iconic piece in rap music, Scorpion, in 2018. One of the standout tracks for me that has remained a go-to seven months later is “Sandra’s Rose”, with its 70’s inspired sample crafted by DJ M Rock and DJ Premier, and lyrics referring to how money has impacted his life, and how he is not often credited with his own success. This track has a nostalgic sound that never seems to get old.
Track Three – Self-Care – Mac Miller
One of the artists I hold closest to my heart, Mac Miller, passed away in September 2018, leaving a massive legacy. It was hard to choose which song of his to include here, but Self Care from his final release, Swimming, is one that deeply resonates with me. In the song, he raps about the public’s perception of him after his May 2018 DUI arrest and how he needs to take care of himself rather than focusing on this.
Track Four – Money – Cardi B
Cardi B’s latest single, Money, is a female power anthem. Following her highly publicized split from Migos rapper Offset, Cardi is letting the world know she’s a force to be reckoned with. While many have a problem with how brazen about her sexuality she is, I see it as empowering. Cardi sends a message that a woman can be both a sexual being, mother, and a strong business-minded individual, and this is an attitude I want to take with me in 2019.
Track Five – thank u, next – Ariana Grande
I think it is safe to say that “thank u, next” was one of the biggest songs of 2018. Here, Grande sings about her famous exes including rapper Big Sean and most recent ex, actor Pete Davidson, and how she’s better off without them. As overexposed as this song is, I think it holds value in the sense that it not only talks about getting over an ex (as I have experienced in 2018 myself), but that there is fulfilment in self-love and spending time with friends and family rather than fixating on romantic relationships.
Track Six – Broken Clocks – SZA
Broken Clocks is hands down my favorite SZA song. While her latest album, Ctrl, was released in 2017, I still have it on repeat in 2019, as it contains songs that I never get tired of, such as this one. This is one of the most relatable songs for me, and there isn’t one morning that I don’t sing along to SZA belting out about how she is trying her hardest to take life day by day despite feeling like she is bound by broken clocks.
Track Seven – Get You – Daniel Caesar ft. Kali Uchis
Daniel Caesar’s first full length release, Freudian, is another album from 2017 that I still listen to on repeat today. “Get You”, a song where Caesar croons about his lover with butter smooth vocals. One of the highlights from this track is the verse from up-and-coming Columbian vocalist Kali Uchis- I often listen to the song just to hear her. I look forward to what Caesar will put out in 2019.
Track Eight – Without Me – Halsey
I know Halsey is often an artist that is either loved or hated, but I personally am a huge fan of her music and have been since her first release back in 2014, Room 93. This song is one that as soon as I heard it, garnered a huge emotional response from me as I can so closely relate to her breakup with rapper G-Eazy and the lyrics in this song that reflect the breakup about sacrificing yourself for a lover, doing anything to lift them up, only for them to leave you in the dust. 2018 was a huge year for her, with this single blowing up. Less than a month into 2019, it has already reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, setting the tone that this will be Halsey’s year.
Track Nine – SKELETONS – Travis Scott
It is hard to argue that 2018 was a massive year for Houston rapper Travis Scott, with his album Astroworld going number one on the Billboard 200 chart, beating out industry veteran Nicki Minaj with her album Queen released the same week. Scott is a powerhouse, and Astroworld is one of the most cohesive and interesting albums of last year, breaking free from typical rap genre confines. In particular on this track, Scott took on help from Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker and Pharrell Williams, proving that two genres- alternative/rock and rap- can combine to create a stunning final product. Add on a feature from old friend The Weeknd, who pops up again on standout track “WAKE UP”, and these components add up to “SKELETONS” being a classic Scott track. In the song, Scott raps about feeling like he is moving in slow motion, a notion that is echoed by the psychedelic feel of the production.
Track Ten – Exchange – Bryson Tiller
Yes, this is an old track from Tiller’s 2015 release, TRAPSOUL, but I still find myself listening to it today. I love the mellow R&B production including a sample from “Swing My Way” by KP combined with Tiller’s signature soulful vocals about pining for an ex. The third and final verse is a go-to when singing in the car with friends…or bae. A classic from Tiller that has a timelessness you can’t put your finger on. Here’s to more from him in 2019.
Track Eleven – Pretty Little Fears -6LACK ft. J. Cole
One of Atlanta’s finest, 6LACK, released an iconic rap album in 2018 with East Atlanta Love Letter. A standout from the album for me is “Pretty Little Fears”, featuring one of my favorite rappers, J. Cole. Interpolating SZA and Travis Scott’s 2017 hit “Love Galore”, the track’s sparse and mellow production by T-Minus combined with 6LACK’s slick and buttery vocals and J. Cole’s chill verse praising their lovers make for a song I can’t get enough of.
Track Twelve – My Own Thing – Chance the Rapper ft. Joey Purp
This is a fun track dropped near the end of 2018. Here, the two rappers boast about how happy they are with their current partners and how they don’t mind anyone else’s input. It’s something I play in the morning while I’m getting ready and it instantly boosts my mood. Personally, I very much look forward to Chance the Rapper’s follow up to his iconic 2016 album, Coloring Book.
Track Thirteen – Power Trip – J. Cole ft. Miguel
It was hard to pick just one J. Cole song for this playlist (some close contenders were “Apparently” from 2014 Forest Hills Drive and “Kevin’s Heart” from KOD), but “Power Trip” is one I still go to, even though it was released on his 2013 album, Born Sinner. In this song, J Cole and Miguel express their love for a woman they can’t get off their mind. The track includes a sample from “No More” by Hubert Laws and a soulful feature from another of my favorite artists, Miguel. Whenever I’m in my feelings, I hit play on this one.
Track Fourteen – Confidently Lost – Sabrina Claudio
Although this track is from Claudio’s 2017 full length release, About Time, I am carrying it with me into 2019. Claudio’s vocals are effortless and dreamy as she sings about how she is happy on her own without a man- lost, and not wanting to be found. When I first heard this song, I instantly knew it would be a staple in my rotation, as Claudio’s personal journey hit close to home with my own journey of self-discovery and self-love. Her alluring sound is much needed in the R&B genre and I am SO excited for new music from her this year.
Track Fifteen – Missin You Crazy – Russ
Russ is an artist that I find gets a lot of flack for no good reason and has become an internet meme (“Russ took an L”, etc.) but I still think he is one of the best rappers in the game, crossing over both rap and soulful R&B sounds. “Missin You Crazy”, from his 2018 album Zoo, is my favorite track from the release. Here, it seems as if Russ is thinking about a lost love, however, he revealed later via Twitter that the real meaning is about missing your past self and wondering how to find them again. I relate to both meanings and this song has such a nostalgic feel in the production by Russ himself that the emotional response I feel has me carrying it into 2019 and beyond.
Track Sixteen – It Was a Good Day – Ice Cube
I’m taking you waaaay back with this one. Taken from his 1992 album, The Predator, Ice Cube, one of the founding members of the revolutionary rap group N.W.A, is walking us through his day. All of the components of this song, from the samples borrowing from “Sexy Mama” by The Moments and “Footsteps in the Dark” by the Isley Brothers, to Ice Cube’s flawless delivery and flow, make it an iconic rap track that has stood the test of time. Ice Cube described his inspiration for the song to Blender Magazine back in 2008 as “I was at the top of the rap game. It was the summer of ’92 and I was in a hotel room, really in a state of euphoria. I had all the money I had dreamed of. I was in a good frame of mind. And I remember thinking, ‘Okay, there’s been the riots, people know I will deal with that. That’s a given. But I rap all this gangsta stuff; what about all the good days I had?”. I feel like his sentiment is still relevant today, with more violence and racial divide as ever, with police brutality at the forefront of everyone’s minds, even almost 30 years since the L.A Riots. Even with the heavy undertones of the song’s origins, it is still a feel-good, nostalgic track.
Track Seventeen – Gwan Big Up Urself – Roy Woods
Another throwback to 2016, this track is from Woods’ 2016 release Waking at Dawn. This past summer, I had this song on repeat despite its age, and I feel like it is a classic I want to take with me into 2019. Here, Woods expresses how he wants to please his woman and that she should “big up” herself- a Patois term that Woods uses here to say she should praise herself and feel good. Overall, this is a bop.
Track Eighteen – Something in the Way – Jorja Smith
This track is from Smith’s first EP released back in 2016, Project 11. While it is old, it is one of my favorite songs of hers and one I have been listening to a lot lately. In this song, Smith expresses how she is not sure what kept her holding on in her last relationship and why she couldn’t get over it, and that now she is finally moving on. Smith’s vocals are at their best here and it is worth the listen.
Track Nineteen – The Way – Kehlani ft. Chance the Rapper
Another throwback to end this playlist! This tune from the Oakland R&B superstar and LGBTQ advocate is from her 2015 debut, You Should Be Here. I love the sensual feel of this track with outstanding production by Jahaan Sweet, responsible for many hits, such as “8 out of 10” by Drake, “Summer Bummer” by Lana del Rey, and “Drowning” by A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. Here, Kehlani pays tribute to her lover that she just can’t get off her mind. Kehlani’s signature sexy and smooth vocals paired with a standout feature by Chance the Rapper makes this a song I will keep in my rotation in 2019.