30. BOBBY SHMURDA – HOT NIGGA
No, this isn’t lyrical hip-hop – ‘Hot Nigga’ is an uncompromisingly rugged banger reserved for the club when it reaches capacity. As excellent as this track is, getting awkward white people to perform the Shmoney Dance will forever stand as Bobby Shmurda’s greatest achievement.
29. ANNA LUNOE – ALL OUT
Remember when dance music actually made you want to dance? Without getting too nostalgic, Anna Lunoe’s ‘All Out’ espouses that same carefree nature with bouncing, pop-friendly results. The Australian export’s approach to both beat making and vocals is admirable.
28. ROYKSOPP & ROBYN – MONUMENT (T.I.E VERSION)
Royksopp and Robyn are a match made in Scandinavian heaven, and they explore darker paths with this dance-ready rendition of ‘Monument’. The harsh synths tangle menacingly with Robyn’s ghostly vocals, painting a wicked portrait with various shades of black.
27. SKEPTA – IT AIN’T SAFE FT. YOUNG LORD
Grime pioneer Skepta links with Young Lord of the omnipresent ASAP Mob for the disgustingly raw ‘It Ain’t Safe’. While the hook grows a little mundane, this anthem for British hooliganism is wonderfully animated, and appropriate for those donning Burberry caps and stolen Sergio Tacchini tracksuits.
26. ARCA – THIEVERY
Having gained attention for his production work for FKA Twigs and Kanye West, Arca intrigues with solo release ‘Thievery’. It’s an otherworldly affair, something that might soundtrack a dark basement date with an Ouija board – but the dancing percussion throws another element into the mix.
25. HUDSON MOHAWKE – CHIMES
‘Chimes’ might hold the gold medal for 2014’s most brutal drop, with Hudson Mohawke again employing the assertive horns that made ‘Higher Ground’ a dancefloor favourite. Delivered with a generous serving of bass and gruff grunts, the track sounds like a signaling of the apocalypse.
24. SCHOOLBOY Q – BREAK THE BANK
The most prolific member from Kendrick Lamar’s TDE stable, bucket hat pioneer ScHoolBoy Q is championing the West Coast with conviction. Take ‘Break The Bank’ as a prime example – eased keys from The Alchemist hover underneath his nasal bark, while the hook’s nonchalant vocal is infectious.
23. WET – DON’T WANNA BE YOUR GIRL
Wet deliver gorgeous, down-tempo R&B on ‘Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl’ – melancholy vocals are aimed straight at the tote bag-carrying, slim chino-wearing demographic. While the Brooklyn trio are residents in hipster territory, they sound sincere on the pensive single.
22. ONE DAY – LOVE ME LESS
A driving force behind the local hip-hop renaissance, Sydney super-group One Day dropped a distinctly territorial yet widely accessible album with Mainline. Lead single ‘Love Me Less’ is a breezy tale of Inner-West debauchery, soundtracking the suburbs with its larrikin nature.
21. T.I – ABOUT THE MONEY FT. YOUNG THUG
It’s an amicable Atlanta pairing on ‘About The Money’ – Young Thug’s flailing flow contrasts nicely against T.I’s more direct approach, while the build-up to the hook is nothing short of riveting. What results is an accessible collaboration between trap music’s godfather and favourite emerging son.
20. ARIANA GRANDE – BE MY BABY FT. CASHMERE CAT
While Cashmere Cat’s production on ‘Be My Baby’ shimmers brightly, Ariana Grande’s voice soars beyond the stars. We’re reluctant to co-sign the Mariah Carey comparisons, but this shows plenty of promise. Furthermore, Cashmere Cat flexes his potential to leap into mainstream circles.
19. RICH GANG – LIFESTYLE FT. YOUNG THUG, RICH HOMIE QUAN
Young Thug breaks free from his gritty urban storytelling for a sun-soaked celebratory anthem on ‘Lifestyle’. Linking with Cash Money mogul Birdman (and his array of entertaining ad-libs and hand rubs), Young Thug’s delivery jitters with an overdose of obnoxiousness and charisma.
18. FKA TWIGS – TWO WEEKS
Despite the sexually charged subject matter, FKA Twigs skillfully crafts ‘Two Weeks’ into an elegant affair with her intimate falsetto and looming production. The grandiose visuals are like those on the big screen, solidifying FKA Twigs as the year’s most intriguing and aesthetically engaging breakthrough star.
17. DRAKE – 6 GOD
The fact that Drake sampled himself on ‘6 God’ is evidence of his titanic stature in rap. When he dropped three tracks with no prior warning back in October, this banger was the clear leader of the pack – he switches his flow between commanding barks and strung-out bravado.
16. FLIGHT FACILITIES – TWO BODIES FT. EMMA LOUISE
Before Flight Facilities dropped their debut Down To Earth earlier this year, they had already long established themselves as masters of vocal collaborations. ‘Two Bodies’ continues the trend, featuring a minimal house beat injected tastefully with Emma Louise’s fragile vocals.
15. SAM SMITH – STAY WITH ME
Following his breakthrough appearance on Disclosure’s ‘Latch’, Sam Smith’s voice is now recognised as one of the most magnetic – and ‘Stay With Me’ has been the signature anthem to his success. It’s an absolute tearjerker elevated by gospel elements, and even earned a cover from the manliest of men, Vin Diesel.
14. YG – MY NIGGA (REMIX) FT. RICH HOMIE QUAN, LIL WAYNE, MEEK MILL, NICKI MINAJ
YG is the latest gangster rap revivalist to emerge from Compton, and those gutter sensibilities shine on ‘My Nigga (Remix)’. While he enlists several rap heavyweights here, it’s Nicki Minaj that steals the show. Her stunningly staunch verse solidifies her place as one of rap’s most effective guest emcees.
13. BANKS – DROWNING
Take one look at Banks, and it’s easy to see why her 2014 album is named Goddess. But while Banks remains undeniably sultry, she’s also vulnerable and effortlessly bleak. ‘Drowning’ sees her wail painfully in between distortion and backing vocals warped beyond recognition, hitting us all where it hurts most.
12. IGGY AZALEA – FANCY FT. CHARLI XCX
Does Iggy Azalea truly represent Australian hip-hop? Does it really matter at this point in time? Her chart success has been nothing short of mind-blowing throughout 2014, and much of it can be attributed to ‘Fancy’. Quite simply, this is a pop masterpiece – just try removing that Charli XCX hook from your head.
11. FLYING LOTUS – NEVER CATCH ME FT. KENDRICK LAMAR
Formed around a simple piano loop, ‘Never Catch Me’ morphs into a whirlwind of instrumentation that Kendrick Lamar flows alongside at a rapid pace. Flying Lotus’ manic production qualities are both exhausting and enjoyable at the same time – this is the definition of chaos crafted with expertise.
10. BEYONCE – FLAWLESS (REMIX) FT. NICKI MINAJ
This track will forever be known as the one Beyonce used to address that elevator incident, but it’s also a rollercoaster remix with plenty of quirks and quotables. Whether or not you agree with Beyonce’s feminist diatribe, this is a collaboration between two successful, inspiring and unstoppable women.
9. CAM’RON & A-TRAK – DIPSHITS FT. DAMON DASH, JUELZ SANTANA
Dipset prove that they’re still the masters of unbridled Harlem flamboyance on ‘Dipshits’. Featuring floor-length mink coats and airbrushed tees, the crew’s strongest trait is their contagious confidence – Cam’ron and Juelz Santana’s efforts are summarised neatly by Damon Dash’s brash trash talk.
8. RICK ROSS – SANCTIFIED FT. KANYE WEST, BIG SEAN
Rick Ross hit headlines for his weight loss in 2014, but his gluttonous attitude towards success and material goods never stops. ‘Sanctified’ holds some of the year’s best sample work courtesy of Kanye West, with a screaming Betty Wright vocal wedged in between bold verses and window-shattering bass.
7. TY DOLLA SIGN – OR NAH (REMIX) FT. THE WEEKND, WIZ KHALIFA
Smoke-filled, sexual R&B is on the cards when The Weeknd jumps on board a remix, and ‘Or Nah’ might be the most vulgar of them all. With DJ Mustard’s production including the sound of beds squeaking subtly in the background, this is an X-rated affair best served with satin sheets and candlelight.
6. RUSTIE – ATTAK FT. DANNY BROWN
There’s a sizeable discount bin of throwaway rap and electronic collaborations from 2014, but ‘Attak’ rises above them all convincingly. Rustie’s floating lead gives little warning for the vicious synths that drop and jab relentlessly, while Danny Brown’s delivery is frenzied – the sound of an insatiable emcee.
5. MILA J – SMOKE, DRINK, BREAK UP
Although Mila J explores the standard hip-hop topics of smoking fragrant marijuana and the ilk, there’s absolutely nothing pedestrian about her talents. She wails passionately over a serene acoustic backdrop with enough urban grit to satisfy R&B aficienados, while the video’s snap-neck choreography is a treat.
4. DRAKE – 0-100/THE CATCH UP
On ‘0-100/The Catch Up’, Drake is blazingly confident and dreamily self-reflective – sometimes within the same line. Quickly proving himself as the most three-dimensional artist in hip-hop, his transition between characters is effortless on one of the year’s biggest club anthems.
3. FUTURE – MOVE THAT DOPE FT. PHARRELL, PUSHA T
Given that Pusha T has built his career on a mountain of drug metaphors, recruiting his slick wordplay on ‘Move That Dope’ is a wise move. The beat from Mike Will is deliciously gluggy, while Future proves that he can do more than croon with autotune. Pharrell’s closing verse is executed with a veteran’s finesse.
2. PARTYNEXTDOOR – RECOGNIZE FT. DRAKE
Capitalising on the soundscapes pioneered by Drake on Take Care, OVO labelmate PartyNextDoor delivers ‘Recognize’ in ominous, lo-fi fashion. His blunt honesty regarding romance is pensively refreshing, and his half-sung, half-rapped lines thrill while bathing in smothering bass.
1. TINASHE – 2 ON FT. SCHOOLBOY Q
‘2 On’ is this year’s most understated club hit – a sinister beat slides effortlessly under Tinashe’s vocals that ooze with hazy seduction. ScHoolBoy Q’s verse is a swift adrenaline kick, while the track includes a segment inspired by Sean Paul’s ‘We Be Burnin’. This is classic R&B refurbished for the 2014 turn up squad.
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