All Decade: My Favourites in Music

So since it’s the end of the decade instead of simply listing my favourite songs of the year, I decided to make things way more difficult for myself and make a list of all my favourite songs of the decade. Why 55 and not 50, because I gave myself those extra five so I wouldn’t be pulling my hair out deciding which songs to cut from a list of 50. The rules for this list are simple, in order to get the most diversity of artists, only one song per artist on the list. The second rule is that I have had to have listened to said song the same year it dropped, just so I don’t retroactively go back now and find songs that I have missed. And lastly, this is a list of my favourite songs of the decade, not best, not most important, not most influential, etc. However, sometimes best, important, influential, and favourite all collide and mix together. And favourite is subjective so if you don’t like the songs on this go make your own. Also, I will probably feel bad about the placement of all of these songs at some point for the rest of my life. And as always, not every song is a love song but every song is about love. Enjoy.

55. No Church in the Wild — JAY-Z and Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean (2011): Try to remember back when you first heard Watch The Throne, what we you expecting, what songs still cause your chest to jump, what was it like for Jay and Ye on top of the world? Through it all eight years later, there is one truth that stands out for me above everything else: the first voice you hear is Frank Ocean.

54. F.U.B.U. — Solange ft. The Dream & BJ The Chicago Kid (2016): The poet Richard Siken once said, “Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside someone else.” In Sarah Kay’s poem “The Type” she begins her poem with this quote and ends the poem with, “You are a woman who can build it yourself. You were born to build.”

53. For Colored Boys — KOTA The Friend (2019): This song is full of lessons, my favourite is: “Love is free so don’t be possessive / love is a combination of lettin’ go and holdin’ tight.”

52. Brother’s Keeper — Anderson .Paak ft. Pusha T(2018): Anderson .Paak is perfect, Pusha T delievers, and the outro is *kisses fingers on lips.*

51. Wraith Skating — Tyla Yaweh ft. PnB Rock (2019): I’m not going to pretend I enjoy every new wave rapper but I’m also not going to Joe Budden it and believe they are a crime against the art form. The turn up knows no boundaries and I’m not going to pretend every song before 2014 was written with a gold pen gifted from the heavens. “Wraith Skating” is fun, simple as that.

50. R.I.P. 2 My Youth — The Neighborhood (2015): One of the challenges of making this list is that some of the songs on the initial choosing of songs is that they aren’t on Spotify anymore. Such was the case with the original Neighborhood song I had picked. “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” is a worthy substitute but their cover of “Say My Name/Cry Me A River” is great.

49. Bully Bully — Daye Jack (2017): Motto for 2020 and beyond courtesy of Daye Jack, “ Shine so bright finna end em all.”

48. Acid Rain — Chance The Rapper (2013): I know it’s not Chance’s most energetic or fun song to bump but my favourite Chance songs are the ones where he is laser focused. It is hard to find a more introspective Chance than “Acid Rain” and if you still doubt it, look, President Obama put this song on his 2016 Summer Playlist.

47. Time in a Tree — Raleigh Ritchie (2018): This song is better than 90% of the last season of Game of Thrones.

46. Only Child — Tierra Whack (2019): The most interesting rapper heading into the next decade.

45. New Years Eve — MØ(2014): Clean slates, new beginnings, a tomorrow that is only one dream away, this song has you covered for all of the above and whatever else you need.

44. Bury Me Alive — Kelvyn Colt (2017)
43. Both — Headie One (2019):
When I say “It” you may not know how to describe what “It” is but you feel what I’m talking about. These two have “It.”

42. East of Eden — Zella Day (2014): Get in your car at dawn, roll down the windows, put this song, and drive East.

41. Prayer Song — Noname ft. Adam Ness (2018): What does the current American Dream taste like? Noname and Adam Ness have your answer and it’s a slice of apple pie topped with obesity and heart disease served on a plate made of Black and Brown bodies.

40. Slacks — St. South (2014)
39. Warm on a Cold Night — HONNE ft. Aminé
(2017): I love writing this list every year because it allows to me celebrate my favourite songs and artists but every now and then finding words to describe why a song is good feels the furthest thing away. “Slacks” and “Warm on a Cold Night” are two of those songs where there is nothing else to say but go listen to it and that’s enough because it speaks for itself and I wonder shouldn’t all art be like this?

38. Playing Games — Summer Walker (2019)
37. Use Me — Dominique (2017)
36. Body Count Remix — Jessie Reyez ft. Normain, Kehlani (2018):
The future of love songs is here and now. So either get on board or go to hell because it’s undeniable.

35. Ape Shit — The Carters (2018): Best music video of the decade. Also, after this album dropped, whoever your favourite rapper is, their favourite rapper is now Beyoncé. I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.

34. Siren — Kailee Morgue (2018): The most hypnotic and creeping song on this list.

33. Selfish — Sylvan Lacue (2017): You’re allowed to take care of yourself, listen to this song as proof.

32. Saturday Morning Cartoons — Cautious Clay ft. UMI (2019): Cautious Clay was my new favourite artist I came across in 2017, “Saturday Morning Cartoons” is my favourite song he has put out so far, what else do you need?

31. Chainsmoking — Jacob Banks (2017): “Chainsmoking” was the first Jacob Banks song I heard and I remember my initial response was, “What the fuck is even a voice? Because whatever is coming out of my mouth isn’t it.”

30. Tokyo Drifting — Glass Animals ft. Denzel Curry (2019): This was the last addition to the list and it’s this high probably because of recency bias but the song is really good. The way the beat builds, the way Denzel is teased at the end of the chorus, and when he arrives and the beat kicks the door down, wonderful.

29. Kemosabe — NoMBe (2015): Go watch NoMBe’s Colors performance and attempt to tell me he’s not perfect, you’ll fail.

28. Holloway Road — Tara Carosielli (2017): “Holloway Road” is a song after you put it in park after dark that you sit in your car and let it finish because you don’t decide when you’re done with it, it decides when it’s done with you.

27. The Weekend — SZA (2017): You know this song. You love this song. You’re probably going to yell at me that it’s 27 and not 15 spots higher.

26. Tweakin’ — Vince Staples ft. Buddy & Kehlani (2018): In a time when artists are putting out 25 song albums to inflate those streaming numbers, we have FM! the best rap album of 2018 to save us. Focused, sharp, and dense, it manages to tell it’s story in 22 minutes. “Tweakin’” closes the book that is FM! until you hit repeat.

25. 3 Below — SAINt JHN (2017): Bury me in the bass line of this song.

24. I Been — Berhana ft. Crush (2019): If you want a soundtrack when you’re moving around your daily life and want to feel like you’re in a modern JRPG throw on HAN.

23. Together — Aminé (2018): The perfect bookend to ONEPOINTFIVE.

22. Wicked Games — The Weeknd (2011)
21. Marvin’s Room — Drake (2011):
If aliens landed on Earth and wanted me to show them the perfect Weeknd and Drake songs, songs that perfectly captured their essence as artists, I would pick these two.

20. Bassically — Tei Shi (2015): Tei Shi sounds as if she is half way to whatever is on the other side of change on “Bassically” and we have no choice but to follow.

19. Kids — Rich Brian (2019): Rich Brian is maturing into the Asian pop culture touchstone I wanted Jeremy Lin to be.

18. No Halo — BROCKHAMPTON ft. Dev Neber (2019): I have said before that Brockhampton is the spiritual successor to Wu-Tang Clan and what I mean by that is Brockhampton’s story couldn’t have happened any other time but now. They linked up on a Kanye West music forum, that’s part chance, accident, and audacity all rolled up into an origin that elevates itself to myth all unto itself. In a way this is their Shaolin.

Because what is Shaolin, if not finding people you connect with, relate to, and can be vulnerable with. The Wu had 36 Chambers, Brockhampton had those message boards and then the Saturation Trilogy. Genesis, growth, and momentum. I went to see their tour “Heaven Belongs to You.” For an hour and a half, I’m sure I didn’t find heaven. Shaolin though? Maybe it’s more present in the 21st Century than anyone in rap could’ve ever imagined.

17. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) — Jaime xx ft. Popcaan & Young Thug (2015): Young Thug is perfect, next.

16. Pick Up The Phone — Young Thug & Travis Scott ft. Quavo (2016): I understand “Goosebumps” might be the most perfect song ever created and I don’t deny this fact but there’s something about “Pick Up The Phone” that refuses to be left off. Is it Young Thug? It’s probably Young Thug.

15. XO TOUR Llif3 — Lil Uzi Vert (2017): The best song of 2017.

14. We The People…— A Tribe Called Quest (2016): After listening, changing, and editing this list the last few weeks, I feel confident in saying that “We The People…” is the most important song of the decade. I understand that 50% of this feeling stems from Hanif Abdurraqib’s book Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest and the closing paragraph in the chapter about what it was like for him to be holding a new Tribe album in 2016 after the Trump election. He writes,

“All of this is about mercy. I’m talking about what it is to be from a place that promises to love while holding a gun to your neck. I’m talking about what it feels like to have the gun lowered, briefly, by the hands of some unseen grace. Sometimes, it is a protest that stretches long into a night, or sometimes it is a reading where a room hears familiar words and cries along with you as you read them out loud. But sometimes, it is a perfect album that arrives just in time to build a small community around you. To briefly hold a hand over your eyes and make a new and welcoming darkness of the world outside, even when it is on fire.”

What else could be more important?

13. Gorgeous — Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon (2010): In 2016, when I was writing my list, it came out the day after Kanye went on a rant during his tour and vocally supported Trump. That year “Ultralight Beam” was my #2 song that year behind Childish Gambino’s “Redbone.” I didn’t change my order but I did change what I wrote:

“Just because Kanye makes great songs, cool sneakers, and is fashion forward doesn’t mean he is someone who is knowledgeable or competent in other areas of life. We want a peek into the lives of celebrities to reaffirm our assumptions of them. We get mad when they do not. Kanye not only refuses to reaffirm fans he throws a middle finger up to this relationship. It’s why people who love his music can never just talk about his music. Defending him can be exhausting. Re-evaluating my relationship with his art and the things he does I don’t agree with isn’t fun but if I want a deeper interrogation with the art I consume it is necessary. Kanye refers to himself as a genius, a god, and the voice of a generation but he never let’s you forget that he’s human.”

I haven’t really listened to him since he tweeted out how he likes how Candice Owens thinks. That day on Twitter broke me. What broke me back was a remix of “Gorgeous.” I still struggle to re-listen to his older music because I hear the lyrics and I know he knows better than the shit he’s saying now. Even in this song, “As long as I’m in Polo smiling, they think they got me, But they would try to crack me if they ever see a black me.”

However, despite what I feel about him and the last two years, it would be disingenuous to pretend he wasn’t my undisputed favourite rapper for over a decade and a half. I still remember the first time the notes hit when I was on a train living in a city I didn’t belong to, pretending going to class so I could play the sport I loved, hearing Cudi’s voice carrying me through the fog, and listening to Kanye breaking the molds and stereotypes handed down to him, nothing was more powerful.

The reason why this song is only 13 and not number 1? Kanye willingly chose to put a ceiling on his own talents, this is the consequence of that choice.

12. Lost in the Girl — Kwamie Liv (2014): The first 50 seconds of “Lost in the Girl” are haunting, minimal, and foreboding and gives the impression of a maze of mirrors with only Kwamie’s voice serving as a guide. Then when that beat drops it’s as if a trap door opens from underneath you and you travel from a world of black and white into technicolor.

11. Balmain Jeans — Kid Cudi ft. Raphael Saadiq (2014): I will die on the hill that Kid Cudi has the nicest voice to listen to in rap. Give me his hums all day and night, this decade, last decade, next decade, and the decade after that.

10. Jealous Sea — Meg Myers (2018)
9. This is What it Feels Like — BANKS (2013):
Sometimes when choosing songs for this list, it is always a question of do I pick a song that I liked first when the artist is finding themselves or do I pick a more recent song when they’ve put it together? This was the challenge for these two.

I choose “Jealous Sea” over earlier works of Meg such as “Desire” and “Monster” because while the later songs hit hard, nothing quite hits like jealousy. When she belts out, “When it runs, it runs like lightning in my teeth,” you feel it in your body. Her voice is an ocean all unto itself and when it hits you all you can do is brace for impact. The refinement matches the feeling.

For “This is What it Feels Like” I wanted the unknown, to feel as I did back in 2013 when I first began listening to BANKS on her Soundcloud page. “This is What it Feels Like” begs to be listened to in the dark, when it’s cold and hazy, when there is nothing to do but dive inward.

8. Early — Run The Jewels ft. BOOTS (2014): In the year of Ferguson, the state sanctioned murder of Eric Garner, and #BlackLivesMatter protests, Killer Mike and EL-P flanked by back up singers in Day of the Dead make up performed “Early” on David Letterman’s Show. Standing front and center was EL-P, a white man with his arms raised in Hands Up, Don’t Shoot solidarity along side Killer Mike, a Black man wearing a hoodie. During closing his verse Mike pulls up his hoodie while declaring, “My life changed with that sound.”

7. Writer in the Dark — Lorde (2017): I remember this past summer “Writer in the Dark” came on while my music was on shuffle and it took some time off from hearing it to realize how undeniable it truly was. The keys, the strings, the way her voice peaks and breaks at the line, “But in our darkest hours, I stumbled upon on a secret power.”

6. III. Telegraph Ave (“Oakland” by Lloyd) — Childish Gambino (2013): The majority of this list is about nostalgia, this song encapsulates the Rudy Francisco line, “I hope there is something beautiful in the horizon that’s just as impatient as I am.” The second hook always seem to hang a beat longer even if the moment has already passed, “Foot on the gas, I’m just trying to pass, All the red lights, And the stop signs, I’m ready to go, But I’m really not ready, girl, That’s a problem, ’Cause I’m way too scared to fall, And I know you choose to stay, and oh” and maybe because all I want from new experiences, the confidence to jump but also knowing the back of my mind that there’s something to break my fall when I stumble. I understand that life doesn’t do this because it guarantees nothing and maybe that’s why I love this song because it gives me a hope that I can get to wherever I’m meant to go even if I never truly leave my past.

5. Blue Lights — Jorja Smith (2016): This is where it began for Jorja Smith. What a fucking beginning.

4. Fantasy — Alina Baraz (2014): When Alina sings, “Let yourself unwind, get lost, In the garden of my mind,” you feel as if you are transported to a new terrain. A place where anything can come true as long as she sings it. “Fantasy” is a meditation as much as a song, an escape from whatever chair or desk you’re stuck at.

3. The Recipe — Kendrick Lamar ft. Dr. Dre (2012): I believe in very few universal truths. “The Recipe” provides three of them here in the form of giving you the recipe for everything you need in life: “women, weed, and weather.” The thing with “The Recipe” is it is so infectious that when listening to it you start to believe it.

2. Riot — Jon Waltz (2016): Strap a proverbially rocket to my man Jon Waltz because he is my favourite new artist of this decade. However, Riot is not the song I wanted to put on here rather it was “Bang” the first song he ever released. It has a hook that would make October’s Very Own jealous. I trust that a dream and cigarette is enough to not get laughed out of the room. For years I carried two versions of “Bang” on my iPod. The original and the remastered one. I could not give you a good reason for why I did this. I can only tell you Jon Waltz was 17 when he made “Bang” and maybe I kept both as a reminder for how my favourite new rapper has grown and evolved. Maybe it was as simple as I like “Bang” enough to keep the old version even if the new one is out, the equivalent of choosing to click the reminder of updating a computer in eight hours, instead of just restarting it in the moment. Maybe I kept it on there because it was my way to hold onto a moment that never belonged to me but nevertheless felt a part of. A slice of the feeling of riding a roller coaster before it reaches the apex, the moment before you lose control because of physics, the momentum becomes too much for anyone to control. After that there is nothing to do but let go and trust whatever waits at in the valley will not destroy you. A couple years ago I removed the original version to make room for new songs on my iPod. Nothing ever lasts. A song about the loss of innocence would know better than anything else.

All that being said, because “Bang” is not on Spotify so here is “Riot” which is his best song.

1. Novacane — Frank Ocean (2011): Like for so many others my introduction to the Ocean was “Novacane.” nostalgia, ULTRA was the thing I listened to as I drove with my parents for twelve hours from Calgary to Vancouver for another chance to reboot my life. I remember I bumped “Novacane and “Swim Good endlessly on the drive. I would flip flop between which song I liked more and give each their own five repeat run over the drive. That drive was almost eight years ago. I would like to believe that I have grown and have learned to escape the trappings that befell me nearly a decade ago or at least have gotten better at recognizing the traps and pitfalls. I wonder how many times does a person need to fall before they no longer feel anything? How many times does someone need to listen to a song before it no longer provides pleasure? But maybe that is the point of music, we leave them behind and come back to them as a proof they never left. Songs embed themselves in your chest and when we hear them again, it is a reminder that it is the only sound we ever needed.

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In progress

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