What songs are your favorite rappers listening to? What songs do they want you to listen to? What songs did they accidentally save as a playlist eight years ago and never deleted? With its verified artist playlist function, Spotify set out to answer these questions.
For Spotify, artist playlists were a utopian experiment that allowed rappers (and singers and DJs) to take fans on a journey through their music collections. Or, if these artists used Spotify themselves while signed into their verified accounts, they would unknowingly share their own listening habits with the world. Either way, they were a treat for listeners.
I say ‘were’ because artist playlists are no longer popular. Most Spotify users are far more likely to listen to playlists cooked up through AI witchcraft (Discover Weekly, Release Radar) or curated by Spotify’s in-house tastemakers (RapCaviar, Mellow Bars) than playlists handpicked by their favorite artists. Which, if you think about it, doesn’t make any sense. Why are we more interested in the music tastes of overworked interns or a literal robot than we are in the musicians whose music we love?
Some artists still create verified playlists now and again, but the entire initiative never really took off in a big way. And that’s a shame. Spotify has given no indication that they plan to kill artist playlists, but based on low follower counts and Spotify’s refusal to make navigating through their existing playlists an easier and more enjoyable experience, there’s a chance they could be endangered. So let’s show them some love before it’s too late.
For the latest DJBooth absurdly detailed investigation, I’ve combed through the verified artist pages of every important rapper (read: a bunch of rappers off the top of my head) and, for your listening pleasure, found the best, worst, and strangest artist playlists on the platform.
In no particular order...
Big Boi — Songs I Been Marinating On
Length: 1 hr 16 min
What hip-hop fan hasn’t asked themselves, “What was one half of OutKast listening to circa 2011?” Well, Songs I Been Marinating On has the answers. Seven years ago, Big Boi had 18 songs in heavy rotation, including two of his own and others by 2Pac, Michael Jackson, Kate Bush and Steely Dan. There’s plenty to marinate on here, including the fact that Big Boi—a man of fine taste—was for some reason listening to Mumford & Sons.
Kendrick Lamar — The Making of good kid, m.A.A.d. City
Length: 41 min
Not so much a behind-the-scenes sneak peak as a kind of audio mood board, this playlist is comprised of the music that inspired Lamar when he was putting together his classic major label debut, GCMK. It’s a stellar collection of songs, featuring hip-hop classics from DMX and DJ Quik alongside contemporary cuts from TDE cohorts Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q. Unsurprisingly, this playlist makes a great companion to Kendrick’s own album. Also, much like DAMN., it sounds just as good backward as it does forward.
Vince Staples — Vince Staples Best Of
Length: 4hr 39 min
Looking for all of Vince Staples' best tracks in one place? They’re all here. This 89-song Best Of is actually longer than Vince’s entire studio discography. Almost all of his records on Spotify are present, with most of them making two appearances for good measure. Clearly, in his own humble opinion, Vince has given us nothing but the best. And he thinks every song deserves at least a second listen. I can’t claim to have listened to this entire playlist in one sitting, but if you have a spare five hours...
Migos — Essentials
Length: 22 min
Migos’ self-curated Essentials playlist clocks in, shockingly, at only five songs. Even though the trio made fans sit through Culture II’s 22-song tracklist, which runs a whopping one hour and 45 minutes, their playlist suggests the group, at one time, believed only five of their songs were truly essential. Either that or they only spent 45 minutes on this playlist and got bored.
Meshell Ndegeocello — Ventriloquism: The Playlist
Length: 1hr 50 min
She’s not strictly a rapper, but anyone who follows Meshell Ndegeocello’s music knows she has bars. As for her song compilation skills, Ventriloquism is one of the best examples of the artist playlist form. Named after Ndegeocello’s recently released album of '80s and '90s R&B covers, Ventriloquism: The Playlist presents Meshell’s covers alongside each of the original recordings. This includes The System’s “Don’t Disturb This Groove,” which I dare you to try and disturb. Trust me, you won’t.
Nas — Illmatic
Length: 42 min
In the early days of Spotify, actually getting the app to work was part of the fun. If you wanted to listen to an album offline, you had to save it as a playlist first and then download it. That’s probably why Nas has his seminal debut album Illmatic saved as a verified playlist. Sadly, this doesn’t explain why "The City" by The Godfathers was tagged on at the end.
Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
Length: 6 min
Janelle Monáe hasn’t forgotten about artist playlists. Dirty Computer was created recently to showcase songs from the singer-rapper’s upcoming album of the same name. So far it’s just two songs, but 1) they’re both jams and 2) as more singles are released, the playlist will assuredly be increasingly populated, making it increasingly more enjoyable... until it finally becomes completely pointless when the full album is released on April 27.
Lil Yachty — Lil Boat 2
Length: 2 hr 15 min
Have you listened to Lil Yachty's new album Lil Boat 2? Have you ever wanted to listen to it three times in a row? Look no further than the aptly named Lil Boat 2 playlist. The tactic of dumping your entire album into a playlist three or four times is great for people who love multiple and immediate repeat listens, but really just screams, "I'm generating the highest possible stream count in order to maximize sales numbers."
Q-Tip — Every Playlist
Followers: About 100, on average, but one has over 80,000
Q-Tip is king of the artist-curated playlist. His song selections across various playlists are an illuminating look inside the mind of one of hip-hop’s most dedicated music nerds. My Bowie is Betta collates only the finest David Bowie tracks. The DAN: best of steely dan is a great introduction to the Yacht Rock legends. Tip’s hard workout playlist finally brings Jimi Hendrix and Soulja Boy together. And fusion n thangs might just contain the best collection of sax solos on the entire streaming platform. (Sorry, Evening Jazz.)
Playlists like these could soon become artifacts of music history, like iPods or Eminem’s artistic integrity. The least we can do is start following them. It doesn’t have to be one of the above mentioned, specifically, but follow an artist-curated playlist on Spotify today to keep the tradition alive. Or, alternatively, don’t use Spotify because it doesn’t pay artists enough money. Either is fine.