Few things are as prestigious and career-making as delivering a Song of the Summer. From Cardi B and KYLE using smash summertime hits to springboard their debut albums to Drake and Kendrick Lamar reminding us of their continual reign, to the phenomenon of Fetty Wap stealing hip-hop’s heart, a big summer rap song is a cultural landmark.
To kick off summer 2018, we’ve teamed up with TIDAL to deliver a playlist of the top 20 summer rap songs of the current decade. These are the records that wafting through a clouded basement or smoked-out backyard or soundtracking a late-night drive with the windows down.
Tracks were selected based on a combination of factors, including but not limited to virality, chart placement, cultural impact, nostalgia factor, and the gut instinct that comes by way of a good summer jam.
Press play and relive your best summer memories with us, or complain about the songs we’ve missed on social media.
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“Bodak Yellow” — Cardi B (2017)
The record and career-breaking single that took Cardi B from reality TV fame and middling mixtape success to the GRAMMYs, “Bodak Yellow” was and remains a staple summer hip-hop jam. Produced by J.White, “Bodak Yellow” is not only a fantastic rap song, it’s one that embodies the depth and reach of the genre’s cultural impact.
“One Dance” — Drake ft. Wizkid & Kyla (2016)
Drake’s penchant for island flair and Afrobeat secured him another summer hit with “One Dance.” Bright tropical notes offset his moody persona just enough to give the collaboration with Kyla and Wizkid the nuance to be a seasonal standout, ushered in on a bed of warm and teetering keys. “One Dance” went on to become the most popular single of Drake’s career.
“XO Tour Llif3” — Lil Uzi Vert (2017)
While Lil Uzi Vert was already achieving mainstream success with his feature on Migos’ hit “Bad and Boujee,” the brooding and hazy “XO Tour Llif3” cemented his superstardom ahead of his debut album, Luv Is Rage 2. “XO Tour Llif3” ascended from sad boy anthem to the blueprint for evocative and melodic hip-hop.
“Trap Queen” — Fetty Wap (2014)
Praise be to Fetty Wap. As far as debut singles go, the warbling “Trap Queen” was a behemoth in a sea of middling melodic anthems. The GRAMMY-nominated track adored summer party after summer party, and had hip-hop on its toes, waiting for next move from the North Jersey crooner.
“Panda” — Desiigner (2015)
Of all the singles to break a Brooklyn rapper, “Panda,” which is indebted to the South by all means of style, has been the most infectious and widespread in years. With Desiigner’s unique bleat and off-the-wall energy, “Panda” dominated the summer and a chunk of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.
Click here to review the rest of Top 20 Summer Rap Songs of the Decade.