50 Best Rap Songs of 2010

In a year that brought us mediocre movies, it’s great to have some great hip-hop music to fall back on. No matter what those cynical bastards tell you, hip-hop had a strong outing in 2010. B-boys and b-girls, I give you the 50 best hip-hop songs of 2010.

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Bun B - "Let 'Em Know"

© Rap-a-Lot

We've seen Bun B wreck tons of synth-laden southern beats over the years. On "Let Em Know," though, DJ Premier gives his Texas comrade a new sandbox to play in on this standout from Trill OG.

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King Driis - "Hold On" (Feat. Shadow)

King Driis. Photo © Gareth Cattermol/Getty

First, let me point out that King Driis is actually Idris Elba, better known as Stringer Bell from The Wire. OK. Let that marinate for a second. So, dude not only kicks buttocks onscreen, he's also well versed in the art of ragamuffin style hip-hop. Nice.

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Copywrite - "Serotonin"

Copywrite - Serotonin
Copywrite - Serotonin. © Man Bites Dog

"Serotonin" is a brooding epic from Copywrite's underrated Life and Times Of Peter Nelson. Instead of dancing along with the track, Copywrite invites the listener to the dark side. "I dyed my hair black to match my soul," he proclaims without a hint of remorse. 

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Drake - "Fancy" (Feat. T.I. & Swizz Beatz)

Drake - Miss Me
Drake. © UMG

First there's the majestic beat by 40 and Swizzy, then there's Drake's uniquely female-friendly verse. Throw in Tip's straitjacket flow and Mary J Blige's ear-grabbing vocals and you've got the makings of a hip-hop anthem.

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Celph Titled & Buckwild - "F-ckmaster Sex"

Celph Titled & Buckwild - Ninenteen Ninety Now
Celph Titled & Buckwild - Ninenteen Ninety Now. © No Sleep Recordings

Nineteen Ninety Now is mostly Celph Titled and Buckwild tapping into the sepia-toned past of hip-hop when smooth basslines and over-the-top boasts ruled the menu. That jewel spawned some fine cuts, including the clever, laugh-out-loud hilarity that unfolds throughout "Funkmaster Sex."

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Young Buck - "My Campaign"

Young Buck. © Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Life gave Young Buck lemons, he gave us lemonade. The exiled G-Unit rapper recorded this reflective number following an IRS raid of his house for $300,000 in unpaid taxes.

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Kool G Rap - "Sad"

Kool G Rap
Kool G Rap.

Hip-hop fans are notorious for showering vets with blind adulation. G Rap is one of the few who actually deserves praise on the strength of consistency. Over two decades in and Giancana’s still kicking it with the best of 'em.

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Yu - "Break Down" (Feat. Bilal Salaam)

yu - Before Taxes
yu - Before Taxes. © Mello Music Group

Inhale. Exhale. Shhhh...that's fresh air washing all over your face.

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Canibus - "Ripperland" (Feat. Psalm One)

Well, excuse me for including such an ominous track on 2010's best rap songs list. It's worth the inclusion because Psalm One likens herself to an oasis in the wilderness. 'Bis adds to the sinister vibe with a visual portrait of "little green men with big eyes." 

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The Roots - "Dear God 2.0"

The Roots - How I Got Over
The Roots - How I Got Over. © Def Jam

Taken from The Roots’ How I Got Over, “Dear God 2.0″ is a perfectly layered track with an otherworldly, futuristic vibe to it. If you say you like profoundly affecting music but don’t like this, you’re probably a Kenny G fan. 

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Fat Joe - "Ha Ha (Slow Down, Son)" (Feat. Young Jeezy)

You know it's a good year in hip-hop when Joey Crack is rhyming like it's 92 all over again: "Got a 9 Milli in my pants in case these n---as wanna dance/Leave a motherf---er shakin' like Harlem."

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A.R.M. - "Fear of the Mundane" (Feat. Slug)

Slug of Atmosphere
Slug of Atmosphere. Rick Kern/WireImage

A.R.M. and Slug team up for a roll of rhythm-infused gem dubbed “Fear Of The Mundane.”

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Trae da Truth - "Bad Don't Seem Wrong" (Feat. Lupe Fiasco)

Chicago's own Lupe Fiasco connects with Houston's Trae da Truth for a slam dunk off the latter's mixtape, Can't Ban tha Truth.

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Lupe Fiasco - "Super Lupe Rap"

Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco. © James Knowler/Getty

Emperor Lu spits that good ol' metaphor-driven, chest-thumping rap tune for those who like their hip-hop super dupa lyrical.

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Jadakiss - "Soldier Survivors" (Feat. Nas & Sheek Louch)

Yonkers and Queens join forces to recapture that good ol' East Coast spirit on "Soldier Survivors." Funny how Nas always seems to kick things up a notch when sharing mics with his NY brothers.


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Smoke DZA - "No Wheaties" (Feat. Big K.R.I.T. & Currensy)

Big Krit - Krit Wuz Here

This Billy Cobham-sampling doozy from K.R.I.T.'s debut should be the soundtrack to every victory parade. This is what Ron Artest and his teammates should've been chanting after clinching the 2010 NBA Finals.

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AZ - "Feel My Pain"

AZ - Feel My Pain
AZ - Feel My Pain. © Quiet Money

Frank Dukes supplies the grimy beat. Statik Selektah drops the cuts. AZ weaves those ingredients together with hardbody rhymes that harken to stanky hallways and dark alleys.

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Eminem - "Despicable" Freestyle

© Getty Images

There's a hip-hop sport called "Let's see who can out-rap Drake on his own beat." Royce da 5'9" and Consequence played this game in 2010, but Eminem plays it better than most. It wasn't just "Over" that got bent out of recognition. It was also Lloyd Banks' "Beamer, Benz or Bentley." Nothing personal, guys. Just Shady business as usual.


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Joe Budden - "Remember The Titans" (Feat. Fabolous, Lloyd Banks, Royce da 5'9")

Four new school titans trade braggart rhymes the old fashioned way. Loso's flow's outta this world. Who else could work Twitter into a rhyme and still sound tough?

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Reflection Eternal - "Ballad of the Black Gold"

Talib Kweli excels at weaving rhymes around rhythmic roomy tracks with bursts of soul and crisp percussion, and here, he offers some of the finest lyrics on Revolutions Per Minute as a narrator. Inspired by a 2008 visit to Nigeria, the Brooklyn MC chronicles the struggles of the African oil power that goes back to the colonial days.

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Black Milk - "Black and Brown" (Feat. Danny Brown)

Remember when Black Milk was the hottest young producer in the game? Now that Boi-1da has snatched that title from him, Black needed a bold move to rise above the fray. He found it in the form of a solid third solo outing, which produced this rousing collaboration with fellow Motor City native Danny Brown.

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Fat Tony - "Luv It Mayne"


You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. And you can't talk about southern rappers without alluding to wood grain and candypaint. Unless you're talking about Fat Tony. You won’t hear Tony bragging non-stop about his chain, on his debut LP RABDARGAB. No candy-painted Cadillacs here; he prefers skateboards. What you’ll hear on "Luv It Mayne" and other RABDARGAB standouts, though, is a student of the game who has a knack for making even the mundane sound profoundly exciting.

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Big K.R.I.T. - "If I Should Die"

© Def Jam

Big K.R.I.T. summons the spirit of Marvin Gaye on this spellbinding mixtape cut sure to renew your appreciation for soul-inspired rap.

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Raekwon - "Butter Knives"

© Scott Gries/Getty Images.

You may be forgiven for thinking that Raekwon emptied the pantry on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2. "Butter Knives" finds the Chef whipping up more treats for Wu fiends. Dig in slowly. Son is nasty.

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PackFM - "Nasty"

PackFM. © QN5 Music

PackFM hates rappers. He made an entire album deriding negative trends in the genre. "Nasty" provides a brief moment of brilliance where he's not calling out rappers. Instead, he puts himself in centerstage and proceeds to make a case for his own greatness.

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Freddie Gibbs - "The Ghetto"

Freddie Gibbs' fascination with the harsh realities of street life may put off those who don't live it. And the music here, in its gorgeous monstrosity, won't change that. But it will make you respect him as an MC.

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Joell Ortiz - "Sing Like Bilal" (Feat. Sheek Louch)

Joell Ortiz was relatively quiet in 2010. Yet, his lone contribution, Farewell Summer, spawned a flurry of hits that kept him relevant all year. Standing tall is the Premier-laced "Sing Like Bilal" which comically pits guns as a synonym for lungs, a concept previously visited by fellow Slaughterhouse members Royce da 5'9" and Crooked I on "Gun Harmonizing."

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Blu - "Keep It Going" (Feat. U-God)


"Keep It Going" is a throwback cut reminiscent of Eric B & Rakim's "Don't Sweat The Technique." It's unfortunate that this one slipped under the radar because it knocks harder than feds at a kingpin's door.

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L.E.P. Bogus Boys - "Chicago Ni--az"

L.E.P. Bogus Boys
L.E.P. Bogus Boys.

L.E.P. stands for Lower End Professionals, a hat tip to the lower South Side of Chicago where the L.E.P. Bogus Boys originated. "Chicago" is a hard-hitting anthem that paints a vivid portrait of inner-city frustration. If the Boys sound genuinely shock-free, it's because they've been on the receiving end of the misgivings. Larro, an original member of L.E.P., was gunned down in the Windy City in 2007.

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Yelawolf – "I Wish" (Feat. Raekwon)

Raekwon plays Obi Wan Kenobi to Yelawolf's Luke Skywalker on "I Wish," taken from the latter's Trunk Muzik mixtape-turned-album.

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The Roots - "Walk Alone"

The Roots - How I Got Over
The Roots - How I Got Over. © Def Jam

The most fascinating revelation on How I Got Over is Black Thought's willingness to flex his vocal muscles. On "Walk Alone" the Roots lead MC proceeds to split the difference between singing and speaking to great effect.

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Co$$ - "Fake Kings"

Coss - Fake Kings
Coss - Fake Kings.

It's nothing new for rappers to refer to themselves as royalty. It's also commonplace for rappers to chastise peers who peddle materialism, as Co$$ does on "Fake Kings." But there's something fresh and exciting about the way he does it. He stuffs every crevice in the Numonics beat with a breathless flow giving you the impression that he could go on for days.

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Ghostface Killah - "Troublemakers" (Feat. Raekwon, Redman, Method Man)

Way to wipe the nasty taste of his disastrous R&B album from our musical palette. Oh, and way better than anything on Wu-Massacre.

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Jay Electronica - "Shiny Suit Theory" (Feat. Jay Z and The-Dream)

Jay Electronica
Jay Electronica. © Henry Adaso/Getty Images

A cello anchors “Shiny Suit Theory,” as the newly appointed Roc heir teams up with his new kingmaker on one of many collaborations to come. Jay Elect also reveals an intimate conversation he had with former BFF Diddy prior to ripping his heart to shreds.

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Currensy - "Airborne Aquarium"

Currensy has come a long way from his days as Lil Wayne's weed carrier. His double dose of Pilot Talk proved beyond a shred of doubt that this Padawan has matured into a Jedi. Non-believers, chug a dose of "Airborne Aquarium" and watch your spirits levitate.

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Danny Brown - "Greatest Rapper Ever"

Danny Brown - The Hybrid
© Hybrid Music

"Greatest Rapper Ever" is the eye-popping opening track on Danny Brown's The Hybrid CD. The Detroit MC has a long way to go to attain the song's title, but his penchant for rewind-worthy metaphors has already earned him respect in the underground circuit. Brown has a way of making the familiar sound stunningly refreshing.

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Ski Beatz - "Prowler 2" (Feat. Jean Grae, Jay Electronica, Joell Ortiz)

If you slept on Ski Beatz's 24 Hour Karate School, you probably missed out on some of the best production of 2010, including the steely drums on "Prowler 2." Jean Grae and Jay Electronica take turns doing the beat justice with memorable punchlines.

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Reks - "Pray for You (The Homicide Letter)"

Reks. © myspace.com

Reks is trying to stay awake. What's keeping him up? Crooked politicians, small-minded rappers, and Waka Flocka Flame. On "Homicide Letter" Reks wakes us up to the perils of gangsta-rap tropes atop a vicious Statik Selektah beat. 

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B.o.B. - "Airplanes II" (Feat. Eminem)

© Getty Images

"Airplanes II" finds Bobby Ray Simmons and Marshall Mathers envisioning life without music. This gem from B.o.B.'s solid debut excels mostly because Marshall still doesn't know how to waste a good beat.

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Big Boi - "Lookin' 4 Ya" (Feat. Andre 3000 & Sleepy Brown)

Big Boi
Big Boi. Photo © Scott Gries

Big Boi starts the show by offering to "give you one to grow on." He's a liar, because "Lookin' 4 Ya" is an instant banger. Andre 3000 complements his partner-in-rhyme with a light-hearted verse about doing it in IKEA's showroom, while Sleepy Brown sets the mood with a catchy hook. It's truly a shame that this remarkable collaboration failed to make Sir Lucious Left Foot because of silly label politics.

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Tyler the Creator - "Bastard"

Tyler the Creator - Bastard
Tyler the Creator - Bastard. © Odd Future

Tyler the Creator, leader of the L.A. outfit OFWGKTA, kicks off his rap career by spewing venom at everyone and everything who's ever disappointed him: bloggers, the school system, his father, shallow rappers. That last group seems to inspire much of the vitriol on "Bastard" and its accompanying mixtape. Or as he simply puts it: "I created O.F. because I felt way more talented than 40-year old rappers talking about Gucci."

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J. Cole - "Premeditated Murder"

J Cole
J Cole. © Roc Nation

You could hear minds getting blowed from coast to coast when Hollywood Cole unleashed his breakout mixtape, The Warm Up in 2009. He turned heads again when he followed it up with one of 2010's best mixtapes, Friday Night Lights. "Premeditated Murder," a standout from the latter, stands as evidence that Cole hasn't lost the spark that propelled him into hip-hop consciousness.

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Nas & Damian Marley - "As We Enter"

Nas and Damian Marley
Nas and Damian Marley. © UMG

Nas spews a torrent of fiery rhymes on this triumphant buzz single from Distant Relatives, while Damian Marley rides shotgun.

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Shad - "Rose Garden"

From one of 2010's best hip-hop albums comes this catchy, slaphappy dose of conscious rap sentiment.

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Freddie Gibbs - "National Anthem (F--k the World)"

© Decon

No other song exemplifies Gibbs' raw emotion better than "National Anthem." And it's not just the uncompromienergy that makes this a winner. Listen to how he infuses his rhymes so that each line starts where the previous one ends and then gradually switches into double-time mode. The urgency of his flow gives each verse the sense of a grand epiphany. As subtle as a shot to the dome.

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Kanye West - "Devil in a New Dress"

Kanye West - Devil in a New Dress
Kanye West - Devil in a New Dress. © G.O.O.D. Music

Bink laced this succinct jewel and inspired Kanye to rediscover his Late Registration-era mojo. Perfect for wine-sipping at sunset in a hammock. One of the finest moments on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

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Rick Ross - "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)" (Feat. Styles P.)

© Def Jam

Ricky Rozay rips through this Lex Luger beat like a bulldozer going through a wall made of LEGO. Much like Lil Wayne's "A Milli," "B.M.F." has inspired a chain of freestyles throughout the country, with everyone from Trae tha Truth to Lupe Fiasco making their own versions of "Blowing Money Fast." If you haven't heard the extended version, let's rectify that now.

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Big Boi - "Shutterbugg"

Big Boi - Sir Luscious
Big Boi - Sir Luscious. © UMG

Trunk scientist Big Boi delivers a hit sure to smack the paint off your SUV. Ever wonder who Big Boi's favorite rapper is? It's some guy named Cee-Lo.

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Reflection Eternal - "Just Begun" (Feat. Jay Electronica, J. Cole, Mos Def)

Revolutions Per Minute
Reflection Eternal - Revolutions Per Minute. © Warner

An abrasive and fully formed meeting of like minds between the veteran duo of Kweli and Mos and Roc Nation draft picks Jay Electronica and J. Cole. Plus enough quotables to fill a library.

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Kanye West - "POWER"

Kanye West - Power
Kanye West - Power. © UMG

How to bounce back from a middling experiment like 808s & Heartbreak? Simple: kick off your next album with a dense, epic sprawl of a record.