It was a long, strange year, with as many lows as it did highs. Even if things are getting closer and closer to the new normal, everyday life after a global pandemic has been an adjustment for everyone. Fortunately for rap fans, we have great music to hold on to – the soundtrack to better times and luck. Hip-hop as a whole is regaining its rhythm after artists haven’t toured for more than a year and hit the streets to connect with their fans. With live performances like never before and lots of new albums released every week, the stars of the game have returned and the emerging acts are delivering too. In the course of 2021 there were a lot of songs to sort through, so XXLhighlights 100 of the best hip hop songs that came out in no particular order this year, to get you to the point.
This has been a great year for street rap by some newer names living across the country. Louisville’s own EST Gee, a signatory to Yo Gotti’s CMG label, has been making noise since last year and spent 2021 making his own name. His posse cut “5500 Degrees” with his other CMG label colleagues 42 Dugg, Lil Baby and Rylo Rodriguez is refreshing, with Gee shining alongside three acts that have made a name for themselves. The same goes for Big30, which is under contract with Moneybagg Yos BreadGang / N-Less Entertainment. He’s a clever Memphis rapper who performed with close friend Pooh Shiesty. Big30 sounds pleasantly next to any other rhymer, and that sounds true in his song “Too Official” with the aforementioned local legend Yo Gotti. Then, all the way across the map in San Pedro, California, Remble came out of nowhere with his unique pace and flow of conversation. His unusual sense of humor and lyrical strength quickly earned him millions of views, and his song “Book Bag” with his fellow Californian BlueBucksClan is one of his standout.
In the second half of 2021 there were also tons of songs by the ladies of rap, who are gaining a foothold in the genre from week to week. Doja Cat, an established hitmaker, released the up-and-coming “Need To Know” and showed her her often overlooked dexterity and mastery of bars, especially in the last verse. Little Simz, a long-respected British rapper who makes music within the socially conscious side of things, has her track “Introvert” on that list. The song explores their inner feelings and reflects the current state of the world. There are also lighter, self-partying dishes like Rico Nasty’s “Magic” and Lakeyah and DJ Dramas “In Person”. There’s also room for a woman to just speak this conversation, as KenTheMan does on Damn Shame.
Check out the best hip hop songs of 2021 and see if your favorites made the list.