The Year in Review: The 13 Best Songs of 2023

With a diverse list that can get you through a pregame pump-up or set the vibes at a pickup game, these are some of our favorite songs to release in 2023.

Just like that, another year has come to a close. Each passing year seems to go by faster than the last, a crushing reminder of our mortality. Thankfully, we have music to distract us from our impending demise, and this year had plenty of highlights.

From breakout debuts to record-setting tours, 2023 has brought us some wonderful moments, and we try to best sum them up in our annual year-end list of best songs (if you’re looking for Taylor Swift tracks, you might not be in the right place).

Feefa – “Mata”

We start things off with our guy Feefa — a multiple-time guest on the Urban Pitch Podcast — and his recent single “Mata,” which showcases his versatility as an artist.

While we’ve gotten familiar with the bilingual Latin trap music Feefa has been putting out, “Mata” switches things up, going for a more reggaeton soundscape. A catchy chorus and hypnotic drum track will get the vibe going in any situation, but above all, it proves Feefa is a multidimensional performer.

Death at the Derby – “Cafu”

Sticking with artists that have been on the UP Pod, the Death at the Derby crew came back strong in 2023 with their latest album Capitano, which as the title suggests, highlights some of the most iconic footballers to ever don a captain’s band.

While the entire project is worth your time, the highlight is track two, “Cafu.” It’s the best beat on the album, and Lord Juco and Cousin Feo do it justice with their verses that pay tribute to the Brazilian defender who serves as its namesake.

Foggieraw – “Psalm 62”

It’s a bit of a cheat code to rap over Alicia Keys’ iconic hit “You Don’t Know My Name,” but Foggieraw’s spoken word-like bars are a surprisingly good fit over the Kanye West production.

There’s one moment in particular that has stuck with me since first hearing it — about midway through the first verse, Foggieraw mimics the “oooh-oooh-oooh” from the original song, and it’s absolutely perfect.  As a bonus, we get Alicia’s dulcet vocals on both choruses. A pretty flawless song that does justice to its sample.

Burna Boy – “Big Seven”

Following the success of 2022’s Love, Damini, Burna Boy’s career saw even more highs, and the hype behind his 2023 project I Told Them… was off the charts.

It may not have been as consistent as his previous album, but there were certainly some moments throughout I Told Them…, one of them being the third single “Big Seven.”

We get Burna’s trademark upbeat energy on this track, which starts off with a tribute to the late Virgil Abloh. It’s a feel-good, confident, triumphant song that fits just about every situation — from the gym to the car to the cookout.

Central Cee & Dave – “Sprinter”

It was impossible to avoid the collaboration of the year, and it surprisingly still hasn’t gotten old despite being on every other TikTok or Instagram reel.

Two of the biggest names in the UK rap scene came together to give us an instant hit. Both Dave and Central Cee brought their A-games in their verses, and they seamlessly overlap in one of the best choruses you’ll hear this year. A few listens paired with a drink or two will have a Yank like myself start to develop an embarrassing English accent, bruv.

Larry June & The Alchemist feat. Boldy James – “Art Talk”

The Alchemist has not-so-quietly become the prestige producer in hip-hop, and landing an exclusive project with him is as much of a flex as it is a validation of one’s talent. His complex beats are the perfect backdrop for Bay Area native Larry June’s effortless delivery.

The Great Escape is on my shortlist for album of the year, and “Art Talk” is the track I find myself coming back to most. Frequent Alchemist collaborator Boldy James makes a guest appearance, and is a fitting complement to June. I might not be able to quite relate to the braggadocious riches recklessly thrown throughout the verses, but one can dream.

Westside Gunn & Stove God Cooks – “Kitchen Lights”

This is the quintessential Westside Gunn track. The man with the best ad-libs in the game floats on an ethereal production from DJ Benoit, a beat that couldn’t be any more perfect for him.

However, the best line of the song comes from featuring artist Stove God Cooks, who drops a gem in “The Plug told me, ‘it move faster when you take your time,’/ I ain’t understand him then, but it all made sense in due time.”

AmirSaysNothing – “Tell Me How U Feel” feat. Auntie Naj & Mat/matix

We’ve been fans of AmirSaysNothing’s versatility for some time now, and he puts his range on full display with his single “Tell Me How U Feel.” It’s a soulful and slower track from Amir, but he shines on it, and the contributions from Auntie Naj and Mat/matix on the chorus make for a fantastic vibe to chill out to.

Jay Rock – “Still That Way”

TDE OG Jay Rock returned to the fray with “Still That Way,” a single that let us all know that he’s still got it. It’s a return to classic form for the Watts representative, and a nice reminder of the Black Hippy days where he, Kendrick Lamar, SchoolBoy Q, and Ab-Soul ran things across the rap game.

Rumor has it that we’ll be seeing a TDE group tape in 2024, and our hopes are up for more of this form from Jay Rock and co.

Mick Jenkins feat. Freddie Gibbs – “Show & Tell”

Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins has been consistently putting out quality throughout his career, and his latest album The Patience may be his best yet. “Show & Tell” is the standout from the project, where Jenkins and fellow midwest spitter Freddie Gibbs go toe to toe with a series of complex flows and rhyme schemes.

Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem – “The Hillbillies”

Avant-garde, wild, and out of left field, “The Hillbillies” is chaos in its most beautiful form. Now fully cutting ties with TDE and on his own label pgLang, Kendrick Lamar enlisted the help of his cousin and protege Baby Keem for a single that seems to change with every listen. It’s like nothing we’ve heard before, and that’s exactly why we love it. That and the multiple Messi references too.

Danny Brown & JPEGMAFIA – “Kingdom Hearts Key”

If Dave and Central Cee gave us the collab of the year, Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA’s joint album Scaring the Hoes is a close second.

The entire project is a noisy, frenetic, and energizing affair, and “Kingdom Hearts Key” embodies all three of those aspects perfectly. Peggy and Danny interweave effortlessly throughout the track, and their natural chemistry is most evident on this absolute masterpiece.

REASON – “At It Again”

Carson, California native and TDE signee REASON dropped Porches as a follow up to 2020’s stellar New Beginnings.

Front to back, the album is solid, and the energy of “At It Again” stands out most. It’s a must have on any gym playlist, and for those who want to get hyped before a game, this is your track.

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