Our top musical moments of 2022, from favorite song to verse of the year — Andscape
Just like last year, we’re back with some of our favorite music moments from 2022. While there’s no way to highlight every single thing we loved (and definitely still run back), this should provide a good overview of this year’s standouts moments.
Favorite Song of the Year
Big K.R.I.T.’s latest album, Digital Roses Don’t Die, is the rapper in his final form. There’s not much rapping, but it’s all soul, some funk, and a whole lot of poetry. “Generational — Weighed Down” was the heart of the album. Maybe it’s being a parent. Maybe it’s the fact my year was highlighted by writing a book about generational fears and challenges that come with fatherhood. But Big K.R.I.T. lays out those fears so beautifully yet painfully, it was one of the few songs in my life that brought me to tears. The entire album is stellar and this is the standout track for me. — David Dennis Jr.
It’s just something about SZA. Before I settled on “Snooze,” my first choice was actually “I Hate U,” which hit SoundCloud in late summer 2021. Thankfully, SZA kept that same energy when she dropped SOS, the follow-up to her 2017 debut classic Ctrl. On an album stocked with memorable moments, “Snooze” stands out from the crowd. Have you seen those Spotify cards people have been posting about the music they’ve listened to the most? Well, for me, “Snooze” already feels like it’s near the top of my leaderboard. That’s saying something considering the album just dropped this month. But the song is everything I’ve come to love about SZA’s music. It’s organized chaos and unmanageable sincerity set up perfectly for a modern-day karaoke masterpiece. — Justin Tinsley
Album of the Year
Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
You’re not going to find many better two-album runs than what Vince Staples did with the self-titled project he released last year and 2022’s Ramona Park Broke My Heart, a love letter to his neighborhood in Long Beach, California. I love the way Staples writes about home. He acknowledges the pain of growing up around violence and in a place this country wanted nothing to do with, but he still finds love in those spaces. Plus, the album has legit bangers in “Magic” and “Lemonade.” It’s a tight needle to thread to have such catchy songs and still maintain emotional resonance, but that’s become his specialty. — David Dennis Jr.
Symba — Results Take Time
Let’s keep it West Coast then, why don’t we? In the Bay Area’s rich Black music history, Symba is a present-day stepper. Narrated by DJ Drama, Results Take Time is an ode to success, grief, fear, pride, and vulnerable confidence — all of which Symba waxes about in-depth. What I cherish the most is that Symba’s story just feels authentic. Not perfect, but real. There’s little embellishment in the picture he paints about his life: He quit hooping, his family fell on hard times, and he decided to risk it all to pursue rap. It’s a story familiar in hip-hop’s nearly 50-year history. But it sticks to my ribs all the same. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spun “Can’t Win For Nothing,” “Sacrifices,” “GOAT,” and “Find A Way” and “Pendant” in 2022. But I tell you this: In a year that’s changed my life in more ways than one, I’m grateful for the realistic escape Symba provides. — Justin Tinsley
Verse of the Year
Kendrick Lamar is one of the great memoirists in music. This song, from his grand, complicated opus Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers digs into Lamar’s psychological traumas, generational curses and what it means to try to pull through it all. A rapper delving into how childhood sexual trauma affected his adult relationships felt revelatory and honest. Peeling back layers of your family history to show yourself to the world isn’t easy and Lamar does some brave work here. This might be the most piercing song in his catalog. — David Dennis Jr.
As a family, we may yell, scream and cuss at each other, but when it’s time to squad up, there should be no question about where loyalties lie. That’s what this verse amounts to as JID vividly recounts a moment from his teen years. On The Forever Story standout, JID explains being outnumbered in a nightclub brawl, adding that he and his family were squabbling “10 against 23.” There’s an OutKast-esque level of storytelling in the song that shouldn’t be swept under the rug, especially when talking about the year’s best bars. It’s kinda wholesome. Well, about as wholesome as a story can get after you and your family start World War III in the club. — Justin Tinsley
Favorite Song from Renaissance (today)
For a lot of people, their favorite song shifts with whatever way the wind is blowing. But my favorite tracks have always remained the same. “Cuff It”* and “Church Girl” remain the standouts on Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, Renaissance. They both went crazy when I went to Hampton for homecoming back in October. So I already know hearing those tracks in places such as Houston or New Orleans has to be even crazier. I guess I’ll find out at Essence Festival next summer. — Justin Tinsley
* Also? You’ll never convince me that Beyoncé doesn’t say “Black lives” during the chorus.
So today it’s “Heated.” The song just has this defiance about it. This sureness. This unrelenting “I’m the flyest” energy in the face of any hater who dares say otherwise. But I also can’t get over “Plastic Off the Sofa.” It just feels like love. Like being held, seen and reassured. It’s playful and sincere at the same time. There’s nothing better. — David Dennis Jr.
Rap Battle of the Year
Rum Nitty is the coldest at crafting punchlines and making words fit the bar he’s trying to pull together. There’s a reason he’s called an alien. His battle with Christian emcee A Ward (which took place in a strip club in Atlanta, of all places) is an instant classic, especially when you look at how Rum Nitty left earth in the first round. “Go across your head with a wine bottle, break the glass and leave a shard in A (chardonnay),” he rapped. That’s madness. A Ward is no slouch either, rebutting Rum’s hardest lines with a dope freestyle of his own. This is a style clash but one of those battles that will be a gateway drug for those who still haven’t gotten into battle rap. — David Dennis Jr.
Song that Makes You Wish You Could Still Go to the Club
Cardi B is easily in the Verse of the Year discussion for this one. But I chose to drop this here because this song is tailor-made for wild nights (and/or day parties). It’s bouncy. It’s got a surplus of one-liners that people love drunkenly chanting. And, as I’ve mentioned before, that Cardi B verse is ridiculously potent. Cardi B didn’t just ride the beat — she sounded like she was stitched in its pocket. Her verse is also a statement. Cardi B let people know that even though it’s been a half decade since her Grammy-winning debut Invasion of Privacy, she can still burn a track to the ground when need be. Don’t think the tough talk and, when necessary, direct pettiness were just random bars either. They delivered the message to any critics that needed the public service announcement. Cardi B ate on this record. And it’s good to hear her hungry. — Justin Tinsley
Note from David Dennis Jr.: Someone on Twitter called “Tomorrow 2” Black women’s “Dreams and Nightmares” and there may never have been a more accurate statement about a song.
Rookie Music Journalist of the Year
Caresha Please has quickly become one of the most delightful viewing experiences in all of music. Hosted by Caresha Brownlee, aka Yung Miami of the City Girls, her ability to make her guests feel welcomed and comfortable, especially if they are friends, makes the show a fun watch. Caresha’s no-nonsense interview style also encourages her guests to open up and share in a way I haven’t seen on many other shows. Caresha’s interviews with Diddy and Megan Thee Stallion are endearing, and so is she. I don’t know about her being the next Oprah Winfrey, but she’s not slowing down any time soon. — David Dennis Jr.
Song You Rap at the Top of Your Lungs in the Car
By the time you read this, my son might be here already. While waiting for his arrival these last several months, I’ve tried to help my wife in any way I can. This includes running errands, a full contact sport because I’m famous for forgetting something at the grocery store. But when I’m in the car, the intro from Future’s I Never Liked You is often on repeat. Combining the energy and Future’s aggressive bars, and you’ve got a record I’ve played on countless Starbucks runs. I can also attest that “712PM” is a top-tier workout song. And, look, I figured I might as well run this one into the ground now, because word on the street is Cocomelon will be dominating my playlist in the near future. — Justin Tinsley
If there’s one thing Jeezy’s gonna do it’s hit you over the head with an album intro that makes you want to run through a wall. Cool & Dre laced the Snowman with something epic and he delivered in kind with a track befitting the greatness of the rest of his Snofall album. When he said he has more songs with Jay-Z than Biggie Smalls, I wanted to flip over a table, I was so excited. The track just does that to you. — David Dennis Jr.
Best TV Show Song
OK, so we cheated a little and it’s a tie. There was a time not so long ago when TV had real rap songs that were supposed to be great, but we would watch and just sort of pretend the song was good. Like, we’d never listen to that song outside of the show, but in theory it was good because of how the characters reacted. Yes, I’m talking about most of the songs on Empire. But that’s not the point. In 2022, we saw a marked jump in TV rap songs. On P-Valley, Lil Murda’s “Seven Pounds of Pressure,” is a haunting, dirty South track about what it takes to pull the trigger. The dance sequence that accompanied the song is one of the best in TV history.
On the other end of the spectrum is “Seduce & Scheme” from HBO’s Rap Sh!t. The series, created by Issa Rae, sometimes felt like someone asked: “What if the City Girls were on Insecure?” While it had a bumpy start, Rap Sh!t found its groove to become something pretty great, thanks in part to the show’s original music. “Seduce & Scheme” is a scammer anthem that would fit on any Billboard chart and, like “Seven Pounds of Pressure,” is a legitimately great song. How refreshing. — David Dennis Jr.
Favorite Live Performance
Usher’s Tiny Desk Performance
One of the big regrets in my life right now is that I still haven’t been to a Tiny Desk performance. I live right outside Washington, so imagine the fear of missing out I felt upon discovering Usher had stopped by NPR’s offices to put on a show. And not only that, he bodied it something crazy, too! My jealousy quickly turned into amazement as Usher glided in and out of a medley of hits — including my favorite, “Superstar.” The performance also birthed one of the funniest social media trends of the year with the “Watch This” quip from his 2004 hit “Confessions Pt. 2.”
Summer 2023 sounds like a great time to catch Usher at his Las Vegas residency. Then and only then can I forgive myself for missing this instant classic performance in my own backyard. — Justin Tinsley
Isaiah Rashad at Coachella
After dropping three classic albums, Isaiah Rashad has become my favorite rapper under the age of 35. This year, he was the victim of someone trying to out him about his sexuality and had to cope with the fallout of that injustice. So what did he do? Rashad took time away from the spotlight, then showed up to Coachella to deliver a riveting and gutsy performance. He cried through some songs, snarled through others, and reminded us why we loved him to begin with. This is the power of music and connecting with an audience. I hope Rashad is taking time to heal and love on himself. When he’s ready to come back, we’ll be ready for him. — David Dennis Jr.
Rap Album We Didn’t Talk About Enough
Kevin Gates has been all over the news this year, mostly for his antics at live shows, his perpetual horniness, and the time he said he jump-started a car battery with his bare hands. The less said about all that the better. But don’t let that distract you from the fact that Gates is a straight-up monster. Khaza exemplifies all of that. The album is at one moment a spiritual journey and another a graphic series of tracks about the nastiest consensual sex imaginable. There’s also a song about getting Brazilian butt lift surgery for his gun. Seriously. It’s the full Kevin Gates experience. One full of his knack for off-kilter crooning that makes just about every track addictive. — David Dennis Jr.
R&B Album We Didn’t Talk About Enough
Time really does fly because, believe it or not, before Broken Hearts Club dropping in April, it had been five years since the Odd Future crooner’s last album, 2017’s Fin, dropped. What I’ve always appreciated about Syd is her willingness to experiment with her sound while also pushing all chips to the center of the table in terms of her vulnerability. Broken Hearts Club is a 13-track odyssey in finding love, losing love, living in the pain of losing love — but being crazy enough to try it again. — Justin Tinsley
Cover of the Year
When the trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was first released, Tems provided the musical backdrop. Beyond the excitement about the sequel lived the obvious grief so many were still dealing with following the death of Chadwick Boseman, who starred as T’Challa in Black Panther, from cancer in 2020. During an interview, director Ryan Coogler could barely hold back tears. Boseman’s name is celebrated almost religiously now, and for a good reason. There was no one like him. Knowing that connection and hearing Tems’ cover of the Bob Marley classic, the emotional weight is almost too much. Too beautiful. Too perfect. Somehow, still too traumatic. It’s one of the best song placements in quite some time because every step of the process felt careful and intentional. Just as Boseman would’ve liked it. — Justin Tinsley
What are you excited for about 2023?
Well, this has to be a tie. First, there’s something I’d like to speak into existence. Between Malice’s verse on Pusha T’s “I Pray For You,” performing together a few times this year — including at Pharell’s Something in the Water festival, which I attended — and the 20th anniversary of their debut album Lord Willin’ this summer, I’d love to see the Clipse reunite in 2023. Selfishly, the Virginia native in me would more than appreciate another project from one of my state’s undeniable cultural tour de forces.
The second is Cam’ron’s upcoming sports talk show, It Is What It Is. As someone who has been on the “Cam’ron needs his own show” bandwagon for years, this warms my heart. — Justin Tinsley
August 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Who woulda thought that hip-hop would take it this far? To mark the occasion, there’ll be a full year of celebrations across the country that I can’t wait to see. We’ll have a whole year to reflect on the art form that we love so much. And best believe Andscape will be front and center at the party, too. Stay tuned …