All 87 Billboard Award-Nominated Rap Songs, Ranked
The Billboard Music Awards are this Sunday, and even though all anybody can talk about is Taylor Swift’s new music video, there’s more to the award show than that. Like rap. From leader of the pack, Iggy Azalea to critical darling Drake, here’s a ranking of all 87 nominated rap songs, from best to worst.
1. Jungle: On an album filled with testosterone and a hard, driving beat, “Jungle” stands out. By the end of the album, Drake’s anger has turned largely into frustration. The man is tired and he yearns to be rocked slowly but finds himself still caught up in the eternal Drake contradiction: namely, he’s still finding himself, let alone a soulmate. Maybe it’s the sweet R&B backing track, maybe it’s the fact that it’s Drake, or maybe it’s just that it’s a good song, but for better or for worse, when Drake speaks from his heart, it’s impossible not to fall for the line, even when you know that’s all it is.
2. Four Door Aventador: F*ck yes, Nicki. This is one of those songs that can rev the engine on even the chillest party. Seriously, it’s impossible to listen to this song without succumbing to its gravitational pull. The turn up is real. Yas, Kween.
3. Wet Dreamz: This song is everything, and easily the best account of cherry popping ever recorded. J. Cole perfectly captures the feeling of being a teenager: trying to seem grown, but being clueless as f*ck and sweating under pressure. Seriously, get this song in your playlist rotation yesterday.
4. Work: Iggy at her absolute best. She’s never flowed smoother or found a more perfect balance between rap content and pop catchyness. This was Iggy’s first big song, and it continues to be her strongest.
5. Energy: While I could do without the brainless repetition of “got a lot of enemies,” “Energy” finds Drake flowing to a beat that can’t stop and won’t stop, pulling out all the lyrical punches. Plus, he just sounds like a boss. Seriously, he should change his Instagram bio – he ain’t the boy no more.
6. New Bitch: When Iggy Azalea doesn’t take herself too seriously, she shines the brightest. New Bitch is campy, catchy and full of notable lines like “damn she is too thick” and “you well done and bitch, I’m rare.” While obviously not hit single material, ‘New Bitch’ could have won Iggy some brownie points when the Internet was busy talking about how fake she was.
7. Only: There are a lot of things that off about “Only”. The empty chorus sung by documented girlfriend-beater Chris Brown, Nicki’s goofy puns about duct tape and poultry, and the fact that Lil Wayne sounds like his voice is about to give out at any minute. But there’s something about it that just works. Held together by Drake’s entertaining and light-hearted middle verse, “Only” may be a little busted, but you gotta love it anyway. Just like family.
8. Change Your Life: One of Azalea’s best raps, and one of her better songs, only partly thanks to T.I. The song’s more of a grower than a shower, so expect to grow fonder of it with each passing listen.
9. Feeling Myself: Although Beyonce’s auto-tune heavy verse sinks, Nicki hits every syllable of every flow like bitch was born on fleek. While not exactly a club banger, it’s a perfect song for a warm, summer’s night: easy, breezy, with just a hint of turn up.
10. You & The 6: When Drake speaks from his heart, the people listen. “You & The 6” finds Drake confessing his sins and bearing his heart and soul to his mother, and its lines are filled with gold. This song finds Drake digging deep, standing tall despite letting the emotions fall out his mouth like they cost nothing to say.
11. Buy A Heart: You can see why Nicki fell for Meek Mill. There’s something about his flow that captivates, and he ably carries the first third of the track giving his lady an extra minute and a half to primp herself for her grand arrival. What a team.
12. ’03 Adolescence: Like the song implies, the songs finds J. Cole reminiscing over the past and how “things change, rearrange, and so do I/It ain’t always for the better dog, I won’t lie.” Tracing his path from street hustler to the man he is today, this song pulls on the heartstrings, and once again proves that J. Cole is the best storyteller in the game.
13. Fancy: I stand by my earliest appraisal of this song: it’s a pussy jam for sure, but also the sonic equivalent to getting stoned and letting yourself run loose in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. At first listen, it’s kind of awesome, but after a while, it’s just too much.
14. I Don’t F*ck With You: What do you do when your ex breaks your heart? Well, if you’re a normal human being, you cry and up your alcohol consumption to near inhuman levels, but if you’re Big Sean, then you bypass that messiness and release an irresistibly catchy diss track. This is Big Sean at his absolute best, carrying off dope beats, switching up his flow, and making rap like it’s pop.
15. Lit Like Bic: What a way to start an album. This song sounds like a childhood nursery rhyme that got twisted, screwed, and dipped in pussy juice. On the one hand it’s a party song about casual misogyny, but on the other hand, it’s an impassioned manifesto. They’re weird storytellers with weird voices, but there’s something endearing about Rae Sremmurd. Weird can work.
16. January 28th: A master storyteller, J. Cole’s “January 28th” made me cry the first time I heard it. A voice for a generation without enough heroes in sight, J. Cole reminds us all that “if you ain’t aim too high, you aim too low.” He doesn’t pretend to sling drugs or be anything that he’s not, and while he may not be the God he aims to be, at least he’s aiming for the stars.
17. Know Yourself: This song is the real legend off of If You’re Reading This. Leave it to Drake to propel an offhand proclamation to t-shirt immortality. “Running through the 6 with my woes” may not have seemed like the tagline of 2015, but that’s Drake for you. Nobody thought YOLO was going to become the giant that it was either.
18. Love Game: Eminem’s big hit in a sea of misses, “Love Game” showcases Eminem’s bizzaro, storytelling skills without getting too mired in his more violent tendencies. Does Kendrick steal the track? Maybe. But it’s hard to make a King bow down. Hands down the strongest track on The Marshall Mathers LP2 – too bad nobody ever heard it.
19. Intro: What better question to start things off with than “do you wanna be happy?” J. Cole’s musings expand from there, tracing their way through a stream-of-consciousness string of thoughts that every person alive has asked themselves a hundred times over. The song twists and turns and ends just as simply as it began.
20. 10 Bands: Eh. Good beat, decent flow, and a handful of quotable lyrics, but especially coming after “Energy,” “10 Bands” fails to live up to Drake’s impossibly high standards. Still, we’re glad he feels like the 1 again. Confidence sounds good on him.
21. 100: Azalea raps about how hot she is over a playful beat. She may not keep it 100, but she does keep it listenable.
22. Legend: Drake has a high opinion of himself, but at this point, anybody could argue that he’s earned it. “Legend” finds Drake singing his usual shtick: here are all my accomplishments, here are all my hang-ups, and here’s my good taste (Admittedly “So Anxious” is one of my all-time favorite songs). The song isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it does perfectly sum up what Drake’s about.
23. Apparently: J.Cole at his most uplifting, and the closest he comes to making rap like it’s pop. The song is easy, breezy, and curiously buried in the back 9 of the album.
24. This Could Be Us: Rae Sremmurd’s most mainstream-sounding track – heavy on melody, and completely devoid of their bread-and-butter manic, freakout energy. A little magic’s lost in the process, but the track’s effortlessly listenable.
25. Madonna: It’s hard to listen to this song divorced from the image of Madonna frenching Drake at Coachella, but there’s something magical about how Drake’s relaxed, throw-away flow matches the lack of enthusiasm he seemed to have for the actual event. The track was sort of whatever before, and now it seems like it’ll forever be shrouded in nostalgia for our collective pop culture past. I never though I’d say this but thanks, Madge.
26. Anaconda: Oh, God. Hate it or love it, this song is an unstoppable force. While its sampling is egregious, there’s only so long you can hold out before you let yourself just give in to the party, if only when you’re in the privacy of your own room. It’s a shameless song, and Minaj is just crazy enough to make it work, even if she does unravel quite a bit by the end.
27. Wednesday Night Interlude: Interlude is the perfect descriptor for this drugged-out, introspective, late night confession-laced track. It doesn’t sound like any other song on the mixtape, and serves as the perfect respite from the aggressive boasts and masculine flexing that dominate If You’re Reading This.
28. Unlock The Swag: Force feed EMF’s “You’re Unbelievable” with more drugs than Lindsay Lohan probably has in her purse right now, and you begin to understand the level Rae Sremmurd’s “Unlock The Swag” is operating on. Most of the song hinges on a desperate plea to unlock the swag that increases in urgency with every repetition. The song is darkly playful, but also the equivalent of getting sucked down into bog water.
29. G.O.M.D.: We’ve all been there. Sometimes you just gotta tell somebody to get off your dick already. J. Cole’s “G.O.M.D.” has a sick beat, calls back to Lil Jon’s delightfully awful “Get Low”, and most importantly, has the flows to back it all up.
30. Star67: Drake rapping about letting a couple rounds rip out of a gun just isn’t credible. That’s not a good place to start a song from, and luckily Drake has good sense enough to flip the song into introspection less than two minutes in. The song succeeds as an exploration into the emotional underbelly behind rap’s bravado claims, and you get the feeling that this is a move that nobody besides Drake and King Kendrick could really pull off.
31. Up Like Trump: You know, it really can be hard to function with so many hoes in the house. I have three roommates and three cats, so I identify. This song lives in full-on Sremmurd bizzaro land, and from the first burped out Trump to the last, the song is a joy to listen to.
32. Fire Squad: The song’s highest point comes three minutes in when J. Cole gets to discussing the crown. Why do all rappers want that power? Does it come from cowardice, ignorance or a need to push others down? J. Cole poses a handful of worthy questions, while making it clear that he thinks Iggy Azalea is guilty of co-opting a black sound for personal gain. Not that he’s gonna start a Twitter war about it, he’s just trying to keep it real.
33. 6 God: I’ll admit it, this song makes me feel like hyped. While it blends into the sonic landscape of If You’re Reading This, “6 God” is like munching on a bag of off-brand chips: it hits the spot, but the brand name isn’t going to stick with you.
34. The Crying Game: Finally, Minaj manages to wrest control of her emotions. In “The Crying Game,” her material may be emotional, but she’s in control of a thrillingly pulsating beat, sounding like the boss we know and love. Jessie Ware ably slinks through the chorus, managing to steal a fare share of thunder from Ms. Minaj. Oh well.
35. 6PM In New York: Happy Birthday, Drake! “6PM” finds Drake just minutes away from 28, extolling all the wisdom and last-minute baggage that he can. He’s rapping against the clock to fit in all of his accomplishments, and boy, has he grown.
36. No Flex Zone: Ah, Mike Will Made It. This song starts off hovering right over your nerves, but manages to warm its way into your heart with its sing-song repetition and hyperactive energy.
37. St. Tropez: A melodic interlude for J. Cole that’s as easy listening as 2014 Forrest Hills Drive gets. It’s pleasant enough to listen to, although probably doesn’t stand up outside the context of the album.
38. Preach: I’m over the auto-tune. Preach. Drake takes his sweet time hopping on his own track, and when he shows up, it’s just business as usual.
39. No Tellin’: Drake at his most glib, but even that’s better than half of the songs on this list. Talk about being on your game.
40. A Tale of 2 Citiez: A harder beat, a softer tell, but the chorus makes a lasting impression. J. Cole can do better.
41. Get On Your Knees: First off, I know they go back, but Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj are a weird combination. Grande, giving her best Miley Cyrus imitation, tries and fails to pull of the rise and fall of Miley’s lilt in guilty pleasure “23”, while Minaj serves up Lil Kim bad bitch realness. While an odd combination, “Get On Your Knees” because it lets Minaj doing what she does best: a little bit of camp and a whole lot of sexy. I mean, “got a bow on my panties because my ass is a present”? Purrrrfection.
42. My X: Even at their most aggressive, there’s something delightfully tongue-in-cheek about Rae Sremmurd. Heavy on the word ‘bitch’, “My X” features lines like “she interrupted counting my money/I had to start over” and “I’m a real Hugh Hefner.” If the lyrics are a bit paper thin, the brothers more than make up for it in their over-the-top energy and whip-sharp flows.
43. Black Widow: The only enjoyable song on the back half of Iggy’s album. The song isn’t as good as the success it enjoyed this summer, but it is a fun “f*ck boys” song that manages to empower rather than depress. Plus, who doesn’t love a touch of Rita Ora?
44. No Role Models: The only thing that really stands out is the line, “I came fast like 911 in white neighborhoods.” This isn’t J. Cole’s strongest track, but even at his weakest he still manages to make an impression.
45. All Things Go: Soft, melodic, and heartfelt aren’t necessarily the go-to adjectives used to describe Nicki Minaj, but hey, Drake rubs off on the best of us. On “All Things Go” Minaj gently raps her way around various broken family ties, drops the bomb on her own abortion, and above all, asserts that she’s still real…and that she loves her mother…and oh yeah, that this is The Pinkprint. All in all, a better than average album opener.
46. Don’t Need Y’all: More or less the same song as “Walk The Line”, only with a better beat, a catchier chorus, and the addition of a Drakeism: no new friends.
47. Walk The Line: The classic “I Struggled In My Life But I Made It And There’s No Going Back” song that every rap album has at least one of; it’s not a bad album opening, although it’s not the kind of song we’ve come to expect from Iggy: shiny, pop-rap wunderkind.
48. Love Yourz: Always ready to get on that inspiration game, J. Cole makes sure to remind you that “there’s no such thing as a love that’s better than yours.” In the words of RuPaul, “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Can I get an Amen?
49. Rhyme Or Reason: Unlike much of Eminem’s persona, “Rhyme Or Reason,” while still angry, mostly comes off as playful. Not content to merely sample “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies, Eminem adapts the chorus and plays off the question, “Who’s your daddy?” By toning down the anger and unleashing the weird, Eminem pulls off a winner (not to mention a spot on Yoda impression).
50. Throw Sum Mo: A classic strip joint ode centering around the sentiment, “just keep on dancing ‘til I’m out of paper.” It’s not their best song, but it does see Rae Sremmurd holding their own against heavyweights like Minaj and Yung Thug. They clearly have a good understanding of how they fit into the modern rap landscape, and that gets bonus points.
51. Hot Boy – Okay, so that’s not really what the song’s called, but if you know Bobby Shmurda, you know the song I’m talking about. A runaway Vine phenomenon, “Hot Boy” shows how all you need is a hot beat and an infectious dance style to make the kids dance to proclamations of routine violence.
52. Company: Losing steam towards the end, it’s not Travis Scott’s fault that he doesn’t hold a candle to Drizzy yet. Drake’s portion of the song is just about as good as he gets, giving the audience yet another window into Drake’s mysterious, but prolific love life.
53. So Far…: Better than most of the songs on The Marshall Mathers LP2, but not as good as the first couple of seconds seems to promise. Losing steam every time the chorus comes around, Eminem ably wins back your favor with every light-hearted, effortless verse.
54: The Monster: In the context of the whole album, this song stands out as a monster hit. Rihanna pulls off the chorus like the professional bad bitch that she is, and Eminem manages to flex his dexterity without succumbing to his darker habits. The song may be whatever, but at least it’s listenable, which for The Marshall Mathers LP2 is quite a compliment.
55. Used To: Not Drake’s best, but at least he’s keeping his vocal delivery playful. Lil Wayne neither adds nor detracts.
56. I Lied: Essentially a continuation of “All Things Go,” but with slightly less heart, “I Lied” is a quasi-emotional account of a break-up with more than a handful of anger. Part “Haunted,” part anything that’s come out of Drake’s mouth, this is a side of Minaj we don’t get to see often, and she struggles to shine through the material’s gloom.
57. Favorite: Eh. The beat is sick and Jeremih does a fine job, but the song doesn’t stack up to Minaj’s best material, rambling on and lasting a minute and a half too long.
58. Want Some More: Minaj’s flow is unbeatable, but the only thing this song leaves me wanting some more of is the chorus. Overall, a pretty mediocre offering from the supposed Queen of Rap.
59. No Type: Rae Sremmurd’s stretched a little thin, but manage to pull off “No Type” no harm no foul.
60. Headlights: I love Nate Ruess as much as the next girl, but what an odd pairing for Eminem, but hey, when you’re trying to pull at the heartstrings, you have to bring in the big guns. “Headlights” is Eminem at his most mature point of the album, coming to terms and making peace with the sins of his mother. Strange to bury it at the end of an album, but hey, what do I know?
61. 6 Man: More than halfway through his album, and Drake’s starting to drag. Not his best 6 track.
62. Grand Piano: You know what they say, gotta save the most emotional for last. This song drags and makes for a lackluster, if not haunting ending to a Minaj’s fairly successful album.
63. Trini Dem Girls: An empty turn up song from Minaj that succeeds in delivering the goods. You may not turn it off, but you certainly wouldn’t put it on.
64. Hello: Eh. This gentle track isn’t J. Cole’s strongest, but if you have headphones on while you’re listening, the constant hellos will trip you out. You’ve been warned.
65. Now & Forever: Eh. Sometimes Drake forgets to include dynamics when he sings, and despite the fact that you could easily make the argument that his lack of vocal enthusiasm matches the song’s content, it makes for a tougher song to get through.
66. Bad Guy: Classic Eminem: angrily blowing through flows while filling our heads with violent acts to be carried out against women. He may hate to be the bad guy, but he’s sure made a reputation out of it. His flow is on point, but there’s nothing new here.
67. Come Get Her: Although this song has the best chorus ever (“somebody come get her/she’s dancing like a stripper”), this is one of Rae Sremmurd’s least inspired song. It doesn’t quite warrant a skip, but feel free to check out and check Instagram in the meantime.
68. Survival: Eminem’s got an anthem on his hands, and despite the emotion in his voice, he feels distant from any real message he could get across, settling for a trite “survival of the fittest” takeaway. The flow is there, but the content escapes him.
69. Stronger Than I Was: Eminem’s never been much of a singer, and while “Hailie’s Song” was powerful, “Strong Than I Was” is unsurprisingly a huge miss. While it’s nice to see him expressing honest, emotional sentiments, this song is something you don’t need to listen to more than once. Or even all the way through.
70. Berzerk: Not Eminem’s best, not his worst, but definitely a missed opportunity to unleash his inner freak and actually, you know, go berzerk. What would baby Eminem have done?
71. Note To Self: A long, rambling thank you note from J. Cole in verbal form. It’s kind of interesting once, but doesn’t do well when you play the repeat game.
72. YNO: Not Rae Sremmurd’s best turn up anthem. Big Sean ruins everything. Feel free to skip.
73. Rap God: Monica Lewinsky had a good year, didn’t she? Nobody’s saying you’re not talented Eminem, but “Rap God” is so far beneath his talent that it’s almost laughable.
74. Goddess: Iggy telling you to bow down to her is mildly laughable. ‘Goddess‘ finds Iggy getting a little too big for her britches, and the song somehow feels like a Yeezus castoff. The raps aren’t bad, but it’s just hard to imagine her ever carrying the track off. Next.
75. So Much Better: Eh. This song feels like old baggage Eminem can’t help but rehashing, and I can’t help but press skip. Seriously, just let it go, man. You’ll feel so, so, so much better.
76. Asshole: Eminem’s fastest flow gets paired with an epic back track that fails to live up to the deranged yet celebratory chorus’s proclamation, “you’re an asshole.” Maybe it’s time for Eminem to retire.
77. Pills N Potions: A poor man’s “Moment 4 Life,” “Pills N Potions” failed to make an impact for Nicki when she released it as a single, and time doesn’t make it go down any easier.
78. Brainless: Trust us, Eminem, you don’t look like a pussy, you just look like an asshole who’s stuck in the past. The track’s a little brainless, but I guess that’s just standard Eminem circa 2014 right? Perhaps a frontal lobotomy would be the answer.
79. Impossible Is Nothing: A lackluster recycling of the age old tropes. The track tries to be inspirational, but succeeds only in boring the listener. The only thing that’s impossible is trying to listen to this whole song without pressing skip. Sorry, Iggy.
80. Safe Sex Pay Checks: All of Rae Sremmurd’s songs are ostensibly about turning up and partying, but this song is their MO at its most dumbed-down. At least they’re advocating safe sex as they’re chanting “shots! shots! shots!”
81. Lady Patra: Any song that rhymes Patra with Sinatra isn’t going to be good and that’s the only area that Iggy’s ‘Lady Patra’ doesn’t disappoint in. Completely skipable.
82. Evil Twin: It’s a skit, it’s a song, and it’s not something you need to bother with. Come on, Eminem.
83. The Night Is Still Young: Staring off with a shamless plug for her sickly sweet Moscato brand, “The Night Is Still Young,” is a song for all the middle schoolers jonseing for their first molly overdose. Anybody over the age of 16 should press skip immediately.
84. Parking Lot: Starting off with a bang, this is a classic Eminem skit. Violence, curse words, police sirens and chaos. Skits weren’t necessary back then, and we wish he hadn’t brought them back now.
85. Bed Of Lies: Too basic to even listen to. Stop making songs for tweens, Nicki.
86. Legacy: Eh. Just skip it. Eminem is over anyway.
87. F*ck Love: Iggy’s dance track that offers up the following wisdom: “f*ck love, give me diamonds.” Just nah.