Music has always been a vehicle for better times. A soundtrack to great, memorable moments. There aren't too many seasons directly tied to good times with good people like the summer is; this becomes even more true as it gets closer to its end. As September nears, it's time to reflect on the summer songs that made a difference this year when hip-hop fans were returning to day parties, nightlife and everything in between.
This summer has certainly found the ladies shining. Lizzo's "About Damn Time" was the No. 1 song in the country while fully encompassing the vibe of the summer. The self-empowering single about letting go and loving yourself after a tough time fits too well with the current state of, well, everything. It's a fun listen and the built-in disco and funk references make it feel like a modernized version of songs from an earlier era. GloRilla and producer Hitkidd's "F.N.F. (Let's Go)" is a Memphis crunk song through and through, as opposed to Lizzo's flawlessly constructed pop-rap hit, but the two songs are two sides of the same coin. GloRilla is done with a man who doesn't meet her standards, and she puts the focus on herself and chilling with her friends. The track perfectly breaks down all the emotions tied to that while she whips up one of the most memorable hooks of the year. These two songs definitely define the summer of 2022.
This past few months also featured some big-time rap stars and a surprise newcomer making his presence felt. "Wait For U," the Tems-sampling, Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper by Future and Drake, has been inescapable. The woozy slow-burner about a relationship that is so bad, but feels better doesn't seem like something that fits the summer when both Future and Drake are in a serious, emotive lane, but it has absolutely been one of the biggest songs over these last few months. Another Drizzy track has also been on repeat as the sun's been sizzling. "Jimmy Crooks," the sole full-on rap song on his mostly house album, Honestly, Nevermind, has racked up over 130 million Spotify streams due to the change of pace it represents. Plus, the track reunites 21 Savage and Drake, close friends and successful collaborators in the past. It feels good to hear Drake rhyme, plus 21's scene-stealing verse fits just right.
As for the newer names taking over this summer, SleazyWorld Go caught a lot of traction with his viral single, "Sleazy Flow," which has nearly 50 million streams on Spotify between the original version and the Lil Baby remix. The track finds Sleazy putting his conversational flow to use. The menacing beat and his unique style make the song work; toss in an energized Lil Baby on the remix and the banger travels even further.
Check out the list below for even more music that soundtracked the heat from June to August. These are the best hip-hop songs of summer 2022.
"Wait For U"Future featuring Drake and Tems
A standard hallmark of a summer track is that it has to be heard everywhere, and there's no denying the ubiquity of Future's "Wait For U" featuring Drake and Tems. The ATL Jacob and FNZ-produced track, which samples Tems' 2020 song "Higher," crafted by production team Oddio, is the certified song of summer 2022. The guitar-licked, lovelorn ode, released in May, centers on a relationship that should be no longer but no one's letting go. "I will wait for you, for you/Early in the mornin', late at night (I will wait for you)," Tems sings, cementing the lyrics sprinkled throughout the track and repeated at the top of the lungs of many a fan. Future continues to live up to his Toxic King persona with lines like, "I been in the field like the children of the corn," and Drake's calling it like it is: "Why you introduce us if you knew that you was with him?/Made me shake his hand when y'all been fuckin' for a minute." The No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit has been burning like a wildfire these past few months. Whether it's a situationship or the one that got away, Future, Drake and Tems make the moment sound bittersweet.—G.C.
"F.N.F. (Let's Go)"GloRilla and Hitkidd
The sounds of Memphis have taken over different corners of hip-hop this year, but none quite like GloRilla and Hitkidd's hit "F.N.F. (Let's Go)" has done this summer. The rapper and producer from the lauded city linked up in April to create the booming track, a summer bop that has become an anthem for the ladies bidding farewell to a cheating man and embracing quality time with friends. From the spelling on the hook—"I'm F-R-E-E, fuck-n***a-free"—to her witty insults—"He say, 'Y'all be living fast,' nah, pussy boy, you slow," Big Glo's got the bars to match the charisma, and there's a whole lot of it. Hitkidd's pulsing production lends itself to the carefree nature of the rap newcomer's rhymes as well. The pair's work has earned a No. 49 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 since its release this past April. With its current momentum, there's still time left before fall arrives for "F.N.F. (Let's Go)" to climb higher. If it hasn't happened already, prepare to see a few ladies at the red light twerking on them headlights with this track playing in the back.—G.C.
"Shake It"Kay Flock featuring Cardi B, Dougie B and Bory300
Drill is the biggest subgenre in hip-hop right now. After having motion in Chicago, the U.K. and Brooklyn over the years, a new wave has landed in the Bronx. With that in mind, there’s no song better than "Shake It" to make that statement known. On a mainstream level, the track introduces uptown favorites Kay Flock, Dougie B and Bory300 names that people should be familiar with. The rap newcomers were able to secure a red-hot verse and cosign from hometown hero Cardi B on the song. Batting clean-up with a red bandana attached to her slugger, she snapped like everyone else, delivering murderous bars like, "I'm not a steppa', bitch, I'm a stomper/All of my opps get mixed with the grabba/Broke bitch said she was gon' touch me/She lyin', hakuna matata." Like the Wendy’s classic, the quartet of rappers go four-for-four performance-wise, but the Elias Beats-laced production, stamped by a high-energy sample of Sean Paul’s "Temperature," is also worth noting as a cheat code. Imagine not thinking this is an easy song of the summer contender. The formula is nothing new, but with this type of execution, it’s elite.—Kemet High
Doechii’s seductive single "Persuasive" is a whole vibe. Released back in March, after the Tampa, Fla. artist officially inked her deal with Top Dawg Entertainment, the vibrant track is unquestionably better than its Billboard chart placement, or lack thereof would suggest. Produced by Kal Banx (Denzel Curry's "Walkin"; Dreamville's "LamboTruck"), the vivacious record hits all the correct high notes, with transitions from silky chords to bridges highlighted by dance-inducing bass, utilizing elements of hip-hop, R&B and house. Vibes later capitalized on by Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind and Beyonce Renaissance. "Persuasive" is a pure party record, an area hip-hop in 2022 has fallen short in. Doechii is a star in the making. How does it feel?—C. Vernon Coleman II
"Jimmy Cooks"Drake featuring 21 Savage
When Drake dropped his house music album, Honestly, Nevermind, in the middle of June, music fans in general were shocked by his new stylistic course. Of the LP's 14 tracks, most of them are dance songs or inspired by them—except for one. "Jimmy Cooks," the 21 Savage-assisted album ender, is that exception. Produced by Tay Keith, Vinylz and Cubeatz, the beat travels through vintage Memphis hip-hop to modernized trap, with 21 Savage jumping all over the latter. Drake and 21 have a good track record together and this refreshing pivot on Honestly, Nevermind was well-appreciated. "Jimmy Cooks" has multiple parts that are easy to sing along to; this also helps its viability in the summer, a key to taking over parties in hot weather.—R.S. III
"Sleazy Flow (Remix)"SleazyWorld Go featuring Lil Baby
It seems like rap is starting to head back to the days when there was a new buzzing street rapper every other week. SleazyWorld Go is definitely one of those acts for 2022, due to his work last year, including "Sleazy Flow." Released last October, it got refreshed in late May with a Lil Baby remix, a rapper who's beginning to build a reputation for turning newer acts up. The aptly titled single is a vehicle for Sleazy to put his conversational, deadpan flow to use. He sounds like he’s telling a story, rapping each outrageous detail like it's no big deal to him. Lil Baby is the perfect contrast here, turning up the energy while still making the life of a big-time rapper seem regular. The minimalist production, thanks to the work of Rage Santana, helps the two rappers stand out; it’s one of those songs you’ll recognize anywhere.—R.S. III
Much has been made about who is or isn’t hip-hop, with a lot of the overanalysis directed towards women. Lizzo has heard these rumblings for years now, but the hits continue to come. She raps and sings, proving she's a versatile artist that flourishes while doing both. "About Damn Time," which was the No. 1 song in the country last month, showcases her knack doing some of each. It's a fun romp about celebrating yourself after a tough stretch, which is on brand for these times. Produced by Blake Statkin and Ricky Reed, it’s a funk track with rap undercurrents. The song's big and perfectly produced sound ties it all together. "About Damn Time" is really what summers are about from a social standpoint, and the track hits the mark. Talent is talent; that can’t be nitpicked away, no matter what.—R.S. III
"Waddup"PGF Nuk featuring Polo G
Despite drill music spreading its wings over the years to become prominent in cities like London, Brooklyn and the Bronx, PGF Nuk’s "Waddup" featuring Polo G finds the subgenre's hottest song of the summer rooted in the birthplace of the gritty style of street rap, Chicago. After the initial version of the track was released in 2021, "Waddup" proved to be Nuk’s most popular song since the onset of his career, but the addition of a hard-hitting guest appearance from his cousin by marriage, Polo G, is what allowed the track to find next-level success. The highly revered remix dropped in April of this year as the lead single for PGF Nuk's debut studio album, Switch Music. With minimalistic drum patterns and haunting synths that could slide seamlessly into the soundtrack of a horror flick, the Fatman-produced beat provides the perfect undertone for the fierce bars both Chicago drill rhymers laid down, putting any and all opps on notice all through the summer.—Joey Echevarria
With Lil Baby being one of the rap game’s most popular acts over the past few years, it’s no surprise that he delivered a whole banger to help provide the soundtrack to the summer with "In A Minute." Using a pitched-down sample of Ellie Goulding's 2012 song, "Don’t Say a Word," producers KaiGoinKrazy and HAZE lace an airy, driving beat that allows the Quality Control lyricist to dance across the track, telling his rags-to-riches tale in the process. Aside from becoming certified platinum in July and earning critical praise from rap fans, the release of "In A Minute" proved to be yet another milestone in Baby's storied career. Debuting at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the Atlanta spitter's hit song marks his 100th entry on the coveted singles chart, placing him among only 12 other elite artists who've achieved the honor. The success of "In A Minute" proves that for Lil Baby, one of the song’s most impactful bars certainly rings true at this stage of his career: "Turned something into nothing, bruh, I’m living proof/How can I lose when we the who's whose."—J.E.
"Hot Shit"Cardi B featuring Kanye West and Lil Durk
Cardi B has cemented herself as an undeniable force in the industry. "Hot Shit" is a three-pronged attack that serves as a reminder to anyone who might've forgotten: Cardi isn't here to mess around. Featuring both Lil Durk and Kanye West, the track starts off with Cardi's braggadocios flow. "I'm so poppin', I don't ever gotta get introduced/One thing I never call a bitch for is a truce," she vehemently raps, asserting herself at the throne of any disputes she finds herself in. Durk follows and nearly steals the show with one of the best guest verses of his career, further cementing himself as a major figure in modern hip-hop. Kanye wraps up the track with a verse straight out of his Donda 2-era playbook, leaving fans on the edge of their seats for whatever he has coming next. All of this culminates to create a summer heater that lives up to its title.—Tyler Sharp
Denzel Curry quietly had one of the best hip-hop LPs of the year with Melt My Eyez See Your Future. The lead single "Walkin" set the tone of the LP and had its footprint on the soundtrack for the summer. The South Florida rapper tapped Kal Banx for multiple songs on the album including "Walkin." In ways, the song sounds like a reflection of the past two years, starting off reflective and nearly solemn, with a slow boom-bap melody carrying the way. At the mid-way point, things take a rousing turn. The yin-yang production leads to one of the most satisfying song transitions in a while.—C.V.C. II
"What's My Name"Fivio Foreign and Queen Naija featuring Coi Leray
A foolproof recipe for a summer song can oftentimes consist of a recognizable, yet creatively flipped sample, some catchy bars that are easy to recite while cruising with the windows down and an alluring hook. Fivio Foreign concocted his own special sauce when he delivered "What's My Name" with Queen Naija and Coi Leray. An interpolation of the iconic 2000's R&B trio Destiny's Child's "Say My Name," the Brooklyn phenom didn't deviate from his hardcore rap roots, but he did soften up his approach, allowing for the track to appeal to audiences outside of his native Brooklyn drill scene. The buzzing single, produced by AyoAA, Bordeaux, Non Native, A Lau and Remy, appears on his B.I.B.L.E. album and obviously received the stamp of approval from Queen Beyoncé herself. However, not without Fivi going back to the drawing board and making a few minor tweaks so the song could have more radio and charting appeal.—Aleia Woods
Jack Harlow has bolstered himself to become a household name and his hit single "First Class," off his Come Home the Kids Miss You album has allowed him to do so. The song, produced by Harlow himself alongside Charlie Handsome, Jasper Harris, Angel "BabeTruth" Lopez and Rogét Chahayed, utilizes Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie's chart-topping record "Glamorous" as the musical backdrop. Adding distinct bass and ticks, the Louisville, Ky. rhymer shifts the tone of the sample to a more mellow vibe many tempos lower than the original pop record. A minute-and-a-half into the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 smash, Jack Harlow alters the landscape, focusing mostly on ticks and piano, then resumes the original pace moments later, creating an enjoyable roller-coaster moment for the song's nearly three-minute run.—A.W.
Doja Cat is becoming a superstar right in front of the world's eyes. Despite obstacles and odds, her chameleon-like vocal ability to seamlessly jump from genre to genre within songs has catapulted them to the top of streaming and radio charts alike. "Vegas," a single to the soundtrack of this year's highly publicized Elvis Presley biopic Elvis, samples Big Mama Thornton's 1952 hit song "Hound Dog." Doja effortlessly pays homage to Thornton's original recording while also giving it a modern twist via her signature attitude. The perfect vibe for summer. As she continues to separate herself from the rest of the industry, "Vegas" serves as yet another successful footnote in her journey.—T.S.
"Silent Hill"Kendrick Lamar featuring Kodak Black
Some folk would like to argue that Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers has come and gone, but "Silent Hill" surely hasn’t. The zippy production is handled by the trifecta of Sounwave, Boi-1da and Jahaan Sweet. And the elegiac performance from K-Dot emphasizes the supposed theme of a therapy session on wax. After cracking the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 upon the song's release, it continued to burn like wildfire throughout the summer. Kodak Black’s bodacious feature is also to thank for that. Spitting with a face-scrunching cadence like the rent was due, Kodak slick dropped off the best guest appearance on the album with lyrics like, "The AP Roman numeral, everywhere I go, I need pharmaceuticals/I ran my whole conglomerate, I was just mappin' shit out in the cubicle." With big-league performances from rap’s best introspective artist and a respected street rapper, "Silent Hill" has been heard everywhere this season from the clubs to the coupes.—K.H.