The best songs are often the ones that you can't tell if you love or hate till you've listened a few dozen times. Kanye West's landmark 2013 album Yeezus was like that, and so is our first taste of his upcoming 2015 record. (Still untitled, still without a release date.) It's been a while since we heard about the collaborations between Kanye and Sir Paul McCartney, 50 percent of the still-alive Beatles.
And the wait was so worth it! Paul doesn't sing, but his rich organ/keyboard melodies lay the groundwork not only for Kanye to sing a lovely, emotional ballad about his wife and daughter (sung from the point-of-view of his late mother, Donda West), but for Kanye to actually give the world his first genuine Beatles-esque song. Trust us—"Only One" actually segues brilliantly into McCartney classics like "Yesterday" and "The Long and Winding Road." Pretty uncanny. (ALSO: The brand new video is severely cute.)
Lil Wayne's Sorry 4 the Wait 2 mixtape is mired in drama—mostly for its rampant disses against Cash Money Records, Wayne's label of nearly 20 years. "CoCo," a remix of O.T. Genasis' hot 2014 single, leads the mixtape as well as the insult meter. But it's also just a killer freestyle performance by Young Tunechi.
More Sorry 4 the Wait 2! While the 17-song, 70-minute mixtape was largely remixes (of folks like Future, Beyoncé, Rae Sremmurd), there was one very hot new track between rap's best buddies, Weezy and Drizzy. "Used To" follows "Believe Me," "Grindin'," and Nicki Minaj's "Only" as a dark, fun-loving collection of T-shirt-worthy lines.
Bonus: there's a loco Riff Raff intro and outro. Regardless of your feels on that particular crazy personage, it's hard not to chuckle at a guy blurting about "motherf*ckin hang-glidin off motherf*ckin Versace skyscrapers." Like: WHAT?? A human WTF, that Riff Raff.
"Versace" hitmaker Zaytoven teamed up with Future for a loose half-hour mixtape called Beast Mode this month. It's a fun, in-one-ear-and-out-the-other affair, but "Peacoat" has lasting appeal, with Zaytoven's piano runs flecked with bone-deep bass and airy synth streaks. Plus, how cool is it to put on your peacoat and face the freezing weather with Future rapping about your exact garment? (Wicked cool.)
In 2014, Rae Sremmurd electrified a mainly dull rap year with the youthful, bouncy "No Flex Zone" and the devastatingly heavy "No Type." (Don't even get us started on the "No Flex Zone" remix with Nicki Minaj and Pusha T. Hoooooly cow.) But January's full-length debut, SremmLife, was light in the content department, a little too much of nothing, no cuts that could compete with the ones that already crushed the last months of last year. But "YNO"—produced, like nearly the whole album, by Mike WiLL Made-It—captures the duo's speedy, carefree, off-the-dome rhymes well. A tight verse from Big Sean, who's totally en fuego right now, hoists the track up even higher.
While hip hop newcomers like O.T. Genasis, iLoveMakonnen and Bobby Shmurda are rising up their charts with their minimalistic joints, there's another artist we think is getting severely overlooked. Genre-blurring producer Brenmar enlisted underground Newark rapper Dougie F for a track that mixes 808s and snaps with trap snares, pulsating electro-pop breakdowns and a little bit of house production cooked inside.