Just as it’s been a bit of a bummer summer for movies, so too has it been slow going this season in hip-hop. Compared with last year, which gifted us hot-weather bangers like “Nice for What,” “Sicko Mode,” “In My Feelings,” and “I Like It,” this summer has yielded more viral novelties on TikTok than undeniable rap anthems. (For the purposes of this exercise, we are not counting Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” as a contender.)
Nonetheless, we still love summer movies, and we still love summer rap. So, we asked Ringer staffers to vote for their Rap Song of Summer 2019—roll your windows down, turn the volume up, and let’s go!
“Realer,” Megan Thee Stallion
Lindsay Zoladz: It’s Hot Girl Summer, what else do you want me to say?! Nobody is thriving right now like Megan Thee Stallion—lyrical assassin, IG Live queen, and without a doubt the rapper most likely to solve climate change. “Realer” is the anthem of the season.
Tyler Tynes: Listening to DaBaby is a stimulant. His raps are bolts of lighting, capped with a confident twang. This is most notable on “Suge,” his double-platinum single. His intent is clear from the onset: “I go where I want, good / Play if you want, let’s do it / I’m a young CEO, Suge”—a nod to the infamous Death Row kingpin Suge Knight. When the beat comes on, you feel like running a marathon. How does anyone listen to this song and not feel indefatigable? It’s still not Crime Mob’s pugnacious 2004 hit “Knuck If You Buck,” but if you listen to “Suge” enough, your eyes will widen, your shoulders will drop, and you might accidentally punch a motherfucker.
“Go Loko,” YG feat. Tyga and Jon Z
Sean Yoo: The rap song of the summer is usually overplayed, which is why I nominated a track that is heard on every radio station, played at every bar or party, and features an extremely catchy hook. It’s just unfortunate that Tyga has to be on it. (Sidebar: My actual song of the summer is called “Jesus Is the One (I Got Depression),” which comes from producer Kenny Beats and internet funny guy Zack Fox. You will most definitely find me at your local barbecue or day party screaming the hook “I’mma dip my balls into some Thousand Island dressin’ / ’Cause I got depression.” I will also probably be getting booted from your local barbecue or day party.)
“Under the Sun,” Dreamville feat. J. Cole, Lute, and DaBaby
Isaiah Blakely: It features DaBaby’s best verse to date, which follows two tight verses from J. Cole and Lute—there are no weak links here. But what puts this song over the top are the surprise, uncredited Kendrick Lamar vocals on the hook.
“Pure Water,” Mustard feat. Migos
David Lara: It’s the perfect summer rap song because it’s a welcome reminder to stay hydrated. Plus, Quavo’s hooks and a Mustard beat is all you need to dominate the summer.
“10 Purple Summers,” 03 Greedo
Andrew Gruttadaro: Maybe I have some twisted respect for the fact that, after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug and gun possession, 03 Greedo rushed to get Still Summer in the Projects out. Maybe I find it oddly admirable that much of that album—and especially “10 Purple Summers”—is resolute, bright, and uplifting, considering the circumstances. Maybe I just love how “10 Purple Summers” breezes by and demands a repeat, a hallmark of all great summer rap songs. Or maybe the song’s Mustard beat just makes me wistful for the summer the producer owned five years ago with songs like Chris Brown’s “Loyal” and Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You.” “10 Purple Summers” could’ve easily fit into that 2014 stretch, but it also feels just right for this summer.
“Rodeo,” Lil Nas X feat. Cardi B
Amelia Wedemeyer: I am probably the least qualified person to be talking about any kind of song of the summer, but the answer here is Lil Nas X’s “Rodeo” featuring Cardi B. The “Old Town Road” singer uses his signature cowboy imagery and the perfect mix of rap, country, and internet culture to create a song that proves he’s not just—ahem—a one-trick pony.
“Tap,” Nav feat. Meek Mill
Donnie Kwak: I was going to put “No Guidance” here but Breezy x Drizzy is a cheat code and it’s a little too ballad-y to be a summer banger. So: “Tap.” It has a beat that sounds vaguely similar to a lot of recent rap songs—only sharper and more sinister. Meek doesn’t waste a single word, and Nav’s monotone rides comfortably in the back seat. Not a classic, of course, but this summer’s rap crop is like Kwame Brown’s draft class.
“Love Thru the Computer,” Gucci Mane feat. Justin Bieber
Analis Bailey: With heavy samples from Zapp and Roger’s 1985 hit “Computer Love,” “Love Thru the Computer” perfectly blends ’80s electronic-funk with Big Guwop’s cold verses and Justin Bieber’s sing-rap voice. If you think about it, this song is today’s version of Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Through the Phone” but with a more up-tempo beat, making it perfect for summer.
“Inglorious,” slowthai feat. Skepta
Micah Peters: If “rap song of the summer” means one that arrives at the beginning of the season and maintains its relevance/intrigue through the end of August, this is probably that for me. Let me specify that it’s not at all “summery”—it isn’t catchy; it’s razor-sharp around the edges, vaguely paranoid, and in the video, wherein every single person is wearing a hoodie, Skepta raps about doing an entire sheet of acid by himself. But what it lacks in summeriness it makes up for in raw energy.
“The London,” Young Thug feat. J. Cole and Travis Scott
Justin Sayles: Young Thug needed a moment. The YSL Records label head hit no. 1 last year as a guest on Camila Cabello’s “Cabana,” but hadn’t had a true hit of his own since 2014’s “Lifestyle.” His past few years mostly existed on the fringes of rap, littered with songs that appeased his diehards but made little impact. Even his protégés had zoomed past him.
But a funny thing happened this summer: Thugger became the shiny pop object du jour again. Post Malone, somehow the biggest rapper in the world, tapped him for “Goodbyes.” Lil Nas X drafted him for yet another “Old Town Road” remix. Even Ed Sheeran called him up to hop on one of his recent collaborations. In the midst of the renewed fanfare, Young Thug released his biggest song as a primary artist: “The London,” featuring J. Cole and Travis Scott. (Guess YT and Scott have settled the “Pick Up the Phone” beef.) The track, whose profile is surely boosted by its A-list guests, is a breezy, mid-tempo affair that doesn’t sacrifice any of Young Thug’s trademark weirdness and still ends up as this summer’s sneakiest banger. And with his debut “album” allegedly on the way, it was exactly what he needed.
“Harlem,” TJ Porter
Matt James: If you’re not yet familiar with Def Jam’s 19-year-old prodigy TJ Porter, one listen to “Harlem” will tell you pretty much everything you need to know. First and foremost: He’s from Harlem. This track is a top-down ride through Harlem’s past and present, and your tour guide is far more well-versed in the subject material than your average teenager. You can spot the influence of prior generations of New York rappers in Porter’s flow and in his down-to-earth, real-life subject material, but a touch of Auto-Tune and some gorgeous production stamp 2019 all over the track. Both the song and Porter himself are a hat tip to the past and an indelible mark on the present. That’s the second thing you need to know about TJ Porter: He’s has a natural and effortless charisma. TJ Porter has arrived. I suggest you keep this song on loop when you’re out and about this summer. What could possibly be more of a summertime activity than riding around your city while listening to a song about riding around your city?
“Freestyle Shit,” Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Keith Fujimoto: Summertime vibes can often be lo-fi and dusty—a time when we’re all just trying to do whatever it takes to get out of the heat and stay cool. If you’re searching for help there, I highly suggest taking a swig of the cold beverage of your choice and cranking “Freestyle Shit” by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib. It’s an easy ride through the lens of Gibbs’s birds-eye view. Pour one out for those showing love when you ain’t even need it.
“Truth Hurts,” Lizzo
Katie Baker: “My gf sings Truth Hurts by Lizzo with a little too much vigor sometimes,” wrote a Sacramento sports radio dude on Twitter last week, and ever since I’ve chuckled a little bit every time I hear the song. “Why’re men great til they gotta be great?” is kind of like this summer’s version of “to the left, to the left”: cathartic, defiant, a little bit wistful, perfect Hey Ladies! pre-gaming fare. While the single isn’t new—it was actually released two years back—it peaked last week at no. 3 on the charts, thanks in part to a Netflix romcom from April that featured “Truth Hurts” in its most winsome natural habitat: blasting in the background of a scene where two besties merrily ugly-dance, USWNT-style, for solely their own entertainment. Too much vigor? No such thing.
Listen to all of our 2019 Rap Songs of the Summer: