Summertime in LA is always special. We have mother nature to thank for the gorgeous (if sweltering) weather, lovers and friends to thank for the unforgettable memories, and dozens of alcohol companies for supplying us with enough liquid courage to make each night better than the last. But above all, of course, credit goes to the rappers, producers, and singers who soundtracked every moment, making the good times great and the bad times a little easier to deal with.
Now that the season is coming to a close, however, it’s time to rank the songs that stood above all others, whether because of their unique, original sound or their ability to ignite the party before even the first bass hit. You won’t find anything from Cardi B, Drake, or the rest of the artists being force fed over radio airwaves and through Spotify playlists, but only the best tracks that were made for LA, by LA.
The rules are simple: one song per artist, 10 songs in total. Don’t hit me if your favorite rapper didn’t make the list; if rule #1 wasn’t in place, there’s a good chance some of my favorite rappers wouldn’t have made it either.
Without further ado…
10. Jetpack Jones – “Thru” ft. Cliff Savage
From the second of Jetpack’s two August albums, “Thru” earns a spot on our list thanks to its upbeat, funky sample that sets the perfect vibe for summer. Even before featured guest Cliff Savage starts off the song with his verse, “Thru” feels like waking up at 1PM on a carefree Saturday afternoon, where your biggest worry is whether to hit the taco spot or shamelessly order breakfast even though the sun has long passed its peak. You’re a stronger person than me if you can make it to Jetpack’s verse without lighting something up, but whatever your state of mind is when he enters the soundscape, his mellow bars definitely won’t disappoint.
9. Roddy Ricch – “Die Young”
Roddy Ricch’s ascension has been swift and undeniable, and now his summer smash “Die Young” is his biggest hit to date. Linking with the incomparable London on da Track proved to be the perfect move, as Roddy manages to unearth engaging melodies over London’s colorful production. Lyrics on the chorus are chilling, yet captivating: “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six / I’ma go post bail, just look at my wrist,” he raps with a resolved confidence.
8. 1TakeJay – “Arco”
Perhaps nobody was more relentless with their releases this summer than Jay and the rest of the OneTakeBoyz, but “Arco” was the runaway success with over a million SoundCloud streams to date. Jay’s signature adlib promises to “turn this bitch up” soon after the song starts, and the racing piano keys that follow are enough to make good on his words. Energetic, hard-hitting, and fast-paced, it’s everything you’d want in an anthem for the party, and certainly deserved the heavy rotation it’s had in the past three months.
7. Rob Vicious – “Bands” ft. Shoreline Mafia
Shoreline Mafia has truly developed into a household name, but it was Rob Vicious who got the spotlight treatment this summer with his solo album Trapatlantic. He brings the entire crew along with him on “Bands,” and each member is in top form as they lay their lyrics on top of the booming bassline. Honestly, it’s over with as soon as Ohgeesy slides in on the chorus, masterfully skating circles around the beat with enough dexterity to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Still, Rob and the rest of the Mafia don’t waste their respective moments, building off Ohgeesy’s energy to craft a smooth cut that sounds like money and flows like Hennessy.
6. Buddy – “Young”
Plenty of songs from Buddy’s stellar Harlan & Alondra album could have charted on this list: “The Blue,” with its lively bounce and assistance from Snoop Dogg himself; “Hey Up There,” with its twinkling keys and Buddy’s soothing vocals; “Real Life S**t,” for the magnificent way it introduces up the album thanks to Buddy’s vivid storytelling. Still, “Young” takes the crown for its distinctiveness, set up by dreamy drums and an irresistible chorus that instantly pulls you into its pensive mood. Buddy’s lone verse is packed with quotables, while his interpolation of OutKast’s “Liberation” on the refrain gives the track a classic, timeless feel.
5. LNDN DRGS – “Tomorrow” ft. Freddie Gibbs
Lawd… there aren’t words in the English language that are descriptive enough to detail the majestic bliss that takes hold when “Tomorrow” shines through the speakers. Let’s try a metaphor instead—it’s sunny enough to make rush hour traffic on I-10 feel like a cruise down PCH in a drop-top Ferrari, where the only number that’s higher than the temperature is the reading on the speedometer in front of you. And honestly, that picture still doesn’t do the song justice; just press play on “Feel Alright” once you’re done listening, it’s really the only worthy comparison.
4. Blueface – “Thotiana”
Whether scrolling through the timeline or strolling through the function, this summer you couldn’t avoid “Thotiana” if you tried. Blueface is a star in the city and this song is a major reason why, with the inescapable way it’s taken off and continued to pick up steam. The song’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise; with Blueface’s iconic delivery and menacing production courtesy of Scum Beats, there’s no way that it wouldn’t have caught fire.
3. 03 Greedo – “Onna Way to the Paper” ft. Yhung T.O.
03 Greedo’s been locked behind bars for much of the summer now, but his voice remains omni-present in LA thanks to his stupendously deep catalogue and his uncanny ability to resonate with the city through his music. Packed with hits as well as all-star features from the likes of Lil Uzi Vert and Rich the Kid, his 27 track God Level dropped at the perfect time, keeping his momentum rolling with a versatile album that had something for everyone. Over half of this list could have easily belonged to Greedo, but “Onna Way to the Paper” towers above the rest of his qualifiers with its uplifting energy and enticing groove. Bright synths and Greedo’s infectious chorus make for a light-hearted vibe that consistently rises throughout the song, before culminating with Yhung T.O.’s honeyed vocals on the second verse.
2. Kalan.Frfr – “Right Wit It” ft. Chris O’Bannon and G Perico
Plain and simple, “Right Wit It” is a beautifully constructed song from start to finish. Kalan’s effortless hook slides seamlessly into Chris O’Bannon’s verse, before G Perico bounces into frame with a dynamic delivery that kicks up the energy. An unmistakably West Coast synth ties the track together like a ribbon on a Christmas present, allowing Kalan’s star to shine atop the tree thanks to his captivating performance after the guests have had their moment. It knocks, it flows, it never gets stale no matter how many times you listen… it might not have a shiny new iPhone inside, but it’s probably the next best thing.
1. Rucci – “Light it Up” ft. AzChike
— ?MackkRucci? (@INGRucci) August 12, 2018
Want to know why this song took the number one spot on this list? Watch the above clip of Rucci performing it at the Novo earlier in August. “Light It Up” just feels like a major occasion, with its thunderous bass hits and Rucci’s belligerent delivery. His ferocious ad-libs in the background only build the moment even higher, while AzChike makes the most of his feature next to Inglewood’s brightest talent. R.I.P. Sean Mackk, Rucci’s out here doing your legacy proud.
For the ringtone: 1TakeJay – “Hello”
Full disclosure; the moment my middle school self learned how to set a song as a custom ringtone, the “ring-a-ding-ding-ding-dong” chorus of Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” was my go-to for almost an entire year. If you couldn’t tell from the earlier edition of The Faultline ranking the best voicemails in hip-hop history, I get a little giddy every time rap music and telephones come together, which explains why “Hello” was a no-brainer as one of this week’s selections. LowTheGreat flips the standard marimba ringtone into a sparse yet hard-hitting beat, only for 1TakeJay to answer the phone in disgust that his ex won’t leave him alone.
For the royalty: Mann – “West LA King”
There’s a relaxed ease to Mann’s latest single “West LA King,” the type of ease that comes from sitting on your throne at the end of the day and knowing your kingdom is secure. “I’m a king in my own right,” he boasts at beginning of the chorus, shouting out his status in the city before detailing his life on the next verse.
For the 24/7 lo-fi hip-hop radio chill beats to relax to: Jerry Folk – “All In Me”
You already know what the fuck going on here.