If the 2000’s saw Alt Rock and RnB dominating the airwaves, it’s safe to say that the 2010’s was very much the era of rap, hip-hop, and electronica. Fusing these genres together, several artists have created a unique sound for the decade, elevating not only hip-hop, but music itself.
Although this list isn’t conclusive, I feel that it represents some of the best rap songs with good bass, with the latter being such an important factor for a genre that relies heavily on great beats and flow.
Tyler the Creator – DEATHCAMP
Coming off of the heels of Wolf and Goblin, Tyler the Creator’s third album Cherry Bomb was the most highly anticipated rap album of 2015. Featuring collaborations with other rap greats like Kanye, Schoolboy Q, Pharell, and Lil Wayne, Cherry Bomb has been called Tyler’s seminal work, even overshadowing 2017’s Flower Boy.
Many eager-eared fans noticed a strong similarity between N.E.R.D’s In Search Of… album and DEATHCAMP’s overall vibe. This is because Tyler has always seen N.E.R.D, particularly the In Search Of… album, as inspiration for his own music, a fact he iterates within the lyrics of DEATHCAMP, as well as in its four-count beat, which is a common feature of Pharell Williams’ tracks.
While some critics pointed out the almost-too-frenzied-a-pace of the Cherry Bomb album, most can agree that the frenetic pace set by DEATHCAMP, the album’s opening track, creates a free-form feel throughout, which long-time Tyler fans should appreciate. DEATHCAMP features a strong, thumping, speaker-breaking bass that’s accentuated by Tyler’s aggressive, freestyle rap, with Cole Alexander of Black Lips in the background. The track was produced by Mike Einziger of Incubus fame, which explains and informs fans of DEATHCAMP, and indeed most of Cherry Bomb, and its direction, composition, and arrangement.
Post Malone – Congratulations
Known for his concise singing, introspective lyrics, and his penchant for using various musical influences in his music, Post Malone has been one of the powerhouses of rap to come out this decade. Starting with his debut single White Iverson in 2015, Post Malone has enjoyed critical acclaim, multiple platinum albums, and breaking multiple online streaming records.
While describing his music as “genre-less”, Post Malone’s style has been cited for its use of elements from grunge, hip hop, R&B, electronica, folk, and even country music. Post Malone himself cites Bob Dylan as a major influence in his songwriting, calling the late poet a “genius” and a “god”. Multiple critics have also praised Post Malone’s “laconic” singing style, describing it as a perfect accompaniment to his downtempo beats and brooding words.
Even before the release of his debut album Stoney, the track Congratulations (released as a promotional single) was already certified Diamond (now certified Platinum) and peaked number 8 on the Billboard 100, his second top 20 hit after White Iverson and his first top 10 hit. The song speaks about Post’s journey to stardom and the haters he encountered along the way. At 110BPM, the song takes on a dirge-like pace that’s accentuated by a heavy, deep, booming bass line in the background.
Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
One of the most successful and talented hip hop artists to come out in the 2010’s, Kendrick Lamar holds the recognition for being the first non-jazz, non-classical artist to receive a Pulitzer Prize for his album Damn. Citing classic hip-hop artists like Tupac Shakur, Jay Z, Eminem, Nas, and The Notorious B.I.G as his primary influences, Kendrick Lamar has been breaking both critics and fans expectations with every album release.
Each of his albums are composed and arranged as concept albums that incorporate different genres; for example, To Pimp a Butterfly makes heavy use of jazz, soul, spoken word poetry, and funk elements, while Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City served as a homage to 90’s gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop. Kendrick’s lyrics are often political, speaking about sensitive subjects like social injustice, black empowerment, and racism. Shying away from flamboyant styles, Kendrick Lamar keeps his flows tight, dexterous, yet versatile while keeping the lyrics intricate, complex, and introspective.
Although enjoying underground success prior to its release, many critics cite Swimming Pools (Drank)as the catalyst for Kendrick’s mainstream popularity. Easily accessible and relatable on the surface, the song talks about alcoholism, social pressure, and a desire to please your peers. Despite its catchy hook that seemingly encourages the party lifestyle, Kendrick Lamar actually laments what he sees as an inevitable demise for himself. Powered by a slow, thumping bass line, the song captures a feeling of accepted despair, a powerlessness to change one’s fate.
Logic – Wrist
One of the most promising and rising stars in hip-hop today, Logic has been making waves both in the underground and the mainstream, starting with his debut mixtape Young, Broke & Infamous back in 2010. Citing Frank Sinatra as the main influence on his stage persona, Logic attributes many of his personality, articulation, and creativity to the Chairman of the Board, even calling his posse the “Ratt Pack” (which stands for Real All The Time).
Serving as the second single from his sixth mixtape Bobby Tarantino, the track Wrist exemplifies Logic’s storytelling skills as well has his lyricism and flow. Wrist tells a dual-sided story: one is about a fictional Colombian drug lord who is waxing poetic about his life and his choices as the military swarms his compound to ultimately end his life. Meanwhile, featured artist Pusha T speaks about the effects of cocaine (and, by extension, crack) on the urban youth (an allusion to himself), and how the drug starts in South America but can destroy a life right in our own backyard. A steady bass permeates the entire song, creating a feeling of both dread and loss throughout the track.
This is a good reflection of Logic’s own personal choice to disavow drugs, following his recovery from a marijuana dependency. Since 2014, Logic has been drug, alcohol, and nicotine free. In his spare time, he also runs a YouTube channel that’s dedicated to reviewing some of his favorite videogames.
J Cole – No Role Modelz
Born in a military base in Germany, J. Cole uses his experience moving around in most of his songs. Inspired by the likes of Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, and Tupac Shakur, J. Cole incorporates many early 90’s hip-hop and rap elements in his music. Nas himself was deeply impressed with J. Cole’s work, releasing the track Made Nas Proud after J. Cole’s release of Let Nas Down, itself a response to J. Cole’s own Work Out, which Nas was not a fan of.
Despite this, J. Cole remains an influential artist of his time, releasing album after album that have all been certified platinum. In 2014, J. Cole released 2014 Forest Hills Drive, garnering him his first Grammy award for Best Rap Album. To date, he has 5 albums that have reached the number one spot on the Billboard 200 charts.
No Role Modelz, from his Grammy award winning album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, is that albums highest-charting single and has been certified platinum. In the song, J. Cole talks about a tryst being a potential gold-digger, then transitioning into a rant about how reality T.V. stars lack moral fiber and respectability to become positive role models, particularly to women. The track features an aggressive and heavy bass that underlines a seething anger towards what J. Cole perceives to be moral turpitude in people that are supposed to be inspiring people instead.
Chlidish Gambino – 3005
Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, is now one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the decade, inspiring millions of black youths to recognize and stand up against social injustices and racism. However, Childish Gambino got his first taste of stardom in comedy, starting out as a comedy writer for acclaimed T.V. show 30 Rock, before starring as a series regular in Community. He has also won multiple Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his role in Atlanta.
But that’s just his comedy career; in his capacity as a hip-hop artist, Childish Gambino has won a Grammy award for his single Redbone, off of his second album Because the Internet. Nearly all of his albums have hit the top 20 of Billboard 200, and in 2017, was included in Time 100’s Most Influential People list, citing his contributions to inspiring millennials into pursuing the arts and their passions in general.
In his song 3005, Childish talks about his existentialist dread of being alone, and is a melancholy take on finding a purpose in life. Despite the melancholia, the song has an uptempo beat that belies its meaning, with a strong and punchy bass line throughout. All in all, 3005 is very much representative of Childish Gambino itself: it’s confident, stylish, packed with punchlines, and is deceptively deep and introspective.