By Oliviero Zanalda
2022 has seen some incredible verses, both guest features and artist’s verses that stood out on their own song. I’ve compiled a list of 10 verses (and a few honorable mentions) that, in my opinion, were the best of the year. This could include lyrics, flow, effectiveness, and whether the verse makes you rewind it to listen to it again.
(I’ve included time stamps for each verse, but I recommend listening to each song as a whole to fully experience the verses).
Ken can’t miss with his freestyle series.
Lil Gnar one-ups Chief Keef on a song that’s named after one of Sosa’s legendary mixtapes.
“Wockiana turned my cream soda into Hennessy
Pull up from wherever, I got demigod tendencies
Unky fucking up the rope from West V to Tennessee
Hunnid dollar eighthy, heard you smoking shit that’s ten a G”
The verse is originally from 2007, but Seiji remixed it using City Pop-inspired production to do this Dbt’s verse justice.
A stand-out verse on a male-dominated cypher.
“MDMA” – Destroy Lonely
2022 has been a monumental year for Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson, and the rest of Playboi Carti’s Opium label as all of the members (except for Carti) have dropped their own studio albums. Although this verse isn’t from Lonely’s solo album, it makes you question whether this song should’ve been on it. Ken Carson delivers a decent verse but keeps the same flow throughout most of it. Lonely doesn’t do anything new in this verse, but his calm yet enthusiastic delivery matches the production of this song. When Lonely punches in, he builds upon Ken’s flow, but then switches it up in a satisfying way by rapping:
“Big bro still serving rocks, yeah, but please keep that on the low
Yeah, shawty, I’m a rockstar, my guitar got a scope
I’m rockin’ all black and my cross upside down, I’m not the Pope”
This song is one of the best off of X, and it’s made even better with Lonely’s flow switch and passive delivery. This song is a definitive introduction to the Opium-style that has been taking Hip-Hop by storm, and Lonely’s verse solidifies it.
“The Kingdom” – Thaiboy Digital
This year we’ve seen multiple projects from the Swedish collective, Drain Gang, and Thaiboy Digital third solo project Back 2 Life is a part of this. While this project is nothing new for Thaiboy, it’s a welcome addition to his catalog. Thaiboy has generally remained the most consistent of the group, with the other members’ music sounding wildly different with each of their projects. “The Kingdom” opens with a solid verse from Bladee, but Thaiboy’s verse does this video game-like beat justice. If you’re looking for insane wordplay, bars, or storytelling, this verse might disappoint you. But if you know about Thaiboy’s struggles with drugs and the Swedish government deporting him and his family, the opening lines to this verse hit harder:
“Feeling resurrected, man, I can’t go back to hell
I was fucking up the balance, so the darkness tipped the scale
Now I’m going so damn hard, I’m making sure they’re living well
My life is a movie, tell my daughter fairytales”
Thaiboy and the other DG members’ lyrics and production have reflected more positivity, especially when compared to their early work. This verse follows this trend. This verse expresses a level of emotional growth and despite the darkness “tipping the scale”, Thaiboy’s able to overcome it and grow from it.
“aero3” – Seiji Oda
Seiji Oda’s album lofi//HYPHY was an exploration of genre-bending music. This album mixed the well-known Lofi genre, popularized by that one YouTube live stream that had that looping video of the anime girl chilling with the cat, and Hyphy, a genre native to the Bay area, which is characterized by its danceability. Aero3 is more of a Lofi cut off the album, however, the drum patterns and dance track sound effects sprinkled throughout the song add elements of Hyphy to the mix. This song is personal, with Seiji going into detail about his family, friends, and past relations,
“Can’t say her name, but we ain’t talk in a minute
Some people, you gotta love from a distance
You made your choice, I made mine, what’s the difference?
I still hope that you find what you’re missin'”
The production in this section is all over the place, in the best way possible. Seiji’s ability to keep up with the constantly changing beat and switch his flows accordingly makes for a great listen. His vocals stay relatively calm throughout the verse, but he’s able to explore different vocal ranges within his calm delivery if that makes sense. If it doesn’t, just listen to the song, if it does, you should still listen to it. To make things even better, there’s a Hyperpop version of this song, which I talk about in my interview with Seiji (check it out).
“Murdaman! (Remix)” – Chief Keef
2022 was a relatively quiet year for Chief Keef, mostly doing features and focusing on his clothing brand and label, 43B, which saw him signing Lil Gnar. He’s hopped on a few features and delivered every time. This feature is no exception. “Murdaman!” by YungManny originally blew up on TikTok (yeah I know, just bear with me). He then asked fans on the app who he should get as a feature on the remix, Lil Uzi Vert or Chief Keef, and an overwhelming amount said Sosa. Great decision. The Chicago rapper’s bold delivery, flow, and lyrics perfectly fit this chaotic and aggressive beat. Sosa spits:
“Murder man, you ain’t never seen no murder man
If Chief So’ was still up on this block he’d probably serve a fan
*****s always got they damn hand out, that shit don’t hurt your hand?
And I swear to God that God the only ***** I’m worshippin'”
And he keeps going. In this verse, Sosa feels like an unstoppable force, and the beat is an immovable object. His vocal inflections perfectly match the blaring horns and his grizzly delivery forces the listener to be totally immersed in this bloodthirsty verse, both lyrically and sonically.
“Flawlëss” – Lil Uzi Vert
At the beginning of this year, Yeat and Lil Uzi Vert posed for a couple of photos for Yeat’s Instagram, and he shared a snippet of their first song together “Big tonka”. In February, Yeat dropped a solid 12-song project Lyfë, which included Uzi on the opening track, “Flawlëss”. This song is a triumphant opening track, and Uzi helps secure it. Uzi’s energy and cadence is infectious, especially with the animated opening line to this verse:
“Flawless, flawless, flawless, yeah
Buffy the Vampire Slayer with these Cartiers”
This line will send chills down your spine, trust me, just listen to the song. Uzi utilizes the heavy autotune on his voice to the fullest, working around the usually awkward autotune pitch changes whenever he decides to go baritone or falsetto, or whatever. This verse is exciting and energizing, made for Yeat’s mosh pits, despite how cringy his fans make them.
“Type Shit” – Babytron
2022 was definitely Babytron’s year, with the release of Megatron and Bin Reaper 3, Tron always leaves the fans satisfied but also wanting more. “Type Shit” is a two-part song, with the first part being slower than the second part. The theme throughout the entire song is the word “type shit”. If you don’t know what that means, just look it up on Urban Dictionary. The second part is where the Detroit rapper shines, with absurd bars about selling codeine to basketball superstar Giannis Antetukumpo and more:
“You internet thugging, I ain’t finna type shit, bro
Adonis, we’ll pull up with that baby Drac’
Charged up off a yerky, bet not try shit, bro
In Milwaukee charging Giannis for a pint of Quagy, ayy”
This isn’t the end of the hilarious and well-crafted bars that Babytron delivers in this song. He also raps about flying to Europe with an “enhanced fake ID” (whatever that means) and ends the verse claiming that he freestyled the entire thing:
“Freestyle type shit, no, I ain’t write shit”
It’s impressive how Tron’s able to use the phrase “type shit” in creative and innovative ways throughout the verse. This is a great song to introduce any new Babytron listener to his style, and it definitely won’t disappoint long-time fans.
“Tomorrow 2 (Remix)” – Cardi B
Although Cardi B is known for her pop/rap hits and being a brand ambassador for pretty much every major designer, most recently Balenciaga, “Tomorrow 2” shows her skill as an MC, with raw, unapologetic bars that seem to flow naturally. I’ll admit, I’ve had my doubts and criticisms of Cardi B, but this verse proved to me that when she wants to, she can rap. GloRilla and Cardi B have become an unstoppable duo on social media, and Cardi compliments GloRilla’s deep voice and aggressive flow on this song with lyrics like:
“Ridin’ with my twin and ‘nem, and we all look good as fuck
She say she my opp but I don’t know her, had to look her up
I know that I’m rich, but I can’t help it, bitch, I’m hood as fuck
I’ve been on these bitches neck so long, sometimes my foot get stuck”
Cardi’s energetic, assertive voice and flow, which adds a lot to the already aggressive lyrics, make this song an instant classic. This one verse will have you rewinding the song multiple times, it’s that good. With 2022 being a great year for female rap, this song is sure to cement its place as not just one of the best female rap songs of 2022, but one of the best rap songs of 2022.
“Dark Hearted” – Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs’ album $oul $old $eperately was a victory lap for the rapper after countless personal and legal issues with his label, and Freddie’s as confident and consistent as ever on this project. “Dark Hearted” is a song about betrayal, perhaps the way the executive who signed him to RCA betrayed him, or maybe something more personal. In this song, he reflects on how most of his life, he had to depend on a life of crime to sustain himself and his family. Because of this, he’s constantly paranoid about being betrayed by the people he trusts and loves. While both verses are similar, it’s impressive how he’s able to reutilize lyrics and rhyme schemes from the first verse in his second verse.
In the first verse raps:
Dirty .30 in my hand
DEA and detectives, they got me cuffed on that ambulance
*****, ain’t no solvin’ no murders, welcome to Murderland
Send a hit and scratch off a hit, bitch, I’m the murder man
Pray the Lord put his hands on me
And I know I took a risk with this shit when I put my hands on it
All my enemies watchin’, they plot and plan on me
They gon’ end up one of them dead homies
In the second verse, he raps:
Dirty .30 in my hands
Shoot him, if he ain’t DOA, we shoot up the ambulance
*****, ain’t no solvin’ no murders, welcome to Murderland
Bulletproof my shit, they might hit it, bitch, I’m the murder man
Dead ***** put his hands on me
I’ma pop another bottle and pour one out for your dead homie
Swear my friends turnin’ fed on me
Man, these pussy *****s might take the stand on me
Violent, unapologetic, and dark (hence the name of the song), Freddie leaves little to the listener’s imagination, or does he? Is this a retelling of his life in Gary, Indiana? Or is this a metaphor for the label executives blackballing and betraying him? The reutilization of the first verse in the second verse is impressive, and maybe it was done as a way to drive the message of this song home.
“XXL Freshman Cypher” – Big30
Big30 is one of the main rappers from the new generation of Memphis rap to break through to the mainstream. As an affiliate of the recently incarcerated Pooh Shiesty, and coming off the death of Memphis legend Young Dolph, it’s up to him and the other young Memphis MCs to carry on their city’s legacy of Hip-Hop. Big30 had his moment in the spotlight in the 2022 XXL Freshman Cypher where he was joined by Nardo Wick, BigScarr (another Memphis rapper), and KenTheMan. Big30 punches in right after Nardo Wick’s verse, which, while enjoyable, is monotone and emotionless, a style Nardo has embraced. Big30’s energetic, southern drawl counters Nardo’s sonic numbness and emphasizes the lyrics that reflect his life in Memphis, including,
“***** spin my block incorrect, then somebody gettin’ killed
My young ***** fifteen with four bodies, can’t even buy a fifth
He ain’t even old enough to vote, that lil’ boy bangin’ Crip”
As dark as these lyrics are, it reflects the conditions of many young men living in impoverished communities in America, including the city Big30 is from. He’s able to let these lyrics sink in despite the speed and catchiness of this flow. This verse doesn’t contain insane wordplay, but 30’s able to utilize his heavy Memphis accent to rhyme “killed” and “fifth”, which I find extremely impressive, especially in a setting where most people freestyle their cyphers. In this one-take verse, 30 maintains a consistent flow with bars hitting left and right without missing a single word or going off beat. This is the best XXL cypher verse of the year, and one of the best verses of the year.
“Father Time” – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick. That’s it.
Alright, I’ll actually explain why this is the best verse of this year. Kendrick dropped one of the best albums of 2022 with Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. Among the many songs that stood out to me, this song, especially Kendrick’s second verse, is ingrained in my brain. This song breaks down the concept of masculinity, passed down from father to son, and how it’s reflected in modern culture, especially Hip-Hop. In this verse, like many other Kendrick songs, the lyrics and delivery are relatable, whether you’ve been affected by the topic or not. Kendrick dives into nearly every element of modern masculinity, so much so that I could write my senior thesis on this verse. Kendrick opens the verse with:
“I got daddy issues, that’s on me
Lookin’ for, “I love you”, rarely empathizin’ for my relief
A child that grew accustomed, jumping up when I scraped my knee
‘Cause if I cried about it, he’d surely tell me not to be weak
Daddy issues, hid my emotions, never expressed myself
Men should never show feelings, being sensitive never helped”
Despite being a fantastic lyricist, Kendrick doesn’t hide the message of these bars behind metaphors (which is also what makes this verse so special), so I won’t sit here and mansplain this. Kendrick continues:
“His momma died, I asked him why he goin’ back to work so soon?
His first reply was, “Son, that’s life, the bills got no silver spoon”
Daddy issues, fuck everybody, go get your money, son
Protect yourself, trust nobody, only your momma’n’em
This made relationships seem cloudy, never attached to none
So if you took some likings around me, I might reject the love”
This part needs a bit of analysis. Kendrick discusses the individualistic and stoic mindset that many young men are forced to develop. I could even argue that the line “His momma died, I asked him why he goin’ back to work so soon? His first reply was, ‘Son, that’s life, the bills got no silver spoon’” reflects the capitalist and stoic idea of masculinity, where men should ignore emotions and personal obstacles in the pursuit of their goal. While Kendrick delves into the habit of fathers molding their sons into the tough men they want them to be, he ponders the lack of a father figure in some men’s lives, and how it affects their perception of masculinity. Kendrick raps:
My *****s ain’t got no daddy, grow up overcompensatin’
Learn shit ’bout bein’ a man and disguise it as bein’ gangsta
He ends this verse with a stunning conclusion:
“And to my partners that figured it out without a father
I salute you, may your blessings be neutral to your toddlers
It’s crucial, they can’t stop us if we see the mistakes
‘Til then, let’s give the women a break, grown men with daddy issues”
In the final line of the verse, Kendrick critiques the history and future of male misogyny, whether external or internal. The reason I find this final line so important is that many rappers and rap music can display misogynistic tendencies both personally and in the music (not always, there are many exceptions). Hip-Hop is not the only genre where misogyny is present and obvious, unfortunately, most musical genres contain some level of sexism and misogyny (classical music is a prime example). Since Kendrick is a rapper, and one of the best, this verse could be viewed as not only a critique of misogyny in rap music but an analysis of it, where Kendrick tries to explain and identify its roots.
Kendrick starts this verse by angrily delivering and shouting his lyrics. As the verse progresses, we see him mellow out, coming to terms with his internalized masculinity and understanding why it’s made him act in certain ways. This makes this verse feel extremely personal not just to Kendrick, or men, but to everyone, including women who usually experience the effects of toxic masculinity (“Til then, let’s give the women a break”).
Everything about this verse could be analyzed in greater detail, but I’ll let you do that for yourself, and I have a bunch of reading to do for class.