2018: Favorite 50 Songs Jams and non-jams for EVERYONE in EVERY COUNTRY on EARTH

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series


GYM · VOID · CLIFF · ALLEY · COUPE

For our final year-end mix, let’s blow off work, jump into a state-of-the-art COUPE, hit the highway, and blast some of those 2018 standouts from Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, Sheck Wes, and more. Upon their initial release, the 10 tracks on this thrilling mix all seemed to do a pretty decent job of making life’s perennial shit-show feel like it was actually exciting (at least for three or four minutes at a time). Maybe they could do it again.

PART 5: “COUPE” mixed by Sam Goldner


Drake

“God’s Plan”

[00:19]

[OVO Sound]

It’s July 4th in East Harlem, and it’s sweltering. If you want smoke, it’s here: Backwoods and barbecue pits and firecracker spits puffing loud(ly), and we’re dancing to Drake. A couple hours past 6PM in New York and you can see the official pyrotechnics popping out and off through the trees of Thomas Jefferson Park. Everyone’s got a phone out, and if it’s not to record the lights in the sky, it’s to cue up “God’s Plan.” But they (we, I) don’t care that those tinny speakers won’t capture the sub-bass booming out on the chorus, because they we I are am already spurred by the titillating little bric-a-brac drum pack no Kawhi. Affective economies circulate and constellate and scintillate — but, above all, persevere. And still. What I’m trying to say is twofold: you can’t escape Drake, but you’re also not too good for Drake. Karena Evans knows. She knows that Drake is shared, and so she got him to share, to swindle and bilk the record company directives and redistribute $999,631.90. “God’s Plan,” defaulting on aspirational attachments and assets accrued, sounds like and looks like and feels like an extravagant liquidation. Drake and Evans led by example here: we don’t owe anyone shit, except we owe each other everything.


Sheck Wes

“Mo Bamba”

[03:51]

[G.O.O.D Music/Cactus Jack/Interscope]

This was a tricky one, as the foremost accomplishment of “Mo Bamba” just might’ve been that it was impervious to narrative. The great promise of the song was that, while it played, there was not a soul alive who cared whether or not it was really the new “Faneto;” contra the plodding pace of the discourse, “Mo Bamba” was the sound of music taking physical, undomesticated form. At the function, its appearance was inevitable, both entirely expected and perpetually welcome; the real magic was that the effect was unchanged whether heard up close or at a distance, through dying earbuds or from a passing car.


Playboi Carti

“R.I.P.”

[06:49]

[Interscope/AWGE]

“R.I.P.” was a problem. To be sure, its inclusion in the COUPE (as well as this list more generally) is thoroughly deserved — it was an exemplary case in point of simple, hypnotic minimalism, one that sunk its tendrils in with throbbing bass and light-hearted keys, and even acted as a springboard for Tyler and Denzel to prime their own versions. Much of this, of course, can be attributed to Pi’erre Bourne, with the digital-deep production that has undoubtedly been a sine qua non of Playboi Carti’s wider appeal. But it was die littest himself who proved to be both “R.I.P’s” main draw and its most troublesome component. Much of Carti’s lyricism and vocal play isn’t necessarily an extension of Self, but here, real life, real lives, intruded. How can we square his triumphalism — “bought that crib for my mama off that mumblin’ shit” — with his violence? Is it befitting of the mindless fun the track posits? What should we expect of our most vaunted artists? Can we keep listening? As “R.I.P.” came crashing back down in a delirious maelstrom of yaps, utterances, and gun shots, these questions seemed increasingly harder to answer.


Lil Wayne

“Uproar”

[09:52]

[Young Money]

Awaited like a special delivery, like joy, danger, or a second chance, C5 arrived with tears and wails, but it was not until the declarative “Wayne time!” that the music felt imperative. Anything less than “Uproar” would be a backslide, but here was a powerglide. A Swizz beat, the Second Summer of Love, windows down in the wintertime. We live everywhere at the end of time, but we also live in a world where Lil Wayne never stood less than 30 feet tall. “Even if they stopped me.” We could hear him smiling every other syllable, and for that, thank God.


Matt Ox

“Jet Lag” (ft. Chief Keef)

[13:06]

[Motown]

Whether we were enjoying Matt OX in earnest or with muddled irony back when the kid blew up Twitter/Instagram/SoundCloud with the fidget-spinner-studded “Overwhelming” video, the fact is, we were all enjoying it. That was a while ago, so for most of 2018, we were left wondering WHAT WILL HE DO NEXT???? Well, he teamed up with Chief Keef, of course! (Sosa was a new teenage rapper once, too, remember?) This here earworm appeared on his new tape OX, which I suggest you stream or download or buy or whatever right now, because holy shit just listen to it. Now, I know what you’re thinking: did Matt OX — who turned 14 this week — actually have jet lag? Your answer: WHO CARES! He sounded so good claiming that he did over a ridiculously charged Oogie Mane beat, who indeed killed it. And how bout Chief Keef’s weird & wacky shout-flow?? A hip-hop ballad for the ages, and a harbinger of good things to come.


SahBabii

“Anime World”

[16:12]

[Casting Bait]

Ridiculousness reached an all-time high in 2018, particularly when it came to hip-hop. We all may still be living in the shadow of Thugger, but on “Anime World,” Chicago-via-Atlanta mumbler SahBabii finally managed to escape the oft-made comparisons to his yelping, tongue-twisting forebear. Fleshing out a nerdy, escapist fantasy world all his own, “Anime World” had SahBabii bragging about googly-eyed manga girls in between shoutouts to ramen and stoned half-thoughts asking whether it’s “too late to go celibate,” staking out his own goofy territory with each of his geeked-out Naruto references. Based TJ’s liquid-smooth beat didn’t hurt either, cruising along on bubbly synths that would make the perfect soundtrack for lounging out on a huge conch shell bed in Zora’s Domain. But “Anime World” was more than just a dreamy ode to those late nights spent demolishing episodes of Death Note while scarfing down bowls of cereal; it was yet another joyful, multi-colored scribble in rap’s ever-expanding notebook and cheeky proof that the right flow can even make hentai sound cool.


Nicki Minaj

“Chun Swae” (ft. Swae Lee)

[19:25]

[Young Money/Cash Money/Republic]

The most genuine quality of “Chun Swae” by Nicki Minaj and Swae Lee was the vocal role-reversal. As contemporary rap continues to be smothered in alpha-male mentalities (no matter how sincere the sound), “Chun Swae” #fatalitied listeners with ultra self-conscious hooks of consent by Swae and nut-gripping words smelted by Nicki. It was another next-step for #MeToo — “If he don’t lose the attitude and run off with his credit cards too” — acknowledging the temperamentality of male hormonal subconsciousness getting the best of men in more ways than infinity. All this while Swae presented the way of real-world looks.


Ariana Grande

“no tears left to cry”

[25:07]

[Republic]

Ariana Grande has made a craft of rising to the top of her game just as she should be hitting bottom. You could call it resilience, or you could chalk it up to artifice (I won’t stop you either way), but the result was a season’s worth of bubblegum pick-me-ups and a year-end chartbuster to take stans through the tragedy and turbulence. While “sweetener” didn’t exit my psyche for months on end (a compulsive refrain) and “get well soon” provided a necessary cool-down, “no tears left to cry” was essential, injecting itself into a historical lineage of woeful, emotive club bangers.


Carly Rae Jepsen

“Party for One”

[28:30]

[Interscope]

Self-empowerment and masturbation aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Canadian pop sprite Carly Rae Jepsen is well aware of this truth, and on “Party for One,” she veered into both the salacious and the magnanimous as she spun tragedy into triumph. “If you didn’t know that you were right for me, then there’s nothing I can say,” she intoned with resignation on the track’s opening line. But rejection turned to felicity. “Party for one […] I’ll just dance for myself […] Making love to myself.” Maybe it was an ode to self-reliance. Maybe it was just a jack-off banger. Either way, “Party for One” was some much-needed exultation in this abysmal year.


SOPHIE

“Immaterial”

[31:51]

[Future Classic]

Quick, point to yourself. Does your finger hover over your heart? Between your eyes? Pointing to the body is the obvious response, but the body is a fallacy; we point to it — through it — to index identity, what we perform and embody. “Immaterial” reminded us that although we experience ourselves through the body, the body isn’t the only place where our selves can be found, interacted with, and experienced. Like the internet — quick, point to it — the self is a network, a web of meanings we spin. SOPHIE encapsulated that redeeming self-invention, asserting, “I could be anything I want.”

Click to the next page to view and listen to the entire list.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series


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