2010s: Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade

"Psychadelic Passion" by Devante Xiyon

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series



BED · OFFICE · GYM · BATH · COUPE
ALLEY · BONFIRE · CLIFF · VOID · BEYOND

You’re in the ALLEY now, under the blinding neon lights, among narcissists and hackers, Babyfathers and bbymuthas. All your friends are here — Inga and Arca, Lanza and Shmurda, Young M.A and JPEGMAFIA. Walk the streets. Taste the city. Taste the night. The city is yours.

PART 6: “ALLEY” mixed by Sam Tornow


copeland

“advice to young girls (w/Actress)”

[00:00]

[Self-Released]

I’m not the person to be determining what advice is suited or not suited for young girls. I don’t understand what’s that like. But Igna Copeland does, and she offered wise words on this collaboration with Actress, a highlight off her 2014 solo debut, BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT. “My advice to young girls would be: Go home after school. Pretend to go to sleep. While your parents argue in the kitchen, put on some makeup and dress up. You sneak out of the window and meet your friends in the corner. Together, you’re strong. You walk the streets. Taste the city. Taste the night. The city is yours.” While I sat back, struck by her portrait of rebellion and the importance it plays in identity formation for young women, Inga continued speaking. And for this song and for the rest of the decade, we continued listening.


Arca

“Desafío”

[03:36]

[XL]

Why not simply try to touch the other, feel the other, discover each other?
– Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Before you can remember, you were touched. And after you can’t remember, you will be touched some more. Which is not to say that all touches are commensurable to one another; some touches solicit relation while others excise its very possibility. Some touches change what it means to feel. “Desafío” was not a history of touches, but an erogenous thrust, its imperative mood a seduction, a suffocation of unconsummated anteriority by strangulation, a dissolution of barricaded interiority by the inexorable intensities of its lilt and lithe and lick. “Desafío” staged the wrenching undoing of a touch so abyssal I still ache from and for its encounter.


Young M.A

“OOOUUUU”

[06:45]

[Self-Released]

“OOOUUU” was like floating in a warm glass of Hennessy, without a fly’s fear of slow death. Your pores absorbed perhaps a bit too much of the alcohol, but there was no hangover. Instead, there was a wire cord through both your arms, someone shaking it at a slow but steady pace. In an interview with Noisey, Young M.A threw a killer spiral 35 meters down a football field to her receiver, recalling her Randy Moss line off “OOOUUU.” But she was the quarterback now. Sure, the video for “OOOUUUU” did numbers, but M.A wasn’t about appearances. She was the just real. “I don’t gotta look fly […] look, I’m driving a fuckin’ Hyundai Sonata, man […] And that’s real shit.”


bbymutha

“BBC”

[10:26]

[SmokeOuts]

bbymutha’s demeanor spoke volumes; 13 seconds into the video for “BBC,” the song’s opening line — a flip of the all-time “I’m a bad bitch, you can’t kill me” Vine — was already redundant. Less a hook than a pedal point around which the verses gave color, it was a shorthand for bbymutha’s entire persona: by her pen, self-determination became musical and self-aggrandizement a matter of fact, all without apology. “BBC” wasn’t bbymutha’s only song, but it was her best; a mission statement that set the tone — and the stakes — for the whole of her discography.


Babyfather

“Skywalker Freestyle”

[13:16]

[Self-Released]

“Skywalker Freestyle” was the spit in the face of every art gallery owner. It was the spliff you lit up in the back of the club because fuck security. It was the gossip you were over-pretending wasn’t true anymore. It was the speaker in your car starting to clip out but you kept turning the dial up anyway. It was the WeTransfer link that didn’t exist anymore, and the YouTube re-uploaded set on repeat. It was the condensed loop of all our collective anger and disillusionment banging against the walls of this prison and still finding something that sounded like freedom. “If this tune bangs, bust it two times.” Why stop at two?


Bobby Shmurda

“Hot N*gga”

[15:47]

[Epic/GS9]

It’s impossible to write about Bobby Shmurda without recognizing that where my eyes find a path, violence follows in step. That’s true as well for the millions of eyes fixed upon this YouTube video in 2014. The legacy of viral rap sensations is a tome of genius and corpus, but of them all, Bobby’s “Hot N*gga” was the most penetrating. The track was his unwavering stare back at us, his moment of invincibility, his infinite jest. With violent eyes looking back to the past, the only thing I can say now is that Bobby was right and honest. It was the rest of us who were wrong.


JPEGMAFIA

“Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot”

[19:28]

[EQT]

“Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot” was religious, but not in the church-going, sermonizing sense. Instead, it was a parable on all the fucked up, unconscionable events that occured in any cultural Good Book. If Sodom and Gomorrah were the Mecca, would JPEGMAFIA constitute Allah? Bust out your good Bethlehem 7’s; it’s mosh pit time. We stayed preaching and baring our souls just to feel that one drop of ecstasy. Let us all be thots in solidarity. In JPEG’s name, amen.


Jessy Lanza

“Oh No”

[21:22]

[Hyperdub]

Wriggled free from the utopian digital veneer that burnished so much of the decade’s musical capital, Jessy Lanza’s “Oh No” stumbled forward into a homespun tangle of pop-noir anxieties and the panicked rush of the urban hustle. Spellbinding and mechanical, the song was like a mystic incantation that brought life to the uneasy synthesizers, the runaway jumble of drums, and Lanza’s own breathless vocals under the buzzing neon lights and fluorescent watchtowers of our metropolitan passageways, ticking at every moment closer to the next hollow peal of midnight. Who had the energy? Who had the time? I’m a worker, baby.


Death Grips

“Hacker”

[25:26]

[Epic]

Closing out one of our favorite albums of the decade, “Hacker” was a wrestler’s entrance theme marked by a promise to take garbage cans and steel chairs up into the stands. Lyrically, a lot of Death Grips tracks are violently turbulent, but on this track, the motivation to “grab your fucking chain and drag you through the bike lane” felt more like a dizzying statement of purpose. Death Grips were officially “in your areaaaaaaa,” regardless of a preceding welcome. And they totally brought their geocoding skills.


Dean Blunt

“The Narcissist (feat. Inga Copeland)”

[29:42]

[Self-Released]

When The Narcissist II first appeared in early 2012, it existed only as an anonymous MediaFire link, passed around by word of mouth. This was back in that magical moment when the alleys of the internet felt rich and endless, like the labyrinth of a Borges story. Now, nearly a decade later, that original download link is long since broken. But this narcissist lives on like a phantom, haunting streaming services thanks to an excellent reissue from the tragically shuttered Hippos in Tanks label. All things end, even if they seem like they’re going to last forever. Some alleys you only get to walk down once before, turning back for one more glance, they’re gone.

Click to the next page to hear the “BONFIRE” mix by Willcoma.

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series


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