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Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi, Okayplayer. ​
Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi, Okayplayer.

Okayplayer Staff Picks: Best Songs of 2023 So Far

The Okayplayer staff weighs in on the year’s offerings thus far spanning Cardi B and Latto, Doja Cat and Lil Uzi Vert.

Without the constraints of choosing a completed project, the picks for best songs so far this year run the gamut. The Okayplayer staff pulls from some of our favorite albums this year, like Larry June and The Alchemist, Lil Uzi Vert, and Kelela but also sampled some of the stand-out EPs and singles that dropped, including Latto and Cardi B’s “Put It On Da Floor Again,” and Doja Cat’s all-rap entry, “Attention.”

We address themes that have emerged in 2023, including a significant contribution from female artists, a surge in genre-bending experimentation, and the pressure to keep up with new music in a crowd of one-off projects. This isn’t the year to be precious about long-held preferences. If 2023 has taught us anything, it's that music can still surprise you, yank you from your comfort zone and feed you something you didn’t know you needed. Here, we muse on the tracks that caught our attention and caught us off guard so far this year.

Quierra Luck, Social Media Coordinator

  1. Tyler the Creator, “Dogtooth”
  2. Kenyon Dixon, “Lucky”
  3. Latto ft. Cardi B, “Put it on da Floor Again”
  4. Lil Uzi Vert, “Just Wanna Rock”
  5. Larry June and The Alchemist, “60 Days”
  6. Conway ft. Juicy J, “Super Bowl”
  7. Doja Cat, “Attention”
  8. Doechii, “What it is”
  9. FendiDa Rappa and Cardi B, “Point Me 2”
  10. Victoria Monét, “Smoke”

In 2023, the quest for a new normal in music captivated everyone's attention. Boundaries have vanished, allowing artists to explore diverse genres and styles. Music fans recognize that achieving true fandom requires more than quick hits and TikTok dances. They have embraced the depth and meaning behind the music, valuing authenticity and substance. This transformative year has ushered in an era of musical exploration and appreciation beyond superficial trends, almost seemingly returning to true intention in the music industry.

Jaelani Turner-Williams, News Writer

Victoria Monét - Smoke (Official Video) ft. Lucky

  1. Victoria Monét ft. Lucky Daye, “Smoke”
  2. Victoria Monét ft. Buju Banton, “Party Girls”
  3. Janelle Monáe, “Water Slide”
  4. Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj, “Princess Diana”
  5. Doechii, “Block Boy (What It Is)”
  6. Kari Faux ft. Gangsta Boo, “WHITE CAPRICE”
  7. Kelela, “Contact”
  8. Tyler, the Creator, “Dogtooth”
  9. Maxo, “Free!”
  10. Daniel Caesar, “Do You Like Me?”

The ladies didn’t come to play this year. Nearly three years since her breakout project Jaguar, singer-songwriter Victoria Monét brought the heat with the Lucky Daye-assisted “Smoke” and reggae-dipped “Party Girls” featuring dancehall legend Buju Banton. Hip-hop and pop newcomers Ice Spice and Doechii made a wave on their respective singles “Princess Diana” and “Block Boy (What It Is),” now both will support Doja Cat on her first arena tour. While Tyler, the Creator, Maxo and Daniel Caesar have held it down in their respective lanes of rap and R&B, 2023 has been one for the girls.

Tommy Gamba-Ellis, Editorial Intern

PinkPantheress, Ice Spice - Boy’s a liar Pt. 2 (Official Video)

  1. JPEGMAFIA ft. Danny Brown, redveil, “Kingdom Hearts Key”
  2. Dominic Fike, “Mona Lisa”
  3. Sean Leon and Daniel Caesar, “THE GLADE”
  4. PinkPantheress and Ice Spice, “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2”
  5. Lil Uzi Vert, “Flooded the Face”

My favorite songs of this year so far are a mix of a little bit of everything. From hit songs with hip-hop’s fastest-growing star Ice Spice to relatively low-key tracks from Daniel Caesar and JPEGMAFIA, each song is unique and keeps reeling me back into listening again and again. Hip-hop and R&B are as big and diverse as ever in 2023, as seen through my selections.

Zo, Staff Writer

Yves Tumor - Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood (Official Video)

  1. Desde, “Gum Split (Zovi’s Message)”
  2. Yves Tumor, “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood”
  3. Larry June and The Alchemist ft. Action Bronson, “Solid Plan”
  4. Earl Sweatshirt, “Making The Band (Danity Kane)”
  5. MIKE, “Red Jacket 6”

The songs I’ve listened to the most in 2023 don’t have much in common outside of remaining in my rotation for more than a weekend and hitting a little differently depending on where I’m at in my own head. Yves Tumor’s “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood” is a rapturous, brain-breaking suite in at least two parts. Desde’s “Gum Split (Zovi’s Message)” caps a wildly slept-on introduction with monotone mantras over an absurdly buoyant production. Larry June and The Alchemist's "Solid Plan" is a hypnotic heist score, aided and abetted by a full-force Action Bronson. Though it’s been resting in the ether for a few years now, the official arrival of Earl Sweatshirt’s “Making The Band” has been a welcomed glimpse at the lighter side of one of rap’s heaviest writers (and his media diet.) And I just love how you can hear MIKE smile on “Red Jacket 6.”

Elijah Watson, Sr. Culture and News Editor

Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar - The

  1. PinkPantheress and Ice Spice, “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2”
  2. Sexxy Red, "SkeeYee"
  3. Kelela, "Contact”
  4. Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, "The Hillbillies”
  5. NxWorries, "Daydreaming"

In an ideal world, I'd just be able to type "Skee-yee" 100 times to fulfill my blurb word count, but alas. Although all of these songs have been inescapable for me, if there's one I tend to come back to the most, it's "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2." The sequel is that girl, with IcePantheress creating the collaboration we all didn't realize we needed. Sure, it took me a minute to be won over by Ice Spice's guest verse. But once it clicked, there was no turning back. Every other day my thoughts are randomly punctuated by the way Spice said "Drrr," and I will forever be grateful that such a moment (as well as the rest of the song) was recorded and shared with the world.

Geo Hagan, Editor-in-Chief

IDK - Pinot Noir (feat. Saucy Santana & Jucee Froot) [Official Music Video]

  1. IDK ft. Saucy Santana and Jucee Fruut, “Pinot Noir”
  2. Summer Walker ft. J Cole, “To Summer, From Cole”
  3. Lil Durk and J Cole, “All My Life”
  4. Killer Mike ft. Future, André 3000, and James Blake, “Scientists And Engineers”
  5. Tyler, the Creator, “Heaven To Me”
  6. Hit-Boy and Alchemist, “Slipping Into Darkness”
  7. Masego, “Sax Fifth Avenue”
  8. Lil Uzi Vert, “Days Come and Go”
  9. Young Thug and1 Metro Boomin, “Jonesboro”
  10. Lloyd Banks ft. Method Man, “101 Razors”

Pinpointing your favorite songs over a specific stretch of time in this current music era is no small feat. The reason is that so much music comes out every single week — both mainstream and underground — that it's almost impossible to keep up. The songs that made my list are mostly collab joints, featuring multiple artists (and producers) bringing their A-game to the fore. There are some notable solo performances thrown in the mix as well.

Shelby Stewart, Contributing Writer

Larry June & The Alchemist - Summer Reign (Official Video) (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

  1. Larry June and The Alchemist ft. Ty Dolla $ign, “Summer Reign”
  2. Lil Uzi Vert ft. Nicki Minaj “Endless Fashion,”
  3. The Alchemist ft. T.F and Boldly James, “Trouble Man”
  4. Kari Faux ft. Gangsta Boo, “WHITE CAPRICE”
  5. Young Nudy, “Passion Fruit”
  6. Curren$y and Jermaine Dupri ft. 2 Chainz, “Off the Lot”
  7. Domsta, “3 Missed Calls”

It's summertime, so right about now, I want to be pointed to the music that just feels good.

Sometimes dense bars are good, but this time of year, I’m looking for one of two things: something fun, like Lil Uzi Vert and Nicki Minaj’s “Endless Fashion,” and Nudy’s “Passion Fruit,” or something a bit more laid back and nostalgic, like Kari Faux getting a verse from the late Gangsta Boo on “WHITE CAPRICE,” and the Rucker Collective sample on Curren$y and Jermaine Dupri’s “Off the Lot.”

Dimas Sanfiorenzo, Editorial Director

Sexyy Red - Pound Town (Official Video)

  1. Sexyy Red and Tay Keith, “Pound Town”
  2. Veeze ft. Lil Yachty, “Boat Interlude”
  3. Latto ft. Cardi B, “Put It On Da Floor Again”
  4. Mello Buckzz ft. Amari Blaze, Moni Da G and Kashh Mirr, “Boom”
  5. Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, "The Hillbillies"

Yes, Pastor Bobby Jones is correct: "Pound Town" is blasphemous. It’s the most gangsta shit of the year. It’s the kind of song that got me interested in rap many moons ago: unhinged, scandalous, vulgar, quotable, and legitimately threatening. Let me also take the time to highlight verses from Veeze and Cardi B, who both went absolutely crazy on their respective songs. And Kendrick Lamar, who finally did something interesting again.

Kaushik Kalidindi, Lead Designer

Sampha - Spirit 2.0 (Visualiser)

  1. Tyler, the Creator, “SORRY NOT SORRY”
  2. Sampha, “Spirit 2.0”
  3. Earl Sweatshirt, “Making The Band (Danity Kane)”
  4. Dominic Fike Ft. Weezer “Think Fast”
  5. Teezo Touchdown, “Familiarity”

Twenty Twenty-Three has been a big year of growth and change for me, and my top songs of the year were chosen as a result of this. From Tyler, the Creator, unapologetically embracing where he is in his life in “SORRY NOT SORRY” to Teezo Touchdown proclaiming the inevitability that he’ll accomplish his dreams in “Familiarity,” these songs have given me the hope, introspection, excitement, and appreciation I’ve needed this year.

Travis Grier, Social Media Coordinator

Nicki Minaj - Red Ruby Da Sleeze (Official Music Video)

  1. Metro Boomin ft. James Blake, A$AP Rocky and 21 Savage, “Nonviolent Communication”
  2. Thundercat and Tame Impala, “No More Lies”
  3. AMAKA, “Cruisin”
  4. Young Nudy, “Passion Fruit”
  5. Victoria Monet, “On My Mama”
  6. Nicki Minaj, “Red Ruby Da Sleeze”
  7. NxWorries, “Daydreaming”

The first half of 2023 feels like the first bite of gumbo with the combination of various flavors. Priding myself in having a musical palette that doesn’t set any limits, there’s a little bit of everything that has made my ears feel like heaven so far this year. While none of these records seemingly have a connection outside of genre-sharing between a few, this list serves as a sneak peek into what a playlist by me tends to look like. From Nicki Minaj proving that she’s still hungry to keep her crown to Thundercat and Tame Impala manufacturing pure bliss, these records undoubtedly will be staples in my collection for the foreseeable future.