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Okayplayer's 22 Best Songs of 2022

Whether the genre was hip-hop or R&B or punk or Afrobeats or all of the above, our favorite songs of 2022 did more than entertain us — they took us to places we haven't been before.

The music has never stopped — despite how harsh the conditions can be. In a world where artists have to depend on the whims of algorithms or compete with random songs from 30 years ago, it can be difficult to stand out. And yet, the special songs found a way to rise to the top.

Whether the genre was hip-hop or R&B or punk or Afrobeats — or all of the above — our favorite songs of 2022 didn't just entertain us. They challenged us, made us emotional, or, in the rarest instances, took us to places we haven't been before.  

Scroll down for Okayplayer’s 22 best songs of 2022.

22. Lil Yacthy — “Poland”

Combining absurdist humor with a slurred melody, "Poland" is a brief, but mesmerizing glimpse at peak Lil Yachty. Coasting over neon video game synths, Lil Boat unloads a quivering hook and low-stakes, free associative wordplay that only enhances the whimsy of the track, which spurred a barrage of memes when it surfaced on the internet over the summer. With its simple, infectious chorus and its seemingly arbitrary premise, it's a lot more fun than it is sensical, a splash of spontaneity that began as a joke but finished up as a slapper. — Peter A. Berry

21. Soul Glo — "Gold Chain Punk”

From that opening jangling guitar to vocalist Pierce Jordan's yelps throughout, "Gold Chain Punk" is a testament to the type of angry and dissonant hardcore punk Soul Glo has become known for, but structured in a more traditional fashion. The way the track just builds on itself and perfectly sets up the breakdown that comes halfway through; how the last half descends into a flurry of cacophony before ending on a slightly even slower breakdown. There's an intention and intensity in the songwriting of this track that shows how far the band has come. — Elijah Watson

20. Lucky Daye — “Candy Drip”

The titular song from Lucky Daye’s sophomore album is the singer-songwriter’s most seductive jam to date. Over languid, intoxicating production and bass from musician D’Mile, the New Orleans native admires his lover’s “perfect design” while flaunting his sultry chops. It's no wonder why, during his Candydrip Tour, Daye opened each show with the song melting the hearts of female attendees.  — Jaelani Turner-Williams

19. Toro y Moi — “The Loop”

Toro y Moi made the perfect song for those with Monday blues. Featured on the musical polymath’s seventh album, MAHAL, “The Loop” swells with irresistible funk and sonorous guitar strumming. Toro y Moi (also known as Chaz Bear) is relaxed in his approach; the musician's lyrics are repetitious and the vibes are free-flowing. In the playful, Brendan Nakahara-directed music video for “The Loop,” Chaz runs through the Bay Area, hitting the streets in compact GoCars and stopping for scenic photo-ops in front of the Golden Gate Bridge before dining at Oakland restaurant FOB Kitchen for Filipino fare. — JTW

18. Benny the Butcher & J. Cole — “Johnny P's Caddy”

Driven by The Alchemist’s grainy soulful loopings, Benny The Butcher’smournful reflections on his come-up perfectly complement J. Cole’s boastful lyrical abilities. The stand-out single from Benny’s Tana Talk 4 mixtape saturates its listeners in the paranoid world Benny inhabits, where he feels his rightful place in the game can be stripped from him at any moment. “I can never leave the scene without checkin’ my mirrors visually, Come with that energy ‘cause some shit gon’ always stick with me,” Benny raps. Cole, on the other hand, serves as the perfect foil to Benny, as he reminds the Griselda rapper that being here is due to divine energy just as much as hard work. — Mackenzie Cummings-Grady

17. Vince Staples & Mustard — “Magic”

Arguably Mustard’s most compelling instrumental of 2022 surrounds Vince Staples with atmospheric synths and a pure bounce that present him as Ramona Park’s David Blaine. With a similarly nonchalant yet attention-drawing delivery, Staples on “Magic” reveals solely the roots and results of his journey. As the lead single to Ramona Park Broke My Heart, “Magic” introduced Vince’s core theme — the double edged sword of love and heartbreak aligned with the community he was raised in. The closing bar of the second verse — “Momma met my daddy, then they had me in the ghetto. Handed me a thirty-eight and told me I was special” — exemplifies this dichotomy. “Magic” is the centerpiece of a project filled with songs that make you nod your head to their smooth soundscapes and rap deliveries, even as they cover an undercurrent of stress and paranoia. — Miki Hellerbach

16. Freddie Gibbs & Pusha T — “Gold Rings”

The appearance of “Gold Rings” on the Soul Sold Separately tracklist probably looked like the bat signal to coke rap connoisseurs. Freddie Gibbs and Pusha T are, after all, the caped crusaders of ice-cold hustle anthems. And sure enough, their reunion on "Gold Rings" is nothing short of pure cinema, trading unholy memories like retired ball players combing through dusty reels of their riskiest maneuvers. Gibbs keeps it reverent, interpolating classic lines from The Notorious B.I.G. and Lil Wayne, while Push sketches a heist-heavy mini-epic that wouldn't feel out of place in a Scorsese treatment. — Zo

15. Flo Milli — “Conceited”

The first thing you hear when you turn on Flo Milli’s“Conceited” is her self-assured voice declaring “Feelin’ myself I’m conceited” multiple times. What comes next is the Mobile, Alabama rapper effortlessly leaning into the most confident version of herself. She channels the same energy she unleashed when she dropped her viral hit “Beef FloMix.” For the entire track Flo Milli steadily builds upon her menacing flow, making this the most compelling song on her excellent album You Still Here, Ho? — Robyn Mowatt

14. J.I.D — “Kody Blu 31”

Named after a departed childhood friend, with an intro that samples a choir composed of his dad and other family from his grandma’s funeral, J.I.D’s “Kody Blu 31” carries so much emotional weight before it even hits the 30 second mark. Negro spiritual-esque harmonies accompany JID as he both sings and raps his way through anecdotes on family and the necessity of perseverance. His singing voice once again steals the show, though, with short yet tender runs urging family and friends alike to maintain and keep pushing forward. The true power of the song exists in how much it connects back to the spirit of the Black church, which, at its absolute best, is a communal safe haven that offers refuge when times are hard and helps provide reassurance that tomorrow will be a brighter day. — Larry Little

13. Earl Sweatshirt — "Lye"

On “Lye,” the second of two ascendent The Alchemist-produced tracks from Earl Sweatshirt’s 2022 album, SICK!, a formerly godless rap prodigy finally makes an appeal to the most high with anchored allegory and plotted literary references, lacing an entrancing and expertly excavated horn-heavy section of obscure prog rock with wisdoms gleamed from the pages of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X’s most cutting racial commentaries. At less than two-minutes of runtime, “Lye” is a deceptively dense listen that rewards the type of bar-for-bar decoding the 28-year-old rapper tends to inspire.  — Zo

12. DJ Khaled, JAY-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne & John Legend — “God Did”

“God Did” is one of those rare songs that carry an identity all on its own. The track, which for weeks critics and fans argued over whether it contained JAY-Z’s best bars, can hardly be associated with the star-studded album it’s placed on. From the track’s extensive behind the scene elaborations to its lengthy dissecting opinion pieces conversations, “God Did” feels almost cinematic, as if its listeners are experiencing history in the making. “God Did” isn’t so much a song as it is a reminder of how deep the rabbit hole can go. It reminds its listeners what it feels like to hear a real veteran push up against the confines of what’s possible in this genre. Whether or not the track wins any awards, “God Did” reaffirmed Hov’s place in hip-hop history once again, and demonstrated what it really means to rap. — MCG

11. Drake & 21 Savage — “Jimmy Cooks”

One of the best verses of the year belongs to 21 Savage on "Jimmy Crooks" (which is slyly named after Drake's Jimmy Brooks character from Degrassi.) Drake and 21 have become an inseparable duo — with a proven formula to make a hit — but the Atlanta rapper dominates this song. 21 Savage proves he's a chameleon in rap, adapting the cadence of his collaborator and initiating the change in beat with his chilly flow.  — Quierra Luck

10. Kendrick Lamar & Kodak Black — “Silent Hill”

Despite the controversy raised by fans about the appearance of Florida rapper Kodak Black, it’s hard to say that Kendrick and Kodak didn’t deliver. "Silent Hill" is one of the lighter moments of Kendrick Lamar'sMr. Morale & the Big Steppers. The song is a bouncy and mellow trap-inspired track that Kodak commands. Using a Playboi Carti-inspired flow, he effortlessly skates over the production, stating “I don’t want your ice, boy, I want your life / But fuck it, I still might rob ‘em.”  — Kia Turner

9. Pusha T — “Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes”

At this point, it's well known that Pusha Tcan make rapping about selling dope sound like a luxury experience. But there's nothing like hearing him do this on a Pharrell beat. Pusha is truly "Cocaine's Dr. Seuss" on "Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes," using simple rhymes to expound on his decadent lifestyle of sipping Ace of Spades out of flute champagne glasses and owning Patek Philippe watches. For those that might've thought Push wasn't someone to be scared of after releasing a diss track in allegiance to Arby's, "Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes" serves as a reminder that he can still channel his inner drug kingpin Joker if need be — laughing maniacally in your face for ever doubting him. — EW

8. Doechii & SZA — “Persuasive”

The rap world is finally catching on to Doechii and her quirky, do-it-all approach to music-making. In "Persuasive," Doechii's distinct voice fares well alongside the pulsing beat. In what feels like a rite of passage for the new TDE signee, SZA lends a verse, turning this into a special moment for both artists. — RM

7. Ice Spice — “Munch (Feelin’ U)”

On the breakout song “Munch (Feelin’ U),” Bronx rapper Ice Spice is straightforward, boasting her “baddie” status with nimble double entendres. If you’re wondering what a “munch” is, listen closer – Spice applies it as a kiss-off to fuck-boys not on her level. With her signature ginger ringlets and poised-yet-raspy prowess, Spice has since become a viral phenomenon, even getting a co-sign from fellow Bronx rapper Cardi B (who teased an unreleased “Munch” remix in October).  — JTW

6. Steve Lacy & Foushée — “Sunshine”

It may be a little too easy to overlook Steve Lacy’s “Sunshine.” Buried in the back half of Lacy’s shrewdly sophisticated sophomore studio album, where it’s piled on with some of his most polished work to date, “Sunshine” didn’t catch a break from its placement on the Gemini Rights tracklist. But as the album’s final single and penultimate moment, this punchy-as-hell post mortem on a messy breakup slips in just before a full-melt credit-roll. And it's packed with so many elements of what makes Lacy’s mercurial trajectory so enjoyable to witness. There's the grinning hook of his early years as the suspiciously gifted sideman to The Internet. There's the smoldering melodics, hardy kicks, and slick strums of his jailbroken iPhone era. And, for course, there’s Lacy’s preternatural collaborative instinct, interfacing and enhancing co-stars Fousheé and Karriem Riggins.  — Zo

5. Burna Boy — “Last Last”

In a generation where samples can be a lazy effort, Burna Boy flipping Toni Braxton’s 2000 hit “He Wasn't Man Enough" hit captivated Americans, becoming a genuine song-of-the-summer candidate. The song is also deeply personal. Using a mix of English and Yoruba, Burna sings of potentially losing it all from love to his own life. It's not clear how aware folks are of the lyrical content but the song was huge, from viral TikToks to various remixes. The praise was well deserved. — KT

4. Beyoncé — “Cuff It”

While "Break My Soul" was the first single, "Cuff It" was the song we desperately needed after a turbulent two years. The standout from Beyoncé's brilliant Renaissance album, "Cuff It" is carried by Nile Rodgers' funky guitar and Beyonce's powerhouse vocals, as she boasts of living life at its highest point and partying like no tomorrow. As the song progresses, her energy becomes even more intense, creating the feel-good song of the year. — QL

3. Gunna, Future & Young Thug — “pushin P”

On “pushin P” Gunna, Future, and Young Thug use a pulsating Wheezy and Juke Wong beat to trade braggadocious rhymes about the usual trap-rap subjects: women, money, and the joys of their flashy lifestyle. Later, the track would become one of the most bittersweet rap moments of the year, with Gunna and Thug getting arrested on RICO charges. — RM

2. NxWorries & H.E.R — “Where I Go”

Sure, the retro-funk and soul of Silk Sonic has been nice, but NxWorries Anderson .Paak's link up with Knxwledge — is the better pair. "Where I Go" has the main essentials that have come to define NxWorries — .Paak's smoky-smooth vocals and Knxwledge's hypnotizing production. The song is paired with a warmness and feature from H.E.R that brings it all together. As with most of NxWorries' music, "Where I Go" is a track that's easy to get lost into, its strong point always being the mood and sonics of the song more than anything else.  — EW

1. GloRilla & Hitkidd — “F.N.F. (Let's Go)”

GloRilla's Grammy-nominated breakout, “F.N.F. (Let's Go),” became popular for one specific reason: it’s fun as fuck. Surrounded by her gang of girlfriends, Glo’s Grammy-nominated break-up anthem has enough ferocity to start a riot. Set to Hitkidd’s pulsing and urgent production, Glo’s bars of twerking at red lights, hanging out windows, and loudly proclaiming her single status makes “F.N.F.” the most liberating — and best — song of the year. — KT