Sama’an’s Favorite Music of 2019



Every year I vote for my favorite music (songs and albums) in an annual music critics poll and this year I submitted my ballot for the Uproxx installment. The original, historic music critics poll I voted in belonged to New York City’s Village Voice, which called its poll Pazz & Jop, but is sadly now out of print.

View my official ballot for the year’s best albums here and read my words for my favorite songs below.

Best Songs

20) “No Good” by Hamish Anderson

A song that instantly makes you want to load up your car with snacks and hit the open road. Thank you to Aussie guitar-slinger Hamish Anderson for providing this new addition to my road trip soundtrack.

19) “626 Bedford Avenue” by The Drums

Ever kissed someone you know you shouldn’t have because they’re a walking red flag and then regretted it and felt sad and mad at yourself all day when you thought about it? Well, don’t fear, the Drums made a tribute song for the toxic fave in your life. “Your insecurities are ruining everything we could be,” sings Drums frontman Johnny Pierce. The self-deprecating sarcasm when he sings “Six two six Stupid Avenue” is incredibly relatable. Thank you, Johnny.

18) “Zulu Screams” by GoldLink featuring Bibi Bourelly & Maleek Berry

A standout track from GoldLink’s Diaspora album, the energy of this song can only be classified as “chaotic good,” unless you’re afraid of dancing… in which case it’s absolutely chaotic evil… for you… but not for the rest of us who like to get loose.

17) “Tia Tamera” by Doja Cat featuring Rico Nasty

Those of us whose first introduction to Doja was the stoner-R&B jam “So High” have been pleasantly surprised to watch her grow into a bonafide lyricist. On “Tia Tamera” there is no one who could have matched Doja’s energy better than Rico Nasty; it’s the collab we’ve all been waiting for, featuring trippy Lisa-Frank-on-acid visuals (c/o director Roxana Baldovin) and a cameo from our depressed king Ka5sh.

16) “A Good Look” by Sturgill Simpson

There’s nothing quite like a dystopian cowboy disco party to ring in the apocalypse, and that’s exactly what Sturgill Simpson gave us here. “The star of David don’t belong to David at all,” Simpson sings, so I’m choosing to interpret it as an anti-Zionist lyric. Not only are Sturgill’s politics refreshingly progressive, his music is too, with each successive album feeling like a quantum leap from the previous one. If anyone is expanding the definition of what country music can be, it’s artists like Sturgill, Kacey, and Orville Peck.

15) “Corners Of My Mind” – Emotional Oranges
Absolutely perfect house-pop. Imagine what Disclosure would do if they got their hands on this.

14) “Relax” by Lenora
Lenora’s 70s-inspired aesthetic couldn’t be a more perfect match for this silky smooth Beanz N Kornbread beat. It feels like a perfect companion track for “Sensual Seduction.” As a matter of fact, Snoop should hop on a remix.


13) “Bitch to the Boys” by The Vapor Caves
If Blondie were fresh on the scene in 2019 and Debbie Harry wanted to write a rap, this is probably what it would sound like. Sometimes an artist finds the perfect sample for the times, and that’s what The Vapor Caves did here. A feminist anthem you can dance to, what’s not to love?

12) “Sexy Black Timberlake” by Channel Tres
Shoutout to my best friend Jenien for putting me onto this one. Channel Tres made the best dance-house track of 2019 and it’s not even close. I’ll be playing this at house parties for at least three summers. The Goodwin-directed video is amazing, too.

11) “Ibithaj” – Rapsody ft D’Angelo & GZA
Rapsody got D’Angelo to emerge from his lair and dig for his baritone register, and that should be enough for you to understand the significance here without even mention the presence of another legend, GZA of Wu Tang Clan. Rapsody and GZA flow so effortlessly, you can leave this song on repeat for half an hour an not even realize it. As Funk Flex would say: That’s. Mutha. Fuckin. Bars.

10) “Besharam Bitch” – Phool
A mysterious Desi rapper spitting angsty and introspective and relatable BARS over dirty south beats laced with veena samples is everything you never knew you needed to hear. By the way, “besharam” means “shameless” in Hindi.

9) “Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression)” by Zack Fox

Okay so this is the true definition of chaotic good. “If you got a mental illness, fuckin’ turn up, dude,” says Zack Fox towards the end of “Jesus Is The One.” It was a massive moment of visibility for anyone and everyone living with mental illness, and with Kenny Beats behind the board, the song slaps hard as hell too. It started out as a freestyle on Kenny’s YouTube series, The Cave, and ended up becoming the most popular thing either of the two had done, as Kenny reluctantly explains in their Genius Verified interview. In 2020, I will absolutely endorse any politician who runs on Zack’s platform of “Free Palestine, Free Tay-K.”

8) “WHAT’S GOOD” by Tyler the Creator
Tyler rapping the most urgently he’s ever rapped over a noir-sounding melody and a hyper-speed pop-n-lock breakbeat and I am absolutely in love. If I don’t see his Igor character breakdancing on a Golf Wang cardboard box in 2020, I’ll feel very let down.

7) “Juice” by Tobe Nwigwe featuring Paul Wall
Tobe Nwigwe raps with the mega gravitas of Zeus, while real life Houston rap god Paul Wall stomps through the H like Godzilla (and sounds like a natural doing it), all because of Lanell Grant’s gargantuan beat.

6) “Cash Shit” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring DaBaby
With Meg in the saddle, Houston is gonna be alright. Thee Stallion out raps, out brags, out dresses, and out fucks your fave, but instead of making it an exclusive thing, Meg invites her Hotties to follow suit. What she’s trying to say is, there’s a little stallion in most of us, and if “Cash Shit” isn’t in your top 10, then you don’t have stallion energy. Also DaBaby is on this song.

5) “The Governor” by Gary Clark Jr
A tale about a gun belonging to the fastest gunslinger in the west, Gary Clark Jr wrote a modern day blues classic and it should become one of the genre’s standards. Just like how there are a million takes on “Stormy Monday,” the same should be the case for “The Governor” in 10 years time.

4) “Cacerolazo” by Ana Tijoux
The brilliance of sampling the pots and pans that soundtracked the mass demonstrations in Chile gave Ana Tijoux her second Chilean protest anthem; her first was “Shock,” which is a marching song. “Cacerolazo” represents the next logical step: getting loud. She’s the people’s champ at this point, and she can probably rap better than your fave too.

3) “Old Town Road” remix by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
Everything about this moment was perfect, and in these dark times we need stories like this to remind us that there’s still hope for the world. After the original version of the song was removed from the country music charts — in a very blatantly racist way, I might add — Lil Nas X enlisted one of country music’s black sheep, Billy Ray Cyrus, for the remix to “Old Town Road,” and wound up winning a CMA award for it. Oh, and Billy, who showed the utmost humility throughout the song’s saga, knocked his verse out of the damn park. If you’re hungry for more country rap, check out my History of Country Rap Tunes for Complex.

2) “Perfect 10” by Mustard featuring Nipsey Hussle
Timeless words of wisdom from the late Nipsey runneth over as he floats on a jazzy guitar loop.  It’s advice we should all carry on our person until we’re old n gray. As you leave the house and check your pockets for your keys and wallet, Nipsey’s sage counsel should also be looping in your head: “Where your heart? Where your soul at?” Sometimes I like to listen to this song, close my eyes, and imagine Nipsey, full of life, sitting on a couch, smiling, and rapping this song to his friends.

1) “This Land” by Gary Clark Jr.
“Fuck you, I’m America’s son,” sings Clark with a subdued rage just before arriving at the George Clinton-inspired chorus, “This land is mine.” His rage is finally released during the neck-wringing solo. It’s a song Gary Clark Jr had to make, and he could only do it by looking back on America’s racist history in order to push himself forward and confront the racism he’s experienced in the present day. The urgency is palpable.

On Gary Clark Jr.’s episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape, he talks about some of the racist incidents he experienced growing up, like white kids driving by him and waving the confederate flag. Fast forward to 2019 and see the imagery in the Savannah Leaf-directed video: a group of young black kids digging confederate flags into the dirt with their bare feet. The catharsis is real. And ending the video with a snippet of “The Governor” is a great reminder that even though Gary is a peace-loving guy, he’s got the yoppa loaded and ready in case any racists feel like testing him. If this is a glimpse of things to come for Gary, I can’t wait to see what kind of greatness his pen pushes out next.


And you already know I’ve got all these songs in a playlist, stream it here: