1. “Lucha Bros” by Westside Gunn, Curren$y and Benny the Butcher
A beautiful beat by featured artist Alchemist, a Ghostface Killah-esque verse from Westside Gunn and some gritty bars from Curren$y and a braggadocious outro by Benny the Butcher.
2. “Better Days” by 2Pac
When you’re feeling grey like the weather, you can always count on 2Pac to provide some California vibes. You can also hear some modern day blues told through his hip-hop. From the rapper who wrote a poetry book called The Rose that Grew From Concrete, here’s a song that sounds just like that title.
3. “Interpret Sabotage” by Black Milk & Mel
Black Milk is one of Detroit’s best hip-hop talents but is often overshadowed by Eminem, J Dilla and Big Sean. This song is the opening track to my favorite album by him called “No Poison No Paradise.” The album cover is simply extraordinary. The beat, produced by Black Milk, is wild, sprawling and funky.
4. “Pinocchio Story” by Kanye West
November is usually an 808s and heartbreaks season, so I’m choosing this emotional Kanye ballad to give some contrast to the current Ye days and to find some relief when, “there is no Gucci to buy, there is no Louis Vuitton to put on. No YSL to make it sell, to get my heart out of this hell and my mind out of this jail.”
5. “Y? (Be Like That) - Jay Dee Remix” by The Pharcyde & J Dill
The remix of this song makes the beat so much smoother—compliments to Dilla. The Pharcyde are fun as ever on this cut off Labcabincalifornia.
6. “Black and White” by The dB’s
The dB’s are an interesting 70s rock band that has elements of pop, punk and more. This song feels a little tropical and yet has some good angst.
7. “Put Some Sugar On It” by Half Japanese
Half Japanese is known for being basically the quintessential DIY punk band. No regard for any musical theory or ‘proper procedure’—just the music they felt, recorded on the equipment they had. “Put some sugar on it honey, put some honey on it sugar.”
8. “Crazy Rhythms” by The Feelies
I love this song because it’s so spastic and catchy. There’s about a minute of singing at the beginning and another minute at the end. There’s a four-minute instrumental break in the middle with some fun solos. The groove never dies.
9.“No Life for Me” by Wavves & Cloud Nothings
The “No Life For Me” collaboration album between Wavves and Cloud Nothings is my favorite album that either group has released together or separately. Each group highlights what the other does best with contemporary alternative rock. This album sounds like FIDLAR could have hopped on it too
10. “Bad Kids” by Black Lip
“Bad Kids” has a fun sing-song feel to it that makes it seem as though it’s a classic. The jingle bells in the background make it a weirdly timely Christmas song. If all your friends are bad kids—kids like you and me—then this is our song.
11. “New Mexico Song” by Johnny Hobo & the Freight Trains
Johnny Hobo & the Freight Trains is one of Pat the Bunny’s bands. This is music for when you feel your ultimate angst and world frustrations. “New Mexico Song” is the opening song from the album Love Songs for the Apocalypse.
12. “Little League” by Cap’n Jazz
Cap’n Jazz is one of the early emo bands of the late 80s. The band went defunct in the 90s but they’ve done some reunions. Ever cooler, members of Cap’n Jazz have gone on to form the bands Make Believe, The Promise Ring, American Football, Owls, Ghosts and Vodka, Joan of Arc and Owen.
13. “Personality Crisis” by New York Dolls
I love the New York Dolls because they’re so unapologetically themselves that nothing could ever break their resolve. They were punk rockers before punk rock was a thing like their heroes and contemporaries David Bowie and Iggy Pop. If you ever have to scream and shout and just have a personality crisis, then turn up the New York Dolls and maybe even try some drag.