Black Music Month: 100 Best Songs Of All Time – 2010 Through Today

Here is the fifth and final installment of our take on the most significant Black music songs from 2010 and beyond.
  1. "N****s in Paris" — JAY-Z and Kanye West, 2011

    (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

    Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

    (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

    In an interview with XXL Magazine, Kanye West stated, “I am where art meets commercial. The sweet spot between the hood and Hollywood.” The brilliance of two of hip-hop’s innovative GOATs merged into one glorious celebration of the rich history of African Americans frequenting Paris for creative appreciation and cultivation on their fourth single “N****s in Paris” from their monumental joint album Watch the Throne. “Paris,” as it was often censored and abbreviated to, became hip hop’s mosh pit stadium anthem; peaked at #5 on Billboard Hot 100, won Best Rap Performance at the 55th annual Grammys, and named the 58th best song of the 21st century by Rolling Stone.  

  2. "We Found Love" — Rihanna, 2011

    (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

    Kevin Mazur/WireImage

    (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

    With the turn of the decade, R&B’s importance began to dim as more acts began to fully immerse themselves into the world of EDM/Dance. From Chris Brown to Ne-Yo, no one could tap into the versatility of the genre-bending quite like Rihanna. Written and produced by DJ Calvin Harris, “We Found Love” is an electro-pop house track that set a standard for how Black entertainers would begin to reclaim the sub-genre that extended from the tree of Chicago House music. The song topped Billboard Hot 100 at #1 for ten non-consecutive weeks, is the 27th most successful song of all time in the U.S. according to Billboard, won a Grammy for “Best Short Form Music Video” and is considered one of the best-selling singles of all time.  

  3. "Novacane" — Frank Ocean, 2011

    (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival)

    FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival

    (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival)

    The year 2011 helped introduce a new wave of entertainers and songwriters whose music would be classified as alternative R&B. Considered one of the leading artists of this movement, Frank Ocean’s transition from ambiguous songwriter to acclaimed musician and visual artist would be marked by the release of his lead single “Novacane” from his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. Challenging conventional R&B themes, the song explores isolation and withdrawn emotion leading to numbness through the tale of a young man falling in lust with a young college student woman who engages in sex work.  

  4. "Dreams and Nightmares" — Meek Mill, 2012

    The opening lyric “I used to pray for times like this to rhyme like this,” has surpassed the streets and become an accurate representation of young Black America. From the endearing intro that chronicles Meek Mill's ascension to fame to the dreamy melodies voicing his aggressive recollection of hustling. “Dreams and Nightmares” is a sonic exploration into the youth of Black America’s overabundance of hostility, the idea of success and wealth, urban survival and ambitious pursuits. Since its release, “Dreams” has been certified platinum and following the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl victory, was heralded as “the greatest Philly sports anthem ever” by NBCSports.  

  5. "I Don’t Like" — Chief Keef, 2012

    (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

    Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage

    (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

    Remixed by everyone from Kanye West to Lil’ Wayne, Chief Keef’s breakout hit annihilated the hip-hop landscape and fully introduced Chicago drill rap into the mainstream. Producing by music collaborator Young Chop and featuring frequent drill partner Lil’ Reese, “I Don’t Like” encapsulated the energy of Chicago’s youth through experimental 808 beats, catchy ad-libs, and home-movie stylized video that helped build the budding underground track into a viral sensation. Adding to the hype of the song gaining much buzz was the G.O.O.D. Music remix featuring Kanye West catapulted the song and its star into instant stardom. The song peaked at #73 on Billboard Hot 100 and has accrued over 28 million views on YouTube.  

  6. "Adorn" — Miguel, 2012

    With the rise of EDM and the evolution of trap music, R&B became nearly an after-thought in the eyes of mainstream radio. However, with the emergence of Miguel with his woven Marvin Gaye and Prince-like sexual charm, it wouldn’t take long before his sweet and fluid vocalizing of love through mesmerizing falsettos would produce what Billboard considers to be the greatest love song of the 2010s. “Adorn,” released from his sophomore effort Kaledoscope Dream is a love ballad dedicated to his now wife Nazanin Mandi. Using carefully chosen metaphors like “let my love adorn you,” Miguel found a healthy balance between alternative and traditional R&B that garnered commercial and critical acclaim. The song won Best R&B Song at the 55th Grammy Awards and reached #17 on Billboard Hot 100.

  7. "Happy"— Pharrell Williams, 2013

    (Photo by Richard Bord/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

    (Photo: AP Photo/John C. Clark)

    (Photo by Richard Bord/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

    Written and produced by Pharrell Williams for the Despicable Me soundtrack, “Happy” was originally written for Cee-Lo Green but with his label rejecting the song, it turned out to be more than just a blessing in disguise — it would be the song that would turn Pharrell into a global pop superstar. Topping the Billboard Hot 100 at #1, it became the best-selling song of 2014 with 6.45 million copies sold, was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Original Song and a live rendition of the song won a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance. 

  8. "Loyal"— Chris Brown, 2014

    Chris Brown enjoyed one of his biggest hits and most well-known songs in his discography in 2014. “Loyal” featuring Lil’ Wayne and Tyga became one of the most heavily played records that year and one of the most quoted with memorable lyrics such as “I can make a broke b***h rich, but I don’t f*** with broke b****es!” and the infectious “These hoes ain’t loyal!” With an overall themed about unfaithful, gold-digging women and references to JAY-Z and Jermaine Dupri’s “Money Ain’t a Thang,” “Loyal” peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, stayed on the charts for 36 weeks, and was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. 

  9. "Hot N***a" — Bobby Shmurda, 2014

    By the early 2010s, many were calling the New York hip-hop scene dead. While numerous veterans and young MCs attempted to maintain its throne that was quickly being taken by the South, soon emerged Bobby Shmurda, a rapper from Brooklyn who would reinvent the viral approach pioneered by Soulja Boy and mastered by Chief Keef. “Hot N***a,” produced by Jahlil Beats, became increasingly popular as the video and song became an instant fixture on the then-trendy app Vine. The “shmoney dance” as seen in the video became a popular meme on social media and played a large role in the song’s rise to prominence. Artists from Lil’ Kim and French Montana to Jeezy and Yo Gotti all took a shot remixing this now legendary song. 

  10. "Alright"— Kendrick Lamar, 2015

    (Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

    Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

    (Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

    Heavily associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, “Alright” became Black America’s theme song in the midst of racial tension and angst following the brutal and unjust killings of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. Released from his critically acclaimed magnum opus To Pimp a Butterfly, “Alright,” was written and produced by Kendrick, Sounwave and Pharrell Williams. While the song is praised as a “unifying” symbol and beacon of hope and light amid personal struggles, it is also deeply metaphorical for the constant racial and economic cycle Black Americans have found themselves subjected to generation after generation. With the opening line referencing the famed scene of Oprah Winfrey’s character as Cellie from The Color Purple, through skittering jazz horns and drum patterns, Kendrick’s portrait of America is dark and brutal. The song won two Grammys and was performed at the Grammys in what critics consider to be one of the best TV performances in history.

  11. "Hotline Bling" — Drake, 2015

    (Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

    Joseph Okpako/WireImage

    (Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

    Serving as the lead single to his fourth studio album Views, although added as a bonus track, “Hotline Bling” is a song that proved, yet again, that Drake can seemingly create effortless hit records on a dime. Heavily sampling Timmy Thomas’ 1972 song, “Why Can’t We Live Together,” it was the Director X directed video that would provide memes and Black Twitter jokes for weeks and helped push the song to #2 on Billboard Hot 100. Featured in a T-Mobile Super Bowl commercial and parodied on Saturday Night Live, the song won two Grammys and has sold over 2 million copies in the United States. 

  12. "Black Beatles" — Rae Sremmurd, 2016

    A blockbuster hip-hop song with a notable dance craze to match, “Black Beatles” defines the quintessential rebelling nature of America’s youth. Not necessarily considered a political song, it marked a radical change culturally and formally introduced a thrilling, individualistic wave centered around old geezers, young bulls, smoke in the air, binge drinkin’ and real weirdos with green hair. Certified 6x platinum, it peaked at #1 on Billboard Hot 100, in part to a viral Mannequin Challenge that was so captivating, even real-life Beatle Paul McCartney hopped in on the craze and thanked the duo and Gucci Mane.

  13. "Crew" — Goldlink, 2016

    There’s something supremely infectious about “Crew” that just can’t be denied. From Brent Faiyaz’s smooth crooning over Teddy Walton’s well-crafted mellow production to Shy’s show-stealing verse, the collaboration between the three creates an enjoyable vibe. There’s no extremely intricate lyricism with metaphorical meanings or funky experimentation, it’s quite literally the perfect mixture of crooning and rapping that defines today’s generation of alt-R&B and hip-hop. Representing for the DMV, Shy Glizzy’s presence dominates as he erupts onto the song with “Hey, nice to meet! I’m Young Jefe, who you be?!” Peaking at #45 on Billboard Hot 100, it’s the balance of melodious and energetic spirit that’s evoked every time you hear, “She sees money all around me, I look like I’m the man.” 

  14. "Formation" — Beyonce, 2016

    Released on Tidal and YouTube a day before her now-legendary performance with Bruno Mars and Coldplay at the Super Bowl in 2016, “Formation” became a symbol of Blackness and Southern culture but most importantly, a statement nearly 20 years into Beyonce’s iconic musical career. It allowed her to explore the ideas of culture, shared Black American experiences, and empowerment. Yet through strategy and quotable lines such as “I twirl on my haters,” “When he f*** me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster,” “I slay,” and of course, “Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation,” Beyonce knows her power and how to use it to keep us magnetized to her legacy. Since it’s released, the song has become symbolic to the Black Lives Matter and Women’s March Movement, has been the subject of study in college courses, won one Grammy for Best Music Video, and peaked at #10 on Billboard Hot 100. 

  15. "Cranes in the Sky" — Solange, 2016

    (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    The introspective and reflective nature of “Cranes in the Sky” offer a sobering calmness that almost requires you to remain still. With the help of legendary musician and songwriter/producer Raphael Saadiq, Solange explores the idea of avoiding the elephant in the room by emotionally suppressing and alienating oneself as a form of coping with unaddressed sadness. Released during the golden era of Black art inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Solange’s calm and honest patience with herself revealed a therapeutic undertone to the song that has helped many Black women find healing. Despite only peaking at #74 on Billboard Hot 100, it received critical acclaim from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork who praised the delicate and tranquil beauty of this modern masterpiece. 

  16. "Bad and Boujee" — Migos, 2017

    (Photo: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images)

    Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images

    (Photo: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images)

    Becoming a huge internet sensation following its release, “Bad and Boujee” transformed Migos from popular rap act from Atlanta to pop stars. With memes and Black Twitter jokes centered around the lyrics “Rain drop, drop top” juxtaposed with a shoutout from Childish Gambino at the 2017 Golden Globes, soon the song rose to the top ten and peaked at #1 on Billboard Hot 100; giving Migos and Lil Uzi Vert their first number one record. The song has been certified 4X platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, has been featured on TV show Black-ish and was nominated for Best Rap Performance at the Grammys.

  17. "Bodak Yellow" — Cardi B, 2018

    (Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)

    Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage

    (Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

     Towards the latter half of the decade, the re-emergence of women in hip-hop proved to be an exciting and revitalizing mixing pot of personalities, flows and approaches to music. However, no one expected for Cardi B from the Bronx to surpass and become one of the most influential women currently running hip-hop. With the release of her single “Bodak Yellow,” which borrows a bit of rapper Kodak Black’s flow, Cardi not only exceeded her own expectations for her career but virtually overnight, became a hit-making superstar. Receiving critical acclaim, “Bodak” topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts for three consecutive weeks, was nominated for two Grammys and in 2021, Cardi B made history as the first female rapper to have a song certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America. 

  18. "Welcome to the Party" — Pop Smoke, 2019

    (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

    Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

    (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

    The success of “Welcome to the Party” in retrospect is filled with bittersweet nostalgia. Despite losing the talented MC at just 20 years old, his legacy has been cemented with the success of his debut single and presence in the revival of New York hip-hop. Assisting in the new wave of ushering in Drill from NY to the masses, it was his first solo single that would have many critics calling it New York’s new anthem. Hypnotic and euphoric, “Welcome to the Party” went certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and peaked at #48 on Billboard rhythmic radio.  

  19. "The Box" — Roddy Ricch, 2019

    (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

    Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

    (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

    There are multiple keys to writing a hit record. One of the most important is crafting an excellent hook and chorus that leaves an indelible impression on the listener. For Roddy Ricch, his impeccable ear for how music sounds helped him create what is considered the biggest song of the first half of 2020. “The Box” spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in an astonishing accomplishment by beating Justin Bieber’s “Yummy.” Receiving critical acclaim, many praised Ricch’s versatile songwriting ability, vocal delivery, and the now-iconic “eee-err” ad-lib. The song was nominated for three Grammy awards including Song of the Year, named by Apple Music as the Song of the Year, and sold 4.7 million equivalent units in 2020 alone. However, its most important accomplishment is how the song was repurposed following the unjust murder of George Floyd as it was used at protests for its memorable line “Told ‘em f**k 12, f**k SWAT.” 

  20. "Old Town Road” — Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, 2019

    For years, certain genres have whitewashed the history and origins of their musical roots. However, by 2019, an unknown artist by the name of Lil Nas X would forever change popular music’s approach to what is considered Black music. Releasing “Old Town Road” in late 2018, country trap was a genre that had yet to be fully explored aside from rapper Young Thug. Buying the beat online for $30 while living with his sister, Lil Nas X created the song as a form of escapism and to attempt starting a music career. With one viral tweet to Billy Ray Cyrus, who in turn loved and supported the song fully, “Old Town Road” went from viral sensation to an iconic decade-defining record. The song won two Grammys, peaked at #1 on Billboard Hot 100, and has sold over 18 million copies worldwide: making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.


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