1. “Violets (ft. Phonte)” by Miles Davis and Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper’s smooth update of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” features Phonte of North Carolina rap group Little Brother. This is one of the best tracks off this amazing jazz and hip-hop fusion album, “Everything’s Beautiful.”
2. “Silent Ride” by Boogie
A mellowed-out cut from Boogie’s debut album, “Everything’s for Sale,” this song is a place where you can hear the vibrato of Boogie’s deep singing voice. Mixed in are some of his effortless raps. The beat is perfect for a late night drive and a silent ride home.
3.“Buttons” by Mac Miller
In the lead up to “Swimming,” Mac Miller released a series of singles, some of which made the album. Not this one. On “Buttons,” Mac Miller is in one of his playful moods, seen in both the lyrics and the beat.
4. “Too High” by Stevie Wonder
On this opening song from “Innervisions,” Stevie Wonder shows off his virtuosity. His use of the ARP synthesizer on this album, along with the subject matter of the lyrics, marks what some call the transition of “little Stevie Wonder” to the more mature version of himself.
5. “Din Da Da” by The Roots
On this nine-minute behemoth, Black Thought performs some incredible scats and beat-boxing, while the rest of the band jams. It’s one of the most fun Roots songs and also largely overlooked because of its placement as a hidden bonus track on “The Tipping Point.” The song is a cover of George Kranz’ dance classic by the same name.
6. “My Baby Just Cares for Me” by Nina Simone
Although a jazz standard written by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn from 1930, the song belongs to Nina. Her version from 1957 features her signature, soulful style.
7. “The Fairest of The Seasons” by Nico
On this opening song from Nico’s first solo album, you really hear the beauty and complexity of her voice. She was inspired by Andy Warhol’s film, “Chelsea Girls,” to call her album a similar name.
8. “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” by The Flaming Lips
The beginning of the Flaming Lips’ “Soft Bulletin” album is mesmerizing. It begins with “Race for the Prize” and then goes into this song. “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” begins slow but has an unexpected and absolutely fantastic change in music later in the song.
9.“Let Me Be Me” by Kendrick Lamar
Before Kendrick Lamar erupted into mainstream consciousness, he was a humble MC laying the foundation to one of music’s strongest discographies. On this second to last song of this 15 song EP, Kendrick takes seven minutes to explain himself and his hopes for what he wants out of music.
10. “Possibly Maybe” by Bjork
There are many reasons why “Post” is my favorite Bjork album. One of those reasons is this song and its experimental music video. The poetry in these lyrics is so tender and reads well without the music. Yet the music, produced by Bjork and Nelle Hooper, is a welcomed addition and is frightfully dreamlike.
11. “Motor City 13” by J Dilla
This past weekend was J Dilla weekend (he was born February 7, 1974 and died February 10, 2006). J Dilla was from Detroit, the motor city, and paid homage to the city throughout his brief but brilliant career. Rest in peace and beats, Dilla.
12. “Dear Dilla” by Phife Dawg
It’s bittersweet to think about this song. Phife Dawg (of A Tribe Called Quest) wrote this song in memoriam for his friend, J Dilla. Just two years after, Phife passed away. Both hip-hop legends died at a young age from health complications.
13. “Runnin’” by The Pharcyde
Arguably one of the best and most iconic hip-hop songs of all time, “Runnin’” comes off of the Pharcyde’s second album, “Labcabincalifornia.” The album builds on their first album, but this one is a little more soulful and mature.