Year In Review: The Beat’s top 10 Baltimore songs of 2017

1. Peso Da Mafia, ‘Money Man’: The narcotic choruses croak, these verses jaggedly layer-cake, that beat knocks woozily. CDC-level infectious as anthems go, ‘Money Man’ lives and dies on a hook slow-motion enough that even non-dancers can get down to it: The moves its video prescribes or something more improvisatory. And if this massive, cash-as-cash-can anthem from Peso Da Mafia bodies hustling tropes, poetic license is there for Shordie Shordie, Purp, and Lor Dee to claim if they care to. Is this the real world? Is this just fantasy? Peso Da Mafia spit hard enough that the answers might not really matter. (Raymond Cummings)

2. Horse Lords feat. Abdu Ali, ‘Stay On It’: The visceral, heady Horse Lords, whose “Mixtape IV” consists of two lengthy compositions, includes this jaunty cover of Julius Eastman’s inspirational ‘Stay On It.’ Here, Abdu Ali provides an encouraging poem at the beginning—tying Ali to Eastman and therefore a history of black queer avant-garde with a club sensibility—and then Horse Lords’ precision-based art rock, flicks, flutters, and bangs on Eastman’s disco-y composition, bringing it a bit closer to the underground, and, in the process, further revealing its funk qualities (everybody kind of playing the same damn thing at the same damn time). Oh man, does this 20-minute modern classical composition swing. (Brandon Soderberg)

3. Lor Choc, ‘Fast Life’: Given the tax bill just legalized a nationwide heist and everyone from start-up thinkfluencers to prison abolitionists are jumping into cryptocurrency, literally every form of getting money is on the table right now. On what sounds like a xylophone from a water planet in “Super Mario Galaxy,” Lor Choc sings out to Black youth stuck on the supposed wrong side trying to game the pre-emptive block placed on them by what negligibly passes for a right one. Choc turns “put your hands up” into an inclusive call for anyone grinding on the east, west, south side, doesn’t matter, to “run your bands up” by whatever means necessary. (Adam Katzman)

4. Creek Boyz, ‘With My Team’: When Baltimore hip-hop sketches city life, it tends to go hard—Young Moose’s ‘Dumb Dumb,’ Bossman’s ‘Oh,’ hell, in the ’90s S.C.U. had ‘Murder One’ while Last Man Standing recounted a ‘Harm City Slaughter.’ Woodlawn’s Creek Boyz opted to talk about Baltimore’s murder rate in Dru Hillian four-part harmonizing. Yes, there’s that verse of everyday misogyny that distressingly abounds in too much male art. And, yes, when the local hit got upgraded for national audiences that murder rate line was neutered into “can’t nobody stop our shine,” but this catchy number remains a singalong strategy for survival through solidarity. (Bret McCabe)

5. Bobbi Rush feat. JPEGMAFIA and Micah E. Wood, ‘Nice Guy’: A standout cut from Bobbi Rush’s sensuous debut “Miles,” ‘Nice Guy’ flips the rapper/R&B singer duet paradigm in exciting ways. Usually, a guest verse from an emcee on an otherwise “soft” track is an excuse for said rapper to pantomime sincerity for a few bars before the radio hook kicks in, a tried and true formula to lend some masculine cred to a song aimed at women. Instead of that well worn formula, Micah E. Wood’s production lurches and JPEGMAFIA’s verse is a serrated aberration, cutting through the sweet tenor of Rush’s hook. It has the effect of feeling like two worlds colliding, rather than one sublimating the other, which leads to far more impressive results. (Dominic Griffin)

6. Amy Reid, ‘Only Tonight’: An ethereal slice of art pop, the lead single from Chiffon singer Amy Reid’s solo debut “Hirsute” pulses with the propulsion of a four to the floor dance record, but there’s a haunting, dreamlike quality to Reid’s expressive vocals, soaring amid a cacophony of synth burbles and a heart pounding drum beat. It’s soulful, like the PBR&B of recent years, but earnest, sincere in a way that trendier entries in the genre tend to miss. That bedroom pop production and her lush vocals bind to form a slinky tune that’s hard to stop playing, equally as effective through club speakers or earbuds on the bus. (Dominic Griffin)

7. Romantic States, ‘Lunch Date’: Drummer Ilenia Madelaire puts a Joy Division-bleak drumbeat underneath Jim Triplett’s two-note guitar line and haunted incantation of the lone lyric, “staying.” Now repeat for nearly four minutes as Madelaire every so often finds a cymbal and she slows the tempo to a sulking lurch as Triplett’s guitar splinters into a noisy buzz. By the time Triplett begins repeating “staying” for the 12th or 367th time, the song has become this anxious soundtrack for being young, arty, and completely unprepared for sexual tension. (Bret McCabe)

8. Glassine, ‘Day 1’: Consisting of manipulated audio recorded at this year’s historic Women’s March and with all the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood, Glassine’s clever, delicate composition has a lot of good will that goes with it, all of which would mean very little if the song itself weren’t also a transporting piece of ambient music with some appropriate edge. You hear chants, you hear snippets of dialogue, you hear percussive pounds, you hear laughter (also important in our politics: fun!), all held together by a quiet kind of Tim Hecker-like glow that is both triumphant and uncertain, melancholy. (Brandon Soderberg)

9. Dan Deacon, ‘Redlining’: Listen to Dan Deacon’s ‘Redlining’—named after the act of legislatively disenfranchising populations in specific areas along racial or ethnic lines, a central theme in Theo Anthony’s “Rat Film”—and you’ll detect hints of legendary composers like Philip Glass, John Williams, and Johann Strauss. A maestro’s grandiose piano flourishes give way to minimalist pings and thin, synthesizer drones that mimic bells and strings; that shift—from musical violence to sonic equivalent of drawing dotted lines in the sand—serves to literalize the song’s title. Even taken alone, this is powerful, conservatory catnip. While no one would confuse this with Deacon’s recent solo LPs, an increasingly considered approach colors his work. That his riotous Wham City epoch seems like it happened a century ago is no tragedy; something is gained here. (Raymond Cummings)

10. Bandhunta Izzy, ‘I Got It’: Less a break from the rest of the radio’s rap than a fine-tuned, aggressively local version of all the other songs in rotation, ‘I Got It’ illustrates how Bandhunta Izzy can hang with other regional rap heroes you hear on 92Q’s Hooligan Express such as G Herbo, Lil Bibby, or Willtharapper. He mixes a plain and simple hook (“I got the gang with me I got a shooter with me/ I got 100 niggas all masked up/ I don’t know who is with me”) with some sly writing and tricky battle rapper shit talk. “I got a problem, with fuckin’ up commas—to the point that I think I need help/ My momma, know I’m about it like drama/ And I stay with the gun by my belt,” Izzy raps, forever redirecting his flow, briefly going introspective, venting, confessing, low-key doing so many things, over eerie, haunted trap music. (Brandon Soderberg)

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