Once again, this year has allowed music fans and critics from all over the globe to digest the UK Urban music scene for what it is. After years of underappreciation and an extreme lack of notice from outsiders, artists are finally being allowed to take their art and music to another level. The year of 2019 showcased more barriers being broken, wider audiences being reached, records being broke and ultimately another year of success. As the year draws to a close, it’s now time to look back at the tracks that have stood out over the past 12 months.
Whilst chart success and numbers are a key factor in lists such as this, we have made sure that this was not the sole reason behind a tracks placement. The longevity of a track throughout the year was key in it’s placement, as well as its impact on the artists career, the UK music scene and wider and society.
10. Jay1 – Your Mrs (March 2019)
You can guarantee that every year, a new breakout artist will make a movement to the top of the scene with a project or most likely, a breakout track. Jay1 had been making waves in 2018 with the release of “Becky” but 2019 has really been his lift off year. “Your Mrs” was the first track of the year for the Coventry based rapper. The “I’m taking your Mrs…Nah brudda’ I’m joking” hook pushed the song further as it circulated virally. Not only did those lyrics get blared out at concerts and shows that Jay1 performed at but it became lyrics that people would end up using completely out of context. You know you’ve got a viral song when people use your lyrics as an Instagram caption. Question marks will remain as to whether Jay1 can keep up and sustain the wave he is currently riding at the moment. The drop of his OneWave mixtape this year sent the sails of his ship flaying for a bit but that has not stopped the consistent release of music with his latest release being “Million Bucks”. He has a clear formula and is sticking to it.
9. Russ and Tion Wayne featuring Aitch, Jay1, Sav’O and Swarmz – Keisha & Becky (Remix) (April 2019)
Russ and Tion Wayne had teamed up earlier in the year for the original version of “Keisha & Becky”. Whilst the original could be included, the remix went that bit more viral and took off a bit more than it did with the original. Similar to Jay1 and Aitch, Russ was a fairly new artist and “Keisha & Becky” followed on from his previous hit, “Gun Lean”. Similar to the previous mentioned artists, it appeared that Russ had also got himself a working formula with his catchy Drill infused tracks. The remix music video boasts over 22 million Youtube views and over 43 million streams on Spotify.
8. Skepta featuring Nafe Smallz – Greaze Mode (May 2019)
The year that Skepta dropped his first album since Konnichiwa back in 2016. One of the lead tracks from the album was “Greaze Mode” featuring the Trap Wave/Trap R&B artist, Nafe Smallz. The beat was reminiscent of previous Skepta hits such as “It Ain’t Safe”, “Shutdown” and “That’s Not Me”. After the success of Konnichiwa that earned Skeppy the Mercury Prize award, no major projects or singles were released. “Pure Water”, “Energy (Stay Far Away)” with WizKid and his verse on Ambush’s “Jumpy (Remix)” . 2019 felt like Skepta’s return and “Greaze Mode” took us back to the Skepta of 2014/2015 that helped revive the scene and take over. The track boasts a throwback British sound mixed with the newage that could not be replicated elsewhere. The grimey feel to the beat, the homage paid to Dizzee Rascal in the lyrics “definitely I hustle blud, definitely I grind” from his 2004 hit “Jus’ A Rascal” blended with the new age of Trap auto-tune sound from Nafe Smallz is bliss to the ears.
7. Steel Banglez featuring AJ Tracey and MoStack – Fashion Week (March 2019)
Steel Banglez has continued to create bodies of work for artists that has seen him placed as one of the most highly regarded producers of the current UK scene. Banglez is known for his close working association with MoStack and the pair have rarely put a foot wrong in the past few years. Whilst AJ had released his debut album before the release of this track, MoStack would release his highly anticipated and, in hindsight, slept on debut album Stacko a few months later. The track peaked at #4 in the Charts and went on to achieve a Gold certification.
6. NSG – OT Bop (May 2019)
WE would love to have included “Options” in this list but what many people forget or do not know, “Options” was actually released in 2018 but is still make noise now! That is credit to the work and fresh sound that NSG have brought to the scene. “OT Bop” was their first single release following “Options” and the introduction of a new dance only boosted the track further. “Was meant to go Uni, sold drugs, got bagged…OH fuck!” were stand out lyrics to a feel good track that dropped in perfect timing for the summer.
5. Headie One featuring Dave – 18Hunna (January 2019)
Controversy, bans and many critics, the genre of Drill has not exactly had a great wrap these past couple of years. Used as a scapegoat by the authorities for the rise in crime within the cities of Britain, Headie One managed to take that limelight and bad name away this year. The Tottenham Drill rapper was known to many in the UK Urban scene but barely by many outside of it. “18Hunna” dropped in January and set the pattern for the rest of the year for Headie. Later in the year his debut album Music X Road dropped and was extremely well received by those in the scene but also critics outside of it. Clearly not an artist that is willing to change, his vision and obvious love for multiple genres of music has allowed him to fuse Drill with multiple sounds. The fusion of Drill, Rap, Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop and Trap allowed the sound, that was deemed dark and too violent for the mainstream, to finally find its way to the masses. “18Hunna” is an extremely well rounded hit that is helped by one of Dave’s best verses to date.
4. Young T & Bugsey featuring Aitch – Strike Me A Pose (June 2019)
Where as Jay1, Aitch, Russ and other artists this year have had their breakout years without too much of a previous catalogue, Young T & Bugsey have had slightly longer rises and multiple breakouts. The Nottingham duo came to prominence within the underground UK Rap scene of 2015/2016 with the release of “Glistenin'” and “No Mickey Mouse Ting”. Since then, it has been a steady rise with “4×4” two summers ago being somewhat of a first breakout. Followed by a 2018 that saw their first big breakout to the mainstream coming after their feature on the huge summer track “Ay Caramba” by Fredo and Stay Flee Get Lizzy. The Aitch feature on “Strike Me A Pose” has no doubt helped the push of the song with Aitch’s audience allowing songs to branch further than they may have previously done. Nevertheless, the track is a hit and has . The steps forward that Young T & Bugsey make are elevating them to a status that will surely, in a few years time, see people pin them up against the likes of Krept & Konan as the biggest duo in UK Rap. Over 50 million steams on Spotify, 17 million views on Youtube.
3. Stormzy – Vossi Bop (April 2019)
At the time of writing, the top three tracks in this list are still in the UK Official Charts 100 and will most likely sustain their places there, regardless of the Christmas hits. Able to hold its place in the Charts for 31 weeks, “Vossi Bop” actually became a concept for a track a few years ago through a dance created by a Twitter user. The track was eventually released in April and was Big Mike’s first music since the release of his Gang Signs & Prayers in 2017. Taking shots at the Government and Boris Johnson, “Vossi Bop” achieved number 1, over 75 million views on Youtube and over 130 million streams on Spotify to date. Tracks such as “Crown”, “Wiley Flow” and “Own It” have followed which are all cushion around a Glastonbury Headline to cement this year as Stormzy’s best year of his career to date.
2. AJ Tracey – Ladbroke Grove (May 2019)
Along with the artists that AJ Tracey is sharing the Top 3 with in this list, he has become one of the most versatile artists of the UK Urban scene. Differing flows and sounds has propelled him to become an extremely popular artist as he varies between Trap, Rap and Hip-Hop. “Ladbroke Grove” was even more of a surprise then when the beat, that samples Jorja Smith “Wandering Romance” track, was solely Garage influenced. Whilst the Grime has been mixed with Rap, Trap and Hip-Hop to achieve mainstream success, its predecessor that is Garage, has barely seen commercial success see So Solid Crew and their track “21 Seconds” back in 2001. “Ladbroke Grove” took over the UK summer and became one of the biggest tracks of the year as it currently sits in the UK Top 100 for it’s 41st week running. 22 million views on Youtube and over 70 million streams on Spotify is not half too bad either.
1. Dave featuring Burna Boy – Location (March 2019)
Whilst over the course of musical history, some tracks have resurfaced as hits after years since its original release. This could be due to its feature on a new popular film or due to it simply going viral. Nevertheless, it’s a rare phenomenon but it’s a phoenomin that seemed to somewhat happen to “Location”. Sitting in the Top 100 for 39 weeks, the track was released as part of Dave’s debut album Psychodrama. Whilst the album had many hits and tracks that can be discussed, “Location” stands way ahead as one of the best and biggest tracks of the year. The track went certified Platinum in August and played its part in a project that saw Dave achieve the Mercury Prize award for this year. The track is complemented by Burna Boy vocals on the hook but the smooth, elegant, piano keyed beat that was produced by Freser T. Smith, Jae5 and Dave himself The track, similar to “Ladbroke Grove” took over the summer and as such, the music video was not released until July with highlights from Merky Festival and featuring the likes of Michael Dapaah, J Hus, Stormzy and many more. While it was tough to pick between these Top 3 and it can obviously be argued, we felt that this whole song and music video has a feel good factor around it than cannot be disputed or topped.