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Songs of Summer 2013: Hip-Hop and R&B


(VEVO | Epic Records)It was a huge summer for hip-hop and R&B, with epic releases by industry giants Kanye West and Jay Z (and equally epic promotional plans) and the continued resurgence of the simple slow jam. See which songs sizzled, and take a look at a few tracks that got lost in the hype along the way.

1. "Holy Grail," Jay Z
It doesn't get more grandiose than "Holy Grail," a song that brilliantly and brutally illustrates Jay Z's ongoing ambivalence about fame. Featuring Justin Timberlake vocals and a very ambitious Nirvana sample, the song probably wouldn't have worked in anyone else's hands. But this is the guy who not only titled his album Magna Carta... Holy Grail, but then showcased it ALONGSIDE THE ACTUAL MAGNA CARTA IN ENGLAND. So come on. He does grandiose just fine.

2. "Can't Hold Us," Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis started 2013 off with a bang, scoring the first independent number one song in the United States in nearly 20 years with "Thrift Shop." It wasn't long before they landed a follow up hit with the soulful "Can't Hold Us," which had actually been released as a single a full year before their breakout moment. Sometimes it takes a while for people to realize what's good for them.

3. "Body Party," Ciara
After years of label troubles, Ciara finally got the break she deserved with "Body Party," the relentlessly steamy track she wrote with her real-life boyfriend Future. The Mike Will Made It-produced slow jam got an extra saucy boost from the accompanying music video, in which she gives Future a very athletic striptease.

4. "Crooked Smile," J. Cole feat. TLC
There was a mixed reception for TLC's 20th anniversary re-release of "Waterfalls," which featured J-Pop star Namie Amuro on the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes' rap verse, but pretty much everyone loved the girl group's appearance on J. Cole's ultra-smooth Born Sinner single "Crooked Smile." Perhaps J. Cole, who raps about his bushy eyebrows in addition to his teeth, was inspired by TLC's "Unpretty."

5. "Same Love," Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Like "Can't Hold Us," "Same Love" was released long before the unstoppable success of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," but found a home on the airwaves after interest in the Washington duo skyrocketed. The touching tune was written in support of Washington Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in the state, and saw a surge in popularity after the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in July.

6. "BLKKK SKKKN HEAD," Kanye West
Kanye West is certainly capable of creating radio hits, but it appears he's lost interest for the time being. West purposefully avoided releasing a traditional single ahead of his album YEEZUS' release, launching the interactive music video for "BLKKK SKKKN HEAD" only after an embarrassing leak. The video, like the song, is intentionally disturbing and disorienting, but not nearly as powerful.

7. "U.O.E.N.O.," Rocko
It's unfortunate that Rick Ross' apparent failure to understand what date rape is cast a shadow over Rocko's otherwise brilliantly strange single, which hot the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.

8. "Get Like Me," Nelly feat. Nicki Minaj
The Pharrell magic that propelled "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" to the top of the charts has apparently not rubbed off on Nelly's latest single, but it should. Everyone should want to get sweaty to this song.

9. "Bad," Wale feat. Tiara Thomas or Rihanna
Of course Rihanna jumped at the chance to record a remix to "Bad" — she was probably down the moment she heard the first creaking bedspring. Raunchy.

10. "Hold On We're Going Home," Drake
Early in the summer, Drake told Rolling Stone that Marvin Gaye's classic divorce album Here, My Dear was a major influence on his upcoming album Nothing Was the Same. It was hard to hear what he meant on his lead single "Started From the Bottom," but with the release of "Hold On We're Going Home," it all makes sense. Rihanna is in love. The world will follow.

See the rest of Zimbio's Songs of Summer here.


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