UK rap (and, to an even greater degree, UK drill) has come under a bit of flak this year. The naysayers are circling with accusations of “bait samples” and a lack of originality, but when we sat down to run through our pick of the year’s best songs, it turns out that was a load of rubbish. In many ways, UK rap’s healthier than it ever has been. It’s dominating the charts with more silver, gold and platinum records than ever before and there’s still a thriving underground, too, where the genre’s progressives are tinkering away in the lab with new patterns, styles, techniques, constantly tweaking every aspect to see what will break through next.
But it was more than just rap that made this year so great for music heads. British R&B, a genre not always given the credit it deserves, gave us some stone-cold, timeless classics—and a couple of new stars as well. Believe it or not, FLO’s “Cardboard Box” was this year, which means that all their many successes have all been crammed into 2022. We also saw the emergence of 0207 Def Jam jewel Debbie, an unassuming figure in UK music who has also had a fruitful year, knocking out warming, soulful treats to see us through breakup after breakup. And it’s been a cracking with a capital ‘C’ year for club music—thanks in no small part to Eliza Rose, Nia Archives, KG and A.G. pushing house, Amapiano, grime and jungle into thrilling new spaces. Though not from the UK, Burna Boy, Oxlade, Black Sherif and Asake shook the world from Nigeria and Ghana with their Afro-fusion, Afrobeats and Asakaa anthems, songs that we absolutely had to include.
And finally, who could forget grime’s viral moment of 2022—Blay Vision’s “Cammy Riddim”? Born of a Street Fighter session with Jme and Shorty, it mobilised the grime scene in a way we hadn’t seen for years. Very quickly, Manga Saint Hilare, Dapz On The Map, Mayhem, Renz, Cadell, Devlin, Flirta D and countless other mic-sprayers were falling over themselves to get their version out (Skepta and Frisco’s version with DJ Maximum in NYC is an essential watch if you haven’t seen it yet). So it’s easy to think of this year as having been a bit muted, but that’s probably more to do with what’s going on outside of music, because when you drill down into the hard data, UK music’s smashing it harder than ever.
Check out the songs we were bumping the most this year down below, and to read more or see the official videos just click through the links. The full playlist can be streamed on the flip.
50. Kay-O f/ Digga D & Kwengface — “Laughing Stock (Remix)”
49. Manga Saint Hilare f/ Tia Talks, Renz, Squintz & Duppy — “OWT”
48. Björk — “Ovule”
47. Aeris Roves — “Pulling Me Closer”
46. Jianbo f/ Henry Wu — “Mongkok Madness”
45. Mowgs — “Not Like Me”
44. FLOHIO — “SPF”
43. #98s — “Eastside Story”
42. Teeway — “Groundworking”
41. Moko — “Back2Roadz”
40. Karen Nyame KG — “Taboo”
39. Nia Archives – “Baianá”
38. Loyle Carner — “Hate”
37. Duppy — “Any MC”
36. Renz — “PullUpInADinger”
35. Mura Masa, Pa Salieu & Skillibeng — “Blessing Me”