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Southampton's 10 Most Trailblazing Tracks of 2020

“Yesterday technically marked exactly 1 year since SOuthside was founded, 30/12/2019, but we represent for the year 2020. In a period of isolation, fearmongering and uncertainty, 2020 was the year many remained stagnant. The booming, youth-driven South Coast hip hop scene, on the other hand, never stopped hustling - the kind of aggressive optimism that inspired us to try documenting the movement in the very first place. To celebrate a year, we’re honing it all in on where SOuthside started - Southampton - and taking a look at the 10 tracks that shook the SO scene in 2020.”

-Bruin White, editor.

Here's our Top 10 tracks that blazed a trail this past year, as ranked by our editor. Whether it signified a change of course for an artist, broke down genre barriers or left listeners absolutely mind blown, each of these tracks popped off this year.

10. Ripzaw x Jamb - Salt

Salt, while being a statement about the state of the rap game around the start of the year, also shows that FDAT’s ceiling is sky high. The K.P. & Envyi - Swing My Way sample works considerably well with the aurally illusive hook and the FDAT company’s distinctively fast flow. It marked somewhat of a return to production for FDAT, and we can only hope to see plenty more of it in the new year!

9. Tyrone x Warbz - Glow

The FooR-affiliated SO duo simply show no signs of slowing down. Tyrone, who notoriously hosted the Instagram Lives throughout both lockdowns, marked the duo’s first success of 2020 by getting Facebook verified all the way back in January. To end the year, the duo assembled the Sounds Of Southampton, Vol. 1 compilation album that currently sits atop the UK iTunes Hip Hop & Rap charts - twelfth across all genres - making local and national news. Glow as a track is another palatable banger with a catchy hook, yet one more for the portfolio of proof that the pair can consistently appeal to a broad age range - an ability that’s paying generous dividends. The release of the Glow video coincided with the country getting locked down in mid-March so, for some, Glow is a reminder of the pre-covid era. Glow is one tune that just couldn’t be missed off this list.

8. Shannon B - Limited

It’s a wonder how Shannon B had never laid a track before Limited. It’s a song she’d had in the locker for a while, and had performed live on occasions. However, this was her first effort in releasing a single; safe to say, it banged. All one could ask is that the track were 5 minutes rather than 3. Nonetheless, this solid summer groove makes our list as it marked the popular Shannon B’s first official music ‘drop’. She’s since gone on to feature in the Sounds of Southampton, Vol. 1 compilation.

7. Tia De Gannes ft. Madi Saskia & Wolf - Elevated

The title track for her Elevated EP is a head-bopping, shoulder-swaying, jazz-informed hip hop R&B neo-soul talkbox adlib amalgamation of groove. The intro for the track reflects on the past decade, with CRML Wolf later in his verse exclaiming ‘My view 2020 there’s sins, I’ve had many this time ain’t no messin round’, allowing the end of each line to pour into the next bar. CRML Wolf also designed the equally-impressive artwork for Tia De Gannes’ Elevated EP, which released in December. The three tracks on this EP are not to be missed, and - while it was Protect Your Energy which featured Bi0ch3mic that released as a single before the EP - it is the title track that poses both the most innovation and ‘loop playlist’-worthy longevity. Below is a link to listen to the track on Spotify.

6. Forbes - Bar Crawl

Bar Crawl is one of those tracks that makes you say “WTF”. On first listen, anybody familiar with the bar scene in Southampton will instantly have their mind blown by the opening bars ‘I’m with my XOXO uh, yeah she a Heartbreaker’. The emcee continues with a seemingly endless list of bars to seamlessly namedrop into a hard-hitting boom bap track. Bar Crawl was overlooked in favour of Breathe when the album that featured both tracks, Hello My Name Is Forbes, dropped back in the summer - but it was the staggering flow and wordplay that earned Bar Crawl the edge in making our top 10. After all, even the title is a play on words - is he spitting bars or drinking at them? Below is a link to listen to the track on Spotify.

5. Klaudia Keziah ft. L2R - Little Bit (Remix)

Klaudia Keziah released a quarantine-set video for her song Little Bit back in May. A gentle video accompanied the relaxing track that featured a modern instrumental with rhythmic snare rolls from production maestro JoJo F. While this served as a suitingly mellow self-isolation jam, what blew the top off the joint was when it was remixed into an uptempo R&B/rap summer number featuring Reading trio L2R. This was equally as suitable for its time as the original song, for this remix dropped during those beloved few weeks of tier 2 we had in the late summer. Anyhow, the tune slapped and earned itself the number 5 spot on our list.

4. Maria Cathalina ft. AK - La Luna

People were impressed when Maria Cathalina seamlessly flowed from English into Spanish, setting up for a latin-bodied, love-inspired R&B/rap track. But when AK started his verse ‘No hablo Español but I’ma hit it in Swahili’, proceeded to rap in Swahili, and came back with ‘Got me learning how to speak another language when you see me’; that took the whole track to another level. Maria Cathalina and AK, having grown up in the same area of Southampton, came together and made a tune that makes use of 3 different languages, yet can be enjoyed by people who understand none of the three. Partner these two with some masterful production by JoJo F and we have the taker for our number 4 spot.

3. AK - Overload

When somebody asks who Southampton drill prodigy AK is, Overload is the unmistakable banger you play. When it dropped back in June, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Overload being blasted from car stereos throughout the city during the summer nights. It’s a wonder how AK’s vocals haven’t already put him in the way of national fame but, as exclaimed in this track: ‘Southampton Holyrood Estate (ay), but they never came our way’. There’s not much more to say besides: tune.

2. Zuby - OK Dude

OK Dude is Zuby’s musical response to a viral Twitter scandal in which he, himself, was banned from the website for replying “Ok dude” to an insult from a stranger. The Comin’ At Ya rapper’s flow and lyricism hasn’t flopped a bit in the last decade, Zuby’s full-to-the-brim bars in OK Dude highlighting some of the contradictions and hypocrisy in online cancel culture. The track worked as somewhat of an anthem for Zuby’s large conservative American Twitter following, and the music video surpassed the 50k mark on YouTube quite quickly. The flows and the socio-political context of OK Dude land it as high as number 2 in our list, but the top spot was reserved for one particular summer vibe we all can’t wait to get back around to playing again.

1. Muru - Good Vibes

Good Vibes is what it says in the title. We’re almost certain google searches for Nas Illmatic XX t-shirts skyrocketed after the release of this video. The Lovemade Music-produced joint makes use of a female vocal sample and mbira notes to prefix the autotuned Muru aesthetic we were soon to be introduced to. In a year that needed some good vibes, Muru’s Good Vibes provided exactly that. This record preceded Muru’s 5-track EP New Levels, which ushered in a new sound for Muru and brought a lot of buzz to the Lovemade name. We’ll be playing this one at midnight tonight, as a reminder of how to deal with people in the coming year: ‘Only deal with good vibes, if your energy wrong then I’m moving left, aiiight?

Happy new year to you all, from SOuthside Magazine.

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