Singing in rap has become inherent at this point, especially when it comes to hooks. Entrancing melodies have always had a proven track record of being successful in music. But in today’s age, where what someone is saying becomes second to how it's being said, it's even more apparent that a sung chorus can turn a regular song into a smash hit, as we’ve peeped in the last five years.
Let’s take it back to the mid-2010s, where Fetty Wap emerged as one of the most popular artists in the country. Fresh off releasing the somewhat legendary “Trap Queen” in 2014, and a handful of contagious party bangers like “My Way” in 2015, the New Jersey rapper continued to show the power in singing hooks with the release of “679” in 2015. That same year, Post Malone’s breakout single “White Iverson” adopted the same recipe, putting Posty on the map to stay.
Sung hooks have also spawned some of the biggest viral moments to come out of the last half decade. Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” led to its own social media challenge, Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” launched the Mannequin Challenge and Drake’s “In My Feelings” also ticked off the most memorable one to date, thanks to Instagram comedian Shiggy (if you see him, stop asking him to do that dance; we’re all tired).
Fast-forwarding to 2020, songs like Lil Mosey’s “Blueberry Faygo” and Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” have become certified hits because of their caroling choruses, causing Mosey to receive his first-ever platinum plaque and Roddy to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Today, XXL highlights the best sung hooks in hip-hop over the last five years, looking back at 15 of the most impactful examples. Once you peep this list, it’ll become obvious if not already why singing hooks have become a part of everyone’s formula.
Fetty Wap’s “679” was the icing on the multi-layer cake for the New Jersey prophet. Released halfway through 2015, following his bangers “My Way” and the Billboard Hot No. 3-charting “Trap Queen,” Fetty’s Monty-assisted “679” holds a contagious chorus so strong that you didn’t even have to look up the lyrics to memorize it. As the second official single for his 2015 self-titled debut album, “679” had the streets belting, “I'm like, yeah, she's fine/Wonder when she'll be mine” that entire year.
“White Iverson” (2015)
Post Malone’s breakout single “White Iverson” was everyone’s meditative pre-game song when it came out on Aug. 14, 2015. Housed on Posty’s 2016 debut album Stoney, the swaggy anthem “White Iverson” prompted celebrating life. Any time a song promotes an action, the impact will undoubtedly be stronger as we saw and heard with this one. Think back to the parties you went to in 2015: your fondest memories will have the lyrics “Saucin', saucin', I'm saucin' on you” coasting in the background as you recall your most intoxicated moments.
As the best song on Kanye West’s seventh album, The Life of Pablo, released in 2016, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” is a testament to freedom we all benefit from hearing. Attached to the memory of watching Kanye West and Kid Cudi jump in joy when they debuted the song for a massive crowd at Madison Square Garden, the song reflects the two longtime friends at their best, with Cudi floating over the chorus and ’Ye hitting us with those bars that’ll make you replay a few times. There was no song in 2016 that could change the energy to something positive and instantly sway the people like this one could.
“Black Beatles” (2016)
Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” shook up the internet more than any other song in the last decade. The Gucci Mane-assisted smash spawned the viral Mannequin Challenge, which outside of hip-hop, had an impact that extended past music to sports, fashion and politics as well. As one of the lead singles of their 2016 sophomore album, SremmLife 2, “Black Beatles” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Considering how everyone and their mother were playing the intro of this song and the infectious chorus non-stop when it released in August of 2016 to get their clips off, you shouldn't even be surprised.
The highly successful “Unforgettable” was the lead single to French Montana’s 2017 sophomore album Jungle Rules. The song, released in April of 2017, features a killer chorus from Swae Lee, who had and still has a proven track record of making hit records. Stealing the show, Swae’s high-pitched vocals put listeners in a trance, forcing them to put their head down and stomp along with the beat as their mind ran free. Despite how frequent the song was played, it was one of those gems that never got old because of its invigorating aura. Talk about a vibe. They hit it out the park with this joint.
“XO Tour Llif3” (2017)
Lil Uzi Vert
Let’s keep it real: Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” doesn’t even need an explanation as to how it holds one of the best hip-hop hooks over the last five years. Uploaded to Soundcloud in February of 2017, “XO Tour Llif3” became a classic right out of the gates. To this day, people are still screaming the chorus and empathizing with the idea that dead friends equals fat pockets. In fact, the hook is probably playing in your head right now as you read this. The seven-times platinum, emo rap song is planted on Uzi’s 2017 debut album Luv Is Rage 2.
Atlantic Records was on fire in 2017. In addition to Lil Uzi Vert, who was literally becoming a rockstar before our eyes with his own hits, Kodak Black continued to put Florida on the map with records like “Tunnel Vision,” released in February of that year. “Lil' Kodak, they don't like to see you winnin'/They wanna see you in the penitentiary,” he slurs on the hook, making his introspective reflection of the prison system sound entrancing to the ear. Generating a dance that you now do to every Yak song, “Tunnel Vision” provided a big push when it came to sales for Painting Pictures, the debut album the record was housed on.
“Lucid Dreams” (2018)
Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dreams” was originally released in July of 2017. But it was repackaged and repromoted the following year as a single on his debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance. The multiplatinum hit (it also has 1.3 billion Spotify streams) is an out-loud therapy session Juice was having about a sour relationship with a former flame, marking another peak of emo rap. The singing aspect comes from sampling Sting’s “Shape of My Heart” and interpolating similar melodic elements of Yellowcard’s “Holly Wood Died.” The beguiling hook is the main reason why this is one of the biggest songs to come out of the Chicago rapper’s short-lived career. Long live Juice Wrld.
XXXTentacion was a golden coin to music in his lifetime. He had two sides, one that was stunningly rigid and another that was depressingly tranquilizing, as heard in the March 2018 release of “Sad!.” Living on ?, his second and final album to be released during his lifetime, “Sad!” contains a vulnerability that made fans flock to the song and sing the hook as if it were a paragraph from their own diary. The simple phrase, “I'm sad, I know, yeah, I'm sad, I know, yeah” had an immediate and extended impact on a thriving subgenre of emo rap. Many fans would agree that this hook is one of the best to come out of X’s catalog. Rest easy, X.
Dropped as the third single to Post Malone’s second album Beerbongs & Bentleys, “Psycho” found success right out of the gates. Drafting Ty Dolla $ign for its release in February of 2018, Post Malone penned a hook that goes, “My AP goin' psycho, lil' mama bad like Michael/Can't really trust nobody with all this jewelry on you,” in the first two lines. It sounds heavenly and soft, showing that like a Sour Patch piece of candy, rap has a sweet side in addition to the sour one. The song eventually peaked at No. 1 in the country. And if you heard people singing it or playing it, it’s clear that they latched onto the hook more than anything else.
“In My Feelings” (2018)
“In My Feelings” was everybody’s go-to aux cord selection when it dropped in the summer of 2018. Housed on Drake’s 25-song album Scorpion, “In My Feelings” became the biggest viral hit since Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles”-inspired Mannequin Challenge a few years prior. Popularized by comedian Shiggy, the dance to follow Drake’s confessional love letter to Kiki had people jumping out of moving cars and chanting the hook like they were at choir practice, attempting to nail down the moves for their followers to see on social media. The hook of this song was an undisputed first-team selection if we’re talking impact.
“The Box” (2019)
Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” was the biggest song in the first half of 2020, spending more weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other record. Along with the “eee err,” fans gravitated to the easy-to-sing hook that contains drawn-out bars like, “She sucked a nigga soul, gotta Cash App/Told ’em wipe a nigga nose, say slatt, slatt.” The squeaky chorus was addicting upon hearing and lured fans to Roddy’s debut album, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, on which this song is featured on. Though the track dropped in late 2019, it’s still burning like incense do.
Finally looking past their long-winded beef, Chris Brown and Drake collaborated for the first time in June of 2019. The firepower in both artists made their collab record "No Guidance" a guaranteed hit before it even came out, but the sympathetic hook contributed to that as well. For the chorus, Drake and Chris Brown swap turns singing nothing more than a “You got it.” Well, nothing else was needed for this one to take the crown as one of the most popular songs to accompany any lituation. The record lives on Chris Brown’s 2019 ninth album Indigo.
“Blueberry Faygo” (2020)
Lil Mosey’s “Blueberry Faygo” survived the leak and thrived after the fact, which happens less often than not in rap. The record originally surfaced online in June of 2019, but saw an official release in February of 2020, along with the repackaged drop of the 2019 XXL Freshman’s sophomore album, Certified Hitmaker. This is Mosey’s most successful song to date, credited to the chorus where he sings, “One bad bitch, and she do what I say so/Two big .40s and a big ass Draco.” The lyrics are in fact way harder than the vibe, but irresistible to connect with nonetheless. You may try not to sing this when it comes on, but you won’t succeed.
Months after his tragic killing, Pop Smoke’s team posthumously released his debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon in February of this year. One of the biggest songs on the project is “The Woo,” which features 50 Cent and Roddy Ricch. The chorus pays homage to Pop’s gang and redirects the gritty association to something a lot more celebratory on the chorus. Like Chris Brown and Drake’s chorus on “No Guidance,” this hook doesn’t have much to it, but in honor of the fallen Brooklyn drill crooner, it’s been blaring out of people’s mouthes ever since it came out. Pop’s gritty, deep voice levels the impact up as well.