Here’s one thing I love about today’s semi-democratized, perpetually chaotic digital music space: Two of the most intimate ballads I heard in 2023 are nominated for song of the year at February’s Grammy Awards, while another one of my faves — a regional rap hit whose video has miles to go before its YouTube views even begin to sniff six figures — feels larger than life. Great songs need not be big to feel big. From nano to mega, these are my 2023 favorites.
10. Maz G, AyooLii, ‘Jack Tapp’
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Greetings from the epicenter of the Milwaukee rap scene, where the music feels mischievous and exhilarating; where young rappers are playful and prolific in mutually reinforcing ways; where the drum machine hand claps that seem to materialize on every eighth-note feel like perpetual slaps to the face; where mosh pits are said to break out at basement shows; where Maz G and AyooLii’s “Jack Tapp” embodies the energy of the whole scene, but with an exuberance that can’t quite be matched.