Keeping up with a wide range of music throughout the year is a task that most attempt but few achieve. Drake, Kanye West, H.E.R., Migos, and French Montana alone released 117 songs from just six projects in 2021. With there seemingly being a new release from a titanic artist every other week these days, staying abreast of lesser-known acts could prove a bit difficult.
For this list, VIBE decided to save the Billboard hits, viral sensations, and songs so popular your grandmother could sing them at karaoke for another day (don’t worry, those are coming, too). Instead, we compiled the best-hidden gems of 2021; the songs that other publications probably snubbed from their lists.
Forgotten legends, promising newcomers, and those on the cusp of superstardom all released songs as good as anything you’d find on a more generically curated year-end roundup. Here’s the best of what you (and your other favorite music site) might’ve missed in 2021.