The end of the year is here and once more, we take on the task of attempting to list out our favorite Hip-Hop albums of 2022. Just as we do with our CRT FRSH playlist, our year-end wrap-up covers the entirety of Hip-Hop as we don’t believe in segmenting the music that represents the culture.
The list of Hip-Hop albums listed out below is not ranked. Instead, we put the projects in alphabetical order. As a note to readers, we didn’t hear everything that was released this year but what we liked, we kept in the rotation. To be very clear, any project that had less than 10 songs did not get included. If so, artists like Planet Asia, J Scienide, Backwood Sweetie (please do the knowledge), R.A.P. Ferreira, and a handful of others would very well be included.
For those we’ve omitted, it’s not a slight to you or your art. Trust us when we say we’re always looking out for new music to feature.
Check out the list below.
3 the God Way (Kaimbr, Let The Dirt Say Amen, Sean Born) – Mount Olympus
The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area has some of the strongest collectives of rappers, producers, and DJs in the world. The potent trio of Kaimbr, Let The Dirt Say Amen, and Sean Born, all amazing soloists, put together a body of work that should lead to more fantastic art from this gathering of the minds together and apart. The “DMV” is in good hands.
Ab-Soul – Herbert
I’m going to break the fourth wall here because I have to say that Ab-Soul’s “Do Better” helped me through an explosive mental health breakdown. I’ve always contended that Soulo was the best lyricist among the Black Hippy quartet, and Herbert proves much of that in droves. This is an album for the word nerds, lyric fans, and folks who lean into hearing a rapper challenge themselves with both vulnerable bars along with top-tier rapping.
Action Bronson – Cocodrillo Turbo
Action Bronson approaches music by using his outsized personality that seems coupled with a knowing wink to the listener that he’s just having a whole lot of fun barring out over dusty loops. Cocodrillo Turbo is a huge improvement from the entertaining Only For Dolphins. Bronsolini is still finding new ways to spit his fly Queens scriptures to the masses.
Benny The Butcher – Tana Talk 4
Benny The Butcher found himself focusing on the duties of a mogul as he continues to position his Black Soprano Family outfit correctly as a boss should. Tana Talk 4, in our opinion, is what many come to expect from the Buffalo, N.Y. star. Hard bars, plenty of dope production from the likes of Alchemist and Daringer, and features that make sense. Even more interesting is the fact that the album feels like The Butcher could’ve gone harder but seemingly held back.
billy woods – Aethiopes
The music of billy woods isn’t for everyone. For starters, there’s no real concern with sitting verses neatly in pockets. The dense poetics have several layers of meaning that no mortal will catch in one listen. That said, Aethiopes, produced fully by Preservation, sees woods toned down ever so slightly and even lets the listener in on who the mysterious rapper truly is. However, don’t mistake that for a dumbing down. This is still high-level intellectual rhyming.
Black Star – No Fear Of Time
Black Star, the duo of Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli, occupy a revered space in the world of underground Hip-Hop. After nearly 25 years after releasing their debut album, Black Star handed over the production keys to Madlib for a rousing listen showcasing the Brooklyn veterans at their best. While the album omitted the excellent “Fix Up” single, it still feels like a complete body of work and a hopeful sign of more to come.
Black Thought & Dangermouse – Cheat Codes
Black Thought has nothing left to prove regarding his formidable ability and it’s about time listeners take notice of his songwriting ability as well. Dangermouse provides the Philadephia lyricist plenty of open space for him to flex those noteworthy skills and impart wisdom in doses along the way.
Boldy James & Nicholas Craven – Fair Exchange No Robbery
Boldy James was productive in 2022 and any of his releases could be in place of this entry. That said, hearing the Detroit rapper alongside the capable sonics of Nicholas Craven was the perfect match. Mafia, what else?
Conway The Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes
Without an ounce of hyperbole, Conway The Machine is one of the best rappers to ever live but so much of his greatness hides behind the stark street tales inspired by his upbringing in Buffalo, N.Y. The Machine relaxes his bravado for just a brief moment or two on his major label debut album, proving there is more to Conway than the tough talk and dope boy bars.
The Cool Kids – Before Sh*t Got Weird/Baby Oil Staircase/Chillout
We abhor the term “blog rap” but we understand why people use it. For the sake of simplicity, The Cool Kids are two of the pioneers of the blog rap scene and paved the way for a number of artists. But while their contemporaries are coasting on safe beats and barely pushing themselves, Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish updated their already hard-to-imitate formula.
Defcee & Boathouse – For All Debts Public and Private
Chicago is a hotbed of talent in relation to Hip-Hop and Defcee carries on that tradition with pride. Across the scope of the album, produced by the capable hands of Boathouse, Defcee’s confidence and crystal clear diction are infectious and inspiring.
Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry is largely known for his high-energy rapping performances but Melt My Eyez See Your Future finds the Florida MC toned down considerably, revealing how deft Curry’s penmanship truly is. There’s still some bombast in the delivery but it’s toned down for clarity’s sake and the listener is better for it.
Drake & 21 Savage – Her Loss
Aside from “that line” (and you know the one we’re talking about), Her Loss is pretty much a 21 Savage showcase. Drake always finds new ways to talk his sh*t and the album isn’t always flawless but the production and the combination of the pair are hard to resist.
Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!
Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t seem concerned with accolades or notoriety, which makes his music feel urgent at all times. It always appears that the artist born Thebe Kgositsile is still figuring out himself and invites his fans on a meandering journey that ultimately leads to saving one’s self. While we do learn a bit more about the lyricist, what really occurs is that this is a man who realizes the power of his voice is too important to mute.
EarthGang – Ghetto Gods
EarthGang, the duo of Olu and WowGr8, is woefully overlooked by certain segments of the listening public. We almost guarantee that if people new to the group took Ghetto Gods for a spin, they’d become instant fans. The sophomore slump is not a thing to worry about when the artists are this dialed in.
Freddie Gibbs – Soul Sold Separately
Freddie Gibbs has released so much critically-acclaimed heat that it’s hard to believe Soul Sold Separately is his major label debut album. To those fearful that the leap to the majors would dilute Kane’s world outlook, the album is very much Gangsta Gibbs at his best. Even when he locks in with familiar cohorts The Alchemist and Madlib, the Gary, Ind. native still finds lanes.
Fly Anakin – Frank
Richmond, Va. isn’t known as a Hip-Hop epicenter despite boasting homegrown talents such as Skillz and Nickelus F among others. Fly Anakin, one of the founding members of the Mutant Academy, delivers his first true solo debut album to pleasing results. And despite the big names of Madlib and Evidence on the boards, the rapper born Frank Walton is why you’ll be tuning in.
JID – The Forever Story
JID or J.I.D. However you spell it, the Georgia rapper’s third album, a proper follow-up to his studio album debut The Never Story, is an invite to the mind of the Dreamville standout. JID can RAP rap but it’s not just alien-level bar work as he’s adept at telling stories, high-minded concepts, and a gift for melody. It is perhaps the finest album to be released this year.
Ka – Languish Arts/Woeful Studies
Ka is arguably Hip-Hop’s greatest lyricist, and we say this as his rhymes are just as much a part of the song as the mournful loops he raps over. With an emphasis on imagery and philosophy hardened by the realities of growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, N.Y., the pair of albums is best taken as a whole as they mirror each other’s melancholy along with the hope for more simmering right under the surface.
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Kendrick Lamar built his fame under the guidance of Top Dawg and cemented himself as one of the faces of the TDE empire. Now that the Compton wordsmith is on his own, his latest album captures the struggles and angst of wrestling with the concerns of the mind and self. It isn’t always a comfortable listen but it might go down as K-Dot’s best work as time goes on.
Little Simz – No Thank You
Little Simz released No Thank You on Dec. 12 and it immediately gripped us. Just like the preceding album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Simz shines over the production from Inflo, who some might know as the band leader of the R&B collective, Sault. Trust us when we say that Little Simz and her soulful delivery will grab your ears and won’t easily let go.
LORD JAH-MONTE OGBON & SadhuGold
LORD JAH-MONTE OGBON shows and proves that Charlotte, N.C. has something to say. Spending time between the Queen City and Bucktown, U.S.A., the well-traveled rapper, and his hyperkinetic flows sound most at home over Sadhugold’s atmospheric backdrop, but that isn’t to say other joints JAH-MONTE dropped this year don’t compare. There wasn’t a weak release from him this year.
Lupe Fiasco – Drill Music In Zion
Lupe Fiasco is a rhyme scholar, literally, this after taking on a teaching gig at MIT this year. Beyond his time in the academy, the Chicago rapper locked in with past producer Soundtrakk for Drill Music In Zion, which he recorded in 72 hours but, as one can expect with Fiasco, it doesn’t sound like it.
Marlowe – Marlowe 3
Marlowe, the duo of rapper Solemn Brigham and producer L’Orange, are on their third collaborative project. What you can always expect from a Marlowe album is clean, ear-catching production and one of Hip-Hop’s most captivating voices in Brigham.
MAVI – Laughing so Hard, it Hurts
Charlotte is back on the list again by way of the young wizard MAVI and continuing to display his gift of words that we discovered on his proper debut, Let The Sun Talk. Some people lump MAVI with Earl Sweatshirt and MIKE and while slightly accurate, he shares more of himself than ever before. Sometimes, MAVI’s voice gets lost in the mix and it feels like an intentional engineering choice to make one lean in and take in what he’s saying.
Meyhem Lauren & Daringer – Black Vladimir
Meyhem Lauren is perhaps best known to most due to his alliance with Action Bronson but it only covers one segment of his career. Linking up with Griselda producer Daringer, the gruff Queens MC sounds at home and delivers the rap performance of a lifetime.
MIKE – Beware Of The Monkey
MIKE won’t be for everyone and it’s a shame because the young MC and producer effortlessly packed entire universes of emotion into his verses. On this outing, it would be fair to call the album upbeat but it simplifies what the album is. MIKE is still concerned with honoring his late mother’s life and pushing himself to greatness. Frankly speaking, he’s already there.
Midaz the Beast – 84/87
Orlando, Fla. might not be the first city one thinks about when it comes to Hip-Hop but Midaz the Beast gives himself a grand opportunity to change that reality. Across two releases, 84 and 87, Beast proved why his rap moniker was chosen. A strong salute goes toward Delle Digga for the production.
Namir Blade – Metropolis
Namir Blade is a rarity, as the task of committing to a concept album is a difficult one. While Metropolis has weighty themes that won’t immediately grab everyone, the journey of discovery is sonically pleasing. The Nashville native notes that this is his first album as a full-time artist. And if this is the result, watch out, world.
Nas – King’s Disease III
Nas is officially a veteran voice in Hip-Hop and several rappers look to him as a living inspiration. In the third installment of the acclaimed King’s Disease series with Hit-Boy, Nasir Jones put on a clinic in the booth and sounded just as vibrant as some of the younger rappers that revere him.
Open Mike Eagle – Component System with the Auto-Reverse
Open Mike Eagle’s albums pack many of his grand ideas into neatly served portions. And sometimes, a peek into the mind of the Chicago native feels invasive but he’s actually inviting us to the party. His latest album is full of OME’s usual laserlike focus as a writer but never forcing the issue. There’s so much to love here.
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry
The undisputed champion of Coke Rap is Pusha T but for some reason, the bars don’t feel literal. In fact, and maybe this was always the case, Pusha’s lyrics feel like one extended metaphor delivered with the one-two punch of Ye and Pharell’s production.
Quelle Chris – DeathFame
It might be unfair to try and define Quelle Chris and his kaleidoscopic artistry. Every album release unveils another chamber of the fascinating, brilliant mind of Quelle and DeathFame might be the most interesting level yet.
Roc Marciano & Alchemist – The Elephant Man’s Bones
Our review here should explain everything.
Rome Streetz – Kiss The Ring
Queens has produced a bevy of great rappers and it’s a fine time to include Rome Streetz among that number. Now a member of the sprawling Griselda collective, Rome’s raps are sharp as ever and the intensity never relents for a second. Griselda honcho Westside Gunn’s ear for audio art is present across the album.
Saba – Few Good Things
Saba’s CARE FOR ME album would be a magnum opus for most artists. Somehow, the Chicago rapper dug even deeper into his reflective bag with his latest album and his writing has never been as gripping as it is now.
Sleep Sinai & Ohbliv – Shadow Self
Nebraska might not pique the interest of many Hip-Hop fans seeking the next one to watch within the genre. But for those who know how to dig and sift through the noise, Sleep Sinai is a worthy investment of time. Coupled with the production of Ohbliv, this might be Sleep Sinai’s top project yet.
Smino – Luv 4 Rent
Smino is hard to categorize. Is he a singer? Is he a rapper? He’s all of those things and then some. There aren’t many albums that contain this much soul and swagger in the same breath. St. Louis, stand up.
Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Vince Staples has yet to drop a clunker of an album and his latest release extends the streak. On this outing, the Long Beach native wrestles yet again with the reality of his upbringing but never scolding from a lofty perch. It’s somber at times, but still manages to offer glimmers of light in the darkness.
Westside Gunn – 10
Westside Gunn is finally closing the chapter on the HWH series and does so by bringing out the best in Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Black Star, and more. But the true star of the affair is WSG. The knock on the Buffalo boss is that he isn’t a great rapper but those claims should be put to rest. Westside Gunn is compelling as a rapper and it’s time the world accepts it.
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