This article is a work in progress and will be updated regularly until we reach the end of the year – where it will result in our list with 2019’s best Hip Hop releases. After a shaky start, 2019 is shaping up to be another great year for Hip Hop. To round up 2019 up to now, we’ve compiled this list with our favorite albums of the year so far.
Not included are instrumental albums, compilations (like Nas’ Lost Tapes 2), and EP’s (otherwise projects like Benny the Butcher’s excellent The Plugs I Met would have ranked high here). 2019 sees a continuation of the unfortunate trend that has artists drop a series of EP’s instead of creating ‘real’ albums – some artists even bill barely 30-minute-long projects as albums, HHGA considers 30-minute-or-less projects EP’s however, and we do not rank them on our album (= LP) list. Creating an LP is an art in itself, releasing a couple of songs as an EP or dropping a 20-minute ‘album’ with a bunch of 1 and 2-minute songs, just doesn’t cut it for us. But having said that, there are lots of dope EP’s out there, so we will not completely ignore them – scroll all the way down (below the Honorable Mentions) for a section with some of 2019’s best EP’s. With all that said – let’s get into it! (Last updated November 1, 2019)
Also check: Greatest Hip Hop Albums 1980 – 2019
1. Apollo Brown - Sincerely, Detroit
The most complete portrait of the Detroit Hip Hop scene ever? With 56 featured Detroit artists (with Eminem being the most notable absentee), it will be hard to argue against that claim. Sincerely, Detroit is Apollo Brown’s tribute to his hometown and a love letter to the culture. From different eras and different walks of life, veterans and newcomers alike lend their styles and deliveries to this 21 track album. Featuring artists like Royce Da 5’9”, Black Milk, Trick Trick, Elzhi, Slum Village, Guilty Simpson, One Be Lo, Bronze Nazareth, Kuniva, Clear Soul Forces, Boog Brown and many, many more, Sincerely, Detroit is a nearly comprehensive look at the styles and flavors of Detroit.
In this day and age of short hype-circles and short attention spans Sincerely, Detroit is a project with extraordinary substance – and not just because it runs for 78 minutes. Where lots of artists are content with dropping a bunch of 25-minute projects each year to stay in the public for as much time as possible, Apollo Brown goes the other way: taking the time to craft a work of quality that really resonates and that will undoubtedly prove to have longevity: Sincerely, Detroit will not fall victim to those short hype circles – you just wait and see.
Sincerely, Detroit has 21 tracks – 20 full songs and an intro – and each and every track is beautifully put together, showing and proving that Apollo Brown is a master at his craft. His ear for detail is evident, and you can sense the passion and love that went into the creation of this album. In the same week Kanye West drops a 27-minute project that fails on all fronts (with botched vocals and with instrumentals sounding rushed, and badly mixed and mastered), Apollo Brown shows how it’s done. 78 minutes is not too long if every single song is exquisitely executed. Apollo Brown’s smooth boom-bap is the common thread that holds this album together and from the host of featured artists nobody disappoints – who shines most will likely be dependent on the personal preference of the listener. Among our favorite tracks are “God Help Me”, “Dominance” and “Can’t Lose” – not coincidently tracks on which DJ Los adds extra flavor with some dope turntable work – but there are no filler tracks on this gem of an album.
Apollo Brown has been one of Hip Hop’s most consistent producers for over a decade now and with this project, he firmly solidifies his status as one of the game’s top dogs. Sincerely, Detroit is 2019’s best album so far and no doubt it will eventually rank among the decade’s best too.
Download Sincerely, Detroit
2. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana
Bandana is sure to be a contender for the Album Of The Year accolade. The first full-length collaboration album of the Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, 2014‘s Pinata, is a modern classic. The question was if they could do it again – the answer is a resounding yes. Bandana is cut from the same cloth as its seminal predecessor and is just as good, if not better. With Pinata they showed their apparent differences only served to create a result that was bigger than the sum of the two parts; with Bandana they prove it was not a fluke.
3. Rapsody - Eve
Rapsody’s third full-length is yet another step ahead for the North Carolina emcee. Both The Idea of Beautiful (2012) and Laila’s Wisdom (2017) were among the best albums of the years they were released in, so it was hard to imagine how Rapsody could equal the standard of quality she set for herself with her previous releases. With Eve she did just that though. The word (instant) classic gets thrown around much too much, and it remains to be seen how an album that seems to be something special upon its release holds up as the months and years pass – but it looks unlikely Eve is misjudged when the instant classic label is put on it – everything about Rapsody’s masterful ode to black women screams MASTERPIECE.
Class, confidence, style, intelligence, attitude, skill, power – Rapsody has it all and on Eve it all comes together to result in an album that will be sure to rank among the decade’s best. On Eve Rapsody continues her exploration of black empowerment and female strength, cleverly conceptualized by naming all 16 tracks after strong and inspiring black women. Rapsody’s lyrics are compelling throughout the whole album and the smooth and classy soundscapes (with some excellent sampling) are on point too. Holding momentum throughout a 16-track album is not a given, but Eve is sequenced perfectly – not a second is wasted and there is no filler. Outstanding and resonant – Eve is one of 2019’s best albums, no doubt about it.
4. Gang Starr - One Of The Best Yet
It has been sixteen years since Gang Starr’s last release (The Ownerz) and it has been almost 10 years already since Guru sadly passed away. Out of Gang Starr’s six albums, four can be labeled as undisputable Hip Hop classics: Step In The Arena (1991), Daily Operation (1992), Hard To Earn (1994) and Moment Of Truth (1998), while their debut No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989) and their last The Ownerz (2003) were more than solid albums too. With such an impeccable catalog, one could question if the risk should be taken releasing a semi-posthumous project which could potentially tarnish the near-perfect legacy. Most post-humous releases out there are little more than sad cash-grabs and do little justice to the artists’ legacies. One Of The Best Yet is not a 100% posthumous release of course, because even if Guru was not here to offer fresh input, DJ Premier was and if someone can be trusted to deliver a project of the highest possible quality it is one of the best and most influential producers in Hip Hop history.
One Of The Best Yet features appearances from J. Cole, Q-Tip, Royce Da 5’9”, Talib Kweli, Ne-Yo, M.O.P., Jeru The Damaja, Freddie Foxxx, Big Shug, Group Home & Nitty Scott – that’s a lot of guests, but they nowhere overcrowd Guru’s presence – this is very much a Gang Starr album and it doesn’t feel like a posthumous compilation at all. DJ Premier really does justice to the Guru material he was able to work with, One Of The Best Yet feels totally organic – as if they were in the studio together while recording the album. One Of The Best Yet offers Gang Starr’s typical brand of boom-bap: Guru’s voice remains unique and his powerful presence combined with Premier’s filtered bass lines, gritty samples, and signature cuts and scratches make One Of The Best Yet more than just a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane – Premier admiringly succeeds in keeping the old Gang Starr feel intact and in taking us back to that true NYC Hip Hop sound of the early 90s, no doubt One Of The Best Yet will turn out to be a more than worthy part of Gang Starr’s classic body of work.
One Of The Best Yet clocks in a little under 40 minutes, and we wished it could have been a bit longer – but even so: this album serves as a great exclamation point and a fitting closure to Gang Starr’s illustrious career.
Download One Of The Best Yet
5. Little Brother - May The Lord Watch
The North Carolina rap duo of Big Pooh and Phonte make a triumphant comeback with May the Lord Watch – their first project together since 2010’s Leftback and their subsequent split.
May the Lord Watch doesn’t have any production by original Little Brother member 9th Wonder but it has the great lyrical synergy of Big Pooh and Phonte we know from previous Little Brother albums. Truthfully, 9th Wonder’s input isn’t really missed, as the album sonically sounds exactly as we would have wished: soulful boom-bap from beginning to end, with most soundscapes provided by longtime collaborator Khrysis.
While Big Pooh and (especially) Phonte both dropped a bunch of dope projects individually in the last decade and a half, it’s clear they bring out the best in each other collaborating. Lyrically confident and astute, this album shows what experience and maturity can do for an album in terms of quality and execution.
Little Brother’s first two albums – The Listening and The Minstrel Show – are almost universally recognized as being among the best Hip Hop albums of the 2000’s decade, or even ever. May The Lord Watch, deserves to mentioned in the same breath, it’s that good. The only quibble might be the album is too short at ten songs: 5 of the 15 tracks are skits. Skits are usually nothing but useless filler and an annoyance, but on this album, the skits even serve a purpose (referring back to the UBN theme of The Minstrel Show). With some more tracks of the same quality and some fewer skits, May The Lord Watch could have been even better – as it is this is one of the best albums of 2019 anyway.
Download May The Lord Watch
6. Skyzoo & Pete Rock - Retropolitan
One of the most anticipated albums of the year delivers on all accounts. This is what happens when an elite lyricist teams up with an elite beatsmith and when everything clicks: 11 songs, all of them strong. The sequencing of the album is perfect too – “Glorious” is a confident opening track and it just gets better and better after that, with the last two songs arguably being the absolute best of the album. “Eastern Conference All-Stars”, is a dope a.f. posse cut featuring Detroit’s elite emcee Elzhi and Griselda heavy’s Benny The Butcher, Conway The Machine and Westside Gunn, and “Audacity Of Dope” is a blueprint of how Hip Hop should sound.
Retropolitan solidifies Skyzoo’s status as one of the most pre-eminent emcees of his generation. The Salvation (2009), Live From The Tape Deck (with Illmind, 2010), A Dream Defered (2012), Music For My Friends (2015), The Easy Truth (with Apollo Brown, 2016) and In Celebration Of Us (2018) are all excellent albums, but Retropolitan may just be Skyzoo’s very best yet – with Pete Rock behind the boards bringing out the best of him. Pete Rock has nothing left to prove but just adds to his legendary status with this album. Only time will tell if Retropolitan will eventually be considered in the same league as Pete Rock’s early classics Mecca And The Soul Brother (1992) and The Main Ingredient (1994), but don’t be surprised if this album is destined to be on the classic-shelf too. Beats and bars both of the highest quality and endless replay value mean Hip Hop at its finest: Retropolitan is one of the best Hip Hop albums of the year.
“You top 20? I’m half that at least, and that’s modest / If we’re being that honest then can’t too many follow this / Stage left, curtain drawn, Retropolitan”
7. Bobby J From Rockaway - Summer Classics
Summer Classics is the debut album from Queens, NYC native Bobby J From Rockaway. Boasting production from Hip Hop veterans like Kwame, Statik Selektah, Sway in the Morning’s DJ Wonder, and Jake One and features from lyrical heavyweights like Lil’ Fame and Killah Priest, the album is not only an homage to his hometown of Rockaway Beach but also to classic Hip Hop.
The title is inspired by the “Summer Classic” basketball league that has been a staple of his community for generations. In his own words, Bobby states: “I feel like every rapper wants that one song that dominates the summertime. My goal was to make a project full of those kinds of records. Something you can play from top to bottom while driving with the top down – Summer Classics.”
This is a GREAT album people, easily one of the best of the year. Summer Classics has been a long time coming and the time that went into crafting the album shows. 16 tracks, all flawlessly produced, sequenced just right and most importantly filled with lyrics worth listening to. Bobby has something to say and he possesses the pen-game and mic skills to carry an album by himself too. The guest verses Kwame, Lil’ Fame, Killah Priest, and Michael Fiya drop just add a bit of extra flavor – but four guest spots on 16 tracks mean Bobby J isn’t overcrowded on his own record like so many other artists are when they have a guest feature on almost every song on their albums.
Not a weak song on Summer Classics, but “The Collector” with Killah Priest, “Hook Drop”, a M.O.P. anthem with Lil’ Fame, “The Return”, which has Bobby and unsung icon Kwame trading well-crafted bars (“Its the return of the boom-bap black hoodie sh** / Back with the back and forth, back on our bully sh**”), “On My Own”, with its booming beat and echoes of Eminem, and the single “Hometown” are some of the definitive highlights.
“Does anybody make real sh** anymore?” Bobby J asks in the first lines of the opening song “Bobby J For President”. The answer is yes: Bobby J From Rockaway does. Don’t let the somewhat a-typical album cover art fool you – this is real Hip Hop, an album with great replay value and a must-have for anyone who likes authentic, quality Hip Hop with perfectly executed Golden Age Hip Hop vibes, without sounding dated at all. Summer Classics may just be the biggest surprise of the year and an album you need in your collection.
Download Summer Classics
8. Epic Beard Men - This Was Supposed To Be Fun
This Was Supposed to Be Fun, the debut LP (and second ofﬁcial offering) from Epic Beard Men, is an indie-rap tour de force by two of the underground’s ﬁnest; Sage Francis and B. Dolan.
On March 29 this gem of an album was dropped with little fanfare. That’s a shame because This Was Supposed To Be Fun is dope as hell and easily one of the best Hip Hop albums of the year. Fun and clever lyrics (full of references to Golden Age classics) and sonically knocking – This Was Supposed To Be Fun is a must-listen.
Download This Was Supposed To Be Fun
9. billy woods & Kenny Segal - Hiding Place
Always consistent in creating his own brand of Hip Hop, New York (by way of Washington DC and Zimbabwe) emcee billy woods once again does not disappoint. Pretty much everything he has dropped this decade has been stellar, be it solo or as part of Armand Hammer (with Elucid). Hiding Places has him collaborating with producer L.A.-based producer Kenny Segal – a partnership that results in another typical billy woods release. Deep, dark and weighty lyrics, sometimes bordering on surrealism but always intelligent and with substance – this is Hip Hop for grown-ups.
Download Hiding Places
10. Little Simz - Grey Area
UK’s Little Simz dropped a true gem with Grey Area. Grey Area is her third album after the release of four mixtapes and five EPs, and her debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (2015) and her second studio album Stillness in Wonderland (2016). Grey Area is her best effort yet, and a career-defining one. Nice and tight at ten tracks, Grey Area is utterly consistent and cohesive: all killer and no filler. Smooth, atmospheric production, poetically beautiful lyrics, and great flow and delivery. This is an excellent album that should appeal to almost anyone.
Download Grey Area
11. Tone Spliff - Ardore Melodico
Los Angeles based DJ and Producer Tone Spliff (who originally is from Utica, NY) drops a true gem with this crowdfunded project. Ardore Melodico (Italian for something like ‘fierce melody’) is one the best examples of the boom-bap renaissance that is going on right now. Tone Spliff is a producer AND a DJ – this album is not just produced flawlessly, just about every song has Tone Spliff scratching in carefully selected vocal samples – this emphasis on the DJ gives the whole album even more of that Golden Age vibe we obviously love.
Toen Spliff recruited a host of talented emcees to do his beats justice – Kool G Rap, Big Shug, Sadat X, Ed OG, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Illa Ghee, Ruste Juxx, Pacewon, C Rayz Walz, Tha God Fahim, Daniel Son, Ren Thomas, Young Lo, Solomon Childs, Realio Sparkzwell, Ill Conscious, Recognize Ali, Supreme Cerebral, Zagnif Nori, Kool Taj Tha Gr8, Localblac, Suezar, and Born Talent – adding this project to your music library should be a no-brainer if you’re a boom-bap head.
Download Ardore Melodico
12. L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae - Complicate Your Life With Violence
North Carolinian L’Orange is one of the most underappreciated producers active in the Hip Hop game in the past decade. He was responsible for excellent projects like The City Under The City (with Stik Figa, 2013), Time? Astonishing! (with Kool Keith, 2015), The Life & Death Of Scenery (with Mr. Lif, 2016) and of course the first project he did together with Chicago emcee Jeremiah Jae: The Night Took Us In Like Family (2015).
Like The Night Took Us In Like Family, Complicate Your Life With Violence is a concept album, examing the (insane) nature of war and violence by asking and answering some difficult questions on the subject. Guests like Chester Watson, billy woods, Zeroh, and Loji add their perspectives – resulting in a poignant project meant for thinking people. Even with Jeremiah Jae’s dense lyrical content being meaningful and outstanding, it’s L’Orange’s production that steals the show. Those familiar with his work will have an idea of what to expect: unique sampling choices, dirty drums, and atmospheric vibes throughout – it all leads to one of the most intriguing albums of the year.
Download Complicate Your Life With Violence
13. Brother Ali – Secrets & Escapes
At 33 minutes barely over EP-length, this surprise release by Brother Ali is an unexpected treat – Secrets & Escapes is a truly great project, despite its short running time and total lack of pre-promotion. Written and recorded in its entirety over the course of three trips Brother Ali undertook to Los Angeles and entirely produced by Dilated Peoples’ Evidence, Secrets & Escapes consists of 11 tracks, with guest features from Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, C.S. Armstrong and Evidence himself. Knowing Evidence’s production-chops and taking into account the fact Brother Ali has never released a weak project, one could say Secrets & Escapes deserved more pre-hype and more fanfare upon its release. Sure enough, Secrets & Escapes does not disappoint – this is a more than solid addition to Brother Ali’s consistently strong catalog. Awesome cover-art too!
Download Secrets & Escapes
14. billy woods - Terror Management
billy woods’ second release this year is just about as good as Hiding Places, his collabo with Kenny Segal is. Read the description from billy woods’ own website:
On his new album, Terror Management, billy woods weaves past, present and future into a dark tableau as hilarious as it is macabre. This is a place where skeletons spill from closets, lead pours from faucets and the punchline is the whole joke. This is the sound of the police not coming, of garbage trucks in reverse, of glaciers shearing off into a black ocean. But these are also tales of perseverance, compassion, and love, however quixotic. Of snatching one’s humanity from the fires that rage all about us.
Terror Management features production from Preservation, Blockhead, Willie Green, Messiah Muzik, Small Pro, ELUCID, Child Actor, Steel Tipped Dove, Uncommon Nasa, Jeff Markey, and Shape. Together they create a backdrop of seamless fragmentation perfectly suited to these times—this era of cognitive dissonance. Mach Hommy, Fielded, Pink Siifu, Akai Solo, Lauren Kelly Benson (fka L’Wren) and The Funs all make guest appearances.
If you’re familiar with and appreciative of billy woods’ earlier projects you will enjoy Terror Management without a doubt. If you’re a billy woods noob Terror Management is not a bad entry point (even if it’s not his best album) – the album is characteristic of woods’ left-field sound and style, but it is a bit more accessible than some of his other works are. billy woods is one of the most consistent and underappreciated artists of the decade and he deserves more attention than he is getting. Check out this album and the rest of billy woods’ catalog if you never did so before!
Download Terror Management
15. Black Moon - Rise Of Da Moon
15 tracks – no intro, no interludes, no skits, no outro: no wasted time – that’s exactly how we like our albums. 26 years after their landmark debut, Enta Da Stage, and 16 years after their latest release Total Eclipse, Black Moon comes full circle as they take it back to the essence with this fantastic reunion album.
Black Moon’s debut Enta Da Stage is definitely under-appreciated and doesn’t get mentioned as much as it should alongside albums like 36 Chambers, Illmatic, The Infamous and Ready To Die for being instrumental in putting NYC Hip Hop back in the spotlight in the mid-90s. Rise Of Da Moon finds the group’s original members (Buckshot, 5 Ft, and DJ Evil D) reunited; with Da Beatminerz handling all of the production. The album also includes appearances from Smif N Wessun, Rock (of Heltah Skeltah) and Method Man.
Just like fellow Boot Camp Clik-rappers Smif-N-Wessun did with this year’s The All, Black Moon does justice to its own legacy with an excellent return to Hip Hop’s spotlights. The group’s synergy is still evident and Evil D and Da Beatminerz really do a superb job – they supply 15 gritty but polished bass-heavy boom-bap beats for Buckshot and 5 Ft to spit their deadly lyrics over. Rise Of Da Moon is a must-have, at least for those who were around to enjoy Black Moon’s debut when it dropped. But the younger generation can’t go wrong with this album either – this is NYC boom-bap of the highest quality.
Download Rise Of Da Moon
16. Yugen Blakrok - Anima Mysterium
Yugen Blackrock is a female emcee from South Africa, who stepped on the international scene with a high-profile appearance on the Black Panther movie soundtrack. Anima Mysterium is her second album and one that should be her international breakthrough. Dark, brooding and atmospheric beats, with Yugen Blakrok’s abstract lyrics laced with mysticism and sci-fi-like subject matter – this album will not be for everyone, certainly not for the mainstream rap listener. But for those who are a little more adventurous in their Hip Hop tastes, Anima Mysterium will be an easy favorite.
Download Anima Mysterium
17. Blu & Oh No - A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night
Blu’s best release since his astonishing 2007 debut Below The Heavens? We think so. For A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Blu teamed up with Madlib’s younger brother Oh No to deliver an album that will especially appeal to those who feel a disconnect with today’s mainstream rap and yearn for that real Hip Hop from back in the day. A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer is a long album at 17 tracks, but not a second is wasted or out of place.
18. Anti-Lilly & Phoniks - That's The World
This is probably one of the most undeservedly slept-on Hip Hop projects of the year. That’s The World offers a dose of smooth and jazzy Hip Hop at its finest. Read the blurb from Anti-Lilly & Phoniks’ Bandcamp page to know what to expect:
“That’s The World from Houston emcee Anti-Lilly and Portland, Maine producer Phoniks is the third installment of their Hip Hop trilogy which featured 2014’s “Stories From The Brass Section” and 2017’s “It’s Nice Outside”. After going from exchanging beats over email in 2014 to now touring the world together the chemistry between the two has never been more evident than on their latest release.
Once again Anti-Lilly is laying his therapy sessions on record, speaking on his substance abuse, trust issues, relationships and coping with his parents’ divorce. But despite the negativity he touches on, the young Houston poet embraces the duality of life—taking the good with the bad and trying to find a ray of light in dark times. His outer pressures help craft the jewels he lays over Phoniks jazzy production as he showcases his mature, honest perspective across the albums 12 tracks.”
That’s The World: thoughtful, atmospheric Hip Hop for grown-ups.
Download That’s The World
19. Neak - Kwesbaar
What do you know about Neak? Too many people are sleeping on this multi-talent from Chicago. This album was released in April of this year and it has been flying so far under almost everybody’s radars it’s ridiculous. Kwesbaar, which means vulnerable in South African language Afrikaans, is a gem of an album and a must-listen for anybody who appreciates intelligent, confident, well-produced music.
What to expect from Kwesbaar? Check the description from Neak’s own Bandcamp page:
“Soaked in the elements of Hip Hop, jazz, soul, funk, and driven by heavy synthesizing and collaborative instrumentation, Neak designs a musical platform allowing him to discuss his greatest insecurities, agonizing internal fears, and featuring the trials and tribulations of people through many walks of life. Employing fluent rhyme schemes on striking subjects like, “Lost Fathers,” and “Gold,” to crafting a tribute to soul/jazz/funk legend “Kool and The Gang” on “Dreamer’s Sadness” where Neak orchestrates vintage synth leads, he plays himself. KWESBAAR pushes his musical prowess to a level beyond his past; demonstrating his love for retro production and true-to-life raps. Collaborating alongside a multitude of skillful musicians such as trumpeter Sam Trump, pianist Aminata Burton, alto sax player Caroline Davis, and rap luminaries such as GLC, Rita J., and Rashid Hadee, this album is nothing short of a masterpiece inside and out. KWESBAAR is Neak’s first introduction as an all-inclusive producer using the landscape of his life as a classroom moving from his current consciousness to the next.”
So now you know: stop sleeping on Neak and check Kwesbaar out – chances are that it’ll turn to out to be one of your favorite albums of the year, it definitely is one of ours.
20. A.J. Munson – Cigarettes & Coffee
A.J. Munson’s Cigarettes & Coffee dropped with little fanfare in the first week of this year. Huntington Beach’s A.J. Munson styles himself as ‘raw boom-bap’ beatmaker, and with this album he definitely lives up to that moniker. Cigarettes & Coffee is a producer album, with guest appearances from underground artists P Dirt, DJ Jason D, Verbal Kent, Pawz One, Big Pooh, DJ TMB, Wake Self, Ruste Juxx, M-Dot, Tha Soloist, Recognize Ali, Reks, Red Pill, MORris Done, Ren Thomas, Banish, Supreme Cerebral, Rick Mal, Nepaul, DJ L Nasty and Exit Prose – at 14 tracks full tracks Cigarettes & Coffee has plenty of dopeness to offer.
This album is straight-up boom-bap with beats sounding like they come straight from the early ’90s. And even if there are plenty of this kind of throwback-sounding albums around these days, this particular one is one of the best ones released recently – it’s diverse enough to keep your attention and A.J. Munson’s ear for sampling adds another layer of quality to his soundscapes. This is a must-listen album for those who like their Hip Hop with that traditional boom-bap sound.
Download Cigarettes & Coffee
21. Quelle Chris - Guns
Quelle Chris’ latest full-length solo release is not for everyone, which is par for the course with his music. On Guns Quelle Chris comes with his usual off-kilter drum patterns and heady wordplay, this time with a unifying theme: the impact of gun violence on American society and the uncertainties of living in modern America in general. Neither an easy nor an accessible listen, a few years down the road this album may turn out to be a modern classic anyway.
22. Czarface & Ghostface Killah - Czarface Meets Ghostface Killah
Much like 2018’s Czarface Meets MetalFace with MF DOOM, the collaboration of Czarface with Ghostface Killah makes perfect sense. Thematically and stylistically of course, but also taking into account the shared Wu-Tang history of Ghostface Killah and Inspectah Deck. Rebel INS has always been of Wu-Tangs best lyricists, and together with Boston underground legends 7L & Esoteric he is the process of putting together a pretty impressive series of albums as Czarface. Who better to recruit than Ghostface Killah to ensure the creation of another potentially timeless Hip Hop record?
Czarface Meets Ghostface Killah is top to bottom quality, mostly excellent from start to finish – maybe lacking just a bit of the ‘punch’ previous Czarface releases had. “Czarrade ’87″, ”Morning Ritual,” “Super Soldier Serum,” “Listen To The Color” (6 minutes of lyrical brilliance over changing beats), “Masked Superstars” are standouts, but the whole album slams. Dope bars and excellent boom-bap soundscapes – forget mumble rap, trap, autotune and fake singing – this is real Hip Hop right here.
Download Czarface Meets Ghostface Killah
23. People Under The Stairs – Sincerely, The P
People Under The Stairs – easily one of the most underrated duos in Hip Hop, ever. Underrated, but critically recognized and lauded by those in the know. Thes One and Double K have been dropping dope albums ever since their brilliant debut The Next Step in 1998, now they are closing off their amazing run with one last album: Sincerely, The P, the 12th and final album of the West Coast duo’s 20-year career in the Hip Hop game.
Sincerely, The P features 15 songs and clocks in at just under an hour – and it is hardly a surprise that after 11 mostly excellent albums, this one is another winner and a great way to go out for PUTS. Much respect to Thes One and Double K for their contribution to the Hip Hop canon – be sure to check out this album if you haven’t done so already.
Download Sincerely, The P
24. Nems – Gorilla Monsoon
Now, this is an interesting album. Hard beats and hard raps – NYC boom-bap at its finest. But there’s more to Gorilla Monsoon than that. Jazzsoon is a hell of a producer who lays down the perfect hard-edged soundscapes for Nems to shine on lyrically. Coney Island emcee Nems has been a renown battler-rapper for nearly two decades now and he succeeds here in translating his hard-as-nails attitude to ‘wax’ – something not all battle-rappers or freestylers succeed in – in fact most do not. What rises this album above most other albums in the NYC boom-bap renaissance that is going on right now, is Nems’ lyricism. His lyrics are hard-edged to the point of caricature – and as he uses a lot of humor in his rhymes anyway it’s not really clear where he is serious and what is tongue-in-cheek. It doesn’t matter either, as it all is entertaining as hell.
A thing that may spark some controversy is Nems’ use of the N-word in his songs, especially in these over-sensitive times. It can and has extensively been argued nobody at all should casually use that word in their lyrics but to hear someone like Nems do it – a guy of Irish-Puerto-Rican descent who almost looks as white as Eminem does – is sure to raise an eyebrow or two. Apparently (he talks about it on the album), he feels that being partly Puerto-Rican makes it OK. Oh well. Whatever you think about that particular subject – Gorilla Monsoon is a hell of an album and one of our favorite boom-bap projects of the year so far.
Download Gorilla Monsoon
25. Uncommon Nasa & Kount Fif - City As School
Uncommon Nasa is a veteran emcee/producer (as well as a poet and a writer), who has been making a name for himself in the New York underground for ages now – people who know about NYC Hip Hop will know about Uncommon Nasa. He’s not only known for the albums he released under his own name, but also for being an innovative producer – his left his mark on plenty of dope underground Hip Hop, including work on the boards (among other DefJux projects) for The Cold Vein, Cannibal Ox’s now-classic debut album.
Uncommon Nasa has collaborated with producer Kount Fif on City As School, a project that is influenced directly by New York City, with its stories, streets and also by living in the shadow of the giant city. City As Schools is Uncommon Nasa’s fifth full-length solo, and it’s produced fully by Kount Fif – he has done production-work for Nas, Killah Priest, Royce the 5’9, Action Bronson and more.
As Uncommon Nasa told HHGA: ‘The production on this project really fits with what I do well in so far as it’s heavy drums with vintage synth and prog-rock influences over the top. “City As School” focuses on my upbringing in NYC. In recent years I’ve written a lot about mortality and looking forward but with this record, I really wanted to focus on life and what life can bring you. It’s about respect for the footsteps that have brought you to where you are today. Most of the record takes place during my high school years and young 20’s but takes a few dips and dives into current times and how those formative years built to this present.”
The album features respected veterans Tek from Smif N Wessun, Sadat X, Pep Love from Hieroglyphics, Awol One, and Guilty Simpson, along with some long-time Uncommon Nasa collaborators like Karniege, Short Fuze, Duke01, Gajah and a variety of DJs. This is a great album: dope beats, scratches, and rhymes (Uncommon Nasa’s style echoes billy woods’ in places) – don’t sleep on City As School.
Download City As School
26. clipping. - There Existed An Addiction To Blood
There Existed an Addiction to Blood is… something else. A hate-it or love-it album without a doubt, this one either resonates with you, or it doesn’t – this is no easy-listening bubblegum fluff. Embracing horror as a theme, There Existed an Addiction to Blood is an exercise in exploring genre-boundaries. The album blends ambient, industrial, techno, noise, and Hip Hop into a unique mix, the horror-core theme adding to the dark and hallucinatory vibe that is consistently maintained throughout the whole album.
Clipping rapper Daveed Diggs may be better known for his acting, but here he once again proves he is an exceptional lyricist as well. His strong and at times brutal lyrical imagery perfectly suits the eery beats, to create an intense and claustrophobic atmosphere all the way through the album. Highlights are but not limited to “Nothing Is Safe” (the first song and perhaps the easiest accessible track on the album), “Blood Of The Fang” (check out the video too), “All In Your Head”, “La Mala Ordina” with Benny The Butcher and Elcamino (the two-minute harsh-noise outro is hard to listen to though), “Club Down”, and “Attunement” (with its chaotic soundscape a perfect last song leading the unconventional outro).
The album runs for 68 minutes, but the outro – “Piano Burning” – is an 18-minute field recording of…. well, a piano burning. Nobody will likely listen to this track multiple times, but the inclusion of “Piano Burning” as an outro makes sense somehow – just listen to this album with your headphones on, in the dark, and then let the whole thing digest while listening to “Piano Burning” – you’ll be in for a strong and unsettling meditative experience without a doubt. So: There Existed an Addiction to Blood is an album to REALLY listen to, and less suited for just having it playing in the background during your daily activities. It works best if you allow yourself to be immersed in it to let a chilling feeling of unease get under your skin.
This year we had an overhyped and overrated album by media-darling JPEG Mafia, an album on which he tried to be edgy, innovative and experimental by throwing some random sounds and noises together. Clipping doesn’t try to be experimental for the sake of it. The envelope-pushing production on There Existed an Addiction to Blood is near-flawless, and totally engrossing. As much as the listening experience may be unsettling, There Existed an Addiction to Blood is intriguing as hell (pun intended). There Existed an Addiction to Blood is one of our favorite albums of 2019.
Download There Existed an Addiction to Blood
27. Calig Kontra - Simian Automatic
Simian Automatic is the latest project by Calig Kontra, the New Orleans emcee f.k.a. Caligula, the first album under his new moniker. Simian Automatic has guest appearances by the likes of Shabaam Sahdeeq, Skratchmo, Pacewon, I.N.F., Tony Skratchere & C-Rayz Walz & Respect Tha God and sports production by Prospek, Kid Infamous, Vherbal, Conflikt, Black Panther, Vic Grim. Despite the presence of the guest artists, this is very much Calig Kontra’s own album – 12 of the 16 tracks have no features.
Also refreshing: all 16 tracks are actual songs, there are no interludes or other unnecessary filler, nor are there any weak songs. Calig Kontra’s is a real rapper too – he has the skills to carry a full-length album, and he has something to say. On Simian Automatic Calig Kontra offers us his views on the world we live in and the current state of our human existence. In his own words: “Everyone is supposed to be socially evolved, you’re seeing more and more mass shootings than ever, yet we’re so distracted and desensitized that it’s forgotten in less than a week’s time. We’re basically just primal creatures easily influenced by media, medicines, and a self-consumed fantasy world that most live in.”
Simian Automatic is underground Hip Hop at its finest – dope beats, and a great emcee who comes with bars with substance. This is an album with great replay-value which will most likely be ignored by all the mainstream rap music outlets in favor of trap-fluff, but it should rank high on any self-respecting Hip Hop fan’s end-of-year list.
28. Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin¿
Danny Brown is back, three years after he dropped the unorthodox masterpiece Atrocity Exhibition. uknowhatimsayin¿ is not as ambitious as his last project was, less experimental and much more accessible and laid back too. Does that make uknowhatimsayin¿ better or worse? That all depends on personal preferences of course, and maybe we shouldn’t be comparing projects anyway. It’s just that Danny Brown is such an interesting and authentic personality, it’s hard not to try and place each album he does in the context of his career.
uknowhatimsayin¿ definitely is Danny Brown’s most traditional-sounding project since his 2010 debut The Hybrid. Compared to the dark insanity of Atrocity Exhibition, this album offers more fun and lightheartedness. It’s probably just as well he didn’t try to make another Atrocity Exhibition, but instead went for a completely different direction, signaling personal growth and him being in a better place as a person. The opening track “Change Up” works perfectly as the intro to this project, with Danny immediately telling us that this will not be something that we heard from him before. Other standouts include “Theme Song”, “Dirty Laundry”, “Best Life” and “Negro Spiritual” (with JPEGMAFIA on the hook).
Danny Brown is a media darling and much like artists like Tyler The Creator and JPEGMAFIA (who both had overhyped and overrated projects this year), Danny Brown can do little wrong in the eyes of critics and fans alike. So the AOTY accolade is already stuck on uknowhatimsayin¿ left and right – but that’s a little fast and a little easy.
uknowhatimsayin¿ has 11 tracks (thankfully no irritants like skits and interludes) and the average track length is barely 3 minutes – catering to today’s short-attention-span crowd. This means the album’s playing time is just a couple of minutes over half an hour – just over EP-length and too short for a proper album, really. On such a short an album EVERYTHING has to hit for the album to be AOTY material – and there are a few weaker songs here, like “Belly Of The Beast” and the title track for instance, which are let down by the presence on the chorus of English Nigerian singer Obongjaya.
That said: uknowhatimsayin¿ really is a powerful project, expertly produced by the likes of Cartie Curt, Flying Lotus, JPEGMAFIA, Paul White, Playa Haze, Standing on the Corner, Thundercat and most notably ATCQ’s frontman Q-Tip. Q-Tip also executive produced the album, and his mark of quality is all over this album. In the long run, uknowhatimsayin¿ may not go and equal the masterpiece status of Atrocity Exhibition, but it is an instantly enjoyable listen – thanks to Danny Brown’s irresistible appeal and Q-Tip’s soundscapes. If not an AOTY contender, it deserves its place on this list among 2019’s top albums without a doubt.
29. Diamond D – The Diam Piece 2
The second edition in Diamond D’s The Diam Piece series improves on the already solid enough first release. Dope traditional boom-bap production throughout and mostly excellent guest spots by the likes of Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Styles P, Xzibit, Elzhi, Boot Camp Clik, Erick Sermon, Havoc, Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, O.C., Termanology, Raekwon, and others.
Download The Diam Piece 2
30. Smif-N-Wessun – The All
On February 22nd Smif-N-Wessun returned with The All. Tek & Steele fuse their flows with the signature sound of producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder and his duly respected producer conglomerate Soul Council, to create a nostalgic yet contemporary music experience. With guests appearances from Raekwon, Rick Ross, Rapsody and Musiq Soulchild we expect this to be another album that a lot of heads will keep on rotation for a good while.
The All is the duo’s sixth studio album (not counting their unreleased Rawkus effort), and a strong addition to their catalog. Sure, it’s not Dah Shinin’ – their classic 1995 debut which will likely forever remain their magnum opus – but The All is a strong album nonetheless. Solid bars, soulful soundscapes – we sure are happy with the return of Smif-N-Wessun.
Download The All
31. Common - Let Love
Common’s twelfth studio album is a difficult one to review. A meditation on love in all its forms, sonically it feels like a continuation of the quality of Common’s two previous albums – the all-around excellent Black America Again (2016) and especially of the smooth jazzy vibes of August Greene (2018). Having said that, Let Love may just be a little bit too smooth, too loungy, too sugary-sweet – compared to its predecessors it just lacks a bit of punch. But of course, this IS a Common album and it’s hard not to love the man and his music. Let Love is full of positive vibes and inspiration without being (too) cheesy or preachy. In this stage of his life and career, Common is mature and confident enough to share his experiences and perspectives through his music, he doesn’t have anything left to prove and even if this labor of love is a project that will not be counted among the best of his albums, it is a worthy addition to an excellent body of work.
Download Let Love
32. The Good People - Good For Nuthin'
Good For Nuthin’ is an album that will be ignored by most people, and that’s too bad. Of course, HHGA is prejudiced – but Good For Nuthin’ is exactly the kind of Hip Hop we like: throwback Hip Hop done right. Sounding like it came straight from the Golden Age of Hip Hop, this album will satisfy any listener who fell in love with Hip Hop back in the day.
Download Good for Nuthin’
33. Hemlock Ernst & Kenny Segal - Back At The House
Hemlock Ernst is the ‘rap alias’ for Samuel T. Herring, Baltimore’s indie synth-rock band Future Islands’ frontman. For Back At The House Hemlock Ernst got together with Kenny Segal, the LA-based producer who already has one of the best albums of 2019 under his belt with Hiding Places, his excellent collabo with the unsung billy woods.
Back At The House, while not quite the masterpiece Hiding Places is, is a great album in its own right. Attempts of rock singers who try to rap are more often miss than hit, but Hemlock Ernst pulls it off (just check out his lyrical dexterity on the stand-out track “Down”) – not in the last place thanks to the instrumentals Kenny Segal provides. Kenny Segal’s atmospheric soundscapes perfectly fit Hemlock Ernst’s raspy and soulful growl – whether he’s rapping or singing the hooks. The synergy between the two is evident, and it’s one of the strengths of the album. Cohesiveness is another one: Back At The House has 11 tracks, all produced by Kenny Segal and with all vocals done by Hemlock Ernst. No feature artists, no interludes or other distractions – it all adds to a nice and tight album that deserves its place among 2019’s best.
Download Back At The House
34. Taiyamo Denku - The Book Of Cyphaden
Taiyamo Denku, a veteran emcee from Milwaukee, drops a real dope project with The Book Of Cyphaden. You might recognize his name from his many collaborations with Hip Hop heavyweights, now it looks like it’s finally time for Taiyamo Denku himself to take the spotlight. The Book of CyphaDen holds 14 tracks in total, but unlike most of his previous releases, seven of the tracks are feature-free. There are still plenty of notable collabs though, including the Snoop Dogg and Rambunxious feature on “Red Lipstick”, Blueprint on “Believe In Change”, Afu-Ra on “Swordplay” and Tattoo on our favorite track “Surgery”. Australian producer Dcypha takes care of the production (13 tracks are produced by him, one track – “End Game” – by the Beatminerz. The beats serve as a perfect backdrop for Denku’s dope bars and lyrical prowess – this is a real emcee who impresses with his skill set. Check this album out if you haven’t done so already, you won’t regret it.
Download The Book Of Cyphaden
35. XP The Marxman & IceRocks - Nomads
Born and raised in Los Angeles and from Mexican descent, XP The Marxman is an underground emcee you may not know yet, but that’s about to change. For Nomads, XP teamed up with NYC beatsmith IceRocks, like XP The Marxman a name unknown to too many Hip Hop heads but that is sure to become a fixture in Hip Hop soon enough. For Nomads, IceRocks lays down impeccable, atmospheric boom-bap soundscapes for XP to spit his riveting bars over. With guest appearances from XP’s former crew Rhyme Addicts as well as underground colleagues such as Roc Marciano, Madhattan, Hus Kingpin, DXA, Supreme Cerebral and Big Twins, Nomads is a well-rounded, cohesive, and entertaining project that boom-bap enthusiasts will want to add to their collection.
36. SOL Development - The SOL Of Black Folk
Crossing genre-boundaries sonically, spiritually this album from Oakland’s SOL Development is Hip Hop to its core. Emcee Karega Bailey, together with singers Brittany Tanner, Felicia Gangloff-Bailey, and Lauren Adams drop an important album with The SOL Of Black Folk. This is powerful music with a message – reminiscent of Public Enemy and Ice Cube in their best days. Don’t sleep on SOL Development.
Download The SOL Of Black Folk
37. Bronx Slang – Bronx Slang
Bronx Slang was released on March 1st of this year and flew way under most people’s radars – even real heads might have missed it. If you missed it too and if you’re into quality boom-bap Hip Hop with that authentic vibe all-around, check it out now – this album is sure to satisfy your nostalgic cravings.
Bronx Slang – the duo consisting of veterans Jerry Beeks (best known from his solo work on the Bad Magic label) and Ollie Miggs (from rap-rock band Shootyz Groove) – released this 12 track gem following three dope singles “Well Well Well”, “Run Away Suckers” and “Ladies And Gentlemen”. This album has no useless skits, no mumbling, no choppy flows, no crooning, no trappy high hats – just straight-up traditional Hip Hop with great word-play: lyrics worth listening to and dope flows, with echos of the rapping styles of legendary emcees such as old-school pioneer Grandmaster Caz’s and Philly’s underground mic-slayer The Last Emperor. And even if the beats and the mic skills on Bronx Slang have a definite throwback feel, the lyrical content is both contemporary and pertinent.
Download Bronx Slang
38. Learic & Es-K - Thought Instruments
Vermont’s Hip Hop scene is popping – lots of dope acts coming out the Green Mountain State of late. Thought Instruments is a dope collaboration effort of emcee Learic and producer Es-K. It’s clear that a lot of time, love and attention went into the making of this album – seamless production of the 16 tracks results in an entirely cohesive album with no filler at all. Also, there’s plenty of great scratch work (by DJ Kanganade), which contributes to the album’s perfectly executed throwback vibe. With the sonic foundations more than solid, it’s Learic’s lyrics and wordplay that make this album the gem that it is – dope flows and clever content all the way through. A lot of people will sleep on Thought Instruments and that’s a shame, it is without a doubt one of 2019’s hidden treasures.
Download Thought Instruments
39. Joell Ortiz - Monday
A year after his excellent Apollo Brown produced Mona Lisa, Brooklyn emcee Joell Ortiz is back with his 7th full-length album. Joell Ortiz may have had his biggest moments in the spotlight as part of Shady Records’ supergroup Slaughterhouse, but his best work he did on his own. The Apollo Brown collabo Mona Lisa arguably is his very best album to date, but Monday is not far behind. Apollo Brown crafted a couple of tracks (“Sip Slow” and “Same Time”) the rest of the production duties are shared amongst Nottz, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Hesami and The Heatmakerz.
Joell Ortiz is a true lyricist, a real rapper. On Monday he seemingly effortlessly shows what lyricism is about – this is an album with lyrical substance complemented by smooth production throughout. The album has 12 tracks, refreshingly with no skits and no guest emcees at all (other than Big K.R.I.T. and Blakk Soul, who do the hooks on two songs) – just goes to show that a veteran emcee like Joell Ortiz can easily carry a full album by himself, without the need to bring in outside help.
40. Dope KNife - Things Got Worse
This is a great album by an underrated artist. Dope KNife, hailing from Savannah, Georgia, has been making a bit of a name for himself in the underground in the decade past but he hasn’t had much of real spotlight yet. That might, or should change with the release of this album, his fourth solo project. Sonically and lyrically Things Got Worse is deliciously dark and gritty and it gets better with every listen. This is one of those rare albums that is totally consistent throughout – no skippable tracks at all. Check out this album, you will not regret it.
Download Things Got Worse
41. $wank & King Draft - TwoFive To Jersey
Released on 9th Wonder’s Jamla label and completely produced by 9th Wonder, this album (released on May 31 of this year) is flying so far under everybody’s radars it’s shameful. Shameful for Jamla because obviously their promotional efforts are lacking, shameful for us Hip Hop fans because most of us are sleeping on this project. Of course, Rapsody’s Eve is a Jamla album that received maximum exposure, but Eve was pushed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label too. The reality is that Jamla roster holds so much talent and TwoFive To Jersey is an album that needs more attention. To add extra flavor to 9th Wonder’s wonderful beats, $wank and King Draft recruited Jamla artists like Ian Kelly and Rueben Vincent to do a few guest appearances. All in all, the beats and rhymes on this joint are of the highest quality – this is pure Hip Hop and a top 50 album of the year.
Download TwoFive To Jersey
42. Jim Jones – El Capo
Do you know how new albums you really get into when they are released quickly can lose their attraction and turn out to be forgettable and not at all as good as you thought after those first few spins? Jim Jones – of Dipset fame – dropped an album on May 31 that is the exact opposite. El Capo is an album that grows on you, an album with a lot of replay value. The main strength of El Capo is production. Production duties are handled entirely by longtime Diplomats producers Heatmakerz, they came up with an album full of knocking 808s with that NYC sound and feel for Jim Jones to spit his bars over. And even if it is the soundscapes that are stealing the show here, there is nothing wrong with the lyrical performances either. Jim Jones is still improving as an emcee – and a number of well-placed guest spots by the likes of Jadakiss, Cam’ron, Dave East (and others) add extra flavor but Jim Jones proves he can carry an album by himself, no problem. A few corny choruses aside, this album is Jim Jones’ best solo to date and a totally enjoyable listen from front to back – one that gets better with every spin.
Download El Capo
43. Your Old Droog – It Wasn’t Even Close
It Wasn’t Even Close is Brooklyn’s Your Old Droog third full-length project, and his best up til now (even if the previous two were pretty damn good too). Droog (which means friend in Russian, Your Old Droog is of Ukrainian descent) is a dope emcee, with personality and wit – which makes his lyrics more than worth listening to. There are a few features on the album, most notably of Roc Marciano and MF DOOM, who drops a sick verse. Dark boom-bap beats and great lyricism – this is a fine project from one of the most interesting personalities in the game today.
Download It Wasn’t Even Close
44. Papoose - Underrated
Mixtape king Papoose returned this month to drop his 3rd studio album, aptly titled Underrated. An LP with two distinctively different sides, but both hit hard and make for an overall excellent album. Papoose has always been a top-tier emcee with way above average intelligence and bar-writing ability – and he shows off his lyrical skills all over this album: on the raw boom-bap tracks that start of the album and on the mature and more emotionally-laced songs that make up most of the second half of this album.
“Golden Child”, the ode to his and Remy Ma’s child will strike a chord by other young parents, and tracks like “Precious Jewel” – an articulation of his love for his wife Remy Ma -, “Discipline” and especially “Time Is On My Side” are strong tracks that deserve a close listen as well. Other favorites are the hard-hitting opening track “Underrated” and the DJ Premier-produced “Numerical Slaughter”, a sort-of sequel to Papoose’s own legendary “Alphabetical Slaughter” track. Make no mistake – Papoose’s Underrated is a dope-as-hell album.
45. Truth – The Fight For Survival
The Fight For Survival, the follow up to his well-received 2016 album From Ashes to Kingdom Come is another certified banger. The Fight For Survival features the likes of Ill Bill, Tragedy Khadafi, Royal Flush & DJ JS-1; production by Large Professor, PF Cuttin, Da Beatminerz, JK1 the Supernova, DJ Doom and Raheem Isom (DreadInNY). Raw lyrics, dope scratches and knocking boom bap beats, reminiscent of the 1990s – this is another one of those albums that are made for the HHGA demographic.
Download The Fight For Survival
46. Dave – PSYCHODRAMA
Dave is a 20-year-old talent from London in the UK, and with PSYCHODRAMA he has dropped an incredible debut album. PSYCHODRAMA plays like a kind of a cathartic therapy session, with Dave exploring issues like family, relationships, identity and life in general. The whole album is great, but be sure to check out “Lesley”, a gripping 11-minute tour-de-force that depicts an abusive relationship and its shattering fallout in harrowing detail.
In some places the hooks are bit corny and here and there the beats fall a bit flat – but these are minor quibbles. This album is all about Dave’s insights, this is an album to sit down and really listen to. Because of its raw emotional content PSYCHODRAMA is not an easy listen, but it doesn’t have to be – there’s more than enough fluff music out there, this is music with substance. PSYCHODRAMA is an album that will grow on you with multiple listens, and it may be placed too low on this list – it could very well end higher on our end-of-year round-up.
47. Ras Kass - Soul On Ice 2
Ras Kass dropped his debut album in 1996 and he is still going strong today, almost 25 years later. His debut, Soul On Ice, will likely forever be his magnum opus (if only for “Nature Of The Threat”, one of the most controversial songs in the history of Hip Hop). Soul On Ice 2 is not as impactful as Soul On Ice was, but it has enough shining moments to be considered one of Ras Kass’ best works. Ras Kass is a lyrical beast, one the most lyrical emcees the game has ever known. But just like fellow lyrical heavyweight Canibus, Ras Kass was usually let down by the so-so quality of beats on most of the projects he released over the years. Even Soul On Ice‘ s strong point never was its production, and the same can be said for Soul On Ice 2.
Although we are always going on about today’s unfortunate trend that sees more and more 30-minute ‘albums’ filled with 2-minute songs, resulting in projects that really are too short to be called albums, the opposite can be a problem as well. Soul On Ice 2 sports 16 full-length tracks resulting in well over an hour of music – there’s bound to be some filler and weaker tracks. With a couple of dull instrumentals and a few tracks with weak hooks (“Midnight”, “Street Superstar” and “LL CooL J” come to mind), the album could have been stronger if 4 or 5 tracks would have been left off the album.
Negatives aside, there are some true bangers and flashes of brilliance on this album. Lyrically Ras Kass still is unbeatable, and tracks like “Silver Anniversary”, “White Power” (with Immortal Technique), the 7-minute bonus track “Opioid Crisis”, and “Shark Week” are musical and lyrical gold. So: Soul On Ice 2 may be a bit of a mixed bag, but when it’s good it’s great – a must-listen for those of you appreciative of lyrical Hip Hop.
Download Soul On Ice 2
48. Homeboy Sandman - Dusty
Dusty is the ninth studio album by Queens, New York emcee Homeboy Sandman, his first one on the Mello Music Group label. Homeboy Sandman is a well-respected underground emcee, and an acquired taste – similar to a contemporary and frequent collaborator Quelle Chris in that regard. Dusty is produced entirely by Mono En Stereo (previously known as RTNC), who also provided beats for some of the Homeboy Sandman earlier Stones Throw releases. Dusty is more accessible than some of Homeboy Sandman’s earlier releases, and consistently entertaining because of Homeboy Sandman’s interesting thoughts and observations – with a few stand-out tracks like “Yes Iyah” (with Black Thought-like bar spitting), “Wondering Why” (reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest’s “What”) and the soulful “Picture On The Wall”. Dusty is a bit (too) short at 34 minutes but it’s a worthwhile listen and a dope Homeboy Sandman project nonetheless.
49. Ubi - Under The Influence
This is a GREAT album. Ubi (of Ces Cru fame, you might know them as one of the main acts on Tech N9ne’s Strange City label) is a great emcee with clever wordplay and lyrics you want to listen to, and the beats are more than nice as well. We could have done without a few songs in the middle of the album with sung choruses that don’t really fit, but overall this album (a combination of 3 previously released EP’s, plus some extra tracks) is dope a.f.
Download Under The Influence
50. Murs & 9th Wonder - The Iliad Is Dead And the Odyssey Is Over
Ever since his debut album F’Real in 1997, Murs has been dropping dope projects consistently, solo as well as collaborative. With 9th Wonder, Murs released 7 albums up til now: Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition (2004), Murray’s Revenge (2006), Sweet Lord (2008), Fornever (2010), The Final Adventure (2012), Brighter Daze (2015), and now The Iliad Is Dead And the Odyssey Is Over – supposedly their last album together.
Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition will likely forever be the best album the two have put out together, The Iliad… is a more than fine album too, however. Murs’ storytelling abilities are superior as always and 9th Wonder’s soulful boom-bap soundscapes are mostly wonderful too. A few filler songs on this relatively short album prevent a higher ranking, but overall this is a quality project. If this really is the last time we’ll ever hear Murs and 9th Wonder together on a full-length project, then they are going out on a high note.
51. Erick Sermon - Vernia
Erick Sermon’s long-teased eight solo-album finally dropped in April. Was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding yes. With 30+ years in the game and responsible for a whole bunch of classics – as part of EPMD and as a producer for others – Erick Sermon has nothing left to prove, his prominent place in Hip Hop history is assured. Nevertheless, The Green-Eyed Bandit shows he still has it in him not only to be relevant in 2019 but to be able to drop one of the best albums of the year up til now.
Vernia has something for everybody – both heads nostalgic for the Golden Age as well as listeners who are not rooted in the old days should find plenty to enjoy on Vernia. Artists like Keith Murray, AZ, Raekwon, Too $hort, Xzibit, N.O.R.E., David Banner, No Malice, Apathy, Big K.R.I.T., and Devin the Dude show up as guests to add flavor to Erick Sermon’s own rhymes and even Shaquille O’Neal drops in to do a verse on “Zion”.
Check out “The Game”, one of the stand-out tracks on Vernia, on which Eric Sermon gives his views on the current state of Hip Hop. Also notable is “Cabinet”, a dope cut on which Double-E is president and where he picks his cabinet members from the Hip Hop pantheon. Other than these two, there are 11 other great songs on the album, no useless skits, no filler – just a dose of real Hip Hop.
52. Awon – Soulapowa
Awon’s Soulapowa will not be for everyone, but for those listeners who dig extremely smooth, soulful and jazzy boom-bap this album is gold. Brooklyn-born Virginia-resident Awon teamed up with long-time collaborator Phoniks to craft this timeless-feeling album. Timeless because Soulapowa would have been right at home in the early 90s alongside A Tribe Called Quest or Digable Planets and timeless because this album will still sound fresh and timely 20 years from now. Soulapowa brings nothing new or revolutionary to the table, but it is a really well-executed album, filled with soulful soundscapes and thoughtful lyrics. An album to kick back and relax to.
53. Gladiator Pen – Roman Numeralz
This has to be one of the most slept-on projects of the year. Gladiator Pen is a Hip Hop collective established in 2012, consisting of Hip Hop artists who raise money for literacy causes in the Southwest through events and album sales. Gladiator Pen currently has five emcees (Mr. Miranda, Phal Kilmer, Blaze Rock, Floyd Write & Mister Riot), two producers (Rashad Cross & Pac0naut) one poet (Roknowledge), one singer (Marques Elliott), and one DJ (DJ J20). Together they are responsible for Roman Numeralz, a 17-track tour-de-force. The album has an old-school boom-bap feel, but is filled with contemporary musical influences as well – it all mashes together perfectly. In this era of EP’s, two-minute songs and short attention spans, a long, well-executed album like this one is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Download Roman Numeralz
54. Marcel P. Black In Search Of The Black Messiah
Baton Rouge Lousiana emcee Marcel P. Black comes with his most ambitious project to date with In Search Of The Black Messiah. About where the inspiration of this project came from Marcel P. Black says in his own words: “In Search of The Black Messiah is a discussion about race, religion, empowerment, physical, & mental health. It’s based on J. Edgar Hoover saying, and I paraphrase, “We must separate the young Black male from the revolution, in hopes of preventing the rise of the Black Messiah.” It’s a call to do the work to find the next young brother or sister to lead us to freedom.”
Tackling subjects like politics, race, religion, police, family, gender, and more this is a project with substance. It helps Black’s gruff flow is a pleasure to listen too and the whole project bangs sonically, plus there are some dope features too, most notably from Skyzoo who makes an appearance on one of the stand-out tracks “Someday”. All in all, this is a pretty great album you would do well to check out.
Download In Search Of The Black Messiah
55. Last Sons - Chekhov's Gun
Clearly, this is a project for listeners with an acquired taste, Checkhov’s Gun will most likely not appeal to the casual Hip Hop listener. This is an all-around outstanding album nonetheless – one that demands complete attention but one that gets better with every new listen.
Nottingham, UK duo Furious P and Duke01 are Last Sons, for this project they got together with Uncommon Nasa, the veteran underground NYC rapper/producer. Uncommon Nasa’s distinctive production style is evident throughout the whole album, his industrial flavored beats and unconventional noise patterns coming off like a cross between work from the Bomb Squad and El-P in his early DefJux days. It all culminates in an intense listening experience, also because of the weighty lyrics by Duke01 and the prominently featured turntablism from DJ Furious P.
Dense, but never impenetrable – Chekhov’s Gun is a GREAT hybrid of UK and NYC underground Hip Hop. Check this album out if you are up for a dose of progressive production, intense lyricism, and excellent cuts and scratches – you will not be disappointed.
Download Chekhov’s Gun
56. Marlon Craft – Funhouse Mirror
NYC’s Marlon Craft is a name that has been buzzing on the internet for a couple of years now, with a bunch of mixtapes and EP’s released in the last four years. This year he really makes his mark with his official debut album, Funhouse Mirror. The project includes features from Dizzy Wright, Nyck Caution of Pro Era, Ricky Motion, and Evan Crommett. Production duties are shared between Arbus Beats, Black Milk, DJ Green Lantern, Statik Selektah, and DJ Skizz. With a lot of live instrumentation and tasteful jazz influences, Funhouse Mirror is extremely pleasing sonically and Marlon Craft has got a dope flow and great bars with a lot of substance and depth – touching on topics ranging from mental health to racism to the importance of family. Funhouse Mirror is a great listen, don’t sleep on Marlon Craft.
Download Funhouse Mirror
57. Inspectah Deck – Chamber No. 9
Inspectah Deck’s best solo release since his debut solo album Uncontrolled Substance (1999). Strangely enough, this project gets much less attention than the album he dropped with Czarface this year. And even if we prefer that album over this one, Chamber No. 9 is not to be slept on. This project has Deck doing what he does best: spitting dope bars over dark, hard beats. The best release out of the Wu-Tang camp this year.
Download Chamber No. 9
58. Injury Reserve - Injury Reserve
Maybe it shouldn’t have worked, but for us, this Phoenix trio somehow succeeded in mixing up mainstream influences with avant-garde, experimental Hip Hop. Reminiscent of (though not quite as good as) Run The Jewels in places, Injury Reserve is an album that is impossible to recommend – it either works for you or it does not. Check it out if you haven’t done so already:
Download Injury Reserve
59. Diabolic – The Disconnect
You may know Diabolic from his feature on the hidden track after Immortal Technique’s song “Dance with The Devil” or from battle-rap fame. The Disconnect is his fourth full-length album and arguably his best – offering a mixture of introspective storytelling and hardcore East Coast Hip Hop with Diabolic’s signature, razor-sharp lyrics over hard-hitting, gritty boom-bap beats.
Download The Disconnect
60. Bun B & Statik Selektah – TrillStatik
Wow – talk about a unique kind of project! UGK legend Bun B and renowned boom-bap producer Statik Selektah recorded this project in just under 12 hours, live-streaming the album’s creation. Check their whole recording session here.
TrillStatik offers the best of both worlds: Statik Selektah’s fat boom-bap beats merged with that butter-smooth UGK Southern vibe, with guests like Method Man, Talib Kweli, Fat Joe, Westside Gunn, Big K.R.I.T. and many more adding extra flavor.
61. Vinnie Paz & Tragedy Khadafi – Camouflage Regime
Nothing innovative or revolutionary here – just two veteran underground heavyweights with proven chemistry who do what they do best: spitting hard-ass rhymes over a bunch of simple but dope bass-heavy boom-bap beats. The album is consistent as hell, if there’s a highlight it’s “Fibre Optic Weopans”, with its ominous beat, nostalgia-inducing scratches and some dope rhymes by Paz and Tragedy and especially guest emcee Ill Bill. Camouflage Regime is nice and tight at 11 full tracks, with no skits, interludes or other useless filler – fans of Vinnie Paz and Tragedy Khadafi will not be disappointed.
Download Camouflage Regime
Special Mention: 38 Spesh - 1994
38 Spesh is a producer/emcee from Rochester, NY who has been dropping fire solo and collaborative releases in the Hip Hop underground for over a decade now and is perhaps best-known for his close affiliation with Griselda heavy-hitters like Conway The Machine and Benny The Butcher, and also for his 2018 collaboration Son Of G Rap album with the legendary Kool G Rap.
This year he already a couple of dope EP’s, this compilation arguably is the best of his output this year. 1994 serves to celebrate the 25th year anniversary of one of the best years in Hip Hop. 1994 features a host of the most buzzing emcees in underground Hip Hop and 38 Spesh has them all rhyming over classic beats he remade, adding his own flavor, for this project.
38 Spesh recruited Benny the Butcher, Conway The Machine, Rim Da Villin, Hus Kingpin, Eto, Rome Streetz, Daniel Son, RJ Payne, Che Noir, Elcamino, Grafh, Cory Gunz, Jamal Gasol, Jai Black, Ty Farris, Fred The Godson, Rain 910, Black Geez, Flashius Clayton, Ampichino, G4 JAG, and Planet Asia – and he makes an appearance himself on the re-working of the Scarface classic “Never Seen A Man Cry”, where he follows verses by Conway and Benny with some killer bars of his own.
With other song-titles as “New York State Of Mind”, “Times Up”, “Mass Appeal”, “Come Clean”, “Warning” and “Bring The Pain” you know what to expect if you know anything about classic Hip Hop songs. 38 Spesh did justice to the original songs beats-wise and the roster of emcees shows and proves that there is more than enough rap-talent in 2019 and beyond to go around. 1994 is a project that should appeal to old and young heads both: classic beats beautifully revamped for this day and age, with fresh rhymes by a bunch of dope emcees – just got to love 1994.
Special Mention 2: O.C. – The O-Zone Files: Rare Demos & Unreleased Tracks
Like Nas’ Lost Tapes 2 this O.C. release is not eligible for inclusion on this list as it is a compilation of old material. Where Nas’ Lost Tapes 2 compilation was OK – good but nor great (a couple of bangers, but also a few songs that should never have been released), this O.C. compilation is pure gold.
The O-Zone Files: Rare Demos & Unreleased Tracks is a massive collection of rare songs, unreleased demos, remixes, mixtape exclusives and freestyles from DITC’s own legendary O.C. With 7 solo and 6 collaborative albums under his belt, Mr. Omar Credle compiles some of his best but hard-to-find work including many classic recordings spanning from his first demo recordings in the early ’90s, all the way into his seasoned sounds during the early ’00s. Of course, all of his Diggin’ In The Crates cohorts pop up here including the late great Big L, along with his Organismz Crew (a la Organized Konfusion and Mr. Complex).
With 51 tracks (!), this colossal compilation is intended to quench the thirst of any die-hard O.C. or DITC fan and bring to light many sought-after cassette dubs that now have been sourced from original masters and digitally remastered.
Download The O-Zone Files
Special Mention 2: 8Ball & MJG - Classic Pimpin'
Released on January 2nd, this album flew way under most people’s radars. Normally we don’t include greatest hits or compilation albums in our years best lists, but this 8Ball & MJG release is a special case. 8Ball & MJG have always operated a bit in the shadow of other trailblazing Southern acts like OutKast and UGK, but over the years they have put together a pretty impressive body of work, as a duo and as solo artists as well. Classic Pimpin‘ is a collection of the legendary Memphis duo’s 12 greatest songs, recorded live – this album is mastered so brilliantly that most tracks sound even better than their originals. A mandatory listen, not just for 8Ball & MJG fans.
Download Classic Pimpin’
- Swamp Thing – Cherry Mongoose
- Yikes The Zero – An Echo Storm Howling
- HARRIETT – Damani Nkosi & ill Camille are HARRIETT
- Dark Lo – American Made
- Ty Nitty – Nitty The God
- Krum & Theory Hazit – Here’s Mud in Your Eye
- Libretto & Buscrates – Eternal Ridin’
- Carta’ P. & Parental – A Beautiful Mess LP
- Choosey & Exile – Black Beans
- Hus Kingpin – Slime Wave
- Malibu Ken – Malibu Ken
- Clear Soul Forces – Still
- The Lost & Found – Alternate Ending
- Pistol Mcfly – Road Trip
- Ullnevano & Logic Marselis – Dustin Grime
- CHIKANO & Granddad Woolly – EXPRMNT VII
- Donwill – One Word No Space
- The Opioid Era – The Opioid Era
- Equipto – Few And Far Between
- JB Nimble – Moondog Orchestra
- Free Enterprise – Free Enterprise
- YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy
- Pivot Gang – You Can’t Sit With Us
- Day Parkay – Achieving While Bleeding
- Baritone Brothas – The Double B
- Big Shug – The Diamond Report
- Compton’s Most Wanted – Gangsta Bizness
- Billy Danze (M.O.P.) – THE Bakers Dozen
- David Bars & Showbiz – Bars & Beats
- Big D & Easy Mo Bee – This Is My Life
- Mike – Tears Of Joy
- The Legion – Three The Bronx Way
- DJ Muggs & Crimeapple – Medallo
- Ghostface Killah – Ghostface Killahs
- Blockhead – Free Sweatpants
- Westside Gunn – Flygod Is An Awesome God
- Von Pea – City For Sale
- Loaded Lux – Talk Dirty 2
- Napoleon Da Legend – Coup D’etat 2
- Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. Iz Here
- PiRo – The Adventures of PiRo
- Zilla Rocca – 96 Mentality
- Horror City – SuperStar 6th Boro
- JK1 The Supernova – Hip Hop Doesn’t Love You Back
- Kool Keith – KEITH
- Kool Keith – Computer Technology
C. Keys & Kazi – Keys 2 Kazi
- The Cloaks – Cloak Encounters Of The Third Eye
- Jazz Spastiks & People Without Shoes – Green Street
- RJ Payne – Square Root Of A Kilo
- Daddy O – From My Hood 2 U
- E40 – Practice Makes Paper
- Wordsworth & Pearl Gates – Champion Sounds
- NF – The Search
- Snoop Dogg – I Wanna Thank Me
- Tone Liv & Decay, the Llama – Gas Station Sushi
- Termanology & Dame Grease – Set in Stone
- Dip Diver – Aquanauts
- Kuniva – The Bando Theory
- Shady Villains – Monsters In The Attics
- Guy Grams – Gramzilla
- J. Sands – The Black Revolution
- Jay ARE – Youth Culture Power
- Royal Flush – The Govenor 2
- Jidenna – 85 to Africa
- Abstract Rude – Making Lava Tracks
- Maid – Third Eye Power
- MF Grimm – America Hunger Rebirth Vol. 2
- B Leafs – The Horizon
- ButterKnife Haircuts – I Rolls Dolo
- Knowledge The Pirate – Black Cesar
- Dillon – The Tails of Lobsterdamus
- Snowgoons – Infantry
- Marc Swing & Wildelux – Open Letters
- Henry L.O. – Viberayshuns
- Mussie – Adolescent Tape
- Rain 910 – Forgetting Tomorrow
- Comet – Cataclysm
- Solomon Childs – Wu-Tang BBQ
- Wu-Syndicate – Illustrious
- Heaven Razah – Ockham’s Razor
- Heaven Razah – Spiritual Scarface
- Agallah – Brownsvillain
- Ill Conscious – Logistix
- Viro The Virus & Snowgoons – From Jersey To Germany
- Napoleon Da Legend – Holy Grail
- Horror City & Parental – Supa Vill’n
- Nature & BP – The Laws of Nature
- Chris Skillz – Eternal Bliss
- Valid – Mihajlo
- Struggle Jennings – The Widows Son
- Rashid Hadee – Aural Sex
- Myka 9 – Tonight’s Program
- Vic Spencer – Bah Wounds
- Obie Trice – The Fifth
- Mr. Muthaf***in eXquire – Mr. Muthaf***in’ eXquire
- Gorilla Voltage – Gods & Claws
- Lowkey – Soundtrack to the Struggle 2
- Promoe – The Art Of Losing
- Mr Sos & Mr Enok – Eleven/Eleven
- Criss Jrumz – Street Light Therapy
- Gibrilville – Black Cadillac Season 3
- Keith Murray – Lord Of The Metaphor 2
- JuneLyfe – Lyfe Or Def
- Sean Strange – Street Urchin 2
- Mathematik – ReAL/iS-HiM
- AYOK – 2K19
- A.M. Breakups – Soldier
- Tiing – In Tune
- Your Old Droog – Transportation
- Avatar – Vox Populi
- Blackfist – World Manumission Defense
- Smoovth – Young Smoovth
- Tech N9ne – N9NA
- Spice 1 – Platinum O.G.
- C-Black – Unlimited Dreamer
- Brandough – The Grey Album
- Styles P – S.P. The GOAT: Ghost Of All Time
- Lingo – Chance Of A Lifetime
- Tha God Fahim – Soul Dust
- Ankhlejohn – A-Cold-World
- A-Plus & Knobody – Grow Theory
- Tree & Vic Spencer – Nothing Is Something
- MED & Guilty Simpson – Child Of The Jungle
- Suga Free – The Ressurection
- Kota The Friend – Foto
- Brandon Banks – Maxo Kream
- Count Slick – Alive
- Nolan The Ninja – SPORTEE
- Ca$his – The Art Of Living
- Beast Coast – Escape From New York
- Megan Thee Stallion – Fever
- Kill Bill & Rav – New Moon
- Tree & Parallel – Thought The Wild End
- Justo The MC & Maticulous – Mind Of A Man
- Touch & The Dirty Sample – Jawz
- Jack Jetson & Illinformed – Strange Cinema
- Twiztid – Generation Nightmare
- Rick Ross – Port Of Miami 2
- Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
- Skepta – Ignorance Is Bliss
- Tyler, The Creator – Igor
Best EP's Of 2019
- Earl Sweatshirt – FEET OF CLAY
- Benny The Butcher – Plugs I Met
- Ruste Juxx & Tone Spliff – Magma
- Eto & Flee Lord – RocAmeriKKKa
- Conway The Machine – Look What I Became
- Ill Bill & Stu Bangas – Cannibal Hulk
- Ill Bill – Pulp Phixion
- Che Noir – The Thrill Of The Hunt
- Che Noir – The Thrill Of The Hunt 2
- Elcamino & Oh Jay – Where’s My Pyrex
- Blu & Damu The Fudgemunk – Ground & Water
- Reckonize Real – Bridges & Tunnels
- DJ Muggs & Mach-Hommy – Tuez-Les Tous
- Crimeapple & DJ Skizz – Wet Dirt
- Chris Orrick – Out To Sea
- Mach-Hommy – Wap Konn Jòj!
- DJ Muggs & Eto – Hell’s Roof
- DJ Muggs & Mach-Hommy – Kill Em All
- Elcamino – Don’t Eat The Fruit
- Flee Lord – Gets Greater Later
- Curren$y & Statik Selektah – Gran Turismo
- The Alchemist – Yacht Rock 2
- Rome Streetz – Headcrack
- Rome Streetz – Noise Kandy 3
- 38 Spesh & Benny the Butcher – Stabbed & Shot
- 38 Spesh – 38 Strategies Of Raw
- Black Geez & 38 Spesh – Concrete Struggles
- Kyo Itachi & Milez Grimez – Carnage
- Illa Ghee – The Whole Half Of It
- Duffel Bag Hottie – Max 3
- Jay Nice – Famili’
- Savage Patch Kids – B.D.S.M.
- Eto & Superior – Long Story Short
- Sean Price & Small Professor – 86 Witness
- Planit Hank – Night Before Purgatory
- Koncept Jack$on – Newport 1000s
- Diabolic & Vanderslice – Collusion
- Joell Ortiz, Fred The Godson & The Heatmakerz – Gorilla Glue
- Maxo – Lil Big Man
- Denzel Curry – ZUU
- DJ Tekwun & Craig G – You’re Welcome
- Guilty Simpson – Sterling
- Canibus – Full Spectrum Dominance Repolarization
- Missy Elliott – ICONOLOGY