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 – with a lot of dope projects already released and a bunch of albums that are slated to be released in the coming months we are highly anticipating – Run The Jewels’ Run The Jewels 4 first and foremost, but we are also excited about expected new projects by R.A. The Rugged Man, Skyzoo with Pete Rock, De La Soul, Compton’s Most Wanted & MC Eiht – amongst others.
To round up 2019 until now, we’ve compiled this list with our favorite albums of the year so far. Not included are instrumental albums, mixtapes, EP’s (otherwise projects like Benny the Butcher’s excellent The Plugs I Met would have ranked high here) and compilations. 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 (Westside Gunn’s Flygod Is An Awesome God for instance), 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 an ‘album’ with a bunch of 1 and 2-minute songs, feels less committed somehow, too easy. But having said that, there are lots of dope EP’s out there, we will not completely ignore them – scroll all the way down (below the Honorable Mentions) for a section with 2019’s best EP’s.
Also not ranked is Nas’ Lost Tapes 2, as it is a compilation of old songs (some as old as 10 years) – recorded for but left off his last four projects. With that said – let’s get into to it! (Last updated September 12, 2019)
1. Rapsody - Eve
Rapsody 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 improve on 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 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 2019 best album up til now, and it’s hard to imagine a release in the coming months that will top it.
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. 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 without a doubt.
Download May The Lord Watch
4. 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
5. 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 up til now. 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
6. 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 projects of the year so far.
Download Gorilla Monsoon
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 (let’s not call it Hip Hop) 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.
10. 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
11. 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
12. 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
13. billy woods & Kenny Segal - Hiding Place
Always consistent in creating Hip Hop for listeners with an acquired taste, billy woods once again does not disappoint. Hiding Places has him collaborating with producer Kenny Segal – a partnership that results in another typical billy woods release. Deep lyricism, sometimes bordering on surrealism but always intelligent and with substance – this is Hip Hop for grown-ups.
Download Hiding Places
14. 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
15. 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 – Roman Numeralz will end high on our list with 2019’s best.
Download Roman Numeralz
16. 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
17. 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
18. 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
19. 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’
20. 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
21. 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
22. 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
23. 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.
24. 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
25. 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.
26. 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
27. 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.
28. Clear Soul - Forces Still
Clear Soul Forces are a quartet from Detroit, Michigan consisting of E-Fav, Ilajide, L.A.Z. & Noveliss. Forces Still is Clear Soul’s 5th full-length album and their best in our opinion. Jazzy, funky and soulful boom-bap – with relentless flows from the four emcees: Clear Soul deserves more recognition as one the finest acts to come out of Detroit.
Download Forces Still
29. Choosey & Exile - Black Beans
The title of this album is a reference to Choosey’s mixed heritage – he has a Mexican father and an Afro-American mother. On the album, he vividly and eloquently recounts his teenage-years experiences in Los Angeles and gives us moving insights into the racial and cultural stereotypes he was confronted with while growing up. Choosey is backed up by Exile, whose soundscapes perfectly follow Choosey’s coming of age narrative. Great album!
Download Black Beans
30. 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
31. 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.
32. 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 and 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.
33. 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
34. 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
35. 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 prevent a higher ranking, but overall this is a quality album. If this really is the last time we’ll ever hear Murs and 9th Wonder on a full-length project, then they are going out on a high note.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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.
39. 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
40. Malibu Ken – Malibu Ken
Malibu Ken is a duo composed of left-field rapper/producer Aesop Rock and electronic multi-instrumentalist Tobacco. This is their first collaboration on a full-length project. Malibu Ken – with likely the most disgusting album cover of the year – may be little on the short side at ten tracks, but the album is packed with a masterful display of both composition and prose. If you’re a fan of either of these guys Malibu Ken is a must-have.
Download Malibu Ken
41. 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
42. 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
43. Pistol Mcfly – Road Trip
For those who don’t know who Pistol McFly is – check these lines from his Bandcamp page:
Jack Kerouac wrote that “the road is life.” Pistol McFly possesses the same ever-questing spirit of the famed Beat Generation writer and the world’s most impactful artists. Instead of cross country road trips, however, the Los Angeles rapper has spent the better part of his life navigating the vibrant but often violent streets of South Central. While many of his childhood friends are dead or in prison, McFly has luckily evaded bullets and central booking. His insightful rhymes are his road to discovering how to rectify personal and societal tragedies. The arresting songs on albums like Bong Rips & B. A. R .S. and Google Me have made McFly a favorite headliner at renowned Leimert Park monthly Bananas. He’s also taken his captivating live show outside of LA, touring extensively with Blu & Exile, the duo behind the critically-acclaimed Below the Heavens.
Pistol McFly’s latest album, Road Trip, is the most powerful document of his stoned, sometimes psychedelic wanderings through South Central and beyond. Released on Exile’s Dirty Science and produced entirely by Power (Rich the Kid, Vic Mensa, Chris Brown), the album features bubbling LA rapper Waju, as well as soulful songstress QUIÑ. Still, the trip belongs to McFly. A self-proclaimed black hippy, he’s as comfortable with acid dropping hipsters as he is hardened gang members. As he moves between the hills and the hood, he chronicles the highs and lows of a rapper on the verge of success with the same lyrical intensity and emotional depth as albums like Illmatic. His Road Trip will inspire generations of rap fans in search of their road.
The comparison with Illmatic may take things a bit too far, but Road Trip really is a very good album, much better than a lot of high-profile releases of this year.
Download Road Trip
44. Big Tone & House Shoes – Big Shoes
Big Shoes is a collaborative album by Big Tone and producer House Shoes, a fellow veteran of Detroit’s Hip Hop scene. This 12-track joint, which has guests like Blu, Quelle Chris, and Denmark Vessey, is a well-rounded and confident effort by two artists clearly in complete control of their abilities. This album offers up a perfect blend of that vintage Detroit Hip Hop sound – Big Shoes may very well end up higher on this list as the year progresses – it has tons of reply value and will probably sound better with every extra listen.
Download Big Shoes
45. Showbiz & Milano – Boulevard Author
High-quality boom-bap on an album showcasing Hip Hop in its purest form. A little bit too short at ten tracks, but at least there are no irritating interludes and skits to break the flow of the album – this is a dope project.
Download Boulevard Author
46. Pivot Gang – You Can’t Sit With Us
This album may be an odd duck on an HHGA list – but despite its modern rap influences, we kinda liked this project. Pivot Gang is Saba’s crew – Saba who made dropped one of 2018’s finest albums with Care For Me. You Can’t Sit With Us works for us because of the laidback soundscapes and flows of Saba and his crew.
Download You Can’t Sit With Us
47. Inspectah Deck – Chamber No. 9
Inspectah Deck’s best solo release since his debut solo album Uncontrolled Substance (1999).
Download Chamber No. 9
48 .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.
49. 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
50. Ullnevano & Logic Marselis – Dustin Grime
In 2013 Baltimore emcee UllNevaNo and Virginia producer Logic Marselis released their first official album called The Protocol on the Magnetik Moments label. This year the duo is back with a new concept album called Dustin Grime. Fourteen dope tracks produced by Logic Marselis with guest appearances from Ill Conscious, Illien Roswell, Jamil Honesty, London Boil, Black Assets, and Rapper AM.
‘Dustin Grime’ is a fictional character, meant to personify the raw and dirty sample-based boom-bap the duo set out to make for this album – and if you ask HHGA Ullnevano & Logic Marselis succeeded admirably. Dustin Grime offers raw beats and raw lyrics – this is an album for 90s-heads with a taste for that gritty golden era boom-bap.
Download Dustin Grime
Special Mention: 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.
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.
- Day Parkay – Achieving While Bleeding
- YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy
- Big D & Easy Mo Bee – This Is My Life
- The Legion – Three The Bronx Way
- DJ Muggs & Crimeapple – Medallo
- Blockhead – Free Sweatpants
- 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
- Ullnevano & Logic Marselis – Dustin Grime
- Horror City – SuperStar 6th Boro
- JK1 The Supernova – Hip Hop Doesn’t Love You Back
- The Opioid Era – The Opioid Era
- Kool Keith – KEITH
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
- David Bars & Showbiz – Bars & Beats
- Supreme Cerebral & Eloh Kush – Clark Connoisseurs
- Henry L.O. – Viberayshuns
- Mussie – Adolescent Tape
- Rain 910 – Forgetting Tomorrow
- Comet – Cataclysm
- Hus Kingpin – Slime Wave
- 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
- Equipto – Few And Far Between
- Struggle Jennings – The Widows Son
- Rashid Hadee – Aural Sex
- Myka 9 – Tonight’s Program
- DJ Kay Slay – Hip Hop Frontline
- 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
- Jim Jones – El Capo
- 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
- Ramson Badbonez – Mic Day The 13th
- Twiztid – Generation Nightmare
- Rick Ross – Port Of Miami 2
- Tyler, The Creator – Igor
Best EP's Of 2019
- Conway The Machine – Look What I Became
- Benny The Butcher – Plugs I Met
- Westside Gunn – Flygod Is An Awesome God
- Ill Bill & Stu Bangas – Cannibal Hulk
- Ill Bill – Pulp Phixion
- 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
- Canibus – Full Spectrum Dominance Repolarization
- Missy Elliott – ICONOLOGY