The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021: 2020 was a terrible year in general, but a great year for Hip Hop. Hip Hop has never been as diverse as it is now – and 2021 turned out to be just as stacked with quality Hip Hop releases as 2020 was. As always on our best of the year lists, not included are instrumental albums, compilations, and EP’s. Some artists bill barely 30-minute-long projects as albums – HHGA categorizes projects that clock in at under 30 minutes as EP’s however, and we do not rank them on our album list: an album = an LP. But having said that, lots of dope EP’s drop each and every year, so we will not ignore them – scroll down for a section with some of the best EP’s released in 2021, as well as a listing of 2021’s best instrumental and best Hip Hop adjacent projects.
This is a top 60, albums that don’t make the best 60 of the year but which are worth listening to anyway are mentioned in the honorable mentions – January – June, and July – December. Let’s get into it, check out what we think are the best Hip Hop albums of 2021.
Also check: Greatest Hip Hop Albums 1980 – 2021 & Top 250 Hip Hop Albums Of All Time
1. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
British-Nigerian emcee Little Simz had one of our favorite albums released in 2019 with the punchy GREY AREA – her third LP and international breakthrough project. Now she’s back with her fourth full-length studio album: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is an astounding album, absolutely Little Simz’s magnum opus. It’s an album to listen to over and over again, an album that will easily survive today’s short hype circles, an album people will have on rotation for years and years to come. With a runtime of 65 minutes Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is not a second too long – Little Simz effortlessly manages to captivate from start to finish with her superior flow and personable lyricism, dealing with topics such as race, womanhood, self-esteem, and family.
The album’s 19 tracks are sequenced perfectly – picking “Introvert” as the album opener was cleverly done, as it sets the whole thematic and philosophical scene of what Little Simz set out to do with this record. Production on Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is virtually flawless – straddling numerous genres from hard-hitting Hip Hop to R&B-and neo-soul, to Afro-beat and even synth-funk, going from orchestral and bombastic to smooth and laid-back seamlessly. So many different influences crammed into one record resulting in an entirely cohesive package: this is an album unlike any other.
“Introvert”, “Woman”, “Little Q, Pt 2”, “Two Worlds Apart”, “Speed”, “Standing Ovation”, “I See You”, “Rollin Stone”, “Point and Kill”, “How Did You Get Here”, “Miss Understood”, and especially the symphonic “I Love You I Hate You” – nothing but stand-outs on Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Even the interludes work and add value to the album, which is unusual.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert echoes Lauryn Hill’s masterpiece The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998) in ambition, scope, musicality, and timelessness – there can be no higher praise. This is a phenomenal album, the kind of album you will want to replay the moment you finish it. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of the better Hip Hop albums released in the last five years, a future classic without a doubt.
Release date: September 3, 2021.
2. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram
Armand Hammer is a duo consisting of experimental Hip Hop titans billy woods and ELUCID. billy woods is one of the most consistent artists in contemporary Hip Hop. He has five solo albums on our top 150 Hip Hop albums of the 2010s list – History Will Absolve Me (2012), Dour Candy (2013), Today, I Wrote Nothing (2015), Known Unknowns (2017), and Hiding Places (2019), along with three Armand Hammer albums – Race Music (2013), Rome (2017), and Paraffin (2018) – making billy woods our MVP of the 2010s. The 2020s started off strong for him too – with Armand Hammer’s 2020 album Shrines, and BRASS, billy woods’ collaboration with experimental musician and poet Moor Mother. Both Shrines and BRASS rank high on our best of 2020 list. ELUCID had a good year as well, with the excellent Don’t Play It Straight, an experimental collaborative project with The Lasso.
And now we have Haram – for which Armand Hammer hooked up with producer extraordinaire The Alchemist. This is what the blurb says about the album: “Haram is a mercurial collaboration between incendiary rap duo Armand Hammer, and living legend The Alchemist. For the first time ELUCID and billy woods have crafted an album with a single producer and the result is extraordinary. With their unmatched penchant for stirring imagery and incisive storytelling, the two rappers dive into an ocean of Alchemist’s creation: warmly inviting on the surface, black and bone-crushingly cold at depth. Haram is a collection of the profane and the pure; a reminder that that which is forbidden is also sacrosanct.
The artists are joined by their friends and fellow travelers on this journey. KAYANA’s golden voice ups the wattage on “Black Sunlight,” while Fielded’s sultry alto gets chopped and screwed on “Aubergine”. Earl Sweatshirt makes a sun-soaked appearance, while Curly Castro and Amani mix like ice and salt on Brooklyn sidewalks, and Quelle Chris, as always, finds a pocket all his own. Still, there is a natural rapport that belies the New York-to-Los Angeles-and-back nature of the project, allowing Haram to be more than the sum of its parts, however impressive those parts may be. This isn’t just the genre’s most insistent contemporary voices paired with arguably its best producer. This is when you buy a beautiful house only to discover, hidden behind a heavy bookcase, a stairway twisting up and away into the darkness.”
Now, the question is: is Haram on par with billy woods’ and Armand Hammer’s earlier releases? The answer is: yes, Haram 100% met expectations – it may even one-up the stellar Paraffin as Armand Hammer’s best work yet. On Haram, the Islamic term meaning “forbidden”, billy woods and ELUCID explore all kinds of taboos – in their own cryptic ways. As always, it takes some effort on the part of the listener to penetrate the dense poetics penned by billy woods and ELUCID – there’s is so much to unpack and to think about here, it gives Haram endless replay value.
The Alchemist’s work on the boards arguably makes Haram a little more accessible than the four previous Armand Hammer albums are, but his atmospheric instrumentals are left-field enough to suit billy woods and ELUCID avant-garde rhyming. This is The Alchemist’s finest music in a while, even better than his much-lauded work on Freddie Gibb’s Alfredo of last year – in fact, we will go as far as to say The Alchemist crafted a masterpiece here.
Stand-outs include “Falling Out The Sky”, with some incredible lyrical imagery also from guest rapper Earl Sweatshirt, “Wishing Bad”, “Chicharonnes”, with a bone-chilling instrumental over which billy woods and Quelle Chris tackle police violence and BLM, likening the whole culture to pigs on a spit roast, and “Stonefruit”, with a jaw-dropping last verse from billy woods to close the album out on a high note. Besides these 4 stand-outs, there are no weak tracks on Haram – everything on the album is well-thought-out and perfectly executed – even the gruesome album cover which serves to enhance the mood of the music, in an in-your-face kind of way, with no hint of artificial coolness. Haram is a confirmation of Armand Hammer’s status as one of the most intriguing and most consistent duos in contemporary Hip Hop, and it is the first AOTY-contender released in 2021.
Release date: March 26, 2021.
3. Ka - A Martyr's Reward
A Martyr’s Reward is Brownsville, NYC emcee/producer Ka’s 8th studio album (the 6th as Ka), following on the heels of 2020’s Descendants Of Cain. Descendants Of Cain is a top-5 album of 2020, and his other masterpieces The Night’s Gambit (2013) and Honor Killed The Samurai (2016) are among the best Hip Hop albums released in the 2010s.
Ka’s pen game is among the most refined in the game, he always comes with beautifully crafted poetic lyrics, aesthetic metaphors, brooding imagery, and incredible rhyme schemes. A Martyr’s Reward is no different: this is another amazing Ka project, built on his signature minimalistic instrumentals that serve to give room to his hushed hoarse flow and his intricate wordplay. The narrative this time is centered around his own life, making this one his most personal album to date. Just like on his previous efforts, on A Martyr’s Reward there’s a strong focus on ambiance and sound, and it may take many listens to really pick up on all Ka’s lyrical subtleties and hidden meanings – as always there’s a lot to unpack in his content. Ka’s music is an acquired taste, those with an ear for atmospheric instrumentals and true lyricism will know to cop this one though.
Release date: August 13, 2021.
4. Boldy James & The Alchemist - Bo Jackson
Following their underrated debut collaboration My 1st Chemistry Set (2013), Detroit emcee Boldy James and top-tier producer The Alchemist teamed up again in 2020 for the long-awaited The Price Of Tea In China, one of the best Hip Hop albums of the year. On the heels of TPOTIC, Boldy James and The Alchemist surprise with Bo Jackson, their third collaborative full-length project. Like My 1st Chemistry Set and The Price Of Tea In China, Bo Jackson delivers on all fronts. In fact, Bo Jackson is the best of the three.
The Alchemist already crafted an excellent set of beats for Armand Hammer’s Haram earlier this year, and he brought his A-game for Bo Jackson too. Boldy James entertains with his cold flow and his street narratives, and the featured artists all are perfect fits: Benny The Butcher, Roc Marciano, Earl Sweatshirt, Stove God Cooks, Curren$y, and Freddie Gibbs show up to add extra flavor to Alchemist’s atmospheric instrumentals. “Double Hockey Sticks” with its haunting boom-bap instrumental signifies an excellent start of the album, and the rest of the tracklist is just as good. “Brickmille To Montana”, “E.P.M.D.”, “Photographic Memories”, “First 48 Freestyle”, “Illegal Search & Seizure”, “Fake Flowers”, and “3rd Person” all are highlights, but the strength of Bo Jackson is its consistency – there really aren’t any weak tracks on this LP.
Boldy James is one of our MVPs of 2020, with two albums (The Price Of Tea In China and the magnificent Manger on McNichols) in our 2020 top 25 and The Alchemist is another 2020 MVP because of his work on TPOTIC and Freddie Gibbs’ Alfredo. With Bo Jackson, both Boldy James and The Alchemist continue their winning streaks.
Release date: August 13, 2021.
5. McKinley Dixon - For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her
From Richmond, Virginia-based rapper McKinley Dixon‘s Bandcamp page: [For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, McKinley Dixon’s debut album on Spacebomb, is the culmination of a journey where heartbreak and introspection challenged him to adopt new ways of communicating physically and mentally, as well as across time and space.
The album challenges Black people to revisit more than one timeline and question everything they’ve been taught about processing grief in order to rebuild their present and future selves. There’s no definitive end to the darkness and trauma of the past, but this album is a stepping stone in Dixon’s pursuit of moving forward, and being a voice for Black people still learning how to advocate for themselves.
“The best way to sum up this album is: I was sad, I was mad, and now I’m alive,” Dixon explains. “These things I talk about on the record have had harmful and brilliant effects on my timeline, and have forced me to be cognizant of the fact that living is complex. Rap has allowed me the language to communicate and be someone who can communicate with people from all over. Knowing how far I’ve come, I think people will find trust in the message I’m sending.”]
For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her is the final installment in a trilogy, building on the foundations set by the self-released Who Taught You To Hate Yourself? (2016) and The Importance of Self Belief (2018) – a series of albums that allowed Dixon to process his own and others’ lives as a part of the greater Black experience. For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her is an emotional tour de force – composed of poetic storytelling and poignant insights.
From the impassioned album opener “Chain Sooo Heavy” with its frenetic free-jazz instrumentation to the beautiful pensiveness of the last song “Twist My Hair”: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her is a stunning album, with great lyrical depth and superb musical virtuosity. Lots of Kendrickisms on this genre-bender, echoes of prime Lupe Fiasco too – but McKinley Dixon doesn’t need to be compared to any other artists, really. With For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her he released a career-defining project – an album that deserves to escape this day and age’s short hype-cycles and that should be talked about for years to come, in the same breath with monumental albums such as Kenrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) and Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom (2017).
Release date: May 7, 2021.
6. Skyzoo - All The Brilliant Things
Skyzoo never misses. All The Brilliant Things is another great LP from the Brooklyn emcee. The Salvation (2009), Live From The Tape Deck (with Illmind, 2011), A Dream Deferred (2012), Music For My Friends (2015), The Easy Truth (with Apollo Brown, 2016), In Celebration Of Us (2018), and Retropolitian (with Pete Rock, 2019) all are quality Hip Hop albums – All The Brilliant Things is as good as any of them, maybe even better.
Elegant boom-bap production with a jazzy touch, plus elite lyricism from one of the best emcees in the game today: All The Brilliant Things is about as good as it gets. Guest appearances from Aaria, Ill Al Skratch, BJ The Chicago Kid, Raheem Devaughn, Stlndrms, Karriem Riggins, MonicaBlaire, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Xiolynn, and Blakk Soul help round out what is one of the best Hip Hop albums of the year.
Release date: June 11, 2021.
7. Lewis Parker - Frequency Of Perception
Lewis Parker is a London-born veteran producer/emcee – a self-proclaimed Hip Hop craftsman, and ‘the deadliest man with an SP’. Those familiar with Lewis Parker’s work will know this to be true – all his music oozes pure dedication to Hip Hop. Frequency Of Perception is one of his best projects yet, a fully realized album with over an hour of excellent music – with beats AND rhymes from Lewis Parker himself (and with contributions from artists Eloh Kush, John Robinson, Planet Asia, Lil Dap, Eastkoast, Enny Integrity, Killa Sha, Zu, Ric Branson, and T.R.A.C.).
Frequency Of Perception is a presentation of stylistic 90s-centric Hip Hop, with tasteful boom-bap beats and relatable rhymes. Musical and classy – Frequency Of Perception is grown-up Hip Hop of the highest order, one of the finest albums released in 2021.
Release date: October 22, 2021.
8. JPEGMAFIA - LP!
Because of JPEGMAFIA’s futuristic, singular and experimental vision of what Hip Hop is, his music is an acquired taste. We liked Black Ben Carson (2016) and loved the brutal Veteran (2018), but we didn’t care for All My Heroes Are Cornballs (2019) – which was edgy strictly for edginess sake as far as we are concerned. For us, AMHAC was little more than a bunch of badly mastered sounds seemingly thrown together randomly, a messy wall of noise with so-so rapping and worse singing.
LP! is way better, more like Veteran: still experimental and edgy, but a rap album at its core – and an intriguing one too. Peggy’s personality and attitude, and his willingness to push the envelope come off as always, and on LP! he has reached a new stage of maturity. The synth- and bass-heavy production on LP! is masterful and Peggy shines with his vocal performances this time around.
Two different versions were released: the Online Version and the Offline Version. The online version is the one on streaming services and can be seen as the record label’s ‘theatrical release’ (with all samples cleared), while the offline version is like Peggy’s own ‘director’s cut’, the album as he intended it to be but wasn’t allowed to release commercially because of a bunch of uncleared samples. Both versions are great, but the Offline Version is the superior project. The Online Version feels more like a compilation (with a couple of tracks carried over from Peggy’s last two EP’s), the Offline Version has the original tracks and no recycled ones – the Offline Version should have been the commercial release. Anyway: of the two, the Offline Version is the one that has the feel of a future classic.
The offline version of LP! is by far the best JPEGMAFIA project to date. It’s much more fleshed out than Black Ben Carson, Veteran, and AMHAC are, more accessible and less abrasive too – while managing to retain the aspects that made these works so edgy and fun. After a suitable period of marinating, LP! (The Offline Version) will undoubtedly be considered one of the best experimental Hip Hop albums ever made.
Release date: October 22, 2021.
9. Mach-Hommy - Pray For Haiti
Enigmatic NYC-Haitian rapper Mach-Hommy reconnected with Griselda head-honcho Westside Gunn for this album, marking their first collaboration after Mach-Hommy broke with the Griselda camp in the mid-2010s due to creative differences. Westside Gunn executive produced Mach-Hommy’s Pray For Haiti, and he appears on four songs. WSG the businessman is a brilliant visionary, and his fingerprints are all over this album – he has a GREAT ear for beats and a flair for aesthetics. WSG the rapper is an acquired taste though, you either love his kiddy voice and his adlibs, or you hate them. We have little tolerance for WSG’s screechy pitch and constant “brrrrrrrt doot doot doot boom boom boom” antics, but because his vocal presence here is limited to just four of the fourteen songs, his contributions are scarce enough not to ruin the album, fortunately.
In addition to the WSG features, frequent Mach-Hommy collaborator Tha God Fahim appears on one track, as does Griselda artist Keshia Plum – but Pray For Haiti is very much Mach-Hommy’s show, his varied flows are better than ever and his verses carry power. While Mach-Hommy’s bars are dope, it’s the daring production that takes Pray For Haiti to that other level. The murky jazz-flavored beats crafted by the likes of Denny Laflare, Camoflauge Monk, Cee Gee, Sadhugold, Messiah Musik, DJ Green Lantern, and Conductor Williams are f***king amazing. The first single “The Stellar Ray Theory” is an obvious highlight, but tracks such as “The 26th Letter”, “Folie A Deux”, “Marie”, “Magnum Band” (with a Capital Steeze reference that will make you frown), “Blockchain”, and “Ten Boxes – Sin Eater” are just as awesome.
Westside Gunn takes to Instagram a lot, calling most of his and other Griselda releases classics and masterpieces. That’s rarely true of course, but labeling Pray For Haiti with those overused honorifics may turn out to be apt. Pray For Haiti certainly is one of the best releases on Griselda in a while, or even ever. Years from now, we will still be talking about the two best Griselda albums – Westside Gunn’s FLYGOD (2016) and Benny The Butcher’s Tana Talk 3 (2018) – and Pray For Haiti is in that league.
Release date: May 21, 2021.
10. Arrested Development - For The FKN Love
Legendary Grammy award-winning Atlanta Hip Hop collective close out their career in great style with their presumed last album, titled For The FKN Love – a 17 track tour-de-force that features Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane, Freddie Foxxx, Monie Love, The Sugarhill Gang, and many more.
Arrested Development debuted in 1992 with the now-classic 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life Of… (4x times platinum!) – a masterpiece of conscious Hip Hop, and because of its positive thinking and positive imaging a breath of fresh air in the era dominated by gangsta rap: an album celebrating life instead of death. Ever since that monumental debut (except for a 4-year break between 1996 and 2000), Arrested Development has continued to create quality music in ever-changing line-ups (frontman Speech is the only AD-member who has always been in the group since its inception in 1988).
Arrested Development had a top 25 album last year with Don’t Fight Your Demons and For The FKN Love is just as good. Like on Don’t Fight Your Demons, it’s the masterful 90s-centric boom-bap production of British producer Configa (with some assistance from Cris Acosta, Clint Taylor, and Speech himself ) that provides the perfect melodic base for Speech’s lyrical imagery – which is as uplifting and thought-provoking as ever. At almost 70 minutes, For The FKN Love is a long listen but the album never really flags. For The FKN Love is an entirely coherent presentation, with an air of positivity much needed in the troubled times we are living in.
If this is indeed Arrested Development’s last record, it ends a memorable three-decade recording career on a high note. For The FKN Love is a killer AD album.
Release date: December 3, 2021.
11. Solemn Brigham - South Sinner Street
Solemn Brigham is an up-and-coming rapper from North Carolina, whose work with fellow North Carolinian L’Orange as the duo Marlowe has been critically acclaimed all around. Both Marlowe (2018) and Marlowe 2 (2020) are excellent presentations of edgy Hip Hop, with captivating experimental soundscapes crafted by L ‘Orange that served to bring out the best of Solemn Brigham.
Solemn Brigham is one of the most vocally acrobatic emcees working today, a technical virtuoso who’s able to contort himself into a dizzying array of different flows and inflections. Across the 14 songs on his debut solo album South Sinner Street, Solemn Brigham examines the decay of American society by virtually any metric – economic or medical, or ones more abstract and spiritual – through the prism of his hometown Albemarle, North Carolina. This feeling of decay permeates daily life in innumerable ways, giving the present a gnawing, ambient dread – and this dread is reflected by the music and lyrical content on South Sinner Street.
Musically South Sinner Street lacks some of the punch and the consistency that made two Marlowe albums so strong, but overall the production from Supa K, L’Orange, The Lasso, Krum, Scud One, Kuartz, and Frank Drake is solid enough. The album is all about Solemn Brigham songwriting and lyrical virtuosity anyway – the two Marlowe albums served to establish his name as a one-of-a-kind vocalist, and South Sinner Street is a confirmation: Solemn Brigham is one of the most exciting new voices in Hip Hop.
Release date: September 24, 2021.
12. Aesop Rock & Blockhead - Garbology
“After over 20 years of collaboration, which also birthed Aesop’s two most popular songs to date (“Daylight” and “None Shall Pass”), Garbology is the first Aesop Rock album fully produced by Blockhead. Garbology came together over the course of the pandemic, as well as in the midst of Aesop processing the loss of a close friend in January of 2020, resulting in a period of time of feeling uncreative. Looking back, Aesop recalls, “The world got real weird during those months. I knew at some point I had to get back to making something. Make a beat. Draw a picture. Write. Just go. But the idea of making a beat felt like math homework, and drawing is just so hard. Writing is hard too, but at some point I had to pick one.” With writing as the chosen path, Aesop hit up Blockhead to send over some beats. At the beginning there wasn’t a plan for an album, or any particular plan beyond creating some songs. However, it didn’t take long for one song to become a few, then a handful, until finally an album was born.”
Aesop Rock is one of our favorite artists, with a bunch of essential underground classics on his name. Garbology dropped almost exactly one year after Aesop Rock’s latest opus Spirit World Field Guide – one of our favorite Hip Hop albums released in 2020. Garbology is completely different from that more conceptually driven album, but it is just as good. Blockhead’s experimental but accessible beats go well with Aesop Rock’s lyrical genius – it really was high time these two did a full album together. Garbology is not as deep or complex as Spirit World Field Guide is, but it is still plenty challenging AND rewarding. Aesop Rock doesn’t miss. Even if Garbology is not his best project, it is still way better than most other rappers’ best albums – it’s one of our favorites of the year, in any case.
Release date: November 12, 2021.
13. Canibus - Kaiju
Bronx emcee Canibus’ Kaiju is a collaboration with Oxnard, California producer BodyBagBen. It is the third project from Canibus this year after the release of the excellent The Last Ride with Killah Priest, Kurupt & Ras Kass as HRSMN and the disappointing Microphone Land with Jaximus. Canibus’ problem has always been his bad ear for beats, more than half of his albums are let down by weak beats. The exceptions are when he got guidance from a single producer responsible for quality control – Canibus’ best album still is Rip The Jacker (2003), for which album all the beats were done by JMT-producer Stoupe. Kaiju is one of Canibus’ best albums for the same reason – BodyBagBen’s haunting beats are dope as f and a perfect fit for Canibus’ hardcore bars. Kaiju features some heavy-hitting features too, including the late Hip Hop legends DMX and MF DOOM (along with Kool Keith, Hus Kingpin, Born Sun, and Justin Tyme) and has Canibus spitting aggressive raps at the top of his game as if he never left. Kaiju is a great Canibus album.
Release date: December 10, 2021.
14. Injury Reserve - By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Injury Reserve is a trio formed in 2013 in Tempe, Arizona by rappers Stepa J. Groggs (Jordan Groggs), Ritchie With a T (Nathaniel Ritchie), and producer Parker Corey. After two well-received mixtapes (Live from The Dentist Office (2015) and Floss (2016)) and an equally acclaimed EP (Drive It Like It’s Stolen (2017)), the trio released their eponymous full-length debut album in 2019. Injury Reserve turned out to be an excellent culmination of what Injury Reserve has been all about from the beginning: making forward-thinking, genre boundary-pushing Hip Hop music. The music on Injury Reserve hit hard and was kind of pop-friendly at the same time: like a weird blend of the sounds of acts like Run The Jewels, JPEG Mafia, Dälek, and clipping – a superb left-field Hip Hop album that contained a ton of promise for future Injury Reserve projects.
A year after the release of Injury Reserve, tragedy hit with the untimely death of Groggs – who passed away on June 29, 2020, at age 32. It’s almost as if you can hear the remaining members’ physical reaction to Groggs’ death through the music on the second Injury Reserve full-length. By The Time I Get To Phoenix is a touching, heartfelt salute to a bandmate and friend, framed by a lot of the jarring boldness that made Injury Reserve such a gripping listen on their debut. Given Groggs’ integrality to the Injury Reserve sound and what losing him signified, it was not hard to predict that By the Time I Get to Phoenix would be unlike anything the group had released prior, and it is – even if the album was partly conceived while Groggs was still alive and he appears posthumously throughout. Groggs’ bars on “Knees” dealing with his alcoholism and the nature of addiction are particularly poignant.
By The Time I Get To Phoenix is even more experimental than the previous Injury Reserve album was, way darker, brasher, denser, and way more inaccessible too. With its blend of shoegaze-esque synths, post-punk, glitch-hop, industrial noise, and dissonant sounds, it’s impossible to fit this project in a genre box. Post-rap may do, but all in all, this is one of those albums that defy genre conventions with their uniqueness – reminiscent that way to Death Grips’ classic The Money Store (2012), another once-in-a-decade kind of album.
Parker Corey’s soundscapes on By The Time I Get To Phoenix are dystopian and anxiety-inducing, making for an incredibly immersive and affecting canvas of loss and grief. Ritchie delivers emotionally raw, cathartic verses throughout the whole album – especially his poetry on the stand-out “Top Picks For You” is heartbreaking. The perfect synthesis of the emotive beats and bars on By The Time I Get To Phoenix results in a dark and raw album, a harrowing and intensely moving tribute to a friend gone way too soon. R.I.P. Stepa J. Groggs.
Release date: September 17, 2021.
15. Guilty Simpson & Gensu Dean - EGO
This Mello Music Group release is one of our favorite releases of the year, an album we will keep returning to for a long time to come. Detroit-based emcee Guilty Simpson has a characteristic flow that’s not for everybody, but those who’ve been following and digging him since his excellent Stones Throw solo debut Ode To The Ghetto (2008), will no doubt quickly count EGO a favorite too.
Texas-based producer Gensu Dean’s stripped-down boom-bap production proves to be a perfect fit for Guilty Simpson’s baritone and for the contributions of guest vocalists Marv Won, Black Milk, Skyzoo, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Yarbrough. Flawless beats and sharp bars – EGO is a top 20 Hip Hop album released in 2021.
Release date: October 8, 2021.
16. Evidence - Unlearning, Vol. 1
Evidence is an emcee/producer from Los Angeles, known for being a member of the group Dilated Peoples and from being one-half of Step Brothers with The Alchemist. He has also built a strong solo catalog, with The Weatherman LP (2007), Cats & Dogs (2011), and Weather or Not (2018) – all three albums rank high on our best-of-lists for the years they were released in.
Unlearning, Vol. 1 is Evidence’s fourth solo album, like his last two albums released on the renowned Minneapolis powerhouse Rhymesayers Entertainment. The album features excellent production from Evidence himself and from The Alchemist, Nottz, Sebb Bash, Animoss, Mr. Green, V Don, Khrysis, Daringer, and EARDRUM (QThree). It also features guest vocals from Boldy James, Murkage Dave, Conway the Machine, Navy Blue, and Fly Anakin.
Unlearning, Vol. 1 is just as good as his other solo releases, but different too – basically a reinvention of himself after Weather or Not ended his Weatherman trilogy. Unlearning, Vol. 1 is more subtle musically, with buttery toned-down boom-bap beats to give more room for Ev’s authentic and relatable rhymes. “Better You”, “Pardon Me”, “Moving On Up”, and “Taylor Made Suit” are stand-outs, but there are no weaknesses – overall this is another thoroughly consistent project from Mr. Slow Flow.
Release date: June 25, 2021.
17. Awon & Phoniks - Nothing Less
Phoniks (from Portland, Maine) and Brooklyn-born Virginia-based rapper Awon have given us a series of superb Hip Hop projects in the 2010s, individually and collaboratively – their collaborative debut album Return To The Golden Era (2013) is a masterpiece, Knowledge Of Self (2015) and The Actual Proof (2018) are not far behind. With Nothing Less, Awon and Phoniks continue their streak of excellence.
The album is laced with Phoniks signature jazz-infused, boom-bap production style and Awon’s raw, honest lyricism. Produced on vintage samplers like the gritty Emu SP-1200 and Akai MPC 2000xl the music evokes memories of classic east coast “golden era” Hip Hop. Features include Don’t Sleep Records label mates Dephlow, Anti-Lilly, and Tiff The Gift, as well as Masta Ace, Blu, Ill Conscious, Kid Abstrakt, and more.
For HHGA, it doesn’t get much better than this. At 33 minutes, Nothing Less is not long enough for our tastes but its short duration is the biggest knock against the album. “Everlasting Game” (with Masta Ace and DJ Ill Digitz) is a highlight, along with tracks such as “Sunshine” (with Blu), “The Cool Out” (with Kid Abstrakt), and “Fatherhood” – a song that will especially resonate with parents of (pre)teens.
Don’t sleep on Awon and Phoniks and go cop Nothing Less, and also check their earlier music if you missed out on it up to now for some reason.
Release date: March 22, 2021.
18. Nas - King’s Disease II
Queensbridge legend Nas is one of the GOATs, responsible for one of the best rap albums of all time, plus plenty more classic Hip Hop besides. His last truly great album was 2012’s Life Is Good, his output since that one has been hit-and-miss. Last year’s King’s Disease was good, but not great. King’s Disease II is not perfect either, but it is definitely better than its predecessor – more substantial and more consistent. The first King’s Disease had a shorter tracklist and tried too hard to awkwardly balance soul sample-based east coast Hip Hop and modern trap, which made it kind of a mixed bag with lows and highs in almost equal measure. Furthermore, King’s Disease could have benefitted from a more careful selection of features, which is also the case with King’s Disease II – but to a lesser extent, fortunately. King’s Disease II really has only one throwaway song – “YKTV” featuring YG and a limp performance from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie – an artist who has no business being on a Nas album, as far as we are concerned. Most of the other features are OK – even if we’re not crazy about Eminem’s phoned-in verse on the otherwise strong “EPMD2” track.
Other stand-outs include “Rare”, “Death Row East”, “Count Me In”, “Store Run”, “Nas Is Good”, “Moments”, and “Nobody” (with a terrific Lauryn Hill) – Nas’ pen game is top-level and his rapping is as strong as ever, plus Hit-Boy’s production once again proves to be a good fit for Nas’ bars. Hit-Boy’s production on King’s Disease II continues to modernize Nas’ sound, staying in tune with the polished sound palette of its predecessor. Even those who don’t really care for everything Hit-Boy did on this album production-wise will have to admit that the modern blends are done in a tasteful way and Nas gels well with them.
It looks like Nas is finally ready to comfortably fulfill the role of an elder Hip Hop statesman, which is his due after 30 years on top of the game. King’s Disease II might go down as a late-career classic, and even it is not in the same league as Nas classics such as Illmatic (1994), It Was Written (1996), Stillmatic (2001), The Lost Tapes (2002), God’s Son (2002), Distant Relatives (with Damian Marley, 2010), and Life Is Good (2012), it is a damn good Nas project.
Release date: August 6, 2021.
19. Wiki - Half God
Wiki is an emcee from NYC and Half God is his fourth full-length LP, entirely produced by Navy Blue. Wiki’s previous releases all were strong projects, but Half God is his best work yet, a fully realized work containing 16 full songs and an hour of music. Navy Blue’s stripped-down but hypnotizing instrumentals have heart and soul and they bring out the best in Wiki, whose pen game is better than ever before – it’s good to see a young artist demonstrating artistic growth and increasing maturity like Wiki does here.
Similar to the album cover, Wiki’s content is a jumble of ideas and thoughts, but his relatable lyrics are thought-provoking and/or entertaining and Half God manages to captivate from start to finish. Features from Earl Sweatshirt (on the fantastic “All I Need “), MIKE, and others add extra flavor. “Not Today”, “Roof”, “Never Fall Off”, “Drug Supplier”, “The Business”, “All I Need”, “Gas Face”, “Promised”, “Still Here”, “New Truths”, “Grape Soda” – lots of stand-outs and no real weaknesses on Half God. Navy Blue’s Dilla-Esque production is heavenly and Wiki’s simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking bars match the quality of the beats. Half God is a slow-burner and not suitable for skim-listens – this is an album to sit with and to be immersed in, bucking the trend that sees artists releasing EP-length ‘albums’ to cater to the needs of the short attention span crowd and to the song-streaming music consumption reality. Half God is a REAL album and a memorable one at that – one of the best Hip Hop albums released in October.
Release date: October 1, 2021
20. Tyler, The Creator - CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
Flower Boy (2017) is our favorite Tyler album. His output prior to Flower Boy was hit-and-miss, and IGOR (2019) was overhyped and overrated in our opinion. Tyler is a mainstream media darling with a lot of stans who will love everything he does no matter what, so not blindly praising him is usually means catching a lot of flack. No doubt there’s a host of fans and media types who will declare this album their AOTY (at least until a new Kendrick album drops), but is CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST really any good?
Well, yes it is. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is on par with Flower Boy, and it is way better than the edgy-for-edginess-sake IGOR is. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST feels like Tyler put all of his previous albums in a blender, and kept the best aspects to fuse them into this project. He took some of the abrasive Hip Hop sounds from his older albums like Goblin and Wolf and combined them with the neo-soul synth-funk sounds of Flower Boy and IGOR to great effect.
This definitely isn’t the most conceptual or innovative album Tyler has ever released, but that doesn’t matter. The production on this album is immaculate, impressively done by Tyler alone (except for “JUGGERNAUT”, which was co-produced with Pharrell). Sure, overall production on CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is less ‘grandiose’ and more understated than it was on his last few projects, but the album is better for it. There’s lots of variety, we get a couple of Hip Hop bangers alternated with smooth neo-soul/R&B flavored songs – which could have resulted in a messy presentation, but Tyler makes it work here.
Also, Tyler is rapping again (his so-so singing is something that brought down IGOR), which is a plus of course. Tyler is still maturing in his songwriting, and even if this album lacks a cohesive narrative structure, Tyler’s observations, introspective thoughts, and storytelling (especially on the epic “WILSHIRE”) are some of the best he ever penned – as evidenced by cuts like “CORSO”, “WUSYANAME”, “HOT WIND BLOWS”, “RUNITUP”, “MANIFESTO”, “MASSA”, and the aforementioned “JUGGERNAUT” and “WILSHIRE”, which all are top-tier Tyler tracks. And then there are the features, that more often than not, reinforce the tracks rather than take away from them – even the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, Ty Dolla $ign, 42 Dugg, and YoungBoy NBA manage not to irritate but to actually add value.
Not everything’s perfect though. At times the album meanders when R&B vibes take to the forefront, and it could have done without some of the skits. And who remembers DJ Drama, who made a career of ruining mixtapes with his ‘energetic’ ad-libbing? Well, unfortunately, he is doing his annoying screaming/talking routines on this record a couple of times too often too – every single track here with DJ Drama would have been significantly better without him. You can use his antics on an intro or an outro, but that should be it. These are minor complaints though – overall CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is a great album, one that can rival Flower Boy for the title of Tyler’s best album yet.
Release date: June 25, 2021.
21. Curse Ov Dialect - Dark Days Bright Nights
“Formed in 1994, Australian surrealist multicultural rap group Curse Ov dialect has been an anomaly in the music scene. Curse Ov Dialect has revolutionized the language of Hip Hop throughout decades of music-making. Across eight album releases and 25 years of performances, they have defined and pioneered a new golden age of rap — playful, poetic, enlightened, and essential.
Curse Ov Dialect is internationally renowned for their intense live performances involving elaborate symbolic costumes, audience participation, and Dadaist stage theatrics. Cultures are bridged, traditions are taught, stereotypes and rules are broken. The heaviest beats are matched with unexpected samples from every era of music and every corner of the globe. Each emcee brings a powerful voice against ignorance.
Dark Days Bright Nights is their stunning new album. Bursting with revolutionary energy, sociopolitical fervor, and a laser focus on the hypocrisies of Australian culture, this watershed double album powers past the medio-core masses to enshrine Curse Ov Dialect at the forefront of intelligent, original, musically astute Hip Hop worldwide.”
Dark Days Bright Nights is a unique album, laden with eclectic instrumentals, idiosyncratic flows, and thought-provoking content. This is not a casual or straightforward listen, but musically adventurous Hip Hop fans up for a challenge will be amply rewarded.
Release date: November 1, 2021
22. Dave - We're All Alone In This Together
We’re All Alone In This Together is British rapper Dave’s sophomore effort, the follow-up to the excellent PSYCHODRAMA (2019). Like he did on PSYCHODRAMA, on this new album Dave eloquently explores issues like relationships, identity, immigration, racial injustices, and life in general. The centerpiece on PSYCHODRAMA was “Lesley” (a gripping 11-minute tour-de-force that depicts an abusive relationship and its shattering fallout in harrowing detail), the stand-out on We’re All Alone In This Together is “Heart Attack” – another 10-minute masterpiece in which Dave gets raw and deep in a way few are able to.
“We’re All Alone”, “Both Sides Of A Smile” (with great guest vocals from James Blake), “Verdansk”, “Three Rivers”, “In The Fire”, and “Survivor’s Guilt” are other highlights – somber-sounding piano-laced songs that showcase Dave’s songwriting talent and his ability to deliver unsparing social commentary with vivid imagery. Even a couple of more radio-friendly Afrobeat cuts like “System”, “Lazarus”, and “Law Of Attraction” work in the context of the album – these tracks (and a couple of others more lighthearted ones) do not distract, but rather provide some necessary levity from the deeper tracks on an hour-long tracklist.
Following up on a debut as iconic as PSYCHODRAMA is hard to do, but with We’re All Alone In This Together Dave nailed it. Because Dave’s bars are kind of heavy on life in the UK (so they may go over the heads of some non-British listeners) it remains to be seen if Dave will earn much international recognition with this album. He deserves it though – where PSYCHODRAMA tentatively established his name outside of the UK, We’re All Alone In This Together is a confirmation that should further cement Dave as a bonafide generational talent.
Release date: July 23, 2021.
23. Killah Priest - Lord Sun Heavy Mental 1.1
Heavy Mental (1998), Elizabeth (2009), The Psychic World of Walter Reed (2013), and Planet Of The Gods (2015) are the standouts in Wu-Tang Clan affiliate and Sunz Of Man member Killah Priest’s vast catalog – along with the two LPs he released in 2020. Rocket To Nebula (#15 on our top 60 Hip Hop albums of 2020 list) is a left-field masterpiece, and The Third Eye In Technicolor (#18) is not far behind.
Exactly 23 years after the release of his debut solo album Heavy Mental, Killah Priest comes with Lord Sun Heavy Mental 1.1. Similar to Rocket To Nebula, the instrumentals on Lord Sun Heavy Mental 1.1 are ethereal and often drumless – and even more experimental at times. Killah Priest’s dense stream-of-consciousness bars about religion, history, mythology, spiritualism, science, philosophy, esotericism, extraterrestrialism, and other such topics, are delivered in a powerful spoken-word type delivery. Killah Priest’s music has always been an acquired taste, and this project certainly is – but those with the patience and capacity to surrender to his lyrical style, open themselves to his content, and adapt to the instrumentals, will find a lot enjoy on Lord Sun Heavy Mental 1.1.
With this album, Killah Priest continues his winning streak. Lord Sun Heavy Mental 1.1 is another absorbing Killah Priest listen that further cements his status as one of Hip Hop’s best – albeit unsung – writers.
Release date: March 10, 2021.
24. HRSMN (Canibus, Kurupt, Killah Priest & Ras Kass) - The Last Ride
20 years ago, the four HRSMN (Ras Kass, Kurupt, Killah Priest & Canibus) were all at the height of their major label careers when their intended debut album, The Horsemen Project, was leaked online and massively bootlegged. The leak consisted of nine unmixed and unmastered songs that would go on to sell over 100K units; and not a dime in revenue for the group. There have been intermittent starts and stops along the journey for HRSMN, with a few singles and various collaborative appearances, and a full reunion track on Canibus’ Fait Accompli album; which once again began to build momentum with fans that the super-group would reunite and finally release a true official debut album.
As HRSMN, Canibus, Kurupt, Killah Priest, and Ras Kass have finally reunited to bring the world The Last Ride (a.k.a. The Debut Final Album), which features guest appearances and production from Planet Asia, Hus Kingpin, Chino XL, Wais P, RBX, Phil da Agony, El Gant, Tragedy Khadafi, Bronze Nazareth, and Anno Domini. The Last Ride displays the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a truly biblical fashion. Kurupt (Famine), Ras Kass (Pestilence), Canibus (War), and Killah Priest (Death), all coming together to bring light to the ills of the world; and reclaiming their rightful throne as one of the most dominant lyrical forces Hip Hop has ever witnessed.
Canibus, Kurupt, Killah Priest, and Ras Kass have always been four of HHGA’s favorite emcees, so we were pre-inclined to love this album. The only apprehension we had was about the quality of the production – Kurupt, Ras Kass, and especially Canibus have proven in the past not to always have the best ear for beats. Fortunately, the instrumentals on The Last Ride do the job. Most of these beats are not super memorable maybe, but they do not bring the album down at all – and this project is all about BARS anyway. All four HRSMN are elite lyricists – they bring their A-game to The Last Ride, and they play well off each other. Close to an hour of music, and only one or two little missteps (the so-so ballad-like “Love N War” most prominently) – but there’s plenty of bangers to offset any weaknesses: “Centaurs”, “This Sh Right Here”, “Morticians”, “Believer”, “Apocalips Now”, “Burger King”, “Last Ride”, and the immediate stand-out “Impossible” are all dope as f. The Last Ride is one of our favorite Hip Hop albums of the year.
Release date: June 18, 2021.
25. Magna Carda - To The Good People
Magna Carda is a duo from Austin Texas, consisting of vocalist Megz Kelli and producer Dougie Do. They are responsible for a number of strong projects in the past decade, and with To The Good People, they continue their streak of quality – this arguably is their best album yet. This album is a tasteful and stylish affair – a near-flawless combination of pure musicianship from Dougie Do and strong vocal performances from Megz Kelli. Her understated conversational-style flow and her thoughtful lyrics are a joy to listen to, and the soulful instrumentals crafted by Dougie Do are perfect for her voice. Guest spots from Cara Bishop, Ava Raiin, Demetruest, IAN, and Juju Bae add extra flavor to help round out what is one of the best albums you will hear this year.
Release date: June 15, 2021.
26. Curly Castro - Little Robert Hutton
“Curly Castro’s new album Little Robert Hutton is a pæn to the radical imagination. Over the course of fourteen songs, the Bajan-American artist fuses his vivid wordplay with a historical continuum of black revolutionary thought and the result is an AfroFuturist vision in 3-D IMAX. This is Castro’s rawest and most uncompromising work, the heat from a thousand ghetto uprisings smoldering in every bar. Lyrical gymnastics take a backseat to the power of the word and the concussive energy of the beats. Little Robert Hutton is hard in every sense of the word, speaker rattling banger after banger. That production is handled by Quelle Chris, Messiah Musik, Blueprint, August Fanon, Locust, DOS4GW, and Jason Griff. The album also features guest appearances from Breezly Brewin, Mr. Lif, PremRock, billy woods, Zilla Rocca, Marcus Pinn, ALASKA, SKECH185, Candice Murray, and Margel the Sophant.”
Curly Castro has been on our radar for a good while now. His ShrapKnel album (with PremRock) is one of the best Hip Hop albums released in 2020. His solo debut FIDEL (2013) was our favorite Curly Castro LP up to now, but Little Robert Hutton is even better. Lyrically profound and fun in equal measures, and musically adventurous with captivating soundscapes from start to finish – Little Robert Hutton is an intense album you shouldn’t sleep on. This is another winner out of Backwoodz Studioz, one of the most interesting record labels out there today.
Release date: October 1, 2021.
27. Propo'88 & Wildelux - Certified Craftsmen
Under the moniker of Certified Craftsmen, DJ/producer Propo’88 and rapper Wildelux crafted an excellent no-bullsh*t boom-bap record with their Certified Craftsmen LP. Propo’88 hails from Utrecht in The Netherlands, and Wildelux is a Bronx-born emcee who is currently based in Kyoto, Japan. Their collaboration is one of the many examples we can see these days of the global village that Hip Hop world has become – with artists from all over the world joining forces, and with producers from Europe leading the way in keeping that original boom-bap sound alive.
From Propo’88’s fresh beats, samples, and Preemo-like scratch hooks, to Wildelux’s smooth flow and outspoken rhymes – this is throwback Hip Hop done RIGHT. Certified Craftsmen: close to 45 minutes of top-quality funky boom-bap Hip Hop.
Release date: March 26, 2021.
28. Necessary People - These Are The Necessary People
Necessary People are a duo composed of Baltimore artist Height Keech and Philadelphia’s ialive – These Are The Necessary People is their first album together as a production team. For this project, they enlisted a host of like-minded underground artists for the guest vocals – emcees like PremRock, Curly Castro, Zilla Rocca, Uncommon Nasa, and Sleep Sinatra make appearances, among others. Having guest rappers on every track is a risk – it can easily turn an album into an incohesive compilation-like mess – but on These Are The Necessary People it all works out beautifully. This is an uncomplicated, but FUN album. The lyrics are entertaining, the flows are tight, and the instrumentals are dope as f. Do not sleep on These Are The Necessary People.
Release date: July 26, 2021.
29. DJ Muggs & Rome Streetz - Death & The Magician
In DJ Muggs’ own words: “Death And The Magician is a sonic and lyrical onslaught on a dark rainy night in NYC, and is based on the Major Arcana cards in the tarot deck. The Death card signals that one major phase in your life is ending, and a new one is going to start. You just need to close one door so the new one will open. The past needs to be placed behind you, so you can focus your energy on what lies ahead. When the Magician appears it points to the talents, capabilities, and resources at the querent’s disposal to succeed. The message is to tap into one’s full potential rather than holding back, especially when there is a need to transform something.”
Legendary DJ Muggs has been a master-producer of dark, sinister instrumentals ever since his Cypress Hill days in the early 1990s, and on Death And The Magician Muggs’ elite production brings out the best in New York underground rapper Rome Streetz. Rome Streetz has been one of the most interesting and one of the most prolific voices in the Griselda-type street rap niche ever since his recording debut in 2016, this collab with one of the best producers in the game will take him to the next level. There are no weak tracks on Death And The Magician. Muggs’ beats are hard-hitting and gritty as are Rome Streetz’s bars, who solidifies his status as one of the most complete lyricists in the game today with this project – delivery, flow, rhyme schemes, wordplay: everything about his performance on Death And The Magician is top-tier. Death And The Magician is the best Hip Hop project released in February.
Release date: February 26, 2021.
30. Hus Kingpin - Portishus
Long Island native Hus Kingpin continues his run of quality releases with Portishus – a project inspired by the music of legendary British band Portishead. Portishead’s debut album Dummy (1994) is a trip-hop monument, and while Portishus is not trip-hop at all, it shares the dark and moody atmosphere of the Portishead classic.
Hus Kingpin’s wordplay is solid enough, just like that of guest rappers like Vinnie Paz, SmooVth, Nems, The Musalini, Ransom, and Ty Farris (and many others), but it’s the gloomy instrumentals that make this project a keeper. Portishead fans will recognize a lot of the samples on Portishus, but this project is just as enjoyable without intimate Portishead knowledge. With Portishus Hus Kingpin started the year off in a strong way.
Release date: January 21, 2021.
31. Krum – Dart
Dallas-based producer/emcee Harry Krum is in a lane of his own, his sound cannot be pigeonholed – some of his music can be labeled urban gospel, some of his other projects are closer to straight-up Hip Hop. His short-but-sweet Black Lung album is one of the best Hip Hop projects released last April, with some of the best production you’ll hear this year – lots of psychedelic vibes and dusty but crisp boom-bap beats laced with some exquisite sampling – reminiscent even of the best work from icons like Madlib and MF DOOM. At barely over half an hour Black Lung is too short to consider a ‘proper’ full-length, something that can’t be said about DART.
At 50 minutes, DART is a fully realized album – and one of the most idiosyncratic albums of the year. DART will certainly not be for everybody, Krum’s genre-boundaries stretching instrumentals have too much of an experimental edge, and his rapping is mixed with singing on this album. As it follows a narrative, this is an album you need to allow yourself to be immersed in to be able to fully appreciate it (there’s a book tie-in – “The Dirty Angels Ride Tonight” tells the story, each song on the DART album is the first-hand thoughts and emotions of the characters living the story). Not an easy listen, but DART is one of our favorite albums released in October nonetheless.
Release date: October 26, 2021.
32. Jazz Spastiks - Camera Of Sound
Jazz Spastiks never disappoint. This collective of producers and DJs from the UK has been responsible for plenty of dope music over the years, and Camera Of Sound is yet another excellent addition to their body of work. For Camera Of Sound, Jazz Spastiks recruited Artifacts, Count Bass D, DJ Pocket, C-Rayz-Walz, Kool Keith, Craig G, Phill Most Chill (who had one of our favorite throwback projects last year), The Procussions, Soundsci, and Wee Bee Foolish (Yeshua DaPoEd and Ken Boogaloo) – all artists perfectly in tune with Jazz Spastiks’ characteristic upbeat throwback sound.
Most likely Camera Of Sound will not turn up in any other Hip Hop outlet’s best-of-2021 lists (most of them will end up lazily listing the highest-profile releases as the year’s best, as they always do), but for HHGA albums like this one represent Hip Hop in its truest form, and we applaud and celebrate Jazz Spastiks for it.
Across 18 tracks, Camera Of Sound offers close to 45 minutes of buoyant jazz-flavored boom-bap beats, complemented by artisanal cuts & scratches and dope wordplay by masters of the craft. When it comes to fresh throwback Hip Hop, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Release date: February 22, 2021.
33. Ja'king The Divine - DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR
DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR is Brooklyn artist Ja’king The Divine’s third project, and his first proper full-length. There’s something unique about Ja’king The Divine’s music: this is a boom-bap-inspired, jazz-flavored album but with a special twist to its sound, courtesy of exquisite sampling and surprising musical flourishes. Ja’king The Divine mic presence is great too, as is his pen game. Don’t sleep on Ja’king The Divine and DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR.
Release date: August 1, 2021.
34. Killah Priest & S.H.R.O.O.M - The Mantra
The Mantra is Killah Priest‘s most accessible and most ‘straight-forward’ project in years – this album (his third full-length of the year) is a return to his earlier deep-bass boom-bap days, forgoing on the drumless experimentation that characterized most of his recent projects. Straight-forward does not mean mediocre or bad though – The Mantra is an excellent album. S.H.R.O.O.M’s drums and beats are dope as f, and Killah Priest’s rhymes are interesting as always. Cappadonna, Inspectah Deck, and DJ Jazzy Jeff (among others) make appearances to add extra value. “Boss King” with cuts from the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff and additional vocals from Thea Van Seijen is our favorite track on The Mantra, but the whole album is strong. Killah Priest probably is an artist for a niche audience – we are definitely part of that crowd.
Release date: November 12, 2021.
35. Atmosphere - WORD?
Rhymesayers flagship act Atmosphere has been one of our favorite duo’s in Hip Hop for a long time, even if their last couple of projects weren’t all that great to us. WORD? is a definite return to form as far as we are concerned.
“Steering back toward their signature sound, the album further highlights producer Ant’s undeniable talents as the project leans into the classic boom-bap aesthetic, bringing unique energy out of Slug’s wisdom, wit, and delivery. From the onset, WORD? proves to be every bit an exercise in refining and advancing their craft as it is a harkening to earlier work. That is, while their releases have grown more broodingly cinematic, and increasingly concerned with the human condition and mortality, WORD? manages to reintroduce moments of levity and lightheartedness throughout, an approach seldom heard on their albums of late.
From album opener “Fleetwood,” with its razor-sharp snares and warm fleshy bassline, to the resonant melody of “Clocked”, there are strong hints of Atmosphere’s nascent years within the sound. Meanwhile, songs like “Woes”, “Strung” and “Vanish” cheerfully make light of daily hardships, but they’re more likely to be remembered for making listeners want to bob their heads and sing along. With Slug and Ant directing the course, the album plays like a joyride through a range of experiences and emotions, with an extensive cast of special guests hopping in and out along the way, including Evidence, Muja Messiah, Musab, Nino Bless, Nikki Jean, Anwar HighSign, BlackLiq, Sa-Roc, Haphduzn, Lateef the Truthspeaker, Aesop Rock, and the late MF DOOM (RIP). The result is a project that feels like it came from the era or, perhaps more fittingly, the mindset that created albums like God Loves Ugly, Seven’s Travels, or the popular Sad Clown series while sounding as polished and perfected as more recent albums like Mi Vida Local or Whenever.
Ultimately, WORD? pairs the breadth of Atmosphere’s talents with the beauty of their growth, all while showing they still have a lot of fun in the process and don’t mind letting the listener in on the fun as well.”
This blurb taken from the Rhymesayers site describes our feelings about the album perfectly. Because of the fact WORD? feels like kind of a throwback to Atmosphere’s glory days, it will probably end up cracking our top 5 Atmosphere albums after we sat on it for a while. You can’t go wrong with Slug and Ant – if you liked any of their earlier albums, WORD? is a must-have without a doubt.
Release date: October 8, 2021.
36. Career Crooks - Never At Peace
“Following up their album Good Luck With That (2017), Career Crooks (Small Professor & Zilla Rocca) are back with their sophomore release Never At Peace. In the four years in between albums, Small Professor has carved his name into stone among the elite of Hip Hop producers while Zilla Rocca has become an in-demand podcaster, rapper, and producer, both working with legends, peers, and up and coming artists.
Never At Peace examines the life of indie artists with a sh*tload on their plates: fatherhood, creativity, surviving the Trump era, becoming more empowered as small business owners, hustling the craft to pay more bills, staying on peoples’ minds, failing to clear your own mind, the Sixers, the algorithms, Philly’s relentless growth in crime rates and new residents.
Small Professor evokes classic east coast boom bap with something bleaker (“Never Answer When It’s Private”), more grandiose and bombastic (“Do What You Been Doing”), more layered and thrilling (“SP Situations”, “SP Bumper Cars”), and more to the point (“I Know a Guy”). Zilla Rocca touches on the danger of nativism, the powers of The Native Tongues, the long journey to stay a rapper while everyone hangs it up with age, and why the dirt, the filth, the scum, and the sh*t littered all over his native South Philly makes the best grim fairytales for working-class humps looking to keep you out.
The legendary Blueprint lusts for f*ck-you-money on “Dame Dash Taught Me”. Curly Castro and PremRock emerge as ShrapKnel to remind y’all why Wrecking Crew ain’t to be f*cked with on “Crew Nautilus” and “Spiral Book”. And iAlive steals the show on the David Bowie credo “You Can’t Steal From a Thief” while summoning psych-rock gods of yore as Donovan Days on “Sleeping Heads”. Never At Peace is the sound of local always over national.”
Wrecking Crew members, solo or in different pairings, always deliver. Curly Castro (Little Robert Hutton) and PremRock (Load Bearing Crow’s Feet) both had excellent solo projects this year, and their ShrapKnel album is one of our favorite projects released in 2020. Zilla Rocca’s 2021 solo effort Vegas Vic was dope as f too, and this Zilla Rocca/Small Professor collaboration is even better. Don’t sleep on Never At Peace.
Release date: November 26, 2021.
37. Beneficence & Confidence - Stellar Mind
More than four years in the making, Stellar Mind takes a deep journey and boom-bap ride with flawless production courtesy of Confidence, the man with the Golden Age sound. The Element Of Surprise, his collaborative album with Rashad is one of the best Hip Hop albums released in 2011 – Stellar Mind is on par with that release. Beneficence is a real lyricist who made his recording debut in 2004, he has dropped a bunch of solid projects since then – his last one, Basement Chemistry, in 2016.
16 tracks strong, Stellar Mind features guest appearances by Masta Ace, El da Sensei (of Artifacts), Phantasm (of Cella Dwellas), Craig G, Lord Tariq, Keith Murray, Ras Kass, A.G. (of D.I.T.C.), Chubb Rock, Wordsworth, Shabaam Sahdeeq, and Queen Herawin (of Juggaknots), among others. Confidence’s production echoes that of icons like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Diamond D – and Beneficence and his guests do the beats justice. Stellar Mind is a well-rounded and flawlessly executed piece of music that perfectly captures the vibes of 1990s Hip Hop, without sounding dated – this is a GREAT album.
Release date: April 23, 2021.
38. Moor Mother - Black Encyclopedia Of The Air
Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is Philadelphia-based experimental musician, poet, and activist Camae Ayewa’s seventh studio album as Moor Mother. BRASS, Moor Mother’s collaborative album with billy woods was one of our favorite albums released in 2020. Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is not as experimental and abrasive as BRASS is or as most of her other previous projects are, but that’s not to say there is no edge to this project. A Moor Mother album is never easy or straightforward and this one is a challenging listen too. The instrumentals are smooth and meditative with mellow jazz rhythms and soothing ambient vibes, giving room for Moor Mother’s spoken word flow and to her dense, meaningful lyrics – “Made A Circle” is the highlight, along with tracks such as “Mangrove” and “Shekere”. Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is a slice of avant-garde Hip Hop at its finest, accessible enough to also appeal to listeners who normally steer clear from this corner of Hip Hop.
Release date: September 17, 2021.
39. Apathy - Where The River Meets The Sea
“The trials and tribulations of real-life tend to bring out the best in artists. Hearing the maturation of emcees in real-time brings us closer to their experience, and reminds us of ours. Apathy is no exception to this rule. After losing his father to cancer, becoming a father of two, and dealing with life’s ills, he proves to be a skilled navigator on the river of life. Apathy’s 7th studio album, Where The River Meets The Sea, is not only a geographical nod to his origins, but also a metaphor for the long winding journey through life that ultimately leads to the cosmic sea of eternity. No stranger to Hip Hop aesthetics however, Ap can’t resist flexing his lyrical ability on braggadocio-laden tracks, ensuring he delivers an album for his fans across the board.”
Where the River Meets The Sea is Connecticut rapper and prominent Army Of The Pharaohs member Apathy’s seventh solo studio album, and one of his best projects yet. Eastern Philosophy (2006), Wanna Snuggle? (2009), Honkey Kong (2011), Connecticut Casual (2014), Handshakes With Snakes (2016), and The Widow’s Son (2018) all are great albums, and Where The River Meets The Sea continues Apathy’s consistent run.
Melodic boom-bap beats crafted by Apathy himself and regular collaborator Stu Bangas, and thoughtful bars from Apathy and guests like Styles P, Lil Fame, and Souls Of Mischief’s Pep Love and Tajai (among others), make for a strong addition to a strong catalog.
Release date: May 28, 2021.
40. Vinnie Paz - Burn Everything That Bears Your Name
Burn Everything That Bares Your Name is Jedi Mind Tricks and AOTP frontman Vinnie Paz’s sixth solo album and his twenty-third (!) studio album in total – in addition to his solo albums, he has released nine albums with Jedi Mind Tricks, five with Army Of The Pharaohs, two with Ill Bill as Heavy Metal Kings, and one with Tragedy Khadafi, plus a bunch of mixtapes and EP’s. In Vinnie Paz’s catalog of solo albums, Burn Everything That Bares Your Name follows Season Of The Assassin (2010), God Of The Serengeti (2012), The Cornerstone Of The Corner Store (2016), The Pain Collector (2018), and As Above So Below (2020). If there’s one word that would best typify Vinnie Paz’s body of work – solo and group efforts – it is CONSISTENCY.
Everything That Bares Your Name is another 70-minute monster; Vinnie Paz is not one to follow trends and mess around with 30-minute quickies like so many artists do these days; no catering to the short attention span crowd here. The album features an impressive line-up of guest appearances that includes Billy Danze of M.O.P., Ill Bill, Lord Goat, Chino XL, Jay Royale, CRIMEAPPLE, Eamon, Eto, and M.A.V. Production credits are shared by Esoteric, Giallo Point, Hobgoblin, Illinformed, Oh No, Stu Bangas, and Vic Grimes – among others.
The cinematic lead single “Papi Wardrobe” is an obvious stand-out, but as consistency is Vinnie Paz’s middle name, the whole album bangs – cuts like “Machine Gun Etiquette”, “Witches Teeth”, “Danger Is My Business”, “Latka Gravas”, “Don Eladio”, “Warhead”, “Torchbearer”, and “Tell Gold To Hold The Boneyard” are all fire. Hard-as-nails bars and booming boom-bap beats – it’s Vinnie Paz, at this point you should know what to expect. Burn Everything That Bares Your Name is a strong addition to the Vinnie Paz/JMT legacy.
Release date: April 23, 2021.
41. Apollo Brown & Stalley - Blacklight
First of all: Apollo Brown’s production on Blacklight is top-notch – he never misses. The Detroit producer’s signature smooth and deep boom-bap beats are as delicious as always and they provide excellent backdrops for Stalley to rhyme over. Prolific Ohio rapper Stalley has released a whole bunch of projects since his mixtape debut in 2008, and for many listeners, it will still not be clear what his style is. He has lots of mainstream-friendly music, some trap-tinged projects, and now under Apollo Brown’s guidance, he comes with a boom-bap project. There’s nothing against artists changing their styles of course, and for us, this is Stalley’s best work by far. With his content on Blacklight, he ticks all the boxes – and even if Stalley is not our favorite lyricist in the world, Blacklight is a nice-sounding and easy-listening boom-bap album that should at least please the fans of Appolo Brown’s sound.
Release date: November 19, 2021.
42. Crimeapple & DJ Muggs - CARTAGENA
Crimeapple is a prolific New Jersey-based emcee whose output can be hit-or-miss – it usually depends on who he gets to collaborate with on the production side of things. His full-length debut Aguardiente (2018) which was produced by Big Ghost Ltd was quite excellent and the DJ Skizz-produced Wet Dirt and the DJ Muggs produced Medallo – both released in 2019 – were great too. His output since then has been less remarkable – until this release, that is.
A renewed partnership with producer extraordinary DJ Muggs proved to be just what Crimeapple needed. CARTAGENA is as atmospheric as you might expect from a DJ Muggs produced album – a little less dark sounding than some of his other recent work maybe. With Medallo and now CARTAGENA Crimeapple and DJ Muggs are two for two – this is Crimeapple’s best release of the year.
Release date: September 24, 2021.
43. Lloyd Banks - The Course Of The Inevitable
Well, what do you know? It’s 2021, and G-Unit’s prodigal son Lloyd Banks made his long-awaited return with The Course Of The Inevitable – his fourth studio album and his best album to date. The album is Lloyd Banks’ first project since 2016’s Halloween Havoc 3: Four Days of Fury mixtape and his first official studio album since H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger for More 2) dropped in 2010. The Course Of The Inevitable is on par with some of his best mixtapes, and better than the three studio albums he has released prior to this one.
The Course of the Inevitable boasts appearances from well-respected artists like Freddie Gibbs, Roc Marciano, Benny the Butcher, Styles P, and Ransom (among others) – their features spread across 18 tracks. Props to Lloyd Banks for not catering to the needs of the short attention span generation and going for a 68-minute presentation, with the 18 full songs averaging 4 minutes in length. The dark and moody boom-bap beats do the job, and lyrically Lloyd Banks is on the top of his game. The Course Of The Inevitable is one the biggest – positive – surprises of the year.
Release date: June 4, 2021.
44. Bruiser Wolf - Dope Game Stupid
Detroit-based Bruiser Wolf’s debut LP Dope Game Stupid on Danny Brown’s freshly minted Bruiser Brigade Records label is something else. Bruiser Wolf’s voice is unique without sounding gimmicky (“Nobody sound like this, I’ve got my own sound, I’m an instrument”), his flow and delivery are like a blend of the quirky styles of Bay Area legend E-40 and Goodie Mob’s Cee-Lo Green, only turned up to eleven. Bruiser Wolf’s weird style will no doubt be an immediate turn-off for some, but those who can get with his oddities will consider Dope Game Stupid a keeper.
Dope Game Stupid is incredibly well-written, with a constant barrage of introspective as well as humorous metaphors and similes detailing Bruiser Wolf’s life in Detroit, all of it backed by excellent production from front to back. Label boss Danny Brown jumps on “I’m An Instrument” with a killer performance for which is one of the stand-out tracks. Other memorable songs include “Dope Game Stupid”, “Use Me (I’m Dope)”, “Whip Test”, “Syndicate”, and the personal and poignant “Momma Was A Dopefiend”.
The idiosyncratic Dope Game Stupid is off-the-wall and unpredictable but totally engaging – a project that has us excited to see where Bruiser Wolf will go next.
Release date: March 29, 2021.
45. Amari Mar - Grand Rising
Amari Mar is an independent Hip Hop artist from Brooklyn, NY. He has previously released two projects – Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth Mixtape hosted by Kool G Rap (2012) and Da God Must B Krazy (2013). Now, eight years later, Amari Mar reemerged with Grand Rising.
Grand Rising is a great album. Amari Mar took 8 years to work on and perfect this album, and it shows. Grand Rising is one of the biggest surprises of the year so far. Songs like “Grand Rising”, “Nothing To Prove”, “Above The Rim”, “Live Your Life”, “Black Business”, “Beyond The Surface”, ‘The Gift” “A Beautiful Soul”, “The Chosen One”, and “Rise N Shine” all are gems, not taking away anything from the other songs on the album by the way – for a 17-track project, Grand Rising is super consistent.
Production duties are taken care of by a bunch of different producers, which surprisingly does not hurt the cohesiveness of the album at all. The instrumentals on Grand Rising are tight, but it’s Amari Mar’s content that makes this album shine – his flow is dope and his bars are intelligent and meaningful. For an indie release, Grand Rising sounds exceptionally polished and well-rounded – Amari Mar is an artist who deserves a bigger stage, support the artist and go cop this album, you will not regret it.
Release date: March 26, 2021.
46. L'Orange & Namir Blade - Imaginary Everything
Seattle-based producer L’Orange and Nashville rapper Namir Blade teamed up for Imaginary Everything, their first album together. The album comes on the heels of Blade’s breakthrough 2020 album, Aphelion’s Traveling Circus, and L’Orange’s Marlowe 2, his second collaborative album with Solemn Brigham – one of our favorite albums of 2020.
Much like Solemn Brigham, Namir Blade has a unique voice, with a quirky and erratic sing-song type flow – and L’Orange’s psychedelic and dusty boom-bap beats bring out the best in Namir Blade (just as his production worked perfectly for Solemn Brigham on the two Marlowe albums). Imaginary Everything contains some of Blade’s most interesting writing yet, and L’Oranges instrumentals are the best he got to work with up to now. Appearances from Quelle Chris, Marlowe, Fly Anakin, and Jordan Webb help round out what is another quite excellent L’Orange project – hopefully, the first in a series of collaborations with Namir Blade.
Release date: May 7, 2021.
47. Blak Madeen - Let The Good Get Even
Blak Madeen is a Boston-based duo consisting of lyricists Al-J and Yusuf. With Let The Good Get Even they give us 11 excellent tracks, composed of clever rhymes over dope boom-bap beats laced with vintage cuts & scratches. Produced by C-Doc (known from his work with Public Enemy), the album features guest appearances by Hip Hop icons like Chuck D, Sadat X, Tragedy Khadafi, Daddy-O, and others. Let The Good Get Even is a delectable presentation of intelligent grown-man Hip Hop, capturing a perfect throwback vibe without sounding dated. This is a must-have, no self-respecting Hip Hop fan should miss out on it.
Release date: March 5, 2021.
48. Blu - The Color Blu(e)
Blu has been on a roll of late – A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night was among our favorite albums released in 2019, while Miles, his third full-length collaborative album with producer Exile, ended up in our top 10 for 2020. His cult classic Below The Heavens (2007) and the slept-on Johnson&Jonson (2008, with Mainframe as Johnson&Jonson) are our other absolute Blu favorites.
Now how does The Color Blu(e) hold up? It’s kind of a slow-burner, an album that demands multiple listens to appreciate its intricacies. “People Call Me Blu(e)” is a stand-out, as are songs such as “I Am Blu(e)”, “Because The Sky Is Blu(e)” and the fantastic last song “Blu(e) World”. All in all, The Color Blu(e) will not replace Below The Heavens as our favorite Blu project, nor is it as good as Miles is – but it is on par with anything else Blu released over the years. Creative production, exceptional sampling, intricate wordplay, and inspiring content: The Color Blu(e) is a great and engaging album from a master of the craft.
Release date: September 24, 2021.
49. AZ - Doe Or Die II
Over the years, Brooklyn-based rapper AZ has been labeled ‘the most underrated emcee of all time‘ so many times, it’s safe to say that as a rapper AZ is not underrated at all. In fact, it will be hard to find any real Hip Hop fan who doesn’t recognize AZ’s superior skill as a lyricist. The reason AZ never became a household name has nothing to do with people not recognizing his skill set as an emcee, but more with the fact that none of his albums – except his 1995 debut Doe Or Die – are real classics. Most of the AZ albums following Doe Or Die are solid enough, but they are all kind of forgettable too, often let down by inconsistent or bland production and sometimes by repetitive subject matter.
AZ’s longtime and frequent music partner Nas is universally seen as one of the best rappers ever, and Nas’s Illmatic is one of the most celebrated albums in Hip Hop history. The only guest appearance on Illmatic was AZ on “Life’s A Bitch”, and AZ bodied Nas on his own album, with one of the most epic guest verses in Hip Hop history. It proved impossible for AZ to live up to this iconic first impression. Do Or Die was an excellent debut, but it never gained anything close to Illmatic-like acclaim – also because 1995 was so stacked with classic similar-minded albums (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords, and The Infamous most notably) that Do Or Die kind of got lost in the shuffle, even if over a million units were sold eventually.
26 years after Do Or Die, and 12 years after his eighth album Legendary, AZ returns with his long-awaited ninth studio album Do Or Die II. Now, is Do Or Die II on par with its 1995 predecessor? Not really, unfortunately. Don’t get it wrong: Do Or Die II is an OK and entertaining album – but it fails to live up to the legacy of its predecessor or even to the build-up anticipation of a new AZ album after a 12-year hiatus. The main problem with Do Or Die II is the same one that prevented all other AZ albums (except Do Or Die) from being classics: musically it seems to lack a bit of direction, focus, and a sense of urgency. In places, it feels like the beats were mailed in by random producers, and even if some top-tier names were involved the album could have benefited from less input. Imagine The Alchemist or Pete Rock taking care of all the beats and the general oversight – that’s what would have led to an album with more punch without a doubt.
Also, the feature list is all over the place. Nas would have been the best possible guest, of course, maybe Kool G Rap or Raekwon as AZ’s erstwhile spiritual contemporaries – this is billed as the successor to Do Or Die after all. But Nas, Kool G Rap, and Raekwon are not here – instead, we get Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and autotune has-been T-Pain: The tacked on “What’s Good” is the worst (and only really bad) track of the album, thanks to T-Pain’s terrible input. Conway The Machine and maybe Dave East are the only two artists that ‘feel right’ appearing on an AZ album.
Al that said: AZ’s pen game is still tight and his lyrical virtuosity is undiminished, which means there’s plenty to enjoy on Do Or Die II. “Keep It Real”, “Different”, “Ritual”, “Blow That S#%t”, “Bullet Proof”, “Check Me Out”, “Time To Answer”, and “Found My Niche” all are pretty strong songs. 25 years from now nobody will be talking about this project the way we are talking about the first Do Or Die today, but without comparing it to its iconic predecessor Do Or Die II is a solid enough album – just not the modern classic we were hoping for.
Release date: September 10, 2021.
50. Dark Time Sunshine - LORE
Seattle-based alternative Hip Hop duo Dark Time Sunshine – rapper Onry Ozzborn and producer Zavala – return after a 9-year hiatus with LORE, their third full-length studio album together. Their last collaborative album Anx ranks on our top 40 Hip Hop albums of 2012 list, and despite such a long time between DTS projects, there’s been no drop-off in the level of quality. Like Anx, LORE is an excellent album. Arguably slightly more accessible than Anx was, LORE still is left-field enough to stand apart from today’s crowd of generic rap and Hip Hop releases.
Zavala’s lush instrumentals perfectly synergize with Onry Ozzborn’s clever wordplay, and a well-chosen roster of featured artists – Ceschi, R.A.P. Ferreira (fka Milo), Homeboy Sandman, and Hail Mary Mallon (Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic & DJ Big Wiz) – round out LORE, offering some welcome variation to Onry Ozzborn’s brooding conversational-rap style. LORE offers 46 minutes of intelligent alt-Hip Hop, a great project well-suited for the surreal times we are currently living in.
Release date: February 3, 2021.
51. Rome Streetz & Ransom - Coup De Grace
Both Rome Streetz and Ransom are on fire this year, they are two of the illest emcees active today. Prior to Coup De Grace, Rome Streetz already had three excellent LPs out this year: Death & The Magician (with DJ Muggs in February), Genesis 1:27 (with ANKHLEJOHN in June), and Razor’s Edge (with Futurewave in July) – all among the best albums in the months they dropped. Ransom already had three strong EPs on his name this year before this release, with Crime Scenes, Se7en, and Heavy Is The Head (a collaboration with Big Ghost Ltd).
Coup De Grace boasts production from 38 Spesh & Coach Bombay 3000 (exec.), V Don, Nicholas Craven, Wavy Da Ghawd, Stack Moolah, I Man Militia, Streezy, Lord Sear, Animoss, and Mayor – a risk, because a lot of cooks in the kitchen can turn a project into a hot mess. Fortunately, that’s not the case here – the atmospheric boom-bap sound is cohesive enough throughout. We do like the beats on Death & The Magician, Razor’s Edge, and Heavy Is The Head better though – getting just one top-producer like Muggs or Big Ghost Ltd to take care of the whole album is always preferable. So even if the beats on Coup De Grace are less memorable than on some of both artists’ earlier 2021 projects, this is a super solid album with strong performances from Rome Streetz and Ransom, and from guests rappers such as Che Noir and The Game – especially Che Noir kills it (as she always does).
Coup De Grace means both Rome Streetz and Ransom are four-for-four this year, making the two of them 2021 MVPs for sure.
Release date: October 29, 2021.
52. Big O & P-Rawb - The Complexity
Four years in the making, The Complexity is a collaborative album from New Jersey/Philadelphia-based artist P-Rawb and London-based (but American) producer Big O. The Complexity is an album for connoisseurs, tasteful and classy – with beautifully crafted laid-back instrumentals and compelling lyricism from start to finish. Go check out The Complexity now, and come back to thank us later for pointing you in the right direction.
Release date: February 12, 2021.
53. Jedi Mind Tricks - The Funeral And The Raven
The Funeral And The Raven is iconic Philadelphia-based crew Jedi Mind Tricks’ tenth studio album, released almost 25 years after their debut album The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro-Magnetic Manipulation Of Human Consciousness dropped in 1997. Jedi Mind Tricks – these days a trio consisting of JMT founders Vinnie Paz and Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind, and DJ Kwestion – are nothing if not consistent. Out of the ten albums they released as JMT, only one – Violence Begets Violence (2011) – was not on par with the rest (the only JMT album Stoupe wasn’t involved in). For us, Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell (2006) and Violent By Design (2000) are the absolute best JMT albums, but all the others expect Violence Begets Violence are pretty great too.
The Funeral And The Raven can be seen as the concluding album in a trilogy started in 2015 with The Thief And The Fallen and followed up by The Bridge And The Abyss in 2018. No real weak points on The Funeral And The Raven, but a couple of stand-outs – the thought-provoking “The Death Of 1 Man Is A Tragedy, The Death Of 10.000 Is A Statistic” is one, “Manufacturing Consent”, “Crematorium”, “Abdallah Azzam Brigade” (a banging bar fest featuring underground spitters Recognize Ali, Demoz, ILL BILL, and Chinaski Black), and the sobering “The Great Derangement” are a couple of others. The Funeral And The Raven is not Jedi Mind Tricks’ best album, but it is a worthy addition to the JMT catalog without a doubt.
JMT noobs should start with Violent By Design or Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell, JMT followers will not be disappointed by The Funeral And The Raven. At this point, it’s undeniable that Jedi Mind Tricks is one of the most significant underground Hip Hop acts ever.
Release date: November 19, 2021.
54. Pink Siifu - GUMBO'!
Pink Siifu is one of the more interesting figures in today’s underground Hip Hop, always pushing genre boundaries with experimentation and forward-thinking ideas. With GUMBO’! Siifu continues this dynamic vision, like always pulling from varied sources of musical and thematic inspiration to provide a collage of sounds, mixing ingredients like in a good bowl of gumbo. Pink Siifu brought on a host of guest vocalists and producers to add to his musical stew – Big Rube, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Maxo, The Alchemist, and DJ Harrison most notable among them. GUMBO’! is more chilled out than last year’s hard-nosed electronic punk-rap banger NEGRO, and more accessible because of it – despite the experimental vibes that permeate every aspect of the album. Strong jazz, neo-soul, and funk influences, combined with noise rock, ambient, and plunderphonics, all of it laced with Dungeon Family-inspired Southern Hip Hop sounds make for a unique record – another strong addition to Pink Siifu’s catalog.
Release date: August 3, 2021.
55. Isaiah Rashad - The House Is Burning
Isaiah Rashad is a 30-year-old artist from Chattanooga, Tennessee who emerged on the Hip Hop scene in 2013 after signing to Top Dawg Entertainment – quickly establishing himself as one the flagship acts of the label thanks to the universally acclaimed cilvia demo EP (2014) and his equally lauded full-length debut The Sun’s Tirade (2016).
The House Is Burning is Zay’s long-awaited follow-up to The Sun’s Tirade. This is his mellowest project, with Zay in another – better – place compared to where he was at the time when The Sun’s Tirade was recorded and released. The album’s title can be seen as sort of a metaphor for his life: as his struggles and addictions threatened to consume him, he needed to face and deal with them, or else his house would burn down. Five years after The Sun’s Tirade it turns out Zay has emerged stronger with an album that is confident and fragile at the same time – Isaiah Rashad at his emotional best.
In comparison to Zay’s previous projects, The House Is Burning takes heavier influences from Southern Hip-Hop, with plenty of nods to Memphis rap and trap – with jazz and neo-soul vibes thrown in the mix to great effect, for the most part. We could have done without the Lil Uzi Vert track – Zay can not keep up with his energy and it makes this song feel out of place. There are plenty of strong tracks to offset any misses though. “Darkseid”, “Headshots”, “THIB”, “Claymore”, “Don’t Shoot”, “True Story”, “Score”, and especially “HB2U” all are peak Isaiah Rashad. As the man has said several times himself: this is music for the vibers.
Release date: July 30, 2021.
56. Gotham (Talib Kweli & Diamond D) - Gotham
Gotham is the name of a new collaboration between two celebrated Hip Hop icons: Talib Kweli and Diamond D. Talib Kweli has been one of the most lyrically gifted and socially conscious artists for over two decades, but admittedly his musical output has been hit-or-miss especially in the past decade. With Diamond D providing the musical backdrops, Talib Kweli comes with one of his best projects in a good while. Diamond D is a certifiable legend, producing for the likes Big L, Lord Finesse, O.C., Fat Joe, The Fugees, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Raekwon, Rapsody, Pharoahe Monch, and many others, not to mention his own classic debut, Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop (1992).
Gotham – a dedication to New York – is a great little project. It’s too short at 35 minutes, but most of the ten tracks on Gotham are pretty strong. “In Due Time” with Niré Alldai is a highlight, along with great songs like “Sons of Gotham”, “The Quiet One”, “Attention Span”, “Chillin While Black” and “The Fold”. Diamond D’s smooth boom-bap instrumentals are dope, and Talib Kweli shows why he is considered an elite lyricist. Gotham = mature Hip Hop by two of the game’s best.
Release date: April 16, 2021.
57. Bronx Slang - Substance
Jerry Beeks and Miggs are Bronx Slang – their self-titled debut was one of our favorite albums released in 2019. Substance is their anticipated sophomore LP, and it’s another banger.
Produced top to bottom by prolific UK pair Jadell and Fake Blood, Substance once again channels that good old-fashioned Big Apple sound of the rap idealist and authenticator: the blasts of “You Already Know”, “Another Night In New York” and “Copy That” come through like a rhino stampede. Substance expands to funk and soul positions spending time in the crates on ‘This Ain’t No Love Song’, synth angles maximizing Bronx Slang’s authoritarianism on “Mic Check”, and pitching the pair to the edge of panic on “Clock’s Ticking”.
Beeks and Miggs read the world its rights, and last rites, without allowing themselves a moment’s relaxation: “Living With A Mask On” goes against simple COVID-related rhetoric, and “Excuse Me Again” shows that the “Excuse Me Officer” narrative from the first Bronx Slang album needs repeating. Their inner-city testimonies and fine-tuning of front-page news define the realistic rather than keeping it real: they remain observant, unfazed masters of keeping their heads, resistant to propaganda and managing the weight of modern life.
Meaningful content, masterful wordplay, and dope beats – the aptly titled Substance is a must-have.
Release date: August 6, 2021.
58. Bronze Nazareth & Recognize Ali - Season Of The Seven
In recent years Recognize Ali has been one of the most prolific emcees in underground Hip Hop, with a series of dope solo and collaborative projects, and countless appearances on other people’s songs. Honorary affiliate of the Wu-Tang family Bronze Nazareth is a great producer, and this high-profile Mello Music Group release shows they have chemistry – Season Of The Seven is among the best work both have dropped in a while. Dirty boom-bap beats laced with dope samples provide a fitting background for Recognize Ali’s raw bars, and a little extra flavor is added by guest emcees such as Napoleon Da Legend, Verbal Kent, King Magnetic, Dom Pachino, Willie the Kid, and TriState.
Release date: April 16, 2021.
59. Joell Ortiz - Autograph
Joell Ortiz is 1/4 of the supergroup Slaughterhouse, along with Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9, and KXNG Crooked. His career started on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath and then lead to Eminem’s Shady Records, before joining the Mello Music Squad. Autograph features production from 9x Grammy Nominee Salaam Remi, the Grammy Winning Heatmakerz, Hesami, and Detroit legend Apollo Brown, along with features from Sheek Louch, Marc Scibilia, KXNG Crooked, Pastor LBS, and CyHi the Prynce.
Autograph is Joell Ortiz’s eighth solo album, building on 2019’s Monday‘s personal content. Joell Ortiz is a top-notch emcee, with great storytelling skills and creative rhyme schemes. The beats on Autograph are solid enough (if kind of unremarkable), but this album is all about Joell Ortiz’s lyricism anyway. Mona Lisa (2018) remains our favorite Joell Ortiz album, but Autograph is not far behind.
Release date: November 12, 2021.
60. K-Rino - A Blessing And A Burden
Houston legend K-Rino doesn’t let up. K-Rino is one of the most lyrical rappers ever – his classic 1993 debut album Stories From The Black Book is a display of superior lyricism, and it signified the start of an incredibly impressive discog. A Blessing And A Burden is his 47th studio album and like most of the others, it’s a super solid effort. It’s hard to think of ANY other artist in the history of Hip Hop who has managed to balance the same level of quality and quantity in their output – who else has around 50 albums that are all worth listening to? It’s impossible to overstate K-Rino’s significance in Southern Hip Hop – or Hip Hop in general – but for some reason, he never really got the wider recognition he deserves. A Blessing And A Burden will not get him there either, but his loyal fanbase will know what’s up – this album is another jewel in K-Rino’s crown. If you’re a K-Rino noob, go listen to this album, then go back to Stories From The Black Book – and you will soon find yourself digging for more of K-Rino’s music.
Release date: July 14, 2021.
For the full lists with honorable mentions follow this link for January – June or this link for July – December.
- Street Military – Black Royalty
- Raf Almighty & BigBob – Big Almighty
- Hell Razah – The Black Superman
- Cas Metah, Sintax the Terrific & DJ Sean P – Mere Mortals
- Vic Spencer & SonnyJim – Spencer For Higher 4
- Chris Webby – Still Wednesday
- Bizarre – Peter
- Rahiem Supreme & Ohbliv – Black Keys Wit Melodies
- LE$ – E30
- Raz Fresco & Dibia$e – Secret Wars
- Esham – Psyops
- Page Kennedy – Straight Bars 4
- M Slago – The Spazz
- OT The Real & DJ Green Lantern – Broken Glass
- Big Boi & Sleepy Brown – Big Sleepover
- Akil Pratt, K1NG ELJAY & OZU8LACK – Flags On Saturn
- Machacha – The Hundred
- Verb T & Illinformed – Stranded In Foggy Times
- Solomon Childs – Red Heroin
- Endemic Emerald – The Virux
- 80 Empire – Anthems & Icons
- Wreckage Manner (Styles P & Havoc) – Wreckage Manner
- Rick Ross – Richer Than I Ever Been
- N.R.F.S. – N.R.F.S.
- MexStep – Vivir
- Your Old Droog – Space Bar
- Swank & King Draft – Long Story Short
- Five Steez & SonoTWS – Quietude
- Skinny Bonez Tha Godfatha – Mahakala
- A.M. Early Morning & Johnny Slash – Nicholson
- Stu Bangas – Deathwish
- Remedy – Remedy Meets WuTang
- NapsNdreds – Don’t Make Me Famous
- Napoleon Da Legend & Amerigo Gazaway – The World Changed
- Dear Derrick – Superthot: Post Deitch Depression / How Do I Bang Boone?
- Noveliss & Dixon Hill – Book Of Changes
- DJ Muggs – Winter 2: Nightmare Before Christmas
- Max B – Negro Spirituals
- Rasheed Chappell & XP The Marxman – RX
- Wavy Da Ghawd – Ghawds Eden
- Ty Farris – No Cosign Just Cocaine 4
- Medhane – Do The Math
- Kut One – Live Wires 2
- Emskee & MiLKCRATE – Truth Is Underrated
- Funky DL – Beautiful Soul
- Recognize Ali – Underground King II
- Cult Encounters Co – AllButtonsIn
- Layzie Bone & HC The Chemist – Eyez On The Prize
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in November
- Al-J & Kane Major – Blak To The Old School
- Planet Asia – Rule Of Thirds
- Swamp Thing – World War Swamp
- Figure of Speech – Figure of Speech?
- Dope D.O.D. – The Whole Planet Shifted
- Cesar Comanche & Poe Mack – A Promise Not To Sting
- Nomad Carlos – Element Of Surprize
- Maxo Kream – WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
- BodyBagBen & J Scienide – Enough To Plague A Saint
- Long Story Longer – Long Story Longer
- Eddie Kaine & Big Ghost Ltd – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
- BigBob & Solomon Childs – First Class: The Teachings
- People Without Shoes – This Green Thing of Ours
- LuGhz- Those Who Want Me Dead
- Mega Ran – Live ’95
- Jae Hu$$le & Dan.Akill – Foreign Xchange
- Shad – Tao
- All Hail Y.T. – Player Made
- Tech N9ne – ASIN9NE
- Payroll Giovanni – Giovanni’s Way
- Grafh & DJ Shay – Stop Calling Art Content
- Declaime – The Last Stand
- Bronze Nazareth & Roc Marciano – Ekphrasis
- Lute – Gold Mouf
- Guy Grams & The Prxspect – War Medals
- Nolan The Ninja – P.S.
- Dom Kennedy – From the Westside, With Love Three
- Tone Chop & Frost Gamble – One Two
- Scott G – God Too
- P Wise – Protégé Of The Streets
- Neighborhood Creeps – The Pig & The Hyena
- Sean Links, Sibbs Roc & Slang Hugh – Radio Raheem
- Fresh Daily – The Quiet Life 2
- Cult Of The Damned – The Church Of
- Vocab Slick – Language
- Mick Jenkins – Elephant In The Room
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in October
- D Smoke – War & Wonders
- Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely Adolf Side B
- Common – A Beautiful Revolution (Рt 2)
- Gift Of Gab – Finding Inspiration Somehow
- El Da Sensei & Jake Palumbo – Solving Cases
- Dark Lo & Havoc – Extreme Measures
- Hus Kingpin – The Firm
- Cymarshall Law- I Still Love H.E.R.
- ethemadassassin & Seven Da Pantha – Carter N Newton: The Field Report
- Lord Juco – Raised Right
- Rita J – The High Priestess
- EvillDewer – ANOMIA
- Bizzy Bone – War Of Roses
- Stezo – The Last Dance
- The Bad Seed – Alpha
- Bread Of Kaliwild – A Breath Of Fresh Air
- Substance810 & Onaje Jordan – A Righteous Offering
- Wishmaster & Illinformed – Cold Harbour Tales
- Kinetic 9 & BoFaatBeatz – Roll Dolo
- Zaza God – OMNI POTENT
- Damu The Fudgemunk – Conversation Peace
- Wildelux & Macapella – Hard Knocks
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in September
- Kanye West – Donda
- Sean Rose – The Bloomprint
- Grip – I Died For This!?
- Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely, Adolf (Side A)
- Dead Monarchs & Tragedy Khadafi – Tabula Rasa
- Uncommon Nasa – Only Child
- Abstract Mindstate – Dreams Still Inspire
- ANKHLEJOHN – As A Man Thinketh
- Tanya Morgan – Don & Von
- M.A.V.& Swab – A Luxury You Can’t Afford
- Creatures Of Habit – Parasites Paradise
- Agallah – High Level Art
- Killah Priest – Summer End Cafe
- Taiyamo Denku & BoFaatBeatz – Collabzilla
- Da Flyy Hooligan & Teslas Ghost – Flyyghost
- Termanology & Amadeus – 360
- Savage Messiah & IDE – Intelligent Design
- THE GRIM SL3EPER & Vagabond From Beyond – Doom Bap
- Ramson Badbonez – Lead By Example
- TekForce – Child Of The ’80s
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in August
- Recognize Ali – Recognize Tha Light
- Dizzy Dustin – Where Do I Go From Here?
- Vic Spencer & Mil Beats – Brainstem Factory
- Rome Streetz & Futurewave – Razor’s Edge
- ANKHLEJOHN, Da$H & LOOK DAMIEN! – Honey Sweeter Than Blood
- Zilla Rocca – Vegas Vic
- Rigz – Wake Ups
- 729 – 729
- Big Kahuna OG & Unlucky Bastards – Flameboy Advance
- DJ Muggs & Hologram – American Cheese
- Dave East & Harry Fraud – HOFFA
- Bash Brothers – Bloodsport Champions
- Lee Scott & Hyroglifics – Gate Clicks Shut
- Napoleon Da Legend & Nejma Nefertiti – Alter Ego
- King Magnetic – Everything’s A Gamble 4
- John Jigg$ & K-Sluggah – Twin Cannons 2
- Andy Cooper – Hot Off The Chopping Block
- Montener The Menace – Anyone Home?
- Taiyamo Denku & Bofaatbeatz – Hip Hop Or Death
- Rejjie Snow – Baw Baw Black Sheep
- Diamond Lung – Jeweler’s Loop
- Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – Smoke Filled Room
- Canibus & Jaximus – Microphone Land
- Styles P – Ghosting
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in July
- Irie-1 La Tumba Collective
- Whichcraft – Face The Mask
- MIKE – Disco!
- PremRock – Load Bearing Crow’s Feet
- bRavenous – Flaunting Imperfections
- Azariah – Phase II: The Return Of Sloppy Smooth
- RJ Payne – Leatherface 3: There Will Be Blood
- Larry June – Orange Print
- Bobby Sessions – Manifest
- Your Old Droog – Time
- Planet Asia – Holy Water
- Sankofa – BLKTCHP
- Kool Keith – Keith’s Salon
- Peter Rosenberg – Real Late
- The Good People – The Greater Good
- Skanks The Rap Martyr – M.O.S.T. (Minister Of Severe Torture)
- Rome Streetz & ANKHLEJOHN – Genesis 1:27
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in June
- DMX – Exodus
- Benny The Butcher & 38 Spesh – Trust The Sopranos
- J. Cole – The Off-Season
- Vic Spencer – Legend Laws Of Power
- Navy Blue – Navy’s Reprise
- Knowledge The Pirate – Hidden Treasures
- Akai Solo & Navy Blue – True Sky
- Gowe – Jazznight
- Noyz82 – Blade Runner Basquiat
- Asun Eastwood & Finn – The S.O.U.L.
- Fatt Father – Soccer Dad
- Sleep Sinatra – DIVINENATION
- DRE Colombian Raw – PLOMO
- K.A.A.N. – KAIZEN
- Words Of Phrase – Humbly Worded
- ALLBLACK – TY4F
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in May
- Configa & DJ Views – The Year After
- Slik Jack & Sqreeb – The Kingpin Project
- Young Deuces – All I Ever Wanted Was An Opportunity
- Mephux, SoundLord, Zaza God & LordMobb – The Most High
- Supreme Cerebral & Eloh Kush – Clark Connoisseurs 2
- Mike Rovone – I Smoke Herb. I Make Music.
- DøøF & Graymatter – Radioactive Spinach
- Mimz & Dunn – Infinite Lawn
- Eric Bobo & Stu Bangas – Empires
- Khrysis – The Hour Of Khrysis
- Conway The Machine – La Maquina
- Sharkula & Mukqs – Take Caution On The Beach
- Ilajide – Code 200
- Krayzie Bone – Leaves Of Legends
- Snoop Dogg – From Tha Streets 2 Tha Suites
- DA Donnieboy – Dreaming Azure
- Philmore Greene – Knowledge & Power
- Devine Carama – Kingtucky 3
- P-Ro & CLOAQxDAGGER – Broken Swagger
- Nef- Tabula Rasa
- Asun Eastwood, M.A.V. & Sibbs Roc – 98 Miles
- Krum – Black Lung
- PIRATA – PIRATA
- Mikal Amin, Sir Tumes, Long Division, & Professor Brian Oblivion – Moses Herman Jacobs
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in April
- Vic Spencer – Psychological Cheat Sheet 2
- CRIMEAPPLE- YDFWC?
- Alan Doyle – Fourtitude
- Cappadonna – Black Tarrzann
- Big Flowers – Big Smile
- The Bad Seed – #GETHOMESAFE
- Meph Luciano – Vercetti
- Lync Lone – The Plot Thickens
- Tom Caruana – Brewing Up
- Kota The Friend & Statik Selektah – To Kill A Sunrise
- The Palmer Squares – Out With The Old
- Zig-Lah – Ballads Bullets & Bibles
- Rahiem Supreme – The 9 Diagrams
- Skypp – King Of Indiana
- Zcience Division & Mike Titan – Applied Precision
- 101 – Whatever Happens Happens
- Fiend – Thank God Its Fiend
- I Self Devine – Rituals Of Resilience
- MF Grimm – The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man 2: Get The Dough
- Bang Belushi – Rudy
- Sankofa – The Most Delicious Gold
- Sage Poet – Parable Of The Chariot
- G4 Jag & Mephux – Regressions
- Ea$y Money & Fabeyon – Beyond EA$Y
- Kaimbr & Sean Born – Nino Green
- Sage Poet – Parable Of The Chariot
- Cosm & Micall Parknsun – Aspetta
- Sole – MBFX
- Sleep Sinatra & Ed Glorious – Sleep Gloriously
- Mike Fish – Train Tracks
- Tesla’s Ghost – Amahl Farouk
- Styliztik Jones & DirtyDiggs – Everybody Eat
- Termanology & Shortfyuz – GOYA 3
- Onyx – ONYX 4 Life
- TEK – Pricele$$
- Bugsy Da God – Diary Of An Underground Villian
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in March
- SmooVth & Giallo Point – Amongst Wolves
- Eclyse & Skinny Bonez Tha Godfatha – Prime Expertise
- Frac & Tone – Sweet Chin Music
- Ca$ablanca & Cap Chino – Korea-Town
- Asun Eastwood & The Twinning – Prophecy Is My Present
- Jay NiCE & Machacha – A Stream Of Consciousness
- Malus & Lyrical Waterside – Connectivity
- Jim Jones & Harry Fraud – The Fraud Department
- Ol’ Burger Beats & Vuyo – Dialogue
- The Ruler Gods – The Ruler Gods
- The Bad Seed, Honey Dinero & Stuck B – Kill Switch 2: The Devil’s Rejects
- The Hill – Receiving
- Erratic – Apocalyption
- Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim – Tha YOD Fahim
- Curtis Dro – P.O.T.P.
- Wais P – SUNOVA
- slowthai – TYRON
- Lync Lone & Iceberg Theory – Acid Jazz
- Slaine – The Things We Can’t Forgive
- Roc$tedy – Flying Colors
- Marlon Craft – How We Intended
- Big Stacks & Nite Tyme – The Vibe Out
- Myka 9 & Profound – Nine Clouds
- Chris Crack – Might Delete Later
- Codenine – LVNDR
- M.A.V. & Hobgoblin – Angelz & Demonz 3
- Hobgoblin – The Awakening
- Cee Knowledge – The Calidelphian
- Conway The Machine & Big Ghost Ltd – If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed
- General Steele & Es-K – AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege
Best 9 Hip Hop Albums Released in February
- Pseudo Intellectuals – Only Built For Food And Drinks
- The Musalini & O Finess – No Squares In My Circle
- Substance810 – Making Waves
- Paul Willis – Wonderland
- Jon Connery – Nah
- Shamon Cassette & Jaz Infinite – Blades Of Steel
- Ty Farris – Practice Raps
- th1rt3en – A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism
- Frank Knight & Chuck Lawayne – Slim & Mickens
- jaH-Monte – Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC
- Rick Fury – Return Of The King
- Paavo – Crumble A Paper Man
- Passalacqua – Passalacqua LP
- Brian Bars Burns & Ollie Dodge – Dynamic Duo
- Kev Brown & J Scienide – Stray From The Pack
- Antahlyzah – The Ceremonial Gifted
- Illa Styles – Mind Your Reality
- Son Of Tony – Son On A Sunday
- 2nd Generation Wu – Hereditary
- Nyck Caution – Anywhere But Here
- 7 Oddz & DJ-M1 – Seven vs One
- Reasun- Resolve (The Mixtape)
- YUNGMORPHEUS – States Of Precarity
- Lukah – When The Black Hand Touches You
- Meph Luciano – Annihilation
- DJ Cosm – Natural Within
- ethemadassassin – Bear Handz 5: Gram Newton
- Taiyamo Denku & John Doe – Bars Bury Them
- The Primeridian & Rashid Hadee – Prime Diesel
- Observe Since 98 – Le Dernier Royaume
- R.A.P. Ferreira – Bob’s Son (R.A.P. Ferreira In The Garden Level Cafe Of The Scallops Hotel)
Best EPs Of 2021
- Nas – Magic
- Boldy James & The Alchemist – Super Tecmo Bo
- Mach-Hommy – Balens Cho (Hot Candles)
- Kail Problems & DJ Hoppa – Lost Tribe
- Curren$y & Ski Beatz – Pilot Talk 4
- Frank Nitt – Serene OG
- Merakai – Merakai
- All Hail Y.T. & Sharp – Angels With Filthy Souls
- Tesla’s Ghost – Rainbow & The Serpent EP
- Flee Lord & Tiona Deniece – Mask & Glove
- 2 Hungry Bros & Homeboy Sandman – Senile Chef
- Curren$y – Land Air Sea
- Kurious & Ro Data – Koncrete Jungle
- R.A.P. Ferreira – The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures
- Hus Kingpin – The Bolio Remixes
- Crimeapple – Sancocho
- Blaq Poet & Ramzee – Deadly As Ever
- Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon & Navy Blue – Beautifully Black
- Wais P – T.A.P.A.S. 2 (To All Playas & Simps)
- UFO Fev – Prayer, Weed & Music
- Curren$y & Harry Fraud – Regatta
- Fashawn & Sir Veterano – All Hail The King
- Steel Tipped Dove – Call Me When You’re Outside
- The Musalini & 38 Spesh – In God We Trust
- DJ Swet & Milano Constantine – Block Work
- The Alchemist – This Thing Of Ours 2
- UFO Fev & Vanderslice – The Most High
- Mopes – Mopes
- AWOL One – Flying With Bats
- Rasheed Chappell & 38 Spesh – Checks & Balances
- Elucid & Von Pea – Dirtee Deacon (In T.S.O.Pea)
- Brother Ali – Brother Minutester Vol. 1
- Substantial & Funky DL – We Met In Tokyo
- Zion I – Ritual Mystik
- Boom Bap Project – Return Flight
- Blak Madeen – Takin You To School
- Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock – Anjelitu
- Ransom & Big Ghost LTD – Heavy Is The Head
- Vakill – God’s Gun
- UFO Fev & Vanderslice – Enigma of Dalí
- Atmosphere – WORD? – Side A
- Moemaw Naedon & Kalig Kontra – Cult Theatre
- K-Prez & Snowgoons – The Come Up
- Blu & Sirplus – For Sale
- Ransom – Se7en
- UFO Fev – Magnum Opus
- CZARFACE & MF DOOM – Super What?
- Edo G & Insight Innovates – Edo G & Insight Innovates
- Nowaah The Flood & Giallo Point – Right Over Left
- Hus Kingpin – Threesome 2: The Art of Sex
- DJ Muggs & Flee Lord – Rammellzee
- John Jigg$ & BP – The Madness
- Benny The Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2
- Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin – $mokebrea
- Super Helpful Kwame – The Swedish Fish And Weed Diet
- Planet Asia & DirtyDiggs – Block Shaman
- Ill Conscious – Import Export
- Jayy Grams – G.R.A.M.S.
- Supreme Cerebral & Reckonize Real – Gold Chain Warrior
- Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED 1.5
- Jihad The Roughneck MC -The Little Assassination Handbook
- YUNGMORPHEUS & ewonee – Thumbing Thru Foliage
- The Good People & MiLKCRATE – Frost Writtens
- Curren$y – Collection Agency
- Qwazaar & Batsauce – Stoned Giant
- Ol’ Dayz – The Good Old Days
- Bobby J From Rockaway & Daru Jones – One Mic & Drum
- Tha God Fahim & Your Old Droog – Tha Wolf On Wall St
- Kota The Friend – Lyrics To Go Vol. 2
- Bun B & LE$ – Distant
Best Instrumental Hip Hip Albums Of 2021
- Big O – The Mind’s Mirror
- L’Orange – The World Is Still Chaos But I Feel Better
- Blockhead – Space Werewolves Will Be the End of Us All
- DJ JS-1- Substructurez
- DJ Muggs The Black Goat – Dies Occidendum
- DJ Wigs – 30 Days
- Beatgist – Abstract Flavors
- Madlib – Sound Ancestors
- Moar – Remix Herbs (A Tribute To MF DOOM)
- Juicy The Emissary, Boombaptist, & Elaquent – Komfort Food
- Scott thrILL – thrILLmatic
- C-Lance – The Demon Of Hiroshima
- Wax Tailor – The Shadow of Their Suns
- Marco Polo – MP On The MP: The Beat Tape Vol. 1
Best Hip Hip Compilation Albums Of 2021
- VA – Snoop Dogg Presents: Algorithm
- Mello Music Group – Bushido
- The Notorious B.I.G. – Music Inspired By Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell
- Lord Mobb – Lord Mobb Compilation Vol.1
- llect Recordings: Mind The Rap Vol. 5
- Configa – Configa Presents The ConfigHas Crates
- Griselda & BSF – Conflicted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Best Hip Hop Adjacent Albums Of 2021
- Mumu Fresh – Queen Of Culture
- Tony Allen – There Is No End
- ¡Mayday! – Minute to Midnight
- The Egyptian Lover – 1986
- Man Made Mountain – Average Man
- The Lasso – 2121
- A.I. The Anomaly – Soul’s Acrylic
Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2020
Click here or on the image for the full list.
TYRON by slowthai is utterly brilliant. Give it a go, got to be at least worth an honourable mention..
You may have missed Bundle Raps by Bronze Nazareth & Leaf Dog. Came out a couple of weeks ago. Solid album and definitely deserves to be on this list.
You missed Bundle Raps by Bronze Nazareth and Leaf Dog. That album is fire.
Tho there’s some good candidates I actually find it super silly with these AOTY lists being posted long before the year has ended or not even really begun yet. How can you know that an album released in Feb can compete with albums that hasn’t even dropped yet??
It would be nice if you could list the albums chronologically. Makes it easier to follow month to month.
It’s a list in progress as stated and in fact one thats updated so see it as good inspiration. There is lots of dope stuff I dont find anywhere else.
Weird s*** People complain about.
Firstly, I love this website.
Can you guys have a list of the 50 albums at the top of the page which link to each of the album’s reviews further down the page? Just some constructive criticism which might make it more user friendly.
Anyone else think Boldy James is overrated by HHGA? I’m not trying to hate, he’s good at what he does, and I like the Bo Jackson album (features are great) but 2 is way too high for me. Alchemist never misses but I’m craving a whole album with someone like Earl, Elzhi, or Joey
The new Boldy album is not overrated. It is a top 3 album of the year so far. It’s got crazy replay value and I see myself returning to it long after this year is done.
More like top 10-15 for me, but to each their own. I do agree with Skyzoo being number 1 so far. He’s super talented and genuine and I just feel like he cares about his community so much and puts himself into his albums like few do. He’s an example of what hip hop is about.
Dope list as always!!! but King’s Disease needs to be higher!!
Mellow Music Group Bushido? My bad it’s a compilation, but GOTDAMN🔥🔥🔥🔥 Marlowe up next!!!!!
How can none of Dark Lo’s 3 albums produced by Harry Fraud, V Don, & Havoc not even Garner an honorable mention? Also Crimeapple & DJ Muggs’ album Cartagena should be top 10.
No love for IAMGAWD x Doc Da Mindbenda’s “Hell’s Angels & Heaven’s Demons?” That project was insane.
Awesome EOY list – personally I think Solemn Brigham is one of the best hip hop albums in years, not just 2021.
That, Jazz Spastiks, Bronx Slang, Skyzoo and McKinley Dixon are my top 5 in this list
Come back to albumoftheyear please, you had my favorite account there and I found this blog through there
Yes please come back to album of the year