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list Feb 23 2021 Written by

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

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 there’s no reason to expect 2021 to be less in any way than 2020 was when it comes to quality Hip Hop releases. With new projects expected from artists like Redman (Muddy Waters Too), Raekwon (OBFCL3), Phife Dawg, Madlib, Isaiah Rashad, Che Noir, Freddie Gibbs, and J. Cole, plus rumored releases from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, De La Soul, Q-Tip, Black Star, Nas, Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Pusha T, AZ, Stetsasonic, LL Cool J, and EPMD, there’s a lot to look forward to.

As always on our best of the year lists, not included are instrumental albumscompilations, 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 work in progress. The only way to compile an authoritative list like this one is to keep track of new releases week-by-week, day-by-day even. The list will be updated regularly until the end of the year, where it will result in our best-of-the-year list. Let’s get into it, check out what we think are the best Hip Hop albums of 2021 so far.

Last updated: February 23. 

Also check: Greatest Hip Hop Albums 1980 – 2020 & Top 250 Hip Hop Albums Of All Time

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

Jazz Spastiks - Camera Of Sound

best hip hop 2021

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. 

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. 

SmooVth & Giallo Point - Amongst Wolves

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Hempstead, New York rapper SmooVth got back together with British producer Giallo Point for Amongst Wolves, their fifth full-length collaborative album. Amongst Wolves is one of the strongest of the five, on par with the first two: Medellin (2017) and Medellin II: Don Fabio (2018). Giallo Point rarely misses, and he doesn’t miss here. The cinematic instrumentals on Amongst Wolves are deliciously dark and moody, perfect for SmooVth’s lyrical content. SmooVth brings his A-game with a laidback delivery but with razor-sharp bars, and he keeps the features to a minimum: only Asun Eastwood, Rigz, Eddie Kaine, Rim, Big Twins, and SmooVth’s Tha Connection partner Hus Kingpin make appearances, on no more than 5 of the 17 tracks. That makes 12 tracks on which SmooVth’s synergy with Giallo Point is on full display and Amongst Wolves is better for it – lots of projects these days have so many features they feel like compilation albums, but not this one: Amongst Wolves strikes the exact right balance. This is a superb piece of music.

Release date: February 22, 2021. 

th1rt3en - A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism

th1rt3en is a trio led by Pharoahe Monch, with Marcus Machado on guitar, and Daru Jones on drums. A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is Pharoahe Monch’s first full-length project since his last solo album PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, released in 2014.

Pharoahe Monch has never been very prolific, with no more than seven albums on his name since his recording debut 30 years ago: Organized Konfusion (1991), Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994), and The Equinox (1997) as part of Organized Konfusion (with Prince Po); and Internal Affairs (1999), Desire (2007), W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (2011), and PTSD (2014) as a soloist. Quality over quantity – all these albums are excellent displays of intelligent, complex, top-tier lyricism.

Now, is A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism the return longtime Pharoahe Monch fans were hoping for? Maybe not. It is possible some listeners will be disappointed, as A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is almost as much rock music as it is Hip Hop, and pulling off a cohesive rap-rock fusion is not an easy thing to do. For HHGA, th1rt3en succeeded admirably though.

Pharoahe Monch still is one of the best and most versatile lyricists in the game. At 48 he is as sharp as he ever was, and even if his flow and delivery have changed some over the decades his sound still is second to none (the few attempts at singing he does on the album can be forgiven). On A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism, Pharoahe Monch addresses timely topics such as racism, consumerism, police brutality and corruption, and others – his lyrics here are deep and thought-provoking as always. This is an album for the times we live in.

Musically A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is kind of heavy on the rock side here and there mainly owing to Marcus Machado’s searing guitar work, but Pharoahe Monch’s rapping and the beats and drums on the album conjure enough of a Hip Hop vibe to make the album appeal even to the most entrenched Hip Hop purists.

A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is sure to polarize opinions, but everybody who is able to go into it with an open mind will find much to enjoy and admire.

Release date: January 22, 2021. 

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. 

Passalacqua - Passalacqua LP

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Passalacqua is a Detroit indie alt-rap duo consisting of emcees Blaksmith and Mister. Passalacqua LP is the culmination of a ten-year partnership – ten years during which the duo dropped a number of great projects, but arguably none as good as this one. The genre-boundaries pushing Passalacqua LP is unlike any other Hip Hop album you will come across this year. Produced in its entirety by fellow Detroitian Zach Shipps, this album is deeply layered musically as well as lyrically – there’s nothing generic about this project. Not for everybody, but listeners with an appreciation for beautifully crafted left-field Hip Hop will find a keeper in Passalacqua LP.

Release date: January 11, 2021. 

Codenine - LVNDR

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Codenine of Massachusetts super-crew Tragic Allies started 2021 off strong with LVNDR. Codenine’s debut (with fellow Tragic Allies member Purpose) Below Sumerian Skies ranks on our top 40 Hip Hop albums of 2016 list, and all Codenine projects following that debut were pretty good too. With LVNDR Codenine continues his streak of excellence. Production is tight on LVNDR, darkly atmosphere with dope sampling throughout, and Codenine has bars for days. Like mostly everything that comes out of the Tragic Allies camp, LVNDR strikes a great balance between Hip Hop with a 90s-centric feel and a more contemporary boom-bap sound. Tragic Allies colleague Estee Nack makes an appearance, along with the likes of Crucial the Guillotine, Bub Rock, and Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon – helping round out what is one the finest projects of its sort this year.

Release date: February 8, 2021. 

M.A.V. & Hobgoblin - Angelz & Demonz 3

best hip hop 2021

M.A.V. is an emcee from Rochester, New York, and Hobgoblin is a producer from Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Together they are responsible for the excellent Angelz and Demonz series, of which this is the final installment. Dusty boom-bap instrumentals laced with ominous samples, crafted by Hobgoblin – one of the most interesting underground producers active today – and hard-as-nails lyrics from M.A.V. and guests like Vinnie Paz and Ty Farris (among others): this is a well-rounded project that will appeal to fans of the sounds pioneered by the likes of Roc Marciano and Griselda. That cover art is pretty awesome too.

Release date: February 11, 2021. 

Marlon Craft - How We Intended

Marlon Craft’s is an emcee from Hell’s Kitchen, New York whose name had been buzzing around the internet for a couple of years before he dropped his official debut album Funhouse Mirror in 2019. Funhouse Mirror turned out to be a thoroughly solid listen, with excellent jazzy instrumentals and great bars with a lot of substance and depth. How We Intended is Marlon Craft’s sophomore album, and it is a confirmation. Marlon Craft shows and proves he understands how it’s done, taking the strengths of his debut and building on them.

How We Intended is a well-rounded project, consisting of 17 well-sequenced tracks in total. The opening track “2020 Intro” is a perfect example of how an album should be opened – a first track needs to be strong to pull the listener in, and this one does. Marlon Craft has a great voice and a dope flow, and his content is relatable with consistent lyrical sharpness, regardless of the topic. The record features tasteful production from Plain Pat, 6ix, and IllMind amongst others, and Marlon Craft is joined on the album by guests Radamiz, Bobby Feeno, Chris Rivers, Oswin Benjamin, Katori Walker, and Malz Monday.

How We Intended is one of those rare albums with the potential for widespread appeal – boom-bap traditionalists, as well as people from the pop-rap crowd (and everyone in between), can find plenty to enjoy here without being turned off by influences that may not appeal directly to personal tastes. There are enough banging beats, but there’s lots of more subtle musicality to be found on How We Intended too – beats-wise there even are some forays into trap-like territory that surprisingly do not hurt the cohesiveness of the album in any way (allthough a track like “Roadtrippin” is one of the weaker songs on the album for us). For HHGA, the album would have been better with less of the sing-songy hooks, but that’s just a minor complaint – they might not bother you.

In today’s music game where lots of artists release one placeholder project after the other – everything to stay in the public’s eye continuously – Marlon Craft’s How We Intended clearly is the opposite of a slapped-together quickie. This is a serious release, undoubtedly an album that will prove to have staying power.

Release date: February 10, 2021. 

The Musalini & O Finess - No Squares In My Circle

It’s hard to keep up with the releases from artists who have adopted the rap-noir sounds of Roc Marci and Griselda, all with the same kind of minimalistic atmospheric beats and the same kind of tough-guy coke & pimp rhymes. Bronx, New York-native The Musalini is one of the top-dogs in this subgenre of Hip Hop though, his work definitely is a cut or two above the music of most of the competition.

No Squares In My Circle is a strong follow-up to The Musalini’s 2020 LP Return Of The Oro. And even if No Squares In My Circle is a collaboration with Denver’s O Finess, it kind of feels like a sequel to Return Of The Oro in many ways – not in the least because of the similar (and awesome) cover art. No Squares In My Circle offers nothing you haven’t heard before, but this is a great project nonetheless.

Release date: January 29, 2021. 

Conway The Machine & Big Ghost Ltd - If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed

Conway continues to show growth as an artist on If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed. This project is a great follow-up to the equally strong No One Mourns The Wicked – Conway and Big Ghost Ltd’s cooperative project released in 2020. Conway’s bars hit hard as always, but it’s Big Ghost Ltd’s instrumentals that elevate If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed to a higher level.

At 30 minutes If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed is much too short to be considered a proper full-length of course, and on such a short project everything has to be perfect. Not everything is perfect here – there are a couple of forgettable tracks on It Bleeds It Can Be Killed (like “Highly Praised”) – but fortunately, there are more bangers – like “Toast”, “Red Beams”, and especially the absolute stand out “Kill All Rats” (with Ransom & Rome Streetz). Due to its brevity If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed doesn’t rank higher on this list, but this is a dope project nonetheless.

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Pseudo Intellectuals - Only Built For Food And Drinks

Pseudo Intellectuals is a trio from Buffalo, New York. They debuted in 2008 with the excellent but sadly slept on Resourceful Illery. Since 2008 they’ve dropped a number of dope projects, Only Built For Food And Drinks is another fine addition to their catalog. Only Built For Food And Drinks is a must-listen for fans of traditional sounding Hip Hop – melodic boom-bap beats, lots of throwback style scratching, and clever wordplay: this album is a fun listen.

Release date: January 30, 2021. 

Cee Knowledge - The Calidelphian

Cee Knowledge (Craig Irvin) is a Fresno-based artist also known under the moniker Doodlebug as one-third of the legendary Digable Planets trio (together with Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, and Mariana “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira). With Digable Planets, he was responsible for two timeless jazz-rap classics: Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (1993) and Blowout Comb (1994). Of the three Digable Planets members, it arguably is Ishmael Butler who has the most celebrated post-Digable Planets career as half of Shabazz Palaces (the monumental Black Up (2011) is one of HHGA’s favorite albums of the 2010s).

The Calidelphian is Cee Knowledge’s first proper solo full-length, the title of the album is a play on where Cee Knowledge is currently based geographically (Fresno, California) and on where he is from originally (Philadelphia). The album combines the best of both worlds: The Calidelphian offers 13 full tracks of head-nodding boom-bap beats combined with smooth melodic vibes, topped off with solid wordplay. Fans of 90s-centric Hip Hop will not regret checking out The Calidelphian. 

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Hobgoblin - The Awakening

the best hip hop albums 2021

British beat-crafter Hobgoblin’s The Awaking is one of the finest producer’s albums of the year so far. The Awaking offers 10 equally strong tracks composed of deliciously dark bass-heavy boom-bap beats, with a host of top-tier underground emcees to take care of the vocals. The Awaking = raw underground Hip Hop at its finest.

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim - Tha YOD Fahim

hip hop albums 2021

Even if both artists had better projects in the past individually, Tha YOD Fahim still is plenty good. Their January release Tha Wolf On Wall St was a great appetizer, on this full-length Droog and Fahim deliver on the promise made by that EP, once again showcasing undeniable chemistry. The Nottz-produced “Slam Dunk Contest” with a verse from the incomparable Pharoahe Monch is a highlight, as are tracks like “Charles Barkley”, “Reign Man”, “Lost Smile”, and “Questions”. Production on Tha YOD Fahim is kind of hit-or-miss, but the positives easily outweigh the negatives – at the very least there’s enough uniqueness to most beats to make this project stand out from the crowd.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

The Hill - Receiving

the best hip hop albums of 2021

The Hill is a duo from New England, consisting of Pine Hill and Winter Hill. Receiving is their debut project, and it’s unlike anything you will hear this year – no mean feat in today’s oversaturated Hip Hop market. Receiving is a concept album, following two convicts from an alien world who stage a prison break – snatching a perpetually transmitting radio communicator on their way out – seeking refuge on an obscure habitable planet far beyond the legal reach of their captors. Receiving is their transmission (the first third of a three-album-long plot).

You may have heard better beats and better emcees, but what Pine Hill and Winter Hill do here truly is something special. Receiving is an immersive experience, an album that should be taken in in a single sitting, in the same you’d experience a movie. From start to finish Receiving offers cinematic instrumentals full of atmosphere and lots of dope in-song beat-switches, complemented by compelling quasi-abstract story-telling – reminiscent in a way of Deltron’s classic Deltron 3030 album. Hip Hop listeners who get tired of all the thirteen-a-dozen albums out these days would do well to go and check this project out.

Release date: February 13, 2021. 

Observe Since 98 - Le Dernier Royaume

observe since 98

While the likes of Roc Marciano and the Griselda family still reign supreme in the rap-noir/street-rap subgenre of Hip Hop, there are plenty of others who consistently come with fire. Loretta Records founder Observe Since 98 is such an artist. Le Denier Royaume follows Observe Since 98’s “Savage” trilogy (which started with Portrait of A Savage (2018), followed by the sequels Return Of The Savage and Royaume Du Sauvage in 2019 and 2020 respectively).

Le Denier Royaume is Observe Since 98’s best project yet. He has his own unique sound, with dark atmospheric beats and loops laced with obscure samples taken from vintage French recordings. Le Denier Royaume very much is a producer’s album – this project is much more about the instrumentals than it is about the lyrics, even if there’s nothing wrong with the vocal contributions of guests like Jay NiCE, Knowledge the Pirate, Chris Skillz, Ankhlejohn, Planet Asia, All Hail YT, Monday Night, M.A.V., Pounds, Napoleon Da Legend, (and others).

Le Denier Royaume was released on January 1st of 2021, signifying a great start of the Hip Hop year.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

slowthai - TYRON

best hip hop albums of 2021

Lots of hype surrounded this release from UK rapper slowthai. Expectations for his sophomore effort were high after the impression slowthai made with his debut full-length album Nothing Great About Britain. Nothing Great About Britain was a socio-politically charged and at times emotional snapshot of Britain in 2018/2019, capturing the mental state of a fractured nation from the perspective of an angry and embittered young adult. With his debut slowthai established himself as an exciting new voice in UK Hip Hop – with a brash punk-attitude but with plenty of charisma and charm as well.

TYRON (slowthai’s real name is Tyron Frampton) is something very different. TYRON is an album of two halves: the first half with up-tempo bangers, the second half with more personal, musically toned-down songs. It’s obvious that with this album slowthai tries to capitalize on the overseas popularity of Nothing Great About Britain, by adopting a more “American” sound with some trap-infused instrumentals to appeal to the mainstream. This is not a trap album though, slowthai’s grime-punk-rap voice is too unique to sink into a bland trap-hole, and his emotive lyrical content is far from generic.

Despite the two different halves, TYRON is an entirely cohesive listen – it has exactly the right amount of brash and chill, the transition from the first to the second half is smooth, and production is top-drawer for the most part. At 35 minutes the album is too short for the tonal duality to really come off though (the album is over before you know it), and some of the featured artists don’t bring their A-game (most notably Denzel Curry on ‘terms” has an uncharacteristically limp appearance). There’s also the feeling of unfulfilled potential because of the brevity of a lot of tracks (most are around the 2-minute mark), most notably in “WOT” – what could have been a banger of track, but turns out to be more like a 48-second interlude – too short to have an impact. Other guests like Skepta, A$AP Rocky, and James Blake do deliver with their contributions, on “CANCELLED”, “MAZZA”,  and “feel away” – some of the stronger tracks on TYRON.

All in all, even if it’s not quite as impactful as Nothing Great About Britain was, TYRON is a strong sophomore outing for slowthai. Because it’s straddling genre-fences here and there, the album may not appeal to Hip Hop purists – but there is no denying slowthai is a unique talent whose ability to convey thoughts with his voice and lyrics is second to none. With Nothing Great About Britain slowthai stepped into the international spotlight, with this compelling second album he proves he plans to stay there.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Myka 9 & Profound - Nine Clouds

best hip hop 2021

Myka 9 is a veteran rapper and producer from Los Angeles, a prominent member of the Project Blowed collective. He is also a founding member of Freestyle Fellowship, Haiku D’Etat, and Magic Heart Genies, and he’s dropped countless other collaborative and solo projects over the years. On Nine Clouds, Myka 9 raps over beats crafted by the recently deceased UK producer Profound, whose melodic soul and sample-infused backdrops enable Myka 9 to embrace his boom-bap roots. Nine Clouds is more accessible than some of Myka 9’s more experimental works, and one of his best projects in recent years. Features from the likes of  Blu, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Eligh, The Grouch, Blueprint, Joaquin Daniels, Lily Fangz, and DJ Essential help round out this short but dope project.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Substance810 - Making Waves

Substance810 is an emcee/producer from Port Huron, Michigan, Making Waves is his seventh album (he started out as Tekneek, and debuted under that name with The Definition in 2006). Making Waves offers 40 minutes of way above-average underground boom-bap, Substance810’s beats hit hard and his pen game is a sharp as his production is. DJ Grazzhopppa adds a nice throwback vibe with his scratching on several tracks, and there’s a bunch of guest emcees like Estee Nack, Ty Farris, Killy Shoot, Chuck Chan, (and others) to add some extra lyrical flavor. This is an album that will appeal to fans of traditional boom-bap as well as to fans of atmospheric rap-noir in the vein of Griselda and such artists.

Release date: January 29, 2021. 

General Steele & Es-K - AmeriKKKa's Nightmare III: City Under Siege

Smif-N-Wessun emcee General Steele links up again with producer Es-K, this time for AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege – a timely and much-needed album suited for the troubled times we live in. AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege is politically-charged and thought-provoking in the best tradition of acts like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and dead prez. The album drags a bit in the middle of the tracklist, but starts and ends strong with tracks like “What AmeriKKKa’s Fears”, “AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare”, “AmeriKKKan Made, “No Piece, No Justice” (with a powerful verse from guest rapper Ruste Juxx), “Border Wars”, and “Propaganda”. AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare III: City Under Siege is a must-listen.

Release date: February 5, 2021. 

Reasun- Resolve (The Mixtape)

best hip hop 2021

Reasun is an emcee repping Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his debut project Resolve (The Mixtape) is a mixtape in the truest sense – 14 songs mixed into one long 44-minute track by DJ Thermos. Nice.

Release date: January 7, 2021. 

The Ruler Gods - The Ruler Gods

hip hop 2021

Rawmatik, Raf Almighty, & G Stats are The Ruler Gods, and this self-titled album is their first collaborative project.

From their Bandcamp page: “Hip Hop is a universal language that millions have learned to speak in the nearly five decades since its birth, from New York to Berlin to Tokyo. That is why Budapest’s beatmaker Rawmatik (who previously worked with rap-heavyweights like Edo G., Termanology, and Rasco), New York’s underground veteran G Stats and lyricist Raf Almighty from Baltimore could understand each other immediately with the methods of the “golden era”. The trio of the two American linguists and the Hungarian beatsmith named themselves The Ruler Gods, and with months of joint, hard work across continents, they created a full record of material out of rhymes reflecting real life, all based on heavy boom-bap beats. Ruste Juxx and Ras Kass jumped in with their own verses and made the album complete.”

A couple of filler tracks stand in the way of a higher ranking, but there are some real bangers on here – listen to this whole project and you’ll be sure to add stand-out tracks like “The Ruler Gods” and “Chase The Dragon” to your ‘best of 2021‘ playlist.

Release date: February 18, 2021. 

Jim Jones & Harry Fraud - The Fraud Department

best hip hop albums 2021

This collaboration between veteran emcee Jim Jones – of Dipset fame – and producer Harry Fraud is a nice laid-back project with lots of mainstream appeal, thanks to its polished instrumentals and catchy hooks. The strength of this album is its cohesiveness – it’s just another example of having one producer is better for creating a singular sound than bringing in a different producer for every single song on a project. Harry Fraud’s music is lush and cinematic, and Jim Jones’ New York street stories are as vivid as ever, as are the bars supplied by guests like Dave East, French Montana, Curren$y, and Conway the Machine (among others). At a mere 31 minutes, The Fraud Department is short, but sweet.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Brian Bars Burns & Ollie Dodge - Dynamic Duo

the best hip hop albums of 2021

New Orleans-raised, Cali-based emcee Brian Bars Burns teamed up with producer Ollie Dodge for their collaborative project Dynamic Duo. There’s nothing complicated about Dynamic Duo, and there doesn’t have to be – this album offers close to an hour of dope beats and bars: what more do you want? Ollie Dodge’s beats, cuts, and samples are great, and Brian Bars Burns is a real lyricist – just check out a track like “Bar Maniacs”, which features guest rhymes from Harry Mack and A.F.R.O., to know what this album is all about. Dynamic Duo = 100% pure uncut Hip Hop.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Kev Brown & J Scienide - Stray From The Pack

Kev Brown & J Scienide - Stray From The Pack

Stray From The Pack is a nice collaborative effort from Kev Brown and J Scienide, following the equally solid Drum Machine Tape Cassette (2019). Stray From The Pack is tailormade for the HHGA demographic: dope beats, dope rhymes, and dope cuts by DJ Jon Doe – everything about this project has that golden era vibe, down to the cover art even. This is a great little project, biggest complaint is a common one these days: at barely 30 minutes Stray From The Pack just is too short.

Release date: January 8, 2021. 

Shamon Cassette & Jaz Infinite - Blades Of Steel

boom bap hip hop 2021

Blades Of Steel is a concept album built around an ice-hockey theme, with dope 90s-centric boom-bap beats crafted by Jaz Infinite, entertaining rhymes by Los Angeles-based Shamon Cassette, and guest bars from Myka 9, Thirstin Howl The 3rd, Spoek Mathambo, Pugs Atomz, and many others.

Release date: January 21, 2021. 

The Primeridian & Rashid Hadee - Prime Diesel

ther best hip hop albums of 2021

Rashid Hadee is an emcee from Chicago. For Prime Diesel, he teamed up with The Primeridian, a trio of emcees – Tree, Simeon, and Race – also hailing from Chicago.

Prime Diesel is a dope album, with close to an hour of smooth, soulful boom-bap instrumentals and fine grown-man lyrics from Rashid Hadee, The Primeridian, and guests like Pugs Atomz, Neak, and Philmore Greene (among others). The album offers nothing especially memorable maybe, but fans of mature 90s-centric Hip Hop will find plenty to enjoy on Prime Diesel.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Lukah - When The Black Hand Touches You

Memphis, Tenessee emcee Lukah’s When The Black Hand Touches You is a dope follow-up to its (slightly superior) predecessor Chickenwire (2018).  Lukah comes with 16 tracks on When The Black Hand Touches You, musically strong with atmospheric sample-based production and with hard-hitting street raps in the vein of Griselda and Freddie Gibbs. A lot of albums like this one drop these days, and even if When The Black Hand Touches You has nothing to make it really stand out from the crowd, because of its consistency it will comfortably end up on the higher end of this subgenre’s spectrum in 2021. Fans of Freddie Gibbs’s music better not sleep on When The Black Hand Touches You.  

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Ol' Burger Beats & Vuyo - Dialogue

jazz rap 2021

Ol’ Burger Beats is a producer from Oslo, Norway, for Dialogue he teamed up with South-African/Norwegian emcee Vuyo. According to their Bandcamp page Dialogue is inspired by spiritual and revolutionary jazz records, sweet soul music, and classic New York Hip Hop – people up for a dose of chilled-out jazz-rap with a left-field twist should definitely check out Dialogue.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Frank Knight & Chuck Lawayne - Slim & Mickens

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Frank Knight teamed up with producer/emcee Chuck Lawayne for Slim & Mickens, a thoroughly enjoyable presentation that pays homage to the 70’s Blaxploitation era. Well-realized, down to the cover art aesthetics, this project is a great listen that deserves your attention if smooth and soulful Hip Hop is your thing.

Release date: January 18, 2021. 

DJ Cosm - Natural Within

Natural Within is a charming little project from Canadian DJ Cosm. 10 dope tracks, no filler, no interludes, no skits, or any such nonsense – nothing but smooth 90s-centric boom-bap beats and great features from artists like Sadat X, El Da Sensei, Prince Po, Starvin B, Chris Orrick, Daniel Son, Skanks the Rap Martyr, Anti Lilly, (and lots of others).

Natural Within is a consistent presentation throughout, but a special mention goes out to “Frank Sisson’s” a track with an infectious beat and with dope rhymes from an emcee named Belvedere Spinello, whose flow sounds like a blend of Grand Puba, Chubb Rock, and Pete Rock in their best days. Natural Within is kind of generic maybe, but totally enjoyable – fans of that 90s type Hip Hop can’t go wrong with this DJ Cosm project.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Jay NiCE & Machacha - A Stream Of Consciousness

Jay NiCE & Machacha

Delaware emcee Jay Nice has been on a roll the last couple of years, this collaboration with producer Machacha is another entry in what is a string of solid projects. Nothing wrong with A Stream of Consciousness either, but it has little to distinguish itself from all the other Griselda-esque releases out these days – outside mainstream trap, this arguably is the most oversaturated niche of all the subgenres in Hip Hop. That said, fans of atmospheric low- to midtempo modern-day boom-bap will not be disappointed by A Stream of Consciousness. 

Release date: February 18, 2021. 

jaH-Monte - Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC

jaH-Monte Ogbon is an Ohio-born, North Carolina-based rapper, spending extended time in Brooklyn, New York in recent times to connect with local artists and to make music. Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC is his follow-up to last year’s Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side A. Where Side A was sweet but short at 15 minutes, Side B is a proper full-length at 47 minutes, giving it a more fleshed out and better-rounded overall feel.

Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC is not a thirteen to a dozen kind of album (which we see so many of in today’s oversaturated Hip Hop market), but it has an own distinctive sound – largely owing to excellent production from start to finish. The chilled-out sample-based instrumentals will hold your attention from beginning to end, and there is nothing wrong with jah Monte’s flow and lyrics either, nor with that of guests like Big Kahuna OG, Fly Anakin, Brain Orchestra, and others. Seventy-Fifth & Amsterdam Side B: Lost In NYC is a dope project and jaH-Monte is an artist to watch.

Release date: January 18, 2021. 

Breeze Brewin & Juggaknots - Hindsight

The Juggaknots is a trio from The Bronx, New York, consisting of siblings Breeze Brewin, Queen Herawin, and Buddy Slim. They have been at it for a while – real heads will know of their debut studio album, Clear Blue Skies (1996), an indie release (re-issued as Re:Release with 11 bonus tracks in 2003) that is now considered an underground classic.

Hindsight is billed as the debut solo album from Breeze Brewin, with production from the likes of Marco Polo, Black Milk, De La Soul’s DJ Maseo, DJ Spinna, Sebb Bash, and others. With Hindsight Breeze Brewin gives us 13 dope songs, with socio-political insights  (“Devil’s Advocate”, which has Breeze criticizing former President Donald Trump), his view on the music industry (“The Application”), and some deeply personal bars about friendships (“The Uninvited”) and about being a teacher as a person of color (“Taking Notes”).

Hindsight is a slice of grown man Hip Hop at its finest.

Release date: January 22, 2021. 

YUNGMORPHEUS - States Of Precarity

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

Los Angeles-based rapper YUNGMORPHEUS has been very prolific in recent times, dropping a number of projects with thought-provoking and often provocative lyrical content. States Of Precarity is another quality YUNGMORPHEUS release, albeit one for a niche audience. YUNGMORPHEUS has something to say, and his lo-fi jazzy beats gel well with his chilled-out flow and delivery. Those who have never listened to him before but who dig music from regular YUNGMORPHEUS collaborators like VIK, Pink Siifu, Fly Anakin, Koncept Jack$on, and Ohbliv, should go and listen to States Of Precarity.

Release date: January 8, 2021. 

Wais P - SUNOVA

best hip hop 2021

SUNOVA is a bombastic boom-bap LP from veteran Brooklyn emcee Wais P, with guest spots from Termanology, Lil Fame, Sauce Money, Yogi, and Nitty Scott. Solid underground NYC Hip Hop.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Antahlyzah - The Ceremonial Gifted

Antahlyzah - The Ceremonial Gifted

“Golden Era is my habitat”. Los Angeles-based emcee Khalil the Antahlyzah stays true to his roots and brings forth an ancestral vibration while representing the forefathers with that Golden Age sound on his 11th album The Ceremonial Gifted. Thanks to his metaphysical philosophizing, Antahlyzah’s music is reminiscent of that of Killah Priest, The Ceremonial Gifted has echoes of acts like Wu-Tang Clan and X-Clan too, with clear 90s Hip Hop vibes in its sound all the way through. This album may be a slow-burner that requires multiple listens to really be able to appreciate it but The Ceremonial Gifted deserves the attention – listeners who like their Hip Hop conscious, intelligent, and positive will find a lot to unpack and enjoy here.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Meph Luciano - Annihilation

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Meph Luciano is a Dallas, Texas-based emcee/producer. Annihilation was produced by Chim Beats, and features vocals by Melp Luciano of course, along with underground emcees like Casablanca, DRE Colombian Raw, Tito The Czar, and a host of others. Annihilation is deliciously dark and atmospheric, a great addition to the rap-noir subgenre.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Son Of Tony - Son On A Sunday

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Son Of Tony emerges from the Buffalo, New York underground with his debut project Son On A Sunday. With dark, atmospheric beats and hard-hitting street rhymes by Son Of Tony and guest vocals by the likes of Skyzoo, Mickey Factz, Ren Thomas, and Tish Hyman, this is a solid little album that will especially resonate with fans of East Coast underground street rap.

Release date: January 8, 2021. 

Chris Crack - Might Delete Later

best rap music 2021

Prolific Chicago rapper and producer Chris Crack returns with Might Delete Later, his first album on the Fool’s Gold Records label, after a long string of self-released mixtapes and EP’s. Chris Crack is a unique voice in Hip Hop. He comes off as a hybrid of Danny Brown and fellow Chicagoan Vic Spencer, combining the franticness of the former with the laidback style of the latter, all of it with his very own hedonistic (at times vulgar) blend of humor and bravado. Stylistically Chris Crack is not one to be pigeonholed, he effectively combines chilled-out jazz-vibes with melodic trap-flavored instrumentals on Might Delete Later – managing to make the project sound entirely cohesive anyway. Might Delete Later is a good entry point to the world of Chris Crack for those who have been sleeping on his work so far.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Asun Eastwood & The Twinning - Prophecy Is My Present

Toronto emcee Asun Eastwood teamed up with Philadelphia duo The Twinning for Prophecy Is My Present. Nothing wrong with this project – the moody boom-bap beats are solid, as are Asun Eastwood’s bars and that of guest rappers like Lord Juco, Raz Fresco, Don Smith, Rasheed Chappell, and others – but there’s nothing here that lets Prophecy Is My Present stand out from better projects with a similar sound out today either – and there’s a lot of better similar-sounding projects to be found right now. Still, well worth checking out if modern-day underground boom-bap floats your boat.

Release date: February 23, 2021. 

Erratic - Apocalyption

best hip hop 2021

Apocalyption is the debut album from New England-based underground rapper Erratic. Apocalyption is a fairly typical horrorcore project – but even if it is kind of generic for the subgenre, it’s well enough executed, with bombastic instrumentals and hard-hitting rhymes. Fans of the music from acts like Tech N9ne and Twiztid will dig Apocalyption. 

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

Norm Regular - Describe Infinity

Describe Infinity is the debut LP from Baltimore-based artist Norm Regular. The album serves as an ode to Infinite Description, a 90’s Hip Hop crew formed by Norm’s older brother, cousins, and childhood friends of his brother. The production on Describe Infinity is atmospheric with solid bass-heavy boom-bap beats, and Norm Regular rides the beats well with his dope flow – this short project is well-worth checking out, and Norm Regular is an artist to keep an eye on.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Ty Farris - Practice Raps

Detroit emcee Ty Farris had a couple of solid releases in 2020, and he continues his streak of quality releases in 2021 with the short but strong Practice Raps tape. Dope beats and great wordplay from one of the best emcees in the underground.

Release date: January 18, 2021. 

Slaine - The Things We Can't Forgive

top rap 2021

The Things We Can’t Forgive is the latest project of La Coka Nostra member Slain, following 2017’s Anti-Hero collaboration with Termanology, and 2019’s One Day. Like One Day, The Things We Can’t Forgive is (primarily) produced entirely by The Arcitype, and the album has features of fellow La Coka Nostra member Ill Bill, as well as from Claire Whall, Snak The Ripper, and Rike Hook.

The Things We Can’t Forgive is another solid Slaine project, as always with deeply personal content and some rock-flavored vibes in Slain’s vocals and in the boom-bap instrumentals. People who dig the sort of Hip Hop coming out of the La Coka Nostra/Jedi Mind Tricks/Army Of The Pharaohs corner of Hip Hop will like The Things We Can’t Forgive without a doubt.

Release date: February 12, 2021. 

Curtis Dro - P.O.T.P.

hiphop 2021

Curtis Dro is an up-and-coming rapper from Atlanta, and P.O.T.P. is a solid project that deserves a listen if you’re into witty wordplay backed by the melodic 808’s. P.O.T.P. is an album to ride to.

Release date: February 19, 2021. 

2nd Generation Wu - Hereditary

2nd Generation Wu - Hereditary

2nd Generation Wu consists of iNTeLL (U-God’s son), PXWER (Method Man’s son), Sun God (Ghostface Killah’s son) & Young Dirty Bastard (Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son) – the group name as well as the title of their collective debut album an obvious nod to their familial ties. Hereditary was originally released on the 8th of November 2020 with ten tracks, but the album was soon retracted from streaming services as most songs wouldn’t play. The album has been redone since, adding an additional 5 extra songs to the tracklist.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare the debut of the sons with the classic debut of their fathers, but since they themselves so obviously elected to emphasize the family connection a comparison is inevitable. Of course, this album never reaches the levels of the epicness their fathers’ debut Enter The Wu-Tang (1993) achieved. And realistically it never could, knowing the monumental Enter The Wu-Tang is one of the best and most influential Hip Hop albums of all time.

Hereditary is a solid album though, and a worthy addition to the Wu-legacy. iNTeLL, PXWER, Sun God, and Young Dirty Bastard are talented emcees, and it’s fun to hear their fathers’ voices and styles in their respective flows. The album was produced by a host of different producers, none of them with RZA’s magic touch, unfortunately. The beats are decent for the most part, but most of them miss that Wu-Tang ‘punch’ early RZA is celebrated for – there are some definite lulls in the tracklist, especially in the middle and towards the end of the album.

That said, there is plenty to enjoy on Hereditary. Because of samples taken from classic Wu-Tang Clan songs, tracks like “Wrong Route”, “Pxrokinesis” (featuring Masta Killa’s son Pxro), “Blockchain”, and the single “7.O.D.” have a recognizable Wu-Tang vibe to them. Other standouts include the dope instrumental intro track “Royal Genetics”, “Guess Who? “, “From The Isles Of Staten”, and “Goldn Meathooks” (with Inspectah Deck). There are a couple of weaker tracks too (like the meandering “Alotta Loot”, “Express Power”, and “With This”), but overall Hereditary is well-worth checking out, a must for Wu-Tang diehards at least.

Release date: January 14, 2021. 

Rick Fury - Return Of The King

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Rick Fury is a veteran emcee from Newcastle, UK. Return Of The King is a solid album, offering over an hour of fun wordplay supported by smooth and soulful boom-bap beats. All aesthetics matter and the awesome cover art for Return Of The King adds to the album’s appeal. Favorite track: “How To Deal With A Liar”, with guest vocals from Abi Nyxx – a female vocalist to watch.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

R​.​A​.​P. Ferreira - Bob's Son (R​.​A​.​P. Ferreira In The Garden Level Cafe Of The Scallops Hotel)

rap ferreira

R.A.P. Ferreira, the artist formerly known as Milo, starts off the year strong with this solid follow-up to Purple Moonlight Pages, R.A.P. Ferreira’s excellent 2020 jazz-hop album. Bob’s Son is just as loungy, and even more unorthodox in its song structures – the whole project produced entirely by R.A.P. Ferreira himself under his Scallops Hotel alias.

The title of the album refers to mid-20th century beat poet and surrealist Bob Kaufman, not for no reason of course: the poetic lyrics on Bob’s Son can be seen as an homage to Kaufman’s work. R.A.P. Ferreira’s lyrics are characteristically impenetrable, but they are delivered with his usual confidence and charm – so even if it’s not always crystal clear what he’s talking about, his vocals are a pleasure to listen to.

Despite the experimental, at times even kind of chaotic character of the album, the mellow vibes of the instrumentals make it an easily digestible listen. Due to the album’s brevity – it runs for a mere 35 minutes – it does feel kind of lightweight though. And because it starts off better than it ends, the album is not as strong and well-rounded overall as Purple Moonlight Pages is. That said: Bob’s Son is a pretty good album – kind of weird, but charming all the way through.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

7 Oddz & DJ-M1 - Seven vs One

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

Chicago crew Seven Oddities (DreamTek, Tony Patagonia, Al Tamper, Billie Dee Boodah, DoomsDay Araiza, Roy Hobes, and MC Clever One) teamed up with DJ M1, who took care of all production and cuts on Seven vs One. Solid 90s-centric underground boom-bap – nothing special, but enjoyable enough nonetheless.

Release date: January 7, 2021. 

Nyck Caution - Anywhere But Here

the best hip hop albums of 2021

Pro Era’s Nyck Caution delivered a middle-of-the-road Hip Hop album with Anywhere But Here. There was potential for greatness here because Nyck Caution is an excellent lyricist – his flow is great, and his personal, introspective lyrics are listen-worthy from start to finish. The album is brought down some by the instrumentals though, the beats all are a little bit too boring and unmemorable to really do justice to Nyck Caution’s rhymes. Also, Nyck Caution’s fondness for R&B-ish hooks on a lot of songs here can be an annoyance (unless you share that fondness, of course).

Anywhere But Here is a short album at 36 minutes, but it feels longer – never a good sign. A bunch of features from the likes of Joey Bada$$, Denzel Curry, Kota the Friend, and CJ Fly (among others) add extra flavor to Anywhere But Here, but not enough to make the album especially memorable. Now, all this may sound more negative than the album really deserves – the lyrics on Anywhere But Here are pretty strong, and the instrumentals are easy to get in to. But just because Anywhere But Here can potentially be appreciated by anybody, the album might end up being ignored by everybody.

Release date: January 15, 2021. 

Special Mention: Blu - God Is Good

blu

Typically, we don’t include mixtapes or re-releases on our ‘best albums of the year’ lists, but this one is too good to ignore so it deserves a special mention. God is Good is unmixed and unmastered, but this ‘old’ Blu project is dope as f anyway. Originally titled TheGodLeeBarnesLP, the project was slated for a 2010 release, intended to be Blu’s highly anticipated sophomore solo album – but unfortunately, it ended up being one of the biggest ‘what could have beens’ of the decade when Blu lost his master files due to a hard drive crash.

So even if it will always be sad this album never got a proper release, we can be thankful for Blu electing to (re)release the raw version of TheGodLeeBarnesLP as God Is Good via his Bandcamp page – it definitely deserves attention even as unpolished as it is. The rough-around-the-edges low-quality sound gives off basement/demo tapes vibes, no doubt it will make old heads nostalgic for how Hip Hop was experienced in the good ol’ days.

At 70 minutes God Is Good is a long listen and here and there it meanders, but that’s OK – this is pure uncut raw lo-fi underground boom-bap that should please more Hip Hop listeners than just Blu fans.

Release date: January 1, 2021. 

Honorable Mentions

Best EPs Of 2021

  • Qwazaar & Batsauce – Stoned Giant
  • Ol’ Dayz – The Good Old Days
  • Serengeti – What A Day
  • Bobby J From Rockaway & Daru Jones – One Mic & Drum
  • Maassai – With The Shifts
  • Henry L.O. – Ree Louis
  • Tha God Fahim & Your Old Droog – Tha Wolf On Wall St
  • Horror City & OG Jazzo – Shut UP
  • Craig G & BigBob – The Pen Is Mightier
  • Kota The Friend – Lyrics To Go Vol. 2
  • Bun B & LE$ – Distant

Best Instrumental Hip Hip Albums Of 2021

  • 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

  • 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

  • Man Made Mountain – Average Man
  • The Lasso – 2121
  • A.I. The Anomaly – Soul’s Acrylic

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2020

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The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2020

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2 responses to “The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021”

  1. Duncan Walklet says:

    TYRON by slowthai is utterly brilliant. Give it a go, got to be at least worth an honourable mention..

  2. AyBee says:

    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.

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