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list May 16 2022 Written by

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2022

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2022

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2022: This is a work in progress. The only way to compile an authoritative list is to keep track of new releases week-by-week, day-by-day even. This list will be updated regularly until the end of the year, where it will result in our best-of-the-year list.

Lots to look forward to this year, with a bunch of ‘sequels’ slated to be released – Redman’s Muddy Waters 2, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx III, Ghostface Killah Supreme Clientele 2, De La Soul’s AOI3, LL Cool J’s GOAT 2, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 3, Jay-Z’s Blueprint 4, and Nas’ King’s Disease III all are albums we are eagerly anticipating. We’re also looking forward to expected releases from EPMD (Big Business), Q-Tip (AlGoRhythms, Riotdiaries, The Last Zulu), Freddie Gibbs (Soul Sold Separately), and Danny Brown (Quaranta).

As always on our best of the year lists, not included are instrumental albumscompilations, and EPs. Some artists market 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 2022, as well as a listing of 2022’s best instrumental Hip Hop projects.

This is a top 60, albums that don’t make our best 60 of the year but which are worth listening to anyway can be found in the honorable mentions.

Let’s get into it, check out what we think are the best Hip Hop albums of 2022 so far – best first.

Last updated: May 16. Latest entries: #1 Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers; #6 Black Star & Madlib – No Fear Of Time; #7 Jermiside & The Expert – The Overview Effect; #17 Quelle Chris – DEATHFAME; #26 Libretto & Vitamin D – Rusty Bladez; #35 Prop Dylan – Bushido Code

Also check: Greatest Hip Hop Albums 1980 – 2021 & Top 250 Hip Hop Albums Of All Time

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2022

Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album is one of the most anticipated releases in recent memory, coming five years after the Pulitzer price-winning DAMN. For us, that album was generally overhyped and overrated, not on par with Kendrick Lamar’s masterpieces good kid m.A.A.d. city (2012) and To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) anyway. And while it remains to be seen if Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers will eventually be able to stand side to side with GKMC and TPAB, it definitely is a sight better than DAMN, reconfirming Kendrick Lamar’s status as one of the leading and most important Hip Hop artists of his generation.

Kendrick Lamar always offers new sounds, new flows, and new perspectives with every project he releases, and Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is no exception. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is an intimate album full of musical precision, with a sharp focus on Lamar’s personal traumas, doubts, and contradictions. Where GKMC explored Kendrick’s origins in Compton, and TPAB scaled up to the collective and intergenerational trauma of the entire black community, this album succeeds in finding the middle ground. Kendrick gives us a status update, a state of affairs, good and bad, still taking a confrontational look at himself. A large part of the bad influences that shaped his youth are behind him, but that past itself doesn’t just leave you behind. With his relatable and self-reflective content on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Kendrick Lamar shows us sensitivity, and how this sensitivity can be converted into anger, fear, uncertainty, and bitterness on the turn of a dime. The mental and emotional volatility that characterizes Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is one of the album’s biggest strengths – even if some of the themes presented can seem contradictory, and even if some of the content will be hard to stomach for some (tracks such as “Auntie Diaries” and the powerful but hard to listen to “We Cry Together” come to mind).

There’s a lot to unpack on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers – this is an album that will have to marinate a good while before making any determination where it ranks even in Lamar’s own catalog is possible. That said, it’s obvious this is an AOTY year contender for 2022 – there’s nobody quite like Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is just another affirmation of his top-dog status.

Release date: May 13, 2022.

billy woods - Aethiopes

billy woods is a rapper who defies easy categorization; he was born in the U.S. but spent much of his childhood in Africa and the West Indies. On the mic, woods is no less of a conundrum, possessed of versatile flows and an ability to not only tackle topics other artists wouldn’t dream of, but also to bring unique perspectives to the familiar ones. 

billy woods’ earlier albums – solo and as a member of Super Chron Flight Brothers – are all strong enough, but the next level was reached when woods struck out on his own after the now-defunct Super Chron Flight Brothers with 2012’s audacious mission statement, History Will Absolve Me. An album two years in the making, History… was a molotov cocktail of sarcastic fury, with production to match its uncompromising vision.

History Will Absolve Me was the first in an incredible run of top-quality left-field Hip Hop albumsHistory Will Absolve Me (2012), Dour Candy (2013), Today, I Wrote Nothing (2015), Known Unknowns (2017), Hiding Places (with Kenny Segal, 2019) and Terror Management (2019) are all about as good as it gets. Together with the projects he dropped as Armand Hammer (a collaboration with rapper/producer Elucid) – Race Music (2013), Rome (2017), Paraffin (2018), that’s nine straight top-tier projects released in the 2010s. billy woods continued his run of excellence in the 2020s, with BRASS (2020), a collaboration with experimental musician and poet Moor Mother, and two more strong Armand Hammer albums – Shrines (2020) and Haram (2021).

Aethiopes is up there with billy woods’ best albums, on par with History Will Absolve Me, and arguably even better than Known UnknownsHiding Places, and Haram – all albums that were among the best 5 albums of the years in which they were released. Aethiopes is fully produced by Preservation, who delivered a suite of tracks on Terror Management and the two collaborated again on Preservation’s 2020’s LP Eastern Medicine, Western Illness.

Preservation’s dense and eerie production on Aethiopes is phenomenal, and billy woods’ pen game feels like it’s hit another peak. As always, it will take multiple listen to digest and be able to fathom his deep semi-abstract bars – but by now it’s undeniable: woods is one of Hip Hop’s greatest poets, along with Brownville’s Ka, to name one of the few who can play in billy woods’ league. Elucid, Boldy James, Quelle Chris, Denmark Vessey, Breeze Brewin, and El-P (among others) make appearances to add some extra flavor, but Aethiopes very much is billy woods’ own show. He’s as good here as he ever was, and his forward-thinking content is amplified extra by Preservation’s unique and flawless instrumentals. To top it off, sequencing and transitioning on Aethiopes is perfectly done too. Thirteen tracks, and not a weak one among them – Aethiopes is 2022’s first AOTY-contender.

Release date: April 8, 2022.

Benny The Butcher - Tana Talk 4

Benny The Butcher’s official debut album Tana Talk 3 is one of the best Hip Hop albums released in 2018 and one of the best three albums to ever come out of the Griselda camp, arguably even the absolute best. Tana Talk 3 was followed in 2020 by Burden Of Proof – an OK album, but not nearly as good as its predecessor. By naming his third album Tana Talk 4, Benny The Butcher set the bar high – it implies a return to the gritty sounds of Tana Talk 3, and a departure from the more polished, mainstream-friendly beats on Burden Of Proof. Whether or not Tana Talk 4 will eventually be considered to be on par with Tana Talk 3 remains to be seen, but it is a great album – way better than Burden Of Proof in any case.

Burden Of Proof was produced by Hit-Boy, and his sound is too clean and polished for Benny The Butcher as far as we are concerned. Thankfully, Tana Talk 4 is mostly produced by Daringer and The Alchemist – which means a glorious return to the murk and grit of Tana Talk 3. Benny also sounds great on here – his lyricism, delivery, and flow are on point as always. Regular collaborators like Conway The Machine, Westside Gunn, 38 Spesh, Stove God Cooks, and Boldy James show up, as does the kind of unexpected J Cole – who kills it on “Johnny P’s Caddy” with the best feature on the album. There are twelve tracks on Tana Talk 4, and all of them are strong – nothing but hard bars and killer beats here. Tana Talk 3 remains our favorite Benny project, but Tana Talk 4 is a very close second.

Release date: March 11, 2022.

Sadistik & Kno - Bring Me Back When The World Is Cured

We’ve never really connected with Sadistik’s ’emo raps’ before, but this album is something else. On Bring Me Back When The World Is Cured Sadistik paints dark and beautiful pictures with his rhymes – his moody words and flows are truly touching here and more than on any of his earlier albums the emotional impact of his content is amplified by the strength of the production. Kno is one of the best producers out there and has been for well over a decade – his work as one-third of CunninLynguists (especially on A Piece Of Strange (2006), Oneirology (2011), and Rose Azura Njano (2017) is superb, and the instrumentals he crafted for his solo masterpiece Death Is Silent (2010) are next-level too. He is a true master of creating atmospheric soundscapes – music you FEEL – and the hauntingly beautiful beats he crafted to bring the best out of Sadistik on Bring Me Back When The World Is Cured are simply gorgeous. Powerful stuff – not for everybody probably but one of our favorite albums of the year anyway.

Release date: April 1, 2022.

Nerves Baddington - Micro/Macro

Nerves Baddington is a trio from Birmingham, Alabama, consisting of Kilgore Doubt, inkline, and Cam the Invisible Man. Their Micro and Macro albums are two fantastic projects we will consider a double-LP because the two are inextricably connected. In this era of music streaming, we see a lot of artists dropping short EP-length projects, presenting them as full-length albums. Nerves Baddington bucked this trend by dropping two ambitious 45-minute projects that combine into one near-flawless album that’s not a second too long. Micro/Macro offers an hour and a half of top-tier experimental but accessible Hip Hop – this is one of those rare projects that might appeal to casual rap fans and to more discerning Hip Hop listeners alike. 

Micro/Macro features production by all three Nerves Baddington members (mostly from Kilgore Doubt), with some assistance from outside collaborator The Phasing Octopus. Nerves Baddington emcee inkline is joined on the microphone by a host of other Birmingham rappers, like MC Kano, Black Plastique, Shaun Judah, Nick Dire, Mane Rok, Fleetwood Deville, Akil Pratt, K1NG ELJAY, and others.

Micro/Macro is a project with power and purpose. The soundscapes are meticulously crafted, the rhymes offer a perfect blend of the thoughtful and the abstract, and the flows of inkline and guests are tight. Micro and Macro are excellent listening experiences separately – and because of subtle sonic and lyrical cross-reference points, they are even stronger combined. Micro/Macro is an ambitious and totally captivating piece of music, one of the best Hip Hop albums of the year so far.

Release date: February 22, 2022.

Black Star & Madlib - No Fear Of Time

After 24 years, No Fear Of Time finally reunites one of the greatest Hip Hop duos of all time—yasiin bey (f.k.a. as Mos Def) and Talib Kweli are Black Star. Recorded guerrilla-style in hotel rooms and dressing rooms around the globe, the 9-track album has a future vibe with vintage soul, fitting for one of the most anticipated releases in decades.

Too bad attention for No Fear Of Time will suffer from its terrible roll-out – the album was exclusively released on the podcast platform Luminary, which will severely limit exposure to wider audiences. A shame because No Fear Of Time signifies a great return for Black Star. The album is entirely produced by the iconic Madlib, who brought a fantastic crop of trippy instrumentals – without intending to take away anything from yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli’s bars and flows (not to mention those of guest emcee Black Thought), but Madlib’s musical backdrops arguably are the strongest aspect of the album.

There’s no sense in comparing No Fear Of Time to the classic Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, with almost a quarter-century between them this tight little project is no follow-up or continuation of early Black Star in any way, nor should it be. What No Fear Of Time is, is an intriguing renewed collaboration of two Hip Hop greats, bolstered by the production of a third legendary name who also came up in the late 1990s. If No Fear Of Time will be mentioned in the same breath as Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star 25 years down the line is doubtful, but it doesn’t matter: this is a great piece of Hip Hop whichever way you look at it.

Release date: May 3, 2022.

Jermiside & The Expert - The Overview Effect

The Overview Effect by emcee-producer duo Jermiside & The Expert is a vast musical collage of psychedelic soundscapes merged with Hip Hop’s golden age. A socially conscious psychedelic Hip Hop album inspired by Marvin Gaye’s narrative on What’s Going On mixed with tripped-out beats reminiscent of Edan’s Beauty & The Beat (2005).

The production on The Overview Effect takes on late-60s psychedelic folk/rock, viewed through a 90s b-boy mentality of heavy drums and dope breaks. Built with a keen ear for detail, The Expert densely layered his productions with tons of samples, seamlessly weaved together. Swirling strings, sitars, Moogs and crunchy guitars are all present, accompanied by trippy sound effects.

The Overview Effect is an album that never overstays its welcome and demands repeated listening. The carefully crafted collage on the album cover reflects war, greed, injustice, racism, and social ecology. Jermiside’s vivid imagery paints his own picture of a broken world yet one where the power is still in our hands to change it, with stand-out tracks including “I Love You, Still?” which has Jermiside questioning his love for his home country, “Black Tears” that sees Jermiside and Stik Figa trade experiences about racial challenges and inequalities, while “Bullet shock” deals with police and the use of authority. The album then ends on a positive note with “A Little Love”, stating that love conquers all.”

The Overview Effect is a GREAT piece of music, don’t sleep on this one.

Release date: May 6, 2022.

Conway The Machine - God Don't Make Mistakes

Conway The Machine’s God Don’t Make Mistakes is his best album yet. On his Shady Records debut and second solo studio LP – following From King to a God (2020) and a long string of collaborative projects, mixtapes, and EPs – the Buffalo-based Griselda rapper gets more introspective and personal than ever before, evidenced by standout tracks such as “Guilty”, “Stress”, “So Much More”, and “God Don’t Make Mistakes”. Other strong songs include “Tear Gas” (with a surprisingly good guest verse from Lil Wayne), “Piano Love”, “John Woo Flick”, with Griselda family Westside Gunn and Benny The Butcher, and “Chanel Pearls”, with a rapping Jill Scott. Production from Daringer and The Alchemist stands outs, of course, but all producers involved deliver – managing to keep the overall sound of the album reasonably cohesive, even if the differences in gritty vs polished production styles of the individual producers involved can easily be recognized.

A couple of small issues stand in the way from God Don’t Make Mistakes being an AOTY contender – some of the hooks and features are kind of weak, and we could have done without “Wild Chapters” in its entirety, the only song on the album that should have been left on the cutting room floor. That said: God Don’t Make Mistakes is a great album overall, another one in a long series of dope Griselda family projects that are instrumental in bridging the gap between the underground and the mainstream.

Release date: February 25, 2022.

KRS-One - I M A M C R U 1 2

KRS-One - I M A M C R U 1 2 | Review

“I am an MC, are you one too?” 35 years in the game, and KRS One is still ready to challenge and beat any rapper out there. KRS-One is a REAL emcee, you see?

After KRS-One dropped a couple of singles in 1986 with the late Scott La Rock, the duo debuted as Boogie Down Productions with the now-classic LP Criminal Minded in 1987. The rest is history. By All Means Necessary (1988), The Blueprint (1989), Edutainment (1990), Sex & Violence (1992) are all classic Hip Hop albums too. Sex & Violence was the last BDP album, the iconic Return Of The Boom Bap (1993) started KRS-One’s solo career.

In 2022, KRS-One is still going strong. “The top 1 of the top 5, and that’s the end of it.” KRS tells us on the standout cut “Achieving The Levels”. And: “I’m 50, and 20-year olds can’t match the energy / on stage, I’m in a rage – yeah, it’s like ten of me / disrespect the Teacha, you know the penalty / KRS-One: I’m from a whole different century / I’m Paid In Full, so you can ch-check out My Melody…”

Unlike most of his post-Millenium efforts, I M A M C R U 1 2 is totally solid and consistent: it’s one of KRS-One’s best albums in over 20 years. As always, KRS comes with socio-conscious rhymes mixed with braggadocio bars, delivering his bars with a hardcore, powerful, and energetic attitude. His flow and his articulation are as immaculate as ever – KRS-One might be 56 years old by now, but his vocal power and the strength of his pen game are undiminished. Production is simple but fresh and functional, and a KRS-One album is all about his BARS anyway. “The Beginning”, “Raw Hip Hop”, “Achieving The Levels”,  “I M A M C R U 1 2”, “Drop Another Break”, “Have To Wait”, and the Slick Rick inspired “Knock Em Out” – lots of timeless KRS bangers on this LP.

Like his last album Between Da Protests (2020), which was quite good tooI M A M C R U 1 2 will suffer from underpromotion and disinterest (read disrespect) from mainstream Hip Hop outlets and uninformed younger Hip Hop listeners – but here at HHGA, we know what’s up and who is the GOAT. KRS-One is the top 1 of the top 5, and that’s the end of it. Fresh for ’22, you suckers…

Release date: February 22, 2022.

Napoleon Da Legend & Clypto – Maison De Medici

Maison De Medici is a collaboration between prolific Comoros-born Brooklyn-based emcee Napoleon Da Legend and West Coast producer Clypto. It’s hard to keep up with Napoleon Da Legend’s release schedule: he had a couple of strong projects in 2021, and Maison De Medici is his second full-length of 2022, coming hot on the heels of the solid as f Modus Operandi – a collaboration with French Marseille-based production duo Just Music Beats. Where Modus Operandi‘s sound is straight (but melodic) boom-bap with a focus on hard bars, Maison De Medici is a more toned-down affair, with stylish instrumentals crafted by Clypto and clever content from NDL and guests such as Supreme Cerebral and Nejma Nefertiti (among others). NDL’s cadence and flow are great, he is one of those natural emcees who makes riding a beat sound effortless. Maison De Medici is a mature and tasteful Hip Hop album, one of Napoleon Da Legend’s best yet, and a must-listen.

Release date: March 11, 2022.

Bloodmoney Perez & Messiah Musik - Second Hand Accounts

Alaska-based Puerto Rican Bloodmoney Perez teamed up with Baltimore producer Messiah Musik for Second Hand Accounts – an intriguing presentation of top-notch left-field Hip Hop. Messiah Musik’s experimental instrumentals are captivating, as are Bloodmoney Perez’s bars – his baritone is powerful, and both his flow and semi-abstract rhymes are reminiscent of billy woods, a great compliment in our book. Second Hand Accounts is the best Hip Hop album released in January of 2022 – don’t sleep.

Release date: January 28, 2022. 

Curren$y & The Alchemist - Continuance

Mostly everything iconic producer The Alchemist touches turns to gold, ever since his mid-90s work with Mobb Deep – but especially the last couple of years. His albums with Boldy James (The Price Of Tea In ChinaBo Jackson), Armand Hammer (Haram), and Freddie Gibbs (Alfredo) are among the best of the years they were released in. In 2022 it’s New Orleans rapper Curren$y who gets to benefit from The Alchemist’s superior production on their fourth collaborative project, Continuance. Curren$y’s low-key classic Covert Coup (2011) showcased the duo’s chemistry for the first time, and they doubled down on it on The Carrollton Heist (2016) and especially on Fetti, the amazing EP Curren$y and The Alchemist did with Freddie Gibbs in 2018. With Continuance, they continue their streak of excellence.

Uncle Al’s lush sonics are tailormade for Curren$y’s chilled-out flows, and well-placed features from the likes of Boldy James, Havoc, Wiz Khalifa, Styles P, Babyface Ray, and Larry June provide the icing on the cake. Continuance is a concise but fully realized front-to-end listen, with no weak spots at all.

Release date: February 18, 2022.

AJ Suede & Televangel - Metatron's Cube

Seattle, Washington’s AJ Suede teamed up with Televangel (half of the unsung production duo Blue Sky Black Death) for Metatron’s Cube, an album of psychedelic, biting rhymes with smooth flows over brooding, nostalgic beats with a touch of noir that will hit you hard and envelop you in their world. Metatron’s Cube is AJ Suede’s best project yet, a presentation of underground Hip Hop at its finest, dark and abstract but inviting and accessible at the same time – this is a stylish and well-rounded album that will prove to have staying power.

Release date: January 14, 2022.

Dälek - Precipice

“Forged in the fires of the East Coast underground music scene in the 90s, experimental Hip Hop pioneers, Union City, NJ-based duo Dälek has spent decades carving out a unique niche fusing hardcore Hip Hop, noise, and a radical approach to sound. Their brutal sonic temperament pushes rap music’s capacity for noise and protest to some exhilarating conclusions. For their latest and eighth album, Precipice, Dälek unleashes a work that is practically bristling with fury and power. Predominantly the work of the core duo, Will Brooks, aka MC Dälek and Mike Manteca (Mike Mare), Precipice features a guest appearance of Adam Jones of Tool.”

From Filthy Tongue Of Gods And Griots (2002) and the masterful Absence (2005) are Dälek’s best albums, iconic records in the industrial Hip Hop subgenre. Precipe is not as memorable as these two classics are, but it is a strong album nonetheless. Boom bap-driven beats backed up by an unsettling ambient droning create an overall dark and dreary atmosphere, further exacerbated by MC Dälek’s thought-provoking semi-abstract lyrics. Precipe is a slow-burner of an album, a fitting document for the chaotic and uncertain times we are currently living in.

Release date: April 29, 2022.

Mopes - Unwound

Mopes is a veteran emcee/producer from Rhode Island, formerly known as PROLYPHIC. His The Ugly Truth album (with Reanimator) is one of the best Hip Hop albums of 2008, and one of the best albums ever released on Sage Francis’s unsung Strange Famous Records label. Unwound is not quite as good as The Ugly Truth is, but it is an excellent album nonetheless. Personal and introspective bars, supported by self-produced melodic boom-bap instrumentals – Unwound is a mature album that gets better with each spin.

Release date: February 18, 2022. 

Raw Poetic & Damu The Fudgemunk - Laminated Skies

Laminated Skies is the sixth album for which Washington, D.C.-based Raw Poetic teams up with regular collaborator Damu The Fudgemunk. Nine genre-bending tracks form a gumbo of poetry, rock, funk, Hip Hop, electronic music, chamber music, pop, and jazz – among other styles – there’s nothing generic or run-of-the-mill about the eclectic Laminated Skies. It is a great piece of music nonetheless – not for everybody, but those listeners who want something different every once in a while could do worse than give this project a chance.

Laminated Skies represents Raw Poetic’s most personal work so far, enhanced by Damu The Fudgemunk’s intricate production. Raw Poetic’s variety of vocal styles (he sings as often as he raps here) will take most getting used to, Damu The Fudgemunk’s instrumentals – performed with the assistance of an ensemble of other musicians – will go over with more ease: the blend of live and programmed drums and basslines especially is a thing of beauty. Laminated Skies is deep and textured, a perfectly sequenced Hip Hop-plus album that might make you frown on a first listen, but that will grow on you without a doubt.

Release date: March 18, 2022.

Quelle Chris - DEATHFAME

DEATHFAME is another excellent album from left-field Hip Hop icon Quelle Chris, one of the most authentic artists in Hip Hop. Quelle Chris’s music is never easy or straightforward – and arguably DEATHFAME arguably is one of his most inaccessible albums. The superb production is murky, nihilistic, and sinister – perfect backdrops for the moody bars and wonky flows from Quelle Chris, and guests such as Navy Blue, Denmark Vessey, and Pink Siifu. DEATHFAME is Quelle Chris’s most trippy and disjointed record since Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (2017) – and because Being You Is Great is our favorite Quelle Chris album to date, it will be no surprise that we love this 2022 album too. The single “Alive Ain’t Always Livin” is an obvious highlight, but the rest of DEATHFAME is strong as well: dark, vulnerable, and mature – one of the best left-field Hip Hop albums of the year.

Release date: May 13, 2022.

Phife Dawg - Forever

Forever arrives exactly six years after the untimely death of A Tribe Called Quest icon Phife Dawg from diabetes-related complications at the age of 45 on March 22, 2016. Posthumous releases are hard to pull off, but fortunately Forever is an example of a posthumous album done right. Forever is largely based on unfinished demos – executive producer DJ Rasta Root did a great job overseeing the molding of the available material into a cohesive whole. It’s also obvious Phife Dawg’s friends and loved ones were intimately involved (his mother has a touching spoken word interlude right in the middle of the album to prove that point, Q-Tip’s emotional hook on “Dear Dilla” is another). Beats from J Dilla, Nottz, 9th Wonder, and Khrysis (among others) and appearances from Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Redman, Maseo and Pos of De La Soul, Rapsody, and Little Brother (among others) help round out a what is a respectful and at times heartbreaking send-off for one of the most likable characters in Hip Hop history.

Release date: March 22, 2022

DJ Muggs & Rigz - Gold

The iconic DJ Muggs has been on an incredible roll in the last couple of years. In 2021, he was responsible for two of the year’s best projects – CARTAGENA (with CRIMEAPPLE) and especially Death & The Magician (with Rome Streetz). Muggs has been a master-producer of dark, sinister instrumentals ever since his Cypress Hill days in the early 1990s, and this time around it’s Rochester emcee Rigz (from Da Cloth) who gets to benefit from Muggs’ elite production. Rigz’s 2021 sophomore solo album Wake Ups was pretty good, but Gold is his absolute best work yet – thanks to Muggs’ atmospheric instrumentals which are perfectly suited for Rigz’s smooth flows and Griselda-style street raps. Meyhem Lauren, Rome Streetz, Big Twins, Mooch, Rob Gates, Times Change, and MAV show up to add extra flavor and to help round out what is one of the best Hip Hop albums released in January.

Release date: January 14, 2022.

bRavenous - Ghosts Of Rockingham

bRavenous is a Canadian emcee, hailing from Rockingham, Nova Scotia. His previous two albums – Between The Lines and Flaunting Imperfections – were among the best ‘traditional’ boom-bap albums of the years they were released in, 2020 and 2021 respectively. Ghosts Of Rockingham is even better and bRavenous’ best album yet – no weak spots among the 15 tracks on this LP. Ghosts Of Rockingham is not ‘just’ a throwback album, musically it’s fresher and better-rounded than most of the dozens of other 90s-centric boom-bap albums out these days – if you’re going to pick up only one true school Hip Hop album this year, make sure it is this one.

Release date: March 18, 2022. 

The Waxidermist - Tribe

“Attracted by a mysterious force that prompts him to leave his studio den, the Waxidermist embarks on a mystical quest, a Hip Hop adventure on the screen of which funk and soul collide, sampling and live. Against the backdrop of an Asian fresco, he traces a musical journey that draws in its wake long-time friends and new crusaders along the way.” 

The Waxidermist is a producer and bass player from Paris, and his Tribe is a great record filled with gorgeous soundscapes built on an organic blend of boom-bap stylings and live instrumentation. Cello, guitar, percussion, keyboard, flute, and live bass sounds are incorporated seamlessly with sharp turntable work – making for a musically rich album that’s Hip Hop to the core at the same time. The Asian-themed concept doesn’t really come off, but it doesn’t matter – this album is an all-around fun and entertaining experience anyway. Relative unknowns Starrlight, RacecaR, DistantStarr, Elodie Rama, Ta-Ti, and Bibi Tanga take care of the vocals, all their performances synergetic and on par with Waxidermist’s instrumentals. Tribe‘s cover art is pretty awesome too to top it off – this project is the total package.

Release date: April 8, 2022.

Guillotine Crowns - Hills To Die On

Hills To Die On is the sophomore album from New York emcee/producer Uncommon Nasa and Chicago emcee Short Fuze, who have been regular collaborators over the years before formally teaming up as Guillotine Crowns in 2020. With dense left-field production and hard-hitting bars, this is an album that is perfectly suited for the rough years we are living through right now.

Release date: April 29, 2022.

Tom Caruana - Strange Planet

Tom Caruana is a producer from Britain, and the conceptual Strange Planet is his best project yet. For this LP he recruited a host of top-notch American and British underground emcees – most notable among them Prince Po, billy woods, Mr. Lif, Denmark Vessey, Boog Brown, Paten Locke, and Jehst. Tom Caruana cooked up a potent mix of 90s-centric boom-bap and experimental, futuristic beats for Strange Planet – the result is a surprisingly cohesive album with a sound that definitely is not thirteen to a dozen, an album that manages to captivate from start to finish. Strange Planet invites requires and rewards repeated listens – there’s a lot of musical and lyrical depth to decipher. Take your time, open your mind, and allow yourself to be swept away by the beautiful and refreshing Strange Planet.

Release date: March 4, 2022.

Fly Anakin - Frank

Fly Anakin’s Frank draws influence from the classic R&B and Soul his father played him as a child, showcasing a gift for songwriting alongside the high-pitched raps he’s become known for. Recorded at the same time as FlySiifu’s, it features Pink Siifu on the DJ Harrison produced “Black Be The Source”, as well as link-ups with Fly Anakin’s mentor Nickelus F, and fellow Mutant Academicians Big Kahuna OG and Henny L.O. Fly Anakin’s delivery and style fit the shadowy beats like a glove, there’s an ethereal aspect to Frank that transcends the ‘standard’ stoner vibes that usually characterizes this kind of Hip Hop. Fly Anakin’s recent run of EPs has been hit-or-miss, but this full-length debut is a multi-layered piece of top-notch music from start to finish.

Release date: March 11, 2022.

Killah Priest - Horrah Scope

It’s hard to keep up with Killah Priest’s release schedule in the 2020s – Horrah Scope is his second project of 2022, following on the heels of Savage Sanctuary, a collaboration with The Holocaust. Savage Sanctuary is the only mediocre KP release in recent times, Rocket To Nebula (2020), The Third Eye In Technicolor (2020), Lord Sun Heavy Mental 1.1 (2021), Summer End Cafe (2021), and The Mantra (2021) all are quite excellent. Horrah Scope is a great piece of music too. Experimental and idiosyncratic – this is one for people who loved Rocket To NebulaLord Sun Heavy Mental, and Summer End Cafe – the album is largely drumless, the left-field instrumentals laced with obscure samples and Priest’s stream-of-consciousness type bars. Killah Priest is an acquired taste even at his most accessible, and Horrah Scope is one of his least accessible works – so not for Killah Priest noobs probably. We are KP fans, so we think Horrah Scope is dope as f.

Release date: April 30, 2022.

Libretto & Vitamin D - Rusty Bladez

“Libretto returns for his sixth full-length album entitled Rusty Bladez, and is accompanied by Seattle legend Vitamin D handling all production duties, plus a few standout verses of his own. As evidenced by his inmate ID on the cover, Libretto’s meditations on his time spent in the Federal Penitentiary system run throughout the entirety of Rusty Bladez. Libretto recounts in vivid detail the experiences and lifestyle that led him there, and his experiences and mental state once released. Rarely has an album so clearly captured a mood, and provided the type of first-person insight that is captured on Rusty Bladez. Helping round out the complete picture, Libretto & Vitamin D are joined on the album by top-notch lyricists and vocalists including Roc Marciano, Guilty Simpson, Gift of Gab [R.I.P], Planet Asia, Keisha Plum, Jumbo (Lifesavas), Toni Hill, Syndel, and more.”

Portland, Oregon’s Libretto is an emcee who deserves more spotlight than he had up to now. His voice and flow are great, and his content is strong too. Will Rusty Bladez finally bring him wider recognition? Let’s hope so – in any case: those into soulful 90s-centric boom-bap instrumentals complemented by powerful bars better go give Rusty Bladez a listen.

Release date: May 10, 2022.

Backburner - Continuum

Backburner is a collective composed of Canada’s best underground Hip Hop artists, and Continuum is their third (and best) album. Production is handled by Fresh Kils, Uncle Fester, Ghettosocks, Tim, MisterE, Savilion, Beat Mason, and Peter Project, and to take care of the vocals there are appearances from Backburner members Chokeules, Ghettosocks, Psybo, Frank Deluxe, Thesis Sahib, Ginzeintriplicate, More Or Les, Wordburglar, Jesse Dangerously, Timbuktu, Savilion, Mister E, Ambition, Jay Bizzy, and guest verses from Mega Ran, Aquakultre, Sean One, Tachichi, and Nilla. It is often said that too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the broth, but that doesn’t apply in this case. Over the course of fifteen banging tracks, Backburner and guests manage to come off with infectious energy, making for a cohesive, entertaining, and fun album that will especially delight fans of early-90s positive-vibed East Coast Hip Hop.

Release date: February 11, 2022.

Linqua Franqa - Bellringer

“In linguistics, “lingua franca” is a term for a language used to communicate across cultures. For instance, the lingua franca of the Internet is typically English; in post-colonial Africa, French is often the lingua franca. For Athens, Georgia-based rapper, linguist, activist, parent, and politician Mariah Parker (they/them), aka Linqua Franqa, music is the tool they use to communicate – and educate – across cultural boundaries. Parker is a linqua franqa for the people.

Weaving a rich tapestry of Hip Hop lyricism and neo-soul hooks, Parker imbues every song with a sense of urgency and keen social consciousness. This is particularly evident on the forthcoming sophomore album Bellringer, produced by Parker, Reindeer Games, and Joel Hatstat and featuring guest spots from Jeff Rosenstock, Of Montreal, Kishi Bashi, Dope KNife, Wesdaruler, and Angela Davis. On Bellringer, Parker does not hold back, touching on issues like police brutality, social media addiction, mental health, anti-capitalism, and labor organizing, among other topics, ripped from the headlines.”

Bellringer is a unique album by a unique artist. The mix of experimental Hip Hop, neo-soul, and indie pop is unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. We gravitate more to the Hip Hop side of the sounds on this LP, and if the whole album would have maintained the standard set by the first five songs, we would have considered Bellringer an AOTY contender. But even with a couple of songs in the middle of the tracklist that are not for us, the overall Bellringer experience is pretty awesome. Linqua Franqa’s diverse vocal abilities and the range of the subject matter – from views on social inequalities and public policies to personal struggles to straight-up sh*ttalking – make for an album that deserves all the attention it can get.

Release date: April 22, 2022.

Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow - Zhigeist

Zhigeist is Detroit-based Elzhi’s fourth studio album. Elzhi with Georgia Anne Muldrow is an unusual pairing, and although we prefer to hear Elzhi rhyming over more boom-bap-centered production, this collaboration works. As always, Georgia Anne Muldrow’s music has an experimental edge to it but is easy-listening as well this time around, with lots of room for Elzhi’s superior skills to take center stage. Elzhi is one of the best all-around emcees active in the last two decades – his flow, cadence, diction, and wordplay are always top-tier. His solo-debut The Preface is one of the best albums released in 2008, his take on Nas’s Illmatic – Elmatic (2011) – is one of the best mixtapes of the 2010s, his intensely personal sophomore album Lead Poison was a stand-out in 2016, and his third studio album Seven Times Down Eight Times Up was in our top 10 of 2020.

Elzhi’s pen game is strong as ever on Zhigeist – his bars are thoughtful, thought-provoking, even touching at times. Zhigeist clocks in at under 40 minutes, which makes it feel kind of ‘breezy’, at least compared to Elzhi’s earlier albums. That said: there’s enough lyrical substance here to give this album weight. We’d love to see Elzhi teaming up with Georgia Anne Muldrow again somewhere in the future, after an album with more traditional boom-bap production maybe.

Release date: March 11, 2022.

Che Noir - Food For Thought

Buffalo, New York-native Che Noir’s Food For Thought is a solid follow-up to As God Intended, one of the best Hip Hop albums released in 2020. As God Intended is a more fully realized project, not just because of Apollo Brown’s direction but also because it’s 15 minutes longer. At 34 minutes, Food For Thought is too short to consider it a proper LP, but thankfully the content that’s there is consistently strong. Despite the number of different producers involved (CartuneBeatz, TrickyTrippz, Gods Children, Chup, JR Swiftz, Motif Alumni, and Che Noir herself) Food For Thought is surprisingly cohesive – with stylish boom-bap beats that serve as fitting backdrops for Che Noir’s bars. Her voice and flow are great, and she has something to say too. Strong guest appearances from Ransom, 38 Spesh, Rome Streetz, Jynx716, 7xvethegenius, and Armani Ceasar add extra value. A little more substance to the tracklist would have made the album more memorable, but overall Food For Thought is a dope project that serves as a confirmation – Che Noir is one of the finest emcees out there today. Favorite tracks: “Split The Bread”, “Ladies Brunch”, “Table For 3”, “Gold Cutlery”, and especially “Brains For Dinner”.

Release date: January 21, 2021.

CZARFACE - Czarmageddon!

We are Czarface fans and Czarmageddon! has some of the group’s best songs on it, with Esoteric and especially Inspectah Deck on top of their game. The biggest issue we have with Czarmageddon! is that it is too short at a mere 32 minutes. There’s no room for mistakes on a mini-LP like this one, and there are a couple of weaker tracks among the bangers. 7L’s production is more varied than ever before on a Czarface project, and unfortunately, not everything works – especially the reggae/rock-flavored “Big Em Up” (with Lion Eye) feels out of place. That said: there’s plenty of Czarface brilliance on Czarmageddon!: to offset one or two missteps: “Damien’s Dinner Time”, “Walk Thru Walls”, “Bob LaCzar”, “Nu Mutantes”, “Fearless & Inventive” (with Kool Keith), the instrumental “Boogie DefMix”, and “Czarv Wolfman” are all dope as f. A little more substance to the tracklist would have been better, but overall this is another super solid addition to what is shaping up to be an excellent catalog.

Release date: April 23, 2022.

Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future

TA13OO (2018) is Denzel Curry’s magnum opus and one of our favorite alt-trap albums ever. Psychedelic, atmospheric, hard-hitting, and unpredictable – TA13OO is a masterpiece. Zel’s other projects are all quality too, so expectations for Melt My Eyez See Your Future were sky-high, and fortunately, expectations are met – for the most part, that is.

The first two songs – “Melt Session #1” and “Walkin’” make up for the best opening salvo of any album this year, and the third track “Worst Come To Worst” is just as good. The rest of the album is more of a mixed bag though – it is the jazzy boom-bap and neo-soul-tinged side of the album that is the strongest, but there are a couple of trap-flavored songs (“X-Wing” most notably) that bring the album down a little. But because Melt My Eyez See Your Future luckily is boom-bap and neo-soul dominant, it is a strong project overall – Denzel Curry’s most conscious yet, and one on which he shows personal growth and increasing maturity.

Denzel Curry works with a diverse set of producers here – from JPEGMAFIA to Kenny Beats, to Thundercat, to Karriem Riggins and Robert Glasper, and others – and collaborators like Saul Williams, T-Pain, JID, and slowthai: the list of producers and featured artists says enough about the musical diversity of the album. Because of its raw intensity, TA13OO remains Denzel Curry’s best and most defining work, but the commercially more viable Melt My Eyez See Your Future is a pretty strong album too.

Release date: March 25, 2022. 

Pusha T - It's Almost Dry

It’s Almost Dry is Pusha T’s long-awaited and highly anticipated fourth studio album, serving as a follow-up to his third studio album, DAYTONA, four years after its release. DAYTONA was great but not a ‘real’ album as far as we are concerned – at about 20 minutes the project is short even for an EP. It’s Almost Dry is longer but at 35 minutes the album is still very concise for an LP. Now, was It’s Almost Dry worth the four-year wait? Not really, unfortunately. On a 35-minute project, EVERYTHING has perfect, no misses can be afforded. And It’s Almost Dry has a couple of misses, most notably the pretty bad “Scrape It Off The Top” and the sleep-inducing “Call My Bluff”. With exception of the impactful album closer “I Pray For You” the whole back half of the album underwhelms in comparison with the much better first half, honestly. The involvement of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Kid Cudi, and Pusha T’s brother and Clipse partner Malice doesn’t prevent It’s Almost Dry from being a bit of a mixed bag.

No doubt many people will have It’s Almost Dry in their AOTY conversation, simply because it’s a Pusha T project and lots of listeners and critics seem preconditioned to love everything Pusha T does just because. Kendrick Lamar first, Pusha T second – that’s how it goes, no matter the actual quality of their albums or whatever else is released by other less-hyped artists. We keep an open mind though, and from It’s Almost Dry we will keep the first six and the last track, and forget the rest. For Pusha T’s most accomplished work we will keep going back to his first two Clipse albums, and his best solo project King Push (2015).

Pusha T’s delivery and flow are strong as always and despite the staleness of the subject matter his coke raps still entertain – so don’t get it wrong: It’s Almost Dry is a fine listen and a solid enough addition to Pusha T’s discography. It contains some really great tracks – “Brambleton”, “Diet Coke”, “Neck & Wrist”, “Just So You Remember”, and “I Pray For You” especially – it just isn’t the classic we still expect to get from King Push someday.

Release date: April 22, 2022.

Lu Chin Chen - NA Meeting

“This concept album by Lu Chin Chen features several featured verses from many of Hip-Hop’s legends and elite artists (Craig G, Masta Ace, Mr. Cheeks, A.G., Nine, Kool Kim (aka NYOIL of UMCs), Tash (of Tha Alkaholiks), Ruste Juxx, and many others) give you a cohesive audio story and soundtrack over perfect soundscapes provided by Conflikt of Hellzwind. The story of Alex and his downward spiral into addiction will keep you entertained on a roller-coaster ride through his journey while he tells us his story at an NA Meeting.”

NA Meeting is a fully realized and well-rounded presentation of 90s-centric Hip Hop, with strong performances from Massachusetts-based Lu Chin Chen and his illustrious guests. Don’t sleep on NA Meeting.

Release date: February 22, 2022.

Prop Dylan - Bushido Code

Prop Dylan’s fifth studio album Bushido Code is an ode to the alternative lifestyle. It’s also a roadmap taking us from Prop Dylan’s hometown streets of Borlänge, through Southern Europe, and all the way to Detroit City. The majority of beats (10 of the 14 tracks) on Bushido Code have been supplied by Detroit’s producer extraordinaire Apollo Brown, whilst Gravy Sparks and DJ Connect produced the remaining songs. Elzhi from Detroit appears as a featuring guest, as do Termanology and Fashawn who feature on two different tracks. Cosmic from Looptroop Rockers and the soul singer Erik Runeson add the final pieces to the album.

Release date: May 6, 2022

Chill Rob G - Empires Crumble

33 years after his classic debut Ride The Rhythm, iconic Flavor Unit co-founder Chill Rob G returns to the scene with the surprisingly strong Empires Crumble, released on Chuck D’s SpitSlam Record Label Group. Featuring a Flavor Unit reunion with Double J, God Lakim (formerly Lakim Shabazz), and The 45 King on “F.U. (Rockin Wit The Best)”, Rob also teams up with Chuck D to present a rugged new version of his 1990 hit “The Power”. The rest of the tracklist is solid as f too – C-Doc’s production is fresh and consistently strong, and sharp cuts & scratches on almost every track give the whole album that late 1980s/early 1990s feel, without sounding dated at all. Empires Crumble is a dope album, a must-listen for those who were rocking with Chill Rob G and his Ride The Rhythm back in the day, and for younger listeners who know and appreciate Hip Hop history too.

Release date: March 4, 2022.

ILL Conscious & Mute Won - Acres Of Diamonds

Acres Of Diamonds is Baltimore-based emcee ILL Conscious’s fourth LP, this one solely produced by Camden, NJ’s Mute Won. On Acres Of Diamonds, ILL Conscious comes with some of his best content to date – this album is filled with strong storytelling and vivid lyrical imagery from start to finish. Mute Won’s instrumentals are dope as f too – which means you can’t go wrong with Acres Of Diamonds.

Release date: January 28, 2022.

Pete Flux & Parental - Global Scope

Global Scope is another strong album from the transatlantic duo composed of emcee Pete Flux from Atlanta, Georgia, and producer Parental from Paris, France. Just like their previous collaborations, Global Scope is a delightfully chilled-out affair: smooth and stylish jazz-flavored Hip Hop with appearances from the likes of Marquee, Venom, Awon, Debonair P, and Godfather Don to add some extra flavor.

Release date: March 18, 2022.

IM'PERETIV - Burial Plots & Pyramid Schemes

Burial Plots & Pyramid Schemes is the first full-length project from Canadian producer IM’PERETIV. The album features appearances from a host of underground spitters, including the likes of Benny the Butcher, Elcamino, Daniel Son, Asun Eastwood, and Josiah the Gift, plus sharp cuts & scratches from Dystrakted. IM’PERETIV’s beats are dope as f, in the vein of the dark and gritty sounds you know from top-tier producers like The Alchemist and Daringer. With fourteen full tracks, this is a fully realized record composed of nothing but killer instrumentals and hard street raps – no doubt about it: Burial Plots & Pyramid Schemes is one of the best underground projects of 2022.

Release date: April 1, 2022.

Professa Gabel & Brycon - Corner Booth

Just a few weeks after the release of Can’t Stay Perched All The Time, a collaborative album with San Francisco rapper and activist Equipto, North Carolina to San Francisco transplant Brycon dropped a new quite excellent project – Corner Booth – this one a collaboration with Professa Gabel,  another Bay Area Hip Hop scene veteran. Corner Booth is more polished and more accessible than Can’t Stay Perched All The Time is, but it still has enough of an experimental edge to it to make it stand apart from the crowd. As always, Brycon manages to tailor his instrumentals to best suit the flow and delivery of the emcee he is working with – his slightly off-kilter beats perfect backdrops for Professa Gabel’s clever wordplay. Corner Booth is one of the best Hip Hop albums released in February.

Release date: February 10, 2022.

Napoleon Da Legend & Just Music Beats - Modus Operandi

Prolific bilingual Comoros-born, Brooklyn-based emcee Napoleon Da Legend closed out 2021 in a strong way with the dope The World Changed LP (his best project of 2021), and just two months later he returned with his next album: Modus Operandi – a collaboration with French Marseille-based production duo Just Music Beats. Modus Operandi is a dark and melodic boom-bap album, with great beats complemented by dope bars and flows from Napoleon Da Legend and guests like Torae and The Bad Seed.

Release date: January 14, 2022. 

DSOTM - 7th

DSOTM (Dark Side of the Moon) is a British crew consisting of Menace Mendoza, FlowTecs, Gordo Templi, Dragon Priest, Nomad, Joey Menza, and Dr.Voodoo. Following on 2018’s cult classic The Echo Chamber DSOTM scores again with 7th – a superb display of sample-based, drum-heavy production combined with dope flows and vivid wordplay. Killah Priest and Ray Vendetta show up for some killer features, topping off what is another winner coming out of the UK Hip Hop underground.

Release date: February 7, 2022.

Mic Handz & L'Undercover - Golden Era Timeless

The title and the cover art of this project say enough: fans of Golden Era Hip Hop cannot give albums a pass. Producer L’Undercover crafted a set of banging boom-bap beats for Mic Handz and guests such as  Grand Daddy I.U., Craig G, Napoleon Da Legend, Lil Fame, Sadat X, Shabaam Sahdeeq,  and Skyzoo (among others) to get busy on. Golden Era Timeless = 90s-centric boom-bap done right.

Release date: March 25, 2022.

Equipto & Brycon - Can't Stay Perched All The Time

Bay Area Hip Hop underground fixtures Equipto and Brycon reconnected for their second collaborative project Can’t Stay Perched All The Time – a modern re-imagining of the classic Bay Area underground tape tradition, perfected in the late 90s by revered groups such as Hieroglyphics, Living Legends, and Bored Stiff. Brycon is an expert crate digger and his left-field boom-bap instrumentals sound suitably rough around the edges here, while Equipto’s conversational flows and mix of semi-abstract, everyday-life (as an indie artist), and conscious bars complete the mixtape vibes of the album. Not for everybody maybe, but those nostalgic for the underground tape days will no doubt LOVE this labor of love from two masters of the craft.

Release date: January 24, 2022.

Snowgoons - Renaissance Kings

The Snowgoons are a team of Hip Hop producers based in Germany, consisting of DJ Illegal, Det, Sicknature & J.SKuster. Throughout the years, the buzz surrounding the Snowgoons has steadily escalated as their gritty, authentic, and eclectic beats have gained recognition in both the US as well as within the burgeoning European Hip Hop scenes. 

The Snowgoons philosophy is simple: if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. They can always be relied on to come up with banging bombastic bass-heavy boom-bap beats and they always manage to recruit a host of top-tier emcees to take care of the vocals – on Renaissance Kings, there are bars from Billy Danze, Fredro Starr, Sadat X, Cappadonna, Bronze Nazareth, Slaine, Ransom, Chi-Ali, Royal Flush, Napoleon Da Legend, Ty Farris, Rasheed Chappell, Nems, Reef The Lost Cauze, the late Sean Price, and many many more. The 90s-centric Renaissance Kings is a dope album – it gives you exactly what you’d expect from Snowgoons, and that’s perfectly alright.

Release date: January 14, 2022. 

Vince Staples - RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART

RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART is a personal and introspective, a smooth West Coast Hip Hop album filled with nostalgic content and laid-back vibes. The mainstream-friendly beats are on point, and lyrically Vince Staples is as strong as ever – making for an accessible and chilled-out listening experience all the way through. RPBMH is one of Vince Staples’ better albums, more fully realized than the two short projects preceding it in any case, with ‘full’ songs on it this time around. RPBMH is Vince Staples’ debut studio album Summertime ’06 (2015) remains his best work, RPBMH comes close though.

Release date: April 8, 2022.

Cypress Hill - Back In Black

Back to basics. Following the psychedelia of Elephants On Acid (2018), Cypress Hill’s last LP before this one, Back In Black will especially delight fans who were rocking with Cypress Hill from day one. Back In Black is not produced by DJ Muggs but by Detroit icon Black Milk – who manages to capture that dark and gritty Cypress Hill sound, while retaining a little bit of the polish of his own signature sound. Fans of the more eclectic Cypress Hill albums may disagree, but we’re on board with the straight-to-the-point back-to-basics approach of B-Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs, and Eric Bobo on this one. L.A. gangland and blunt stories – you should know what to expect from Cypress Hill by now, and especially B-Real is on top form here. Back In Black is a (too) short listen, but definitely a good one.

Release date: March 18, 2021.

M-Dot - Dining In Dystopia

Raw 90s-centric boom-bap from Boston-based emcee M-Dot, with rhymes from M-Dot and guests such as Conway The Machine, Kool G Rap, Elzhi, and RJ Payne, and cuts & scratches by DJ Accepta, DJ Access, DJ Jean Marron, LP2, and DJ Slipwax – Dining In Dystopia is a great project.

Release date: January 28, 2022. 

Observe since '98 - Muerte De Un Salvaje

Muerte De Un Salvaje is the prequel to last year’s Le Dernier Royaume (one of our favorite underground Hip Hop albums of 2021), and the fifth and final installment in the “Savage” series from Wisconsin-based beatmaker and Loretta Records founder Observe Since ’98.

“The supervillain known simply as The Savage has landed in South America. Little does he know, that a force even more vile and wicked than himself is hot on his trail. They call him King Clout and he will do anything to destroy The Savage. And so it begins… the last chapter in our epic tale.”

Muerte De Un Salvaje is an excellent project, composed of dark atmospheric beats and loops laced with obscure samples – giving this project that unique Observe Since ’98 vibe. Muerte De Un Salvaje features appearances by underground emcees like Jay Nice, Ru$h, Substance810, Jakprogresso, Pro Zay, UFO Fev, Tha God Fahim, Mickey Diamond, All Hail Y.T., Pro Dillinger (and many others) – most of whom bring their A-game to do justice to Observe’s killer instrumentals. Muerte De Un Salvaje dropped on the first day of the year, exactly one year after Le Dernier Royaume – we’re already looking forward to Observe’s next January 1st release.

Release date: January 1, 2022.

Coast Contra - Apt. 505

Coast Contra is a group consisting of Ras and Taj Austin (sons of West Coast rap legend Ras Kass), Teedra Moses, and Rio Loz. Their debut LP Apt. 505 is an interesting album, this quartet manages to seamlessly blend modern rap vibes with early 90s-style Hip Hop in the vein of acts like The Pharcyde and Souls Of Mischief – with the same kind of infectious energy that made listening to these iconic acts so much fun. Apt. 505 holds a lot of promise for future Coast Contra projects, keep an eye on these guys. Favorite tracks: “Pimpin’ Benjamin” and “Pangea”.

Release date: March 24, 2022.

calm. - Conversations With A Willow Tree

Bandcamp blurb: “The album is an ode to a willow tree, which was the main collaborator on the album with AwareNess and I. I used to drive by this willow tree on my way to work, it lived at Bowles Grove Park. I found comfort in this tree and had written the song conversations with a willow tree and after recording the song, the tree was cut down. I feel it was one of its last messages to share. The album dives into failed friendships, betrayal, climate catastrophe, capitalism, colonialism, the war machine, the violence and beauty of typewriters, medicine and plants, and dealing with death.”

Conversations With A Willow Tree is a dope project. Meaningful lyrics, captivating instrumentals, and a couple of well-placed guests (Che Noir most notable among them) make for a well-rounded album you will not regret checking out.

Release date: January 1, 2022. 

Paten Locke - Americancer

Paten Locke (25 August 1974 – 5 August 2019) was an MC, DJ, and producer, born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, before he settled in Jacksonville, Florida (by way of Chicago, Illinois and College Park, Maryland). Americancer is his first posthumous release coming two and a half years after his untimely passing. This album was mostly complete in 2017 with plans for it to be released with the name Americancer already intact, long before Paten Locke was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that would tragically end his life in August of 2019 soon after that diagnosis.

Americancer is a great little album, dusty and experimental but fresh and accessible at the same time. Paten Locke’s raw beats and his flipping of obscure samples showcase his love for the craft and his skill as a cratedigger. His wordplay is dope too, his bars offer a good blend of thoughtfulness and sh*ttalking, always laced with a sarcastically humorous bite. Americancer is short, but (bitter)sweet.

Release date: March 15, 2022.

The Cloaks - A CloakWork Orange

The Cloaks are Awol One and Gel Roc, two rap veterans in the game and active members from the world-renown Project Blowed and Life Seen Differently crews, of the acclaimed Los Angeles Underground Hip Hop scene and Graffiti street culture. A CloakWork Orange is produced by Awkward (hailing from Bristol, UK), and features impeccable scratch work by Sir Beans and from D-Styles and RoachTheDj, not to mention an all-star rap lineup of guest appearances from Aceyalone (Freestyle Fellowship), Demrick (Serial Killers), Megabusive (Exalt The Anti), Mestizo & Dose as A7PHA, Brevi, and Quaesar (Project Blowed).

Like The Cloaks’ two previous projects, A CloakWork Orange is a slightly experimental but thoroughly enjoyable underground boom-bap experience – bass-heavy, scratch-heavy, and with lots of idiosyncratic rhyming to add to the album’s captivating weirdness. This is as underground as it gets – great stuff.

Release date: January 7, 2022.

Defcee and BoatHouse - For All Debts Public And Private

For All Debts Public And Private is a strong little album from Chicago rapper Defcee and Closed Sessions producer BoatHouse. The album centers on being overlooked, undervalued, and underfunded. Boom-bap inspired production, intricate wordplay, and compelling narratives, with guest features from Armand Hammer, Mother Nature, Kipp Stone, SolarFive, and GreenSLLime – this is a dope project that would have ranked higher if it had been a little bit longer, but 32 minutes is too short to be considered a proper LP. Nevertheless, this is an album you shouldn’t sleep on.

Release date: April 19, 2022.

Skizza - Bridge City Underdog

Skizza is an artist from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and his Bridge City Underdog is a great album – 16 tracks of laidback and soulful mid-tempo boom-bap (the beats crafted by German producer Yakuzy), with entertaining wordplay all the way through. Check out Bridge City Underdog and treat yourself to a nice surprise you otherwise would have slept on. 

Release date: March 18, 2022.

Sole & DJ Pain 1 – Post-American Studies

Sole is one of the founders of Anticon, the iconic avant-garde Hip Hop collective and record label, responsible for a long string of projects but best-known for Anticon releases Selling Live Water (2003) and Sole And The Skyrider Band (2007). Post-American Studies is Sole’s fourth collaborative album with DJ Pain 1, and because of his idiosyncratic rap style, this is one for a niche audience – like all of his work is. Sole’s pen game is strong, his content is topical and thought-provoking, and DJ Pain 1’s instrumentals are pretty accessible. Sole probably will not gain any new fans with this album, but longtime Sole followers will know not to sleep on Post-American Studies.

Release date: February 25, 2022. 

Ed Scissor - Post Sleep

Ed Scissor teamed up with composer and multi-instrumentalist Chapel Tapes on Post Sleep to create a series of dreamscapes, pairing key excerpts from the Post Sleep text with an original score that evokes a meditative calm (especially on late night walks with nothing but a pair of headphones on empty streets for company).

Post Sleep comes ten years after the melancholic and dark Better.Luck.Next.Life., and six years after Ed Scissor’s masterpiece Tell Them It’s Winter (2016) – an intensely dark, moody, emotive, and disturbing immersive experience. Heavy stuff, but gorgeous music at the same time – Tell Them It’s Winter truly is a unique work of art and one of our favorite British Hip Hop albums of all time.

Post Sleep is unlike most other albums as well, offering an hour of deep spoken-word poetry backed up by minimalistic but extremely atmospheric soundscapes – haunting and soothing at the same time. An acquired taste without a doubt and not everybody will feel the same way – but we happen to love this Ed Scissor oddity.

Release date: April 7, 2022.

Saba - Few Good Things

Care For Me, the previous release from Chicago rapper and Pivot Gang leader Saba, is our favorite Hip Hop album of 2018, and one of the finest rap releases of the 2010s. The fatal stabbing of his cousin (founding Pivot Gang member Walter Long Jr. aka dinnerwithjohn) a year prior to the recording of Care For Me, left Saba left stricken with loss and grief – his state of mind at the time casting the shadow that makes Care For Me the melancholic and emotionally resonant masterpiece it is.

On Few Good Things, his third album, Saba expands his scope – this time around focussing on losses and wins in equal measure (despite the violent death of Squeak, another Pivot Gang crew member, in 2021). Saba’s pen game is strong, and the musicianship (the instrumentals were crafted by daedaePIVOT, Daoud, and Saba himself) matches it. Few Good Things is not as impactful and perhaps not as memorable as the career-defining Care For Me, but it’s an excellent project in its own right – a well-rounded and fully-realized album that confirms Saba’s status as one of the frontrunners of modern Hip Hop. Occasional missteps like “Fearmonger” or a limp feature from G Herbo on “Survivors Guilt” are more than compensated by some of Saba’s best songs ever, like  “2012”, “Few Good Things”, and “Still”.

Lots of the mainstream-friendly rap music that passes for Hip Hop these days kind of sucks, Saba’s music is a clear exception to that rule. Even the staunchest Hip Hop traditionalists will be able to appreciate the tasteful neo-soul trap fusion that is Few Good Things – we do, in any case.

Release date: February 4, 2022.

Chaz Canairy & steel tipped dove - The Birds

steel tipped dove is an NYC-based producer, known for his work for alternative acts like Armand Hammer, billy woods, Milo, ShrapKnel, and many others. For The Birds, he teamed up with West Virginia artist Chaz Canairy, whose idiosyncratic vocals are a perfect fit for steel tipped dove’s left-field instrumentals. Not for everybody this project, but fans of experimental Hip Hop that pushes genre boundaries should definitely give The Birds a listen.

Release date: February 18, 2022.

Factor Chandelier – Time Invested II

“20 years after the release of his first album, Factor Chandelier has created Time Invested II, a nostalgic and energetic compilation reminiscent of how his music career started. With the intent of creating something inspiring for a younger self, the producer collaborated with his heroes, long-time friends, and contemporaries to create a work of 16 songs. Time Invested II weaves sonically through genres while remaining rooted in Hip Hop, leading to moments of downtempo and trip-hop amidst electronic soundscapes and hard, underground beats. Factor Chandelier has been able to creatively evolve his sound with the ever-changing musical climate, showcasing originality, diversity, and one-of-a-kind production.

Myka 9, Open Mike Eagle, Moka Only, Awol One, Eligh, and Ceschi are among the artists appearing to rhyme over Factor Chandelier’s beats – which should tell you the rhymes and flows on this album can be expected to be as left-field as the instrumentals are. Not for everybody, but people who appreciate originality (and a little weirdness) better not sleep on Time Invested II. 

Release date: March 28, 2022.

Honorable Mentions

Full honorable mentions list here.

Best Hip Hop EPs Of 2021

  • Canibus & Pete Rock – C
  • Action Bronson – Cocodrillo Turbo
  • MC Eiht – Revolution in Progress
  • Rockness Monsta – Chronicles of the Most High
  • AJ Suede & Small Professor – Hundred-Year Darkness
  • Sankofa – Legacy Materials
  • RZA & DJ Scratch – Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater
  • Your Old Droog & Nicholas Craven – YOD Wave
  • ONYX – 1993
  • Snotty – Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Hus Kingpin – Bjorkingpin
  • Homeboy Sandman & Illingsworth – There In Spirit
  • Tha God Fahim & DUS – One Thousand And One Nights
  • Jynx716 & Che Noir – Careful What You Wish For
  • Duncecap – Go Climb a Tree
  • Scienz Of Life – Change Ya Views
  • Aesop Rock & Blockhead – The Recycling Bin EP
  • Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!
  • Ally Vyne – American Winter
  • RJ Payne – Beautiful Payne 4
  • Karpenters (Kool Keith & Grant Shapiro) – Still Doing It
  • Koncept Jack$on & Bane Capital – Good Product
  • Kota the Friend – Lyrics to GO Vol. 3
  • V Don – Better Than Money
  • Buckwild – Diggin’ In The Tuff Kong Crates
  • Conway The Machine – The Missing Bricks
  • The Musalini & 9th Wonder – The Don & Eye
  • Geechi Suede – SaPpHirE KiTcHeN
  • Killah Priest – The Three Fantastic Supermen Epics
  • Daniel Son & Futurewave – Son Tzu & The Wav.God

Best Instrumental Hip Hop Albums Of 2022

  • Pete Rock – Petestrumentals 4
  • DJ Qbert – Next Cosmos
  • Small Professor – the next (temporal pincer) movement

Best Compilation Albums Of 2022

  • Bumpy Knuckles & DJ Enyoutee – Produced by Bumpy Knuckles Vol. 2

Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

Click here or on the image for the full list.

The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

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4 responses to “The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2022”

  1. Dan Wade says:

    The Musalini & 9th Wonder’s new project is dope!

  2. MainSource says:

    Napolean da legend got AOTY so far. Gold and Metatron’s Cube is nice but nah man Napo got a really strong album.

  3. Dan Wade says:

    Nicholas Craven’s “Craven N 3” should be in EPs of the year, “Breaking Atoms” with Evidence is one of the best tracks of the year.

  4. Dea Phiri says:

    No Blackstar?

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