Another year, another list. Another good year for Hip-Hop. Every year I do these lists, and have to leave off another 20-30 from my top 20, makes a mockery of these “real Hip-Hop is dead” mother loving bores. So, if you don’t still live with your Mom, and actually support the progression within the greatest culture on earth, here’s my top 20 albums of 2022.
20 Deca: Smoking Gun
19 Mopes: Unwound
18 Kojey Radical: Reason To Smile
17 Denzel Curry: Melt My Eyez, See Your Future
16 Coast Contra: Apt. 505
15 Black Thought & Danger Mouse: Cheat Codes
14 Cordae: From a Birds Eye View
13 Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
12 Kno & Sadistik: Bring Me Back When The World Is Cured
11 Lupe Fiasco: Drill Music in Zion
10: Rapper Big Pooh - To Dream In Color
Release date: 22nd August 2022
Anyone who used to listen to The Hold Up radio show years back….anyone?, would know that I’m a huge fan of Little Brother, and was also a huge fan of Big Pooh & Nottz joint album “No Place Like Home”, I’m pretty sure that took my album of the year when it came out. This is another great album to add to his legacy. 5 seconds in. Soulful, synthy production. It’s like a warm blanket. Pooh just has that knack of being personable on record. This album just flows so nice, it has a real Summer evening vibe about it, similar to the vibe I got from Nipsey Hussel’s (RIP) “Victory Lap”. Effortless and smooth, as always with Pooh.
09: Joey Bada$$ - 2000
Release date: 22nd July 2022
Joey Bada$$ seems like he’s been around for decades now. He seems to have the perfect balance between youthful exuberance and appeal, while still seemingly maintaining a love for that “classic” Hip-Hop style of production. The first two tracks have classic Soul samples that most heads older than 30 will instantly recognise, either from their own crates (Stephanie Mills) or from their use on other great Hip-Hop tracks (Debarge: I Like It/Grand Puba). Great start. I mean, it’s gotta be a good album when I can say I listened to a whole track with Westside Gunn on, even though he tries his absolute best to royally fuck up the great production on “Brand New 911”. Them adlibs. I just can’t. Ever. This album seems heavily influenced by 90’s Hip-Hop/Soul, which is quite often the case with Joey, but, it never feels on the nose, or ultra nostalgic, more an updated take on that sound. And I’m here for that, cause if it’s done right, what’s the problem?
08: Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow - Zheigeist
Release date: 11th March 2022
This isn’t a collab that I’d have envisaged. I’m a huge fan of both, but never really heard them together. Well, thankfully, they seen beyond my amateur reservations. Georgia Anne Muldrow is a top tier producer, and Elzhi is absolute top tier with the pen too. What could go wrong? Absolutely zilch, that’s what. G.A.M’s use of synths are amazing, and they add to the punchy, funky backdrops of “King Shit (Say Word)” like Ice with Spiced Rum. Laaaaavly. This album is like something Bootsy Collins would have made if he wanted to dip his no doubt luminous pink painted toe into Hip-Hop. Both artists added significantly to their discography weight with this one.
07: Billy Woods - Aethiopes
Release date: 8th April 2022
It’s been said that you either “get” or “don’t get” Billy Woods. Well, ain’t that fucking profound. What’s not to get?. I mean yeah, okay, he’s not what you’d put on at a family barbecue, but family barbecues mainly end up in arguments, and hostile truces are blow to smithereens after a few too many beers. Come to think of it, throw on “Remorseless” while you land kicks to your uncles abdomen. Perfect. I lost track there. But, this album, is high level, creative production, and it’s a fucking pleasure at this point to have the likes of Billy Woods around. He’s different. He’s great. There’s many layers. There’s lots to unpack. But I ain’t pretentious enough to TRY and get someone onboard. Just enjoy these artists. He’s NOT a dime a dozen.
06: Alsace Carcione - Luto
Release date: 12th August 2022
What a great surprise this was. I gotta confess, that I hadn’t heard any prior Carcione material, until I stumbled onto this. The first thing that stood out to me, was her vocal tone. SO commanding and clear. Add a butter flow, and top tier lyrical content, and all you want, is for the production to be on point. That’s taken care of by a variety of producers (Dillygotitbumpin, Todd Little, Lebanon Don, and more) which leads me to believe that Alsace Carcione can add “good ear for a beat” to the strings on her bow. I’m a stickler for albums that have that “curated” feel to them, when you just know that they’ve put a lot of careful thought into the production choices on an album. There’s such a warm, layered, soulful vibe to this whole project. You won’t find anything but premium beats, and thought-provoking lyrics on this album. It’s an album chock-full of feeling and vibe. Got a “classic” feel about it….only time will tell I suppose, but it’s something I’ve been listening to non stop since purchase. Quality in every sense.
05: Saba - Few Good Things
Release date: 4th February 2022
Chicago artist Saba was a welcome addition to my future checklist. An artist you can safely assume that will be a long term bet for someone to bring out consistently great music. “One Way or…” is a sublime track, and he follows it up a few tracks later with “Come My Way”, featuring one of my favourite artists, Krayzie Bone (backpackers need a tissue at this point). The album uses a lot of glitchy style production, and it has that Neo-Soul feel throughout, none more evident than on album highpoint, “Still”. I try not to compare younger artists to the elder statesmen, but Saba sounds like he’s a product of Organized Noize, the magnificent “Soldier” would sound at home on any OutKast release, but this is SABA, and he’s doing much more than being my own personal OutKast stop-gap, he’s carving his own path, and if he carries on with absolute quality like “A Few Good Things”, then it’s only a matter of time before he’s mentioned alongside the J. Cole’s/Kendrick’s etc, the artists from the more commercial realm, that seem to put more emphasis on substance, rather than style.
04: Nerves Baddington - micro
Release date: 22nd February 2022
Right. Where did THIS come from? Well, Birmingham, Alabama is where. Nerves Baddington is like some hybrid of Company Flow/Homeboy Sandman/Aesop Rock and any other lazy comparison with the more experimental/off kilter style of Hip-Hop you care to make. Make no mistake about it, even though I’ve referenced the more elder statesmen within Hip-Hop as a comparison, this sounds FRESH TO DEATH!. It’s a heavy listen. Everything about it oozes that unnerving, sense of panic vibe. The production is superb. Some of the drums tested my Yamaha monitors ability to withstand a serious sub kick and cracking snare combo. It’s one of those albums made for the headphones. This is not music to throw in along with the rest of your “gym playlist” on Spotify. Be a fucking adult!. Buy the album from Bandcamp, and put it on a nice set of headphones, and get lost in this dystopian piece of greatness. By the way, Nerves Baddington helped lighten my wallet, as they actually brought out 3 other projects this year, ALL could be on this list. But, I went for the album that introduced me to their sound. THIS is what I love in music, stumbling on an artist that truly resonates with me.
03: KA - Languish Arts
Release date: 16th September 2022
KA is the master of this style. Fucking labels eh?. It’s that storytelling, movie score, noir style. I’m not a huge fan of drumless production, as I think it’s been done to death, but, when it’s of the utmost high quality, like “Forgive Me”, then I’m on board. This album is such an experience. I get the feeling KA is making albums that an absolute ton of underground heads are trying to make. Flawless production, impeccable pacing. I could go on and on about the greatness of this album, but I feel there's nothing I could say that could top just putting it on, and listening to it. It's THAT good.
02: Marlowe - Marlowe 3
Release date: 28th October 2022
Marlowe had my album of the year for their previous 2 instalments, and I fully expected them to do it again. I mean, there’s very little between the top 1-10, in regards to what I’ve listened to most in 2022 anyway, so I’m sure L’Orange and Solemn Brigham won’t be too downhearted. This album is so much fun. You know that word? FUN. I’ve been absolutely smothered by the over saturation of street/coke music this last year or so, so I welcomed this album with open arms. The production has GROOVE. There’s melodies. There’s bounce. Obviously it’s all just my preference, but I need production with a bit of soul to it. Some of it, I picture a cabaret room, with ladies in frilly skirts on the stage, while men with twisty, pointy moustache's sip illegal liquor under the smoke drenched lights. It has a playful, devious edge to the sound. That may be the complete opposite of what L’Orange was going for haha, but check it out for yourself. Side note: If any organisers of Boomtown are reading this, and don’t book Marlowe for a set in one of their towns, you’re missing a trick.
01: JID - The Forever Story
Release date: 26th August 2022
So, this was my favourite album of the year. Such a creative project. Varying production, with varying topics, and mood shifts throughout. JID has everything. He appeals to the younger generation, and has enough in his arsenal to win over those stuffy old dudes who need LYRICS (me being one too of course). Not a skippable track in my opinion. There’s so much heart on this record, evidenced by JID singing his out on “Kody Blu 31”. He seems like an artist not afraid to take risks, lyrically, and musically, the track “Money” being the perfect example. Khrysis off kilter production would stump a lot of emcees, but JID just moulds this track around his cadence and flow. This is a definite marker for Hip-Hop in 2022 and beyond.
Honorable mentions: A few of these came out very late in the year so I haven't listened to them half as much as the others:
Apollo Brown & Philmore Green: Cost of Living
Black Star: No Fear of Time
The Bad Seed: Five Finger Ring
Tom Caruana: Strange Planet
Che Noir: Food for Thought
AJ Suede & Televangel: Metatron's Cube
Willie the Kid: Deutsche Marks 3
Apathy & Stu Bangas: King of Gods. No Second.
As I say, it’s been a great year for Hip-Hop. Some of the honourable mentions, I’ve listened to more and more during the writing of this blog, and a few would have been top 10 easily, but, for the sake of my entry level website maintenance skills, they’ll have to make do. You can check a ton of music from this list, and stuff not on this list, on the below Spotify playlist.