A newcomer on the scene breaks out with a great debut project combining genres of hip-hop, emo, folk and more to create a mellow, melodic experience. Sad bois across the country should be able to enjoy the stylings of Aries. From YouTube producer to album of the year lists, Aries is creating a fanbase that cannot be ignored.
Favorite Tracks: RACECAR, CAROUSEL
24. Ginger – Brockhampton
The most low key album from the large Texas-based group reflects the group’s current mind-state after losing one of their most prominent members due to sexual assault allegations. The emotions are rawer than ever, and the result is a potent listen that will affect those who have followed the groups story for the last few years.
Favorite Tracks: BOY BYE, DEARLY DEPARTED
23. The Sailor – Rich Brian
Easily the young Indonesian’s most ambitious project to date, most of the experimental tracks go off without a hitch and create a new image for Rich Brian. Plenty of singing and mellow beats to contrast with the heavier rap tracks make for a smooth, dynamic listen from beginning to end, with few bumps in the road along the way.
Favorite Tracks: Drive Safe, Slow Down Turbo
22. IGOR – Tyler the Creator
A breakup album for the decade, Tyler the Creator has continued his artistic transformation into the character IGOR, who inspires this latest batch of tracks and visuals. The lo-fi aesthetics create a thick atmosphere that paints a perfect background for Tyler and his guests to create a wonderful lyrical picture that remains clear throughout the entire listen.
Favorite Tracks: A BOY IS A GUN*, WHAT’S GOOD
21. Malibu Ken – Aesop Rock & Tobacco
The collaborative effort between the verbose Aesop Rock and producer Tobacco has created a great project in Malibu Ken. Putting together a character piece of a disgusting person and world, the duo have made a truly unique listen that one might expect from seeing these two names collaborate.
Favorite Tracks: Tuesday, Churro
20. I Am > I Was – 21 Savage
Early in the year, 21 Savage released what is easily his most mature and ambitious project yet. Those who have been paying attention know that 21 Savage has been cleaning up his act and changing as a person and artist since his debut. There’s still that classic savagery that 21 is known for, but he also takes the time to slow it down and spit some knowledge and even write a letter to his mother in the meantime. 21 Savage’s trajectory as an artist is an unexpected but welcome change, and hopefully 21 stands as an inspiration to his contemporaries.
Favorite Tracks: A Lot, Letter 2 My Momma
19. Hiding Places – Billy Woods & Kenny Segal
One of the world’s most elusive emcees paired together with Kenny Segal this year to create one of the more esoteric and elusive records of 2019. The grimy production gives Billy Woods the perfect backdrop to spit his hard-to-follow flows and lyrics. Both Woods’ and Segal’s work lend to repeated listens and trying to pick apart the subtleties of each.
Favorite Tracks: Spongebob, Bigfakelaugh
18. Injury Reserve – Injury Reserve
Injury Reserve’s debut album on their new label sees them continue their streak of experimental hip-hop and soundplay. Just as hooky and introspective as ever, the trio are not breaking much new ground compared to their breakout mixtapes, but they continue to push the envelope and develop a unique sound to grow their passionate fan base.
Favorite Tracks: Koruna & Lime, Jailbreak the Tesla
17. The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
The Maryland rapper’s debut mixes fun and introspection better than most popular albums could this year. The young rapper wears many of his influences on his sleeve, but twists the inspiration into something brilliant and full of potential. Emotional and uplifting, the tracks on this project will inspire those who take the time to listen.
Favorite Tracks: Wintertime, Nightmares are Real
16. Uknowwhatimsayin? – Danny Brown
The veteran emcee takes somewhat of a victory lap on this project, speaking about living his best life and how no emcee out now can touch his legend status. Being a cultural touchstone of the last decade can afford you a little bragging, which Danny takes the time to do on this effort here. Great executive production by Q-Tip gives Brown the perfect backdrop to create his lyrical masterpieces.
15. WWCD – Griselda
The long-awaited full-length collaboration between Buffalo rappers Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn turns out just as grimy and full of bars as one might expect. The wholly original production allows for a thick atmosphere of drugs and guns to permeate through the lyrics of the trio. WWCD easily takes the cake for record that makes you feel the most like a gangster this year.
Favorite Tracks: Moselle, DR. BIRDS
14. Is He Real – IDK
The DMV native has created quite the experience with his questioning album Is He Real. In addition to the handful of bangers IDK puts out, he is ready to ask the big questions as well. Without answers to give, IDK explores the space in between with smart, direct hip-hop, which discusses everything from God to porn.
Favorite Tracks: Porno, December
13. Fever – Megan Thee Stallion
One of the biggest names of 2019 released an album full of incredible pop rap tracks that are hard to deny for even the staunchest of critics. Megan’s charisma could carry almost any song to quality, but the bars on this album come fast and hard, and the beats hit even harder. Megan thee Stallion has fully arrived in the hip-hop mainstream, and has a solid record to back her up in her ascent.
Favorite Tracks: Realer, Cash Shit
12. Anger Management – Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats
This incredibly short addition to the Rico Nasty catalogue entirely curated by producer-extraordinaire Kenny Beats had no choice but to slap from front to back. It does this by not letting up on the gas pedal for 9 tracks. It’s hard to resist the energy Rico brings to the table and even harder to not enjoy the production choices made by Kenny. Even taking time to reflect within itself, the micro-project manages to pack an album experience in its short run time.
Favorite Tracks: Cold, Relative
11. Ventura – Anderson .Paak
Whether Ventura is a collection of leftovers from .Paak’s previous album Oxnard is irrelevant. The music offered on Ventura is as high quality as one should expect from the veteran musician. Anderson .Paak continues his consistency on this effort and delivers an incredible experience straight from the West Coast. Resurrecting a great in the process, .Paak manages to get true emotion from the listener on this one.
Favorite Tracks: Come Home, What Can We Do?
10. The All – Smif N Wessun
Not since early in the decade have we heard from Tek and Steele, but the duo is as sharp as ever on their latest record. Aided thoroughly by their choice to employ 9th wonder and the Soul Council for production through the entire album, the balance between the New York in the 90s feel that the group is known for and modernity is set beautifully. An oldhead’s must-listen, The All lives up to its name and the huge reputation of the artists attached to it.
Favorite Tracks: The Education of Smif N Wessun, Letter 4 U
9. Bandana – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
The duo are back five years later to wow audience’s with a follow up to the incredible 2014 Piñata. This time, Freddie Gibbs is in the spotlight. Hardcore gangster raps have never made the drug game seems as enticing and scary at the same time as Gibbs makes it seem. Of course, Madlib does exactly what he does best and kills each beat on the project in the way only he can. The result of Gibbs and Madlib coming together is just as explosive as it was half a decade ago.
Favorite Tracks: Fake Names, Situations
8. There Existed An Addiction to Blood – clipping.
There aren’t many groups as willing to experiment with sound like clipping. The walls of harsh noise and sparse tracks have always laid out the perfect atmosphere for Daveed Diggs to rap his speedy flows full of meaningful lyrics. This time around, the trio decide to theme their album around the horror genre, and come up with some truly disturbing material to support it.
Favorite Tracks: La Mala Ordina, Story 7
7. Guns – Quelle Chris
Underground New York rapper Quelle Chris really came through this year with a conceptual project about guns and the state-at-large of America today. His thoughtful lyrics and storytelling are in full swing on this effort, and paint a bleak picture of the country we live in and the politics that run rampant through it. Meaningful and important, the message Guns delivers is one that people need to hear and understand.
Favorite Tracks: It’s the Law, Obamacare
6. Grey Area – Little Simz
UK rapper Little Simz has created a fantastic body of work with Grey Area. With influences from around the UK and the world, the sounds coming from this project are just as sharp and excellent as the lyrics Simz spits throughout. Emotionally raw, the tracks on this album will strip the listener down if they decide to dive into the tracks in depth.
Favorite Tracks: Venom, Therapy
5. ZUU – Denel Curry
The consistency of Denzel Curry is incredible. Even on this project, which seems to be in-between bigger efforts like Taboo and whatever is next, Curry manages to bring together an amazing bunch of tracks. Denzel’s flows are as technical as ever, but the hooks and beats on this project really pop. A tribute to Carol City, where Denzel grew up, the Floridian has created a great soundtrack for the city that should last for years to come.
Favorite Tracks: RICKY, CAROLMART
4. A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night – Blu & Oh No
California emcee Blu is back after years toiling in the underground with a collaborative effort. Over the excellent production handled entirely by Oh No, Blu spits a coherent story that is worth experiencing from beginning to end without any spoilers. A story of crime, betrayal and redemption, the concept album is worth every minute of its runtime. Southern California already has plenty of albums dedicated to it, but this album adds an excellent project to its region.
Favorite Tracks: Pop Shots, Murder Case
3. All My Heroes Are Cornballs – JPEGMAFIA
Baltimore Producer and rapper does it again this year after receiving our album of the year award last year, dropping another incredible project a year later with All My Heroes Are Cornballs. Just as aggressive in spots as Peggy’s previous effort, the tracklist takes the listener on a ride of intensity that does not lull in quality throughout. More melodic and less structured than normal, JPEGMAFIA is in rare form here, and we encourage any who have not yet experienced the stylings of Peggy to start immediately.
Favorite Tracks: Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot, Grimy Waifu
2. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo
Putting this album on a hip-hop list may seem wrong, but the genre of hip-hop is wide and varied, and Lizzo has proven herself a member of the culture, despite what people may throw at her due to her often pop-leaning styles. The tunes on this album are undeniable, From number one hits to deep cuts that pop anyway, the tracklist is laden with potential smashes. Lizzo is inarguably the biggest breakout star of 2019, and there is a reason she nearly tops this list with Cuz I Love You.
Favorite Tracks: Cuz I Love You, Jerome
1. Eve – Rapsody
North Carolina rapper Rapsody takes our top spot with her tribute to black women, Eve. Each track is named after a prominent woman of color that had huge influence on the world they live or lived in. The immensity of the concept is matched only in the execution. Rapsody pens some of her best material here, with her verses deeper and more impactful, and hooks popping more than ever before. The beat work, handled in large part by the blessed hands of 9th Wonder, varies from classic boom-bap flavor to more modern forms of production, creating the perfect backdrop for Rapsody to paint her vivid lyrical pictures. Rapsody raps like a veteran on this album and deserves the status she claims throughout.