Gibbs’ semi-concept album runs through great song after great song, even if their themes are only loosely linked. Gibbs has an incredible way of becoming a part of this generation of rap while simultaneously being more skilled and having more experience than most of them. A veteran at this point, Freddie sounds like one on this project, as deep in his bag as he’s ever been.
Favorite Tracks: Feel No Pain feat. Anderson .Paak & Raekwon, Gold Rings feat. Pusha T
9. Cheat Codes – Black Thought & Danger Mouse
This collab is a no brainer for a great hip-hop experience, and it does not disappoint. Bringing together one of the best classic emcees and lyricists of all time with one of the most accomplished producers in any genre, in addition to features from all over the time and style spectrums of rap, the project is simply full of great bars and beats. Surely one for the heads, any fan of these artists must not miss this release.
Favorite Tracks: No Gold Teeth, Strangers feat. A$AP Rocky & Run The Jewels
8. It’s Almost Dry – Pusha T
Regrettably involving this year’s worst character in hip-hop on much of production, do not let that take away from the incredible work done all over this project. Pusha T is in his element, consistent as usual. The production on this one, however, is on another level. Between Ye and Pharrell, these beats are hypnotic. A critical favorite for a reason, It’s Almost Dry is exactly what can happen when collaborations go right.
Favorite Tracks: Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes, Neck & Wrist feat. Pharrell & Jay-Z
7. 2000 – Joey Bada$$
Joey’s done a lot of growing since his last, also excellent, effort 5 years ago. Self-reflection seems to be the theme this time around. Joey’s thoughtful bars and beat choices make for a sometimes breezy, sometimes heavy listen all the way through. From sex to suicide, this project does not stray away from the tough topics that Joey has clearly been thinking about for the past half decade.
Favorite Tracks: Eulogy, Survivor’s Guilt
6. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers – Kendrick Lamar
TDE’s long awaited king finally returned with one of the most talked about albums of the year. There’s not much to be offered by a short paragraph that hasn’t been spilled about for pages and pages. From its well-deserved controversy at points to its clear brilliance at others, this will be a long-discussed and studied piece of art for a long time, even if just for the artist behind it. The project deserves its many reputations, and it will be interesting to see where it ultimately lands in the public eye.
Favorite Tracks: United in Grief, Savior (Interlude) [feat. Baby Keem]
5. God Don’t Make Mistakes – Conway the Machine
The highest ranking Griselda member this year goes to Conway, who proves he is the heart of the group with this thoughtful, emotional project. Full of plenty of Griselda-isms, selling, whipping, spending, etc., Conway adds another layer of depth. Wrapped in incredible hip-hop artistry, his experiences dealing with emotional and physical pains throughout his life is laid bare here.
Favorite Tracks: John Woo Flick feat. Benny the Butcher & Westside Gunn, Stressed feat. Wallo267
4. Drill Music in Zion – Lupe Fiasco
Quietly releasing heat under the radar for years now, Lupe is back with another incredible album. Exploring the relationship Lupe and the world have with the environment that produces drill music, and the fetishization of the lifestyle that has become so popular throughout culture. An introspective reflection on the tight concept, the execution of the project is something to behold for those looking for depth in their music.
Favorite Tracks: Kiosk, Ms. Mural
3. Herbert – Ab Soul
Soulo’s first record in over six years comes with plenty to speak on. Ab Soul has had a tough handful of years, and he’s ready to tell his truth while simultaneously showing he is still on top of his game. Incredible verses, infectious hooks and forward-thinking production combine for a journey that came out just after many year-end lists were published, but this project is not to be missed.
Favorite Tracks: Message in a Bottle (feat. Lance Skiiiwalker), Moonshooter (feat. Joey Bada$$)
2. Melt My Eyez, See Your Future – Denzel Curry
Surprising no one familiar to Stay Up’s year-end lists, Denzel ranks high once again. Zel’s most introspective release yet comes with some of the best music released this year. The production in consistently interesting, often psychedelic. The reflective bars perfectly summate what Denzel and much of the world have been going through the past couple years. Where this lands among Denzel’s catalogue is to been seen, but it is handily one of the best releases of 2022.
Favorite Tracks: Melt Sessions #1, Ain’t No Way (feat. 6lack, Rico Nasty, JID, & Jasiah)
1. The Forever Story – JID
Stay Up’s pick for album of the year comes from an artist one could tell had the potential to write a masterpiece early on. JID showed an enormous amount of promise in the latter part of the last decade, and the Atlanta rapper realized this potential in 2022. JID’s endless barrage of mind-blowing flows only takes breaks for some incredibly sung and rapped hooks and features, keeping an excellent flow throughout. A worthy concept is explored throughout the track list, keeping the replay value high, while boasting the depth of the best hip-hop albums of the generation.