So much rap music is released all the time, and especially with frequent surprise releases, it can be hard to keep track of it all. So, to help you keep track of it all, here’s a roundup of the 8 rap albums from January 2022 that stood out to us the most. We’ve also probably still missed or haven’t spent enough time with a few great rap albums from January that aren’t on this list. What were your favorites from the past month? Let us know in the comments, and read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order).
Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!
It’s been fascinating to watch Earl Sweatshirt continue to evolve over the decade-plus since he released his first instant classic mixtape at age 16. His early fame allowed him to maintain visibility in the rap mainstream (and stay on a major label) all the time, but Earl hasn’t made music that sounds like “mainstream rap” for at least 2013. Dory, and even this album still seems left of the dial. His unique position in the rap world has made him an ambassador for the underground, and he continues to find exciting new artists to collaborate with and new sounds to experiment with. On the excellent 2018 some rap songs, Earl helped shine a light on the hazy, psychedelic sounds New York artists like Navy Blue, Standing on the Corner and MIKE had (and still are) creating, while more recently he’s developed a collaborative relationship with a darker, murkier NYC duo. : Armand Hammer (aka billy woods and ELUCID). Earl has appeared on their last two albums, and they appear on “Tabula Rasa” from Earl’s new LP SICK!. And just as you could feel the influence of artists like Navy Blue and MIKE on some rap songs, you can hear how Armand Hammer’s deceptively subtle sound impacted SICK!.
Elsewhere on SICK!, there are beats from frequent Earl and Armand Hammer producer The Alchemist, a verse from ZelooperZ from Danny Brown’s Bruiser Brigade crew, and four songs produced by frequent Bruiser Brigade drummer Black Noi$e (Danny Brown being of course another rapper who blurs the line between underground and mainstream, and a collaborator of Earl at the time), and beats by Navy Blue (as ancestors), Samiyam, Alexander Spit, and more. From this diverse list, you feel like you can’t pin SICK! like a specific rap style or subgenre, and Earl really seems to fuse all the different influences he’s developed over time, without jumping from one sound to the next.
The way Earl channels all this music through his own is very much like Bowie’s – Navy Blue and MIKE and Armand Hammer, his Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and Marc Bolan – and like Bowie, Earl is more than an ambassador for the underestimated. artists; he is also a visionary and avant-garde artist. It constantly passes SICK!, which is yet another display of deep, complex and abstract rapping against a well-chosen backdrop of psychedelic beats, and unlike any of Earl’s previous projects. Compared to blurry, mind-blowing some rap songs and the following year feet of clay, SICK! is a clearer and more direct rap album, but still more abstract than the music Earl was making on I don’t like shit, I don’t go out and earlier. He crams so much personal detail into these songs, and without a lyric sheet, you’re probably not going to absorb it all on first listen. It’s an album full of many layers, and although it’s only 24 minutes long, it demands a lot of time and attention if you’re hoping to unpack it all. Earl doesn’t give you easy-to-digest, radio-friendly singles; it invites you on a journey unlike anything the current rap world has to offer. As with his previous albums, the journey is always rewarding.
Cordae- From a bird’s eye view
When Cordae (formerly known as YBN Cordae) stepped away from the YBN team to make their own mark with their 2019 debut album The lost Boy, it felt like Cordae was determined to prove himself as an old soul, a classic, a rapper with bars reminiscent of the boom bap era and an artist with a vision for blockbuster albums, not an artist of Gen Z with viral YouTube drops like his former teammate YBN Nahmir. The lost Boy is a great album, even if sometimes it seems like Cordae is trying too hard to write a great album. His follow-up From a bird’s eye view seems looser, freer, more confident and just plain better.
Cordae’s influences on From a bird’s eye view still feel easy to spot – you can hear shades of Kendrick Lamar (whose “Poetic Justice” is interpolated on the album), Nas (who was originally slated to appear on the album), J. Cole, Anderson .Paak – but while Cordae still finds its own voice, it also improves in knockout punchlines, pocket bars, memorable hooks, beat selection, and in-depth lyricism. Throughout the album, Cordae proves to be just as effective when telling in-depth stories about his youth (“C Carter”) or the untimely death of a friend (“Momma’s Hood”) as when distributing replicas. who brags about his fame (“Last night I was texting Jack Dorsey / That’s the perks you get from being super dope”) and his artistry (“That ain’t music rap, that straight literature”) or explaining why he dropped the YBN from his name (“I had no other choice, we don’t own shit”). It also makes smooth transitions between an array of different styles, from Pimp a butterfly-from the jazz-rap of “Jean-Michel” to the 70s funk revival of “Want From Me” to the minor trap of “Today” (ft. Gunna) to the no-frills rap of the Hit-Boy- produced “Sinister” ( ft. Lil Wayne) on the neo-soul ballad “Chronicles” (ft. HER and Lil Durk). Cordae also rounds out the album with hallmarks of his ancestry, from really great verses from Lil Wayne and Freddie Gibbs to an overly long verse from Eminem, which serve as a reminder that Cordae can hold his own alongside artists he admires. (There’s also a contribution from Stevie Wonder, presumably the instrumental at the end of “Champagne Glasses,” but having his name on the album feels like a power move no matter how minor the actual feature is. ) And for all the sound comparisons with other rappers you can make while listening From a bird’s eye view, perhaps the artist he most conceptually resembles is J. Cole. Like Cole, what Cordae sometimes lacks in originality, he makes up for in hard work. His goal is to achieve greatness, and he’s determined to push himself as far as he can go to get there.
Babyface Ray – FACE
Babyface Ray had been a staple of Michigan’s thriving rap scene for years, and he made a mainstream breakthrough with it last year. Unavoidable. Now he’s following that with a new album. FACE, and proves that even though it’s getting more and more popular, it doesn’t dilute its sound at all. If anything, FACE feels less favorable to pop than Unavoidable, much of which is focused on melancholy, slow-paced production and Ray’s deep lyricism. Helpers from Pusha T, 42 Dugg, G Herbo, Wiz Khalifa, Icewear Vezzo, Yung Lean and Landstrip Chip are helping to shake things up, but more than anything else, FACE proves that Babyface Ray is still one to watch.
Black Che – food for thought
The cold, hard, gritty sounds of mid-’90s New York rap aren’t dead; they just moved upstate. And it’s more than Griselda. Buffalo rapper Che Noir is also helping lead the movement, and after releasing three albums in 2020 and having a much calmer 2021, she’s now back with a new album, food for thought. Featuring fellow upstate New Yorkers like Ransom, 38 Spesh and 7xvethegenius (and Brooklyn’s Rome Streetz), the album finds Che and his peers doing what they do best, focusing over classic style bars and lyricism and doing a whole lot of justice. to their 90s ancestors. Che is also a major producer, having run around half of food for thought‘s fights, and its production is just as true to the boom bap era as its lyrics are.
Your old Droog and the god Fahim – Tha Wolf On Wall St 2: The American Dream
Last year, highly prolific rappers Your Old Droog and Tha God Fahim each released a handful of different projects, including two together, one of which was The Wolf on Wall St. We’ve named this one of our favorite rap albums of 2021, so it’s exciting to hear that the duo’s latest collab is set to be a sequel to that specific project. Tha Wolf On Wall St 2: The American Dream features beats from Nicholas Craven, Messiah Music, Fortes and Conductor Williams, and like its predecessor, it’s a vintage-style boom bap offering that rivals the greats of the 90s from which it was influenced. It also seems a bit lighter than the first one. Wolf on the Wall St, but with just as much depth in the lyricism and just as easily brilliant.
DJ Muggs & Rigz – Gold
After producing some of the best rap albums of 2021, Cypress Hill DJ Muggs is back, having produced the new album Gold for rising Rochester rapper Rigz. Guests include Rome Streetz, Meyhem Lauren, Mav, Mooch, and many more, and if you loved Muggs’ classic rap albums last year, you’ll definitely like this one.
AJ Sweden & Telegospel – Metatron’s Cube
Fake Four Inc
Seattle rapper AJ Suede has teamed up with producer Televangel (of electronic duo Blue Sky Black Death) for an album out on loyal underground rap label Fake Four Inc. Televangel whips up a psychedelic backdrop and AJ Suede shows up to the height with bars as punchy as they are mind-blowing. Guest appearances come from Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire, Hemlock Ernst (the rap alter ego of Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring), Squadda B (of Main Attrakionz), PremRock and Ceschi.
Damedot- The umbrella again
Forever Gutta Music / EMPIRE
Damedot has long been a staple of Michigan’s thriving rap scene (he was a member of Team Eastside which also included Babyface Ray, Peezy and others), and as national interest in that scene grows, Damedot remains prolific, followed last years Mafia Lord (Chapter II) with his new project of 25 songs The umbrella again. To quote Alphonse Pierre’s review for Pitchfork, Damedot “raps almost exclusively about getting money, expensive fashions, nightlife and drugs in the Midwest, over beating 808s, ominous piano melodies and a touch of Motown soul.” He has a loud, brash delivery, and it seems like he should be on a star even on songs that don’t care about hooks.
Del The Funky Homosapien & Kool Keith present FNKPMPN – Subatomic
Observing since ’98 – Mute De Un Salvaje
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