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  • Writer's pictureJameka


I LOVED Hip Hop this year just like I do every year but this year really aided in not only keeping myself alive but also learning to enjoy the responsibility as well. Thank you to every artist who made this list. You’ve assisted in the betterment of my mind, body, soul in a significant way that will never be forgotten.

This last year was really my first year mourning the loss of my mother. Naturally, it was filled with a lot of lows, some vibrant highs and a search for grounding and community. As a reflection of that a lot of my favorite music that resonated with me this year dealt with grief, death, depression and how to heal and maneuver in some manner. Even if it was a slight verse, ran it up then I did it twice / depression almost killed me, I used to wish I had a different life / turned the Bonneville to a Benz / was stripper turned rapper before it ever was a trend. That shit meant a lot… to bring in the depression and the way it can alter your mind but how one persevered to not only change but save their life. Around my birthday which is also around the time of my mother’s birthday — Elcamino released, Let There Be Light which said it all within the title. Let There Be Light in a time where emotions and reality seem/feel very murky. It was no different for Mac J’s True Story, which I wrote about to quite an extent. The way that different modes of knowing situations mixed with grief can cause some confusing yet enlightening things. To finish up the year, Jameel Na’im X really provided words that helped guide me furthermore with his release, HE DIED TRYING. An LP dedicated to his father who recently passed.

I wanted to write and write a lot about all the great music I’ve heard. The LPs that stood out, the EPs still gettin’ play. The videos that made me question aesthetic and how it affects artist craft and output in various ways. The new artists that lead me to new artists that lead me to my favorite songs of the year. There’s just a lot I wanted to write about. Some projects I enjoy and I'm able to write from the soul while others trigger the mind, both or somewhere between 'n beyond. The form/craft and language used differs. There are clearly patterns and similarities... all that to say how a project is written about doesn't necessarily denote it's value, purpose or reception. All these words are out of the love of Hip Hip and reveling in what it provides in the present tense. Also, shoutout the 6 other writers who contributed their words and love for Hip Hop / Rap to CROWNTHEM this last year. You all have pushed me to become a better editor, writer, designer, curator and supporter. Evolution and expansion are our friends this year.

Without further ado.


HE DIED TRYING by Jameel Na'im X

My undisputed Hip Hop / Rap AOTY of 2022, HE DIED TRYING. And previously to this release my undisputed favorite was Caravaggio Is Alive by JNX as well. There is no artist in the Hip Hop / Rap realm that I’ve heard that has quite the distinct artistry as JNX. The levels and depths of reflection, intuitive and intentional lyrics that often serve as manifestations and alternative ways of thinking coupled with soulful-meditative-trap production (while at the mosque) is out of this world. Truly where Hip Hop and Rap fuse. No bar is unused, double and triple entendres everywhere and an unequivocal love for his own craft. So much heart, soul, experience and wit. I can say a lot more and eventually will but in the meantime do yourself a favor and spin it.


City: New Orleans, LA

Released: December 28, 2022


True Story by Mac J

Although Sacramento’s Mac J is speaking about his personal experiences throughout True Story, the album still served as a not so subtle universal reminder of the several deaths that continue to escalate among young artists within the Hip Hop realm. If you personally have grieved anyone or anything then you’re aware of the array of emotions and thoughts that can become plaguing or catalyzing. True Story represents what it means to express those grievances and more closely how to mourn those losses when they are your blood and/or chosen family.

Read full length review here.

Notable Tracks: Inside, Angels, Gawd Did & Mirror Match

City: Sacramento, CA

Released: September 16, 2022


The Complex by Asun Eastwood x Wavy Da Ghawd

Top 10 album and lyricist from the year. I had heard Asun on a few features before and I enjoyed it but I hadn’t visited a project of his until this one. The cover art with Asun sitting holding Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia by Sean Patrick Griffin while Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates on the table I felt was profound. Here we are in an era where a lot of material things such as whips, chains, drugs and ass are highly promoted... in the same moment here is an artist promoting literacy and knowledge which becomes quite apparent through his intentional lyrics and bar set-ups (not to say Eastwood is without braggadocio raps or sex inspired lyrics -- it's just done with a little more experience and taste.)

Notable Tracks: Bicycle Spokes, WHERE’S DA MAYO?!, Duel Chip Phones & EVOLVIN’

City: Toronto, Canada

Released: April 22, 2022


Breakfast In Hradec by CRIMEAPPLE x DJ Skizz

Very special LP. There’s something about the way CRIMEAPPLE holds his art… from how he delivers his verses, keeps most of his releases on his site or in physical form and just kind of pops out when necessary. There’s an allure that is created when an artist is able to maintain gratitude for his supporters and fans while also remaining somewhat private and unaffected by social media and critics. My first listen of CRIMEAPPLE was his project, Sancocho (2021) and instantly I was hooked. Then earlier in 2022 he released, Jaguar on Palisade 2 and I began to foster a deeper appreciation for his art. But of the other 2-3 releases from 2022 this one took the trophy. CRIMEAPPLE’s artistry is an acquired taste for a certain kind of Hip Hop connoisseur.

Notable Tracks: In Flight, The Count of Monte Cristo, Rezamos & La Lluvia

City/Region: New Jersey / Colombia

Released: June 29, 2022


Let There Be Light by Elcamino

“Tell me somethin’ I don’t know / I got pain that I can’t show and I got pain that I won’t show / it’s a difference, just listen.”

It's biblical that there will be trials along your journey and highlighted in your testimony. We didn't sign up for it but it's what we have. The cards we've been dealt. So, how do you persevere? What do your prayers look like? Do you believe in prayer, meditation, incantations?

So much I want to say about Let There Be Light but it was a project that settled some things with my Soul. This last year I had been grieving my mother and had all these feelings and thoughts that felt like no one else knew or felt too. Until this album… the way in which Elcamino expresses his grief, the feelings and thoughts that he goes thru with it honestly made me feel less alone. Besides the connection to grief and learning to allow the light in again it was beautiful to hear Elcamino sing more in this project. I look forward to the RnB project especially if it’s in the vein of what he did on this one. Glad to have had some of my internal workings assuaged by Let There Be Light.

Notable Tracks: Deep, Who I Am & Angels

City: Buffalo, NY Released: May 13, 2022


The Four Nights Game 2 by ANKHLEJOHN

In all honesty I could’ve written about all of his releases from 2020 to the most recent. ANKHLEJOHN knows when to boast, when to teach, when to express experience and thought. The braggadocio doesn’t turn you away but pulls you in with a distinct texture and unorthodox flow. Authentic, original or at least influenced and shaped by the right kind. The Four Knights Game 2 is a follow-up to his project, The Four Knights Game. The project hosts features from Virginia artists Fly Anakin and Monday Night. Obviously, the title pays homage/nods/pulls out similes and metaphors of the game of chess. He’s able to do that by setting up the albums as almost an auditory exemplification of how to “kill the king” in whatever manner you take that. To be calculated is beneficial and necessary but sometimes risk can’t be calculated and just has to be executed. Some of the context of the project is given through clips from Fresh (1994) featuring Samuel L. Jackson woven in between, at the beginning and end of tracks. Sonically, The Four Knights Game 2 is a balance of real grimey, creepin’ production that has moments of Soul - the Soul is always trying to shine through. “Doing it Wrong,” is one of the most soulful tracks as far as production and lyrics. He touches on Section 8, gentrification and the importance of the native people of D.C.

Notable Tracks: Four Blocks Away, Doing It Wrong, Common Courtesy & Real Consequences

City: Washington D.C. Released: June 25, 2022


Read The Room by Jayson Cash

One of the best albums to come out of LA in quite some time. You have the lyricism with important content, production that will have you movin’ and undeniable melodies throughout. I’m sure this is a project I’ll still be spinning into next year and the year after. Read The Room hosted guest appearances from Dom Kennedy, Blxst, Symba, Kalan.FrFr and a few others. Cash also released a freestyle every Friday to help put him on the radar and still has them rollin’ out. Get familiar, in time you’ll see he’s truly one of the major faces when addressing the present and future of LA Hip Hop / Rap. For those who mix fun and gratitude with their perseverance. Notable tracks: Stay True, Might, Him & Same

City: Carson, CA Released: May 27, 2022



Who else is in this lane? Who else doin’ what she do at the quality she do it at? Besides Suga-T what woman Hip Hop / Rap artists from The Bay Area (Oakland more specifically) who have genuinely created their own sound? And continues to evolve it. This was an exciting release that still gets plenty of play, especially when it’s whippin’ n dippin’, gettin’ ready for a function. Indeed, DIVINE TIMING (DELUXE), in terms of release, in terms of how the project flows, the features align. The original hit how it was supposed to then the deluxe came out swingin’ even more. Definitely in line with the timelessness of A Good Night in the Ghetto, Oakland Nights & No Explanations. DaBoii and Cash Kidd are prime collaborators for her.

Notable Tracks: Oakland Steppin In Detroit, F.W.I., Play Too Much & ITS ON THE FLO

City: Oakland, CA

Released: May 27, 2022 & Deluxe: August 5, 2022


The Highest Flyest Fly On The Wall by Pat Ron

The Highest Flyest Fly on the Wall in itself is an observation of Self through the happenings and non-happenings of Pat Ron’s environment(s) and “peers.” He gives his assessment of what could be perceived as competition, family, friends, etc - it’s an assessment of the "other" which has almost in a way shaped and defined what Pat Ron is not.

A succinct project from start to finish; the themes and lyrics align with the album art presented. There’s a personifying of a colloquial saying. 19 minutes of expressing the complexity of the simplicity.

When we talk about the well known saying, “fly on the wall,” it’s about an observation of environment(s) without necessarily being seen. An unnoticed observer with minimum interference in the situation or environment but that’s not to say without influence of said environment(s). The Highest Flyest Fly on the Wall is not only an observation and commentary about the fickleness of human behavior - whether it be conditional love, envy, hate or rare support. Many will love you when you’re achieving/creating/accomplishing things that may be perceived as “beneficial” for them to whatever extent. But is it the same love and support shown when you’re not at one of your pinnacle(s)? Can you even expect that from anyone but yourself tho.

Notable Tracks: Never Another This Fly, Centerfold & Logo Ralph City: Dallas, TX

Released: June 3, 2022


E Pluribus Unum by UFO Fev

“I ain’t have nothin’ growing up; everything was a double team, break thru the defense, get the bucket - AND 1.”

Harlem artist UFO Fev presents a representation of what it means to be influenced by where you come from but still remain original, authentic and 1 of 1 in his album, E Pluribus Unum. The album is solely produced by DJ J Hart and hosts features from Ace Arty and Jose Santiago. E Pluribus Unum begins with a clip of an interview where Mike Powers asking about a phone call UFO Fev received from Diddy and what that means to Fev coming from where he comes from.

Read full length review here.

Notable Tracks: El Sapo, Money & In The Rain City: Harlem, NY Released: February 18, 2022


In Loving Memory by donSMITH

Content, lyrics and message wise the EP is somewhat similar to a testimony or sermon as donSMITH explores various topics that essentially point towards gratitude for the path ordained for you. It’s an EP that asks you to hone in on the beauty of you and your life; where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Are you grateful for it? For the flaws, the stumbles, the losses, lessons, moments of uncertainty that kept you guessin’, riddled with anxiety and indigestion? Are you grateful for it? Could you be who you are without it? Read full length review here. Notable Tracks: To Be Grateful (Long Live,) Long Time Coming & Still DON City: Harlem, NY / East Coast

Released: March 18, 2022


Company by Lord Juco

Toronto artist Lord Juco and Finn team up for their EP, Company. I've been personally tuned into Juco's work since his 2020 release, HHSS, which caught my attention of the strength of sounding like nothing I was listening to at the time. Additionally, when I saw the cover art to this EP that pays homage to Kathy Bates character “Annie Wilkes” from 1990 film, Misery adapted from Stephen King’s novel, Misery I was ready to journey into Juco's artistry again.

The EP hosts the proper company of: HWY 308, Asun Eastwood, Eddie Caine, UFO Fev, Ashton Francis & Hus KingPin - some of the finest MCs of the cross-regional Hip Hop scene. With that said, this is an EP for those who truly enjoy witty, thoughtful, knowledgeable and comedic lyrics. Bar set ups that sometimes take a minute to catch up in hindsight. Lord Juco is an artist who doesn’t necessarily need features but these features made for an even more exciting EP. The cratt of an EP was lowkey mastered with Company.

Notable Tracks: Poignant, Palazzo & Split Screen

City: Toronto, Canada / North Released: June 3, 2022


On Dogz by BoriRock x Michaelangelo

You feel me? Some people they put it on their dead homies but where we’re from we say, “on dead dogz!”

On Dogz by BoriRock and Michaelangelo begins as an ode to those of past, present and future. The timeless energies that harness vessels down here on Earth. Expressions of what the term, "on dogz" means to them and theirs'. BoriRock also touches on who he is, where he comes from the changes, the growth and the static.

Everyday that I do shit, I surprise myself / and I used to move bricks, you surprised I dealt. I enjoy how the music makes me feel. It acknowledges the climb to becoming and the stableness in whatever avenues you request. It feels luxurious but not necessarily off of tangible assets (although a lot of the drive is coming from there,) it’s off of knowing that you did what you did to do what you do. The stories that come along the way of the larger narrative. The lessons, learnings and confidence builds like muscle when you conquer and learn to work with the deficits. This was a treat of an album. You’ll hear obvious influences but he somewhat does it better. Thru this album alone I was opened up to a whole new world of artists; Dun Dealy, TOP HOOTER (featured on the album,) but those acts lead me to FUNERAL Ant Bell, Shaykh Hanif and Cam Bells. I’m in disbelief that a project like this would go so under the radar. Anyways, they’ll catch on to this one for sure. Or his more recent project, HOOT WAVE.

Notable Tracks: Self Sacrifice, Everything Must Go, Cerberus & Unfamiliar Feelings

City: Dorchester, MA / DMV Released: October 25, 2022


Can’t Tame Us by DaBoii

If we’re talking about outstanding years DaBoii needs to be in the convo since he came into the Rap realm with SOBxRBE. Every year, you hear the evolution with playful flows and inventive wordplay (inherited when one the biggest acts out your city is E-40,) content/subjects and as well as visually thru music videos. Since 2020, DaBoii has found exponential growth, every release is a level up. Following this project he also released, Onna Gang in December which gave way for my vulnerable raps that matched chosen samples.

Notable Tracks: KickDoe, Cole Bennet & No You Not

Released: May 13, 2022

City: Vallejo, CA


See You, When I C U by CHUNG

"This come from the left breast and from the Soul."

Phenomenal entry to an artist. I wouldn't be surprised if she had some poetry published in French somewhere. Ain’t no gimmick, no trends, not motivated by the hype or limelight. See You, When I C U is genuinely a compilation of expressions to exude her connection to Spirit. Oftentimes this was a project I’d have on repeat while biking through South Memphis. Very peaceful production and a classy poetic disposition. I could tune-in to what she was saying while also having catalyzing thoughts of leveling up and future endeavors. CHUNG is a poet that can motivate through her stories and worldviews created thru personal experiences.

Notable Tracks: More Plays, Touch Money, Bigger Fish 2 Fry & You See Us

City: Montreal, Canada Released: September 19, 2022


NO AWARDS FOR THE REAL by AJ Snow x Jansport J

Both AJ Snow and Jansport J have been on my radar for some time. Jansport J a bit longer as he’s been on the scene for quite some time and worked with some pretty large names in Hip Hop / Rap. So, when I saw this project was going to be released I was thrilled. It was really done well – this is lowkey a dream match up. Jansport J with stellar production (that can stand alone,) but AJ steps in and paints the canvas with some of his best lyrical imagery. You feel on the climb and see the pinnacles and checkpoints. It feels luxurious, worked for and exciting. New heights. Keep an eye out for their follow-up.

My innerview with AJ from earlier this year you can find here.


City: Springfield, IL/Dallas, TX

Released: June 21, 2022


Let’s Do A Drill by Asian Doll

This project had me on edge the whole time wondering what would come next song2song. I didn’t see this coming and I’m not sure too many did. I think we anticipated Asian Doll doing a couple drill singles, featuring some drill artists or vice versa. But nah, this is 20 songs / 50 minutes fusion of where Southern rap meets N.Y. drill. Vast majority of the production is drill heavy except “Down South” featuring Tay Money also produced by Hit Kidd (which should be all over the radio waves, but isn't.) Asian Doll is one of the best rappers coming out of Texas and South in general. Many think she’s new to this but previous to Let’s Do A Drill she has put out 10 other albums/mixtapes. Some of my personal favorites being: Doll SZN, So Icy Princess, UNFUCCWITABLE. Very fun times in Hip Hop / Rap right now as we see more and more women create and execute their lanes.

Notable Tracks: No Exposing, Nunnadet Shit, Wait, 41 Shots, Down South & Viral

City: Dallas, TX

Released: July 22, 2022


The Untold, Vol.1 by FrankieOG x NugLife

Not sure how I came across FrankieOG but when the project found me it brought me to a better place. FrankieOG brings humble raps that also demand and know what one deserves in this life. The Untold, Vol.1 is rare in the sense that it’s one of the projects of the year that lead me to one of the “best new artists” releases. NugLife also provides some great production for FrankieOG to express himself. The underground on the West Coast is just as vibrant, deep and offering of variety as the usual regions we look towards for underground and independent work.