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  • 2nd Kings by HXNDRX

    2nd Kings is the follow-up to HXNDRX’s first release of 2022, 1st Kings. Different from the first one as there are no features and HXNDRX is going purely off his own energy and thoughts. 2nd Kings is a highly spiritual project meant to connect with the listener in intimate and vulnerable ways that aren't always present in today's artistry. This is a genuine spiritual offering from the New Orleans’ artist. There’s history, mantras, motivation and light — it’s an honest and transparent reflection of Soul, intent and the energy he’s using to make his visions and dreams tangible (while also being aware of the fact that Spiritual blessings aren’t always bestowed in physical materialism.) The project begins with, “Sovereign Business,” and the intro of the track starts with an audio clip from Al Green. The esteemed pastor and musician gives a few words about not fusing too many genres (especially if they're in opposition) at once because it may, confuse the Lord and the devil, and therefore speaking on the hypocrisy that’s often found in music. The clip highlights that an artist can be preaching about something relating to the Higher Self but in actuality living through their Lower Self. It’s a sovereign business, in the sense that it’s your business but is it a business that gets you free and allows for a sovereign lifestyle — are you really the one in control? And if not, how do you gain control of your Being? Lowkey profound way to lay out your intent as an artist before getting into your art. We been blessed another day so what you conquerin’ ? / I’m out here rockin’ that’s for real, so what you rockin’ with / I’m really stylin’ in the field / Out here movin’ spiritual and confident - I wrote this for the conquerin” 2nd Kings serves as a reminder of the expression of one’s Soul and Spiritual nature that represents light and can still grab Hip Hop / Rap by the reigns. Every word is a nutrient and every song is nourishment. There’s not any bragging or making the listener feel as though they’re less than because they don’t quite have the same life, amenities and resources as the artist they’re listening to. This is for the people, the spiritually minded and guided or those who seek to be in alignment with those frequencies and vulnerabilities. After “Conquer” the project moves into one of the first songs that received video treatment, “Forgiveness,” which is exactly what the title states. Another personal song that finds it way into the universal — he’s speaking to a past or present lover and their ups and downs, support of one another, the worth they recognize in each other and possibly how to forgive and move on or forgive and move forward together in strength and faith. The wanting to find new ground with someone that makes their way back into your life. “My Realm,” is a track where HXNDRX expresses a bit more about some situations that his energy had to repel in order to evolve spiritually. Personal accountability coupled with knowing what not to accept and work with. Some references are abstract and without context but still allows for the listener to fill in what might be referenced or the listener's own personal relation. “Let me bring you in my realm where Soul not for sale and we acknowledge what’s real. There’s an immense amount of great lyrical content, ideas and experiences that can sit with your Soul and mind from this project. 2nd Kings is essentially a guidebook or journal of how to maintain, sustain and cultivate a truly healthy life — mind, body, spirit. This is another significant project along the journey of greatness by HXNDRX. Times are changing and its imperative to really live the life you’re meant to lead. I’m only speakin’ on the business, that’s the mission / I can’t be rockin’ with no goofy, they be senseless / I rub shoulders with the Royals, they be listenin’ / tribal blood in the vein, how you miss this ? / tribal blood in the vein, we the remnant / tribal blood, I got mixed thru the mud / crossed that boat in the ocean thru the flood / doesn’t matter about blood we related just because. He then also goes into the lack of true and transparent education for the youth and communities at large. To finish the project out, “David’s Outro,” begins with the importance of allowing the testimonies of others (whether you’re involved or not — good or bad,) to be an inspiration for you to give your testimony with utmost truth and accuracy. Listen for yourself. This is neither a project to miss nor an artist to ignore. Words by Jameka Released: March 2, 2023 Region / City: New Orleans, LA

  • Malice At The Palace by Ty Farris x Machacha

    Malice At The Palace Ty Farris x Machacha ”These rappers cornballs, shame on the engineer that’s recordin’ it/ That sh*t’s trash, when you post it, I’m reporting it” - Dope Sales To Vinyl Deals Ty Farris releases his 3rd release of 2023! Part of me is like what is going on, how is this humanly possible, and the other part is welcoming the pace and quality of these drops. Malice At the Palace (completely produced by Machacha) isn't as chaotic as the real life event but it does hit as hard as Ron Artest did on that infamous night. “Flagrant Fouling” is a standout track with it’s haunting Darringer style production and gutter verses from Ty Farris and Mickey Diamond. The project also hosts DJ Grazzhoppa (Scratches), Marv Won, Guilty Simpson, Dango Forlaine, WateRR, Ty Farris makes sure he lets the homies join in on the fun, Detroit what! Favorite tracks: Flagrant Fouling, 4 Point Play, Strong Arm Aggression Words by Monk Released: March 17, 2023 Region / City: Detroit, MI

  • Bears Vs Pitbulls by Starz Coleman x Ched

    Bears Vs Pitbulls Starz Coleman x Ched “I’d rather rap or culinary baby this is what I do/ I’m dodging taxes and prison, naw I can’t live by the rules” - Sir Sarzalot Colemanson The 3rd Hip Hop's favorite music video auteur is back with another dope musical offering. He teams up with frequent collaborator Ched on Bears Vs Pitbulls and the results are as impressive as they've always been. Starz Coleman is as witty and funny as ever, while displaying the skill and dexterity of a spitter's spitter. This is mostly a solo affair until we get to the song “Paid In Full” which features Alma Ave Writtens who delivers some potent bars about wisening up and living to one’s potential. Put on your helmet get in line for this ride with one of New Jersey's finest! Favorite Tracks: Bears Vs Pitbulls, Paid In full, Himmel Musik Words by Monk Released: March 3, 2023 Region / City: Newark, NJ

  • Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz by G Perico x DJ Drama

    Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz G Perico x DJ Drama “The mo’ that I make, the crazier I feel/ I thank God everyday, I can believe this sh*t is real/ Gotta get a bigger bag cuz my ni**as need appeals/ I got 700k from my negotiating skills” - Everything G Perico teams up with DJ Drama for a ride through the LA streets on Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz. Full of street action, and LA vibes, this project is a testament to G Perico's work ethic and independent spirit. I also like that the production isn't riding any waves, it's modern but it keeps the classic Cali Hip Hop elements that let you know what the coast is! G Perico rolls mostly solo on this lick but Steelz, and RJMrLA show up to lend some assistance. Everything combines to make this is one shot you don't wanna miss! Favorite Tracks: Ask G4, Action, No Do Overs Words by Monk Released: March 10, 2023 Region / City: South Central, CA

  • Noir Or Never by Che Noir x Big Ghost Ltd.

    Noir Or Never Che Noir x Big Ghost LTD. “Yeah I sip from barstools in Miami / If you ain’t felt the pain I felt it’s hard to understand me / My cuz Juwan got killed, it’s hard losing your family / I was so young I still had cartoons on my panties” - Resilient Che Noir starts Women's History Month off by making history with another flaming hot project, Noir Or Never. (Also I wanna put my vote in for album cover of the year, Noir Or Never is a top contender.) Che flows effortlessly over Big Ghost LTD soundscapes, and there's some great features with 7xvethegenius shining the brightest among the pack with her assist on "Veracruz", which happens to be my favorite! This is definitely a group project and Che Noir enlists the help of Flee Lord, D-Styles (Scratches), Planet Asia, 7xvethegenius, Skyzoo, Ransom, and 38 Spesh. It’s fun for me to see who’s collaborating with a rising artist, seeing certain names on a features list has always been an affirming stamp, Che Noir is in great company. Give Noir or Never it a listen now rather than later. Favorite Tracks: Veracruz, Quiet Moves, Sleep Paralysis Words by Monk Released: March 3, 2023 Region / City: Buffalo, NY

  • The Great Escape by Larry June x The Alchemist

    The Great Escape Larry June x The Alchemist In professional sports a player usually makes their mark in their respective league after a “breakout” game or season. In music this happens after a “breakout” project. This is a project that takes an artist from a relatively recognized performer, to a household name amongst the so called casual listener. This is exactly what Larry June teamed up the legendary Alchemist to produce. The Great Escape is just that, an escape from the underground and into underground stardom! Boasting big features from the likes of Big Sean, Action Bronson, Wiz Khalifa, Joey Bada$$, etc. Larry was able to thread the needle between having big names but still staying true to the sound that got him this far in the first place. The Alchemist laid out the perfect backdrop for Larry’s high class lifestyle lyrics that can be evidenced simply by glancing over the track listing. Titles like "Turkish Cotton," "Porsches In Spanish," "Art Talk," and "Ocean Sounds" let you know exactly what you can expect. The two artists come together so seamlessly it’s hard not to assume they’ve been working together since Larry’s start. The Great Escape is a great example of sticking to your bread and butter but finding a way to still elevate it to the next level. A wide range of feature artists are sure to get Larry heard in many unfamiliar spaces, and create an array of new fans. Next time you plan on taking a drive, grab a fresh squeezed orange juice, take the scenic route, and make your great escape with The Great Escape, NUMBERS! Words by Flynt Nixon Released: March 31, 2023 Region / City: San Francisco, CA

  • ROADMAN by Sincere Hunte

    ROADMAN Sincere Hunte Unexpected. There’s a huge number of underground and independent artists from out the South and higher concentrations as you move from state to state and city to city. From Fayetteville, NC, yet based in Nashville, TN, Sincere Hunte delivers his project, ROADMAN. The project follows the story of a young rolling stone and how he traverses love, family and life at large through forward movement. Some hooks resound like mantras. Life don’t got no brakes, we keep pushin’ / I don’t waste time, I take what they couldn’t / Pray before I sleep, we keep pushin’. There’s a grainy, basement aspect to his delivery that is represented on “EXOSHAPER” with a feature from Ronin Black where they take turns flipping words similar to a cypher. Remnants of what we used to get from Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt back in the early/mid 2010s. A distortion in production and voice allures the listener to get a deeper glimpse. It’s not a lazy delivery but a nonchalance that comes off as a, “this is just what I do and I do it well.” It’s an interesting album that caught my attention because there are so many aspects of it that were like charting uncharted waters. It was illuminating in the sense that it goes from an underground/punk feel that meets Hip Hop in the south to moments of dance like, “CARRIED AWAY (4U).” It works well for Sincere Hunte because the various and fusion of sounds absolves any soundscape expectations. Even with “DJ GIRL” it starts off sounding like a song that is almost a modern Beach Boys track with a feature from $avy. There’s a lot sonically to keep the listener entertained and wanting to know more about the artistry and the mind that created this body of work. When more ears hear this I can’t imagine them not wanting to elevate this artist and sound further. Future is very bright for Sincere Hunte. “TIL THE END” featuring Mike Floss is another standout track - the lyrical content and pace of the production coupled with one of Nashville’s finest. A journey with flavor, fly and not too much flash. “SUN RUNNER” is a beautiful track. devin. has a great feature but it’s in the soul of the production and content of lyrics. “ANYTHING I CAN GIVE” another notable track purely off the production and the manner he raps over / with the track. There’s also a switchup mid-song that is brilliant because of the interlude before the production morphs. It works so well that you think that the song changes but it’s all the same track. Made me reminisce about the 2000s where artists would put 2 tracks as 1 song or just create a drastic change up. “I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.” - Kahlil Gibran, The Madman Sincere Hunte reads / recites at the end of “ROCHAMBEAU” Words can only convey so much. In order to get the full essence spin it a few times. True diamond in the rough. Words by Jameka Released: February 17, 2023 Region / City: Fayetteville, NC / Nashville, TN

  • Painting Houses by UFO Fev x Spanish Ran

    Painting Houses UFO Fev x Spanish Ran “New Barkleys, steppin’ over the body, as I walk out the lobby/ I had a hustle before I had me a hobby” - Dead Rappers Sell More (Big Locks) UFO Fev combines with Spanish Ran for Painting Houses to mark the start of his 2023 releases. UFO Fev continues to push through and cultivate a solid catalog. He's only looking forward while leaving banger after banger in his wake. Now is as good a time as ever to check out what he has to say. Features from Tree Mason, Ty Da Dale, DJ Ill Digits, Bloo Azul, Mad Hattan, and Al-Doe make this a house party, but you’re not gonna see John Witherspoon complaining about having to listen to “Public Enema”. Painting Houses is in the lane of what I like to call Crime Noir Hip Hop, the title is a reference to an organized crime term for killing a man and the way blood splatters walls during a shooting. Spanish Ran does a great job providing sounds for UFO Fev and company to shine a light on these dark and gritty spaces and situations. But it’s not all about the ugly side, there’s hope, resilience, and a strong message about making an effort to strive, even when facing an environment and circumstances that are working against you daily. Powerful stuff, check it out! Favorite Tracks: C’mon, Dead Rappers Sell More (Big Locks), One Luv Words by Monk Released: Feb 28, 2023 Region / City: Harlem, NY

  • A Moment's Notice by Gary Junior

    A Moment's Notice Gary Junior Since the 1980’s Vallejo, California has been home to some of the brightest stars to come out of The Bay Area rap scene. From E-40 & The Click to Mac Dre and Thizz Ent. Fast forward to 2023 and pretty much nothing’s changed, LaRussell, DaBoii, Nef The Pharaoh, etc are still spearheading the new age sound of the region. But around many bright diamonds are always the hidden gems, Gary Junior is definitely one shovel away from stardom! His latest project entitled A Moment’s Notice is a collaborative effort with producer JMO CORLEONE. Like any good collab album the two are able to hone in on Gary’s style and offer the best version of himself. His laid back easy going delivery paired with JMO’s upbeat vibey production is a match made in heaven made apparent within the first two tracks. My personal favorite song "Potential," has Gary’s distinctive flow stabbing in and out of high hats and keys guaranteed to have you involuntarily bobbing your head. The real showcase on this project is the range, to be only 7 tracks the flows and cadences show you that he is capable of creating a masterpiece no matter what canvas he’s painting on. It won’t take you more than a moment to notice that A Moment’s Notice is something special. A universal sound that kind of sounds tailored for the Taylor Gang-esque audience. Nevertheless if you’re a fan of the Wiz Khalifa’s and Curren$y’s of the world then that’s even more reason to dive into Gary Junior and JMO CORLEONE’S, A Moment’s Notice as soon as you have a spare 15 minutes and 20 seconds to do so. Words by Flynt Nixon Released: February 21, 2023 Region / City: Vallejo, CA

  • Old Tales by Last Rhetoric

    Old Tales Last Rhetoric High Energy, in both contexts is the best way I can describe Old Tales. The new album from Last Rhetoric. From lyrical delivery, to the overall messages of hope in the lessons of life across the album's 12 tracks. The standout tracks are the effortlessly metaphor-laden “Black Metal” with a hypnotic guitar riff that you just can't escape. Lines like, “Death-metal, dead singers, heart brings us, harbingers, hard nickel, dark steel, killers finger, cramp real, movie clippings, plot thickens, oatmeal…” Reign has the vocal range, vocabulary and sheer ability to rhyme that rivals some of the very best, it's only elite names that can come to mind when you can speculate on who would sound at home with him on the same track. It can be absolutely brain bending to analyze this album and realize the gritty and punctuated rhyme spitter on “Toolz” is the same distorted yet jazzy melodic voice on “Madboy” and “Timelapse”. An absolute stylistic ANARCHY on this album (the very best kind). To call it experimental doesn’t do it justice, that would imply a level of unpolished or unfinished. This is an extremely well-produced and polished album from top to bottom, a bespoke masterwork from veterans in musicianship. Old Tales is a concept album capturing the past, present and future of a journey. It is a story of multiple perspectives viewed from the highs and lows of life’s path told with a collection of traveled ideas and sounds gathered from varied upbringings serving as the backdrop. Last Rhetoric is a hip-hop music collaboration created by two multi-genre artists, David Bruce aka Armanni Reign and Nick Weiller aka Bro Safari. Armanni Reign, former battle rapper turned US Drum and Bass artist,respected EDM vocalist and festival host. Touring the planet with some of the biggest names in the culture from DJ Craze, Goldie, Andy C, DJ Snake Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Dubstep, House and more. The production for Last Rhetoric is written and arranged by Nicholas Weiller, an artist/DJ, and lauded veteran of bass music. From the stateside pioneer-like Drum and Bass beginnings of the collective known as Evol Intent to the mash-up community’s highly-requested Ludachrist, and most recently the undeniable solo rise as Bro Safari. Words by Xlo Released: March 10, 2023 Region / City: Austin, TX

  • The Show You Can’t Tell - A\Villain

    There's something to be said about the indie spirit when someone with vision and all the skills necessary creates a project with their own hands from top to bottom. Michigan has had a lot of success as of late but it would be wrong to not also highlight the avant-garde and deep underground works being made in this renaissance of Detroit creativity. Heaven Studios/The Machine Shop extraordinaire, A\Villain dropped a tight 8-track album late 2022 with features from Alien-gang Nalij, the goat Royce 5’9, Solr and Ace Gabbana titled: The Show You Can’t Tell and it is an excellent place to start if you wanted dig deep and see what is being made outside of the Detroit sound you have likely become a accustomed to. Mr. \Villain raps, sings, and adlibs his way through subject matter from women who are bad for you, Fahrenheit 451 references, weed smoke, media lies and the pessimisms of daily life in the modern era. Not only a lyricist but a producer and engineer, A\Villain creates a unique sonic bedrock to get out all his thoughts along with some supremely talented guests. Royce does an excellent “Renegade” call back at the top of his verse on “I Tell Em,” “Since I'm in the position to talk to these chicks and they listen, I ain't got time for pimpin’ but I’ll kick it wit em a minute...” He and Nalij both flex their melodic chops on this album to great effectiveness. Nalij lets people know he still has great command over his voice as an instrument over “Garden” as he effortlessly breaks into rapping again after 8 bars of flexing his ability to glide up and down the scale in his signature raspy baritone. Solr and Ace Gabbana come with nothing but bad intentions and heat on their verses on “Kok Boru,” the sinister album closer. A minor key piano anchors the beat opposite a pulsing arp and some of the best drums on the record. The hook alone encapsulates the overall theme of the album, “Striking the match, lighting the gas, fighting my past, why did I last… I need advance, I need investors to hear me out once and then give me a chance, I need a bad, shorty with dreams and a dope energy that I really can match” We’re one of the most lonely, hardest working generations in recent history, most can relate to the need for companionship and validation by the gatekeepers that are the difference between the toils and monotony of the daily experience, and something else where one can become a step closer to master of their own fate. The braggadocious confidence you can come to expect from Detroit rap records is all but absent on this album. Like the cover art, it's bleak, tongue-in-cheek but pointed with its messages and undercurrent of pessimism. If you like rock influenced and varied, experimental production… give it a spin or 2. RELEASED: July 22, 2022 WORDS BY: Xlo

  • Money For Dummies - Smoke DZA x The Smokers Club

    "It Came From The Clouds" Harlem's current most prolific son, Smoke DZA emerges from the cloud with another solid project that closes out 2022 and sets the pace for 2023. Money For Dummies is the first music project from The Smokers Club, his newly formed record label collaboration with Johnny Shipes and Bubz. Johnny Shipes laid out the inspiration behind The Smokers Club on an Instagram post. He wrote, “Earlier this year Me, DZA & Bubz sat down & mapped out the next phases & goals of The Smokers Club. When we took a step back & looked at how we started the Club & what influenced us since the beginning, it always came back to Great Music & Smoking Great Weed." The Smokers Club Producers have laid out a stellar soundscape for Smoke DZA to apply his hazy rhyming abilities. Money For Dummies starts with "Box OTW," a cinematic instrumental, complete with soulful wailing. Smoke DZA goes in with one of the most effortless sounding flows in rap, conjuring images of underworld exploits, and cautionary advice to any would be competition. "Put a tracker on your truck, hit your teepee / really hit you where it hurt, do you greasy dog / old Giant running through the pack like Tiki / I'm just trying to stay alive like the Bee Gees y'all" A lot of rappers let the track dictate how they sound on it but DZA maintains his essence no matter the track's style or tempo. It's pretty fun to listen to, he's never hurried, never sounds robotic, and never fails at sounding as smooth as possible on any song. Smoke DZA teams up with another legend of Hip Hop haziness, Curren$y, on "Park Bench Blues." It's not the first time these two have worked together. Over a sparsely paced, melodic beat, they verbally pass the blunt back and forth. Smoke DZA lays more of his personal philosophy out. "I got a license for these dope sales, yeah, catchin' packages like Odell / yeah, you know I gotta treat my folks well / when it's all over they gon' speak of me in folk tales". I love the sound that we get on "Only Care In The World." The mellow, slow drum loop is determined to starve us with drum elements, but a blissful soul sample from The Montclairs holds it all together. Smoke DZA glides over this kind of production and does his thing. "Take it back, when the teacher told you niggas keep your eyes on your own paper / multi-millionaire I'm on pace to / being straight for the rest of my life, family no chaser / the bullshit, I'm World Peace, you got the wrong Pacer" Coming 10 tracks deep, Money For Dummies is another in a long line of solid project's from one of Harlem's finest. I have not doubt that we'll get at least 3 more projects in 2023 from the self proclaimed "studio rat." Released: December 30, 2022 Words by: Monk

  • Briefcases and Sunglasses - Leaf Erikson x The Davis Way

    Hip-hop being a multi-generational art form has inevitably reached the point where its reflected in the music, it should be no surprise that talks of fatherhood and financial literacy become more common topics in the art itself when the genre is now 50 years old. Architect Entertainment if nothing else strives for conceptual diversity and consistency, Briefcases and Sunglasses is a short and sweet 24 minute meditation on topics such as fatherhood, love, and financial literacy. The Davis Way single handedly holds down the beats as Leaf Erikson, a veteran of the Detroit underground, is joined by fellow Architect artist Crystal Rae on vocals and trades bars with KonPhlict on the standout "Business Statement," a track full of double entendres about the business world and how the rap game intersect. The production here is diverse and rich. In a world torn between progressive trap and drill on one end, with minimalist sample driven sparseness on the other; this project strikes a balance between traditional boom-bap with jazz and soul injected ("Flowers for Laura and "A Dream Unfolded") with some more experimental elements from funk on ("Murderer’s Row" and "California") to drill inspired hi-hat rolls (Self-Restraint). Leaf is sharp and focused on sharing his wisdom and opening his heart in his lyrics on this project, songs such as "Nurturing My Seed" and "California" speak to his lived experiences and what’s next for Leaf as he looks to the future. He name drops his son, young rapper D.Apollo as he muses on his own upbringing and lessons learned from his own father. Leaf sounds comfortable and conversational as he muses on moving to the west coast, the theme which wraps up this movement from the more commerce focused top of the album as it ends on a hopeful and sun soaked note, better bring your sunglasses! words by Xlo released: December 31, 2022 /


    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. Notable Tracks: HIGHER, SAME TIME, I REMEMBER, ARTICLE 15, MI RUM IZ RED & OPEN. SHUT. 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 DIVINE TIMING (DELUXE) by Kamaiyah 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. Notable Tracks: '83 EL CAMINO, HOW I MAKE IT HERE? & NO AWARDS FOR THE REAL 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. Notable Tracks: RISK IT ALL, IN MY SOUL I TRUST (INTERLUDE), FREE MY MIND & ALL IN City: Inland Empire, CA Released: April 8, 2022 The Tragedy of a Clown by Ramirez A fusion of horrorcore, g-funk/phonk and gangsta rap from The Bay Area, Florida and Memphis -- 90’s era capsuled into contemporary rap (2022). Not exactly a "recycled" sound like what we hear more prominently in mainstream rap... Ramirez keeps his sound personalized enough while paying homage to the likes of Andre Nickatina, Cypress Hill, Three 6 Mafia and more. Maybe more specified The Tragedy of a Clown is direct homage to Tears of a Clown by The Bay Area pioneer Andre Nickatina. Deep bass, melody, honest themes with complementary verses from Pouya, Shakewell, Fat Nick & Mikey The Magician. There's a retro aspect to the project that feels like something you should only be able to find in a tape deck. Notable Tracks: Intro, Bacon, Eggs and Grits, The Root of Demise & Shameless Gorillas City: San Francisco, CA Released: September 16, 2022 Sky Traffic by Hydeparkfb x Python P x Dough Networkz What is sky traffic? Frequent flyer? Too many wires? Putting up several planes in order to clear one's brain? Regardless, a great project that definitely deserves more ears. Also, I need to mention the work of Dough Networkz and how many artists and connections he makes almost every release day and outside the release day. That “Dough Networkz Presents” definitely keeps me checkin’ out those specific projects because a good majority of the time it’s quality work from artists that not many are too familiar with but have an undeniable value. One of my favorite introductions to a new artist from the year. Notable Tracks: Sky Traffic, Futon Music & Egg Shells Released: April 12, 2022 City: Los Angeles, CA El Perro 2 by Rucci If there’s an artist that can get me to dance... Rucci is definitely 1 of those 1s. A lot of the production is high-energy inducing. Any of these tracks you can play at a house party, club, whip… whatever you desire. Not just turn up songs though either. There’s quite a bit of introspective lyrics and vulnerability. Additionally, he released a documentary with the same title alongside the album. It's apparent Rucci is carving his own lane while also paying homage to many of the L.A. greats that came before him. An artist growing in prominence on the West Coast. Notable Tracks: House Party, BDG, Till The Day I Die, Pt. 2, What If? & Geek’d Up Released: May 27, 2022 Region/City: Inglewood, CA / West Coast The Liz 2 by Armani Caesar hella cheese, a lot of bitches hate but it’s jealousy / separate breed, could give a fuck about celebrity / pretty, private and paid, the coolest niggas sweating me, tuh! / I got more wood stocked than the 70s She makes Griselda actually make sense for a rap collective/group/label. I always questioned why they would name their collective after a woman who was a boss and catalyst that also bore the name for a majority male collective. I don’t think we’ve heard a woman artist quite like Armani Caesar — while we hear the obvious influences (mostly Nicki Minaj) but Armani has expounded on the lavish/luxurious gutta flow that we initially loved Nicki for before her pop escapades. Armani Caesar lets it be known that shit gotta be more than pussy raps and what she delivers is some of the sexiest yet player lyrics to come out this year. The Liz 2 seems like the ideal craftsmanship from a woman artist in the Rap realm. It’s balanced; hard raps, reflective raps, pussy raps (in good taste,) retro production that allows you to think and look back at who else has done it like this? It’s still different than Foxy, Kim, Lyte, Nicki, Latifa, Mia X, Missy, Shante… you know, this is voice or voices of the past that have huddled behind Armani Caesar to elevate her craft and artistry to what it is. Voices who were left out at inception and thereafter. What I enjoy about this LP is the fact that the tracks with features or served as singles or video premieres don’t hold the only value or allure within the project. Most of the time the features and said singles outshine the LP as a whole but not in this situation. THE LIZ 2 only gets better as the LP plays, although she could’ve for sure extended the length of some of the songs. Notable Tracks: Diana, Hunnit Dolla Hiccup, Survival Of The Littest & Ice Age City: Buffalo, NY Released: October 21, 2022 I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore by $ilkmoney I enjoy when $ilkmoney releases because he’s constantly taking risks with his music. He speaks from his gut ‘n heart and it’s clear by not only the topics he touches on but very much on how he approaches the topics and gives you the the less traveled thought patterns. He speaks in a tone that communicates possible impeding doom. A doom that comes from what the various sytems, energies and powers have done to “black” folk as a whole — across lands, languages and lineages. There’s also this mythical/ethereal type energy/aura of the music he delivers. A Divine poetic. An artist who isn't afraid of being disliked for speaking their truths and observations while not catering to any crowd or audience. “Emmm, Nigga you Is Tasty >:)” is a hell of a track. The texture, the in your face energy and delivery that speaks about how society is just eating black folk; making “nigga soup,.” There’s many historical aspects of this (e.g. The Delectable Negro by Vincent Woodard) but also it’s metaphorical in the art/labor realm for black people (using “black” as an umbrella term for the various ethnicities that have been categorized as “black” instead of their true indigenous heritage from whatever region and continent they come from.) There’s the literal, figurative and metaphorical all fused together to deliver unfavorable truths and depths some don’t want to explore, don’t know how to explore or didn’t know there was more the explore. Unfiltered creative honesty and warnings (in a way.) The albums teleport you to another galaxy where this type of thought provoking conversations/lyrics are valued and taken seriously. Notable Tracks: Jodi Don’t Love Me No Mo :-(, Emmm, Nigga You Is Tasty >:), Eddie Murphy Golden Child Hat & One Glazed and One With the Jelly Filled Nucleus City: Richmond, VA / DMV Released: November 15, 2022 AZTECAZ by Maze Overlay How often do we hear about the landscape, the stories and the energies in Arizona thru a Hip Hop / Rap artform? One of my favorite introductions to a new artist from 2022. The name Maze Overlay in itself is thought provoking and when you hit play on the project the ethereal and eerie become more apparent. An ancestral channel in a sense; paying homage to the land and energies that created it, destroyed it and brought it back again. Hip Hop / Rap when done in a certain manner brings ancient knowledge forward and that's what Maze Overlay does with the SW region. We're used to hearing stories from the East and North and West but the Southwest has it's own stories to express. Another aspect about the project I enjoyed was the classic rock influence with vocals, timing of lyrics and production. The heavy guitar produced track, "Recon" sounds so natural for his flow and style. I could hear/see him with a live band at Red Rocks or The Gorge. As more and more music comes out of Arizona he is definitely an artist worth keeping up with. With a connectoin to Toronto as as well as The Umbrella, Maze Overlay hosts a range of features (including but not limited to): Asun Eastwood, Daniel Son, Falcon Outlaw, Estee Nack & more. Notable Tracks: 100 Years, Reservoir Dogs & Death Valley City: Phoenix, AZ Released: September 12, 2022 M.O.T.H.E.R. by Killah Priest Always feels like a blessing whenever Killah Priest decides to release a project. His Hip Hop style is somewhat unorthodox yet pioneering and important. He takes you on journeys thru time; touching on the past and how it connects to the future and where we’re at presently. If there is a present? It’s all just a space-time continuum. Killah Priest is magnificent at tellin’ the stories of the stars and the significance of them here on Earth too. I appreciate an artist that I can learn from – whether that be about myself, history, the future or how to express one’s feelings of grief and love. Notable Tracks: M.O.T.H.E.R., August & Balances City: Brooklyn, NY Released: September 22, 2022 Something for the Sunrise by Seafood Sam A follow up to his 2021 release, Something for the Sunset he delivers a project in similar fashion; real fly suave music. Something for the Sunrise is also something for them kickbacks, BBQs, flowin’ thru the city or beach on some chill sunshine shit. Makes you appreciative of the warmth that was and goes and comes again. Fun, relaxed and luxurious production. One of Long Beach's finest. Notable Tracks: Dayton 88, Norf Face 2 & Roscoe’s After Church City: Long Beach, CA Released: April 10, 2022 Self 7xve 2 by 7xvethegenius She sits you down with her lyrical abilities. Poetry and wordplay used to express manifestations of being. The goals, the lows, the carving of her own lane. This project felt like a sampler of what’s truly to come. I think we’ve only seen a small portion of the artistic abilities of 7xvethegenius. There’s a complexity to it that still has yet to be expressed. 7xve has been talking about a new project coming soon so if you aren't familiar give this one a spin too. Notable Tracks: Always Thank God, Fluidity & Forecast Released: April 22, 2022 City: Buffalo, NY WHYSOSIRIUS? by Ron Obasi WHYSOSIRIUS? Is a personal testament for every test that was sent to Ron Obasi. The mixtape reverberates as a compilation of epiphanies and manifestations expressed through a philosophical poetry with a free jazz frequency. Although his sentiments and expressions derived from present-day experiences and reflections it’s fair to say that those same expressions and sentiments have been endured as rights to ancient traditions. The interview below is an inner view of Ron Obasi’s craft, artistic process and paradigms that aided in the creation of his latest work, WHYSOSIRIUS? As the conversation has many thoughtful, knowledgeable and fun moments the overall theme seems to rely heavily upon elevation and alignment. To take heed of your mission at hand and the energy and guidance the Universe grants you each day. To be grateful for your cards and the gifts bestowed in them. This one is for the spiritually minded and guided. Notable Tracks: SOSUPREME, OHHOWLOVELY, HOMESICK & HYPERBOLIC TIME CHAMBER City: Nashville, TN Released: July 12, 2022 Caught In The Webb by Westside Webb A really great concept album and intro to an artist. Could be seen as “breakout” project as Westside Webb has caught more notoriety since the release. The concept that was apparent to me was that Caught In The Webb represents the intricate ties of the artist's life and business. Additionally, he speaks on making a lot of money online and with crypto so it’s also a nod towards the internet, the web in context of Westside Webb. A real cool, West Coast project. Has features from the OG Polyester The Saint, as well as Landstrip Chip and the L.A. RnB sensation Blxst. Really from the underground and independent realm of the Southern California Hip Hop / Rap scene.Tuh. Notable Tracks: Progress, Fake Hustle, Can’t Relate & Stayed Down Region: Long Beach, CA Released: February 28, 2022 FREAKJET by Vel Nine x Zoomo When I speak about the large underground and independent Hip Hop / Rap communities out West it would be a disservice without mentioning Vel Nine (formerly Vel The Wonder.) Although Vel has been in the mix since the early 2010’s I didn’t become familiar with her artistry until her 2019 release, La Sena Ave and then lead to 2020’s Trophy Wife – both completely different projects in the best ways. Her most recent, FREAKJET, is nothing short of quality; enticing flows and undeniable production by Zoomo. She also enlists YL, Starker and Koncept Jack$on as a couple features on the project. I look forward to the day when her artistry is circulated more among Hip Hop communities. Notable Tracks: Backboard, Winning Team & Sylvia Gang City: Baldwin Park, CA Released: September 6, 2022 The Precedent by Chayna Ashley x IM’PERITIV RARE – flow, content, persona, production (IM’PERETIV.) There’s a lineage here that’s being paid homage to but still making it her own. This kind of project gets me excited to see the heights one might flow. There’s a depth in the place where she pulls her lyrics from. Another one of my favorite intros to a new artist (for me.) I listened off the strength of knowing IM’PERETIV’s production but besides that she hosts a few artists who are known for their lyricism, such as: Mickey Factz, Daylyt, Dutch Brown and more. Keep an ear out for her – real fierce and fun Hip Hop. Notable Tracks: Gold Blooded, Sippin’, Champagne Dreams & Re-Run City: Harlem/Bronx, NY Released: August 12, 2022 Less Than Three by Kr3wcial New Orleans artist Kr3wcial delivered his EP, Less Than Three. The EP hosts features from BLU, Mick Jenkins, Pell and Kalipop while also enlisting production from Ghazi Gamali, friendkerrek, Cronos and Kr3wcial himself. Throughout the EP, Kr3wcial fuses Hip Hop, neo-RnB with a hint of Pop to create a smooth “collection of reflections” of experiences with love, <3, Less Than Three. The intro track, “Jewelry” begins with a very calming energy that has Kr3wcial reflecting on the appearance and feeling a lover gave him. Read a full length review here. Notable Tracks: Jewelry, Ego Trippic & Who Do You Call? City: New Orleans, LA Released: February 11, 2022 Playing With Fire by Shootergang Kony Kept up with Kony since the release of 6:12 in 2018. Following that, Red Paint Reverend had a hold on me for quite some time. He had a few projects between that and 2021 release Starshooter which set a cool tone for the most recent, Playing With Fire. It's very apparent he's grown a lot lyrically and overall musically. It's a beautiful thing seeing young artists grow and become more. Previous reviewed by Flynt Nixon here. Notable Tracks: Free Smoke 2, Knock Knock, Write My Wrongs & Preaching City: Sacramento, CA Released: August 24, 2022 $hook by Tre’ Amani I went to the Big K.R.I.T. show in Memphis and Tre’ Amani was one of his openers with Dj Trilla Kay. His energy, production, confidence and sound kinda had me from the first song. I went home to look up his music after the concert and found that he had just dropped this project. It was amazing to recognize some of the songs from his performance on the project. Follow-up album later in the year, INCREMENTUM is a sonic treat too. Notable Tracks: lo$t kid., seeing ghost$ & $hook City: Columbia, MD Released: June 3, 2022 For the Views by Starz Coleman A breakout project from 2022… this is 1 of them. Not sure how I came across this project (may have been a Flee Lord suggestion via his Instagram story,) but this was really a refreshing project. A new voice with different syntax and tone that allowed familiar stories to be told anew. You know, he has a somewhat goofy persona that may have one anticipate just as goofy lyrics… and while it’s true in a sense it’s also not the type of goofy that could be dismissed. Whether it’s absurd wordplay or a distinctive yet distracting delivery there’s importance in what he’s sayin’ and doin’. One to keep an eye on for 2023 for sure. Alex interviewed him about his artistry and project here & Monk also reviewed The L Ride. Notable Tracks: For The Views, Mashed Potatoes, Jook Time & El Jefe City: Plainfield, NJ Released: July 10, 2022 Born Again by Young Jr Young Jr has a similar allure to me as Boosie — the tone, texture, can RAP but lowkey runs circles on niggas with hooks ‘n melodies. An exciting artist for me because melody is so important to me if you’re not lyrically in the realm of enlightening me intellectually. I think we’ll see him collabing with more artists outside The Bay, L.A. and West Coast at large. Unique artist who had me hooked from his 2021 release, Last Of Our Breed. It’s just different, you feel the authenticity… somewhat like when you hear Chippass; they’re just different and rare. Notable Tracks: Woodgrain, Factually Spoken & Bird Walk City: Oakland, CA Released: June 3, 2022 Welcome to Loveland by Nick Grant The point where funk, Hip Hop and early Valentine’s Day vibes collide. As far as projects I personally listened to there weren't many at all that were on this sonically or lyrically. Big K.R.I.T. 's Digital Roses Don’t Die is the closest thing to it and that came out almost 6 months after. It’s a fun project and it was refreshing that it came out a month before V-Day because it’s not riding the hype but also the lyrical play is somewhat anti-love in a sense too. Notable Tracks: Azzfunkdeeziak, Cupid Is A woman, Brutal Honesty & Gangsta Lean City: Walterboro, SC Released: January 14, 2022 Church by billy woods Initially, I was hesitant to dive into billy woods music just because of all the attention and hype he was already receiving by many Hip Hop heads. In order to do what I do and follow the mission I’ve been given I had to listen, regardless of the hype. Church is very much one of my favorite releases by the artist. It plays like folklore at moments, it’s poetry and vulnerability, mere honesty. He leaves you with things to ponder and experiences or stories that may also be in your personal alignment. Notable Tracks: Fuchsia & Green, Frankie, Pollo Rico & All Jokes Aside City: Washington, D.C. Released: September 30, 2022 Color Therapy by Kay Anthony I didn't even know a project was droppin' when I was becoming privy to Kay Anthony's videos he was puttin' up. They were all titled, Color Therapy with the coordinating episode number and the specific color tied to it. That intrigued me alone — approaching a Hip Hop project from the lens of color therapy. Eventually, when I did listen it played as a therapy session that wove in and out of expression through rhythmic lyrics and melody. Cool concept and great execution of it. Previously reviewed by Sai here. Notable Tracks: Bless Me, WTF & Love Yourself City: Brooklyn, NY Released: May 13, 2022 Forever Da Gang by Su’Lan Hopping on the scene in 2019 with their full-length project Tia & Tamera, 2020’s Baby Glock Gang, 2021’s Free Su’Lan and most recently, Forever Da Gang. From the first release it was evident that Su’Lan was here to make their presence known. They’ve claimed their lane and continue to evolve it. While Lan delivers these hard-ass flows with feminine touch that outshines many of her male counterparts. Su catches you with a softer and slightly more sultry cadence that commands in a different manner (but she still has verses that bring a rumble to her tone.) This won’t be the last time I write about this duo. Decentralized flows with knockin' production. Notable Tracks: Believe Me, Spin Off & This 'n That City: Oakland, CA / West Coast Released: September 16, 2022 Talk To Him Nicely by Coach Tev A project for the fly and suave. That’s exactly how Coach Tev delivers… real precise with his diction, playful syntax and a laid back demeanor. An artist in a league of his own. Be sure to check out his videos as well as they’re done by him and do bring more color, context and livelihood to the songs and project(s) at large. One of the nicest out of the Dallas Hip Hop / Rap scene. Notable Tracks: Egyptian Rugs, Elderberry & Nice Talk Released: March 27, 2022 City: Dallas, TX $oul $old $eperately by Freddie Gibbs One of the few “mainstream” projects from the year that kept my attention all the way through. Also, didn’t feel like it had forced features or seeking hype. Really just honest raps, luxurious lifestyle and amazing production. Mainstream LP but played like an intermediary of the underground and mainstream. A lot of shit, it broke my heart, but fixed my vision. Might be one of the most connecting/human lines of the year. I know many felt that. Came from the underground and still in relation with it. Notable Tracks: Rabbit Vision, PYS, Grandma’s Stove & CIA City: Gary, IN Released: September 30, 2022 Apt. 505 by Coast Contra Came out of nowhere and reinvigorated some energy derived from what is heard/seen as traditional Hip Hop. You can break it down and explain it but when you watch 'n listen it's apparent. It will be interesting to see how they move forward off of the foundation they are establishing. Will it sound similar or be fused in other ways? Notable Tracks: Get The Worm, Pimpin’ Benjamin & Legacy City: Los Angeles / Colombia / Philidelphia Released: March 24, 2022 Raptor by Rosewood Swing x Reallyraw I've never heard a sound like this coming out of the 'Sip. As much critique we have about the social media era we also reap a lot of benefits. The connection and web of hearing artists from places you couldn't have imagined unless you were to be there in the flesh. It allows us to be less nieve and ignorant when used and fostered in such manner. This is a real smooth, playa, cruisin' in a pretty whip — chillin', but gettin' to it. Beautiful production and lyrics that lead into the lifestyle and ambitions of Rosewood Swing. Notable Tracks: Northside Knights, Flights To Miami & Snowfall City: Jackson, MS Released: May 20, 2022 Hour Glass EP by Chyna Streetz Bad Influenyce. Not even certain how I came across Chyna’s music but it’s been a blessing since I found it. Of course I enjoy all the music coming out of the East Coast and NY in particular but I enjoy it more when I hear women holding it down too. Hour Glass EP was a reminder and catalyst for me to do more on my part as a woman to support and listen to more women within the scenes that are popping off. The EP felt like an appetizer of sorts… I’m sure there’s more in the works. I know y’all will eventually catch up to this brigade of women artists releasing authentic Hip Hop / Rap projects and when you do – don’t leave Chyna Streetz out of the conversations. Notable Tracks: Ghetto Diva, Hourglass & Mirrors City: Brooklyn, NY Released: May 3, 2022 Pretty In Black by Joony There's a cool versatility in the area/realm of music he's creating... I'm not sure I have the technical or perfect words for it but the whole tape doesn't sound the same although there is a similarity of Joony showing off his vocal abilities, melodies with some sprinkles of rap. A fusion of alt-hiphop, alt-rnb, pop, punk and dance. It's a fun combination. I imagine Joony attracting more and more notoriety in the next couple years. Notable Tracks: MISERY, DRUGS AND FASHION & HIGHS LOWS City: Silver Spring, MD Released: May 27, 2022 BASELINE CAVI by TRIZZ x MIKE SUMMERS Honest tales of vices and homies being caught up in the mix. Delivery wise it feels like Trizz is on the edge you hear the slur in his words and the honesty in the lyrics. The fusion where things are awry but you also are able to remain focused and driven by the chaos. Without the chaos how could one be honest and vulnerable enough? Relatable? Notable Tracks: the inLAnd, BLESS THE DEAD & HAD TO DO IT MYSELF City: Inland Empire, CA / West Coast Released: September 16, 2022 Perfect Timing by Killa Fonte One of the newer acts reinvigorating Philthy Rich’s F.O.D. label. Street raps with a purpose. All in 1 year Killa Fonte released 2 individual projects, helped his team release projects, featured on various songs and also A&R’d No Man Left Behind that hosts a conglomerate of artists… a collective compilation in a way. Future is looking bright for Killa. Flynt Nixon also reviewed Frank Motion here. Notable Tracks: Out The trap, Money Motivated & Nothing On Me City: Oakland, CA Released: May 20, 2022 Bush Doctor by Daniel Son At first… I thought about 2 Chainz and his mixtape, Daniel Son: Necklace Don and I was like is bruh from Atlanta? Then, I hit play. [mind explosion emoji.] He got me off the hook of the first track, we’re the hustlers that make moves to feed the children. Instantly, I thought of how I could get my homies and little cousins back home that love to hunt, fish and be on the land to listen. Superb artistry, especially if you're fond of how "traditional" Hip Hop is being evolved and expounded upon. Notable Tracks: Rag Top Porsches, Eighty Nine & Sugar Cubes City: Toronto, Canada Released: May 1, 2022 The Muddprint 4 by MuddyManTony Probably the #1 artist I’m grateful for coming across this year. The album if I could define it as anything it would be folk Hip Hop and not like Iron & Wine type folk but the folk that was originally used for the indigenous. MuddyManTony is great at playing with his vocal abilities and creating authentic art in relation to him, where he comes from and who is along with him. Notable Tracks: Muddy Tribe, Stomp, Kno it ain’t right, Share transgressions & Sucio City: Dallas, TX / South Released: June 1, 2022 51-100: Results Take Time by Symba Growthfully Developed by Chris Crack DETOUR by Malik Elijah ‘94 by OQ Sweetie Got Stylez by Backwood Sweetie x Furious Stylez The Blue Hour by Rexx Life Raj Street Art Vol 1: (st) Art by Dntwatchtv Stima by Rick Hyde Scot-Free by Bellez The Most High EP by $hun Gawd Coordinates by Brookfield Duece Until We Meet Again by Qualls God’s Favorite by Deezy Da Duce Give Thanks by Six Sev I Got Indian In My Family by Flagboy Giz Carravaggio Is Alive by Jameel Na’im X Scarred For Life by Monroe Flow Pastor Ralfy 2 by Ralfy The Plug Before The Winner Comes The Fall by Grunge Gallardo CHOSEN FAMILY by Negro Justice Jaguar on Palisade 2 by CRIMEAPPLE I TOLD BESSIE by E L U C I D left4dead2 by bbymutha HOL’ UP I’M MAD by Monday Night Iroquois Pliskin by Jae Skeese Goldie Summer, Vol. 2 by Goldie Rebel Worldy Ways by Archibald Slim PERFECT 7 BY MESSIAH! Freelance: Charlie by Ben Reilly Windbreaker XL by Milc x Andy Savoie Wolves Don’t Eat with Shepherd’s by Knowledge The Pirate x Big Ghost Ltd. Chaos Is My Ladder by Ransom x VDON Metropolis by Namir Blade 5 To The Eye With Stars by R.A.P. Ferreira A Tower & Thereafter by Chucky Blk Motivational Purpose by Philthy Rich There’s Glory In the Fire, Vol. 1 by FUNERAL Ant Bell IN US WE TRUST Side A by Polyester The Saint Jp5000 by Junglepussy Never Question God by Young Roddy The Prodigal Child by Kaya Strykes Diggin’ in the Tuff Kong Crates by Buckwild Skanless Levels 3 by 2 Eleven x T.F Heightened Senses by Jay Nice x Machacha Back 2 Ba$ics by Payroll Giovanni Tango by G Perico From The Can by Sheff G Young Hot Ebony 2 by Father This Must Be The Place by Apollo Brown


    This list isn’t meant to be totally comprehensive, or the “best of the best”. I had a scattered, pretty sketchy year. Ups and downs, accomplishments and setbacks, all that. Coming into 2023, I’ve got some new resolve, and hopefully you’ll see the fruits of that here and elsewhere in the coming months. But this list that follows is the past; my 2022, through the new rap music that kept me going and kept getting replayed. Disclaimers out of the way first. A lot of my listening is done in the car these days, so there’s some tempos or subgenres with heavier representation. Also, I’m not naturally inclined to ranking; numbers aren’t my thing, and I get way too caught up in all the elements to consider. The factors weighed most heavily on this list are simply how much I listened, and how much I want to tell people about the music. I refrained from writing on a few that made it on here, because writers I admire have done better jobs than I could hope to. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss lot of the artists that I felt deserved more shine for their showing last year. I hope you can come away from it with some new music you enjoy. Thank you for reading, and thanks to the team at CROWNTHEM. Shoutout Jameka especially, for the huge year and all the work you put in. Grateful for all of you. A lot more coming! SME Taxfree - Unexpected My undisputed 2022 MVP. While Certified Trapper and MarijuanaXO pushed the Milwaukee scene further into the spotlight this year, Taxfree stole the show for me with his effortless flows and irresistible parlance. Putting out 7 albums through the year (including another excellent solo effort, I’m Off the West and a great collaboration with RRB Duck,) he’s cemented himself as one of the top-tier rappers coming out of the Midwest. In between those projects of straight heat, you can find him trying his hand at autotune croons. He’s at his best on this album though, which is 25 songs and an hour long, but never loses the fun. It’s hard not to have a good time listening to him rap about how fast they make those yings disappear, not to mention the cars they’ve got zipping around Milwaukee. Bonus points any time he’s on Tay Love’s bouncy production. Bonus killer guest verse: EST Gee & 42 Dugg - Last Ones Left Despite enjoying Detroit rap quite a bit, I never got into 42 Dugg too heavy. Not until this collaboration dropped, and I was forced to confront what I’d missed. One of the best joint albums in recent years, the labelmates tapped their own crews in over some vicious, thumping production, and came out of it with an electrifying final product. EST Gee spits the bloodlust and hatred-filled bars he’s perfected, and Dugg never lets up alongside him, making me a full-blown believer. I was honestly more excited for Gee’s solo effort this year, I Never Felt Nun. There’s a few standouts on there, like the opener and "Voices in My Head." Overall though, that project leans more on his melodic (weaker) side, and is a bit long, with some features that only diminish the raw stuff he’s rapping about (Bryson Tiller was cool, Harlow was meh, but whichever label sadist is responsible for getting MGK on albums like this and So Much Fun needs to stop. Seriously.) Last Ones Left is where I come when I want to hear the Gee that I love. Regardless of any feelings about INFN, listening to this tape makes me certain that both their respective runs aren’t nearly finished. Moor Mother - Jazz Codes Pure magic. Poetic, psychedelic, prophetic. Moor Mother is to me what I believe Grimes is for some fairylike young women. Seriously though, magic is the word that keeps coming to mind. The wash of sound below her haunted delivery warrant return visits to the world that’s conjured up here. "BRASS" is still a personal all-timer, and once again here, it’s a thrill to reckon with (and occasionally be confounded by) the music. Tony Shhnow - Plug Motivation Tony Shhnow was my most listened to artist this year, and I’m better for it. He’s said in songs and interviews alike that (like Los), he makes music for people to make money to. Listening to enough of his music will make you want to cash out, pick up a pound or two, maybe become your own boss. He enjoys a lavish lifestyle, and funds it further by talking about it, as well as the work that got him there. But while some hustle rappers are tied to a specific sound, Tony can murder just about anything laid out for him. In that way, him and Boldy James are kindred spirits. And like James again, his other albums from this year are just as worth checking out. The deluxe edition of his collaborative project, Killstreak 2, from real early in the year, featured him sliding over some prime loops via GRIMM Doza. For the more grandiose Reflexions, he tapped a variety of producers, such as the Crackhouse maestro, Who the Hell is Carlo, plus other mainstays like Poloboyshawty and Popstar Benny, for an undeniable final product. Songs like "Park My Car," "Don’t Look at Numbers," and "Keep N Touch" never left my rotation. I chose this album because of its combination of uncontainable mixtape energy and his trademark plugg bliss. A few tracks stand out (him and Cashcache have never done anything wrong together, and features from Bear1boss and Darkside Mally deliver), but it’s really a killer listen through and through. Regardless of whether it’s the trap alphabet on "A to Z" or his vocab gymnastics on "M’s," the tape fulfills its title and then some. He differs from Boldy in tone; where the Detroit native’s street-weary voice lets his words carry all the weight, Tony never shows up without that energy in his delivery. Essentially: no one should be telling you how to live, but if you’re gonna take someone’s advice, listen to Tony Shhnow before any of those other charlatans. billy woods x Preservation - Aethiopes Writing about woods feels like writing a book review; so much is said, and yet I’m given the task of tryna wrap it all up neatly for you. No can do, especially with this one. The layers and samples combined with the dense, vivid lyrics make for a captivating album experience. His second of the year, Church with Messiah Musik is similarly great (listen to "Classical Music" with AKAI SOLO and FIELDED), but there’s moments on this one like the opener, or "Sauvage," "NYNEX" and "Heavy Water," where whole new worlds are introduced to the listener. I was blessed enough to catch him twice this year in Toronto; once alongside E L U C I D and once solo. Neither are nights I’ll forget anytime soon. Listen all the way through, and then listen again. Boldy James x Nicholas Craven - Fair Exchange No Robbery It’s fair to say Boldy is on an all time run. No robbery either to say he’s the best out. Who’s doing it like him?. No one. Putting quality music out at his clip and consistency is an unreasonable and unsustainable ask from anyone else. What would be even fairer is if every single album he dropped was this list. Mad love to all those producers. Of the two Canadians he worked with, my favourite goes beyond provincial borders. Had to go with the Montrealite Nicholas Craven, as I’ve been itching for this project since I had an inkling it might happen. Recorded real quick with some futuristic mic tech, they locked in and captured a moment in time. The closer (and the single that made me certain this was gonna be special), "Power Nap," is beautiful and eerie like nothing else I’ve hear this year. There is a lot to be said about songs like "0 Tre Nine" and "Designer Drugs" too. Here’s my ranking of his other three offerings: 2. x Cuns - Be That as It May Was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this one. Boldy further showing how he can kill just about any beat. The lead single is a stunner. 3. x Futurewave - Mr. Ten08 Another northern collab I dreamt of. Boldy over these dark, jazzy beats is just captivating. I feel that this one will grow with me, and might rise up the ranks as the years pass. Shoutout Futurewave for crafting these backdrops for Boldy to smoke. 4. x Real Bad Man - Killing Nothing No shade, shoutout Real Bad Man. Real Bad Boldy was right up there with The Price of Tea in China for me before this year shook my whole rankings up. This one still has some very solid tracks and features. "Hundred Ninety Bands," "Open Door" (ft. Rome Streetz and Stove God Cooks), and "Sig Sauer" all got a bunch of replays from me. WB Nutty - City of Addiction They really dialed it in on this one. "Whole Hood" (prod. DODBH, with that wicked whistle) is one of my favourites from him since he and JRDN cooked up "Dope Sick" off Narcotics Anonymous in 2021. Similarly, "Rush," "Heavyweight," and "Invested" are undeniable. The stakes feel higher from the start, yet he steps right up to the plate to deliver a killer project. You can always count on either brother to tell it how it is, and here, Nutty doesn’t hold back. MIKE - Beware of the Monkey I knew this was making it high on my year-end list immediately upon hearing it. For years now, through grief and reinvention, MIKE has made some beautiful music. Plenty of impressive songs here, although the immediate hit for me was "Stop Worry!," the dancehall-tinged tune with Sister Nancy. Rinsed that one before the album was even out, it’s pure bliss. His production alias, dj blackpower, shows out just as much as he does with his lyrics. It’s his album with the most sublime moments yet. Very easy to get lost in, and I recommend doing just that. RX Papi - First Week Out Deluxe Forever with the quotables, and comfortable on seemingly any beat, Rx Papi had an impressive 2022 given the circumstances. First Week Out Deluxe is the culmination of a lot of things, but notably a demonstration of his freedom. He hops between heavy Detroit beats and an exciting mixture of other sounds, for a project that serves well as an introduction but should also satiate his biggest fans, who were itching for new Pap. It’s hard to imagine watering down rap this raw, and he does no such thing, opting to keep sharing his life with us uncensored, through his brilliant, off-colour, punched-in bars. Whitehouse Studio - Da House, Vol. 3.5 An incredible crew tape lost to the streaming abyss, for reasons that were either never mentioned or that I missed. I never understood what made it 3.5 either, because it seemed a worthy successor to the former three. Incredible, blown-out production, like the beat behind "Forever World Touring," and Rude Villain bringing out Durk’s “Man WHAT!” adlib was enough to make me miss this album every day it was gone. MarijuanaXO - Milwaukee (It’s R Turn) MarijuanaXO dominated this year with his gruff voice and passionate delivery. He’s part of a few dynamic duos; him and Joe Pablo are like Teejay and Kasher in terms of early scene hype and raw talent you can’t miss. But tracks with Chicken P, Taxfree, Juicester and Trapbaby carry this project strong all the way to its conclusion. It’s sweet to see all the Milwaukee guys coming together to expand and popularize their regional sound. He dropped a few other excellent tapes this year, like, Red Rum and Da Under Dog, but this is a real solid jumping-off point into their midwestern mania. He contrasts his realist hustlee bars with a lot of the more melodic guys from his city, and more than a few songs stick out. Check out "LOE," "No Name Rappers," "Out of Bounds" or "Gold Teefe" and you’ll get what I’m talking about. 10kdunkin - TENSEI II (DELUXE) 10kdunkin has his lane of dreamy whispered rap conquered. Whether it’s SenseiATL or Jaimoe laying the beat down (check "TOP GOLF" ft. Flee for the latter), he simply floats. Through this album, he shows off how easily his flow is molded, sliding on all his verses with perfect footwork. Scorned men, blast "NEVA PRADA ME" and know you’re worth it. Waiting eagerly for RPs and Plan Bs 3. Tony, what’s good? Ponae - Rap N**** Still Dealing This would’ve definitely been higher on my list if it was dropped earlier in the year. It was released on Christmas by one of the Whitehouse Studio’s most consistent, and I gotta admit it suits the weather. Cold bars, menacing beats, real hustle talk; this is one of the essential albums out of Detroit from the year. Ponae is raw as hell and he knows it. This project is his most honed in yet. Features go in as well. The use of refrains in his music (“I’m tryna tell you”, “I got a line up the street”, “NFLWB”) echoes those of Los and Nutty, who both show up to push the eerie production chosen into new territory. Wrld Tour Mafia - Tourmania Wrld Tour Mafia are relentless. This year alone, a number of the members put out their own projects, as well as dropping their second album as a group. The stacked list of solo releases include: WTM Milt’s RAFA, as well as Dogshit & Ammunition, WTM Miles’s Crackhouse Mafia, WTM Solid’s Originatour, and Daemoney x Trees dropping Slayer’s Coming. All of those are worth checking if you appreciate their gritty style. On TOURMANIA, the successor to 2021’s Wrld Tour Mafia or Die, they all trade verses breathlessly, sounding hungry as hell. Their favourite producers shine all over; LulBoobie especially brings his best, while Lul Rose, Terrotuga, Chino and the rest of them set the tone throughout. From the song "Final 4" onwards, it’s a run I don’t see anyone else replicating. They have their fun, spitting reckless and callous bars trying to outdo each other. Songs like "Construction," "Or Die," and "Backend" are undeniable. Vince Staples - Ramona Park Broke My Heart My favourite album from him yet. "AYE! (FREE THE HOMIES)" and "WHEN SPARKS FLY" are both total stunners. Ty Dolla $ign croons something about life tasting bittersweet on "LEMONADE." The Lil Baby feature on "EAST POINT PRAYER" was a cool surprise too. He surely occupies a unique spot in rap, but when he’s putting out albums like this, it doesn’t matter what he’s tweeting or saying in interviews. Goldenboy Countup - Chicken Man 3 Top-tier mythmaking music right from the start. Like with a few artists, Mavi put me on. That bird cry in all his songs makes me feel like I’m at a Hawks home game, and his ad-libs only add intensity/urgency. I’ve been scoffing at whispers overheard claiming Florida rappers were really stepping on Michigan production, but Goldenboy made me reevaluate. He alternates, going from cinematic production with heartfelt keys to something that would be right at home on a Flint rapper’s tape. The impressive part is sounding right at home on both. Another drop this year, his Golden Ticket, was real fun as well, but the third Chicken Man is the winner for me. A must-listen. EBK Jaaybo - Rrari 4eva I am Nightingale was the breakout track off this tape, and maybe rightfully so. But I was first truly captivated by JaayBo when I heard the back-to-back punches of Ride Along (ft. RSB Poopie and Lik200) and Respectable. His chilly rhyming and unshakeable confidence makes this project a must-hear out of the EBK camp. He recently spent his 18th birthday incarcerated, while his music and the So-Cal scene at large continued to explode internationally. I’m hoping to hear a lot more from him soon. PhoeNix - Crybaby Soprano 2 Much love to PhoeNix. I’m still so grateful I was able to talk to him in mid-2022. He’s one of the brightest talents in the currently booming South. His writing, the beat selection, not to mention the effortless flowing in that drawl, all contribute to some excellent music. If you missed this piece we put out leading up to the release of Walkthru, I’d love for you to read it here. But if you need some convincing first, listen to this: Drakeo the Ruler - Keep The Truth Alive Not the biggest on posthumous albums, but this one felt different. Taken far too soon, the Ruler had plenty of hits still in the vault. Songs like "DRAKEO Not Drake-O" and "3Ks" sequenced out in between skits taken from past Instagram Live videos remind us of his brilliance, his one-of-one approach. Before any of the biters, there was the truth. BIG30 - Last Man Standing BIG30 has been holding it down in Pooh Shiesty’s absence real well. This album got a lot of play in my car this year. "Nuskie Living" and "Dead Guyz" are both hits on their own, and ATL Jacob brought his beats as well as a pretty dope feature on "Uh Huh." Momentum carries all the way through, and Memphis remains a rap stronghold. OTM and Ralfy the Plug - Stincs Got It Off the Mussle Ralfy went on a tear this year following the loss of his brother. Lots of great music, mostly solo albums, but this tape stuck with me. Ralfy and OTM were both artists who I listened to alongside Drakeo most often, so it’s cool to see them come together here in his absence and still elevate. Tons of songs, clocking in at just over an hour and a half, so maybe not the most focused effort, but there’s a lot to enjoy in here. It’s a great full-length intro to the darker OTM energy. Daniel Son x Futurewave - Sun Tzu and the Wav God Huge ups to Daniel Son for sending me the CD. Saved me a few days in the car when I was without an aux. Bush Doctor was a really solid album as well. He’s been due to level up, and this year might have been that. Decide for yourself, but either way, don’t take your eyes off him. LG Deno Skeno - Born to Trap Must listen for Detroit heads, went way under the radar. DODBH brought some fire to the table, and Deno did his thing on it. The features come with the heat, and songs like, "5 Felonies," "Only Life I Know," "Born to Sell Dope," "Never Fold," and "Made N*****" are all impressive as hell. Don’t hold off, press play and get caught up on his tales. Popstar Benny - Album* (Deluxe) Big love and respect for Benny. This album is killer, and his next one is about to blow your minds too. I was lucky enough to speak with him for SharpieCovers’ Crazy Bastard Magazine this year, where he told me how he connected with MIKE and we bonded over the greatness of Tony Shhnow. One of the most exciting in the game right now. The 6th Letter - ePIFFany Wrote this piece earlier for his first album of the year, but the ALS-produced ePIFFany ended up being my favourite of the two. BKRSCLB has some real talent, and The 6th Letter’s measured, elevated bars have always resonated with me. Tay Love - All in the Game Tay has got it, talented as hell. If you like the exciting, bouncy tracks he works on with Taxfree, do NOT sleep on this tape. He knows how to make a hit, and songs like "Shipping & Receiving," "Double Shift" and "Talk My Shit" all demonstrate how the the SlappHouse don does far more than just make beats. With an ear for clever bars and references, he’s got it locked down. Milwaukee’s premier producer in my eyes. Y’all really can’t do it like Tay Love. Icewear Vezzo, DJ Drama - Paint the City Vezzo was pivotal for me getting into Detroit rap, so I’ll always vouch for him, even as the “same flow on a slightly varied beat each time” allegations pile in. The Rich Off Pints series, of which the third installment dropped July, has some demonstrations of him at his best. However, his Gangsta Grillz tape Paint the City from late this year was by far the winner for me. The song with Kodak, "It’s All on U," is irresistible, and "No Talking" featuring Peezy and G.T. is real hard as well. Drama’s shit-talk pairs real well with Vezzo’s trademark arrogance. There’s some triumphant trumpets and a motivational theme here, but you can never take the Detroit out of his music. Babyface Ray - FACE Deluxe All eyes have been on Face since he brought Detroit further into the mainstream. His late-in-the-year release, MOB, was solid, but it’s on FACE (Deluxe) that he shows why he’s that guy. Some all-time Ray songs, a strong cohesive feel, and some ridiculous bonus tracks too. It does lean more major-label, but he maintains his effortless cool and expands his canon in the way only he could. Standouts are "My Thoughts 3 / Pop’s Prayer,""Tunnel Vision," "6 Mile Show" with Vezzo and "Overtime" feat. Yung Lean. The deluxe has Veeze and LUCKI doing their thing on "Spending Spree" and "Back N Action" respectively, to great effect. K-Trap - The Last Whip 2 K-Trap had his track "Warm" blow up this year, and rightfully so. The project it came off of, TRAPO, was excellent, and a big step forward for one of the pioneers of UK Drill. This year, he released a killer joint album with road rap legend Blade Brown, called Joints. For me though, his best was the sequel to his classic mixtape, The Last Whip. Best of the Rest (34-100) 34. Earl Sweatshirt - SICK! 35. Chung - See You, When I C U 36. Roc Marciano and the Alchemist - The Elephant Man’s Bones 37. Wrecking Crew - Sedale Threat 38. BoofpaxkMooky, GRIMM Doza - I’VE BEEN HIGH FOR DAYS (Deluxe) 39. 716soup - Soup Springsteen 2 40. Wifigawd - CHAIN OF COMMAND 42. G.T. - Money Counter Music Vol. 2 43. Big Moochie Grape - East Haiti Baby 44. Young Slo-Be - Southeast 45. Chicken P - Bussabrick Vol. 2: Bussone 101 46. Drego and Beno - Sorry We Were Trapping 47. Stik Figa x August Fanon - Heresy 48. Daboii - Can’t Tame Us 49. Shaudy Kash x Top$ide - On the Yeah Side 50. Mavi - Laughing so Hard, It Hurts 51. E L U C I D - I Told Bessie 52. Mike Shabb - Sewacide 2 (HM: Bokleen World) ME 54. JoogSZN - Where’s Joog? 55. Willyynova - Novacane 56. G.T. - Money Counter Music Vol. 2 57. Conway the Machine - God Don’t Make Mistakes 58. Louie Ray - Still Grinding 4 59. Che Noir - Food for Thought 60. Shawny Binladen - Wick the Wizard 61. CEO Trayle - HH5 62. Kamaiyah - Divine Timing (Deluxe) 63. Akai Solo - Spirit Roaming 64. Ronrontheproducer - Ronrondothatshit Vol. 2 65. August Fanon - MORE… 66. Young Nudy - EA Monster 67. Messiah! - Perfect 7 68. Los - Kareem from New Orleans 2 69. Young Dolph - Paper Route Frank 70. Iblss - raja’s sun 71. Sideshow - Wegahta Tapes Vol. 1 72. Future - I NEVER LOVED YOU 73. DJ Lucas and Papo2oo4 x Subjxct5 - Continuous Improvement 74. Kay Anthony - Color Theory 75. Brooks - Everybody Brooks 76. Westside Gunn - Peace “Fly” God 77. Top$ide - Lost Files 78. Armand Hammer - WHT LBL 79. Conductor Williams - Samo’s Revenge 80. 3AG Pilot, Popstar Benny - Fuck Rehab! 81. Rome Streetz - Kiss the Ring 82. RMC Mike - Junior Season 83. Muddy - Muddyworld v2 84. Babytron - Megatron 85. Raz Fresco - Magnetic 86. Defcee x Boathouse - For All Debts Public and Private 87. 7xvethegenius - Self 7xve 2 88. SMO - Who TF is Smo 89. Armani Caesar - The Liz 2 90. Krispylife Kidd - The Art of Spice Talk 3 91. AJ Snow, Jansport J - No Awards for The Real 92. Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon - Here, There & Everywhere 93. Bbyafricka - The Art of Geekin 94. Lord Juco x Finn - Company 95. Duke Deuce - CRUNKSTAR 96. Yungeen Ace - Survivor of the Trenches 97. Benny the Butcher - Tana Talk 4 98. Nicholas Craven - Craven N 3 99. Mach-Hommy x Tha God Fahim - Dollar Menu 4 100. Baby Stone Gorillas - BABYST5XNE GORILLAS RAP SONGS OF THE YEAR: Los - "Smoove Exchange" ft. WB Nutty & Icewear Vezzo EBK Jaaybo - "Ride Along" JoogSZN - "Bleedem like Joog" ft. NFant and Young Who Young Nudy - "Impala" SME TAXFREE - "‘21 Kia Stollie" ft. Big Homie DreCash billy woods and Preservation - "Sauvage" ft. Boldy James and Gabe Nandez RX Lil Cuz - "Yung N****" AMF Big CEO - "Pay Me In Dope" ft. WB Nutty and Los Boldy James x Cuns - "God Speed" Future - "Like Me" ft. 42 Dugg and Lil Baby Rome Streetz - "Long Story Short" Saba - "Soldier" ft. Pivot Gang RX Papi - "Daddy was the Dopeman" Badd Karmal x Boyo Levity - "Lousy Man" ft. 716soup Goldenboy Countup - "Decatur" And of course, MarijuanaXO - "Free Da Yung OG" words by Sai / twitter / instagram

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