Published May 2, 2022
Favorite Hip-Hop albums of 2022, so far
In no specific order.
Few Good Things, Saba
At the time of Few Good Things‘ annonucement, CARE FOR ME was a long three years ago. As fans, it led us to wonder; could Saba live up to the hype? After all, his sophomore album was one of the most acclaimed hip-hop records of 2018.
It’s reasonable to claim Few Good Things hit all the marks it needed to. You see a continuation of the modernized “jazz rap” sound, ranging from spacey boom bap (“Still“) to some subtle trap influence (“Make Believe“). It remains powerful poetically too; If CARE FOR ME was a journey of healing, this record is the closure after. It’s much more soothing and warm-sounding.
His best? Not quite. But is it a solid second? I’d say so. It’s far more mature and complete than Bucket List Project, which was already great in its own right. Regardless of ranks and reputation, what it undeniably serves as is another fine addition to a quality catalogue.
Best Track – Come My Way
Capri, Mad Sadiq & Mudai
When you combine a producer from San Antonio and rapper from Charlotte, you don’t usually expect boom bap. Southern hip-hop is all about high energy – yet this record is the musical equivalent of a relaxing vacation, if the cover didn’t already prove that.
The art of producer-rapper duos is dying, and that’s not okay. Hearing the same style of sound and lyricism for an entire record creates a unique kind of cohesion, and Capri is no different. At only nineteen minutes, it doesn’t waste a moment; between funky cuts and lone instrumentals, everything is fulfilling.
I choose “Grown” as the best track below, but that’s a desperation pick between multiple options. This album is pure consistency, and it’s a quick listen; go give it a chance.
Best Track – Grown
Melt My Eyez See Your Future, Denzel Curry
Being raised in Florida, I always had an affinity for Denzel Curry’s music. It was something to turn up to, but still conscious. He wasn’t afraid to sound aggressive and dark, but made sure to say something meaningful along the way.
Unlike his past records, which were far more assertive, Melt My Eyez See Your Future seems calmer. The lead single Walkin should’ve exposed that direction instantly; it’s not often you hear Curry over heavenly soul samples like that.
Throughout, he maintains the vibe by delving into a plethora of sounds that collectively show the rapper at his most mature state to date. Some cuts can get lost in the clutter, but about everything is enjoyable. It’s a testament to his never-ending excellence.
Best Track – Ain’t No Way
Talk to Me Nice, Hype
Hype is an acquaintance I found through a DJ Premier shout-out some time ago, and I’ve followed his progress since. He hadn’t released since 2020, so this was a personally long-awaited project that didn’t disappoint whatsoever.
Talk to Me Nice sounds fresh, and the introductory track shows so immediately. The production sounds larger-than-life and golden (check the title track for proof), all-the-while drawing inspiration from some of the production greats. For example, “Underdog” and “Let It Breathe” (with Elzhi) could have easily been identified as a 9th Wonder cut; it’s that kind of quality.
Hype himself wastes no time explaining who he is, dropping confident verses with clever bars and tight rhyme schemes from start to finish. It’s one of those albums where you’ll recognize something new every listen, and this sort of lyrical potency in a debut album is rare. It’s fundamental hip-hop.
Best Track – Underdog
Cocodrillo Turbo, Action Bronson
Fun fact: Action Bronson has never missed in his career.
Cocodrillo Turbo is no different. Despite releasing on a near-yearly basis (2021 was actually his first musical gap in a while), Bronson is nothing but consistency. He knows his formula and sticks to it, and it perhaps always works because he keeps improving his project structure and sound.
The album’s production is the biggest standout. It’s by no means cohesive, ranging from western-like (“Tongpo”) to too-perfectly jazzy (“Subzero”), but this is what keeps operations refreshing. It goes beyond the typical confinements of the underground scene and takes risks, and it’s no surprise that Bronson himself flows effortlessly over every track. It’s almost unbelievable how well he does, but that’s how veterans do it.
Best Track – Jaguar
YOD Wave, Your Old Droog
Your Old Droog used to be a man of far-in-between releases and longer projects, but he’s moved on from that phase of his career. Now, it’s almost strange to see less than at least a few Droog albums drop a year, which is why he’s continuing to become a favorite in the underground community.
YOD Wave is anything but extensive, but that’s the charm. It’s seven tracks of producer-rapper quality (with Nicholas Craven here), and the replay value hits otherworldly levels as a result. Beyond the already gorgeous Craven beats, you hear an emcee that has reached a new level of maturity, sounding the most alert and natural he has in his career.
The bars are plentiful in every track, but “.500” is a particular standout. It’s a contender for song of the year, featuring storytelling and consciousness nearly unmatched across his entire discography. Shorter records need that one top-tier cut to improve the entire experience, and this meets the expectation. Go tap in.
Best Track – .500
Collection of Beats, JAYJAY!
Would it really be a good hip-hop yearly list without a beat tape? Not at all.
Therefore, here’s Collection of Beats; an instrumental facet of UK hip-hop, with some of the best sampling I’ve heard all year. JAYJAY! not only derives inspiration from the typical pocket of instrumental hip-hop giants (i.e. J Dilla and Madlib), but also the likes of funk, downtempo and vaporwave.
This is immediately noticeable in certain tracks (“Merry Go Roooound” takes it to a different level), and it’s probably the most enticing aspect overall. You aren’t just getting a generic compiling, you’re getting music that is colorful and reminiscent of older days; it’s truly beautiful.
Best Track – Trust Me