Top 25 Albums of 2022

Published January 11, 2023

Top 25 Albums of 2022

2022 was a dynamic year for music. It saw the long-awaited return of many household names (i.e. Kendrick Lamar), the sustained success of the underground, and a handful of unexpected collaborations. The end result was potentially the best stretch of records the twenties decade has seen yet – and here are twenty-five of its best products, aligned to my personal preference.

Disclaimer: As with any “album of the year” list, there are several projects I did not quite get around to – ultimately, this serves as a stamp of the top releases I did get to resonate with.

No. 25 – Killing Nothing

Boldy James
Real Bad Man
43 min.

One of Boldy James’ ten albums of the twenties, Killing Nothing is one of the biggest standouts of the year. His familiarity with multimedia collective Real Bad Man has been intact for ages now, so a specific standard was set for this record that was ultimately met – James practices consistency through supplying a batch of grimy, spacious tracks that complement his numbed delivery.

Griselda’s dominance throughout the past stretch of time is only made clearer by this output – it isn’t necessarily one of the collective’s top efforts, but instead serves as continued quality that solidifies them as the best hip-hop group in the game.

Favorite Track: Hundred Ninety Bands


Lupe Fiasco41 min.

Lupe Fiasco’s catalogue has gone through many, many phases. From being an upcoming hip-hop superstar to someone restrained by the industry, he ultimately settled with the best situation any artist could ask for – full artistic control. DRILL MUSIC IN ZION matches that sentiment, being reminiscent of previous records Tetsuo & Youth and DROGAS WAVE in that it embraces layered songwriting (i.e., the perspective-based storytelling on “KIOSK“), lush instrumentals, and a willingness to experiment.

DRILL MUSIC isn’t necessarily as ambitious as those aforementioned, but it is a firm reminder that Fiasco’s capabilities are infinite – to release something so concise nearly two decades after your commercial debut is phenomenal.

Favorite Track: On Faux Nem

No. 23 – King’s Disease III

Nas52 min.

Album number-fifteen for the all time great was, as expected at this point, a hit. King’s Disease III is a continuation of Nas and Hit-Boy’s unexpected streak of projects, which have secondarily served as a career revival for the Queens emcee. Through showcasing his steady pen game and Hit-Boy’s willingness to exit his comfort zone, the third entry of the King’s Disease series delivered.

The sheer variety in sound resulted in a hefty tracklist, but it was good to see variation from the duo. For example, “Recession Proof” has a bass-heavy basis that feels reminiscent of the golden age – on the contrary, “I’m on Fire” takes a grimy soul-sampling approach that feels tied to the underground. It all packs together nicely, serving as a benchmark for what veterans should accomplish decades into their careers.

Favorite Track: I’m on Fire

No. 22 – 2 P’z in a Pod

LNDN Drugs
Larry June
31 min.

2 P’z in a Pod is a feel-good moment from the likes of rapper-producer duo LNDN Drugs (comprised of Jay Worthy and Sean House), and frequent collaborator Larry June. 2 P’z falls under the branch of west coast influence that creates a summery, easygoing atmosphere for the emcees to lay bars over.

The combination of vocal sampling and vintage synthesizers unlocks a new facet of underground production that is rarely seen, which elevates the project to an unforeseen level of uniqueness. It therefore stands as one of the best-produced efforts of the year, with great rapping to boost it even further.

Favorite Track: Late Nights

No. 21 – TrillStatik 2

Bun B
Statik Selektah
30 min.

A sequel to the similarly-named debut of these two, TrillStatik 2 is further proof that some work ethics are beyond measure. Rapper Bun B (of UGK fame) and east coast legend Statik Selektah furthered their unlikely chemistry through yet another one-of-a-kind creative process – streaming the entirety of the album’s formation on a stream in twenty-four hours and releasing it to the public immediately after.

The charm of these two’s vision comes through the studio environment – featuring artists, media members, close contacts, and more found themselves in and out of the Manhattan studio hosting the process. It serves a reminder of what these artistic minds love doing at the root of it all – making music.

Favorite Track: Right Back At It

No. 20 – 2000

Joey Bada$$53 min.

Joey Bada$$’s first studio album in five years was heavily anticipated. The hype became even more immense when he designed it as a clever reference to his classic mixtape 1999 – the name 2000 resonated as his method of staying true to his roots while also embracing growth. The lyrical content reflects such no differently – it is ultimately vintage, but with open arms to newer collaborators (i.e., Westside Gunn and Larry June) and a more modernized approach sonically.

One thing that can be appreciated about Joey’s growth is his affinity for becoming increasingly personal with time – the idea of him dropping a song as emotionally dense as “Survivor’s Guilt” a decade ago is far from expected. Breakthroughs of this caliber are what helps 2000 stand out as one of many artist comebacks that were materialized as of late.

Favorite Track: Where I Belong

No. 19 – The Forever Story

JID1 hour

On the topic of comebacks, here’s another – JID’s The Forever Story was several years in the making, and the Dreamville prodigy’s first solo release since 2018’s DiCaprio 2. Callbacks to his studio debut – and prequel to this record – The Never Story are quickly implemented through the introductory “Galaxy“.

The bulk of The Forever Story is introspective and forward-thinking, combining diverse production and topics to exhibit the Atlanta rapper’s versatility. Whether it be through improbable bangers (“Can’t Punk Me“) or jazzy cognizance (“Money“), this project has one goal in mind – to bestow a long-lasting experience upon listeners.

Favorite Track: Just In Time

No. 18 – Faceless

evans.27 min.

Faceless is one of many fascinating beat tapes to grace the last calendar. For a bit of confidential context, evans. is one of many personal affiliates involved in the musical collective HOUSE. He stands as its youngest member as far as chronology goes, yet his musical knowledge was immediately noticeable.

The twenty-seven-minute creation throws listeners into an abyss of trip-hop and jazz influences, drawing similarities to old-school instrumental albums such as DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….. or Prince Paul’s Psychoanalysis. These classics do not exist as the influences for the southern producer’s sound, but he has formed an early connection to the atmospheric, slow-paced techniques they birthed. A reasonable expectation is to consider evans. somebody to look out for moving forward – his ceiling is high.

Favorite Track: Restless (Interlude)

No. 17 – Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Denzel Curry45 min.

It seems as if Denzel Curry gets more comfortable with each release. Imperial and TA13OO felt hungrier, but not as raw and honest – ZUU was a step in the right direction through representing his hometown, but principally leaned on the side of pure hype. Melt My Eyez See Your Future, however, fuses Curry’s likeness for high energy with colorful beat selection and lyrics out of an open book.

While this approach renders the album as less concentrated than other gems in his catalogue, the change of pace is what his craftmanship needed. It created the opportunity for more exploration in this lane of alternative hip-hop, which Curry already traverses so naturally – as a result, it would not be shocking to see Melt My Eyez age gracefully with time.

Favorite Track: Ain’t No Way

No. 16 – Continuance

The Alchemist
38 min.

Combining two of the hardest workers in hip-hop history – for the fourth time – is bound to amount to anything but failure. Continuance is a fitting name, because it is the emblem for Curren$y and The Alchemist’s unwavering partnership that has stood strong since the early-2010s.

It falls under the same umbrella as most of The Alchemist’s recent works, employing a simple sampling style that somehow results in a larger-than-life outturn. The best example is deep cut “The Final Board“, which contains an effortless beat switch that Curren$y floats over with elegance. Multiple other refined cuts find themselves littered across the album, which characterizes the entirety of Continuance as an attempt to tread high-quality territory.

Favorite Track: Whale Watching

No. 15 – Few Good Things

Saba48 min.

It’s good to see Saba back in action. Considering the emotional turmoil that defined 2018’s CARE FOR ME, it was clear the Chicago native had been flooded with baggage. This is what makes Few Good Things so uplifting – the therapeutic nature of it is reflected in the confrontational lyrics and uplifting sound.

The mid-west lyricist’s pen sounds revitalized throughout, balancing aggression (“Survivor’s Guilt“), nostalgia (“Come My Way“), and vivid descriptions (“2012“) in a manner unseen on his first two projects. Although it lacks the compact nature of those, it serves as a proper stepping stone for Saba to embrace growth – both personally and artistically.

Favorite Track: Come My Way

No. 14 – Off the Strength

Lord Apex
Cookin Soul
29 min.

Rapper Lord Apex and production crew Cookin Soul’s March effort has already begun to age noticeably well. Perhaps that stems from Off the Strength‘s bite-size composure – it has a clear aesthetic in mind, and fails to deviate from it.

The comic book-inspired cover explains its quirky sound and near-cartoonish aura. Lord Apex’s adoration of that pocket of hip-hop culture – pioneered by the likes of Madlib and MF DOOM – made Cookin Soul the perfect partner, considering their exceptional approach to the underground ambience. Want proof? Visit lead single “The Bullshit” – not often are such touchingly eerie yet determined cuts found in the average record.

Favorite Track: The Bullshit

No. 13 – Cheat Codes

Black Thought
Danger Mouse
39 min.

Following the Streams of Thought series, it was clear The Roots’ lead emcee had found his stride in manufacturing independent content. 2022’s Cheat Codes was his greatest attempt yet, employing acclaimed producer Danger Mouse to illustrate a hazy, theatrical world that suited Black Thought a little too well.

Danger Mouse’s style of sound engineering frees up the voices of his partners, which causes the lyrics throughout to have a sense of command around them. It is difficult to not fixate on the layered writing from the Philadelphia legend, not to mention the various features – many of whom managed to go toe-to-toe with an all-time great. If the consensus wasn’t already that Black Thought had the greatest longevity of any rapper, it would now be difficult to argue otherwise.

Favorite Track: Belize

No. 12 – The Elephant Man’s Bones

Roc Marciano
The Alchemist
38 min.

The Alchemist’s presence on this list doesn’t end at Continuance The Elephant Man’s Bones, a collaboration with long-time peer Roc Marciano, also finds itself here. Unapologetically abstract, the duo openly embrace their preference for minimal instrumentals and groundbreaking creativity.

The Elephant Man’s Bones is a strong moment in Marciano’s career particularly – not only did it provide fans with a long-awaited joint effort with The Alchemist, but it further bolstered an already excellent catalogue. It represents the strides made in the underground more than any other 2022 release, confirming the decade as one represented by smaller-name geniuses.

Favorite Track: The Horns of Abraxas

No. 11 – Intros, Outros & Interludes

Domo Genesis26 min.

Despite the commercial breakthroughs Odd Future has made as a collective, some of its members remain underappreciated. Domo Genesis falls under that category, unfairly overshadowed despite being one of the best lyricists of the modern age. Intros, Outros, & Interludes, produced by L.A. icon Evidence, is a strict suggestion to tune in to his stream of great mixtapes.

The sound is soulful and west coast-proper, with loops of a warm tone that encourage comfortable flows. Tracks like “Stay One More Day” are simple in structure but work perfectly, while “Victories & Losses” – which is the lone instance of Evidence rapping – employs a sentimental piano that is far too addictive to let seep out of rotation. For an artist’s first full-length record in four years, Intros, Outros & Interludes sounds indicates that no momentum has been lost for Domo Genesis.

Favorite Track: Victories & Losses

No. 10 – Collection of Beats (2021)

JAYJAY!40 min.

JAYJAY!’s Collection of Beats (2021) barely makes this list – not because of placement, but rather because it was an early January release entirely comprised of 2021 instrumentals. This only makes its appearance all the more impressive, though – it was one of the earliest top albums and held its ground the entire way.

The beat tape draws strong inspiration from the likes of 21st century production legends, particularly the likes of J Dilla. The works are sample-heavy, elaborately chopped, and free-flowing. Even when JAYJAY! gets into a more abstract pocket (i.e., “Jumper 8“), the result is satisfactory – when such wide ground can be covered with effectiveness, it is inevitably going to remain a staple in one’s rotation.

And to no surprise, that’s exactly what occurred here.

Favorite Track: Merry Go Roooound

No. 9 – Cost of Living

Philmore Greene
Apollo Brown
50 min.

Apollo Brown’s fifth full-length project of the decade coincided with the uprising of Chicago lyricist Philmore Greene. Cross-connections between two mid-west states has never sounded more crisp, as Cost of Living balances the sights of Chi-town and sounds of Detroit immaculately.

Greene’s newer presence in the game explains his never-ending hungry delivery, as he makes the most of an alliance with one of the underground’s most celebrated names. Brown provides him with the perfect soundtrack, full of lofty sampling and lo-fi drums that have defined his sound over the past few years. Consequently, fans are provided with what some would describe as “pure hip-hop” – conventional, relatable lyrics that anybody could get lost in at command.

Favorite Track: Time Goes

No. 8 – Capri

Mad Sadiq
19 min.

If the word “radiant” was turned to sound, it would be Capri. A product of southern heritage, the nineteen-minute jam somehow sounds bound to no region – it combines the laidback essence of the south, production habits of the east coast, and warmth of the west coast in impressive fashion.

The two’s chemistry is devoid of bumps and rough patches, intentionally spanning itself over a short runtime to ensure nothing drags on. Mad Sadiq says everything necessary in the handful of tracks provided – especially on lead single “MO“, which has an optimistic attitude implying something significant is underway. While Capri doesn’t quite present itself as larger-than-life, it serves as the beginning to an exciting partnership between two striving creatives.

Favorite Track: Grown

No. 7 – Greetings From Tombstone

HUES43 min.

Following the release of two EPs, Michigan producer HUES honed in on the creation of a full-length “roster” album to accompany the seldom-self-titled Heavy Upon Every Soul in his discography. While the aforementioned work falls on the rustier, experimental side of things, Greetings From Tombstone has an emanating confidence that accurately depicts growth.

Everything from the instrumentation to guest appearances is an upgrade, and the outcome is a photographic, grimy experience of dungeon-like proportions. Confining to one style is dearly avoided throughout – you have high-energy posse cuts (“Paycheck“), somber reflections (“If I Go Missing“), and slow-paced cyphers (“Sun Gods“). By the time the conclusive three-track run at the end – including bonus track “Heal Break” – is complete, a strong feeling of progress from HUES can be embraced. It truly executes itself in a cinematic fashion.

Favorite Track: Manuscript, Pt. 2

No. 6 – Talk To Me Nice

Hype45 min.
1 hour, 9 min. (deluxe)

In the Internet age, tradition is dearly missed at time. Talk To Me Nice is a return to conventional hip-hop standards – hard-hitting production hosting straight bars, consciousness weaving through each verse, and an eventual deluxe version loading the adventure with plenty of extra content.

The lane Hype wants to be in is clear, and he navigates it honorably. Purists will admire this body of work – it absolutely sounds modernized, but consistently aims to pay homage to the craft of the all-time greats while showcasing a personality of its own. “Underdog“, which is arguably the best track, is the thesis of this claim. Don’t stop there, though – every cut on this record is worth embracing.

Favorite Track: Underdog

No. 5 – All-Star Beats, Vol. 1

iSight38 min.

This choice is a tough one to tackle. Is including your own work on a list considered bad manners? Unprofessional? Or is it just another thing to enjoy, at the end of the day? Not sure. But the truth is that I have love for All-Star Beats, Vol. 1. It’s something I’m proud of, in no different fashion than this website.

To avoid treading any narcissistic territory, I’ll briefly comment on my outlook of it months after it released – running it back as a “fan”, the maturity is what sticks out. The production technique used throughout shows steep improvement from the ambitious, but disorganized nature of obServe… – the sampling is equally eclectic, but confirms the solidification of a style. It’s one of many strides the HOUSE label made in recency, and I’d feel wrong not to include it on a collection of yearly favorites.

Favorite Track: The Stars See You

No. 4 – YOD Wave

Your Old Droog19 min.

YOD Wave carried on the momentum of a ridiculously slept-on run Brooklyn’s Your Old Droog assembled throughout the year. It was delivered at the perfect time, with an icy essence complementary of the cooler March days. Droog was a bit of a stranger to shorter-length projects at the time, only reaching under twenty-five minutes on EPs The Nicest and Looseys.

In seven tracks, he achieves a level of consistency that somehow surpasses other amazing works in his catalogue – collaborations with fellow Dump Gawd members Mach-Hommy and Tha God Fahim deliver as expected, and he uncovers personal demons of his own on the descriptive “.500“. Nicholas Craven spearheads the entire movement, helping Droog transition to a high-quality, high-quantity approach he adopted for the remainder of 2022.

Favorite Track: .500

No. 3 – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar1 hour, 19 min.

After half a decade’s worth of time missing in action, Kendrick Lamar quietly returned to the light on Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue. Following a couple features, label announcement, and series of cryptic appearances, he finally presented what fans had been dying for – a rollout.

The Heart Part 5” led the way, and soon after came Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Kendrick’s music has always been intense and personal, but this was on a tier of its own – throughout, the California lyricist openly discusses his flaws, contemplates morality, and aims for growth. It results in the bulkiest and most experimental piece of his to date, but as usual, the content resonates. Nothing less can be expected from a genius of this caliber.

Favorite Track: Silent Hill

No. 2 – This Must Be the Place

Apollo Brown1 hour, 9 min.

Instrumental albums were never Apollo Brown’s safe space. He only has two widespread beat tapes under his name, that being 2011’s Clouds and 2014’s Thirty Eight – when news arrived of him developing a third, and the first in eight years, a strong wave of excitement enveloped his fanbase.

If Clouds is a young adolescent with big dreams, This Must Be the Place is him in a state of experience and freedom. It truly verifies that Brown is amidst a secondary prime of sorts, now a master of a floaty, crisp style that contrasts greatly from the rugged rhythms of his earlier stages. “Got It Good” is a hazy introduction, while “Jupiter Gold” adamantly tackles a bouncier tempo. Randomly placed cuts from former projects Lovesick and Blacklight can even be found throughout, making this a gold mine for not only a dedicated Brown fan, but a lover of production in general.

Favorite Track: Pipe Dreams

No. 1 – Somebody Up There Loves Me

Stalley35 min.

As it stands, Stalley is debatably the hardest worker of the twenties. After leaving Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group to partner with the new MMG – Mello Music Group – he has entered a career revitalization. Colorful production and an increased sense of consciousness define his artistry now, and Somebody Up There Loves Me summarizes that in thirty-five blissful minutes.

Everyday life is the theme – lead single “FRESH LINEN” gravitates towards such, affirming his status as a man dedicated to morals that goes through the same daily cycles as anybody. Such proclamations co-exist with his usual braggadocio and use of storytelling (“REPOSADO STORIES” is a unique example), giving life to luscious beats that contrast with – and as a matter of fact, exceed – his previous drops of the decade (sans Blacklight). An exhibit of such a hungry emcee dedicating himself to sharpening his sword is what powers Somebody Up There Loves Me, fueling it with the character to reasonably claim the “album of the year” title.

Favorite Track: BAKERY