2022 has delivered a number of stellar Hip-Hop projects thus far and trying to determine the best releases thus far has been a monumental chore for the Hip-Hop Wired team. Below is our attempt at trying to list out some of the top albums and mixtapes that dropped this year, not ranked but in alphabetical order.
Hip-Hop tastes are subjective and varied, so expect to see names and projects in the list below that might not line up with your favorites. We understand that we can’t provide a one size fits all approach to making this list. Our list is compiled of mainstream acts, rising up-and-coming stars, grizzled veterans, underground champions, and all things in between.
Names like Saba, Earl Sweatshirt, EarthGang, and Fly Anakin among others will be familiar to those of you who rock our CRT FRSH playlist. We also have major names such as Conway The Machine, billy woods, Westside Boogie, Vince Staples, and Pusha T on our list as well. As is expected with lists such as these, we’ve probably missed a project or two and we apologize to anyone who feels they’ve been snubbed. Please reach out to us to inform us of your works so we can experience your art.
Lastly, no project on this list was placed here as a favor to an artist or a means to try to appear like we’re in their inner circles. If a project landed on this list, it’s because we rocked it, we enjoyed it, and we’ll keep going back to them until the end of the year when we’ll drop our full list of favorite projects of 2022.
For now, enjoy Hip-Hop Wired Best Hip-Hop Projects of 2022 So Far below.
1. Benny The Butcher – Tana Talk 4
The problem with sequels is that they rarely keep pace with what came before it but Benny The Butcher ended that line of thinking with Tana Talk 4. The Black Soprano Family honcho and his bone-chilling street tales coupled with expert-level bar work make this one of the projects of the year.
2. billy woods – Aethiopes
Fans of billy woods know to expect dense rhyme schemes, mysteries of the mind unlocked, and all convention thrown to the wind. That same approach is present on Aethiopes, perhaps the most accessible but no less hefty project from the Backwoodz Studio boss.
3. Black Star – No Fear Of Time
Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey, fine lyricists on their own, shifted the culture as the duo Black Star. On their triumphant return, produced solely by Madlib, their natural chemistry and their desire to have a message that goes beyond flexing skills makes No Fear Of Time one of the best records of the year.
4. Buddy – Superghetto
Buddy is an artist that you can’t put into a box. Rapper, singer, all-out entertainer. Whatever he decides to give listeners, it’s going to be solid. With his second full-length album, Superghetto, the Compton star delivers 10 tight tracks that would play well on a long solo drive or the sunset kickback.
5. Conway The Machine – God Don’t Make MIstakes
Conway The Machine is arguably the most gifted rapper in the modern era. If that statement seems hyperbolic, then you haven’t heard his ambitious and wide-ranging major label studio album debut, God Don’t Make Mistakes. While the Buffalo brick talk is still present, The Machine’s songwriting ability and skill at conveying a variety of emotions push him far away from the rest of the pack.
6. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry is very much a rock star in the guise of a rapper, and his albums featured tracks made for large auditoriums. However, the Florida rapper tones down the bombast on Melt My Eyez See Your Future and delivers his best work yet.
7. Dreamville – D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape
J. Cole and his sprawling Dreamville Records collective shifted their usual calculated approach and dropped a Gangsta Grillz mixtape with the legendary DJ Drama in the driver’s seat. The result was hearing more from the label’s lesser known but still amazing talents such as Lute, Omen, and Bas. J.I.D., EarthGang, Ari Lennox, and Cole himself all delivered as well.
8. EarthGang – Ghetto Gods
EarthGang should be at the top of everyone’s list as far as Hip-Hop groups go. The Atlanta duo hasn’t released a bad project yet and their latest, Ghetto Gods, dropped during a crowded February swing. A deluxe of the album was recently released and added to an already potent collection of tracks.
9. Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!
Earl Sweatshirt, now 28, and his influence on a younger crop of lyricists can’t be discounted. While his imprint on the underground is undeniable, Earl’s ability to construct sincere poetics and an uncanny flair for language make this one of the standout albums of the year and among the best in his catalog.
10. ElZhi – Zhigeist
ElZhi is considered among one of the finest spitters to emerge from the talented Detroit Hip-Hop scene. Pairing his God-level rapping with the soulful production of Georgia Anne Muldrow, their Zhigeist project is pure magic.
11. Fly Anakin – Frank
Richmond, Va. hasn’t had a notable Hip-Hop crew since Mad Skillz and his SupaFriendz collective. Fly Anakin and the Mutant Academy squad carry on tradition and on Frank, Anakin’s proper full-length debut, his formidable ability is at full strength.
12. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Kendrick Lamar is a polarizing artist. Expected to both save Hip-Hop and Black America, the Compton MC sidesteps all those weight expectations on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. On the excellent album, Kendrick Lamar is uniquely concerned with saving himself from himself.
13. Lupe Fiasco – Drill Music In Zion
Lupe Fiasco might sit at the top of many Hip-Hop fans when listing the best lyricists in the game. The Chicago MC truly earned that lofty distinction with his eighth studio album, Drill Music In Zion, produced entirely by past collaborator Soundtrakk over the course of days.
14. Marlon Craft – While We’re Here
Marlon Craft continues to inch closer to superstardom with blazing freestyles and a body of past work that begs revival. With his latest album While We’re Here, the Manhattan artist proves he’s far more than punchlines.
15. Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry
Pusha T doesn’t attempt to tweak what seems to be a flawless formula of dope boy tales. What is different about It’s Almost Dry is the one-two punch of Kanye West and his fellow Virginia native Pharrell Williams provide a down-the-middle production plate for King Push.
16. Quelle Chris – Deathfame
There is no easy way to explain Quelle Chris to the uninitiated. The Detroit artist has never made the same album twice and his latest project, Deathfame, might be his most challenging but in the best way ever. But if you’re expecting a bunch of playlist loosies or a theatrical display of rapping, that isn’t what Quelle is about. This is Hip-Hop for people who know how to pay attention.
17. Saba – Few Good Things
Saba has always exhibited loads of talents on his own and alongside his PIVOT Gang collective. On Few Good Things, the Chicago artist takes a slower, perhaps meandering approach on this audio adventure. It deserves repeated, uninterrupted listens.
18. Vince Staples – RAMONA BROKE MY HEART
Vince Staples does something rare in Hip-Hop. He doesn’t glorify his rough upbringing, instead, he examines it as the societal ill that it is. On RAMONA BROKE MY HEART, the somber and reflective tone of the record is perhaps the deepest glimpse inside the brilliant mind of Staples.
19. Westside Boogie – MORE BLACK SUPERHEROES
Westside Boogie might seem like an unlikely Shady Records signing by some observers, but the Compton talent more than bypasses expectations. With his latest album, MORE BLACK SUPERHEROES, Boogie blasts past any limits one could place upon him.
20. Westside Gunn – Peace “Fly” God
Westside Gunn is Hip-Hop’s greatest curator and he plays this role to perfection in his latest art piece, Peace “Fly” God. Bringing along Stove God Cooks and Estee Nack for the ride, Gunn largely plays the back but his outsized personality and ear for beats still remain the star of the show.
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