The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of 2022
This year saw some of the biggest names in the game returning as well as underground favourites dropping new records
From the returns of Kendrick & Nas to huge producer/MC collabs and albums from underground faves like ELUCID and billy woods, these are our top 10 hip hop albums of 2022.
10. Black Thought & Danger Mouse - Cheat Codes
One of the biggest collabs of the year that was nearly two decades in the making, Black Thought of The Roots and legendary producer Danger Mouse were always going to deliver a modern classic. Across 12 tracks the pair cover everything from classic, soul sampling boom bap to more experimental sounds, bringing a stack of big name guests including Raekwon, Kid Sister, Joy Bada$$, ASAP Rocky, Run The Jewels and many more.
9. Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Curry’s fifth album saw him switching things up and mellowing out just a tad, offering a more personal and emotional perspective over his previously more energetic and in your face approach. With chilled, piano-laden beats the order of the day, Curry has plenty of room to deliver his more laidback rhymes that offer the most introspective bars we’ve heard from him so far.
8. ELUCID - I Told Bessie
One half of acclaimed duo Armand Hammer alongside billy woods (we’ll be talking about him more very soon) and favourite of the rap underground, ELUCID’s third album is a tribute to his paternal grandmother and a damn good record of leftfield hip hop. With production coming from the likes of The Alchemist, Kenny Segal, P.U.D.G.E. and more, the beats on the record are on the more abstract and experimental side of things, while guests including Pink Sifu, Quelle Chris and billy woods add the cherry bars on top.
7. billy woods - Aethiopes
Not to be outdone, ELUCID’s Armand Hammer collaborator and extremely prolific MC billy woods dropped his eighth solo record this year. Produced entirely by former Mos Def collaborator Preservation, the album’s hard hitting, often avantgarde jazz and experimental beats provide the perfect musical landscape for woods’ intense and passionate vocal deliveries.
6. Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
In a year of introspective rap records, Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated fifth album might have been the most an MC has looked inward. A confessional concept album of sorts, Lamar opens up and reflects on his journey through life so far, touching on everything from his experiences in therapy to generational trauma, infidelity to cancel culture and so much more, while a stack of guests including Ghostaface Killah and Beth Gibbons of Portishead feature.
5. Joey Bada$$ - 2000
Another long awaited return in the hip hop world occurred this year, with Joey Bada$$ dropping his first album in five years, with the wide ranging and classic-yet-innovative sounding 2000. From epic boom bap to downtempo sing-a-longs and laidback G funk to smooth R&B, 2000 sees Joey at his diverse best, while a limited but effective number of guest spots from the likes of Diddy, Westside Gunn and JID add some vocal spice.
4. Little Simz - NO THANK YOU
While she may have recency bias on her side having just dropped NO THANK YOU in mid-December, there’s no denying that Little Simz’ fifth album is her most epic and savage to date. Teaming up with SAULT producer and longtime collaborator and friend Inflo, NO THANK YOU's production is luscious and layered with elements of soul and gospel shining through, while Simz’ rapid-fire rhymes see her detailing her discontent with the music industry as a black British artist.
3. Nas - King’s Disease III
Keeping his “one record a year” pace since 2020’s King’s Disease and last year’s King’s Disease II, legendary MC Nas returned this year and blew the previous two iterations out of the water with the third installment. Once again produced by Hit-Boy and Nas himself, III shows that nearly 3 decades in, Nas is still top of the game.
2. Earl Sweatshirt - SICK!
2022 saw the return of another crossover favourite, with Earl Sweatshirt dropping SICK! way back in January, and yet it’s found it’s way into rotation all throughout the year. Arguably his most accessible and confident record to date, Earl steps out from the more withdrawn, experimental sounds we heard on Some Rap Songs, while the production is more melodic and beat-driven. Not wasting anytime, the 10 cuts on SICK! weigh in at just 24 minutes… the good news is, the repeat button was invented for a reason.
1. Roc Marciano & The Alchemist - The Elephant Man's Bones
Having already featured on this list three other times, with production credits on Earl, Elucid and Kendrick’s records, it seems only appropriate that our number 1 hip hop record of the year came from The Alchemist and his collab with New York MC extraordinaire, Roc Marciano. Bringing a cohesive sound that can only occur from such a collab, The Elephant Man’s Bones sees both of these legends of the scene at the top of their game - no mean feat given they’ve both been active since the 90s. Perfectly balancing a respect for the foundations of hip hop while still pushing things forward with the production that perfectly suits Marciano’s laidback, seemingly effortless flow, The Elephant Man’s Bones is truly a modern classic that deserves to be in any rap fans collection.