Mach-Hommy – Pray for Haiti
Mach has been a legend in the underground scene, his tapes being elusive due to pricing and exclusivity. Pray for Haiti saw a bit of a change however. Griselda has had a massive rise in popularity, and for this release, Mach linked back up with them. Being one of few of his streaming releases at the time of its release, it was many people’s intro to Mach. Production and sounds being curated by Westside Gunn, the beats are luxurious and paired with Mach’s unique set of lyricism, it makes for one of the more memorable releases of the year.
Marcy Mane – Flexico
Marcy Mane has been working for years, being a product of the cloud rap scene. While Marcy never reached the level of respect many of his peers met, such as Main Attrackionz, he never fell out of the sound and style. Instead he’s continued to perfect the style and continue to grow. Flexico sees his most psychedelic feeling release yet, each song is hypnotic and densely layered. With the nostalgia of cloud rap seeming to come around now, Marcy Mane should not be skipped.
Midwxst – SUMMER03
Hyperpop has taken the world by storm, being adopted by more and more mainstream artists like Trippie Redd. Midwxst is a newer act in the scene, but he’s been pushing the boundaries of it with each release. While instrumentally it is similar to other hyperpop acts, Midwxst provides these emo-esque lyrics with a melodic rap styling. A couple tracks even use guitar that feel reminiscent of pop punk acts. If there is an act to pay attention to in the hyperpop scene, its Midwxst.
BooGotti Kasino – On God
Texas native released multiple albums this year, totaling to four, but the true stand out this year was On God. His energy on this album is unmatched, feeling the most invigorated he’s ever been. He floats on the instrumentally effortlessly, songs like “Full Time Trappa” are full fledged trap bangers. Other tracks like “Warzone” are empty and spacy, allowing him to shine right through the instrumental. Boogotti continues to prove he’s one of the best new school voices coming out of Texas on this release.
#10: Your Old Droog – TIME
Droog has slowly gotten more conceptually with each new release. TIME has to be his most ambitious to date. While releases like Jewelry deal with the concept of being Jewish, it is a extremely personal story. TIME feels even bigger, dealing with the concept of time in multiple aspects. Anywhere from personal stories like “Please Listen to My Jew Tape” dealing with his music industry rise, to songs like “Magic Watch” which deals memories, time travel and lost connections. The album has many more tracks that deal with any concept imaginable, and this makes for the album being a mandatory listen.
#9: 42 Dugg – Free Dem Boyz
The Detroit scene has been on fire, but one of the most promising acts to come out of it has been 42 Dugg. While it is packed with bangers, a lot of the tracks deal with institutionalism. Multiple tracks here are dedicated to people Dugg has known throughout his life being locked up, ultimately ending with the track “Free Me.” The trap genre is often criticized for one-dimensionalism, but Dugg breaks free from that on this release.
#8: CoachDaGhost – Ghost Stories
Coach’s Ghost Stories remains one of the best NY Drill releases this year. His flows are effortless and he constantly plays with them, never allowing tracks to feel the same. His bars are some of the most lyrical out in the scene, always packed with multiple quotables in a track. He’s easily one of the most live and direct, addressing anything and everything possible. Even though he may now be facing trials for murder, he dropped one of the best albums in the scene just before it.
#7: iLoveMakonnen – Drink More Water 7
Dropping a fully freestyled tape, iLoveMakonnen introduced the 7th installment in his Drink More Water series. The album is filled with songs, totaling to an hour and a half of music. Surprisingly it never gets boring, the production is varied enough to meet the runtime and Makonnen sounds like he’s having the time of his life on the tracks. Tracks like “Being The Man” are sparse and easy listening, while tracks like “Super Chef 3” are lively bangers. Makonnen’s career has seemingly just been coasting the last couple of years, but he seems fully returned on this release.
#6: Green Ova Undergrounds / Shady Blaze – Shady Bambino 2
Squadda B & Shady Blaze have been innovators of the cloud rap scene, and Shady Bambino 2 see them many years later doing what they do best. Shady Blaze raps with a new perspective, his tumultuous career is expressed in detail on “Seven Years” and “Hard to Live” express his fatherhood. Squadda’s production feels as fresh as it ever has, and Shady is rapping with more serious content than ever before. Their first release together in about seven years is among their best.
#5: Boldy James & The Alchemist – Bo Jackson
Boldy & Alchemist have been on quite the run together, but Bo Jackson feels like a level up from The Price of Tea in China. His lyricism is equally cinematic and witty, and Alchemist’s production is thickly layered. There’s plenty of details that are easy to miss from a lyrical and production standpoint, making for one of most relistenable releases ever.
#4: RetcH & V Don – Gone Til’ Autumn
RetcH has been one of the most menacing voices in hip hop, and V Don has proven to be one of the most versatile producers out today. While V Don is phenomenal at making luxurious feeling tracks for rappers like Willie The Kid, he uses his full range of skills on RetcH. “Again” and “Shiesty” feel like the newer trap style that RetcH has been doing, meanwhile tracks like “Sound Like” sound like the older Polo Sporting Goods sound RetcH used to do. Together, they tap into RetcH’s full skill set to make his best release in years.
#3: Zillakami – Dog Boy
While City Morgue has been one of the best trap metal acts out, Zillakami has always been the standout of the group. On Zillakami’s first solo effort, he knocks it out of the park. “Nissan Only” and tracks like it are completely distorted bangers and tracks like “Frosty” are some of his most depressing today. The metal and grunge influences are strong on this one, “Hello” interpolates Nirvana and “Bleach” has riffs that feel like they could come from Incubus. The whole album culminates on “Space Cowboy” which capture the feelings of loss and depressive anxiety incredibly well, making for one of the best songs of the year.
#2: UnoTheActivist – Unoverse 3
UnoTheActivist’s production has been getting stranger and stranger seemingly with each release. Unoverse 3 feels the most fleshed out, sounding like something from the future. Conceptually its not futuristic, many of the songs deal with flexing and women. Paired with Uno’s insane sense of pockets for flows on a track, it makes for some of the catchiest music out there.
#1: Ankhlejohn x Da$h x Look Damien! – Honey Sweeter Than Blood
Ankhlejohn has released albums like a mad man over the last few years, and Da$h has slowly grinded the underground. The two pair together to create the most menacing sounding music of the year. Da$h’s lyrics are his best in years with plenty of memorable lines, and Ankhlejohn packs his bars with absurd multis on many of tracks. While Look Damien! has been around and working for awhile, he feels like a completely different producer on this release. The entire album feels like lightening captured in a bottle.