The rush to capture the best Hip-Hop releases of the year is sometimes an exercise of futility, especially when one considers the volume of music that gets pumped out daily. In compiling this list, we’ve tried to include everything we listened to and loved, knowing full well we might have missed a gem here and there.
It was an especially packed year full of ambitious concept projects, traditional boom-bap, elevated trap styles, depictions of living while Black in America, womanhood, the fragility of manhood, and so much more.
Along the way, we saw the reemergence of down-south industry veterans like 2 Chainz and Young Thug, the lyrical depth of New York’s underground wunderkind MIKE, the energetic bounce of women such as Megan Thee Stallion and Rico Nasty, and the claustrophobic yet introspective bars of billy woods.
Speaking of the underground’s youth movement, it’s come to a point that a rapper like Earl Sweatshirt is an OG at just 25, ushering in a wave of thoughtful, focused rhyming from the likes of North Carolina’s Mavi and California’s Maxo
2019 also proved that there is still room for trap tales when one considers the high skill and complete story-telling of Texas’ Maxo Kream. D.C.’s Wale proved once again that as far as artists go on a major scale, he’s as complete as they come. And Rapsody sat firmly in her throne as one of the best lyricists walking the planet. Across the pond, Little Simz put out one of the most honest projects among the many releases of the year. Schoolboy Q proved as he has before that he’s an artist that knows how to construct an album. Quelle Chris, who has been dope since Blue Monday, continues to innovate.
Concept albums also had a place in our rotation. East Atlanta’s Grip lays out the trials of living fast while trying to exist in a country where you’re seen as a danger to society, almost universally. BIG TURKS, a trio made up of Jamal Gasol, Rome Streetz, and Lord Juco dug in the crates to rock over samples from a Turkish martial arts film to great effect. Chicago’s Add-2 made a return with an album that examines the weight and complexities of Black America through a focused lens.
Then there were sequels in the opulent, lush stylings of Rick Ross, and a potent follow-up from the unlikely duo of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, proving that meshing differing styles can bring ear-pleasing results. We can’t forget the return of rap savant Danny Brown, giving us a project that was short, sweet and full of impact.
Veteran wordsmith Termanology also put publications on notice for ignoring his hard work in 2019, and he delivered as soulful a project we’ve heard all year complete with horn-tinged production. Washington, D.C. has another representative on our list in Kokayi, releasing an album that will reward a patient listener in its clever tale of what it means to be a Black man in all facets of life
Check out Hip-Hop Wired’s top albums of 2019, all in alphabetical order. Let us know which joints we missed, which we know we most certainly did.