I’ll be straight with you. It’s been a weird year for hip-hop. It’s the end of a decade and with that seems to come a change in the air. We weren’t given any mainstream instant classics. We lost two big names in the industry…RIP Nipsey and RIP Juice. However, we were given a lot of young guns who have the potential to be the future of the next decade. I’m excited to see what is created in the new decade as rap becomes more and more mainstream. With that said, here’s to a great year for hip-hop and here’s to many many more!
Mir Fontane – Who’s Watching the Kids 2
I had to mention this album on here because it’s like…” who’s watching the kids?” In all seriousness, this is the 4th project from the Camden rapper Mir Fontane and the follow up to Who’s Watching The Kids. It’s gritty, quick, and full of tough choruses.
Juice WRLD – Death Race For Cutie
This was already on my top ten radar since it dropped. It’s a shame we lost Juice at such a young age. The man had some serious talent. Yes, he was an “e-boi” rapper but his ability to freestyle and flow was impressive. Death Race for Love was 100 times better than his debut project and showed me that he wasn’t just a clout chaser after “Lucid Dreams” blew up. RIP Juice!
Beast Coast – Escape From New York
This was missing a certain amount of verses from a prominent member of the Brooklyn scene…aka Joey Bada$$. However, that didn’t keep it off my list in some way or another. This album is fantastic if you are a fan of Pro Era, The Underachievers, and Flatbush Zombies. The only thing it needed to get on the Top Ten was more from Joey but oh well. “Left Hand”, “Coast/Clear”, and “Far Away” never left my rotation this year.
DaBaby – Baby on Baby
Wow…2019 has been something else for DaBaby. This man is no rookie but feels like he cracked the “rap industry” code to break out from regional icon to rap superstar. If you didn’t hear a track off this album at some point this year, I am shocked. I swear every time I’m driving in NY and turn on 105.1 it always is playing “Suge”.
The Ten Spot
Guapdad 4000 – Dior Deposits
Following ROTD3, Guapdad 4000 was suddenly thrown into the limelight. The Oakland rapper had been putting out tons of singles and a few EPs but after his features on the Dreamville collab project, he started to get more attention. Dior Deposits feels like a debut album from someone who knows exactly what they are doing. This project is extremely well produced and has that West Coast vibe. On top of it, Guapdad piles on the features with everyone from Chance and G-Eazy to 6LACK and Tory Lanez. This is the perfect album for anyone who loves hip-hop that toes the line of being R&B. You have to go and listen to “Stuck With It”, “Gucci Pajamas”, and “Can’t Stop Finessing” to catch the wave and vibe out.
The Nine Spot
Denzel Curry – ZUU
Curry is tough and ZUU is tougher. It’s funky and aggressive and I love it. “RICKY”, “ZUU”, “WISH”, and “SPEEDBOAT” haven’t left my rotation since the summer. South Florida has a history of producing talented rappers…Rick Ross, XXXTentacion, and T-Pain. Denzel Curry definitely takes influence from his area while carving out his own unique style. He is aggressive, experimental, and gritty all while making catchy hooks that you want to sing along to. The beats on this alone could make up their own album with the way they blend and flow together mixing hip-hop drums, funky keys, and electronic mixings.
The Eight Spot
ScHoolboy Q – CrasH Talk
“CrasH Talk Take One”. I love Q and was honestly a bit nervous about this project. In high school, I listened to Oxymoron heavily so I had high hopes for this project. From the opening seconds of “Gang Gang”, I immediately got hyped. Is this better than his early music? It has its moments but what is more important is that, as a 2019 album, this stood out. Here you have an “older” rapper who seemed to take more of a mentor position in the TDE camp for the last few years come back and put out an artistically-pleasing, yet style-focused album. You can say what you want about this project but you can’t tell me “CHopstix”, “Numb Numb Juice”, and “Floating” don’t slap.
The Seven Spot
2 Chainz – Rap or Go to the League
This is the best-produced album behind what is at that number one spot. 2 Chainz truly killed it with this album and I’m impressed, to say the least. The Atlanta rapper hasn’t always been very heavy in my rotation but the story that plays out on this project, as well as the hard-hitting verses and well put-together trap beats, made me a fan. The feature list here is impressive…Kendrick, Travis, Thug, Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla, Chance, Wayne, Kodak, and E-40…god damn. On top of it, the beats are top quality from start to finish. My favorite has to be the one on “I Said Me”, which samples “The Sound of Music”. All in all, Rap or Go to the League aged like a fine wine as it only seemed to improve with every listen I gave it.
The Six Spot
Dreamville – Revenge of the Dreamers 3
From the jump this album is awesome. DaBaby has hands down the best verse on the entire album on “Under the Sun”, let alone his best verse of the year. Dreamville has become one of the best creative outlets in the rap industry and that was proven with the short YouTube documentary that went with this album’s release. The idea J. Cole had to bring together rappers, producers, and singers from every clout level is huge, not only for Dreamville as a label and brand but also for rap as an industry. My only issue with ROTD3 is the lack of cohesion between the tracks. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a song on here that isn’t fire but most feel like a combination of singles and not a cohesive album. That being said, there is truly something here for everyone. “Wells Fargo” is for someone who loves fast-tempo rap or is about to rob a bank. “Got Me” is for R&B fans. “Ladies, Ladies, Ladies” is for old school hip-hop fans that love witty rhymes and lines.
The Five Spot
Benny The Butcher – The Plugs I Met
“Crowns for Kings” is one of the best songs of 2019 and I was very late to the game to realize that. The short 7-track album was released in June but it took me until October to recognize how insanely good the second track on the project is, as well as the whole album itself. I was walking through NYC and decided to give the whole thing a listen from start to finish. Man oh man is this project dark, grimy, and wordy but wow is it good. It’s got that old school New York gutter rap style with a new school vibe to it. What’s most impressive to me is Benny himself. He brings on some heavy hitters as features (Jadakiss, Black Thought, and Pusha T) yet still does not get outworked. This record proves that Benny is not the kind of rapper you push aside or ignore. Instead, The Plugs I Met demonstrates Benny’s guttural lyricism and intense craftsmanship.
The Four Spot
YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy
In 2018, I had never heard of YBN Cordae. In 2019, he was one of my favorite “new kids on the block”. He mixes the perfect amount of soul, hip-hop, and the sound and feel of everyday Chicago. For a debut album, Cordae had to prove that he was more than “Have Mercy”. Luckily for us, he did exactly that and introduced us to a very talented young Chicago artist who looks like he could become another heavy hitter in the industry. This album was ranked highly on a lot of blogs and I gave it a 9.5 as well. It’s clear that this kid has the potential to truly be a name in hip-hop. I believe that in ten years, we will all be looking back at The Lost Boy with the same nostalgia we look at Drake’s So Far Gone or Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon. I can’t forget to mention that “RNP” is my song of the year…nothing has even come close to topping it.
The Three Spot
Anderson .Paak – Ventura
Ventura making my list gives Paak back to back years on my list. Once again, the Californian has provided the definition of vibes in an album. It’s soothing, sexy, and feels like you are cruising in a drop-top along the West Coast. Starting the album off with “Come Home” was Paak’s sign of respect to the legend, Andre 3000, who gave him the honor of a feature. Paak has some of the most unique vocals in hip-hop. I never get bored of giving these tracks a listen. They just sound fun to the ear and make you want to dance with the fast, funky tempo of his voice. “Make It Better”, “Good Heels”, and “Chosen One” are just a few that highlight this specifically. On top of everything, the album has a great culmination of beats that are just as smooth and sexy as Paak’s voice. The drums throughout are fantastic and I highly recommend going back and only focusing them through an entire listen.
The Two Spot
Boogie – Everything’s For Sale?
This album was soooooo incredibly close to getting the number one spot if it wasn’t for Freddie Gibbs. I initially discovered this album on Reddit’s r/hiphopvinyl. Someone had picked it up and talked about how amazing the album was in the comments. Being a skeptic but intrigued by the cover art, I gave it a listen…and then another and another and another. This album is Compton all the way but depressing as hell. Boogie is brutally honest about his feelings and was determined to get people to reflect on their own lives even if they don’t directly connect to the stories he unravels. “Rainy Days” is a perfect example of a raw, reflective mood. Everything’s For Sale? is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated projects of the year. It has some amazing features like 6LACK, JID, Eminem, and Snoh Aalegra that all fit perfectly onto the album. Boogie does a great job finding his flow on this album as he provides that low, melodic feel the project gives you. You can’t help but vibe on every track or sing along to the chorus of “Silent Ride” and “Skydive”. Luckily enough for me, after discovering this album on a hip-hop vinyl forum, I was able to pick my own copy and it is easily my most spun record.
The One Spot
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
As mentioned in the intro, 2019 felt like a changing of tides for hip-hop. However, one producer came back to prove that the days of “crate digging” are far from over. Madlib and Freddie Gibbs teamed up to release a collab album at the end of June. If you have never heard of even of these two, I would recommend first checking out their 2014 album Piñata, which is one of those “must-listens of the decade”. While this album is no Piñata, this album is insanely well done. Madlib surprisingly enough announced that he made every beat on his iPad, which is impressive, to say the least. “Half Manne Half Cocaine” has one of the cleanest beat switches of the year while “Giannis” and “Crime Pays” are the waviest beats on the album. On Gibbs’ end, the vocals are on point. Everything feels perfectly organized and well-executed. I can only imagine some of these tracks took take after take to get just right. Gangsta Gibbs stays true to his sound on this album, providing us with the dark, gritty, and aggressive feel we are used to. Is it for everyone? Hell no. However, for anyone who appreciates lyricism, Gibbs will provide that for you. Favorite line has got to be “Shot caller, put them shooters on you like D’Antoni/Top dollar, lock me up and I make the bond, no Big baller, father, you my son like Lonzo”. I promise you that if you haven’t listened to this album yet, give it a listen and you will understand why both Classic and I thought this was a no brainer for Album of the Year!