Summer is almost here, so there’s no better time for a hip-hop temperature check to see just where the genre is as a whole. While marquee releases from the likes of 2 Chainz, 21 Savage, Anderson .Paak, Boogie, and Denzel Curry set themselves apart from the pack, there have still been plenty of under-the-radar and under-appreciated projects that exemplify the best that hip-hop has to offer.
In fact, there were so many great rap projects — projects that pushed the boundaries of the style in eye-popping, entertaining, or thought-provoking new directions — that narrowing it down to just ten meant that plenty of fantastic projects were left off the list. Some of those projects include the work of well-respected veterans like Bun B and Tech N9ne, some were from established hit-makers like Gunna, PNB Rock, and YG, and some were from emerging talents that are still well-worth checking out, such as Duckwrth, Injury Reserve, Maxo, and Pivot Gang. Meanwhile, the trend of women breaking into hip-hop’s boys club continued with standout projects from the likes of Asian Da Brat, Dreezy, Saweetie, Tink, and Yung Baby Tate.
But in the end, these were the ten albums that stood out the most, representing a cross-section of styles and concepts that showcase the best of where hip-hop has been in the last six months — and some pretty good indicators of where it’s going. One thing to keep in mind: these are only albums that didn’t appear on our list of best albums of the year so far.
10. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Hoodie SZN
Even before his breakthrough single “Drowning” in 2017, A Boogie was already the voice of New York’s new generation of artists. The influence of the Bronx rapper’s melodic delivery can be heard in the sound of many of the city’s rising stars. On Hoodie SZN, the Uptown crooner invites some major label friends to the party. With guest appearances from Young Thug, Offset, Nav, and many others, it’s slightly bloated, but a fun time nonetheless.–Jordan Coley
9. Shy Glizzy, Covered N Blood
On the surface, Shy Glizzy’s latest album is a collection of braggadocious, menacing bangers such as “Demons,” and “Big Dipper” over thumping, mysterious production. But listening close enough to Glizzy’s lithe, sing-songy flow reveals traumatic nuggets laced in between the boasts such as “Big Dipper’s” “I swear there’s too much pain here for one young nigga” and “Demons’” “I cut the lights off in my house and I see fucking demons.” There’s clearly a lot at play in Glizzy’s world, even amid the excess.–Andre Gee