If there was any common thread uniting the increasingly diverse range of artists that make up the best hip-hop albums of 2022, it was that comebacks came back in a huge way this year. From top-line juggernauts like Kendrick Lamar to indie darlings like JID, Sampa The Great, and Smino, it seemed as though many of rap’s sleeping giants awakened from their hibernation to reestablish their dominance — or discover new heights of success.
Even those artists who have been regularly releasing through the last few years saw creative renewals or upgrades; Cordae, Freddie Gibbs, Vince Staples, and more dropped some of their most personal projects yet or stepped up their respective rap games to new levels of depth and versatility. And while marquee artists like Drake branched out in unexpected new directions, hip-hop’s middle class flourished as longtime vets and underground faves found fresh footing in the public’s regard, as well as critical acclaim.
A long time ago, someone said, “Don’t call it a comeback,” but even hip-hop artists who have been here for years are reinvented, reinvigorated, and relishing in newfound creative freedoms and commercial wins. Here are the best hip-hop albums of 2022. You can also check out the best albums of 2022 and best pop albums of 2022.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought — Cheat Codes
It had been a while since Danger Mouse — the acclaimed producer behind such projects as ASAP Rocky’s At.Lost.Lst.ASAP and MF DOOM’s The Mouse And The Mask — had collaborated with a rapper on a full project. Likewise, Black Thought, despite being the veteran frontman of powerhouse rap band The Roots, has rarely worked with producers outside of his Philly-based group, aside from a handful of very recent EPs with beatmakers 9th Wonder, Salaam Remi, and Sean C. Cheat Codes was already special from the moment of its conception, but unsurprisingly also lives up to the sky-high expectations set by both collaborators’ longstanding traditions of excellence. – Aaron Williams
Cash Cobain & Chow Lee – 2 Slizzy 2 Sexy
What Cash Cobain & Chow Lee did on 2 Slizzy 2 Sexy is ingenious. The rapper-producer duo injected a not-so-subtle horniness into New York’s already trending drill sound to create goofy but femme-friendly club anthems. The two are unafraid to detail their sexual pursuits on songs like “Jholiday” and pair raunchiness with samples cherry-picked from R&B classics and hip-thrusting drum patterns. Before pressing play on seemingly innocent tracks like “Hate U Delilah” (sampling the Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah”), remind yourself that Cash and Cow aren’t Black Star or OutKast. Still, they’re just as clever and charismatic, and, most importantly, they’ve made a d*ck imprint on New York’s rap scene. – Ellice Ellis
Coi Leray — Trendsetter
This time last year, Coi Leray was just another newcomer with a smash viral hit under her belt (2021’s “No More Parties” featuring Lil Durk). Drawing comparisons to other, more established rappers, and becoming a lightning rod for social media debates about everything from her inclusion in the XXL Freshman Class to her tendency to twerk at a moment’s notice, she had a lot to prove on her debut album. That’s exactly what she did with Trendsetter, securing another monster Hot 100 hit in “Blick Blick” featuring Nicki Minaj while proving she’s more than just a one-trick pony. – A.W.
Cordae — From A Bird’s Eye View
Cordae may have deemed his solo debut a more successful effort than its sequel, but as he told Uproxx in his October cover story, the latter may end up becoming the better project artistically when all is said and done. With tracks like “Chronicles” and “Coach Carter” unlocking his storytelling and highlighting his growth as a writer and as a human, he’s got plenty of evidence to back that claim. – A.W.
Denzel Curry — Melt My Eyez See Your Future
After spending a decade of his career at the forefront of the thrash rap movement (and mixing in a little traditionalist boom-bap), the Florida mainstay spreads his wings on his latest effort. In addition to dabbling in drum and bass on “Zatoichi,” Denzel advocates for going to therapy, and expresses his desire for a Star Wars starfighter over a new whip. The standout is “Walkin,” a motivational track that encourages perseverance through any manner of adversity. – A.W.
Earl Sweatshirt — Sick!
One of the most enigmatic members to come out of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, also known by his stage name Earl Sweatshirt, has grown up right before our eyes, and this album proves it. Throughout that time, the rapper has repaired issues with family members, lost his father, and became one himself. With Sick!, Earl Sweatshirt offers a specific sonic clarity that can only be achieved with maturity, encouraging fans to do the same. As he said in “Fire In The Hole: ‘It’s no rewinding/ For the umpteenth time, it’s only forward.” – Alexis Oatman
Earthgang — Ghetto Gods
As drill continues to dominate hip-hop, Atlanta duo EARTHGANG (Olu and WowGr8) remains a breath of fresh musical air. Merging elements of the region’s trap signature and crisp new sounds, Ghetto Gods is a modern conscious album minus the stuffiness. The pair makes political, racial, and economic topics accessible by highlighting how they are both affected by them and have affected them. From their masterclass lyrical showcase, superb guest features, and a genius blend of music elements, the 17-track album had all the makings of a commercial success if marketed properly. EARTHGANG is the breakout act on the Dreamville label and Ghetto Gods is inarguably one of the best hip-hop releases of the year. – Flisadam Pointer
EST Gee — I Never Felt Nun
For the fourth consecutive year, Louisville, KY rapper EST Gee sent another batch of music into the world with I Never Felt Nun. The project continued the display of his numb feelings toward the world and the wrong it’s done to him following Ion Feel Nun and I Still Don’t Feel Nun. This time around, EST Gee’s tales are told with impenetrable armor. He’s no longer waiting to see if you can knock him down, but rather, he simply tells you that you can’t. Over the last few years, EST Gee has won time and time again through the release of quality projects, and I Never Felt Nun is another example of that. – Wongo Okon
Flo Milli — You Still Here, Ho?
The resurgence of women in rap is a sight to see. Of the rookies fighting for attention, it’s hard to ignore Alabama rapper Flo Milli. Her album You Still Here, Ho? highlights the viral sensation’s ability to convert notable pop culture moments into catchy songs. The project demonstrates that Flo Milli’s strength rests in her ability to select the perfect samples, pull memorable visual references, and strategize a marketing plan. When these elements are melted together, it makes the results irresistible. The raw lyrics, crude delivery, and pure cockiness displayed across the album prove Flo Milli is a tough cookie willing to fight her way to the top. You Still Here, Ho? established that Flo Milli is nearly in her journey to rap superstardom and fans are eager to push her to the next level. – F.P.
Fly Anakin — Frank
Mutant Academy rapper Fly Anakin has been establishing himself as one of underground rap’s most personable conversationalists, teaming up with producer Pink Siifu in 2020 to raise his visibility and showcase his unique lyrical sensibilities to a slightly different audience. With Frank, he shifts focus to himself, delivering an autobiographical observation of his career so far without sacrificing any of the quirky, witty idiosyncrasies that made him stand out in the first place. — A.W.
Freddie Gibbs — Soul Sold Separately
Freddie Gibbs has made it abundantly clear that he considers himself one of the best rappers in the biz and Soul Sold Separately is yet another resounding exhibit of proof. Rather than working with only one producer (Madlib on Pinata and The Alchemist on Alfredo), Gibbs brings in an elite full stable of beat conductors to put him on a pedestal: Kaytranada, DJ Paul, Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, James Blake, etc… The result is perhaps the most accessible Gibbs release yet, one that sees the rapper unafraid to confront his insecurities in a concept album about being holed up in a casino putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece. – Adrian Spinelli
Future — I Never Liked You
Hailed as one of the poster boys for toxicity due to the handling of his very public split from his former fiancée Ciara, Future doesn’t run from the label on I Never Liked You. Instead, he embraces it. Throughout the 22-track project, he taps into what we love about him the most, his pernicious ability to address the pitfalls of relationships. The album, which is the Atlanta rapper’s ninth, cleverly plays off the social media conversations surrounding the rapper and the women he has dated. He has no problem being a vindictive lover and wants us to know it. – A.O.
Gunna — DS4EVER
With his third studio album, the rapper had the entire world “pushing p.” The 20-track project debuted at No.1 on Billboard and became Gunna’s second number-one album, following 2020’s Wunna. Gunna seems to drip a particular cool you can’t find the store — complete with his eccentric style, the rapper is no stranger to grabbing attention from the masses. With this album, the rapper solidifies his position in the rap game as one of the most notable rappers in hip-hop today. – A.O.
IDK — Simple
Before Beyoncé and Drake laced Renaissance and Honestly, Nevermind with house, IDK tapped Kaytranada to executive produce Simple. The May album is an exemplary juxtaposition — slicing bars about the trauma found in Simple City, a DMV neighborhood, packaged as dance/hip-hop candy. “Taco” is code for bullet shells. “Dog Food” featuring Denzel Curry interpolates Lil Wayne’s “Tha Block Is Hot” and illuminates IDK’s dizzying wordplay, making a generational drug crisis palatable. “Let me catch my breath,” IDK sings in “Breathe,” the project’s spacious sonic respite. Those who know, know; those who don’t can at least catch the rhythm. – Megan Armstrong
JID — The Forever Story
The long-awaited third album from the Dreamville veteran proved to be worth the wait as he dove into autobiography (“Kody Blu 31,” “Crack Sandwich“) and bent his prodigious lyrical skills to broader social commentary (“Money,” “Lauder Too”). In the midst of his introspection, though, he still found time to prove that he is one of the best rappers out today on tracks like “Surround Sound,” where he defied convention and pinned his pride to his pen, rapping like the rent was due and he wanted to get paid up until the next election cycle. – A.W.
Jack Harlow — Come Home The Kids Miss You
Jack Harlow’s Grammy-nominated Come Home The Kids Miss You hinges on the same sentiment as his standout 2020 debut, That’s What They All Say: reconciling home with newfound fame. The Fergie-boosted “First Class” monopolized the mainstream this year, but elsewhere on the album, Drake, Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell validate Harlow as their peer. “Like A Blade Of Grass” stands mas Harlow’s sharply penned thesis: dripping in clumsy romance, reminiscent of the awkward Louisville kid, and nodding toward the women shouldering his fan base. – M.A.
Joey Badass –- 2000
Joey Badass’s long-awaited sequel to his breakthrough mixtape, 1999, proved to be worth the wait. On 2000, Joey hones in on the sounds of the early ‘10s blog era, delivering sharp social commentary on issues like gun violence and police brutality. Without getting too preachy, Joey maintains a positive outlook for the future, emphasizing the importance of community. In the decade since the release of 1999, 2000 proves that Joey has not lost his momentum. – Alex Gonzalez
Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
There’s nothing comforting about Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. The double-disc release, which brought a close to his time as the face of TDE, goes against nearly everything Kendrick was heralded for. He is often praised for his ideologies and thoughts that were deemed as politically correct, both of which contributed to his placement as “rap’s savior.” However, Kendrick intentionally set out to prove that he is none of the aforementioned items on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, and he succeeds in doing so. Whether you agree with Kendrick’s sentiments or not, the way he goes about through his lyricism, boldness, and honesty is not only admirable but proof of why he’s still one of today’s best rappers. – W.O.
Kid Cudi – Entergalactic
Though much of Kid Cudi’s 10th studio album was recorded in 2019, the material feels fresh and timeless. On Entergalactic, Cudi chooses to invite love in, after closing himself off for so long. Accompanied by a beautiful animated Netflix film, Entergalactic paints romantic scenes of New York City, as the music encapsulates the nerves, the fear, and the joy that come with falling in love. With support from his friends, voiced by Ty Dolla Sign and Timothee Chalamet, Cudi faces all of these feelings and embraces the unknown. – A.G.
Larry June – Spaceships On The Blade
This has been bubbling for a minute, but 2022 was the year where Larry June cemented himself as San Francisco’s alpha rapper. Unapologetically from Frisco and unapologetically himself, Uncle Larry has become just so damn interesting. His raps flash the tales of a dude who used to sell cutty bangs on the street, to one who pulls up his Lambo around the front entrance before doubling back to get the Rolls. He lives a healthy lifestyle, rolls hard AF, is finally taking a well-deserved trip around the sun, and you just want to hear more about it at every turn. Good job Larry. – A.S.
Latto — 777
With all the chit-chat back-and-forth recently about charts and relevance, it’s easy to forget (and that’s by design) that Latto’s single “Big Energy” had the streets in a chokehold for just about the entire spring. The album that followed it is full of bangers that resonated with Latto’s target audience, if not the pop audience that discovered her through her Mariah Carey-sampling hit, and with songs like “Sunshine,” the Atlanta native flexed creative muscles that prove she’ll remain a powerful presence in the rap world even without appealing to that certain fanbase which inspired much of the recent wave of hate. – A.W.
Leikeli47 — Shape Up
A criminally overlooked gem from the year’s still-innocent first quarter, Leikeli47’s third studio album turned out to be prophetic and subversive. “BITM” is rooted in the ball culture that also informed Beyoncé’s Renaissance later in the year, while “LL Cool J” pays homage to street corner cyphers as Leikeli details a flirtatious interaction that asserts bold, independent femininity and an alternate take on the unabashed sexuality that has become a hallmark of rap’s unofficial women’s division. – A.W.
Lil Durk — 7220
With his eighth studio album, 7220, Lil Durk has matured from the promising young talent from Chicago’s bubbling drill music scene into one of the hottest hip-hop artists in the game today. This project offers the grittiness we expect from the rapper and gives fans a peak into his life as he deals with insecurities from his past, fatherhood, and the pitfalls of fame. Throughout the 30-track project, the rapper also addresses dealing with grief, especially after watching some of his closest friends die, particularly with the recent passing of his protegee, King Von, in 2020. – A.O.
Megan Thee Stallion – Traumazine
The pain Megan Thee Stallion has faced over the past three years is unfathomable. On her sophomore album, Traumazine, Meg directs her trauma into her music, creating her most cohesive effort to date. Through dancing the pain away on the ballroom-inspired “Her,” putting her fears on display on the raw, vulnerable “Anxiety,” and kissing off trifling men on the scorching, flow-switching “Plan B,” Meg puts into words all the things we may not have been bold enough to say. – A.G.“
Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry
Pusha T began the year with the bold claim that he would undoubtedly have the rap album of the year by the end of 2022. It’s Almost Dry arrived to prove that he was not talking up a big game. A rarity in today’s streaming era, the concise 12 songs that made up Pusha’s latest body of work feature a blend of production from Kanye West and Pharrell. While the championed producers’ beats differ in style, one thing remains the same: Pusha’s never-ending yet exciting spool of coke bars, that he unwinds for his captivated audience from top to bottom on It’s Almost Dry. Now throw in a thrilling appearance from Jay-Z and a long-waited awaited Clipse reunion, among other things, and you have an album that is in great contention to receive the crown that Pusha seeks. – W.O.
Quavo & Takeoff — Only Built for Infinity Links
While it’s incredibly frustrating knowing that Migos will never be able to reunite now, there’s some comfort in knowing that Takeoff was at the height of his craft before his death. If the Migos’ output resembled a three-man weave, Unc & Phew’s duo project could best be described as a perfectly executed pick-and-roll in which either teammate could both set up the play and score. “Hotel Lobby” set the tone, but “Nothing Changed,” “Messy,” and more display the crisp chemistry between the two North Atlanta natives, which is distinct from Migos’ musical melange and flavorful in its own, effortless way. – A.W.
Rexx Life Raj – The Blue Hour
On his most personal release to date, Rexx Life Raj’s The Blue Hour takes listeners on an emotional rollercoaster. Rexx details every transition he’s endured over the course of the past two years, from losing his parents to leaving his longtime home, all the while, forcing himself to sit with his pain. On “New Normal,” Rexx copes with the fact that nothing will ever feel the same after experiencing a tremendous loss. On the Afrofusion-inspired “Beauty In The Madness,” he finds glimmers of hope while on his journey to healing. While The Blue Hour features Rexx experimenting with various sounds, he grounds himself in the music, without running away from any emotion. – A.G.
Roddy Ricch — Feed Tha Streets 3
A late entry that the Compton native slid in just under the wire, the third entry in the beloved Feed Tha Streets series was viewed by some as a potential commentary on Roddy’s career trajectory as a whole ahead of its release. While some saw it as a chance for him to bounce back, others viewed it as a make-or-break effort that would determine whether his historic success in 2020 was a fluke or just the start of a legendary run. While debates about legacies less than five years into a career are a bit overdramatic, fortunately for Roddy, his latest effort looks more like the latter. – A.W.
Saba — Few Good Things
Following up his fan-favorite 2018 project Care For Me, the Chicago rapper traded in the melancholy vibes of his prior album for a more optimistic approach on his latest. That isn’t to say that Few Good Things doesn’t have weighty topics on its mind; made in the wake of tragedies both global (a pandemic) and personal (the death of Pivot Gang’s DJ Squeak), Few Good Things finds Saba doing a fair share of soul-searching again. This time, though, he comes up with an answer for the angst: Holding onto family, friends, and cherished memories to anchor him through the storm. – A.W.
Sampa The Great — As Above So Below
In my September review of the Zambian artist’s sophomore album, I called it one of the top five hip-hop albums of the year. I stand by that, and now, with one of the album’s songs gracing the Wakanda Forever trailer, it is apparent that others are taking note. By shedding a light on African musical styles, Sampa sets herself apart from her contemporaries while broadening hip-hop’s horizons in a way that will probably become more and more apparent in the coming years. – A.W.
Smino — Luv 4 Rent
Simply put, St. Louis native Smino is a cool cat. From his mellow personality to unique style to his music sensibilities — Smino makes it seem effortless. However, on Luv 4 Rent, the melodic rapper revealed his carefree persona is an act of self-preservation. The gumbo of funk, gospel, rap, R&B, and blues chronicles the fickle nature of love when tethered to chaos. Loaded with a flurry of witty metaphors and punchlines, Smino chronicles the peaks and valleys of relationship (personal, familial, romantic, and professional) maintenance that only becomes more challenging with fame. Smino’s most vulnerable body of work to date required him to reach a new creative peak, to which he over-delivered. – F.P.
Van Buren Records — DSM
Massachusetts is known for quite a few things, like its sports teams (hello first-place Boston Celtics). What some may not know is that the New England state features a relatively small, yet growing music scene within it. Rap collective Van Buren Records is undoubtedly proof of that. That group released their sophomore album DSM this year and what’s presented is a group that can flawlessly combine their talents for a concise, high-level, and diverse body of work not just once, but on multiple occasions (see: Bad For Press). Van Buren Records is just getting started and they’re far from finished. – W.O
Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Over the last couple of years, Vince Staples has been putting out flawless art. His fifth album, Ramona Park Broke My Heart, arrived in the spring of this year, for what some could reasonably argue is his best project to date. Unlike his earlier collections, the 16 songs on Ramona Park Broke My Heart use softer production as a soundtrack for Vince’s raps. Nonetheless, Vince’s lyrics and stories remain the same. His blunt tales pierce the ear and leave you in shock at the circumstances he was dealt with as a youth. Yet, there are moments of nonchalance and peace that signal better days on the horizon. Ramona Park Broke My Heart doesn’t reveal Vince’s disappointment with his hometown, but rather, it touches on all the things that altered him and his approach to the world. – W.O.
Some artists mentioned here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.