July was another strong month for rap albums. Unfortunately, there were two posthumous albums last month, from Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD. Both releases showed that they were stars in the making. On a brighter note, there were several impressive offerings from upcoming artists like Flo Milli, Che Noir, and SahBabii, who offered his first project in three years. Here are is the best rap albums of July, in no order:
Pop Smoke — Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon
50 Cent did a commendable job curating Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, a project that demonstrates Pop was on the road to superstardom. Songs like the “Many Men”-revitalizing “Got It On Me” and Fabolous-harkening “Something Special” show not just Pop’s New York rap fandom, but that he was primed to be next in line for the 2020s. “The Woo,” a breezy track featuring 50 and Roddy Ricch, similarly shows that he was primed to aim for the top of the charts with a charismatic mic presence that’s impossible to ignore. The potential that Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon shows it heartbreaking.
Juice WRLD — Legends Never Die
Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die was, sadly, the second posthumous album from a potential superstar to drop in the same month. The 21-track effort demonstrates how Juice gained his cult fanbase. Tracks like “Wishing Well” and “Tell Me U Luv Me” (with Trippie Redd) demonstrate that his melodic, earnest crooning over sentimental production is a winning formula. And tracks like “Stay High,” “Can’t Die,” and “Fighting Demons” are confessionals that resonate with a different level of pathos in the wake of his death by overdose. The Chicago MC has a prolific reserve of music, so there may be more even more posthumous projects coming. But if not, Legends Never Die is a fitting, heartfelt sendoff.
Westside Gunn — Flygod Is An Awesome God 2
Westside Gunn hinted that 2020 would be his last year as a rapper. But with the release of Flygod Is An Awesome God 2, his second project in several months, one of two things is happening: he’s trying to leave out with a bang or, like most rappers who threaten retirement, he’s realized he’s just too damn good at his craft to let go. Either way, his devotees should be thankful for the 14-track effort, which is another dose of street luxury over magnetic beats. A couplet from the bluesy “Michael Irvin” epitomizes his appeal: “Everybody think they fly now but ain’t nobody flyer / you ever cooked a half a brick in an air fryer?” Surely, 99.99999(9) percent of the population hasn’t, which is why his fans come to him for a surreal twist on trap aesthetics.
Currensy & Harry Fraud — The OutRunners
Currensy and Harry Fraud are a top-tier rapper-producer duo. The two make nothing but magic together, and their OutRunners project is another rabbit out of the hat. The nine-track project shows Currensy locked in over a suite of hazy, soulful Harry Fraud production. On “Cutlass Cathedrals,” he muses on how a trip to Rick Ross’ Georgia mansion inspired him to go “back to the grind for the first time in years.” Three tracks later, he boasted about the resulting Jet Life expansion on “Mugelo Red” with Rick Ross, contending, “these ain’t lyrics my n****, I spit it ’cause I did it.” And he continues to “do” it, delivering sage, lavish lyrics over arresting production.
Che Noir & Apollo Brown — As God Intended
One could rave endlessly about Che Noir’s wise-beyond-her-years lyricism — or explaining her brilliance could be as simple as saying she held her own with Black Thought on “Hustle Don’t Give” from As God Intended. Che was the ideal foil for Detroit producer Apollo Brown’s latest suite of impeccable head nodders, using the soulful canvas to reflect on why “since an innocent teen, my environment’s Freddy Krueger” as she noted on “Worth Gold.” She rhymed, “Close your eyes when I speak / It’s like watching a flick when I spit” on “Blood Is Thicker,” which could have easily been the first two bars of the project. Che offers a sharp perspective on how the decline of industry in Buffalo engendered poor communities — and a hoard of violent consequences.
Blu & Exile — Miles: From an Interlude Called Life
Blu and Exile’s 2007 Below The Heavens is an underground classic and 2012’s Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them was a strong follow up. Eight years later, the renowned duo finally reunited for Miles: From An Interlude Called Life, a 20-track project released on the 13th anniversary of their debut album. The project shows that their chemistry is intact, as Blu drops his pensive scribes over jazzy production that veers from the pristine “Music Is My Everything” to the free jazz of “Miles Davis.” The album is culled from 40 tracks they recorded, and their homage to the jazz great radiates a range of vibes.
Oddisee — The Cure
On the Bandcamp page for Odd Cure, rapper-producer Oddisee notes, ”For the first time in my life, the world has had a truly shared experience.” He sought to “provide a soundtrack to our thoughts, worries, hopes and dreams” on his surprise Odd Cure, which was written while he self-quarantined in March. The project is a thoughtful reflection on this surreal moment in history, as he explores COVID conspiracies on “The Cure,” economic inequality on “Go To Mars,” and what romantic fracture looks like during quarantine on “Strange,” with slick wordplay like “out front your place, I hide emotions but can’t mask depression.” COVID has everyone stressing, but we all had our own existential qualms before the pandemic hit. Oddisee explores our chaotic emotional fusion for us throughout his latest self-produced project.
Flo Milli — Ho, Why Is You Here ?
Flo Milli has been steadily buzzing over the past year off the strength of “Beef FloMix” and other songs that demonstrate a brimming bravado that’s delivered with a precocious, almost childlike vocal presence. Her debut Ho, Why Is You Here ? mixtape introduces us to the full scope of the Flo Milli experience through songs like “In The Party,” “Not Friendly,” and “Send The Addy.” She’s the center of her universe, and hating women, designer bags, and “weak n****s” (castigated on the SWV-sampling “Weak”) are mere dependents orbiting her ego. The effervescent, empowered project bodes well for Flo’s chances to be a winning personality for years to come.
Sahbabii — Barnacle
Atlanta’s Sahbabii seemed poised for stardom in the mid-2010s with his “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick” hit — then he disappeared. Last year it seemed like he had retired at just 22, but he’s back, animal theme intact on Barnacles. SahBabii is right back in his pocket on the 16-track project, floating over smooth, hypnotic production that feels like you’re in a submarine on cruise control. He sounds self-assured throughout the project, knowing exactly how to commandeer album standouts like “Poppin Sh*t,” “Pregnant,” and “Double Dick.” He reminded the rap world what they’ve been missing on Barnacles, which is one of the smoothest projects you’ll listen to all year.
Flee Lord — The People’s Champ
Queens rapper Flee Lord isn’t letting a thing hold him back. He’s released a project every month since February (after dropping five last year). His latest EP is a link up with legendary producer Pete Rock, who scored his latest collection of pyrex parables. From the jump, he lets you know what it is, rhyming that he’s “livin in the danger zone” and “smellin like cocaine cologne.” He explores much of the same themes throughout the project, rhyming over dusty drums and breakbeats like “24 Hollows” and “Mini Mac On A Fridge.” But he also tackles police brutality on “Givin’ Ya My View,” where he condemns the police system and commentates on Black people’s lack of self-defense, chastising “instead of buying guns you go and buy a grey Mercedes.”
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.