There don’t seem to be many things going right nowadays, but at least this was another strong month for the best rap albums. The month was kicked off with a mega drop from Drake, and also had a trio of sophomore albums from Gunna, Polo G and KOTA The Friend that were all impressive in distinct manners. Future released his latest project, as did seasoned rhymers like Ka, Conway, and Freddie Gibbs. Check out the full list of the best rap albums from May below:
Drake — Dark Lane Demo Tapes
Drake is one of the most prolific artists of his time. He has so many loosies laying around that he put together a compilation called Care Package last year — and he already has enough for another compilation entitled Dark Lane Demo Tapes. Aside from relatively upbeat moments like “Toosie Slide” and “Demons,” the project is another dose of doleful lamentations and existential discontent for the world’s most distressed superstar. There has been mounting criticism that Drake no longer seems to be leading the wave as much as chasing it. But, songs like “Chicago Freestyle,” “Losses,” and “From Florida With Love” show that even if he’s not in his creative prime (a question his next studio album will answer), he’s still compelling at his best.
Gunna — Wunna
Gunna might have already won the 2020 award for most creative branding around a project. His Wunna era has come complete with and a “Wunnascope” collaboration with @TheHoodHealer but that doesn’t mean he’s all about positive vibes. Consider these bars from “Cooler Than A Bitch” featuring Roddy Ricch: “Your favorite rapper burnt and he runnin’ out of hits / Say the wrong word, and I’ma shoot him in his sh*t.” It’s unmistakable that Wunna’s thematic grounding is still the streets of Atlanta on his latest collection of slinky flows over immersive Wheezy beats. The album’s 19-tracks could eventually wear for those who aren’t diehard Gunna fans, but songs like “Skybox,” the erotic “Nasty Girl / On Camera” and the “Hot”-adjacent “Top Floor” show Gunna at his best.
Polo G — “GOAT”
Polo G’s sophomore studio album Isn’t just one of the best albums of May, it’s some of the best work you’re gonna hear all year. The Chicago rhymer’s melodic flow and technical lyricism is an elite combination. He infuses his lyrical gift with grim, honest depictions of Chicago that explore themes of grief, self-medicating, and violence — and how they’re all interconnected. So many young artists are being forthright about how the trauma of systemic oppression manifests in their life. Polo is doing the same, from chemical dependency (explored on “21” with the late Juice WRLD) to romantic relationships on “Beautiful Pain (Losing My Mind),” where he rhymes, “it’s hard to love with dysfunction, wish my scars was thinner.” Polo’s GOAT title is a lofty aspiration, but in time he just may have a claim as he continues to experience life and refine his artistry.
Freddie Gibbs — Alfredo
Last year, Freddie Gibbs declared himself the best rapper in the world, and he’s given those in agreeance no reason to let up off that claim. He’s been in the zone for over four years now, and that run doesn’t slow up on Alfredo, a soulful collaboration album with Alchemist. Gangsta Gibbs is one of the game’s best examples of sticking to the script and excelling, as the project shows him rattling off flows and quotables like “Michael Jordan, 1985, b*tch, I travel with a cocaine circus” on Alchemist’s soulful, lowkey production. Griselda artists Conway and Benny The Butcher both appear on the album, each giving a taste of what a joint EP with Gibbs could sound like.
Mozzy — Beyond Bulletproof
Mozzy got subversive with the title of his latest project, Beyond Bulletproof, noting that, “In my neighborhood and the ghettos of America, ‘bulletproof’ means ‘love.’” He shows love to his native Sacramento throughout the project, exploring the good, bad, and ugly of Northern Cali with features like Eric Bellinger, Polo G, G Herbo, and King Von. The latter two appear on “Body Count,” an album standout where the three artists trade menacing bars over a piano loop fit for a horror scene. But beyond the no-nonsense bangers, Mozzy is also beloved for his introspection, and “Betrayed” and “I Ain’t Perfect” fit that bill, where he laments the toll oppression has taken on his community and expresses “compassion for the hopeless and the homeless ’cause they been through enough.” Mozzy has been through his own share of turmoil, and the game should be thankful that he’s so adept at expressing it on his latest.
Little Simz — Drop 6
In late April, Little Simz took to Instagram to speak for many right now by lamenting that, “I don’t mind being alone…however choosing to be alone is different from being forced to be alone and that’s where the difficulty comes in.” The forced quarantining in the wake of Covid-19 has society feeling a myriad of emotions, and Simz culled through her own emotional stage on Drop 6, the latest entry of her Drop mixtape series. As she noted on project intro “Might Bang, Might Not,” she’s a “one-woman army” on the five-song project, looming over the album’s sparse production with her vulnerable poetics. The project feels like a portrait of the moment, as she explores matters of life and career, surmising on “You Should Call Mum” that “times we livin’ in don’t seem real / But it was never a fairytale to begin with.”
KOTA The Friend — Everything
KOTA The Friend’s FOTO project was a portrait of Brooklyn through the lens of twentysomethings experiencing life trials amid the beast of gentrification. He has expressed wanting Everything, his latest project, to be a bit more upbeat for his burgeoning fanbase. He accomplishes that goal with fun, feel-good tracks like “B.Q.E.” with Bas and Joey Badass, “Always” with Kyle and Braxton Cook and the title track, which he posits as that “spend a week up in the mountains just to heal some“ type music. His slick, ever-confident delivery bolsters lyrics about his ascension and rhymes about people who are always “jackin that you know me but you knew me” on “Morocco.” Indeed, the versatility of Everything shows that KOTA The Friend is constantly evolving as an artist, which can only reflect personal evolution.
Ka — Descendants Of Cain
There are probably a lot of people culling through the bible these days — but few, if any could transfuse the good book’s contents into a work as compelling as Ka’s Descendants Of Cain, the Brooklyn rapper’s seventh studio album. Ka is one of the rap game’s best-kept secrets, mostly because the lowkey lyricist wants it that way. But tracks like “Solitude Of Enoch” and “Sins Of The Father” with Roc Marciano speak loudly for his presence. The masterful rhymer gets off his thought-provoking witticisms in sparse, spoken word-esque couplets, darting through minimalist beats with reflective gems like “My past bent me, see it half-empty / My theme’s still tryin’ to get clean from last century” that act as passages on their own.
Key Glock — Son Of A Gun
Released right in time for mother’s day, Key Glock’s Son Of A Gun project is a tribute to his mother, as well as an exhibition of why he’s one of the game’s most intriguing trap rappers. He’s in his wheelhouse throughout the 15-track album, rhyming over a collection of hypnotic loops that serve as the perfect framework for his gun-toting, braggadocious lyrics. The beats lure you in, and Key Glock keeps you enthralled with his intense mic presence. He talks big on “Money Talks” and “Flexxxin,” where he lets us know “I still ain’t touch my stash.” But it’s not all good. Album standout “I Can Tell” shows him in paranoia mode, rhyming, “It’s a lot of rappers hatin’ on me, I can tell.” As much as rappers shout out imaginary haters, the knack for quality street music that Son Of A Gun displays makes it believable.
Larry June & Cardo — Cruise USA
If you’re new to Larry June, get ready to bask in a lush catalog of Bay game over laidback beats. But if you’re familiar then you already know what’s going on when June and Cardo link up. They’re one of the game’s most underrated rapper-producer combos, and they got to it again on Cruise USA, a feel-good 8-track project. The title harkens to the ideal vibe to take in June’s game-heavy raps over smooth soundscapes that veer from the glitzy “Meet Me In Frisco” to the hypnotic “Orange Juice” with Dom Kennedy, which is an intriguing fusion of dripped-out Houston with laidback Cali vibes. If you find yourself taking a lengthy drive this June, this is surely one for the rotation.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.