Sure, there’s a feast at the end of November, but rap fans were eating good all month. From the beginning to the end, artists released a range of compelling projects. Tory Lanez and Doja Cat dropped a pair of genre-bending efforts, while Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson, Westside Gunn and El Camino stuck to the script with rewind-worthy bars over neck-snapping drums. DJ Premier also dropped off One Of The Best Yet, the Gang Starr album we never knew was possible.
Tory Lanez — Chixtape 5
Tory Lanez is regarded as one of hip-hop’s most gifted chameleons. The Toronto rapper-singer is capable of spitting with the best of them or crooning like an R&B star. He unleashed that versatility on Chix Tape 5, the latest and most talked-about entry in the series. Lanez and his team d decided to take his knack for reimagination to new levels, as every track harkens back to rap and R&B classics. On “Jerry Sprunger,” Tory and T-Pain re-interpolate “Sprung,” while “Beauty In The Benz” samples “Beautiful” and features Snoop Dogg for good measure. The album is an exercise in not just celebrating classic music, but giving its progenitors their roses while they can smell them.
Doja Cat — Hot Pink
Doja Cat made waves with her unforgettable “Mooo!” song and video, but that was just a means to an end. Once she got people’s heads turning with “Mooo!,” they stayed fixated on her talent. The talented artist-producer is keeping eyes glued with Hot Pink, her breakthrough studio album. Doja Cat is a double threat as a rapper and vocalist. That kind of versatility can leave some artists rudderless over the course of a project, but Doja alternates between bars and crooning on songs that veer from flirtatious and outright raunchy. The album is packed with a suite full of sultry, synth-driven grooves such as “Cyber Sex” and “Talk Dirty.” The album’s most energetic moment is “Like That” with Gucci Mane, but the song still feels like an uptempo accompaniment to Hot Pink’s overall soundscape.
Earl Sweatshirt — Feet Of Clay
In a sea of lyricists shirking convention, Earl stands above many. His seven-song Feet Of Clay EP is an intriguingly brief project where everything is on his terms. The first six songs average a length of 1:52. His deliberate delivery that polarized his fanbase is still intact, nestling gems like “Half my wings is broken / I spread the other for my brodie OD.” Most MCs with Earl’s gifts would rap about their supremacy all day, but Feet Of Clay’s brevity is part of its allure. He expressed exactly what he wanted to say, in the manner in which he wanted to say it, and listeners can take it or leave it after the first listen. But even if they do the latter, they’ll be carrying away gems.
Westside Gunn — Hitler Wears Hermes 7
Now that Griselda has connects with Eminem (through Conway’s Shady deal) and Jay-Z (through Roc Nation management), Westside Gunn can comfortably step back from the booth and be the executive that he’s always ideated himself as. But before he fell back, he gave us one last dose of his heralded Hitler Wears Hermes series. The project is another offering of free-wheeling luxurious raps that toast to the trappings of wealth over a smorgasbord of beats like “Size 42” and “Undertake vs Goldberg” that infuse a classic sonic aesthetic with cutting edge innovation.
Action Bronson — Lamb Over Rice
This month, Action Bronson took a break from his bevy of entertainment exploits to get back to his bread and butter: fly, opulent raps over arresting production. The seven-track project (with two previously heard songs) may be tantalizingly short for Bronson fans seeking a followup to White Bronco, but he delivers throughout the project. Songs like “Just the Way It Is” offer glimpses of the abstract lyricism and surreal imagery (“my man needs a liver, bought it off of ebay”) that first won him his fame.
Gang Starr — One Of The Best Yet
DJ Premier delivered well with this miracle of an album that almost never came out, if not for Primo buying verses from the late Guru’s former partner Solar. Gang Starr had essentially been retired even before death of Guru in 2010, but Primo gave fans of the iconic duo one last chapter to remember them by on One Of The Best Yet. Premier had discussed plans to get Jay-Z, Nas, and Q-Tip on the project, but J. Cole is the album’s biggest feature, and he delivers with precision on “Family And Loyalty,” one of the standout tracks. A posthumous album with a hodgepodge of unused vocals can be a tenuous task, and at times the project suffers that weight. One Of The Best Yet banks heavy on nostalgia, but the bet paid off, as it just feels good to hear Guru over Primo production in 2019.
Kenny Beats & 03 Greedo — Netflix And Deal
03 Greedo’s team has done a great job of keeping the LA rapper on the minds of hip-hop consumers while he’s incarcerated. Netflix And Deal is another solid offering in that mission. Kenny and Greedo display outstanding chemistry on the 13-track project. Greedo’s melodic delivery is right at home on Kenny Beats’ arresting soundscape. Greedo’s cause is supported by Vince Staples on the aptly-titled “Blue People” and Freddie Gibbs, who offers a show-stealing verse on “Disco Sh*t.”
El Camino — Elcamino 2
Buffalo rapper El Camino recently described Griselda’s WWCD album on Instagram as “real BUFFALO ART” that “you really gotta know a thing or 2 to really get.” But that’s the apt description for his own seven-track project, which shows the Buffalo rhymer talking dirty over soulful, head-nodding production. The lyrical fare doesn’t venture far from tales of the Buffalo trenches, but El Camino’s technical prowess (as well as that of guests like 38 Spesh on “Stove Tops” and Benny The Butcher on “Shrimp At Phillippe’s”) makes the project an easy fit in any hip-hop head’s rotation.
Knxwledge — WT_PRT15
Knxwledge has been steadily releasing projects from his WrapTaypes series all year, and WT_PRT15 was the latest entry. The 10-track project is a whirling exhibition of his production chops, as he remixes vocals from icons like Jay-Z (“dedpresidents”) , Outkast and UGK (“UGK[TAPE]”) to unheralded rappers like Philly’s DVD era legend Vodka on “shotgunvision_.” The remix project is both a testament to Knxwledge’s skills and a chance to hear rap classics reimagined.
Mozzy & Tsu Surf — Blood Cuzzins
It’s a bicoastal connection on Blood Cuzzins, a collaboration album from Sacramento’s Mozzy and New Jersey’s Tsu Surf. The two artists have displayed impressive chemistry in their past tracks, as their introspection and vivid depictions of the streets’ perils weave together in evocative fashion. They’re just as adept at getting gritty on tracks like “Last Weekend” as they are being vulnerable and despondent on the Daniel Caesar-sampling “Who Woulda Thought.”
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.