While some of hip-hop’s biggest names made big comebacks in 2022 – and many wound up on Uproxx’s Best Albums of 2022 list – there were a few notable names promising new albums that didn’t quite manage to put anything out before the new year, leaving us with a host of anticipated hip-hop albums for 2023.
After long hiatuses, TDE artists like Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and SZA all dropped their new albums this year, receiving a warm response from fans and critics alike (Kendrick is on our Best Albums list; Soul and SZA just missed the cutoff). Drake dropped two albums – one very dance oriented and one with 21 Savage – while Megan Thee Stallion addressed her rocky 2021 with a solid second effort.
However, there were a few A-listers whose names were not included in the rolls for the year-end roundups, including Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Travis Scott. While we’ll get into the various reasons for their absences below, it’s worth noting that the release schedule was already jam-packed, and having 2023 pretty much wide open can only help them lock down the time and attention their profiles deserve. There are a few rising stars on that list too, including Baby Keem, Doja Cat, and Saweetie. Here are the most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2023.
ASAP Rocky – Don’t Be Dumb
It’s been a minute since we last heard from ASAP Rocky with 2018’s Testing. Since then, he’s become a father, he’s been a hilarious meme, he’s expanding his acting credits, and he’s even starred in a video game. After dropping the new single “Sh*ttin Me” and teasing more Metro Boomin contributions, he finally announced that the album was done with just a few weeks left to go in the year. With a lot to talk about (cough, cough, Sweden) and what sounds like a lot more focused musical direction with Metro’s involvement, Don’t Be Dumb could very well return the Harlem rapper to the top of the charts and reveal new facets of his personality.
bye bye creating @
— baby keem (@babykeem) December 16, 2022
The most mysterious of the bunch, Keem’s the only one who hasn’t outright announced an album. That hasn’t stopped Keem fans from sniffing out any and every available clue that he could be working on one. And given his and cousin Kendrick’s tendency to surface suddenly and without warning, that could be all the reason to be on the lookout for a follow-up to The Melodic Blue sometime in the next 12 months.
Cardi was one of the artists that fans most looked forward to hearing from in 2022, but aside from some inflammatory singles, it wasn’t to be. She did give us “Hot Sh*t” with Kanye West and Lil Durk, which was well-received, but given Kanye’s issues and an inability to promote the song the way she wanted, Cardi moved on from the single fairly quickly. She had better luck with GloRilla’s “Tomorrow 2,” which offered an instant classic Cardi verse, but she later admitted that she’s been feeling a lot of anxiety and pressure from the potential reception of her long-awaited follow-up to Invasion Of Privacy. She did say she wants to get that album out in the new year, though.
After an impressive breakout in 2022, TDE’s latest signee still remains a refreshing question mark for the new year. Her EP, She/Her/Black Bitch, showed some promising signs that she’s got a clear direction and isn’t afraid of taking creative risks. And the response to singles like “Persuasive” and “Crazy” indicates that fans may wind up being a bit more receptive to her left-field mashups of hip-hop and house than they were ten years ago when “212” was dominating playlists and sync licensing placements. If nothing else, she’s got the TDE machine on her side, which means that when she does drop, she’ll have the full support of her label, something not every artist gets to enjoy.
im not doing a german rave culture album you guys i was pranking the outlet that interviewed me about it
— fart (@DojaCat) September 21, 2022
I'm doing an R&B album
— fart (@DojaCat) September 21, 2022
After an absolutely explosive 2021 thanks to Planet Her and its seemingly endless string of fan-favorite hit records, anticipation was high for Doja to follow up her debut. Doja herself was more than happy to feed into that feeling from fans, teasing permutations of the project that included a 9th Wonder-produced rap LP, an R&B album, and even a euro-house edition. However, she was unable to do much recording after having throat surgery, which forced her to pull out of The Weeknd’s After Hours stadium tour and confined her to home for recovery. The content she did share – namely, a lot of selfies of her new bald look – has ironically generated even greater fervor for new music, since she’s clearly feeling newly freed and more creative than ever.
I still roll with CMG 🔥🏆
Hair: @vergeextensions pic.twitter.com/MD6gFBUs0j
— GloRilla 🦍 (@GloTheofficial) December 10, 2022
Rap’s undisputed rookie of the year exploded in popularity thanks to her summer smash “F.N.F. (Let’s Go),” but unlike plenty of other viral favorites, she was able to maintain her momentum with follow-ups like “Tomorrow 2” and the … Anyways, Life’s Great EP. Now, more than anything, fans want to see whether her natural charisma can carry a full-length project. She’s got more than enough viral moments over the past year to keep her name red-hot (and comfortingly uncontroversial) and with one of her hometown’s biggest stars giving his backing, it’ll be interesting to see where she ends up next.
If GloRilla took the crown for the year’s biggest breakout, it’s only because Ice Spice didn’t manage to get her project out under the wire. Like Glo, she saw much of her impact come from the TikTok popularity of a single song: “Munch,” which launched seemingly a million memes and almost got the Cardi B treatment as well. It also drove attention to prior Ice Spice videos like “Name Of Love” and “No Clarity.” The resulting hunger for more of the Spice life led to a follow-up, “Bikini Bottom,” and the New York rapper being put on the fast track to stardom, with Rolling Loud appearances and homage tracks from other artists galore.
J. Cole – The Fall-Off
While Cole has seemingly returned to his self-imposed hibernation from the rap game following a few stints of professional basketball, I don’t think for a second he’s forgotten about his commitment to deliver the magnum opus promised a few years ago at the end of KOD. He’s even said The Off-Season was more of a warm-up (if only he hadn’t already used that name) or practice session, sharpening his tools before attempting to sum up his incredible, decade-long career.
Nicki Minaj maintained a chokehold on the hip-hop discourse this year by sheer force of will (and the efforts of her ever-dedicated fanbase), and with a few strategically-placed singles and guest appearances. In the first half of 2022, she joined forces with rising star Coi Leray on “Blick Blick” (seemingly an extension of her 2021 strategy of teaming up with Doja Cat and finally ending her self-imposed moratorium on collabs with up-and-coming female rappers). Then, she dropped “Super Freaky Girl,” harkening back to her “Anaconda” era to garner her first-ever solo No. 1. She even dropped a remix with a whole peck of rap girlies, extending her influence and driving curiosity to see what other new avenues remain to this venerated veteran.
Saweetie – Pretty Bitch Music
As a track runner in high school, Saweetie probably knows all about having to recover from false starts. Although anticipation for the project may have waned after so many delays, it doesn’t look like Saweetie has given up on herself yet – and that’s the true test, in many ways. In any event, I’m sure there are still plenty of folks who want to hear just what exactly she has had in store after nearly three years of teases. If the new single “Icy Girl, Icy World” is any indication, she could be back on her Sample Saweetie kick, which could mean a return to prominence is just one starter pistol away.
Travis Scott – Utopia
Travis Scott UTOPIA Billboards spotted in California! pic.twitter.com/TBj6QsVG73
— SAINT (@saint) April 10, 2022
Just about the only rapper whose album we know anything about this year is Travis Scott, who has been quietly biding his time in the wake of the Astroworld Festival disaster last summer. He actually began the rollout for Utopia during Coachella, putting up massive billboards on the way to and from Indio extolling the upcoming project. However, he kicked his promotional efforts into high gear more recently, joining Pharrell on “Down In Atlanta” and making multiple appearances on Metro Boomin’s Heroes & Villains album and SZA’s SOS. While he hasn’t overtly dropped anything from Utopia yet, it looks like he’s building himself back up and testing the waters to make sure it gets just as warm a reception as its predecessor.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.