It’s hard out here for a music reviewer.
We witnessed a deluge of album releases this year, so many that it’s hard for even a hardworking writer like me to keep y’all up on the good stuff. So it’s time to play catch-up.
We’ve already discussed five underrated R&B releases this year, so let’s turn our attention to hip-hop. Check out five albums that I didn’t get around to formally reviewing but deserve a place on your playlists.
Swizz Beatz, Poison
I like Swizz Beatz the producer. I don’t really care for Swizz Beatz the rapper. So when word dropped that we were getting a sophomore follow up from his 2007 debut, I wasn’t moved. But it only took a couple of tracks from Poison to quickly change my mind. Swizz wisely steps aside and lets his array of guest stars – including Nas, Pusha T, Lil Wayne and more – do the heavy lifting. As you’d expect, the production here is a highlight, with nearly all the guests bringing their A-game. Even Young Thug of all people delivers a good song! That alone makes Poison a miracle.
Nipsey Hussle, Victory Lap
Nipsey’s been floating around the West Coast rap scene so long – well over a decade at this point – that it seems weird that Victory Lap is his debut LP. Good things come to those who wait, as Victory Lap is easily Hussle Man’s best work to date. His aggressive, stream-of-consciousness flow gives him a definite edge over his mumbling, lethargic peers. It’s the type of unapologetic bully rap that made his coast a major player in hip-hop decades ago. He’s bringing that ol’ feeling back.
Dave East & Styles P, Beloved
David Brewster Jr. and David Styles may be MCs from two separate generations, but they’re cut from the same cloth. Each bring their signature brand of gritty authenticity to Beloved, which boasts a surprising amount of chemistry. Dark, gritty storytelling is what drives this one home, with P and Dave playing their mentor/mentee roles well throughout the journey. But make no mistake – neither plays back seat to the other; both more than carry their weight on this one. In a year filled with collabo albums, this one stands among the best.
Logic, YSIV (Young Sinatra IV)
I’ve been notoriously apathetic to the deafening Internet buzz surrounding Logic in recent years. Can he rap? No question. But his bars rarely connected and his attempts at creating music meant to resonate with listeners felt like misfires at best or pandering at worst. But YSIV is the first time Logic really connected with my ear. Featuring fantastic boom-bap production, Logic goes all out, from enlisting industry vets (like the entire – yes ENTIRE –Wu-Tang Clan) to showcasing his storytelling abilities in fine form. Again, sometimes it sounds like he’s trying a little TOO hard to prove his worth, but I appreciate the hunger. He’s forcing you to feel him.
K.L.U.B. Monsta, When Gawd Ready
Alabama-bred MCs K.L.U.B. Monsta turned heads a couple of years back with their critically acclaimed release Separate but Equal but they have topped that one with When Gawd Ready, a sobering examination of life in the South. Feeling like the evolution of Goodie Mob’s classic Soul Food, When Gawd Ready blends insightful wordplay and weighty topics with a frank honesty about the world around them. The South still got something to say.
Which underrated rap albums caught your ear this year? Share ’em below.