The 25 Best Albums of 2019 – So Far

What an interesting and unpredictable year for music it’s been so far.

2019 has been full of surprises. There’s been lots of rough spots: we’ve seen highly anticipated releases from big-name artist crash and burn right out of the gate and months where absolutely nothing of note dropped.

And I won’t even SPEAK on that Lil Pump album. If I had reviewed it it would have gotten negative stars.

But then, there was hope – collabos from artists that sprung out of nowhere and completely wowed us, we watched as emerging artists who were new to the scene instantly become top contenders and we saw veterans return from total obscurity to remind us that they’ve still got this.

2019 has been the furthest thing from predictable. Check out 25 of the best LPs and EPs that have graced our ears so far.

Honorable mentions:

Daron Jones, Human

Shay Lia, Dangerous

The HamilTones, Watch the Ton3s

Tyler the Creator, Igor

Daniel Caesar, Case Study 01

2 Chainz, Rap or Go to The League

Conway, Everybody is FOOD 3

Summer Walker, Last Day of Summer

Beast Coast, Escape from New York

you can't sit with usPivot Gang, You Can’t Sit With Us

Saba delivered one of 2018’s most slept-on releases, so it’s good to see him back in action again so soon. And this time, he’s bringing along friends. Pivot Gang, a collection of Chicago MCs, form like Voltron over diverse mix of sounds, from soul samples to drill beats. Saba, of course, is the star here but his compatriots do their share of the heavy lifting as well. The chemistry is evident – this really sounds like a collection of friends chillin’ in the studio – and the synergy shown here is a precursor for even more greatness to come.


mon amourThe Amours, Mon Amour

PJ Morton knows talent when he hears it. Sisters Jakiya Ayanna and Shaina Aisha have long served as his backup singers and prove that they’re more than ready to fly on their own. Their debut EP showcases the same energy that makes Morton’s live shows such an event – it’s fresh, funky and incredibly fun. Although it runs just a scant 15 minutes, there’s enough substance here to prove that these ladies are going places.


czarface meets ghostfaceGhostface/Czarface, Czarface Meets Ghostface

Read our review here

Just months before the Marvel Cinematic Universe hit us with hit us with their Endgame, hip-hop’s own superheroes and villains went toe-to-toe. Czarface Meets Metal Face links industry vets Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric and Ghostface Killah for a lyrical showcase, filled with comic references and incredibly visual bars. It’s a real treat for boom-bap fans and comic enthusiasts alike.


we were together i forget the restLipstick Gypsy, We Were Together, I Forget the Rest

The enigmatic Lipstick Gypsy has been teasing us with promises of new music seemingly FOREVER. This year, we finally got we we’ve been asking for – a 20 minute EP showcasing their alluring brand of soul. And it did not disappoint, boasting some of the absolute best R&B singles of the year. Due to its brevity, We Were Together, I Forget the Rest feels like an appetizer for a meal that’s yet to come. We’re hungry for more.


2009Wiz Khalifa and Currensy, 2009

Ten years ago, rising rap stars Wiz Khalifa and Currensy teamed for a mixtape that had the Interent going nutz. A decade later, hip-hop (and their careers) are in a much different place. They’re older and wiser, yet still able to recapture that chemistry that boasted back in 2009 on, well, 2009. I’ve been critical of Wiz over the years for his lack of consistency, but he seems to be much more focused with Currensy by his side, with his laid-back flow getting a boost from Spitta’s laser-focus. 2009 doesn’t reinvent rap’s wheel, it’s just two of rap’s luminaries doing what they do best.


it wasn't even closeYour Old Droog, It Wasn’t Even Close

Remember when people thought this guy was Nas rapping under an alias? It’s quite the compliment, actually. It Wasn’t Even Close would make Esco proud, a quality release crammed with intriguing lyricism and engrossing storytelling. Add several strong guest appearances and Droog easily keeps his momentum going.


thank u, nextAriana Grande, Thank U, Next

Ariana might be the hottest name in pop right now, but I’ve been hot and cold on ol’ girl for years now. Abandoning her original R&B-influenced sound for shrill pop records was best for business, but not best for my ears. But Thank U, Next successfully bridges the gap between her pop and R&B worlds. The atmosphere is dark but her commentaries on personal growth are spot-on. More of this, Ari.


injury reserveInjury Reserve, Injury Reserve

The first time I heard Injury Reserve, my immediate reaction was “what IS this?” The Phoenix rap trio certainly has a sound all their own – on the surface it seems a little goofy and disjointed. But once you start settling in, it’s very easy to appreciate the genius behind their work. Their latest is all about pushing the boundaries and blurring the lines – this album almost feels like the anime version of Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But the concepts are sound, the lyricism strong and the bizarreness is downright captivating.


long live loveKirk Franklin, Long Live Love

It seems like every time Kirk gathers up his crew for an album we celebrate it in this space. I guess it’s no surprise – he’s been at this for decades and still nowhere near slowing down. Franklin’s always been able to evolve with the times, and Long Live Love is no different. Franklin continues to lean on contemporary sounds and themes while pushing powerful lessons of faith and perseverance. Long Live Love features some of his best work in years and will have no problem finding an audience ready to embrace it.


worthyIndia.Arie, Worthy

Read our review here

It’s pretty telling that India’s return to R&B landed right in the middle of Black History Month. She’s the woman who taught us the importance of black love LONG before it got trendy. And with the shape of today’s world, she knows she has even more lessons to share. Worthy does just that, returning with her brand of Black Girl Magic laced with acoustic soul. She hasn’t lost a step, and her music is as passionate as ever.


everythings for saleBoogie, Everything’s For Sale

Read our review here

Boogie’s debut LP, Everything’s for Sale, is a no-frills look at life and relationships in 2019. It’s timely, brutally honest and downright sobering in spots. But look deeper and you’ll hear a wisdom that’s far beyond his years. Boogie’s incredibly insightful and his boldness makes this one of the year’s best surprises.


grey areaLittle Simz, GREY Area

Call this a coming of age tale. Little Simz, the 25-year-old UK phenom, uses GREY Area, her third release, as sort of an open letter as she tries to navigate life’s journey. The live instrumentation breathes new life into her stellar bars, giving her a fresh sound that differentiates her from the norm. Possessing a sharp wit, with even sharper bars, Simz is on the rise – GREY Area feels like just the beginning of an incredible career.


paintedLucky Daye, Painted

David Debrandon Brown was born for this moment. After spending years grinding as a songwriter for R&B legends like Keith Sweat (!) and Mary J. Blige, he finally struck gold with a series of well-received EPs. Those EPs, along with a few new tracks, make up Painted, an impressive debut album from a “new” artist who isn’t really all that new. His smooth takes on modern-day relationships are infections and yet another example that the death of R&B is fake news.


trillstatikBun B and Statik Selektah, TrillStatik

When Bun B announced that he and producer Statik Selektah were planning to create an album over livestream on Instagram in less than 24 hours, I just kinda smirked, assuming it was yet another weird attempt for social media buzz. How wrong I was to doubt the Trill OG. In just 11 hours, Bun and Statik created not just a great album, but one of the best projects of the year. Boasting an array of guests, TrillStatik is a no-frills release that lovers of lyricism will eat up. It’s proof that there’s no timetable for greatness.


zuuDenzel Curry, Zuu

For those who say I’m biased against young rappers, let me present Denzel Curry ­ a 24-year-old trap star who actually puts effort into his craft. See, that’s all I ask. Zuu hits HARD – Curry attacks every bar like his life depends on it, rapping with ferocity over adrenaline-pounding production. Zuu is proof that trap music doesn’t have to be lazy or dumb. Curry’s way too driven to settle for less.


diasporaGoldlink, Diaspora

Goldlink’s latest seemed to drop out of nowhere, making it one of the most pleasant surprises of 2019. Diaspora is truly an international affair – while his peers ride the “tropical” wave into the ground, Goldlink grabs his passport and reaches further. Diaspora bursts with inspiration from Africa, Latin America, China and more yet still remains rooted in hip-hop. It’s an extremely ambitious move that not only pays off, but stands as some of his best work to date.


shea butter babyAri Lennox, Shea Butter Baby

It’s been three years since Ari signed with J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint and turned heads with her EP Pho. Shea Butter Baby, her full-length debut, delivers on all that potential. Ari’s strength is her unflinching honesty, using her slinky vocals to brag about strutting around her new apartment (with Dollar Tree wine glasses!) or daydreaming about lost love. Shea Butter Baby may sound raw and unpolished to some ears, but that intentional and which will only endear her to young fans looking for an artist who doesn’t sugarcoat her emotions. Ari’s still trying to figure life out, which makes this release so relatable.


cosmic windLion Babe, Cosmic Wind

You never know what you’re gonna get from a Lion Babe record, and that’s what makes them so great. Cosmic Wind, the duo’s second LP, is just as eclectic as ever, picking up listeners for a ride on their spaceship for a trip across the galaxy. One minute it sounds like they’re in a Wild West saloon, then next they’re in an intergalactic disco. Lion Babe always feels like an adventure and their journey is far from over.


the love reunionRaheem DeVaughn, The Love Reunion

There’s no such thing as a bad Raheem DeVaughn album, every release is as solid as the last. The Love Reunion not only keeps his undefeated streak alive, it raises the bar. DeVaughn’s brand of baby-making ballads are on full display here, delivered with his usual aching passion. For R&B fans looking for sensual music sans annoying auto-tune or trap beats, The Love Reunion is your hookup.


venturaAnderson Paak, Ventura

Read our review here

Paak must have been listening to y’all. Just months after mixed reviews for his previous project Oxnard (which I thought was pretty solid in its own right), Paak went back to his roots. Ventura ditches the experimentation of Oxnard for a return to Paak’s more soulful sound. With guests ranging from Smokey Robinson to Brandy to Jazmine Sullivan, it’s an all-star affair. The results are strong – a tight, sonic experience that proves that sometimes less is more.


heroes and godsRahsaan Patterson, Heroes & Gods

Read our review here

Rahsaan Patterson has spent 35 years as R&B’s best-kept secret. While lesser artists spam our ears with so much material that we become tone deaf, Patterson knows that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Heroes & Gods, his first project in about eight years, is an eclectic yet carefully crafted mix of genres – from soul to go-go to rock – that seamlessly blend together. In an era of microwavable music, it’s the gourmet experiences that prove to be the most satisfying. This was worth the wait.


the plugs i metBenny the Butcher, The Plugs I Met

Griselda Records has been quietly conquering rap’s underground and it’s only a matter of time before they burst through the surface for a total takeover. Leading that charge is Benny the Butcher’s The Plugs I Met – an EP that does more in seven tracks that your favorite rapper could do in seven years. Intense, gritty bars spread across soulful backdrops make this feel like the resurrection of 90s boom-bap and Benny’s overwhelming ferocity is a sight to behold. Might as well hop on the bandwagon now, these Griselda boys are coming to conquer.


legacy legacyJamila Woods, LEGACY! LEGACY!

Political commentary is nothing new for black music, and it’s definitely seen a resurgence in recent years. But few albums have been able to touch on key issues so expertly as LEGACY! LEGACY! This isn’t your watered down R&B – each song is carefully crafted and richly textured, from the songwriting to Woods’ incredible vocal performances. Even the song’s titles tell a story, saluting an array of pioneers. Several albums this year attempted to capture the joys, pain and pride of black womanhood and misfired. Not this one. Jamila might not get the hype of others, but she definitely deserves your ear.


cuz i love youLizzo, Cuz I Love You

Read our review here

Some of y’all might just now be getting familiar with her name, but don’t be mistaken – Lizzo’s been at this a long time. Cuz I Love You’s themes of self-love and empowerment are hitting at just the right time. Pair that with an infectious energy and impressive vocals and you’ve got an album that is as fun as it is poignant. She’s a star in the making and this is her breakout moment.


bandanaFreddie Gibbs and Madlib, Bandana

Read our review here

Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib are no strangers to each other, but there’s something extra magical about their follow-up collaboration to Pinata. Everything is taken to the next level on Bandana – the beats hit a little bit harder, the guests bring a little more fire and Gangsta Gibbs is obsessed with proving that he’s one of the best in the world. Bandana excels on every level, proving that Gibbs should be mentioned among rap’s elite. When Gibbs called this the album of the year, he shortchanged himself. Not only is it the best of the year so far, it’s one of the best rap releases of the decade.

What did we miss? Drop off your favorite albums below.



  1. Blu and OhNo album should have at least been an honorable mention.
    People Under The Stairs
    The Opioid Era

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