It’s only fair to show hip-hop that same love.
It’s been an odd year for rap – the year’s biggest mainstream releases have almost all been highly overrated at best or downright atrocious at worse. In some cases, both.
But thankfully, there’s also been more than a few strong albums that didn’t quite get the buzz they deserved but are worthy of your attention. Take a look at a few of them.
Dreamville, Revenge of the Dreamers III
OK, this is a bit of a cheat since by no means is this an “overlooked” or even underrated release. The J. Cole-led compilation is one of the most celebrated of the year and, for once, it’s worthy of hype. I just never got around to showing it proper love so I’m happy to rectify that right now. A couple of decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for labelmates to come together for a massive, memorable collabo, and Revenge of the Dreamers III is here to bring that feeling back. It’s Ruff Ryders’ Ryde or Die Vol. 1 for a new generation. RotD3 serves as an incredible showcase of the label’s depth, blending an eclectic array of sounds together for one sturdy project. It’s not just a launching pad for a new generation of artists but also solidifies J. Cole as industry leader in his own right.
Maxo Kream, Brandon Banks
Houston rapper Maxo Kream is one of those underground voices that seem destined to hit it big in the mainstream. Brandon Banks, his second LP and major-label debut, just might be the launching pad he needs. Maxo checks all the boxes – hard-hitting beats, witty lyrics and a sing-songy flow that allows him to ride most beats with ease. But what elevates Brandon Banks beyond random collection of bangers is the layered introspection about family life. He’s a storyteller through and through and Brandon Banks will have you hanging on every word.
Skyzoo and Pete Rock, Retropolitan
Who said lyricism has gone out of style? Skyzoo, one of the game’s pre-eminent spitters, has spent decades reminding us that bars are necessary. It’s those very bars that make Retropolitan, his collab with legendary beatsmith Pete Rock, such an intriguing LP. Essentially a love letter to New York and its hip-hop culture, Sky uses Pete’s boom bap soundscapes for a refreshing nostalgia trip. It’s a must for fans of that classic sound.
Little Brother, May the Lord Watch
2019 has been filled with surprise reunions, and the return of Little Brother has to be near the top of the list. Though longtime producer 9th Wonder opted not to return, Big Pooh and Phonte lose no stream, linking up with past collaborators like Nottz and Khrysis to revive their classic sound. From the hilarious skits that call back to previous albums to the warm, soulful production that has long been the group’s trademark, May the Lord Watch feels like a heartfelt tribute to their faithful fanbase.
YBN Cordae, The Lost Boy
How many members of the YBN clique are we up to now? 74? Cuz it sure seems that way. No matter, Cordae still continues to lead the pack and it’s his debut LP, The Lost Boy, that proves why he deserves the spotlight. A deeply introspective release, The Lost Boy gives Cordae plenty of weighty themes – including faith, family and the pursuit of fame – to sink his lyrical fangs into. Always intriguing but never preachy, Cordae expertly balances introspection and entertainment with each track. In a landscape filled with fake-deep bars, Cordae provides the substance the game needs.
Have you had a chance to check out these albums? What are some of your personal favorite overlooked releases this year? Tell us in the comments.