2019 Roundup: The Year’s Best 10 Rap & Hip-Hop Albums
January 13, 2020
In the 2019 music industry, consistent albums feel tough to come by. With labels wanting artist to maximize their streams, albums have been stretched out to a ridiculous length.
The consistency and quality of albums has seen a serious drop. All labels want is one hit, and it brings in streams for the whole album. But that’s not always the case.
The albums on this list have been masterfully crafted for the community. You can hear the love and energy poured into these albums, with their sound grabbing you from start to finish.
Rap overtook rock as the most popular genre in 2018, and it shows no signs of slowing down. These are the albums that help make rap the number one genre it is today.
Honorable Mention: “Everybody’s Everything,” Lil Peep
Lil Peep’s posthumous album “Everybody’s Everything” was terrific, including some of his most popular songs from Soundcloud. But that’s also why it’s left off this list. “Everybody’s Everything” is more of a compilation than an album. Lil Peep has been one of the most influential rappers of recent times, and songs like “Witchblades” and “Cobain” show what a trailblazer he was in the industry. It deserves a mention, but it’s just not enough of an album.
10. “Father of 4,” Offset
Fresh off a cheating scandal with wife Cardi B, Offset released “Father of 4”, an emotionally charged album about his regrets as a husband and his goals as a father.
Offset is one of the three members of the incredibly successful Atlanta rap trio known as Migos. Solo albums can be a struggle for rappers in groups.
Offset previously released “Without Warning,” a critically acclaimed album that topped the charts, but it was with fellow rap artists 21 Savage and Metro Boomin.
This is Offsets first truly solo album, and it’s great. Offset raps over trap beats about his regrets about infidelity with Cardi B, and how he would do things differently.
But it’s not just an apology album, as the album is titled after his role as a father of four children. Offset sees a better future for him as a husband and father.
Offset speaks on this on multiple songs, including “North Star” with Cee Lo Green. This albums clearly meant a lot to Offset, and the work put into it is evident.
However, it’s not perfect. The beats can feel uninspired, and Offsets rapping style doesn’t exactly change throughout the album. A lot of the songs are just basic trap songs, and not much more.
9. “Bandana,” Freddie Gibbs/Madlib
“Bandana” is Gibbs’ and Madlib’s sixth collaboration, and their expertise is evident in all the tracks.
Madlib is known for his serious demeanor, while Gibbs is more on the weird side. Despite their differences, though, they come together to make incredible music.
Gibbs raps while Madlib produces, and their chemistry is obvious. Songs like “Giannis” flow so well despite being a more intense track.
This album will resonate well with people that like older rap, as “Bandana” is a far cry from the current state of trap rap.
Where this album can start to struggle is repetition. When you have the same producer for the whole album, even a great producer like Madlib, the beats can feel similar.
Especially since “Bandana” is a lot slower and rougher than current rap, it can sometimes feel like a tough listen. Luckily, the talent between these two more than make up for it.
8. “Hollywood’s Bleeding,” Post Malone/”So Much Fun,” Young Thug
Two of the biggest albums of the year were by Thugger and Malone, but that’s why they’re sharing the eighth spot.
Both of these albums were the most successful of their careers, with both going number one, and breaking 100,000 sales in their first week.
Yet at the same time, both albums are some of these artists’ weaker showings.
This is Post Malone’s third studio album, and it’s not terrible.
It is actually a great album, but wasn’t what a lot of fans were hoping for. It’s better than “Beerbongs and Bentleys,” but that’s not saying much.
“Hollywood’s Bleeding” struggles to decide what genre it wants to be. It’s part rap, part indie, part rock, part lo-fi, and more.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the album struggles to find its identity throughout the tracklist. He also put out arguably the best song off the album, “Circles,” as a single before the album was even released.
It’s not bad, but it’s struggles are obvious. “So much Fun” struggles with the same lack of identity. Young Thug’s talent is obvious, but he struggles to find that same sweet spot he had on previous albums such as “Slime Season 3” and “I’m Up.”
This album feels repetitive, and similarly uninspired.
It’s not a complete disappointment, though.
Both of these albums had respective high points. The previously mentioned “Circles” was a big hit, and Thug’s “Hot” was very popular; anything Thugger touches is basically guaranteed to go number one.
But these two albums felt like some loosely strung together hits. These are two solid albums, but the potential they had was not lived up to.
7. “PSYCHODRAMA,” Dave
British rapper Dave released “PSYCHODRAMA” earlier this year, and it saw instant critical success. British rap has been more popular in America since A$AP Rocky featured famous British rapper Skepta on his song “Praise the Lord.”
“PSYCHODRAMA” has a different sound than most British rap though, and feels even more different than American rap. It’s slower rap over softer beats, with strange pauses and odd flows typically not used by American artists.
But it being different is what makes it such a compelling album. Songs like “Location” have an easy-going energy that almost feels like a break from the hard-hitting tracks like “Psycho.”
Even the hard tracks have a clean production that sounds so different from the usual American trap. It grabs your attention from the start, and doesn’t let go.
Senior Sam Marchlik said he likes how the album was “introspective and deep, but still hit mainstream.”
Dave raps this album from a metaphorical therapist office, with his therapist talking and asking questions throughout the album. He views music as his therapy, and lays everything out in this album.
As Dave says on the introductory track, “I ain’t psycho, but my life is.”
6. “Everythings For Sale,” Boogie
Compton MC “Boogie”’s fourth album is an incredible display of rap talent coming out of California.
Compton, long known for its ability to produce famed rappers, had been going through a dry spell ever since Kendrick Lamar made it out.
Boogie seems bent on changing this, as “Everythings For Sale” is a refreshing take on love and relationships inside hip-hop. His raps are largely about his struggles to communicate with the girl he loves, and how he wrestles with common issues of drug abuse and loneliness in silence.
He may say he struggles in silence, but he’s willing to air everything out on this album. Compton rappers always represent their home city, and make sure everyone knows it.
Boogie is no different, and makes sure to let you know where he’s from in every song. He brings a classical energy to all his tracks that makes him incredibly fun to listen to.
Songs like “Silent Ride” and “Time” are smooth and somber, while songs like “Soho” and “Self Destruction” are exciting and powerful.
This album also has Eminem’s first good feature in years, so it’s clearly doing something right. Pair that with features from J.I.D. and 6lack, and you’ve got a classic album.
5. “The South Got Something to Say,” Pouya
When Andre 3000 of now legendary rap duo Outkast was given the mic after winning Best New Artist at the 1995 Source Awards, tensions were at an all time high between east and west coast hip-hop. People were booing them as they quietly walked onstage.
But what he said while at the mic made the whole crowd quiet: “I’m tired of the disrespect… The south got something to say.”
Southern rap was no longer taking a backseat, and Outkast was there to prove it. That’s why Pouya, a 24 year old rapper from Miami, made it the title of his third studio album.
Pouya is yet to hit mainstream, and is still on his way up, just like Outkast was. And in a similar fashion, he’s not going to let anybody pry rap out of the grip south Florida has on it right now.
Pouya expands on all ideas from his sophomore album, “Five-Five,” and made this his most successful album to date. His ability to glide over tracks with his Florida-style slower, heavy inflection and great beat selection makes this album a masterpiece.
Pouya is always more introspective than most, and is looking in the mirror all throughout “The South Got Something To Say.”
Songs like “I’m Alive” show Pouya playing into his strength of softer rap, and a consistent theme of his emotional openness. This is one of the most polished albums of the year, and it makes listening to it in one sitting easy and enjoyable.
4. “Sli’merre,” Young Nudy and Pi’erre Bourne
Young Nudy and Pi’erre Bourne are both relatively new to the rap scene. Young Nudy is the cousin of popular Atlanta rapper 21 Savage, and hasn’t yet had a breakout tape in his roughly three years of making music.
Pi’erre Bourne hit mainstream with New York and A$AP affiliate Playboi Carti, but hasn’t seen much independent success outside his work on “Self Titled.” It seems all these two needed was each other, because “Sli’merre” was an instant hit.
Nudy and Pi’erre work together in a way only seen by the other two duo albums on this, even though it’s their first time working together.
Young Nudy does a good job on this project, where his choppy and rough Atlanta style brings a harsh tone to the project. His rapping can feel rough around the edges, but it mostly just adds to the charm.
And it’s even less of an issue due to the stellar feature list — artists like Lil Uzi Vert and DaBaby help make the verses on this project special.
But don’t get it twisted — the real star of the show is Pi’erre. His unique beats are unlike any heard this year.
It’s refreshing to hear a producer shine on a duo album this year. It’s almost reminiscent of 90’s legendary duo Gangstarr, where DJ Premier could do no wrong on a track.
Songs like “Sunflower Seeds” are a testament to the power of production. It’s tough not to like this album when these two work so well together.
3. “Perfect 10,” Mustard
After DJ Mustard rebranded himself to Mustard, it’s clear he was planning on doing something big. Mustard may only be a producer, but production is half the battle.
And if production is a battle, Mustard is winning.
“Perfect 10” lives up to its name, with ten incredible tracks jam packed with verses. Similar to Kanye West’s seven song album run in the summer of 2018, Mustard goes against the grain to release an album much shorter than others.
The benefit of this is that every song on this album is good. Each song feels like considerable time was spent on it, and the quality of the album as a whole is incredible.
Not only are all the songs great, but the risky executive decisions Mustard makes on this album all pay off. Having A$AP Ferg do the chorus on a song that Rocky is also on sounds like a terrible idea, but Mustard makes it work in the best possible way.
All the songs on this album are so crisp and clean, it’s tough to dislike any of them.
Songs like the previously mentioned “On God” normally would sound crowded, but all the artists on this album cooperate and flow together. Having the late Nipsey Hussle on the closing track makes this album extra special.
Mustard acts as the conductor on this album, and it comes out sounding great. This album shows just how much of a veteran Mustard is.
2. “Dum and Dummer,” Young Dolph and Key Glock
“Dum and Dummer” is not an album I would have expected to be at my number two spot earlier this year, but as Young Dolph said on Cutthroat committee: “They said you can’t do that, I said okay… watch this.”
“Dum and Dummer” is a collaboration between Memphis rappers YBADoung Dolph and Key Glock.
What’s interesting about this album is that it turns all of its negatives into positives.
This album can feel extremely repetitive; it sometimes feels like they put two of the same songs on the track list. And Dolph and Key sound very similar.
Junior Jack Quisito said that “Key Glock is just a younger Young Dolph.”
This album also does very little new. It doesn’t break any new ground, and it doesn’t do anything anyone hasn’t heard before.
Yet with all these problems, this is why it shines. “Dum and Dummer” knows exactly what it is: a trap album.
They go for a trap sound and nothing else, and they kill it. It’s like how when you multitask, you just end up with four things done poorly (see “Hollywood’s Bleeding”).
“Dum and Dummer” zones in on the trap sound and kills it. The beats, the verses, everything.
Young Dolph and Key Glock are constantly making music together, so much so they said they had enough cuts from “Dum and Dummer” for a whole second album.
I can’t even remember the last time I listened to one of these guys by themselves when it’s not on this album.
It shows too, with the two of them flowing of each other in perfect harmony. “Water on Water on Water” and “Cutthroat Committee” show how well they work together.
For everything “Sli’merre” did well, “Dum and Dummer” did better. These two knew exactly what they wanted when making this album, and it shines because of it.
1. “Jesus is King,” Kanye West
“Jesus is King” is the eighth studio album by legendary rapper Kanye West.
At this point, it seems like Kanye has no plans to ever put out a bad album. And if he can make Christian rap this good, I don’t know if he ever will.
“Jesus is King” is perfect. It’s not too long, but it’s not too short either (looking at you, “ye”).
It’s not preachy, but it doesn’t shy away from an identity it wants to hold.
There’s no doubt about it — this album is powerful. It hits every note it wants to, from the choir on “Every Hour,” to straight rapping on “Follow God,” even to Kenny G’s sax solo.
Songs like ‘Follow God’ (produced by number four on this list Pi’erre Bourne), “Use this Gospel,” “On God” and “Selah” show Kanye never lost the rapping, and isn’t afraid to show everyone how it’s done.
The slower tracks on this album are perfectly timed, and don’t ever leave the listener feeling bored.
Regardless of whether this album stands for a view you agree with, it still stands for something. And that’s more than most rappers can say about their albums.
Kanye drives the culture, and even when approaching two decades of making hits, he still won’t sit in the backseat. He’s not a follower, and that’s what makes “Jesus is King” so interesting.
It’s unlike anything anyone has ever heard. There truly is no album like this. And unless Kanye does it again, there never will be.