25 best rap albums of 2022

2022 has been a notable year for rap and hip-hop, with some all-time greats going toe-to-toe with rappers making their first seminal projects. Here, we look at the best rap albums of this year.

Best rap albums 2022


Her Loss, Drake & 21 Savage

Her Loss

Standout Track: Pussy & Millions (feat. Travis Scott)

Drake’s numbers over the past few years don’t exactly represent where he stands musically. Every project, in fact, since 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, has been quite underwhelming. The combination of lazy writing, searching for radio hits, and his strange venture into house music earlier this year has led to me viewing Drake less as a musician, and more of a brand.

It’s therefore a genuinely pleasant surprise to hear Drake actually sound like he’s hungry with something to prove when he raps on Her Loss. 21 Savage has always brought out the rapper in Drake, and nothing makes that more apparent than their relentless back-and-forths on this project, albeit if at times it sounds like a Drake record featuring 21. Once you look past some of Drake’s glaring misogyny scattered throughout, you get one of the best rapping efforts of his career, supported by 21 Savage in full flow.



More Black Superheroes

Standout Track: LOLSMH II

Westside Boogie stays within the realms of what he knows on More Black Superheroes. A concept album that acts as a therapy session for Boogie, the record sees him grappling with problems from his past that he can’t escape. He admits as much on ‘Stuck’: “I love the hood, I know I’m stuck.”

Whilst the content is largely a continuation of 2017’s Everything’s For Sale, the project is still varied enough to feel authentic. Combine that with soulful samples and Boogie’s unique voice and delivery, More Black Superheroes is an earnest look inside the rapper’s mind.


Alpha Place, Knucks


Standout Track: Leon The Businessman

Alpha Place is proof that the UK rap scene is shifting. When you pass the success of Dave and Slowthai over the past few years, there’s largely been a void of credible rap coming out of the nation since the grime trend petered out. Artists such as Knucks prove there is a new generation ready to fill that void.

Yet rather than trying to replicate the style of grime or drill, Alpha Place is an album filled to the brim with lowkey, jazzy instrumentals, and features some of the best technical rapping from a UK artist to date. Knucks’ storytelling seems to have reached a new height, whilst select features from the likes of SL and Stormzy prove he’s very much at the forefront of the scene.


2000, Joey Bada$$

2000 album

Standout Track: Brand New 911 (feat. Westside Gunn)

“Who the best emcees? Kenny, Joey and Cole”, Brooklyn rap mainstay Joey Bada$$ states on 2000 opener, ‘The Baddest’. No doubt that’s the result of some unbridled hubris, but this album does remind us of the rapper’s prolific lyrical abilities. Often delivered over a laidback beat, 2000 doesn’t give much space for Bada$$ to lay claim to having the best flow, but it provides for an enjoyable listening experience that’s less intensive than other projects on the list.

Such beats involve recognisable samples like Stephanie Mills’ 1989 track ‘Something In The Way (You Make Me Feel)’. (2000’s use of samples, in fact, eventually caused a month-long delay to the album’s release). Overall, this is a strong record, but its main impact is of reminding the sheer talent a 17-year-old Bada$$ released 1999 a decade ago.


Drill Music In Zion, Lupe Fiasco

Drill Music In Zion

Standout Track: Ms Mural

Now a veteran in the rap game, Lupe Fiasco often has to remind us that he can do this in his sleep. Drill Music In Zion was written and recorded within 72 hours, and provides an earnest reflection of how the rapper sees the state of the genre and the world around him. It’s therefore no surprise that at points, the album can feel a little repetitive. This is, however, easy to overlook when unpacking Lupe’s dense rhymes over lush, jazz-rap beats.

The storytelling on songs ‘Kiosk’ and ‘Ms Mural’ is excellent, whilst they intelligently observe how art is commercialised in the modern day. Lupe is still staying away from the mainstream, but Drill Music In Zion is still his most accessible record for years, and features the dexterity of a seasoned professional.


Only Built For Infinity Links, Quavo & Takeoff

Only Built For Infinity Links

Standout Track: Hell Yeah

When Only Built For Infinity Links was released at the beginning of November, few could have predicted that it would act as the end credits to Takeoff’s career and life. It’s therefore all the more uplifting that his final project was not only one of, if not, his best, but that it was done with his Uncle and best friend, Quavo.

On a second listen, Offset’s absence does sometimes cloud the project, but the music itself is some of the rapper’s best. ‘Hotel Lobby’ features a modish Takeoff verse, whilst songs such as ‘Hell Yeah’ show off Quavo’s strengths as a more melodic rapper. The album isn’t ambitious in scope, but it is a fun, enjoyable project with a classic Migos feel.


Tana Talk 4, Benny The Butcher

Tana Talk 4

Standout Track: Weekends In The Perrys (feat. Boldly James)

Tana Talk 4 features some of the best rapping of Benny’s career, and the gritty production gives the project that authentic Griselda feel after a brief elope with Hit-Boy. The content, however, just feels a bit too similar to Tana Talk 3 and other previous projects, thus preventing the album from cracking into my top 10.

However, some well placed features (Boldy James seriously might have verse of the year on ‘Weekends In The Perrys’), strong concepts (‘10 More Commandments’ is a great play on the Biggie classic), and brilliant technical rapping makes the project a must-listen for fans of the underground sound.


Beyond Belief, 38 Spesh & Harry Fraud

Beyond Belief album

Standout Track: Speshal (featt. Stove God Cooks)

On his second project of the year, 38 Spesh proves why there are few better than him technically in the game right now. His multi-syllable rhyme schemes and vivid imagery stand out on the album, whilst Harry Fraud provides ten select beats that largely rely on soulful vocal samples or heavy electric guitar.

‘Speshal’ is representative of this; an instrumental largely carried by a guitar riff that allows Spesh and Stove God Cooks to paint their drug-infused pictures. The album is a bit loose when it comes to its concept, but that’s easily ignored when appreciating the sheer quality of rapping on Beyond Belief.


SICK!, Earl Sweatshirt


Standout Track: 2010

The Odd Future alumni returned with an album that went a little under the radar this year in Sick!. Neither as consistent or as concise as his brilliant 2019 project, Some Rap Songs, Sick! was still an impressive offering, adding to Earl Sweatshirt’s solo canon of work, as well as being perhaps a little more sanguine than his previous releases. It’s still not – and, with him, never will be – all sunshine and daisies, but the experience of fatherhood and added maturity make for a slightly more assured Earl on this album.


Killing Nothing, Boldy James & Real Bad Man

Killing Nothing

Standout Track: All The Way Out

If there’s one thing Boldy James embodies, it’s reliability. Since he decided to fully dedicate himself to music in 2020, signing with Griselda Records, Boldly has been prolific, with each album just as consistent as the last. Whilst Killing Nothing neither carries the allure nor the experimental production of The Alchemist, it sees him go back to the basics of street rap.

The booming, 90s-esque production of the Real Bad Man collective, coupled with the nonstop, intense imagery of Detroit street-life from Boldy, demonstrates both at their best through 13 no-nonsense tracks. All in all, it’s a clear step-up from 2020’s Real Bad Boldy.


Few Good Things, Saba

Few Good Things

Standout Track: Come My Way (feat. Krayzie Bone)

Few Good Things sees Saba dealing with the subsequent success and recognition that comes with releasing a hit project, which he did with 2018’s Care For Me. Few Good Things is a much more soulful, fun experience than its predecessor. Yet past trauma still obviously haunts Saba, namely the death of his cousin Carl, the main focus of Care For Me, and an integral part of this album.

Features are congenial, with the likes of Smino and G-Herbo demonstrating that Saba doesn’t intend to stray far from his Chicago home, either in the contents of the album or its features.


$oul $old $eparately, Freddie Gibbs

$oul $old $eperately

Standout Track: No Gold Rings (ft. Pusha T)

Freddie Gibbs is known at this point for his rapper-producer projects, which is why when the tracklist for $oul $old $eparately was revealed, announcing that Freddie was practically working with a different producer on every song, along with a sub-par lead single, expectations weren’t exactly high. His solo efforts in the past have been inconsistent to say the least, and whilst $$$ has a couple of duds as Freddie attempts to pander to a more mainstream audience on ‘Too Much’ and ‘Pain & Strife,’ the project is largely a success.

There is more variety, something which comes with different producers, as typical faces The Alchemist and Madlib provide highlights, whilst Three 6 Mafia member DJ Paul breathes new life into Freddie’s catalogue on ‘PYS’. Overall, Gibbs is still at the top of his game when it comes to rapping, barely missing a breath through the 46-minutes of runtime. With $$$, he manages to successfully merge the demands of a major label debut with his signature tongue-in-cheek style.


10, Westside Gunn


Standout Track: BDP (feat. Rome Streetz & Stove God Cooks)

Westside Gunn once again proves his worth as an executive producer, and rapper, on 10. His first project of the year, Peace “Fly” God, saw him take a complete backseat role, delivering only one verse on the album, and whilst he just as much serves as curator on this project as well, he also displays lyrical excellence.

‘Super Kick Party’ features some of the best rapping on the entire project, whilst his verses on ‘Peppas’ and ‘BDP’ are standouts. There is an array of rappers featured, from A$AP Rocky to Run The Jewels, yet the recurring appearance of Stove God Cooks means 10 never feels too far from a classic Griselda tape. Whilst some more individual tracks from West would have been welcome, the Hitler Wears Hermes closer ranks as perhaps the best addition to the series.


King’s Disease III, Nas

King’s Disease III

Standout Track: Thun

“They argue KD1, KD2 or Magic go harder when/ KD3 go harder than all of them” Nas opens with on the second verse of the third and final entry to the King’s Disease series, and he’s not wrong. Everything just feels a step up on the finale. Nas’ raps are tighter, Hit-Boy’s samples cleaner, and there’s more cohesion.

The first two entries attempted to dip their toes into other sub-genres of rap, whether it be trap or melodic, yet KD3 is a much purer hip-hop record. Nas’ storytelling is as good as ever on tracks like ‘Thun,’ which sees him reflecting on his time in the Brooklyn streets.

Reflection plays a major part in the record, as Nas compares himself (and Hit-Boy) to all-time greats like Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones on ‘Michael & Quincy’, and overall recounts his near-30-year stretch in the game. It’s unprecedented for someone to rap at this level for so long, yet with every release, Nas makes us question whether he will ever slow down.


Aethiopes, billy woods


Standout Track: Remorseless

Aethiopes as a title is an almost perfect representation of what’s to come in this album. An ancient term for people from northern Africa, it references Woods’ deep interest in his heritage. It’s an example of the album being full of meanings and references that require unpacking. Preservation’s production is ominous and dark, and brilliantly compliments the violence that often surrounds Billy’s lyrics. He opens ‘Haarlem’ with “I eat human hearts”, for instance.

The record reaches a crescendo with its penultimate track, ‘Remorseless,’ using a beautiful synth sample and minimal drums as Billy raps about a lost lover in his typical philosophical fashion. Aethiopes is a dense, educative record, packed with bar after bar, that pushes the boundaries of the abstract hip-hop genre.



Ramona Park Broke My Heart

Standout Track: AYE! FREE THE HOMIES

Vince Staples knows his craft and it shows with Ramona Park Broke My Heart. Fusing styles of hip-hop, the album is united by Vince Staples’ quality, as he harks back to the area where he grew up: Ramona Park. Seagulls open the album and appear throughout. The interludes are not wasted.

Lil Baby’s verse on ‘East Point Prayer’ is a standout, as is the rest of the track, while ‘When Sparks Fly’ – a love song subtly written to his own gun – is a clever piece of songwriting. Vince Staples is in complete control on this impressive album.



Heroes & Villains

Standout Track: Creepin (with The Weeknd & 21 Savage)

A rare success story in the producer-led albums genre, Heroes & Villains avoids the mistake too often made of recruiting any and every artist, and sticks with a select few main characters to perform the bulk of the project. Future continues his fine form on tracks such as ‘Superheroes,’ whilst a Travis Scott feature nearly never misses. 21 Savage plays a big role, most notably on ‘Creepin’, an unexpected crossover with The Weeknd which somehow works wonders.

Metro Boomin uses his extensive contact book without overwhelming the album. His signature trap beats are catchy and hard-hitting, and when you consider Metro’s own personal circumstances faced this year – with his mother reportedly killed by her husband – the album becomes all the more impressive.


Melt My Eyez See Your Future, Denzel Curry

Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Standout Track: Walkin

Denzel is angry at the world, but simultaneously trying to keep his spirits up in whatever way he can. It’s the contrast between songs such as ‘Melt Session #1’, in which he calls his president a “c**t” whilst breaking down his quarrels with the world, and songs such as troubles ‘Troubles,’ admitting that drugs don’t fix all his problems, that make Melt My Eyez See Your Future so appealing.

Denzel has also begun to slightly venture into other genres, recruiting the likes of T-Pain to create a more pop-rap sound, and even attempting it himself on ‘X-Wing’. Perhaps what prevents Melt My Eyez… from ranking higher for me is the fact Denzel is too focused on content, which sometimes seems to take away from the technical aspect of rap. It’s not a criticism, however, just preference. This is still an exceptional project from one of the best album curators of rap’s newer generation.


The Elephant Man’s Bones, Roc Marciano & The Alchemist

The Elephant Man’s Bones

Standout Track: Quantum Leap

There are few who can rap as nonchalantly, yet captivate the same level of mafioso superiority as Roc Marciano does. There are also few who can flip a sample into a boom-bap beat as expertly as The Alchemist. The Alchemist takes a more backseat position throughout The Elephant Man’s Bones, however, as instead of his instrumentals attacking you at every turn, he provides Roc Marci with some of his barest, most stripped-down beats in years.

This is not to say the attention to detail is not there, however. Take ‘Quantum Leap,’ a simple boom-bap drum line, laced with rich piano keys and the occasional bass guitar hit, allowing Marciano to monotonously flow whilst keeping lyrics such as “I made murder sexy” the centre of attention. The Alchemist doesn’t overwhelm the project, allowing Roc Marciano to display his near-unparalleled level of lyricism in full effect. The Elephant Man’s Bones is a perfect example of seamless producer-rapper chemistry, and it just happens to be between two of the game’s best.


No Thank You, Little Simz

Little Simz NO THANK YOU

Standout Track: Gorilla

Whilst Sometimes I Might be Introvert was a multifaceted effort that ventured into everything from grime to afrobeats, showing off Little Simz’ creativity, No Thank You acts more as an unburdening for the North London rapper. Issues surrounding her recently fired manager of seven years and contractual disputes demonstrate that whilst Simz may have released her opus just a year ago, not all is perfect behind-the-scenes.

That isn’t to say she doesn’t take the time to show off, as the album is ten tight tracks of lyrical mastery, which, whilst also confronting Simz’ burdens, gives her some space to relish in her recent success. ‘Gorilla’, which intertwines triumphant horns with a funky bass line, cements the fact that this has been a historic year. Her “bank has got bigger” and she has “bangers out in the world soaring”, she tells us. That she certainl does. 


It’s Almost Dry, Pusha T

It's Almost Dry album

Standout Track: Let The Smokers Shine The Coups

Creating a unique coke-rap album in 2022 is impressive in and of itself, with the sub-genre having a somewhat mainstream renaissance in the past few years, but to do it at the level of Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry… well, there’s a reason he’s called King Push. Pusha is still unrivalled in the way he contorts the English language to find new ways to rap about cocaine, and his storytelling has become more meticulous than ever before.

Weaving through unique yet hard-hitting beats from both Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, It’s Almost Dry is the result of the burdens of quarantining and becoming a new father. A Clipse reunion to close out a near-perfect tracklist makes this feel like a full circle moment in Push’s career, and whilst not as tight as 2018’s Daytona, the project still features some of Pusha’s strongest work to date. Add the fact the album went number one, and Push has the world at his feet.


God Don’t Make Mistakes, Conway the Machine

God Don’t Make Mistakes copy

Standout Track: John Woo Flick (feat. Benny The Butcher & Westside Gunn) 

Many underestimate how hard it is to take the Griselda Records sound and make it even vaguely commercial. Therefore, when Conway The Machine signed to Shady Records in 2017, fans were worried whether his gritty, underground sound would be compromised. Several mixtapes later and God Don’t Make Mistakes should be a reminder about how uncompromising Conway really is. Griselda in-house producer handles much of the production, retaining the grimey genuinity of the clique. Conway’s delivery and wordplay have the air of Biggie Smalls around them – that’s how good he is on this record.

Yet whilst he’s so talented lyrically, it’s the vulnerability he demonstrates on the album which takes it to that next level. Heart-wrenching revelations of him losing a son are just some of the album’s emotional highlights, and make God Don’t Make Mistakes the most personal Griselda Records release I’ve heard to date.

There’s room for street anthems ‘John Woo Flick’ and ‘Tear Gas’, the latter featuring Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. When you have those artists at your disposal, why not use them? The fact Conway has managed to merge all of these demands into a single cohesive project is a phenomenal achievement, and makes God Don’t Make Mistakes the underground highlight of the year.


Mr Morale & The Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Standout Track: Father Time (feat. Sampha)

After ten years of releasing music intended to make people question the world and themselves, one of the great album curators of our times turns the lens on himself. Mr Morale & The Big Steppers is one of the world’s biggest artists at his most vulnerable, as Kendrick Lamar confronts past trauma with the problems that have seen him take a step back from music over the last five years.

Whilst this is perhaps the most introspective you can get in rap (at times it feels like you are a fly on the wall to a therapy session), Kendrick seldom sacrifices lyrical skill for the sake of introspection. There are questions surrounding Kodak Black’s place on the project, and ‘Purple Hearts’ is a bit too generic for my liking, but the album is truly on a level of its own in the genre when it comes to self-reflection and confronting inner pain.


Cheat Codes, Black Thought & Danger Mouse

Cheat Codes

Standout Track: Aquamarine (feat. Michael Kiwanuka)

Post-Roots exit, Black Thought has managed to demonstrate his unparalleled technical ability through a series of EP releases and features, but was yet to release the complete album that would cement him as one of the greats. In linking up with legendary producer Danger Mouse to create Cheat Codes, he’s done just that. It’s not just his lyrical skill that shines, with the album packed with plenty of social commentary and braggadocious takes.

Danger Mouse gives the album a classic feel, though, much of which can be attributed to the somewhat distorted mixing of Black Thought’s vocals. Features are chosen perfectly, whether it be MF Doom or Conway The Machine, and add an extra layer of lyrical dexterity to one of the most packed records of the year. Michael Kiwanuka’s soul-stirring background vocals on ‘Aquamarine’ are special, and when paired with Black Thought verses that invoke a feeling of being in the presence of royalty, they create, in my opinion, the best rap song of the year, on one of 2022’s best albums.


The Forever Story, JID

The Forever Story

Standout Track: Sistanem

J Cole states on the album’s closing track, that the first thing he noticed about Atlanta rapper JID was “that look in his eye”, that he “really wanted it”. The Forever Story bares the proof in that statement. The Forever Story is a coming together of all the characters and events from JID’s past that made him who he is today. Yet it is such a monumental step from 2017’s The Never Story. It was never in question whether JID was a top-tier rapper, but on this project, he takes it to another level.

The storytelling is vivid throughout; ‘Crack Sandwich’ is both a humorous yet eye-opening recount of his upbringing. He explores his singing ability more than ever before, with ‘Kody Blu 31’ being a beautiful melody about carrying on through pain. ‘Sistanem’ sees a near-broken JID confront the issues with women in his life, especially the broken relationship with his sister, and features perhaps the best rap chorus of the year.

Whilst JID elevates these other areas of his craft, he doesn’t slack when it comes to his bread and butter: flowing. ‘Lauder Too’ proves as much. The Forever Story is truly a masterpiece, cementing JID as one of the best of his generation.

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