Best Hip Hop Albums of 2019
2019 was a tragic year for hip hop in many ways. Nipsey Hussle was murdered in March, Bushwick Bill died in June after a long battle with cancer, and Juice Wrld died earlier this month after having a seizure in a Chicago Airport. But we’ve also been entertained. Eminem reignited his beef with Wild’N Out host Nick Cannon, and Tekashi 6ix9ine caught a racketeering case and told on everybody. And let’s not forget the hymen check comments made by T.I. regarding his daughter. This year has been full of highs, lows and funny moments. But nothing has been more entertaining than the music released this year. Here are a few of the best hip hop albums of 2019.
Rapsody cemented her spot among the hip hop elite with ‘Eve’. Though she was nominated for 2 Grammys in 2016 for ‘Laila’s Wisdom’, none of her projects have garnered the attention of ‘Eve’. Rolling Stone described this project as a masterpiece of hip hop feminism. Listeners who were previously unfamiliar with Rapsody were served an excellent introduction. She successfully made fans of new listeners, while still appealing to her core fan base. That is not an easy feat in the current climate of hip hop. To top it all off, she ended the year by joining Big KRIT’s tour. The NC emcee owned this year, and ‘Eve’ is an impressive piece of work.
Joell Ortiz has reached that sweet spot where everything he does is dope. Anyone who thought Mona Lisa was his best work should have been pleasantly surprised with the release of ‘Monday’. This is probably his most vulnerable project to date. Songs like Anxiety, Screens, and Learn You showcase his ability to write songs with meaningful powerful messages. But he still talks his shit on songs like Before Hip Hop and Jamaican Food. And the classic Joell is ever present on Captain. ‘Monday’ was a reminder of just how versatile Joell is. This is one of those projects that will still sound good in ten years.
This project was released in early November to little fanfare. If you don’t follow Styles P, you may not have even known he released a new album. But that’s no reflection on the quality of work this MC has put in. ‘Presence’ is one of my favorite albums of 2019 for a number of reasons. First, the features are dope. And there are a lot of features. But don’t worry, there’s enough of the MC to go around, and his “presence” is felt on every track.
When you play this album, you’ll hear a grown man dropping jewels about life, love and money. He has a level of maturity that you wont find in younger artists, but his pen game is still wicked as fuck. Yeah, there’s a song or two where he’s on some street shit, but even those songs are written for the intelligent consumer. So if you like mindless posturing and meaningless lyrics, this is definitely not the album. But, if you are a discriminating listener who likes sophisticated street music and crazy bars, you should love this project.
Reflection of Self: The Head Trip
2019 was definitely the year for personal growth and evolution, and Stalley did not disappoint. As a newly independent artist, the Ohio MC gifted his fans with his most thoughtful album to date. The entire project was produced by Jansport, and his soulful instrumentals set the tone for the musical journey Stalley takes us on. “With this music it’s more spiritual – it’s my story,” he explains. “I now have the freedom to create freely and bare my whole self to my true supporters.” The Ohio MC brings wisdom, creativity and superior lyricism on this project. I love to see Midwest MCs repping the culture. Stalley’s album is like good food and his words have the power to nourish and heal. You really should get this album.
Wow… That’s crazy
Wale just released his best work since ‘The Gifted’. ‘Wow….That’s Crazy’ is an eclectic mix of Afro pop rhythms, trap hi hats and radio friendly tracks. But it’s the consistency and transparency that makes this project one of his most focused albums. Routine and Pole Dancer though great songs, are the only two tracks that deviate from his reflective introspection. On this album the MC shares his struggles with mental health, his love for black women, and his frustration with relationships. The opening track Sue Me is one hell of an introduction. He discusses show business and life in general while proudly proclaiming “Sue Me I’m Rooting for Everybody That’s Black”. You’ll need to listen more than once to actually get this album. But once you do, you’ll understand why it made my list of best hip hop albums of 2019.
Common has always been thoughtful. But this album is personal even for him. Wearing his heart on his sleeve throughout, the album is an introspective gift that not too many people are capable of giving. Combining transcendent lyricism with incredible instrumental choices, it’s an excellent example of how beats and rhymes are supposed to marry one another. And let’s just be real: Common can do no wrong. Period.
The Iliad is Dead And The Odyssey Is Over
What can I say about MURS? This guy delivers every time. And his most recent album is no exception. The West Coast MC showcases his versatility as he bounces between humor and sensitivity. With guest features from Rapsody, $ilk Money, and Rueben Vincent he flicks the middle finger to mainstream norms. But what’s special about this album is his flair for storytelling. On My HERO he tells the story of a sex worker who after years of abuse and trauma murders her pimp. He approaches the topic without judgement and overtly addresses society’s double standards. But the stand out song on this album is undoubtedly Super Cojo Brothers featuring GQ and Cojo. Classic banger.
Revenge of the Dreamers III
The ‘Revenge of the Dreamers III’ compilation feels like an attempt to reconnect J. Cole with his peers. In the wake of KOD he appears genuinely humbled by his interaction with younger rappers. And since he hasn’t had any features on his last three albums, he’s obviously hungry for collaborative energy. And this compilation album features all of Dreamville including Ari Lennox. This album is not a cohesive project. But who really expects cohesion in a compilation album? This is strictly about bars and sheer variety- both of which are delivered here.
Gangstarr- One Of The Best Yet
There was a lot of drama surrounding Guru’s death in 2010. And since the release of the first single Family and Loyalty Gang Starr fans wondered if an album was coming. Fans were finally given the closure they needed with the release of ‘One Of The Best Yet’. With features from J Cole, Royce Da 5’9″, M.O.P., Q-Tip, and Talib Kweli this album has a timeless yet modern feel. This album is full of never released verses and hooks from the late rapper. With production by Premier, and verses from some of the best in the game, ‘One Of The Best Yet’ was worth the wait.
Shea Butter Baby
Ok, so this is clearly not a hip hop album. But Ari’s music has undeniably been influenced by hip hop. ‘Shea Butter Baby’ comes nearly three years after Lennox signed with J. Cole’s label Dreamville and released her 2016 EP Pho. The 12-song project driven by warm funk and soul is both intimate and playful. This album in all its dopeness has elevated Lennox to the upper echelon of today’s neo-R&B and soul wave. Shame on you Soul Train!
So there you have it. These are my picks of the best hip hop albums of 2019. What are yours?