What's happening folks! 2019 has been here for six months now. During this time, we've seen good releases and a few great releases. While some have considered this a fairly quiet year, it still has some highlights. Albums from the likes of Benny and Conway of Griselda, Tyler The Creator, and Mach Hommy have been in total rotation since they dropped, while albums from Bun B, Curren$y, 2 Chainz, and Freddie Gibbs have gotten lots of acclaim that's well deserved all around the board. With that being said, let's get into the list.
15. SOL Development
The SOL of Black Folk
In the times of today where Blacks are getting gunned down by police nationwide and getting acquitted, among numerous other social tragedies within our community, Oakland hip-hop band SOL Development has emerged with one of the most powerful albums in recent years with The SOL of Black Folk, which is a play off the legendary book from W.E.B. DuBois. Gripping and daring, this collective has constructed an album so important in today's times. This will be an album that may go overlooked by the general public, but that's a shame because this is such a vital piece of music.
Production: 9th Wonder & The Soul Council
Bucktown's original gun clappers, Smif-N-Wessun, returned with their first full-length album in eight years, The All. They didn't use prior contributors like Da Beatminerz for this album. Instead they hooked up with Grammy-Award winning producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder and his collective The Soul Council. The result is an album that shows that, even though the're still proud representatives of Brooklyn, NYC, they're also older statesmen, as they explore stuff such as love, growth, and devotion to family and industry. While not the sincere classic Dah Shinin' was, SMW are still NYC legends. With a somewhat nostalgic boom bap feel, Tek & Steele return to let everyone know, they still have the hunger, even with their veteran status in the game.
13. Quelle Chris
Production: artist, Chris Keys
One of hip-hop's most talented, albeit left-brained, emcees to represent Detroit is Quelle Chris. Known for very good efforts such as Ghost At The Finish Line, Innocent Country, and I Wish I Could Be You More Often..., Chris goes a more social and alarming route with the simple-title, Guns. Exploring the damage guns have had within our country, he explores this from various angles to demonstrate his ability to keep you intrigued. A more gloomy album than we've seen before from him, his message gets across, even if it strikes you in ways that are clothed in discomfort.
12. billy woods & Kenny Kenny Segal
Production: Kenny Segal
New York's billy woods is one of the underground's most intriguing emcees. His style of spoken-word poetry rap is one that at times has to grow on you, but once it hits you, it hits for real. Prior efforts such as Today, I Wrote Nothing and Known Unknowns exhibit pain, frustration, and at times hopelessness in the world around him. Not much changes with Hiding Places, as he gets up with Cali beatmaker Kenny Segal to present a world of cruel realities and pessimistic views of the human experience. This effort continues to show why woods should be on the lips of any fan of contemporary underground hip-hop and it's only a matter of time before woods becomes too big for the subterrain to hold.
11. PIVOT Gang
You Can't Sit With Us
Production: daedae PIVOT, squeak PIVOT
After the heartbreaking and tragic death of PIVOT Gang member, John Walt, (which was so exquisitely remembered on arguably the best album of 2018, Saba's Care For Me), the crew reassembles for You Can't Sit With Us. This is a great introduction to those largely unfamiliar with the crew beyond Saba. The talent is all over here and this Chi-town squad clearly has sights outside of Chi-city. Life, love, and holding each other down are all big pointers throughout the album. Though life hasn't been easy at all with any member, they present their issues in ways that are completely relatable and conjure empathy. It's a safe bet to say their futures look good, especially with one of their own proudly watching over them.
10. Conway The Machine
Everybody Is Food 3
Production: Daringer, DJ Skizz, others
Ah, the Griselda camp. Arguably the hardest crew in hip-hop at the moment. They may also be the hottest musically too. The emcee known as The Machine, Conway, is part of this three headed monster alongside brother Westside Gunn and cousin Benny The Butcher. Not having put out a full-length album since the super gutter G.O.A.T., he's been on his mixtape hustle like nobody's business. Earlier this year, he released the third installment of his Everybody Is F.O.O.D. series, and this knocks as hard as anything the Buffalo native has delivered. While there may be one or two introspective cuts, don't get it twisted, there's no sweet shit here. The grimiest will remain the grimiest and if that wylin' out for the night, fist thrower music is what you crave, accept no substitutes than Conway.
9. DJ Muggs & Mach Hommy
Production: DJ Muggs
Former Griselda-associate Mach Hommy is among the most enigmatic emcees around. However, his talent is undeniable and it caught the attention of legendary DJ/producer, Muggs, for their first collaborative effort, Tuez-Les Tous (which is French for 'kill them all'). The Haitian-born emcee is most known for his rhyming over production from the likes of Nicholas Craven and Tha God Fahim, but Muggs brings some of his lyrical abilities out for Muggs. This is as dark as you might could imagine, and with the string of hottness Muggs has been on with his collaborative albums with the likes of Roc Marciano, Meyhem Lauren, and Eto, this is another chapter into the furthering of both men's legacies.
Everything's For Sale
Production: S-1, Keyel, Streetrunner, Fresh Ayr, others
Compton upstart, Boogie, first got mainstream shine on the BET Hip-Hop Awards during the Shady/Griselda cypher. From there, the buzz around the Shady emcee was building, and in early January, he finally dropped his debut, Everything's For Free. The album covers emotions ranging from anger to carefree to introspective, and it makes for a very well-rounded album. The talent from Boogie is palpable and this excellent album shows his willingness to be open and honest is always welcomed, and he does this throughout the album. This is a strong major label debut from the Comptonite, and chances are his best work is still to come.
7. Curren$y & Statik Selektah
Production: Statik Selektah
If there was an emcee from the south that is way overdue to be mentioned among the unsung heroes, it's Curren$y. After his ungodly dope effort with Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist last year, Fetti, plus numerous other enjoyable releases like Covert Coup, the Pilot Talk series, and numerous other mixtapes and EPs, he's back with another knocking collaborative effort. He teams up with DJ/producer excellence, Statik Selektah, for Gran Turismo. As you can expect from Selektah, it's full that 90s boom bap sound, only with some occasional southern styles showing up in grand fashion. Assisting him on the dope ride are the likes of Jadakiss, Jim Jones, Termanology and Wiz Khalifa (who delivered a well-executed project, 2009, earlier in the year). Curren$y is one of the most prolific emcees out and for good reason. This dumb good project only continues to solidify the name of Curren$y and the legacy is continuing to build.
6. Tyler The Creator
After delivering what many called the album of his career two years ago with Flower Boy, Tyler The Creator goes even deeper into his artistic envelope with the melancholy, IGOR. Filled with vulnerability and emotive expression, Tyler shows that he knows how to not only think outside the box, he creates a whole new box. Don't let his off-kilter singing here throw you off, this effort is ambitious and courageous much like his prior effort. Done, seemingly, are his shock comedy raps and instead has been replaced them with emotive portraits of a young man wanting to make sense of where he belongs in this world. This album is a reflection of that and more.
5. Your Old Droog
It Wasn't Even Close
Production: Daringer, Evidence, Sahdu Gold, Tha God Fahim, others
The Ukranian Brooklynite Your Old Droog is considered a highly talented emcee and rightfully so. Albums of his such as Packs, his EP The Nicest, and his simply excellent self titled debut put him onto people's radar with his great lyricism, especially his early comparisons to Nas. He returned in 2019 with It Wasn't Even Close, a more brooding sounding album but the lyrical talents remained the same. With contributors such as Roc Marciano, Mach Hommy, Wiki from RATKING, and the ever sly fox himself DOOM, Droog more than holds his own, and displays his talent once again showing why he's becoming more and more revered as years go along.
4. Bun B & Statik Selektah
Production: Statik Selektah
Did we ever think we would see a whole collaborative effort from NYC's residential DJ/producer, Statik Selektah and hip-hop legend (regardless of regional section), Bun B? It happened earlier this year with the album, TrillStatik. Bun over heavy east coast boom bap production doesn't seem like it would work for an entire album, but it does, very damn well. While he rhymes alongside cohorts like Talib Kweli, Big K.R.I.T., Fat Joe, Grafh, and Method Man, this is clearly his stage and holds up well with these and other very talented cats. A definite win for everybody here.
3. Mach Hommy
Wap Konn Joj (EP)
Production: Nicholas Craven, Earl Sweatshirt, Tha God Fahim, The Alchemist
The ever mysterious, yet highly touted, Brooklynite Mach Hommy hasn't delivered a solo effort in few years, yet presented two projects so far in 2019. Earlier, his effort with DJ Muggs was touted for bringing some of Hommy's best work. However, his latest EP is just as great, if not better. The EP, Wap Konn Joj (which is Haitian creole for 'You'll get what's coming), is filled with very dark soundscapes with minimal to no drums and snares and some of those same cautionary tales we've known about him. With fantastic production from the likes of Alchemist, Fahim, and Nicholas Craven ("Mozambique Plan" counts among the most hypnotic soundscapes of the year), Hommy continues to expand his cult-like fan base and there's still more than enough ammo for him to hit more fans and grow more accessibility.
2. Benny The Butcher
The Plugs I Met (EP)
Production: The Alchemist, Daringer, Beat Butcha
In 2018, Griselda's Benny The Butcher delivered the album of his career thus far with the instant classic, Tana Talk 3. He follows that up with this year's offering, The Plugs I Met. This EP feels like a continuation of TT3, which is a very damn good thing. The ever talented cousin of Gunn and Conway is as vicious as they come in this era of hip-hop, and his storytelling abilities can rival legends like Raekwon, Ghostface, and Scarface very easily. With incredible production from Alan The Chemist, Daringer, and Beat Butcha to spit over, this tough-talking hustler is geared and primed to be one of the biggest stars to emerge from NY this generation. If TT3 didn't compel you with that statement, The Plugs I Met will quiet those doubts.
1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
One of the most anticipated albums in years has been the follow-up to the instant classic from Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Pinata. In the mid-2010s, you couldn't find many albums that were more consistent and sonically more substantial than Pinata. Since then, Gibbs has delivered great efforts like Shadow Of A Doubt, Freddie, and You Only Live 2wice, however all eyes have been on him and producer extraordinaire Madlib to reunite and give us Bandana. It finally arrived, and boy did it deliver as we knew it would. From top to bottom, this album is a total slapper. Madlib presents some of his richest production to date, while Gibbs brings some of his hardest rhymes in years. Gibbs and Madlib are simply perfect together, much like Madlib and DOOM were in 2005 when they were Madvillain. One of the most soulful gangsta albums heard this decade, if not ever, Bandana has to be spoken of as perhaps the hardest album of 2019.
Beast Coast- Escape From NY
Injury Reserve- Injury Reserve
Little Simz- Grey Area
Vinnie Paz & Tragedy Khadafi- Camouflage Regime
Choosey & Exile- Black Beans
Erick Sermon- Vernia
Cantrell- Devil Never Even Lived
Nems & Jazzsoon- Gorilla Monsoon
Crimeapple & DJ Skizz- Wet Dirt
Your Old Droog- Transportation
Epic Beard Men- This Was Supposed To Be Fun
2 Chainz- Rap Or Go To The League
Czarface & Ghostface Killah- Czarface Meets Ghostface
Blu & Oh No- A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night
The Good People- Good For Nothin'
Clear Soul Forces- Forces Still
While 2019 has been a relatively quiet and slowed down year compared to this time in years past, it has been anything but wack as you can see. With releases coming from Westside Gunn, the Griselda/Shady debut, De La Soul, Isaiah Rashad, Black Moon, Joell Ortiz, Big K.R.I.T., Skyzoo & Pete Rock, Sean Price & Lil Fame, Common, Rapsody and The Lost Tapes 2 finally coming, the year looks a bunch better and there's no reason to believe that we've only just begun to see the heat coming for the remainder of the year. Get ready now for more consistent bangers. Don't say we didn't warn you. Until next time folks!