My 15 Favorite Rap Projects of 2019
2019 has come and gone, and now it's time to look back and reflect on all the new music we have been blessed with this year. This was a year defined not by blockbuster albums, but by under the radar releases and emerging superstars. With that being said, here are my fifteen favorite projects of this year loosely ordered. Enjoy!
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I loved all of these but didn't have space to include them. They are great and deserved a tribute nonetheless.
Denzel Curry - Zuu
Kemba - Gilda
Anderson Paak. - Ventura
Conway The Machine - Look What I Became
Earl Sweatshirt - Feet of Clay
Femdot - 94 Camry Music
15. Everything's For Sale
The Compton-born Boogie has a knack for tying in his real life experiences into the music, and it's more than apparent on Everything's For Sale. The two-and-a-half year wait that fans endured between projects was well worth it. His debut album is clever and thought-provoking. Songs like "No Warning" (feat. Shaé Universe), "Skydive", and "Skydive II" (feat. 6LACK) examine relationships and analyze the insecurities of commitment and toxicity. Outside of his success crooning, Boogie is also a technically-proficient rapper, fitting of a Shady Records signee. He has subtle bangers too; for that avenue I would recommend "Silent Ride", "Soho" (feat. JID), and "Self-Destruction". It's a breath of fresh air to see someone not only take on such heavy subject matter, but to return with genuine songs and smart lyrics.
14. Netflix and Deal
03 Greedo & Kenny Beats
Thematically speaking, there wasn't a better album this year. Netflix & Deal is the collaborative brainchild from Watts rapper 03 Greedo and Kenny Beats, who was my producer of the year. With each track, Greedo pays tribute to a different film that was important to his life pre-fame, when he was struggling in his Atlanta traphouse. He fills the runtime with references, sometimes even rapping from the perspective of a movie character. For example, on the track "Disco Shit", Greedo raps from the perspective of George Jung from the movie Blow.
Fuck character acting, this is character rapping.
Greedo has a unique delivery that takes influence from Young Thug's melodic auto-crooning. His West Coast roots shine through, too, as his rapping flow is mean and reminiscent of ScHoolboy Q.
With the exquisite beats from Kenny and a stellar group of features, Greedo takes a step forward artistically with this album.
IF YOU LIKE THE CAVE, YOU WILL LIKE THIS PROJECT.
13. Lamb Over Rice
Action Bronson & The Alchemist
Action Bronson is unquestionably one of rap's most interesting characters; and in 2019, with the assistance of The Alchemist, returns to form with Lamb Over Rice. The EP may only have 7 songs, but it has infinite quotables.
"Bitch I'm a superhero, I wasn't born with dinero
Somehow I turned into DeNiro
Just give me one shot at the lead role
You'll be amazed, like the first time you seen snow"
AND THAT'S JUST THE FIRST BAR
From start to finish, production on this project sounds unconventionally antique. You will not find trap drums here; instead, you will hear organs and samples of 70s music like Eddy Owen's "Everybody's Nobody" on the song "Accoutrements." I love Action Bronson and have been majorly disappointed in his work since Blue Chips II and Mr. Wonderful. To summarize, Bronson (with the help of Alan the Chemist) is back to giving us bars that can taste just as much as we can hear.
12. FlyGod is an Awesome God
Westside Gunn is grimy. He might even be the grimiest out.
Throughout Flygod is an Awesome God, Gunn paints a celebratory picture of his current state in life, overcoming his rough upbringing and life in Buffalo. Just like a classic Griselda album we got tons of dark boom-bap production courtesy of Daringer (with some coming from JR Swiftz, The Alchemist, and even Madlib), incredible ad-libs from Gunn, and unmatched lyrical chemistry across tracks.
"Sensational Sherri," "Thousand Shot Mac," and "Gunlib" will melt your brain. They will have you going 30 miles over the speed limit. Westside's performances are my favorite yet across his discography. His vocal inflections on "Bautista" are excellent. I really wasn't a huge fan of Hitler Wear Hermes 7 which Westside also released this year. The sequel to his famed mixtape series felt boring- released to be released with no true purpose other than to add to the series.
On a final note, if you don't like this project at least listen to Benny's verse on "Sensational Sherri".
11. Revenge of the Dreamers III
When I saw the artists like Vince Staples, Saba, and Young Nudy post the infamous yellow invitations on Twitter, I got excited. I was thrilled to see what the roster J. Cole assembled over the last few years was capable of creating collectively. It's truly impressive what the group was capable of making in the sole 48 hour recording window that they set for themselves.
As a whole, they made a lot of good tracks like "LamboTruck," "Wells Fargo," and "Rembrandt... Run It Back." Artists like Guapdad 4000, Buddy, and DaBaby put people on notice with their contributions, with DaBaby's "Under The Sun" verse getting nods from some as the verse of the year. I did feel that they were too many guest appearances, even though they did contribute some pretty memorable moments. I think a lot of the R&B attempts on this project fell short and ended up bringing the project down as a whole. If they would've stuck to their original roster and condensed the track list, I feel this project could've snuck up my rankings a few spots. I wanted more Cole. The deluxe edition released this month added a lot of good cuts to the record like JID's banger "Big Black Truck." Overall, this was a pretty good effort from one of hip-hop's top crews.
10. The Plugs I Met
Benny The Butcher
"I heard they sick about me rapping ‘bout the drugs I stretch
I’ma write a whole album ‘bout the plugs I met"
- Benny the Butcher, Broken Bottles, Tana Talk 3
Tana Talk 3 was an exciting project that pumped new life into the coke rap subgenre that is slowly becoming stale. One of the bars he dropped previewed his next project perfectly, as in June of 2019, The Plugs I Met EP dropped. This was the hottest project to come out of Griselda this year. The sum of their 3 parts didn't increase their talent as a whole on WWCD. Look What I Became had wonderful flashes of raw talent but ultimately didn't carry throughout the entire album, and people are still debating whether Hitler Wears Hermes VII or Flygod is an Awesome God is the better Westside Gunn project of 2019. Benny is a lyrical wizard and exquisite storyteller. He spins tales like J. Cole or Nas, but none of these stories have happy endings. Mean tales of moving dope are made more believable with the skits and vocal samples describing the kingpin nature of Benny. If you enjoy Pusha T, you will like Benny; King Push literally knighted him as the future of coke rap with his feature on the track "18 Wheeler." Other notable features come from MCs such as Conway the Machine, Jadakiss, and Black Thought. This was the album of 2019 that I would describe as All Killer No Filler.
9. Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd
presented by: Future
Future Hndrxx is back at it again. I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of the Atlanta legend, but I can definitely get down with this project. At first I was very skeptical as I am with every other project of his, but The WIZRD is the only album I have claimed to deem as "great" beside from his 2017 self-titled Future project. The WIZRD starts decently with an alright first 3 songs but immediately heats up for the rest of the project. The 4 through 13 spots have some insane Pluto cuts like gracefully confessional "Temptation," dynamically hypnotic "F&N," delightfully dark "Call the Coroner," and beautifully braggadocios "Promise U That." Production is taken very seriously on projects coming from the Fire Marshall; it's in good hands being handled almost exclusively by ATL Jacob, Wheezy, and Southside.
In case you somehow forgot, he's been poppin' since his demo, bitch!
8. Anger Management
Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats
As the title may suggest, a lot of this album is pure rage and aggression. While that is very entertaining, Rico Nasty showed us she can do a lot more. Pairing with Kenny was a no-brainer; his hard-hitting 808s paired with her loud and raspy vocals is a match made in heaven. A perfect example of this is shown on tracks like the intro "Cold" and "Hatin" where Kenny had the balls to put his own spin on my favorite instrumental of all time (go see for yourself). Rico also showed her ability to write catchy hooks on the EDM-influenced "Cheat Code" with Baauer. If that still wasn't enough to sell you on Ms. Nasty, I highly recommend you check out "Relative" and "Sell Out" where she shows off her prowess on the pen. She has bars and it's apparent on her introspective tracks basing around the vexations of reaching and dealing with fame. It also helps that features came from the bright duo Earthgang and the hypnotic hook-master Splurge. Don't forget this is a Kenny-produced project too, aside from the Harry Fraud assist on "Relative," so you know it slaps.
7. Freewave 3
Lucki February 15th
Percs. That's It. Percs. Just kidding, I have more to say.
Lucki gave us installments in his Days B4 series as well as his Freewave series, and I found the latter to be phenomenal. His delivery is subdued and his production is spaced out. It sounds like a beautiful hybrid of Earl Sweatshirt beats and Playboi Carti verses. He receives production from not only Earl but CHASETHEMONEY as well, who fits the sound of the project very well. His moody raps deal with subjects such as depression, relationships, and drugs. The music is encompassingly dark, yet simply beautiful. If anything I said about this project has intrigued you, I want you to go drive around for the hell of it and listen to "Out My Way", "Believe The Hype", "Glory Boy", and "All In." Like I was saying before... percs.
6. The Lost Boy YBN Cordae July 26th
YBN Cordae is next. There is no denying that.
His first album, The Lost Boy, is without a doubt one of the strongest debut albums of the year. He is receiving acclaim from critics and fans alike, even being nominated for "Rap Album of the Year" by the ever-so-unpredictable Grammys. Cordae has an immaculate pen game and impeccable flow. The most impressive and surprising aspect of The Lost Boy thought was it's completeness. His songwriting, features, and thematic concepts were miles ahead of any other young rapper at this stage in their career. Cordae is just as likely to get you out of your seat with tracks like "Broke As Fuck" and the Anderson.Paak assisted "RNP," as he is to have you bobbing your head dissecting his wordplay with songs like "Lost & Found" and "Nightmares are Real" (featuring Pusha T).
My only gripe with this album was how much it resembled Cole World: The Sideline Story. It's not necessarily a bad thing considering the career J. Cole has had since.
5. Crash Talk
ScHoolboy Q April 26th
This was the most bittersweet album of 2019.
ScHoolboy Q, in my opinion, has never missed and with the release of April's CrasH Talk, he still hasn't. It had some of the best songs in Q's discography; those being "Tales," "Dangerous," "Black Folk," and "Floating." Almost everything about this album was great. Now I did say almost... I am not exaggerating here when I say that "Chopstix" and "Lies" are his worst songs ever. "Chopstix" is fucking terrible. Everything about it is terrible. Travis Scott on that song gave us probably his weakest contribution to a song of all time. "Lies" isn't nearly as bad because of the decent verses from Q and YG. There are so many positives to outweigh the negatives though, and if he decided to cut those two tracks, this album would've found itself pushing a few spots up. While this album didn't have near the reception I expected from critics or fans, it was damn good.
CrasH Talk may not have had the interesting introduction of Habits & Contradictions, the engaging storytelling of Oxymoron, or the mysterious obscurity of Blank Face LP; it was gangster for the sake of being gangster.
4. Is He Real?
This project took me pleasantly by surprise. I wasn't a huge fan of previous songs by IDK, though I had not fully dove into his discography prior to Is He Real?. This studio debut is a concept album that deals heavily with themes of religion and morality. Even though Is He Real is rather under-cooked for dealing with such heavy subject matter, it's still a very impressive album. The good tracks are phenomenal and with the tracks that aren't as good, I'll still give IDK an A for effort due to his ballsy bravado shown on the project.
Tracks 5-7 were the biggest highlight of the project in my opinion, and it was one of my favorite 3 track runs of the year. "24" is the slamming lead single with booming bass where IDK impressively speeds up his delivery and changes flows nicely. My favorite song of the project "Lilly" discusses the downfalls of being famous and rich, more specifically how women seek to take advantage of those in that situation. "Porno" features J.I.D and other DMV star Pusha T; the song features a lot of clever innuendos and word play pertaining to sex and interactions with women.
If you need an example, see below...
"The bible say beatin' my dick and killin' is equal
But that don't add up, 'cause the amount of times
That I milk my shit it'll probably be considered serial"
If IDK continues to pursue this facet of hip-hop, we can safely say the future of
conscious rap is in good hands.
3. So Much Fun
Of all the albums in my top 20, there isn't an album that exemplifies "the wave" of current rap more than Young Thug's So Much Fun. Jeffery didn't exactly reinvent his sound. He doesn't need to, though, when everyone who is currently popping is biting his style and crediting him as an inspiration. As a debut studio should be, this is Thug at what I consider his most focused. Pi'erre Bourne and Wheezy lead production on many tracks, most of which are the standouts, like "Hot" and "Surf".
Speaking of Hot, it still goes just as hard as it did back in the beginning of September. Aside from the great features that were expected from Gunna and Lil Baby; Doe Boy, Juice Wrld, Lil Duke, and 21 Savage delivered excellent contributions to help make their tracks stand out. The deluxe edition of the album released at the end of December and added a few great songs like "Die Today" and "Diamonds".
2. IGOR Tyler, The Creator
How do you define best?
I feel that when an artist tries to push the envelope, that's what separates the good from the great. When their experimentation is successful, that's what separates the great from the spectacular. Tyler, The Creator's IGOR is truly spectacular. His music has never resonated with the sounds of traditional hip-hop. He's always been a little bit off, but when that beautiful blonde wig makes its way onto Tyler's head, the music to follow is captivating as hell. His talent shines throughout the album as he wrote, produced, and arranged every song. This is true alternative hip-hop at it's finest.
A BOY IS A GUN is fascinating with it's layering of soul samples and keys
RUNNING OUT OF TIME is beautiful with it's intriguing chord progression
NEW MAGIC WAND is delightful with it's grimy instrumental and message dealing with love and a potential murder
do not even get me started on the song of the year, EARFQUAKE
While it is not my personal favorite album, I think IGOR is the best album of 2019. Tyler's exceptional musical abilities behind the boards combined with his knack for writing compelling lyrics about love and relationships resulted in this modern masterpiece.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs has been putting on for a while now, but it was his dynamic partnership with legendary Oxnard-born producer Madlib that really helped to propel him into the spotlight. Madlib came with the beats and Freddie came with the bars, some serious brick talk. Bandana is the unorthodox follow-up to their beloved 2014 album, Piñata. Madlib's instrumentals feel spontaneous with their sporadic switch-ups; this led to Freddie Kane taking a more calculated and cerebral approach to his verses. The featured artists do exceptionally well, especially Anderson.Paak on "Giannis," Black Thought and Mos Def on "Education," and Pusha T's verse (of the year) on "Palmolive." It's a no-brainer that the combination of one of the rap game's most technically proficient rhymers with the enigmatic genius of Madlib aka King Quasi.
"That's when this music shit wasn't movin’, man I said I might as well be movin’ thangs" - Freddie Gibbs, Freestyle Shit
p.s. - saw this shit live; it went hard.