Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023. Hip hop is one of the most popular genres of music in the world, and 2023 has been a great year for new releases. We counted down the 15 best hip-hop albums of the year so far.
July is now upon us, which means it is now time to reflect on the best hip-hop albums of the year so far. In any given year, you will have fans trying to make the argument that “this year is weaker than last year.” Or they will try and insinuate that music isn’t hitting like it used to.
However, a few months down the line, those same listeners look back on the year that was and come to realize that a lot of great music was released.
So far, 2023 has fallen victim to these same premature criticisms. Although, it is important to remember that there has been more than a few quality releases. Some of the biggest artists have dropped already, and plenty more great albums are on the horizon. Having said that, here are our picks for the 15 best hip-hop albums of 2023, so far. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
15. NBA YoungBoy – Richest Opp
If NBA Youngboy isn’t the best rapper in the game, he’s undoubtedly one of the most industrious and relentless artists in the music industry. Ever since his release from house arrest in 2022, the rapper has been making up for lost time with an impressive string of projects. While some of his recent efforts, like I Rest My Case, ventured into new sonic territories, Richest Opp, his third solo venture this year, sees the Louisiana native returning to his roots.
Released as a fiery response to Lil Durk’s Almost Healed, with a hope to go head-to-head on the Billboard charts (as it turned out, Lil Durk was only dropping a single that day), NBA Youngboy is out for blood on Richest Opp. The track “F*ck The Industry” sets the tone for the entire project, as he takes aim at industry heavyweights such as Drake and J Cole, among others. While revenge clearly occupies his thoughts, NBA Youngboy’s vulnerability shines through in songs like “Hurt My Heart” and “Father,” providing listeners with a multi-dimensional portrait of the artist beyond the attention-grabbing controversies. At this stage, Richest Opp stands as a powerful showcase of NBA Youngboy’s skills as an MC, displaying his ability to explore different flows and utilize the elasticity of his melodies to convey a wide range of emotions. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Aron A.
14. Sexyy Red – Hood Hottest Princess
Rap divas such as Nicki Minaj, Latto, Ice Spice, and Cardi B have come through with hot new singles in 2023, however, none of them have given us an album yet. Rather, it’s rising star Sexyy Red who’s delivered what we consider to be the most impactful female hip-hop project of the year so far. Hood Hottest Princess arrived at the beginning of June in its 11-track glory, paving the way for the St. Louis native to reach new heights thanks to co-signs from acts like NLE Choppa and Travis Scott.
Throughout her album, Red connects with Sukihana on “Born By the River,” Juicy J and ATL Jacob on “Strictly for the Strippers,” and of course, Nicki Minaj and Tay Keith for “Pound Town 2.” Her lyrics are characteristically controversial, and in the accompanying music videos we’ve seen so far, the 25-year-old spends plenty of time working on her twerking. While not everyone agrees with her straightforward, NSFW nature, Hood Hottest Princess earned Red an 8/10 ranking from Pitchfork, who have praised her for paying homage to icons like Gucci Mane and Trina. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Hayley Hynes
13. Young Thug – Business Is Business
Amidst the menacing shadows of a RICO case that threatens to lock him away for life, Young Thug seems unfazed, treating it like just another day at the office. Merely a week after his (former?) friend and collaborator Gunna dropped his album, A Gift & A Curse, Thugger wasted no time and swiftly followed up with his third studio album, Business Is Business. Helmed by the talented executive producer Metro Boomin, this latest opus from Young Thug is a treasure trove of previously unreleased gems, songs that had been locked away.
While the project may not venture into uncharted sonic realms, as Thug has boldly done in the past, Business Is Business gifts fans with a seamless auditory experience from start to finish. It’s crystal clear that the industry’s unwavering support for Thug has only grown stronger over the past year, with heavyweights such as Future, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Travis Scott gracing the tracklist.
The album’s very essence, comprising tracks that Thug safeguarded over the years, serves as a testament to his timeless approach to crafting hits. “Jonesboro” flawlessly marries Metro’s eerie production with Thug’s haunting recollections of Cleveland Ave. And let’s not forget the infectious earworms like “Oh U Went” featuring Drake and “Hellcat Kenny” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, destined to dominate summer playlists.
In the grand scheme of things, Business Is Business does not exploit recent controversies for attention-grabbing rhymes or delve into Thug’s innermost struggles during his recent hardships (for obvious reasons). Instead, it capitalizes on the mounting anticipation surrounding the long-awaited Metro Thuggin collaboration. All things considered, it’s a damn good album. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Aron A.
12. YEAT – AfterLyfe
Yeat has certainly risen to become one of the most interesting characters in hip-hop today. Overall, he is known for spitting some truly unique flows, all while choosing the most off-the-wall beats. After scoring a huge hit with “Sorry Bout That,” the Oregon artist has been steadily dropping a consistent stream of albums. However, none of them have been better than his 2023 effort AfterLyfe. Over the course of this lengthy tracklist, Yeat gives fans a plethora of unique and new sounds. One could just look at the song “Nun I’d Change” where he gets into cyberpunk territory with the production choices. “Bettr Off” is another banger on the album where Yeat showcases his versatility as well as his ability to craft catchy tracks.
Throughout the album, Yeat doesn’t mind experimenting with sounds and going for more melancholic offerings. The album’s closer “Myself” is a great example of this. Moreover, you can’t help but appreciate how he features alter egos of himself. While some may roll their eyes at this, it is simply a way for the artist to showcase the wild flows he can pull off, seemingly out of nowhere. Even if you hate this style of rap, AfterLyfe is a must-listen. You may just be surprised. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Alexander Cole
11. Kaytramine – Kaytramine
Kaytranada and Aminé have teamed up as an official duo for their new album, Kaytraminé, which aims to soundtrack listeners’ tropical summer jaunts throughout the next two months. Partnering together for the first time since Kaytranada provided production on three songs off of Aminé’s 2015 mixtape, Calling Brio, the two have given fans a blend of Aminé’s often quirky yet infectious delivery with Kaytranada’s bouncy, varied production. The 11 tracks feature a star-studded group of guest artists including Snoop Dogg, Big Sean, Freddie Gibbs, and more.
Pharrell Williams provides arguably the most interesting contribution, popping up on the album’s lead single, “4EVA.” He lends a groovy chorus that, when meshed with Aminé’s characteristically fun and flirty bars, ties together one of the best songs from the entire project. Add in more highlights across the tracklist like “letstalkaboutit,” and “Master P,” and you’ve got one of the best albums of the year thus far. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Cole Blake
10. Killer Mike – Michael
Killer Mike brought listeners his sixth solo effort, Michael, in June. The album works to chronicle Killer Mike’s childhood, channeling his musical influences of gospel, soul, funk, blues, and more. He calls the album his “come home moment musically” and a “submission to God,” taking an introspective approach to putting together the pieces of his childhood that have made him the artist he is today. Michael also features various high-profile features from Andre 3000, Young Thug, CeeLo Green, and more.
The LP’s gospel-infused tracks serve as a testimony to his upbringing, featuring messages about learning tough lessons and grappling with the Black experience. Compelling themes of religion, loss, and triumph are woven throughout, making the album stand out in his vast discography. The album also features an array of intricate piano arrangements and choral ensembles, making it a sonically unique offering from the artist. Michael sees Killer Mike explore a more vulnerable, raw side of his lyricism, cementing its place as a fan favorite. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Caroline Fisher
9. Lil Durk – Almost Healed
Few trap albums this year are as self-aware and hard-hitting as the Chicago MC’s latest offering. Lil Durk’s Almost Healed sees Smruk balance a thin line, loyalty to the streets and acknowledgement of its cyclical pain, with blunt but heart-wrenching detail and skill. “I send money to jails, I send money for funerals, even though they goin’ to hell for all them n***as they killed,” he raps on the track “Pelle Coat.” “You know I’m part of my brother ‘nem forever ever, ever, I’m goin’ to hell.” For every threat to his opposition or bar about his wealth or hedonism, he recognizes his personal flaws and aims to fix them.
Family, friends, freedom, and fame are at the core of the album’s most emotive moments (like “All My Life” with J. Cole) and its most boisterous bangers (like “War Bout It” with 21 Savage). The production elevates these themes with both layered melodic instrumentation and minimal takes on sharp snares and booming bass. Through it all, Durk can’t let go of his past, but finds the knowledge and empathy to make the best out of his situation. It’s a hard contrast to achieve, but one that’s always compelling here. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Gabriel Bras Nevares
8. Conway The Machine – Won’t He Do It
In May, Conway the Machine dropped off his third studio album, Won’t He Do It. The 14-track record was the first he released under his new independent label Drumwork Music Group after his departure from Griselda. The album also follows his 2022 LP God Don’t Make Mistakes. Listeners watch Conway the Machine count his blessings on Won’t He Do It, trading his signature diabolical bars for verses centered around living the good life. The album also features appearances from fellow Griselda OGs Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher.
Conway the Machine called the album a showcase of him “in [his] versatile bag,” successfully flexing his affinity for experimentation. The rapper came in hot with the album’s lead single, “Super Bowl,” in February. He tapped Sauce Walka and Juicy J for the track, kicking off the Won’t He Do It with unmistakable levels of energy and lyrical dexterity. Conway the Machine is focused on his most recent release, which serves as the first of a two-part series. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Caroline Fisher
7. Talib Kweli & Madlib – Liberation 2
Their initial Liberation collaboration emerged at the top of 2007, slyly making its way online as a free download. It was quickly removed and officially released that Spring, and the collision of Talib Kweli and Madlib took Hip Hop by storm. The two acclaimed artists are respected as solo acts, but together, the expectation of excellence floats in the ether. Nearly two decades after Liberation arrived, “The Libs” returned once again for the follow-up, Liberation 2. This project has been anticipated for years, and it was certainly worth the wait.
Madlib’s production credits need no introduction, especially his illustrious collaborative efforts. He’s released projects with emcees like MF Doom, J Dilla, and Freddie Gibbs, etching his way into production royalty. Pair that talent with a Black Star legend like Kweli, and you have a record that ignores trends and focuses on the heart of Hip Hop. “The materialism and debauchery that is stereotypically associated with Hip-Hop has lost some of its luster,” said Kweli via Hypebeast. “Madlib and I have been consistent in our messaging. Never has there been a better time for such honest, message-driven music that pays tribute to the sounds that came before us.”
The album’s message was evident as the spoken word “Assata’s Code” defined the revolution. Amani and Diani, the Rap star’s daughters, make appearances, along with a bevy of talent from Africa. Some familiar names also show face, including Westside Gunn, Q-Tip, Goapele, and a posthumous addition from Mac Miller. This is one you’ll want to spin more than once in any mood, and even if we have to wait another decade, fans are rooting for a Liberation 3. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Erika Marie
6. Gunna – A Gift & A Curse
There was a lot riding on Gunna’s return to the music world. After having been incarcerated for almost a year in the YSL Rico case, fans were curious about what he would have to say. Overall, his peers as well as former fans were accusing him of being a snitch. Moreover, he was being accused of snitching on a beloved fellow artist in Young Thug. Needless to say, the odds were stacked against him. However, with his comeback tape A Gift & A Curse, Gunna proved that he can stand above his peers when push comes to shove.
Throughout the project, Gunna gives us a ton of insight into where he is mentally. On tracks like “Back To The Moon,” “Back At It” and “I Was Just Thinking,” Gunna takes direct shots at those who have put dirt on his name. Additionally, he gave us one of the best songs of the year with the incredibly catchy “fukumean.” The Atlanta rapper’s hunger throughout the album makes this one of the best listens of the year so far. Naturally, people are going to compare this project to Young Thug’s and Lil Durk’s. These comparisons are valid. However, the context behind this project is a bit different and you have to appreciate Wunna’s ability to overcome adversity. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Alexander Cole
5. Larry June & Alchemist – The Great Escape
Much like the collaborative milestone we received this year from Madlib and Talib Kweli, two more Hip Hop giants made magic when The Alchemist and Larry June dropped their acid-jazz ladenThe Great Escape. From beginning to end, this joint venture harmonizes perfectly. June’s chilled-out appeal enables Al to transition into his well-known prestige rap aesthetics, birthed from their first serendipitous collaboration on 2020’s “Rainy Night in SF.” Rich with all the offerings that support an emotional landscape of chilled vibes, The Great Escape is just as its title suggests. You may not find the likings of mainstream, radio Hip Hop here, but June’s lyrics sketch rich imagery that elevates to a vivid art form.
That said, what makes The Great Escape stand out can also be its Achilles heel. Each track floats effortlessly from one to the next; however, some may complain that Al’s productions come across too similar throughout. Yet, the creatives seemed to have a purpose behind this, as The Great Escape is a body of work that one can listen to while taking a mental adventure. The dreamy piano melodies, partnered with Alchemist’s perfected rhythms and June’s hypnotic tone, result in a record that does the culture justice. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Erika Marie
4. Black Thought & El Michels – Glorious Game
Last year, legendary member of The Roots, Black Thought teamed up with Danger Mouse for an acclaimed collaborative album called Cheat Codes. That was the perfect name for an album where it felt like both the production and rapping was so consistently good, it was almost cheating. This year Black Thought teamed up with New York soul band El Michels Affair on a collaborative album called Glorious Game, but Cheat Codes would have been just as fitting of a name.
From the album’s most reserved and intimate points to its most bombastic and lively the production and instrumental performances are rich. The band does a truly wonderful job of assembling dynamic platforms over which Black Thought can work. And work he does, weaving together detail rich stories of street life and meditations on his dramatic come-up. The album is on the shorter side but it’s an all killer no filler approach that will surely leave you begging for more. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Lavender Alexandria
3. Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here
For rap fans, the biggest shock of the year so far came when Lil Yachty dropped his new album Let’s Start Here back in January. Without announcing any intent to switch genres, Yachty shifted his style drastically. The album is a Funkadelic-inspired embrace of classic psychedelic rock and soul music. While many rappers from Logic to Vic Mensa to Kid Cudi have tried to crossover into the world of rock music, none do it as well as Yachty.
That comes from Yachty’s clear admiration for the greats of the style. He brings along collaborators like Daniel Caesar, Foushee, and Mac DeMarco to craft a vision of vintage psych rock that feels inspired by the classics without just worshiping them. Opening track “the BLACK. seminole” and closer “REACH THE SUNSHINE” are born of the legacy left by black rap stars but also aim to push their styles forward. From the dense and often genuinely experimental instrumental diatribes to the rousing and unpredictable compositions, nothing about the album even remotely resembles hip-hop. But Let’s Start Here isn’t impressive just because of where Yachty started, because where he ended up is deeply exciting regardless. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Lavender Alexandria
2. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Maps
Using the past to define the present is nothing new for billy woods– he’s been painting an image of his otherwise blurred self with vivid references to long-since overthrown heads of state, violent acts of colonialism left off the history books, and retired football players for nearly two decades. He’s been at it so long that on his new concept album, Maps, woods can use his own songs to present the new. On the album’s opener he references a History Will Absolve Me lyric while evoking the perpetuity of the previously discussed indifference of God. Across the next 16 tracks, woods catalogs his experiences getting back on the road following the coronavirus pandemic and the anxiety, isolation, and listlessness that comes with it.
In making the journey, woods brings along his Hiding Places collaborator, Kenny Segal, for their first effort together since 2018. Across the project, Segal brings a diverse pallet of production that incorporates bleak jazz loops with, at other times, more ominous layered synths and hard-hitting drums. By the end of Maps, woods presents a Philip Marlowe-esque image of himself returning to New York, connecting only with his cat as he looks out at a city that becomes more unrecognizable by the day. Altogether, the combined forces of woods and Segal present another high point in the discography of both artists as well as one of the best hip-hop albums of the year thus far. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Cole Blake
1. Danny Brown & JPEGMafia – Scaring The Hoes
No other album so far this year is as exciting, creative, complete, or unique as this experimental gem in the underground. Well, to call Peggy and Danny underground at this point probably gives a wrong impression that downplays their impact. Not only do both showcase the talent, skill, and influence they achieved in their storied careers, but they’re coming for the whole rap game’s head here. They’re tired of all the posturing, the weak albums, and the conservative and close-minded sheep mentality both online and in the streets. The duo expresses that with often hilarious and always astounding bars, referencing every corner of pop culture from politics to sports, movies, and more of every notoriety level.
The beats also do the talking, with the most creative sample flips, drum patterns, vocal chops, and addictive melodies you’ll hear all year. JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown beat hip-hop artists at their own boastful game with the former’s chaotic and uncompromising production and bars and the latter’s idiosyncratic perspective, flow, and delivery. No vision was better executed so far this year than SCARING THE HOES, and other rappers should indeed be scared of this testament to the craft, versatility, and bright future of hip-hop. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023.
– Gabriel Bras Nevares
Which of these albums is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below. Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023, Also, let us know if we’re missing anything on this list.