(Reminder: this is based on what I like to call the “body of work,” meaning I take everything from quality of the music as a whole, storytelling, message, cohesion, production, rap skills, lyricism, streaming performance, chart performance, etc. into account.)
10. Drill Music in Zion - Lupe Fiasco
9. Herbert - Ab-Soul
8. Laughing So Hard, It Hurts - MAVI
7. Cheat Codes - Danger Mouse & Black Thought
6. Melt My Eyez, See Your Future - Denzel Curry
The real highlight of this album is the cohesive sound. It feels like Denzel Curry built a sonic world with Melt My Eyez, See Your Future and we, as the listeners, are navigating it. The transitions from song-to-song are immaculate and add to the previously stated cohesiveness. The production is crisp, the features are top-tier and the showcase of Denzel’s rap abilities is stellar. Come for the song “Walkin,” which is one of my favorite hip-hop songs from 2022, but stay for the entire body of work.
5. It's Almost Dry - Pusha T
In my opinion, the only song that feels a little out of place on this album is “Scrape It Off” with Don Toliver and Liz Uzi Vert. To me, this song kind of feels like it’s trying to be a part of the new wave of hip-hop whereas the rest of the album stays in its street-level lane. My favorite tracks include “Dreamin Of the Past,” “Just So You Remember,” “Neck & Wrist” and “Diet Coke.” Pusha T seems to finally be getting his flowers with It’s Almost Dry, and it’s about time.
4. Ramona Park Broke My Heart - Vince Staples
3. Few Good Things - Saba
I believe there’s a hidden thesis on this album. On “Free Samples,” Saba raps, “I tried to spend a lil’ less like a minimalist, but then I can confess that this gets harder the bigger you get.” He continues this verse on the title track “Few Good Things” and raps, “The rich’ll get rich; the poor get pissed. That’s just what it is. We seen everything from the gutter to glitz. Adults in the crib tellin’ they kids to cover they ears. Fight with a youngin and watch they older brothers appear. Like two in the front and one in the rear. The fun subsides when you gotta swallow your anger or stomach your fear. All the money a myth; it’s a sunken abyss.” I also want to circle back to the track “An Interlude Called ‘Circus.’” Saba raps, “All the small things about being broke I never got to notice.” I think the overarching theme Saba is trying to get across with Few Good Things is the fact that there’s beauty in the struggle. On the chorus of “2012,” Day Wave sings, “I had everything I needed. Everything.” I think Saba is saying sometimes it may be easy to look at our trauma and pain and not be able to get past it, but if we dig deep, we can embrace the struggle and ultimately count our blessings in order to find happiness. I think it’s a beautiful message for an album that attempts to capture the full human experience.
2. The Forever Story - JID
The stretch on the album from “Kody Blu 31” to “Can’t Make U Change” might be my favorite 4-song run of the year. JID flexes both his vocals as well as his lyricism and storytelling on these tracks. My favorite songs on the album include “Kody Blu 31,” “Dance Now,” “Raydar,” “Sistanem” and “Bruddanem.” I’m also so happy they got the samples cleared and found a way to put “2007” on the album because it really rounds out the story in a beautiful way. (Eight tracks plus eight tracks flipped on its side equals infinity a.k.a. forever as JID pointed out to us.) I can’t wait to see what JID does next!
1. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers - Kendrick Lamar
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is an album that isn’t for the casual listener. It requires multiple listens all the way through to fully capture the experience. It’s ultimately an album about human nature. It’s about growth and healing. Kendrick sets up the album as an 18-part therapy session. Each song deals with a different emotion or theme or feeling and reveals Kendrick’s candid thoughts about a number of hot-button issues. The core theme that I believe Kendrick wants to convey on this album is “perspective leads to empathy, and empathy leads to healing.”
I will boldly state that Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is my second favorite Kendrick Lamar album behind To Pimp a Butterfly. My favorite songs from this album include “Mirror,” “Savior,” “N95,” “Father Time” and “Crown.” In my opinion, this is Kendrick’s most vulnerable and relatable album to date, and I believe we can all learn so much from this masterpiece of an album.