I liked way too many albums this year, so to avoid listing 100 albums, I’m just picking a select few albums that were best in their classes–and then noting others that are “genre adjacent,” which would have made my list if it were longer or if I were willing to have a list crowded with Griselda projects.
Also, check out this list of the best covers and reissues of the year.
Let me know where I’m missing something great, whether in the rap genre or any other!
And here’s the list…
MY TWENTY FAVORITE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
1. The Liz 2 by Armani Caesar. Why? Unlike most rappers in the Griselda family, Caesar does not flood the market with product. It’s been two years since her last album (the first “The Liz”), which was one of the best Griselda releases of all time. This one is better. Between The Liz and the other Griselda albums below (and Conway’s album, further down on the list), Buffalo has clearly become the most important city for rap. Other great Griselda albums this year:
- Hitler Wears Hermes 10 by Westside Gunn. Conway is officially with Shady Records now, and he just put out the best album of his career (see below). Seems like he pushed Gunn to up his game as well. HWH10 has more variety, better quality rhymes, and, overall, is one of Westside Gunn’s best albums out of the forty-or-so he’s put out during his career.
- Tana Talk 4 by Benny the Butcher.Why?By his own account, Benny’s skill is at details—and his power is at full display here.This is almost as good at TT3, his best album.
- Food For Thought by Che Noir.Why?Che Noir is an unusual female rapper.She doesn’t simply twist male conventions and stay close to the genre, and she doesn’t just drive an overtly empowerment agenda.She does do both those things, but she also offers a decidedly feminine (as distinguished from feminist) perspective.
2. Skinty Fia by Fontaines DC.Why?Fontaines DC have always been good, but this album, deservedly, was their first #1. They also came out with a wonderful cover of U2’s “One” this year.
3. It’s Almost Dry by Pusha T.Why?Because it’s Pusha. NIs “Dry” different from his prior work? Yes and no. He’s successful now, and he makes no excuses for it. He’s more of an adult, his vocabulary continues to expand, and the slurry “Yeeaacchhh” sound he has made on all of his prior records is gone, but the content is pretty much the same. He also seems to bring out the best in Kanye West–a creator whose personality has overtaken his talent. See also:
- Half Tee Beast by Tee Grizzley. Why? “He ain’t gonna do right with an eighth/I got white people workin’ for me in honor of the slaves.” Tee is a master of the art of punch line rap, but he’s also got a sensitivity to him that many rappers lack. Built 4 It by Tee Grizzley. This is by no means the first (and it won’t be the last) rap song to crib from Tupac’s “Changes,” but it’s one of the best.
- The Forever Story by JID. Why? JID has been rapping for a decade, and this is his best album so far.
4. God Don’t Make Mistakes by Conway the Machine.Why?In his first album for Shady Records, Conway the Machine goes deeper and gets more personal—and more “real”—than he ever has before.He’s always had a good delivery and command of his genre, but this record finds him at the next level up. See also: Organized Grime 2 and What Has Been Blessed Cannot Be Cursed. Two more albums from Conway. Both are solid albums, but God Don’t Make Mistakes is much, much better. Someone needs to tell CTM that diluting your own output can backfire over time.
5. Lucifer on the Sofa by Spoon.Why?Everything Spoon does is fantastic and different from what came before. This album gets better with every listen. More great, straight-up indie rock from 2022:
- Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief. Why? Check out everyone else’s end of the year lists.I’m sure this one is on them.
- Cool it Down by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re one of the most important bands of the 00s, and they’re still great.
6. Wet Leg by Wet Leg and Expert in a Dying Field by The Beths (tie).Why? Because there’s not enough room for the great, smart power pop that came out this year. To keep this list varied and interesting, I’m really trying to limit the “similar kind” of albums on it–but these were both incredible records. See also:
- Sometimes Forever by Soccer Mommy.
- Growing Up by the Linda Lindas.
7. $oul $old $eparately (2022) by Freddie Gibbs. Why? Few rappers seamlessly mix classic R&B with hip hop as well as Freddie Gibbs. Another soul-influenced, great 2022 album: Shape Up by Leikeli47
8. What Else Can She Do? by Kaitlin Butts. Why? Because it is the most subversively feminist country album I’ve heard in decades. I bet there won’t be many bloggers who have even heard this album, let alone put it on their EOY list. Seek it out. It’s worth it. Other 2022 kinda underground alt-country/folk albums you need to hear:
- American Heartbreak by Zach Ryan.Why?It has been fascinating watching Ryan develop from YouTube performer into one of the most gifted artists in Americana today. Why part two: The cover of You Are My Sunshine. Bryan reimagines Jimmie Davis’ classic song with his special brand of rugged sentimentality.
- Ramblin’ Soul by Melissa Carper. Simply an incredible record.
9. DRILLMATIC Heart vs Mind by The Game.Why?Because Game has been consistently producing excellent ‘90s hardcore rhymes for his entire career. Yeah, this album is a little bloated–but it’s also one of the best albums Game has ever put out. And you can’t deny his publicity campaign with some incredible freestyles and a direct challenge to Em. (Although the “battle” felt very staged.). If you like ’90s-style hard core rhymes, you might like:
- 2 P’z In A Pod by Jay Worthy x Larry June x LNDN DRGS. Larry June is another one of those solid trappers who consistently releases good songs year in and year out. Ditto Jay Worthy. But most of their albums are very uneven. For both Jay and Larry, this one is one of his best.
- Screen Door Music by IUR Jetto. Why? Because you’ve never heard of it, and my site is really about supporting emerging artists who struggle to get heard on big sites like Pitchfork.
10. Paralysed by the Mountains by The William Loveday Intention.Why?Because of the sheer joy in a song titled, “The Day I Beat My Father Up.” I mean, that’s not the only reason. But is enough of a reason to place this on the list. Add to that a brilliant cover of an obscure Rolling Stones song and a tribute to Joe Strummer, and this is another great indie album worth tracking down.
11. The Yodfather by Your Old Droog.Why? YOD put out a ton of great rap albums, mixtapes, EPs, and features this year.Every single one was good. Droog is the best punch-line rapper in the biz right now–but this kind of rap doesn’t exactly move the mind, so that’s one reason he’s not rated higher on this list. The other reason? He put out so much stuff this year that it’s hard to remember any of it–the sheer volume dilutes how special/memorable each was. See also: YODney Dangerfield by Droog
12. Palomino by Miranda Lambert. Why?Because Lambert can do no wrong, even when she covers an obscure Mick Jagger solo song from the mid-80s-this is the best mainstream country album of the year. Other great mainstream country albums this year:
- Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville (2022) and More terrific pop-country.
- Humble Quest by Maren Morris. Much less country than her previous albums, and much more mellow.
13. Drill Music in Zion by Lupe Fiasco.Why? Lupe and Kendrick are locked in a lifelong battle to be the most intelligent and interesting voice in rap. If you like avant garde rap and smart hip hop, here are some other powerful 2022 albums:
- Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar.This album has lots of brilliant moments, but I don’t find myself liking it as much on my third and fourth listens. Still, definitely amazing and definitely a 2022 highlight.
- Zhigeist by Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow. Another smart rap record so lyrically dense and challenging that it can feel more like spoken word.
- Eat by Pan Amsterdam and Damu the Fudgemunk. Fun, jazz-influenced hip hop with smart lyrics, exploding with creativity.
- Macro/Micro by Nerves Baddington. Why? An incredible, dense, concept double-album by an emerging hip hop trio who produce their own work. This is DIY rap as it ought to be, pushing the genre past its known limits.
14. Baby by the Petrol Girls. Why? More than ever we need a furious song called “Baby I Had An Abortion.” More angry punk that deserves to be considered the best of the year:
- Get Fucked by The Chats. Why? Australian hard punk with excellent guitar solos.
- Diaspora Problems by Soul Goo.
- Overload by Yard Act.
15. As Above, So Below by Sampa the Great. Why? It’s a beautiful, sophisticated, genre-blending album. Other really cool, genre bending hip hop from 2022:
- Natural Brown Brown Queen by Sudan Archives. Why? This album is more accessible–and mainstream–than this artist’s prior work, but it’s still phenomenally interesting.
16. Pompeii by Cate Le Bon. Why? Because it’s about time we were reminded that shoegaze doesn’t have to be passionless or boring.
17. Pillmatic by P.A. Dre. The Producer pays tribute to Nas’ album with an excellent balance of established underground rappers (e.g., Wordsworth, Ty Farris), new jacks (Willie the Kid, Hus Kingpin), and old school legends (Sadat X, Rass Kas)–wide variety, excellent beats…A great album. Also check out the year’s best posse cuts:
- FOD Cypher (feat. Killa Fonte, Rosco Feddi, Just Bang, Philthy Rich, Toohda Band$, Skinny T, Lil Steve, Lul Boog, Lil tray, J money & Dolla Dame). The FOD Entertainment roster is strong, and this is a great showcase.
- Menace 2 Society by Brown Sugar feat. Yung Van, Le$, Larry June, Joey Fatts, G Perico & Toxic Romeo. Amazing.
- Red Death off Westside Gunn’s Hitler Wears Hermes, with the best Griselda has (or had) to offer: Benny The Butcher, Stove God Cooks, Rome Streetz, Armani Caesar, Jay Worthy, Conway The Machine & Robby Takac
18. Back 2 The Ba$ics by Payroll Giovanni. Why? Payroll quietly churns out great albums, year in and year out, and doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. See also: Continuance by Curren$y and Alchemist.
29. Killing Nothing by Boldy James and Real Bad Man. Boldy James is starting to get a well-deserved reputation as an extremely talented wordsmith in a hip hop scene where it is easy to get lost in the crowd of gritty Chicago/Detroit/New York rap.
20. Rolling Golden Holy by Bonny Light Horseman. Why? Because sometimes a classic, folky Americana hits the spot. And if you like old-timey folk, maybe you also like the classic sounds of New Orleans? If so, try
Rise & Fall Of Slaughterhouse by Joell Ortiz and KXNG Crooked
2000 by Joey Bada$$ is probably his second best album ever—but in the end, it is largely forgettable.
There in Spirit by Homeboy Sandman: I love Sand, but this album was just not quite good enough to make the list.
If Sheep Stu by Black Sheep Dres and Stu Bangas had been a full album and not an EP, it probably would be on the main list.
- A Legacy of Rentals by Craig Finn; Portrait of a Lady by Shilpa Ray: All are fine albums that would have made the list if the list were a bit longer.