While “back outside” means hip-hop’s biggest bands are returning to the spotlight with highly anticipated albums, in the same breath, hot rap artists have also entered the game, releasing albums into the world. same airspace as big dogs. This indirect competition leads to artists on different career paths, all shining in the same six-month window of 2022, so far. Here, XXL defends some of the best hip-hop projects released this year until July 8; time will tell where it all lands at the end of the year.
No rap album was more anticipated this year than Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers, his first project since 2017 Damn. The personal (and controversial) work is Kendrick wrestling with his own demons and flaws, then outwardly transforming them into how they fit into the world and how everyone perceives him. Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers is a change for Kendrick, both in sound and in the type of guests he has chosen (Kodak Black has multiple guest appearances). Meanwhile, Future, another top artist, released I never loved you, which is more of a course correction from his earlier work, when he was more focused on revolutionizing the sound of rap trap. Pusha T, another hip-hop mainstay who has been in the game for over 20 years now, has released arguably his best solo album with It’s almost drya project that showcases his skills in coke rapping (and his period of technical talent) is still around and can hold up in the modern age of music.
Although Lil Durk has been around for a while, he only started making a real commercial breakthrough a few years ago. His albums have consistently outsold year on year and his latest offering, 7220, keeps this sequence alive. This album feels more focused and centralized than his previous work, without sounding repetitive. Durk getting to a point where he displays so much polish is beautiful to behold and a testament to sticking to his own path.
On the other side of the coin, some of the new names in rap have also released big albums this year. Latto, fresh off the success of her single “Big Energy”, has released her second album, 777, feeling much more comfortable from a writing and structural standpoint than before. Her lyrical skills are there, as they came out, but she’s now settling into her persona, as a quick-witted rapper who’s just as comfortable with romance as she is with competing against her peers. Coi Leray, which accompanies the success of his 2021 single “No More Parties” and his remix of Durk, has been released avant-garde this year, on which she dabbled in trap, R&B, pop and more. Coi has more versatility than she realizes and as she develops will continue to make interesting music and rely on her fearlessness.
Rap’s old guard has done a lot to push the genre forward, but the future looks good too. Take a look at the best hip-hop projects of 2022 so far below.
See the best hip-hop projects of 2022 so far
Which project is your favorite?