Best Hip-Hop Albums of the Year: Post-Grammy Edition
Hip Hop Album of the Year
“Championships" by Meek Mill
“Book of Ryan” by Royce da 5’9
“KOD” by J. Cole
“Victory Lap” by Nipsey Hussle
“YE” by Kanye West
Rap Mainstream Album of the Year
“Invasion of Privacy” by Cardi B
“Queen” by Nicki Minaj
“Astroworld” by Travis Scott
“LoVE me Now” by Tory Lanez
“Carter V” by Lil Wayne
Did the Grammy’s get it right? Post Malone album of the year nomination? Nah. There was entirely too much good music released this year. I do not have a problem with the Rap Album of the Year nominees for the Grammys. I would argue J. Cole should be there, but he did not submit his album and I understand and appreciate why.
We wanted to separate the categories. Most of the hip-hop album of the year nominees had mainstream success as well but the Hip-Hop Album of the year albums had more substance in content. Great albums were released this year and even with our extended Hip Hop Album of the Year category great bodies of work will be snubbed.
KOD was arguably the album of the year and our personal favorite. J. Cole spoke to the times and what must be done to avoid destruction without being preachy, wack, or stereotypical. His production was masterful, mainstream with a nostalgic vibe, and his lyrics were timely. Hip-hop has seen multiple deaths this year from rappers who overdosed to suicide. The point of the album was how to deal with pain practically. Concept albums are on another echelon because it takes careful thought and precision to center your album on a topic and build on it without sounding repetitive with lyrics or production.
"Victory Lap" by Nipsey Hussle is also well deserving. This album had longevity due to the constant jewels dropped throughout the album. Nipsey was able to make quality street music along with incorporating high-level thinking and motivation. It is very similar to what Nas was able to do at the start of his career. Nas was/is a street artist but was able to incorporate powerful knowledge that could help the drug dealer on the street thinking he had no other way to survive to a college student who wanted more to life than a desk job and student loan debt.
The language might be too harsh to attract some nose up music analysts but there was a reason for that. Nipsey is reaching those from his type of environment and encouraging them to rise above the madness of violence, racism, poverty, criminal justice bias, and post-traumatic syndrome from being in those environments. He deserves a victory lap after making it from those conditions and inspiring others to do so, it is hard enough when you have everything going for you.
What was lost in the commercialization of hip-hop was the other side of street music, the real consequences that UGK, 8ball and MJG, Scarface, Ice Cube, and many others integrated into their music. Some of the current trap music will have you thinking you can run off on a plug, blow up an enemy's momma house, and sell 100 keys without repercussion. Except there is almost always repercussion and that is usually in the form of death or prison, and rarely in victory. Which is why "Championships" by Meek Mill should be considered. Meek might have had the most age crossover in this category he was able to touch pre-teens to those in their 50s. "Championships" brought much depth.
Book of Ryan by Royce da 5'9 was another concept album that was well thought out. Besides Jay Z and the late great Notorious BIG, we do not care about how quick you can make a song or album if it does not have substance like the aforementioned. Book of Ryan was a personal, meticulous, and mature album. It was more classic hip-hop in production. Royce is a mastermind with his lyrics, he is the only rapper that could do an album with Eminem and be able to hold his own weight. Beyond the lyrical skill, the album was a personal memoir that spans the generations of his family from his father to his son. It was an album to be felt more than heard.
Lastly Ye, yes, I am aware of the "canceling" of Kanye West but see here for views outside the music. As far as the music goes Kanye West is still a genius. Ye was another heartfelt album. We were able to get some of the confident and braggadocios Kanye we are accustomed to along with a man struggling with his mental well-being. The production is second to none, he received a well-deserved producer of the year Grammy nomination. Kanye was able to produce many different genres and channel different moods with the production. Daytona, Kids See Ghost, and KTSE could be no more dissimilar but all authentic.
Mainstream wise Carter V, Love Me Now, Astroworld, Queen, and Scorpion produced quality music throughout their projects. Besides Drake, the rest of those albums were not expected to reach the heights that they achieved which is more impressive. Those albums broke through a slew of good music this year and that cannot be overlooked. We are sure we left off other honorable mentions, feel free to comment thoughts, opinions, and suggestions.