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The best hip-hop albums of 2022

In another standout year for hip-hop, we look back at the genre’s best albums of the last 12 months

2022 has been another great year for hip-hop. The genre continues to house artists who are creating some of the most boundary-pushing and innovative music today, creating its own flourishing universe of offshoots and subgenres. We saw the return of Kung-Fu Kenny after a five-year break with Mr Morale and The Big Steppers, and veterans like Black Thought and Nas returned with standout projects. 

This year has also been a great year for both women and queer artists, despite the genre historically being male-dominated and, at times, exclusionary. Lil Nas X returned with “Late To Da Party”, while newcomer GloRilla left her mark on 2022 with the stand-out hit “F.N.F” (and had even the more hesitant hip hop heads saying they would “play her on aux”). We were also blessed with the surprise return of 2022’s Mercury Prize winner Little Simz with NO THANK YOU, continuing her excellent run of releases. But who else made our list? Let’s turn our attention to our 10 best hip-hop albums of 2022.


On FLOHIO’s debut Out of Heart, she brings more than enough energy to make her mark in the UK rap scene. The music pulls together the synthy soundtracks of retro video games with elements of drill, grime and house. “Feel Alive” is a straight banger, with the spacey, arcade-inspired beat helping to make it one of the album’s highlights. Behind the booming soundscapes, however, lies a rapper at her most vulnerable, the album having been born out of feelings of grief, heartbreak and exhaustion – like on the ethereal “Highest”, where FLOHIO raps, “They stuck me up on the ceiling treat me like the chosen one/ Fuck that, still scarred from the things I don’t speak off.” 

Listen to FLOHIO’s Dazed heartbreak playlist here.


Gangsta Gibbs has been one of the most revered rappers of the past decade. His collaborations with the Alchemist, Kenny Beats and Madlib have garnered acclaim from hip-hop heads and critics alike, with his raw, unfiltered stories of street life and, in more recent years, his personal struggles and criticisms of the government and prison system. From the emotional and refreshingly honest “Grandma’s Stove” to the party starter “Too Much”, there really is something for everyone on $oul $old $eparately. Though arguably Gibbs’ strongest work has come from his single producer collaborations, the album is great, with some excellent beats provided by Madlib and Kaytranada. He often refers to himself as “the greatest rapper alive”, and with standout tracks like “Rabbit Vision”, it’s hard to argue against that – very few come close to matching his lyrical depth and technical skill. 


“Chiddy Bang”, the opening track of Shape Up, sets the scene for the rest of Leikeli47’s most recent album. The production is raw, at times minimalistic and drum-heavy, making use of unconventional samples such as the repeated “chinga-linga-ling” heard on “New Money”. The Brooklyn rapper understands the importance of dynamics, attitude and vocal inflexions when creating captivating performances. Leikeli47 also shows her versatility on the record, with softer, more soulful cuts like “Hold My Hand” and “Baseball” swapping the ground-shaking 808s for more conventional R&B cuts. The rapper shows her lyrical depth and range on the album, showing both her braggadocious and vulnerable side across the album’s 13 tracks.


At only 20 years old, Flo Milli arrived with her debut mixtape Ho, Why Is You Here? already sounding as confident and comfortable as a veteran who had been in the game for years. Her fluid, breezy flows, paired with her witty, boastful lyrics have made her one of the most promising young rappers for some time – a statement the now 22-year-old rapper only confirmed with her debut studio album You Still Here, Ho? 

Milli flexes her chameleonic abilities across the span of the record, sounding as at home over Miami bass on “Hottie” – featuring Detroit rapper BabyFace Ray – as she does on the indie pop-inspired “Pretty Girls”, with the production on the album being at times varied but never unfocused. Stay for the outrageous one-liners – “I'm the type to make my sugar daddy take his teeth out” – scattered throughout the album.

Read our profile with Flo Milli here.


With Universal Credit, Jeshi solidified himself as one of the most captivating new rappers in UK hip hop. The rapper gives us an unfiltered, bones-and-all glimpse of what life is really like to be young, on the dole and living in inner-city London. The stories provided by gifted wordsmith Jeshi relive anecdotes of anger, alienation, sadness and escapism, painting a vivid portrait of austerity Britain. The album sticks to none of the usual hip-hop tropes flooding the charts at the minute, instead choosing to weave sounds from both sides of the pond to create a warbly, atmospheric soundscape – perfect for Jeshi’s concrete-laden poetry. Featuring multiple contributions from Obongjayar and Fredwave, Universal Credit is an arresting listen.


Little Simz dropped her newest album, NO THANK YOU, with very little promotion earlier this month, announcing it only a few days before its release. Coming off the back of winning a Mercury Prize, it can feel like Little Simz has nothing to prove: her incredible three-album run has placed her in the upper echelons of this generation of rap artists, with consistency and quality never proving to be an issue. Inflo has returned to helm production of the project, providing his luscious backdrops of strings, choirs and keys – continuing the cinematic journey that made Sometimes I Might Be Introvert so brilliant. On opener “Angel”, Simz spits the sharp and clever bar, “I refuse to be on a slave ship / Give me all my masters and lower your wages,” speaking against the greed and power of major labels. Throughout NTY, Simz continues to tackle racism, her mental health and the music industry with her fiercely intelligent and emotional lyrics.


When Denzel Curry first broke onto the scene with his 2015 hit “Ultimate”, he stood out as a true original with his aggressive, punk-inspired delivery and energetic live performances. Cut to 2022, and the Soundcloud-era Denzel is gone: this is a different, more contemplative and observant artist. Swapping the mosh-pit bangers for slower, more reflective cuts, like the opener “Melt Session #1”, he looks inwards, confessing: “I wholeheartedly understand why I need to grow even though I'm grown,” and “Accountability, I take responsibility/ For all my actions, I packed them in these soliloquies.” 

For the die-hard fans, they can rest assured knowing that, while moving into a new era of his career, he hasn’t lost his trademark rasp. MMESYF also makes way for the sort of tracks that shot Curry into the spotlight, like the excellent “Ain’t No Way”, featuring 6LACK and Rico Nasty. 

The shift in stylistic production choices is evident. With Curry’s delivery seeming perfect for harder, more aggressive beats, the decision to employ artists such as Thundercat, Karriem Riggins and Robert Glasper to create the smooth, jazz-inspired tracks that run through the album may seem like a possible misstep. However, Curry shows his versatility by making the switch seem effortless, with his restraint proving to be one of his biggest strengths. 


Earl Sweatshirt likes to keep things brief. His last two studio albums – Sick and Some Rap Songs – have both come in at under 30 minutes, however it’s the awareness to use brevity as a means to hone in his craft that is one of the rapper’s best strengths. With the brief visit that is Sick, he leaves no stone unturned, packing dense wordplay such as, “The cost of living high, don't cross the picket line and get the virus/ Wild cat has got 'em in a bind, stay inside/ Know I came from out the thicket smilin’,” into effortless flows that explore his newfound fatherhood and living through the pandemic.

The production on the album, handled by frequent collaborators such as The Alchemist and Black Noi$e, is more direct than the avant-garde collages on SRS, showing refinement in his ear for a beat. Things switch between off-kilter trap and drumless loops, offering enough counterbalance to keep things engaging. From the often juvenile raps heard on Earl’s earlier albums like Doris, his lyrical gift was obvious, standing above his peers with his witty double entendres, tricky metaphors and stumbling delivery. Since then, Earl has gone from strength to strength, refining his style so the abstract co-exists with the literal, using detailed and, at times, unusual imagery to translate his anguish and inner feelings into some truly memorable bars like on the standout track “Tabula Rasa” where Earl spits, “Light leak through the leaves on familiar tracks/I know it's real even when I'm feeling bad/ Resilient as they built the black.


Nas’ discography has been a mixed bag over his three-decade career, ranging from all-time greats like Illmatic to some more inconsistent releases like 2018’s Nasir. With the King’s Disease series, however, Nas has found himself in a renaissance period, sounding his most engaged in years. The rapper’s newly fledged relationship with Hit-Boy has played a role in this, bringing cohesion to his last four projects, a lack thereof which has been a downfall of previous work – something he acknowledges playfully on “First Time”. 

Across the album’s runtime, the spotlight is firmly on Nas as he flexes every lyrical muscle he has – there is not a single feature on the album (a pretty ballsy move for a hip-hop record). On album highlight “Once a Man, Twice a Child” he raps, “Wisdom and ignorance is kin/ to have peace, you need war/By the time you see the stars in the skies, they already burnt out/ Same way these dudes be shinin‘ but been burnt out.” Though Nas has always been an old head on young shoulders, his advancing years have brought introspection and acuity of mind. 

From the traditional boom-bap scattered throughout the record to the closing drill beat heard on “Reminisce”, and the drumless soul loops the underground NY scene has embraced on “WTF SMH”, the production across KDIII is varied but never boring. It feels like a love letter to New York’s constantly evolving rap scene (the irony is that Hit-Boy is from the West Coast). If Nas bowed out today, his discography has solidified him as (probably) the greatest rapper of his generation: The King’s Disease trilogy has been an excellent chapter in his often mythologised story, saving the best for last with the third entry.

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