The best new hip-hop this week includes albums, videos, and songs from Cordae, Earl Sweatshirt, and more.
It’s the second week of 2022, and my inner 15-year-old rap geek feels like a kid in a candy store. As a child of backpack rap’s early-2000s heyday, it has delighted me — and many other members of my generation — to no end to see so many lyrics-focused adherents of the boom-bap, “real rap” school of hip-hop dropping projects and singles at the same time. While there’s still plenty of room for other styles — Memphis rappers NLE Choppa and Moneybagg Yo showed incredible chemistry on “Too Hot,” Murda Beatz created the perfection production pocket for Blxst and Wale on “One Shot,” and Gunna and Drake’s “P Power” was worth the wait — the true winners were the longsuffering fans of oft-maligned, underrated, but apparently still quite popular rappin’-ass rappers.
Here is the best of hip-hop this week ending January 14, 2022.
Cordae — From A Bird’s Eye View
The heavily anticipated follow-up to Cordae’s Grammy-nominated debut is absolutely stuffed with high-profile guest stars, yet it’s Cordae himself who stands center stage and demands your attention. His growth is evident — both lyrical and personal — and with the lush, soothing instrumentation unbroken by the sort of radio grabs that threatened to derail The Lost Boy, the smooth ride feels a lot more representative of a Cordae in total control.
Earl Sweatshirt — Sick!
Another anticipated comeback, Earl’s Sick! finds him also reflecting back on his personal growth over the last several years with a wicked pen and a wiser mind. However, where Cordae found his groove, Earl gets out of his comfort zone — which, ironically, results in his most accessible project in years, as his comfort zone for the past two albums has been unsettling listeners with off-kilter, jarring beats.
Kota The Friend — Lyrics To Go, Vol. 3
Kota, whose 2021 got rough when a bad breakup threatened to put him on the “canceled” list, is taking full advantage of his second lease on indie rap stardom, returning to his beloved series of stream-of-consciousness, one verse, no-hook mixtapes. Here, though, he addresses the drama and describes every painful step on the way to his healing.
Lady London — Lady Like: The Boss Tape
After impressing Twitter users with feisty freestyles for the past couple of years, Lady London at last launches her campaign for consideration in the “best rappers” dialogue. This tape compiles 13 of her freestyles so prospective fans can get a feel for the lyricism that buoyed her social buzz and day-ones have something to tide them over for her eventual debut. Due to the nature of the instrumentals involved, check this one out on Audiomack.
Nick Grant — Welcome To Loveland
Fresh off his participation in TDE President Punch’s collective experiment, A Room Full Of Mirrors, the South Carolinian rapper returns to his solo grind, dropping a wittily compiled collection of funk-washed, Southern-fried head nods contemplating women, love, and other drugs.
AZ — “Motorola Era” feat. 2 Chainz
Speaking of going full-on, old-school rap, 2 Chainz has been on a bit of a tear lately. He seems to have been edging in that direction for years, even suggesting his upcoming album will be his last trap release, and now, here he is, hanging out with one of the avatars of mid-90s cool, AZ.
Babyface Ray — “Dancing With The Devil” feat. Landstrip Chip & Pusha T
Ray is one of the fast-rising newcomers from the Detroit scene, Chip is one of Atlanta’s go-to songwriters, and you already know Pusha T. This one just works.
Earthgang — “All Eyes On Me”
Despite its title, Earthgang’s latest Ghetto Gods single doesn’t so much channel Tupac as it does advance the more revolutionary aspects of his artistic agenda. Going beyond simply declaring “Black lives matter,” the Atlanta duo works to expand the idea that all Black lives should be included, even the ones such slogans sometimes overlook.
Fredo Bang — “Rada Rada”
Fredo Bang continues to be ridiculously consistent with solid trap bangers that speak to both the streets they describe and the clubs they’ll inevitably take over once he manages to find that viral hit of the sort that’s become even more vital in the digital world.
JID — “Surround Sound” feat. 21 Savage & Baby Tate
True story: I once unfriended a guy who wanted to argue with me that 21 Savage isn’t one of the better rappers from Atlanta today. That was three years ago, and somehow, Savage continues to improve — even to the point he actually keeps up (to some degree) with the supreme tongue-twisting wordplay of one of the other best Atlanta rappers, JID. If Baby Tate’s the cherry on top, then that recognizable Aretha sample is the fudge. IYKYK.
Joey Badass — “THE REV3NGE”
After years of waiting for a follow-up to Joey’s modern classic All-Amerikkkan Badass, it appears one is imminent, as the slick-talking Brooklyn boom-bap revivalist returns with one helluva triumphant, defiant blowout of a comeback single.
Ryan Trey– “Slide”
If Ryan Trey has his way, 2022 will be the year St. Louis once again rejoins Midwestern cousin Louisville at the forefront of the pop-rap world, becoming for his hometown what Jack Harlow was for the Derby City. “Slide” is a pretty strong argument that he deserves to be.
Saba — “Come My Way” feat. Krayzie Bone
Speaking of the Midwest, Chicago rapper Saba connects with one of the region’s pioneer heroes in Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Krayzie Bone for a fittingly nostalgic, reflective single to pave the way for his new album, Few Good Things.
Sledgren — “Chill With Me” feat. Wiz Khalifa & Larry June
When Wiz and Sledgren team up, the result is a surefire home run, but adding Bay Area favorite Larry June to the mix just enhances the high, turning that home run into a walk-off, World-Series-winning grand slam.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.