Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2023
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The 21 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2023

The best hip-hop albums celebrate classic styles with new approaches, blend rap with electronic, jazz, and soul, and push the boundaries of genre.

21. Reuben Vincent – Love Is War (Jamla / Roc Nation)

A warm, soulful album that’s rich in mood and texture, Love Is War announces Reuben Vincent as a force to be reckoned with. The Charlotte, North Carolina native’s Roc Nation debut is a confident and emotionally intelligent work, one that belies its creator’s youth. The whole album is bathed in a dreamy warmth, like walking into someone else’s daydream. “Geechie Suede” and “Mon’e” go relatively hard, but most cuts are light on their feet and nuanced, full of compassionate, thoughtful lyrics that attempt to unpack the many complexities of love. Given the quality of this release and the fact that Vincent dropped his first tape at the age of just 13, it’s safe to assume that he’s got a bright future ahead of him. – Tom Morgan

20. Russ Millions – One of a Kind (One of a Kind Music)

The UK drill scene is showing no signs of slowing down. Russ Millions’ 2018 track “Gun Lean” was the first drill track to crack the top ten of the UK charts, while in 2021, Millions’ “Body” claimed the number one spot. One of a Kind is his first full-length album (this genre and his fans seem increasingly unconcerned with the album format), and while it’s not groundbreaking, it’s brilliant entertainment. Millions’ marvelous voice is unconcerned with thematic substance, focused instead on guiding highlights like “Can’t Forget Me” and “Fall in Love” via effervescent flows. This genre still sounds fresh, exciting, and underpinned by a sense of cold melancholy. – Tom Morgan

19. Nappy Nina – Morning Due (LucidHaus)

Morning Due is the latest from Nappy Nina, a Brooklyn-based MC that this writer, to his shame, was previously unaware of. It’s a quietly magnificent album with 14 tracks of delicate rapping (imagine a middle ground between Noname by and Moor Mother) and abstract, though never alienating, electronic production. It’s experimental but also approachable and full of introspective depth. Nina’s honest lyrics aren’t interested in flexes or punchlines, focusing instead on themes that portray a reserved, complex persona. It’s a guarded, subtle, and brilliant rap album. – Tom Morgan

18. Maxo – Even God Has a Sense of Humour (Def Jam)

Maxo’s second album on Def Jam is as effortless as rap music comes. A laid-back and jazzy collection, Even God Has a Sense of Humour is as effervescent as it is playful. Bolstered by production from the likes of Madlib and Karriem Riggins, along with solid guest features from Pink Siifu and Liv.e, these 14 tracks encompass smoky psychedelic rap (“Nuri”), mellow boom-bap (“Free!”), neo-soul (“Both Handed”) and all manner of other tranquil, contemplative styles. Expect to see this one on many end-of-year lists. – Tom Morgan

17. Jehst – Mork Calling Orson (YNR Productions)

A welcome return from UK legend JehstMork Calling Orson is another jewel in the venerable MC’s crown. For the uninitiated, Jehst’s debut, The Return of the Drifter, is an all-time great UK hip-hop record, though all his releases are of the highest quality. His latest Mork Calling Orson intelligently cribs from contemporary rap, featuring Griselda-style samples (“Daily Planet”, “Skyline”) and Blah Records’ quiet menace (“You” even features Blah head honcho Lee Scott). However, Jehst’s charisma always shines through, further proving his underrated brilliance. – Tom Morgan

16. Buscrates – Control Center (Bastard Jazz)

The first thing you hear is the snap of the snare. It’s more of a crack, really, like a wooden board broken underfoot. The sound is dry and bright with a trebly glimmer. Full-bodied, not brittle. Drum fanatics futz for days behind mixing boards trying to sculpt a snare this tight. Orlando Marshall, the Pittsburg-based musician known as Buscrates, has been honing his sound for over 20 years. As a member of East Liberty Quarters, Marshall brought his passion for vintage synthesizers to the Pennsylvania trio’s 1980s-inspired electronic funk flavors. As a solo artist, he combines the raw boom-bap beats of early 1990s hip-hop with the decadent sheen of early 1980s synth-funk.

Control Center, his latest full-length release as Buscrates, organically fuses the two genres without leaning on tired tropes. The record showcases an artist who has matured into his sound, one who has found a way to build from familiar foundations to make music he finds fresh and meaningful. – Kyle Cochrun

15. Skyzoo & The Other Guys – The Mind of a Saint (First Generation Rich / HiPNOTT)

Skyzoo’s been active since the turn of the millennium, grafting hard and working with the likes of Pete Rock, Apollo Brown, Black Milk, 9th Wonder, and countless others. His previous release, 2021’s All the Beautiful Things, was a marvelous highpoint in his career, upon which The Mind of a Saint admirably builds. If it’s not quite as impressive as that previous opus, it stands tall as an emotionally resonant work of traditional boom-bap. Skyzoo’s sophisticated lyrics tell a subtly complex narrative bolstered by the Other Guys’ unfussy but elegant production. Everything Skyzoo does is worth checking out, and The Mind of a Saint is no exception. – Tom Morgan