After a month or two where we’ve had to dig a little deeper than usual to uncover the best hip-hop gems, we’re delighted to report that August’s selection is an especially strong bunch. The albums included here are all uniquely brilliant, each so good that many will likely make an appearance in our end-of-year roundup of best hip-hop albums of 2022. From Doechii’s terrific debut EP to Danger Mouse and Black Thought’s long-awaited collaboration to yet another stellar Your Old Droog release, this month’s selection is all killer and absolutely no filler. We hope you love each of these cuts as much as we do.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Cheat Codes [BMG]
Some albums’ success feels written in the stars. The long-awaited collaboration between the Roots‘ Black Thought and producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse is one such wonder; a 12-track rap album virtually without fault. Admirable for, above all else, its soulful simplicity, Cheat Codes is a timeless and effortless collection elevated by its stellar array of guest stars. Raekwon adds his unmistakable husky flow to “The Darkest Part”, Run the Jewels drop their trademark verbal violence on “Strangers”, and the late MF Doom adds a spectral cameo to the eerie “Belize”. Incredible work from all its esteemed contributors makes Cheat Codes a contender for rap album of the year.
JID – The Forever Story [Dreamville / Interscope]
Since signing his major label deal in 2015, JID has lacked a big, career-defining breakthrough project. The Forever Story looks like it could be just that. An ambitious, eclectic, and massively-successful 15-track behemoth, The Forever Story throws everything at the wall, and just about all of it sticks. Tracks like “Raydar”, “Surround Sound”, and “Just in Time” are ultra-contemporary and bass-driven, the kind of anthems that will find JID an enormous audience. However, endless other styles and tones are explored across the album, from the Chance the Rapper-like “Bruddanem” to the sunshine-laden “Money” to the calm, thoughtful “Better Days”. It’s an album overflowing with pathos and compelling variety.
Roc Marciano & The Alchemist – The Elephant Man’s Bones [ALC]
The second full-length to feature production work from the Alchemist released in 2022, The Elephant Man’s Bones, is another incredible highlight from this month. With a stylistic approach that mirrors its colorful, abstract yet approachable cover art, these 14 tracks are so rich and immersive that you never want to leave their intricate micro-worlds. It’s easily the best Roc Marciano full-length, and while it doesn’t find new angles to his charismatic rhymes, he sounds more effortlessly confident here than he has in some time. The Alchemist is the real star, though, contributing endlessly inventive beats. Highlights include the widescreen drums of “Zig Zag Zig”, the gentle keys of “Bubble Bath”, and particularly the menacing atmospheres of “Quantum Leap”. An essential listen for fans of contemporary underground rap music.
Megan Thee Stallion – Traumazine [300 Entertainment]
Her myriad successes over the last few years have placed Megan Thee Stallion at the top of today’s rap game. She possesses one of the most authoritative and charismatic voices in the whole genre, which is put to remarkable use on her second album, Traumazine. The production work here takes a turn for the dark and menacing, with cuts like “Not Nice” and “Pressurelicious” especially weighty and bass-heavy. However, other shades come through. “Her” is a club-ready anthem, mega-hit “Sweetest Pie” is enormous fun, and “Consistency” is rife with rich, sultry textures. The only minor downside is that some guest spots fail to leave an impression. However, this further accentuates Megan Thee Stallion’s commanding and sometimes virtuoso abilities.
Your Old Droog – Yodney Dangerfield [Mongoloid Banks / Nature Sounds]
The prolific Your Old Droog’s fourth release of 2022 so far, Yodney Dangerfield, is a short, sharp, and fully-formed work of smart, funny modern boom-bap. It lacks the cinematic splendor of his Tha God Fahim collaboration Tha Wolf on Wall Street 2: The American Dream and instead turns its focus inwards. These seven tracks’ production is pared down almost to the point of minimalism, ranging from the jazzy, Lee Scott-produced “The Tonight Show” to Jonwayne’s off-kilter, unpredictable work on “The Man on the Moon”. These producers are well chosen and leave their marks, however, Your Old Droog is the undeniable star of the show. He’s one of the wittiest rappers in the modern game, spitting sharp comic couplets on memorable highlights like “The Tonight Show” and “50K Or Brunch”. A lowkey but gloriously entertaining mini album.
Doechii – she / her / black bitch [Capitol / Top Dawg Entertaiment]
The major label debut from Tampa-based newcomer Doechii, she / her / black bitch is an incendiary warning shot by this ultra-talented 24-year-old. Comparisons to the likes of Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion will surely be made; however, the closest would be to Azealia Banks’ early work. Doechii’s debut EP shares more than a little of Banks’ hyperactive personality, as well as some subtly-experimental production choices. These five tracks all possess completely different energy yet have a clear emotional arc, moving from the hyperactive opening cuts (highlighted by the unique energy of “Bitch I’m Nice”) to the relaxed, SZA-featuring “Persuasive”. It’s a promising and confident work from an artist with huge potential.
ShrapKnel – Metal Lung [Backwoodz Studioz]
Backwoodz Stuidoz are quietly turning into the new Def Jux, consistently putting out bold and challenging rap albums that glow with a singular intelligence. The latest release on billy woods’ label is ShrapKnel’s Metal Lung, an angular and demanding album that offers endless rewards if you can tune into its unique wavelength. Recalling the cerebral work of not only Def Jux but other turn-of-the-millennium rappers like Sole and the Anticon roster, ShrapKnel (comprised of MCs Curly Castro and PremRock) go all out on their sophomore full-length. These 13 tracks constantly feel on the edge of exploding, with cuts like “Cold Burn” and “Lazy Dog” especially intimidating examples of its creators’ formidable skills. A duo to keep a close eye on for aficionados of this brand of experimental rap.
Mach-Hommy – Dollar Menu 4 [Mach Hommy, Inc]
The latest in Mach-Hommy’s long-running Dollar Menu series of mixtapes, Dollar Menu 4 is actually a collaboration with Tha God Fahim, in the mold of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah’s nineties’ co-star’ collaborative releases. It doesn’t quite reach those esteemed heights. However, the expertly executed gritty sound on display here is more than enough to satisfy fans of this style. Mach-Hommy comes across as the stronger of the two, highlighted by his immersive, effortless verses on “Gastronomie”, “Bunny Ciao”, and “Macabre (A5)”. “Shukran Don” is the album’s most purely enjoyable track, featuring both players trading stellar verses in ultra-confident and stylish fashion.
Declaime & Madlib – In the Beginning Vol. 2 [Someothaship Connection / Fat Beats]
The second volume of Declaime and Madlib’s previously-lost collaborations, these 11 tracks, recorded between 1993 and 1996, bristle with unique and off-kilter energy. Madlib’s production is reliably distinct and engaging. It shares the head-nodding feel of hip-hop from its era but seems to have been conjured in an especially heady environment. Declaime’s voice is teeming with personality and more than a little uncanny, while the chopped pianos of “Scare Compliments” and the eerie noises of “WLIX” give off a stoned, lightly-paranoid air. This murky, lo-fi approach is endlessly engaging and appropriately gives In the Beginning Vol. 2 the feeling of something that’s been uncovered after many years of sitting in a dank, dingy basement.