Once again, it’s been a stellar month in the hip-hop genre. From Saba’s widely-loved Few Good Things to Curren$y and the Alchemist’s effortless Continuance, this month saw the release of some serious quality that’s sure to feature in many end-of-year lists. Along with different nationalities, perspectives, and identities, numerous hip-hop subgenres appear in this list – abstract rap, UK hip-hop, gritty East Coast, and even Gen Z pop-rap. This genre comes in so many different styles and flavors that it’s a heady joy to keep on top of everything it produces.
Below are the best hip-hop albums of February 2022. We hope that you find something to uplift you in these trying times within it.
Saba – Few Good Things [Saba Pivot, LLC]
A highlight of this month’s hip-hop releases, Saba‘s Few Good Things is a brilliant conscious rap album, one bursting at the seams with character and soul. The Chicago native’s third full-length is the most full-bodied work of his career thus far, jam-packed full of ideas and invention. Few Good Things‘ colorful, pathos-leaden ambition has seen its creator compared to rap auteurs such as Chance the Rapper and Andre 3000, and it’s easy to see why. Soulful charmers “Fearmonger” and “Make Believe” sit comfortably alongside the heavier “If I Had a Dollar” and “Survivor’s Guilt”, a combination that gives Few Good Things the feel of a full-bodied future classic.
Curren$y & The Alchemist – Continuance [Jet Life Records]
Every hip-hop head knows that the Alchemist is one of the top producers in the world right now. His work plumbs endless depths of dense, sample-lead brilliance, as does his choice of collaborators (his second collaboration with Boldy James was our favorite hip-hop album of last year). Continuance is another slice of his brand of widescreen modern hip-hop, this time featuring the vocals of southern rap legend Curren$y. The Alchemist’s laidback production style effortlessly matches Curren$y’s smooth, nuanced flow, as highlighted by the ridiculously-chilled “Obsession” and Styles P’s cameo atop the jazz guitars of “Whale Watching”. It’s an eminently likable, masterfully laidback album from two geniuses of the genre.
Homeboy Sandman – There in Spirit [Mello Music Group]
It’s been fascinating to watch Homeboy Sandman quietly turn into a significant underground artist. His idiosyncratic style has changed little since he began releasing music 15 years ago, as if it took that long for the world to catch up with him. There in Spirit is yet another quirky and colorful work of charismatic hip-hop, one that treads a careful balance between delicately experimental and wholly accessible. There’s a golden age feel to the vibrant beats of tracks like “Stand Up” and “Epiphany” that sits comfortably next to more out-there fare, such as the skittish “Voices (Alright)”. Witty, unpretentious lyrics concerned with progression and self-understanding make There in Spirit an affable, commanding mini-album that continues Homeboy Sandman’s low-key ascent to underground royalty.
Pouya – dirt/hurt/pain [All But 6]
Among Pouya’s most introspective releases, the five-track EP dirt/hurt/pain sees the Florida rapper unleash some of his most thoughtful and nuanced bars. Highlight “Serpent” conjures incisive observations, including the catchy chorus refrain where Pouya describes waking up “feeling like a burden”. His tone never comes across as maudlin or self-pitying, just deeply honest. This track and the more upbeat “Never Enough” are the EP’s high points. Both display an emotional intelligence that distinguishes Pouya from many of his peers. It’s not a perfect release; closer “Don’t Trip” is pretty weak and probably should have been cut. However, dirt/hurt/pain contains enough smarts and personality to win its creator plaudits beyond just those from within his growing cult fanbase.
Cities Aviv – Man Plays the Horn [Independent]
An album that’s sure to go down as one of the most audacious hip-hop albums of the year, for those willing to dedicate the time and patience, Man Plays the Horn is something of an abstract masterpiece. Cities Aviv’s sonic aesthetic shares some of Jpegmafia’s unpredictable multiplicity, a little of MIKE’s lo-fi psychedelia, and a hefty dose of influence from the hypnagogic pop genre. Including bonus tracks, Man Plays the Horn (a reference to the influence of Miles Davis) is a mammoth hour and 15 minutes long and features not one but two 12-minute tracks. There’s too much going on to get into in any more detail here, but rest assured that diving into this cornucopia of weirdness is a trip worth taking.