2021 Has been an interesting year for hip hop, with new albums dropping faster than we could've imagined. So, to keep track of the best hip-hop albums of the year, we put together a list so you don't have to. But, don't think this is the final call; we have a feeling we'll be updating this regularly, so make sure to check back.
Metacritic Score: 76
J. Cole's sixth consecutive number 1 album, The Off Season, has been ranked one of the best hip hop albums of 2021. Its stellar lyrics and featured artists such as 21 Savage, Cam'Ron, Lil Baby certainly don't disappoint. Each track in the list brings listeners through reflections of J.Cole's life from childhood to becoming a father himself, as well as the tragic pain of losing family members and friends. Nevertheless, Cole dominated the microphone and reminded music lovers why he consistently ranks at the top. This is yet another release from the artist that's expected to go platinum.
Metacritic Score: 71
Unfortunately, the world lost a musical legend way too soon when DMX suddenly passed earlier this year from complications related to an accidental substance intake. However, after several successful decades in the industry, the rapper managed to leave the world with the gift of Exodus. Released posthumously, the album includes widely impressive featured artists such as Alicia Keys, Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher, and more. Many believe only the late artist could land such an impressive roster of features. For this reason among others, this final release from DMX has become rated as one of the best hip-hop albums of 2021 so far.
MF DOOM & Czarface
Metacritic Score: 74
Czarface (Wu-Tang members Inspectah Deck, Esoteric, and 7L) linked up with the late MF DOOM before his passing to create Super What? the duo's second collaboration together. All of the heat is packed into the bars of these tracks. In no way does this sound like an album created as a farewell. Instead, the lyrics are loaded with heat and encourage imagery to form in the listener's mind. How they managed to accomplish this is beyond us; however, despite losing yet another legend years before anyone was ready, we strongly believe DOOM's memory will live on through his music, namely this incredible collab.
YG & Mozzy
Metacritic Score: 75
The next best thing to killer lyrics is stellar chemistry between artists. And that's exactly what California music moguls YG & Mozzy brought to the table yet again in their new 2021 album, Kommunity Service. This album not only reminds music lovers why Mozzy basically slayed the industry in 2014 but proved that all these years later, he's still got it. But, that being said, this album doesn't come with any limitations for who can and should listen to it. From the first track to the final fade-out, this is yet another one of the best new hip-hop albums of the year.
Metacritic Score: 87
NYC-Haitian rapper Mach-Hommy teamed up with Westside Gunn, who hails from Griselda, for Pray For Haiti, their first collaboration since the duo's 2010 split. The incident had been chalked up to creative differences, but clearly, things have since mended. Gunn not only sang in 4 songs but also produced the 2021 release. But, Mach-Hommy is definitely the star of the show, with varied flows throughout the tracks and taking the entire ensemble to the next level. This album can be viewed among many in the music community as an expression of self-confidence from the artist. Originality and personality seem to seep through each word and echo through each silence.
Metacritic Score: 87
It's not often that the well-known producer, Madlib, releases new music. But, man, when we say Sound Ancestors could be one of the top 10 hip-hop albums of the year, it's no joke! He's been in the industry for over 20 years and has already released hit tracks and classics that still bop to this day. But now, this collection of new tracks might one-up his previous work. The details of this album are immaculate, down to the stellar guitar-plucking on the track "Latino Megro." If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that Madlib never disappoints, and this is proof!
Metacritic Score: 95
With the highest Metacritic score on our list, take a look at the British artist Ghetts' new release, Conflict Of Interest. The collection comes as the music mogul's third full-length studio portfolio, complete with 16 hot tracks that make up perhaps the best rap album on our list. Ghetts' voice alone will tickle your eardrums. Still, with such raw and honest lyrics, coupled with featured artists such as BackRoad Gee, Moonchild Sanelly, Ed Sheeran, Skepta, and several others, the critics nearly guarantee an enjoyable experience throughout. The lyrical talent spewing from each second of his album might just remain unmatched until he releases a fourth album!
Metacritic Score: 86
Smiling With No Teeth is a debut studio album put out by Genesis Owusu that features a mix of funk, folk, R&B, pop, and rap. It has it all, including beats that might even make you crack a smile while listening. This eclectic musical offering has wowed fans since its early-March release. In years past, Owusu has released several singles and an EP - but this tops the cake as the one to steal the show! There's no denying the bar has now been set here, and while we listen on repeat, we can't help but get excited thinking about what else Genesis Owusu will bring to the table.
Metacritic Score: 88
Many believe that Loraine James' Reflection is one of the many new rap albums to flourish right out of the gate in 2021. And as of this writing, it hasn't even been out for a month yet! In her collection, the artist intertwines smooth yet electric beats with clear notions of romance and leveling up in the industry. James has certainly found her knack with this second full-length album, and many music lovers have reported not being able to get enough of this vibe. And the kicker? James made sure to include some stellar features, including Baths, Iceboy Violet, Nova, Xzavier Stone, and others.
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist
Metacritic Score: 82
HARAM is an album by Armand Hammer. The masterminds behind it are duo Billy Woods and ELUCID, and the DJ, record producer, rapper, songwriter, and living legend, The Alchemist. With immaculate storytelling and talent from all sides, this collection of music is destined to become one of the best hip-hop albums of 2021. The only possible thing that could've made this collection any more fire is the featured artists list, and wow, we are not disappointed. From KAYANA and Earl Sweatshirt to Curly Castro and Quelle Chris; many in the industry have praised Woods, ELUCID, and The Alchemist on a job well done.
Metacritic Score: 79
With a now, even more meaningful title, the album, There Is No End was posthumously released in early May. Created and recorded by the late Tony Allen, this collection of music was completed by co-producers Vincent Taeger and Vincent Taurellewill. And, it will live on as Allen's legacy and possibly one of the top hip-hop albums to be released so far this year. Several talented vocalists were added to the songs to complete the collection, including Nate Bone, Nah Eeto, Sampa The Great, and Zelooperz. This album is a top hit whether listeners are captivated by the incredible drumming talent or constantly changing beats.
Metacritic Score: 75
Migos' latest album, CULTURE III, is chock-full of songs that will have you up off the couch and dancing your way back to festivals and backyard parties in no time. No, this is not just a collection to play in your bedroom or car; this is straight fire ready to be unleashed into the night! After a year of staying indoors in 2020, this new release is set to be one of the top hip-hop albums as concert season begins to return to the world. It might just even knock their previous release, CULTURE II, straight out of the playing field!
YSL & Young Thug
Metacritic Score: 74
This release by YSL and Young Thug was teased for a long time before it blessed our earbuds and speakers. But, once the album was finally out, Slime Language 2 blew music lovers away. This could be due to the lyrics and meaning behind the words or the A-list legends featured on several of the tracks. This album is full of amazing voices and vocals from Drake and Travis Scott to Gunna, Lil Uzi, and Kid Cudi. With Young Thug not dropping music as often as we wish, this project is seen by many as an exciting peek into what Thugger's been up to lately.
Metacritic Score: 84
AJ Tracey has officially released his second full-length studio album called FLU GAME. And, according to listener comments, there's a good chance this production will go down as one of the best albums of 2021. With each song, Tracey proves more and more that he's not just a bench warmer but actually the star of the game. With supporting vocals by Kehlani, NAV, MoStack, and more, the music is dynamic and satisfying to listen to. There's no denying, by listening to this collection of songs, fans are beginning to see the mark AJ Tracey is making in the music industry.
Metacritic Score: 74
Ashnikko wowed her fans to the max with the release of her debut album, DEMIDEVIL. The London-based rapper hails from North Carolina but has strayed away from any southern charm in her songs. Instead, each track is packed with a punch and is full of clear signs of an evolving artist. With an obvious development in her sound, fans continue to fall in love with the energy the artist brings to the table. Within this album, Ashnikko fans see that there's emotional depth behind the hardshell persona she puts out. Will this be the beginning of a deeper dive into her life? We'll have to listen to find out.
Metacritic Score: 79
After some ups and downs in their music careers throughout the past 5 years, the group of friends behind BROCKHAMPTON released ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE. In it, they prove their knack for blending hip-hop and rap, all while keeping the iconic style of the group intact. Their sound might feel different to the ear this time around, possibly because some layers of doubt or insecurity seem to have melted away. Whatever changed, our ears are certainly happy, and we can assure yours will be too. The confidence that exudes from these tracks is not to be messed with, only to be enjoyed.