So much rap music comes out all the time, and especially with frequent surprise releases, it can be hard to keep track of it all. So, as a way to help keep up with all of it, here’s a roundup of the 9 rap albums from November 2022 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven’t spent enough time with some great November rap albums that aren’t on this list. What were some of your favorites of last month? Let us know in the comments, and read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order).
Stormzy – This Is What I Mean
#Merky/0207 Def Jam
Stormzy prefaced his third album This Is What I Mean with the non-album single “Mel Made Me Do It,” a seven-minute, stream-of-consciousness rap with no hook that reasserted Stormzy as one of the best UK rappers around, but did not at all hint at what to expect from This Is What I Mean. Outside of its title track, a rap banger that just got a new video and sounds like it has the potential to be Stormzy’s next big crossover hit, most of This Is What I Mean puts rapping on the backburner in favor of atmospheric R&B and neo-soul, with flourishes of gospel, Afrobeats, and jazz sprinkled throughout. “If I rap for 7 minutes it’s because in my spirit, in that moment, I just really wanted to fucking rap,” Stormzy said in a statement accompanying his new album, and then adds, “If I sing my heart out then it’s because my soul just absolutely had to.” This Is What I Mean, then, is the album Stormzy’s soul just had to make. It contains some of the most personal, introspective music that Stormzy has ever made, as well as songs like “My Presidents Are Black” that find Stormzy using his platform and fame to advance conversations around culture, society, and politics. An array of guest singers help flesh out the album (Debbie Ehirim, Jacob Collier, Nao, India.Arie, Ayra Starr, and more), with the most standout guest appearance coming from Sampha, who gets an entire song of his own (“Sampha’s Plea”). Stormzy already seems to know that it might end up being a polarizing album, but taken for what it is, rather than what longtime fans might’ve wanted it to be, it’s some of his most beautiful work yet.
$ilkmoney – I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore
Virginia rapper $ilkmoney started out as a member of the now-defunct rap group Divine Council, before turning his attention towards his prolific solo career after the group’s 2017 breakup, and he went viral last year after his song “My Potna Dem” soundtracked over a million videos on TikTok. Divine Council were signed to Epic, and “My Potna Dem” once again attracted major labels, but $ilkmoney called his experience with Epic “traumatic” and he doesn’t sound interested in signing to another major, or really interested in the music industry at all, hence the title of his latest project: I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore. His album and song titles show a rapper who’s obviously got a sense of humor (one is “I Ate 14gs of Mushrooms and Bwoy Oh Bwoy”), but $ilkmoney means business. He’s got a hard, forceful, direct delivery as he weaves between serious topics like racism and his aforementioned disdain for the music industry, and still finds time to drop punchlines like “Fuck Johnny Dang/Just hung a brick of DMT from my keychain.” The whole project was produced by Kahlil Blu, who pillows $ilk’s voice with hazy, woozy soundscapes that add a psychedelic twist, and it’s all part of the kind of far-out vision that major labels would probably try to compromise.
R.A.P. Ferreira – 5 to the Eye with Stars
R.A.P. Ferreira is a rapper who exists in his own world, and with 5 to the Eye with Stars, he’s inviting you into it. Since his days as milo, he’s carved out a lane in underground hip hop that’s entirely his own — adjacent to collaborators like Armand Hammer and Open Mike Eagle but increasingly unlike just about any other artist around. On this LP, the only guest that shows up is Future Islands vocalist Samuel T. Herring under his rap moniker Hemlock Ernst, but he doesn’t rap, he sings a hook. Otherwise, the only voice you hear is R.A.P. Ferreira’s own, as he dishes out poetic, stream-of-consciousness screeds that fit snugly within a soundscape that varies between warm jazz, classicist boom bap, and futuristic electronics. It’s virtually the polar opposite of rap that’s made for the radio or the club or big festivals, but it never feels unwelcoming. The door to this album is wide open, and once you’re in it, it keeps you coming back again and again.
Backxwash – His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering
Ugly Hag Records
Backxwash says that her new album His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering concludes a trilogy that began with 2020’s God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It and continued with 2021’s I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses, and it sounds like her next album may not come together as quickly as these three did. “If I keep going on at this pace it will be a detriment to my mental stability,” she said in a statement accompanying the new album. “These songs take me to a very dark place and writing about these topics at times is not an easy task.” The entirely self-produced album finds Backxwash dealing with an array of soul-baring topics — like paranoia, suicide, racism, gender dysphoria, and other personal demons — in the form of abrasive, experimental, industrial-tinged rap songs. The dark, aggressive setting is perfect for what’s discussed within, but for all the pain and internal battles that informed this album, it actually seems to end on a hopeful note. “I wanna tell you that I made it alive,” Backxwash raps over some uplifting chipmunk soul, the only production on the album that sounds anything like traditional hip hop. It suggests that maybe, after trekking through all this darkness, Backxwash has found some light.
GloRilla – Anyways, Life’s Great…
Memphis rapper GloRilla had been dropping singles since 2019 and she struck gold this year with “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” and its video, which went viral and has endured as one of the most undeniable rap singles of the year. The buzz inked her a deal with Yo Gotti’s CMG label, on which she continued to drop more singles (including the especially great “Tomorrow 2” with Cardi B), and now she releases her debut EP, Anyways, Life’s Great…. “Tomorrow 2,” which already has more Spotify streams than “F.N.F.,” proved she’s no one hit wonder, and the rest of Anyways suggests she’ll continue to have staying power. Her loud, booming voice and her knack for subtle hooks came across loudly and clearly on her breakthrough singles, and the other tracks on this EP show an artist who’s growing and honing her craft, not content to coast on the success of a couple popular songs.
Boldy James & Futurewave – Mr. Ten08
Detroit rapper Boldy James has been extremely prolific and on fire these past few years. The Futurewave-produced Mr. Ten08 is his third full-length of 2022 — following the Nicholas Craven-produced Fair Exchange No Robbery and the Real Bad Man-produced Killing Nothing — and it does nothing to slow his momentum. His smooth yet hardened storytelling sounds great as ever, and Futurewave’s lush, laid-back production is exactly the kind of backdrop that Boldy sounds best over. The album has just one guest appearance (from 2100 Bagz), otherwise it’s just Boldy holding it down and never running out of steam.
CEO Trayle – HH5
Do What You Love / 10K Projects
CEO Trayle was born in the Bronx and lived in Alabama and Chicago before moving to his current home of Atlanta, and he’s internalized the rap music of all of those regions, frequently citing and/or becoming compared to everyone from 50 Cent to Gucci Mane to Chief Keef to Young Thug. His career got a boost from both Young Thug and Gunna before the two were indicted on racketeering charges (“they’ll be home soon,” Trayle says), and Gunna hopped on a remix of Trayle’s viral “OK Cool” last year for the fourth installment of Trayle’s Happy Halloween mixtape series. This past Halloween, he returned with the series’ fifth installment, HH5, and it’s a fine example of Trayle’s multi-regional, subtly shapeshifting sound. He tends to favor murky production and he sticks to a calm, cool, and collected delivery whether he’s telling a deeply personal story or rattling off an absurd punchline. The subject matter suits a mixtape named after Halloween, a holiday Trayle feels a genuine attachment to. “For other people, it’s the day they dress up,” he recently told The FADER. “For me, it’s the day I can be myself.”
AKAI SOLO – Spirit Roaming
AKAI SOLO’s been a prolific staple of underground Brooklyn rap for the past few years, and now he links up with billy woods’ Backwoodz Studioz label for his latest album, Spirit Roaming. With production from Preservation, Animoss, Messiah Musik, Theravada, ibliss, WifiGawd, Ahwlee, and others, it’s got a warped, crackling backdrop that suits AKAI’s stream-of-consciousness tongue-twisters perfectly. It fits right in with the Backwoodz roster and ends with a great collaboration with woods’ own duo, Armand Hammer. “Spirit Roaming is essentially self wandering through various self-engineered hells searching for the silver lining,” AKAI says. “Not quite a shell but not quite full either; rather freshly devastated. I made a lot of foolish decisions and neglected even more important ones. The price for that is being paid in real time. Can I grow post payment or does the crater resulting from the transaction overwhelm me?”
38 Spesh & Harry Fraud – Beyond Belief
Upstate New York’s boom bap-inspired rap scene remains prolific and full of riches, and one of the latest and greatest projects to come from that region is Beyond Belief by Rochester rapper 38 Spesh. The whole thing was produced by Harry Fraud, who’s also recently helmed projects for Benny the Butcher, Curren$y, Jim Jones, and others, and all three of those rhymers appear on Beyond Belief, alongside Conway the Machine, Stove God Cooks, Ransom, Elcamino, and Wiz Khalifa. Its 10 songs are loaded with standout verses from many of the aforementioned rappers, as well as 38 Spesh himself, and Harry Fraud’s production is exactly the kind of hauntingly fresh spin on ’90s New York rap that this project needs.
Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene – Cost of Living
Brockhampton – The Family & TM
Drake & 21 Savage – Her Loss
DJ Muggs & Jay Worthy – What They Hittin 4
Homeboy Sandman – Still Champion
Nas – King’s Disease III
YUNGMORPHEUS – Burnished Sums EP