2023 proved to be a milestone year for the culture of hip-hop, mainly due to an industry-wide, year-long celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary. From celebrating the ever-changing eras of rap and paying homage to the pioneering emcees that paved the way, to getting blessed with a handful of once-in-a-lifetime performances — Pass The Mic Live, Rock The Bells Fest and Hip-Hop 50 LIVE at Yankees Stadium stand out — it was a year that we’re sure many certified hip-hop heads won’t soon forget by a long shot.
Our guys over at the Dead End Hip-Hop Podcast even took us back 30 years not too long ago for a rundown of what they were bumping through the speakers back in hip-hop’s Golden Era circa 1993. Take a look below:
While this year showed us the importance of never forgetting where you come from, there also was a good running theme of not forgetting where you’re going as well thanks to a hefty lineup of new rap albums released throughout 2023. As the world at large counts down the days — well, more like hours at this point! — until the big arrival of 2024, we had to give all the emcees who dropped this year a major salute for continuing to push the culture forward with our official roundup of the 25 best rap releases of the year.
Before we get into our favorites though, let’s first give props to a few honorable mentions. We love each of these projects for many different reasons, but there simply could only be 25 on the list:
Nas – Magic 3
JPEGMafia & Danny Brown – SCARING THE HOES
Smoke DZA & Flying Lotus – Flying Objects
Talib Kweli & Madlib – Liberation 2
Teezo Touchdown – How Do You Sleep at Night?
Gucci Mane – Breath of Fresh Air
Rick Ross & Meek Mill – Too Good to Be True
Big K.R.I.T. – Regardless It’s Still Timeless
Dave East – Fortune Favors the Bold
Lil Tjay – 222
Tyla Yaweh – Heart Full of Rage 2
Trippie Redd – A Love Letter to You 5
Coi Leray – Coi
Larry June & Cardo – The Night Shift
Homeboy Sandman – I Can’t Sell These Either
Busta Rhymes – Blockbusta
Bun B & Statik Selektah – Trillstatik 3
The ones we did choose will reflect a variety of emceeing styles. Some are younger than others, so the subject matter will be way different. Others decided to clique up and drop a collaborative LP — hey, the more the merrier we say! The main thing we came to understand overall though is that, while extremely diverse when it comes to the players on the spectrum, hip-hop culture is definitely in good hands and will only get bigger and better for another 50 years and counting.
Kep scrolling to see our picks for the 25 best rap albums released in 2023, and of course feel free to agree and/or debate with us on who you think should be on here: