2022 ended as a phenomenal year for music as we were able to witness a lot of incredible moments for artists across all genres. We saw artists finally drop long-awaited albums, tease new music, and release some amazing albums for the whole world to enjoy. This year was filled with so much depth that there were still classics like 2000 by Joey Bada$$ and Melt My Eyes See Your Future by Denzel Curry that had to be left off the list. Albums in 2023 will now have a high bar going in, but artists like Frank Ocean, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, and many others should be dropping highly anticipated music to make for an exciting upcoming year. Nonetheless, let’s highlight this year’s top projects.
SOS by SZA
Few Good Things by Saba
King’s Disease III by Nas
KISS THE RING by Rome Streetz
WASTELAND by Brent Faiyaz
Let’s now dive right into my favorite albums of 2022, in no particular order:
Dawn FM by The Weeknd
Despite being released within the first week of 2022, Dawn FM by The Weeknd has still held up as one of the top projects of the year. The second installment of the trilogy gaining focuses on its 90s Pop atmosphere, with a lot of similar sounds to Michael Jackson. Oneohtrix Point Never did an amazing job replicating the sound with its own unique twist. The features, despite not entirely fitting with The Weeknd’s style, still add necessary diversity to the project. This was a great album to pick off the year and gave a lot of credit to Abel for stepping outside his comfort zone and creating a project, not nearly the same sound he’s done for years now.
Ants From Up There by Black Country New Road
One of the newest rock bands on the scene. UK’s Black Country New Road brings a new and experimental sound to the world of rock that it needed. Despite a fast rise during the pandemic, this album was released four days after lead vocalist Isaac Wood announced he would be no longer with the band due to mental health reasons. His contributions were huge throughout Ants From Up There as his delivery gave a gut-wrench feeling that exposed all sorts of emotions during listening. This was one of my favorite rock albums of the year and it’ll be very interesting how the band transitions going forward without their lead vocalist.
God Don’t Make Mistakes by Conway the Machine
Conway the Machine has consistently continued his rise and popularity with the Griselda with each and every album he released. And as expected, God Don’t Mistakes takes that to a new level with Conway opening up about personal struggle, which is not entirely within the Griselda sound. He shared his mental health struggles from the gunshot to his face, poverty, gun violence, and many other new themes that haven’t been touched on before. The features, both underground and mainstream, perform well-above expectations and enhance the album to make it one of Conway’s best across his discography.
DRILL MUSIC IN ZION by Lupe Fiasco
MIT’s finest, Lupe Fiasco, does it again as one of the most consistent rappers since his debut in 2006. Written and recorded in only three days, Lupe Fiasco still shows the world that his talent is far from lost even with other focuses in mind, such as his work as a college professor. Drill Music in Zion is decorated with fantastic lyricism and pen ability that have been a staple to Lupe’s career. With nothing related to drill music, this album takes a deep look into the current grim state of rap music. This album is a perfect highlight of why Lupe continues to be one of the most looked over artists when looking at some of the greatest of all time.
The Forever Story by JID
One of the biggest breakouts of the year has to go to Dreamville’s JID, as his release of The Forever Story earned a lot of worldwide recognition that he had not seen before despite his association with J. Cole. This album gives full exposure to JID’s amazing ability as an artist with each and every exquisite verse on this album. He has some of the best rap and pen ability in the entire genre right now. The features are also perfectly compatible with his style even for artists like Lil Durk and Kenny Mason. With this being only his third studio album, he still has so much room to grow and make a true household name for himself in years to come.
Cheat Codes by Black Thought & Danger Mouse
Legendary rapper, Black Thought, partners up with Danger House to release one of the best collaborative projects of the year with Cheat Codes. The production brings an old school style with its own twist to bring a psychedelic and progressive sound. Not only does Black Thought match with its lyricism, but the selection and execution of the features absolutely destroy expectations coming into this project. Just some of the highlights include verses from A$AP Rocky, Conway the Machine, MF DOOM, and Raekwon. It will be very interesting to see what this duo can cook in the future but for now, Cheat Codes is certainly one for the highlight books.
Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar
After taking the last four years off, Kendrick Lamar comes back with my personal pick for album of the year in Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. This album has so many highlights to touch on from the production work, features, and content within each and every single song. We Cry Together is just one of the many tracks that highlight Kendrick’s creative ability to think outside the box and take some risks that pay off beautifully. Kendrick’s elevation to make artists like Kodak Black and Tanna Leone critical pieces on this project are just a reflection of how influential Kendrick has been to the music industry. This album was capped off with an amazing tour that I was fortunate to attend. Whether Kendrick is more active in making music or takes another break, his entire discography leaves a ton of replay value for everyone to enjoy.
Once Twice Melody by Beach House
Beach House comes back again with another amazing dream pop album that always brings a psychedelic and fluttering feel. Composed of four discs, Once Twice Melody brings a unique atmosphere to each side, almost like this album was made perfectly for vinyl. Victoria’s soft and light vocals are a perfect enhancement to the amazing roots projected throughout the entire project. Beach House has continued to consistently put out albums that still fit a unique perspective and listen that has still yet to be matched since their debut in 2006. I was also fortunate enough to see them in concert where their unique light show only made the music sound that much more amazing.
It’s Almost Dry by Pusha T
Pusha T has been one of the most favorite artists since when I first started listening to music seriously. His delivery tone and pen ability have been my favorite traits about him and his production has always been backed up by some of the best in the game currently. While DAYTONA is still one of the best albums of the young decade, It’s Almost Dry should have nothing to be taken away from that as it is still a spectacular album. Nothing falls short of Push’s lyricism and production is strongly reinforced by a mixture of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Even with the features being a bit outside the box for Push, artists like Lil Uzi Vert perform well along with some of the usual names Pusha has worked with including Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Jay-Z. Even while still continuing to rap about cocaine, Pusha T never fails to drop an entertaining album for all to enjoy.
10 By Westside Gunn
Westside Gunn has continued to not only blow away my expectations with each new release but also is still one of the most underrated artists on the planet right now. His conclusion to the Hitler Wears Hermes is only another reason to hop on the Griselda train. This album is packed with a lot of legendary names that have helped contribute to this album. Three Wu-Tang Clan members contributed along with Run the Jewels, A$AP Rocky, Busta Rhymes, and Doe Boy. Of course, no recognition couldn’t be given to all the members of Griselda, including Westside Gunn’s daughter, Westside Poodie, all of which had impactful contributions throughout the album. This ends as one of my favorite albums of the year and I am beyond excited to see what Westside Gunn releases in what is said to be his final year making music.