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Ah, yes, another quarter of the year gone, another list to argue over. 

In April, we brought you the 20 best hip-hop and R&B albums of the year. This time, we've upped the total number of albums to 30, so we have even more records to fight over. We look forward to your (positive and negative) comments.

[Editor's Note: Because 21 Savage’s i am > i was came out so late in 2018, we considered the album for this 2019 list.]

30. slowthai — Nothing Great About Britain


Release Date: May 17, 2019
Record Label: Method Records

An agile storyteller, Northampton’s slowthai expertly mixes elements of UK grime and drill while unpacking the micro and macro of his British upbringing. Carrying no pretensions and seamlessly style-shifting across genres with his frenetic cadence, the singular rapper makes you move and listen simultaneously. In a year that has seen British rap dominate—from DAVE and Little Simz to Skepta and Octavian—slowthai’s versatility and poignant messaging set him apart. He's funny while commanding attention, hilariously painting stark portraits of British classism, racism, and abuse in an ultimately gripping and focused fashion. —Zach Miller

29. Deem Spencer — Pretty face

Deem Spencer 'Pretty face'

Release Date: February 28, 2019
Record Label: Deem Spencer & The Flower Shop

The fallout from a bad relationship can end worlds. Deem Spencer is attempting to float past that grief on Pretty face, but he walks away with mixed results. The album’s production lilts in lockstep with Spencer’s demeanor; it's muted and varied, like crisp leaves falling onto the New York blacktop in autumn. It’s a somber but hopeful project, a rapper’s rapper spinning lovelorn yarns in sepia tone for all the pretty faces out there swimming in regret. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

28. Kevin Abstract — Arizona Baby


Release Date: April 25, 2019
Record Label: RCA

Kevin Abstract is not my American Boyfriend for nothing. His third album, Arizona Baby, is a thoughtful cross-section of what it means to be openly gay in hip-hop and openly gay in America. Abstract paints so many necessary shades of queerness into the pop culture zeitgeist, and all the while expanding his sonic repertoire. Sounding nothing like BROCKHAMPTON, or American Boyfriend, Arizona Baby is a paranoid, anxious, and heartfelt project. There is love, and there is deep trauma. But throughout the album, there is light. —Donna-Claire Chesman

27. Young Nudy & Pi'erre Bourne — Sli'merre


Release Date: May 8, 2019
Record Label: None

On paper, Young Nudy and Pi'erre Bourne seem like an odd couple. Nudy’s raps find just enough color in the stoic ground of his Atlanta upbringing while Bourne’s beats are trap-tinged rockets rigged to touch the stratosphere. They’ve proved doubters wrong several times since Nudy’s Slime Ball mixtape days, but the duo’s latest collab Sli'merre stands as their most potent. Nudy bends his voice around beats both psychedelic (“Sunflower Seeds”) and menacing (“Call Dat Bitch Homicide”) like a man possessed. Finding pockets where none should exist is all in a day’s work for Atlanta’s brashest tag-team duo. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

26. KOTA The Friend — FOTO


Release Date: May 15, 2019
Record Label: Fltbys

No album warrants a tracklist of 19 songs. Yet, in crafting a worthy spiritual successor to the Rawkus Records era of music that many fondly romanticize, KOTA The Friend comes as close as humanly possible to justifying this run-time on FOTO. The album personifies the term "easy-listening," maintaining a consistent mood throughout between KOTA’s strikingly unaffected delivery and the delicate, jazzy production on which he raps. No slouch on the mic, KOTA possesses a rare gift for situating bravado alongside vulnerability, conjuring favorable similarities to Phonte at his best, but not so much that Foto ever suffers for these comparisons. —Hershal Pandya

25. Quelle Chris — Guns

Quelle Chris 'Guns'

Release Date: March 29, 2019
Record Label: Mello Music Group

Quelle Chris is self-aware enough to know that everything in this life—emotions, money, ourselves— is weaponized. His sixth studio album Guns isn't about physical violence as much as it's a deconstruction of the actions we take in a world slowly devouring itself. Quelle travels the roads of Trump’s America with a twisted sense of humor and animated beats as his only sidearms, jumping between characters, ideas, and planes of existence as only he can. Guns is a polemic on reality itself, a reminder that no weapon formed against a sharp mind shall prosper. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

24. Future — Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD

Future 'The WZRD'

Release Date: January 18, 2019
Record Label
: Epic Records / Freebandz

Women, wealth, and worries are the three Ws found pulsing through the veins of Future’s seventh studio album, The WZRD. Lyrically, there's nothing new under WZRD’s promethazine sun, but the magic is in his ability to resurrect old muses as revamped concepts. Future hasn't radically changed over the years, but here the presentation is altered; WZRD is another installment of melodic confessing, hypnotic anthems, and oil-black trap production that carries the infectious torch passed down from its predecessors, but it stands alone as a fresh glimpse into Future’s rockstar world. —Yoh

23. Toro Y Moi — Outer Peace

Toro Y Moi 'Outer Peace'

Release Date: January 18, 2019
Record Label: Carpark Records

What good is inner peace when the outer world is falling apart? Toro y Moi’s Outer Peace combines a sleek disco sheen with contemporary rap cadences to bring pep to an increasingly passive-aggressive world. The housing market has crashed (“New House”) and sex barely sells like it used to (“Ordinary Pleasure”), but at least James Murphy is spinning records at his house tonight (“Laws of The Universe”). That cynical sense of humor alone will keep your toe tapping throughout Outer Peace, that is if the gorgeous grooves and crushing low-end don’t. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

22. Kyle Dion — SUGA

Kyle Dion 'Saga'

Release Date: March 8, 2019
Record Label: None

There are no words to explain Kyle Dion’s amazing, stunning, arresting, becoming, disarming, endearing, charming, affirming, enchanting, beguiling, mollifying, soothing, blaring, encouraging, surprising, yearning, pining, astounding, breathtaking, stupefying, thrilling, outstanding, exciting, exhilarating, electrifying, intoxicating, moving vocal tone on SUGA. Just press play. —Donna-Claire Chesman

21. YG — 4REAL 4REAL


Release Date: May 24, 2019
Record Label: Def Jam Recordings

An album title like 4REAL 4REAL implies seriousness and sincerity. 4REAL 4REAL means I'm not joking, and YG doesn't play across the 14 tracks that make up his fourth studio album. The Compton-born rapper is motivated, passionate, and sharpened, and the end result is some of his best music since Still Brazy, his acclaimed 2016 sophomore album. YG comes into his own as a rap star with stellar production and noteworthy guest features. 4REAL 4REAL is what's possible when the machismo of the gangster rap blueprint matures under a glowing spotlight. —Yoh

20. Kehlani — While We Wait

Kehlani 'While We Wait'

Release Date: February 22, 2019
Record Label: TSNMI / Atlantic

While We Wait isn't the full entree, it's just the appetizer. While waiting on the full-length follow-up to 2017’s SweetSexySavage, Kehlani treated fans to a taste of where she's heading next, baring her soul as staunchly as she always has to provide an unfiltered look into her state of mind. On While We Wait, she's equal parts vulnerable and commanding, struggling to move on from a complicated relationship on “Too Deep” before confidently telling off an old lover on “Nunya.” With a diverse complement of beats, storylines, and moods, there's plenty to enjoy on this small project. —Kenan Draughorne

19. 21 Savage — i am > i was


Release Date: December 21, 2018
Record Label: Slaughter Gang, LLC / Epic

21 Savage has leveled up, and he knows it. He says as much in the title of i am > i was, and then backs up his claim with an hour of his best music. The biggest hits off his two prior albums (Savage Mode and Issa Album) have been thumping bangers in the form of “X” and “Bank Account,” respectively, but the runaway success from this tracklist highlights 21’s more reflective side, trading pensive bars with J. Cole on the soulful “a lot.” Growth is a beautiful thing, and late 2018’s i am > i was is staunch proof. —Kenan Draughorne

18. Maxo — LIL BIG MAN

Maxo 'Lil Big Man'

Release Date: March 15, 2019
Record Label: Def Jam Recordings

Maxo makes growing up sound incisive and blaring. This album takes place in the crevices of the torment of maturing. LIL BIG MAN is a dusty reclamation of voice, relying on traditional boom bap structures and methodical writing to deliver a solemnly eviscerating experience. The wisdom baked into LIL BIG MAN will at once inspire, surprise, and soothe you. Maxo is Def Jam’s best-kept secret, but not for much longer. —Donna-Claire Chesman

17. Solange — When I Get Home

Solange 'When I Get Home'

Release Date: March 1, 2019
Record Label: Columbia Records

Solange’s take on Houston hip-hop belongs in a museum. She treats her hometown’s “chopped and screwed” traditions with elevated care throughout When I Get Home, placing it on a golden pedestal to be admired and revered. Dispersing interludes at every turn in the form of fragmented conversations and poems, she creates a linear journey that eternally builds upon itself. When “Almeda” parades into the spotlight with strutting kicks and whooping vocals, it's impossible not to stand and salute Solange. —Kenan Draughorne

16. James Blake — Assume Form

James Blake 'Assume Form'

Release Date: January 18, 2019
Record Label: Polydor Records

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The most accessible of his projects to date, Assume Form is a triumphant release that marks the evolution of James Blake’s artistry, as he matures past the reductive “sad boy” label he's famously lamented. An unapologetically romantic album, Blake sheds the claustrophobic production of his previous output in favor of shimmering compositions, genuine hooks, and winning collaborations with the likes of André 3000 and Rosalia. Retaining his lyrical flair, Blake punctuates the album with quintessential lines, like “let's go home and talk shit about everyone,” that remind you of the artist who first grabbed your attention years ago. —Hershal Pandya

15.  Lizzo — Cuz I Love You


Release Date: April 19, 2019
Record Label: Atlantic

Equal parts bold, sexy, and witty, Cuz I Love You is a commanding listen that features Lizzo at her best, harnessing her confident mic presence and ear for massive hooks to create a genuinely urgent body of work. A showcase for her eclectic sensibilities, the album jumps effortlessly between the eponymous opener, which recalls the work of The Alabama Shakes, to the infectious pop stylings of “Juice,” all without missing a beat. It's a shame Lizzo infamously fixated on one mixed review because overwhelmingly, the universal response to Cuz I Love You was justifiably glowing. —Hershal Pandya

14. DaBaby — Baby On Baby

DaBaby 'Baby on Baby'

Release Date: March 1, 2019
Record Label: Interscope

DaBaby’s Baby On Baby is 32 minutes of exhilarating trap sermons. He builds the church of Baby On Baby upon confidence pure as cocaine, a charisma so contagious it could charm the Halliwell sisters, and lively, dynamic production that perfectly fits his distinctive, Southern rap voice. There are few holes to be found in DaBaby’s artistic armor; it's refreshing to hear a new artist sound so developed. Baby On Baby is one of the most replayable albums of the year, and at this rate, we will remember 2019 as the year that DaBaby broke out and began his hip-hop takeover. —Yoh

13. Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats — Anger Management


Release Date: April 25, 2019
Record Label: Atlantic

Kenny! Rico! Together! A match perfectly made, Anger Management is a brisk concept album that captures all the stages of a temper tantrum and boasts some of Rico’s best work (“Big Titties”), and highlights the duo’s impeccable chemistry. Rico made this album from the heat of anger and the thrill of the up-and-down. She imparts boundless energy unto every cut. Kenny’s production is from another plane where music is warped and only made on acid. Their collective thump and vigor make Anger Management the pump-up album of every summer. —Donna-Claire Chesman

12. Ari Lennox — Shea Butter Baby


Release Date: May 7, 2019
Record Label: Dreamville / Interscope

Ari Lennox blessed my new apartment during our interview; her soul is kind, and her music is knowing. Her musings on the failures of modern dating sound scrumptious with her silky vocal texture. The beauty of Shea Butter Baby is in the way Ari captures minutiae and makes it sound regal. She does not pull from the abstract, and it's the rootedness of her art, the humble quality of the content, that makes the album such a triumph. Ari’s professing that this record is for Black women, too, is triumphant. The beauty and love of community permeate the work. —Donna-Claire Chesman

11. Anderson .Paak — Ventura


Release Date: April 12, 2019
Record Label: Aftermath

A throwback to the beloved soul music of the '70s, Ventura is a return to form for Anderson .Paak after the mixed bag that was Oxnard. The key takeaway here is Anderson .Paak is fine when he raps, but he is special when he sings. Whether via the glorious, Smokey Robinson-assisted cut, “Make It Better,” or the disarmingly danceable, “Twilight,” Ventura is a breathing testament to this takeaway, offering lush canvasses to showcase the stunningly silky tone of .Paaks voice. Add to this a truly transcendent André 3000 guest verse and the case for this album starts to become undeniable. —Hershal Pandya

10. 2 Chainz — Rap or Go to the League

2 Chainz 'Rap or Go to the League'

Release Date: March 1, 2019
Record Label: Def Jam Recordings

Twenty three years after the late, great Notorious B.I.G. rapped, “Either you're slinging crack rock, or you got a wicked jump shot,” Atlanta hip-hop veteran 2 Chainz stands as an example of a man who had the jump shot and sold the drugs but ultimately chose rap as his escape route from poverty. His fifth studio album, Rap or Go to the League, is an opulent celebration inspired by the city that raised him and the odds he's overcome. Rap or go to the League is a grown man still progressing as an artist, finding his most introspective voice. —Yoh

9. Boogie — Everythings For Sale

Boogie 'Everythings For Sale'

Release Date: January 25, 2019
Record Label: Shady Records / Interscope

On Everythings For Sale, Boogie accomplishes the rare feat of making an intensely personal album that is simultaneously self-aware and suitably mature enough to avoid veering into the trap of solipsism. A distinctly West Coast album that borrows influences from the Midwest, the specificity of Boogie’s lyricism is brought to life with pretty production, alliteration-heavy flows, and an effortless knack for melody, all of which come together to create a listening experience that is surprisingly pleasant, in spite of the album’s undeniably dense subject matter. —Hershal Pandya

8. billy woods & Kenny Segal — Hiding Places

Billy Woods 'Hiding Places'

Release Date: March 29, 2019
Record Label: Backwoodz Studioz

billy woods and Kenny Segal are not scared; they are not in hiding. Instead, they are affecting wordsmith and mad scientist banding together to traverse the depths of retread emotions. A record concerned with the past and what it means for an emotional space to become hollow, Hiding Places will challenge and reward you in the same turn. Kenny Segal’s production is somehow quietly cacophonous and cloudy, while woods presents his most direct and open writing to date. The pair belongs together. —Donna-Claire Chesman


Release Date: June 12, 2019
Record Label: RCA

Subtlety isn't a characteristic that listeners often encounter on a major label album; the machine believes in a straight line product that doesn't require further explanation. That's not GoldLink. The Maryland native is a master of music woven to unveil slowly. With Diaspora, his RCA "debut," Link has created his most subtle, yet replayable work of art. Thanks to production warm as spring, Diaspora is a splash of Utopian sunshine, yet in the shadows of his lyrics, the 26-year-old is adding his mysterious life to the lexicon of Black music. It's the mystery that endures, not the explanation, and Diaspora is shaped to be an album that lasts. —Yoh

6. Megan Thee Stallion — Fever


Release Date: May 17, 2019
Record Label: 300 Entertainment

The rise of Megan Thee Stallion is a blessing to witness. With her formal 300 Entertainment debut, the “1501 Queen” establishes herself as one of the most charismatic forthright rappers currently working. Her energy is explosive. Her writing is bombastic. Her deliveries are bursting with conviction and swagger. Megan Thee Mack is unchained and unstoppable on Fever, a celebration of her Houston roots and flair for spending another man’s coin. Megan is a dominant force in hip-hop, and considering the sheer strength of Fever, she does not seem to be slowing down. —Donna-Claire Chesman

5. Denzel Curry — ZUU


Release Date: May 31, 2019
Record Label: Loma Vista Records

Denzel Curry is proof you can always go home. His latest album, ZUUis a testament to home as the ultimate battery charger. Curry sheds the conceptual bombast of his last album, Ta1300, in favor of a non-stop thrill ride through the streets of his native Carol City, Florida. The sun-drenched comforts and drawbacks of home, along with clanging production from longtime collaborators FnZ, help him paint some of the most vivid images of his career. These are top-down bangers baked in the 98-degree sun. With ZUU, Denzel Curry found freedom in his backyard. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

4. Little Simz — GREY Area

Little Simz 'Grey Area'

Release Date: March 1, 2019
Record Label: AWAL Recordings

Little Simz wants you to stop fucking with her heart. She says as much two tracks into GREY Area, her boldly cathartic third studio album. At 25, Simz is approaching the threshold of adulthood with more questions than answers, armed with bars that cut to the bone. She’s been one of the UK’s best rappers for years, but her songs have never been so focused, the beats—cooked up by longtime producer Inflo—never so varied and explosive. GREY Area is her masterwork, a panoramic view of a future star fighting back a quarter-life crisis. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

3. Dave — Psychodrama

Dave 'Psychodrama'

Release Date: March 8, 2019
Record Label: Neighbourhood Recordings

Plenty of reviews have regarded Dave’s Psychodrama as an album of a generation, a landmark of UK hip-hop, and we have to agree. Dave burrows into the depths of his psyche, and bravely reports his findings in an accessible and banging format. He makes the intimate aggressive and touching all at once. Psychodrama reveals Dave to be a master writer and rapper, an artist’s artist, and an artist to watch for years to come. —Donna-Claire Chesman

2. Jamila Woods — Legacy! Legacy!


Release Date: May 10, 2019
Record Label: Jagjaguwar in Partnership With Closed Sessions

Jamila Woods makes eternal music. Her runs, her inflections, and her writing are all meant to stand the test of time. On Legacy! Legacy! Jamila performs a time-bending act, bringing her literary heroes back to life and keeping them squarely in our thoughts as she carries their poetics into her classic album. Legacy!’s success is rooted in a fullness of life and self-love. There is so much agony in the world, but there is still so much love to share. Jamila Woods is in the business of spreading love. Plus, the record also doubles as a great reading list. —Donna-Claire Chesman

1. Tyler, The Creator — IGOR


Release Date: May 17, 2019
Record Label: Columbia Records

Heartbreak may well be the most spectacular human emotion—the way it wrings us out, the way it leaves us out to dry, the way it forces us to grow and change—and Tyler, The Creator catalogs all of these impeccable shifts in his sixth studio album, IGOR. A sonic leap from Flower Boy, yet a logical branching out from Cherry Bomb, Tyler took everything good about his music—melody, thoughtful lyricism, bangers, irreverence for traditional song structure, and pitch shifts—and poured it into this album. 

From his endearing off-key singing to the thoughtful, queer storyline, IGOR is a feat of artistry. The album pulls at your heartstrings in subtle ways. The caterwaul on “EARFQUAKE” (“Don’t leave, it’s my fault”) haunts me on even the sunniest of days. IGOR is phenomenal. IGOR is catharsis in bright pink hues. IGOR makes me cry good tears. IGOR is Tyler’s opus. We're so lucky to watch his career in real-time. —Donna-Claire Chesman



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