As music lovers, we cherish our hidden gems. Well, as the year is ending, it’s time to release those gems into the world.
Below, you’ll find a list of our 10 favorite, most overlooked albums of 2019. Enjoy the list and press play on a record you may have missed.
We promise these albums are more than worth your time.
Shea Butter Baby — Ari Lennox
Shea Butter Baby, again. It’s brilliant. I don’t want to overdo it, but it is. The marketing and overall rollout of the album could’ve been better, which might explain why so many overlooked the album. But me? I played this album every day for a month before rotating in something else. — Simi Muhumuza
Foto — Kota The Friend
It’s hard to understand the term “overlooked” in relation to an artist like KOTA the Friend. Given he’s not exactly swinging for the fences of mainstream recognition with his brand of laidback hip-hop, Kota has a surprisingly sizable following. Still, I don’t know a single person outside of my online bubble who has heard of KOTA. It’s a shame because I know a ton of ill-informed people who say they stopped listening to rap because “no one makes this type of music anymore.” That FOTO can re-capture this spirit without feeling reductionist or mired in nostalgia is an immense accomplishment. — Hershal Pandya
KAIROS — Nicole Bus
Nicole Bus has one of my top five albums of the year. She can do no wrong on KAIROS, infusing passion and emotion into just about every note from start to finish. Lead single “You” rightfully became one of the fastest songs to hit number one on the Billboard Adult R&B chart, but powerful cuts like “Rain” are just as compelling with their grand, film-noir esque sonics. Many artists would be hard-pressed to keep their star from dimming among all the iconic hip-hop samples in the background, but Nicole proves more than capable. — Kenan Draughorne
Everythings For Sale — Boogie
Time might inform this answer more than anything, but I’m shocked at the lack of fanfare for Boogie given the sheer beauty of Everythings for Sale. A January release was brilliant; themes of heartbreak and betrayal just hit differently in cold weather. It’s amazing how warm Boogie still sounds amidst the frigid material. Compton’s resident relationship guru delivers a raw, imperfectly ethereal reflection on love and trauma, marred only by an awful Eminem verse. The jittery, eclectic production allows unrefined access into Boogie’s world. You leave wishing to stay, to learn how to cope, and reflect in such a beautiful fashion. — Zachary Miller
A Bullet for Every Heathen — .38 Spesh
.38 Spesh belongs in an entirely new category for the most overlooked artist of the year. His most recent solo project, A Bullet for Every Heathen, is a 10-track, 27-minute long album full of piercing soul samples and gun quotables, which never once steps off our collective neck .38 Spesh, whose style is what it would sound like hearing a 1940s detective rap like a battle rapper, is a master at setups and punchlines. The Griselda-adjacent emcee is not only one of the hidden treasures in all of hip-hop right now, but he’s one of the most clever writers currently working. — Matt Wilhite
Holly Water — Fly Anakin x Big Kahuna OG
If effortless cool were truly worth its weight in gold, then Fly Anakin and Big Kahuna OG would be filthy rich. The Virginia duo has dropped four EPs over the past year and change, but their debut album Holly Water sees the Mutant Academy representatives at the peak of their powers. Even if the ice-cold bars and murderer’s row of smooth beats don’t grab your ear, song titles like “Fusion Dance On A Tab” and “Big Uzi Vert” are worth the price of admission by themselves. They exist in a newly crowded lane populated by the Westside Gunns and the Roc Marcianos of the world. If Madlib sees something in these guys, then maybe you should sip some Holly Water. — Dylan "CineMasai" Green
Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes — Radamiz
Radamiz raps from the perspective of a man who has lived not on the edge of the underworld, but in the heart of reality. He isn’t afraid to tell you about his life, not as a boast, or to loath, but to reveal. “I use SoundCloud as my shrink,” he raps on his latest album, Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes. It’s his best work yet. Musically, the album is East Coast cold. The frost of New York winters permeates every loop and bassline. Something about the cold makes you open up to say what’s on your freezing heart, and Radamiz doesn’t hold back a word. That’s why you should listen. — Yoh
Next to The Sun — KAINA
KAINA’s voice bears a ghostly and becoming air. Her songs are incantations, are daily truths spun into gorgeous soundscapes, and universal emotions. On Next to The Sun, KAINA challenges our understanding of identity and Americanness. She challenges herself, too. Next to The Sun is affecting and stunning work by a singer and writer who hears the trials of herself and her people, wants to give voice, and who needs to delve into herself to bloom. It is the springtime affair warming me this winter. KAINA is a healer with her work. — Donna-Claire Chesman