42 Dugg & EST Gee — Last Ones Left
42 Dugg took over Detroit back in 2020, and meanwhile EST Gee grew into Louisville’s rap monster. Together they are the Last Ones Left. A collab tape consisting of pure bars and street bravado, guided by gnashing deliveries and two of the best flows in rap today, Dugg’s gummy voice pairs well with Gee’s gruff presence. This tape is mean. Dugg and Gee come together to make a serious statement: rap’s in good hands with this new generation.
Syd — Broken Hearts Club
It’s been five years since Syd’s solo debut album, Fin. The Internet’s frontwoman moved away from the band’s sound in 2017 to cultivate something a little more moody. In the years since, Syd’s singles have stripped away mood in place of bounce, resulting in standouts “Right Track” with Smino and “CYBAH” with Lucky Daye, both of which find a home on her sophomore album, Broken Hearts Club. From “Tie The Knot” to “Missing Out,” this album uncovers a new tone and mode for Syd. Even when her voice recalls The Internet’s slower cuts, the production reminds us Syd is capable of sitting comfortably in multiple sonic worlds.
Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
The Vince Staples career arc is all about getting low and quiet to make the biggest statement. Last year’s Vince Staples was timid on first listen, but the writing and candor made it one of the rapper’s most bold offerings. Ramona Park Broke My Heart is Vince’s longest album since his seminal Summertime ‘06 debut, and though Ramona Park is less rowdy, it is more potent. Here, Vince hones in on yet another level of storytelling, giving us pieces of him that almost feel too personal to witness—all over carefully crafted production.
ROLE MODEL — Rx
After two successful EPs, pop singer ROLE MODEL debuts with Rx, a soft-spoken album that swells with sincerity. The album’s 11 tracks slot neatly the artist’s evolution from imperfect angel to tuneful dreamboy. Singles “if jesus saves, she’s my type” and “forever&more” telegraphed the honeyed tone of Rx, but considering the bounce of the previous EPs, “can you say the same” in particular stands outs as a forlorn anthem. Closer “rx” is the most bare ROLE MODEL has been to date, recalling songs from 2017 that caught the attention of fans and labels alike.
billy woods & Preservation — Aethiopes
One of the best living writers and rappers, billy woods, teams up with production veteran Preservation for Aethiopes. Much like his one-rapper-one-producer work with Blockhead, woods thrives when he locks in with one auteur. Crunchy raps and a crew of talents from El-P to ELUCID mark the album’s 40-minute runtime. “Nyne” is a sprawling posse cut, and in true woods fashion, the closing song (“Smith + Cross”) floods the veins with the kind of existential angst and thought-provoking dread that has made woods an icon in the New York rap scene and beyond.