In many ways, the year 2021 is remembered as one of the most devastating in rap history. Our capacity for mourning seems to outstrip our sense of loss over the last 12 months. The news of hip-poet hop's laureate, MF Doom, passing away before the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve last year shook the world like a shock wave. Rap, on the other hand, is a genre founded on resiliency, and in 2021, the genre's biggest performers, as well as a slew of fascinating newcomers, found new methods to balance joy and suffering, the prevailing emotional pendulum in the epidemic period.
With Montero, a rich and personal album that also sees the "Old Town Road" star genuinely rapping — like, rapping, rapping — while managing to imbue his delivery with the whimsical delight of golden-age dance music, Lil Nas X laid to rest any devotion to genre or form stubborn rap purists had. Little Simz's extremely personal I Might Be Introvert, in which she seamlessly transitions from contemplating her own trauma to flexing at a party, was a standout. Call Me if You Get Lost finds Tyler, the Creator finally acknowledging his own grandeur, resulting in his best album to date.
Rappers spent 2021 in a reflective mindset, which is understandable given the year's plenty of reminders of how fleeting life is. Hip-hop in 2021 felt raw and urgent; towards the end, Drake and Kanye even settled minor squabbles, possibly realizing that there's too much at stake. The real-world issues are as relevant as ever, and it's here that rap music shines the clearest. Here are our recommendations for the year's top rap albums.
J. Cole, 'The Off-Season'Polo G, 'Hall of Fame'Little Simz, 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'Mike, 'Disco!'KenTheMan, 'What’s My Name'Sahbabii, 'Do It for Demon'Sahbabii, an Atlanta rapper, spent a year mourning the death of a childhood friend before summoning the bravery to turn the experience into his debut studio album. Sahbabii is in his element on Do It for Demon, bringing his signature wordplay and charm with a healthy dosage of reflection.
Maxo Kream, 'Weight of the World'
Ye (f.k.a. Kanye West), 'Donda'
Young Thug, 'Punk'
YSL, 'Slime Language 2'
Drake, 'Certified Lover Boy'
Pi'erre Bourne - 'The Life of Pi'erre 5'
BabyTron, 'Bin Reaper 2'
Lil Nas X, 'Montero'
Doja Cat, 'Planet Her'
Megan Thee Stallion, 'Something for Thee Hotties'
Boldy James and Alchemist, 'Bo Jackson'
Tyler, the Creator, 'Call Me if You Get Lost'
Mach-Hommy, 'Pray for Haiti'
Playboi Carti, 'Whole Lotta Red'
Latto - Big Energy (Official Video)
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