The Alabama rapper, whose real name is Tamia Monique Carter, showed how hard she studied the game of getting attention on “You Still Here, Ho?”
The themes and visuals of the seventeen-track album, released in July, connect to shifts in hip-hop and reference reality television shows like “Flavor of Love” and “Love & Hip Hop.”
“When I was doing TikToks, I’d remake reality TV moments, so we took that idea from that. I picked all the shows I grew up watching. Most of those moments, I kind of knew off the back of my head, so it was easy creating them,” Flo Milli told Elle in August 2022.
Mosi Reeves of Rolling Stone called the album “ultrafeminine, shamelessly exhibitionist, and relentlessly on the come up,” just like the very best reality stars. Tiffany “New York” Pollard even made a cameo on the project.
“It was really dope getting her on everything, though. She was so supportive and very involved. It was great working with her,” Flo Milli told Elle of Pollard’s contribution.
Favorite track: “Big Steppa”
Nas nodded to how hip-hop has matured on “King’s Disease III,” released this past November.
The Grammy award-winning rapper launched the King’s Disease series in August 2020. Its title refers to gout, the disease associated with royalty, and is framed as the punishment listeners will get for overindulgence. Its lyrics warn listeners of what comes from gobbling up too much of the good life.
This third album in the series feels like a collection of everything Nas has learned since earning his place on hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore with “Illmatic.”
After years of criticism for choosing the wrong beats, Nas has found a way to be vulnerable, fun, and intelligent at the same time by selecting the right instrumentals, thanks to stellar production from producer Hitboy.
“With this newfound looseness comes a more direct mode of writing and delivery,” wrote Paul A. Thompson of the album for Pitchfork.
“King’s Disease III” has the calm aura of your uncle, the one who always works the Memorial Day grill and won’t hesitate to lecture you.
Favorite Track: “WTF SMH”
TikTok is full of half-hit wonders, but Lakeyah, the Milwaukee spitter behind the viral smash “Mind Your Business,” puts out solid bodies of work.
“Lakeyah is steadily building on her own terms,” wrote DeMicia Inman for VIBE.
“It’s very Midwestern, it’s very luxurious, that’s just me,” Lakeyah told Nylon of the album. “I like talking shit,” she added.
The Quality Control Music artist adds a duet with her labelmate Gloss Up titled “Real B*tch” to her collection of Instagram baddie hymnals. Lakeyah, full name Lakeyah Danaee Robinson, also manages to slip in a cute cuffing season serenade featuring Lucky Daye called “Worth The Wait.”
Lakeyah proves she can switch up her flows on a smooth track from Pooh Beatz, London Jae, and Sharif called “Giannis.” She also honors her peers’ talents by welcoming Latto, Flo Milli, and Layton Greene to play in her Midwestern world.
Favorite Track: “Giannis” feat. Icewear Vezzo and Peezy
The “East Atlanta Santa,” whose real name is Radric Davis, ended the year by gifting the streets with a project that included 80 songs and lasted more than three hours.
Gucci Mane’s flow has authority as a trap music elder, but it feels ageless here.
He fit right in with twenty-somethings Lil’ Baby, Pooh Shiesty, Kali, Lil Tjay, and other newcomers who made appearances on the three-disc project — even though he is in his forties.
Other artists have called their projects playlists, but this project functions like a playlist. It runs for hours, and the songs blend into one another in a way that is flexible as Gucci Mane himself.
Favorite Track: “Hot Winter Freestyle”
Anyone longing for the heyday of glamorous gangster rap needs to avoid this Griselda Records project. It is strictly for those who know better, even if they don’t always manage to do better.
Benny The Butcher, born Jeremie Pennick, continues his commitment to authentically representing his experiences with the help of J. Cole, 38 Spesh, Boldy James, Westside Gunn, and Conway The Machine.
Pitchfork’s Dylan Green wrote that “it plays out like a blockbuster expansion of the original.”
“I like to talk about real things,” he said about the fourth project in the “Tana Talk” series in an interview with the Breakfast Club in February 2022.
He takes listeners through the stress of finding a plug, coming home from prison broke, being under surveillance, and surviving the consequences of your actions on the album.
Diddy even stops by to lay down some new laws on the track “10 More Commandments.”
Favorite Track: “Super Plug”
J.I.D expressed a desire to be recognized for his contributions to Dreamville, the buzzed-about label co-founded by J. Cole in August.
“I want my own name to be in front,” he declared in an interview with Rolling Stone. He’s done that with his latest release, “The Forever Story.”
The rapper, named Destin Route, is notoriously private, but he opens up and lets listeners in on the track “Better Days,” where he describes a close relationship with a wayward friend. He also delves into his HBCU experience at Hampton University.
“What makes ‘The Forever Story’ a rap album of the year contender is JID finding ways to add layers to his artistry while never sacrificing the rap mechanics that got him to the dance. He’s still a lyrical assassin, but his willingness to dive deeper into the ocean of vulnerability and sharpen his focus as a storyteller,” concluded Jonathan Kermah in his review for The Ringer.
His talents are a perfect fit for the more traditional rap and R&B collaborations popular in the early aughts. “Can’t Make U Change,” featuring his label mate Ari Lennox fits the bill flawlessly.
Favorite Track: “Better Days”
Joey Bada$$, real name Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, shocked the music world when he dropped “1999” in June of 2012, a retrofied look back at a time most rappers his age weren’t interested in exploring. He was just 17 at the time.
His latest release, “2000,” might not be as shocking as “1999,” but it maintains that same reverence for the period that inspired it.
Rolling Stone critic Mosi Reeves considered the album a sign of progress. “He’s evolved with an airy, melodic pop sound, often supplemented with live instruments, that both brightens and tastefully smothers his idiosyncrasies,” he wrote.
An industry veteran in his twenties, Joey Bada$$ is confident about his place in hip-hop. He triumphantly celebrates the sustainability of his success over beats from Statik Selektah Chuck Strangers, and Mike Will Made It.
“I’m popped out 2012, y’all wasn’t outside then/ Ten years later, tell me, why y’all still hiding,” he raps on “The Baddest.”
Favorite Track: “The Baddest”
DreamDoll, whose real name is Tabitha Robinson, has always been transparent with her audience. Nothing has been off-limits, from her physical transformation to her journey to find her own sound.
“The music industry is clearly her dollhouse, and DreamDoll is playing the long game by staying true to who she is at all times,” Essence’s D’Shonda Brown wrote in September.
The reality star alum has gone from “Bad Girls Club” and “Love & Hip-Hop: New York” to working with artists like Rick Ross and Young M.A. “Life In Plastic 3” shows how far she has come.
The album begins with a track called “Misunderstood.” Here, the Bronx native describes her experiences suffering through project heat, taking stock of her assets, and finding a way to create her own luck. Next, she shows off her evolution as an artist and explains why she continues to fight in a crowded musical landscape. Determination is in the project’s DNA.
“Verse after Verse, Year after Year you’ve seen how much I have perfected my craft, improved on my artistry and showed you on the features i’ve been given,” she wrote on Instagram when she revealed the artwork for the project.
“Now you get to experience the new side of me on my OWN tracks,” she continued before explaining, “these eight songs were hand picked by me to finally end the Life in Plastic Chapter.”
The popular features artist connected with French Montana, Kash Doll, and Capella Grey to continue telling her own story.
Favorite Track: “Fantasy” feat. Kash Doll
In 2013, Migos’ “Versace” had a chokehold on radio stations and streaming services. Billboard declared it one of the defining songs of the decade.
Nine years after the group disbanded, Quavo and Takeoff entered a new era with just as much promise. They released a project inspired by Raekwon’s 1995 release, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” full of references to brotherhood and balling.
Takeoff, who died in November, took the room to play with his influential flow on tracks from Murda Beatz, Atake, DJ Durel, Budda Beats, and more. Quavo let a bit more air into his bars.
But the cadences that caused switch-ups across the genre are still present in every song. “The duo plays with language, cadence, and rhythm, tossing around Southern slang and adlibs with ease,” critic Mosi Reeves wrote of the project in Rolling Stone.
Favorite Track: “Mixy”