Arts & Entertainment Editor
2022 started off as a slow year for music, with Gunna’s rather boring DS4Ever being the only album by a top-tier popular artist to drop during the first couple of months. This paved the way for some unsung heroes to pull through with unique and powerful records. A common thread among most artists in this list is their emphasis on expressing their trials with energy and passion, something that reflects how many of us felt coming out of the pandemic lockdowns, possibly for good. For me, personally, one highlight was picking up the hobby of reviewing new music! Here are my top 10 albums of 2022.
10. Black Thought and Danger Mouse — Cheat Codes
Black Thought is the only rapper of his age who stays as creative as he does. In everything he does, Black Thought remains a wicked bar machine with a powerful voice and a vision that he relentlessly hammers home through his music. His fiery shows of lyrical skill are inspiring, even in a game that is too bored of skill for its own sake.
9. Kim Petras — Slut Pop
Trans hyper-pop icon Kim Petras’s Slut Pop is a bouncy ‘80s-inspired EP most memorable for its shamelessness. The song titles alone, such as “Treat Me Like a Slut” and “Throat Goat,” have tremendous shock value (let alone the lyrics), but the implicit message throughout is of being unapologetic of one’s sexual desires. The disarming levels of vulgarity ride the wavy, punchy synths for a fun little journey.
8. Conway the Machine — God Don’t Make Mistakes
With this project, Conway became a unique frontier of spookiness and personal connection to the listener. With the people from his rap collective Griselda mostly focusing on drugs, money, and murder, it came as a surprise for Conway to focus equally on intense issues in his personal life like his substance abuse issues, depression, and others’ expectations that he will provide for them now that he’s famous. The amount of heart put into this project shines through darkly and beautifully.
7. Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
Held to higher standards than anyone else in rap and coming off of a five-year hiatus between albums, Kendrick was bound to deliver something memorable and strong with Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. Kendrick’s analysis of his own mental health issues is made all the more interesting by the fact that listeners can see traces of them in his earlier music. The album flows smoothly from front to back while maintaining depth, and has a buttery tone throughout that makes it a pleasure to listen to again and again.
6. Benny the Butcher — Tana Talk 4
Tana Talk 4 feels like a well-earned victory lap for Benny the Butcher, family member and colleague of Conway the Machine. Having skyrocketed along with his team in the past few years, it felt right for Benny to release the same coke rap he always does, but with better production, flow, and lyrics than ever before.
5. Earl Sweatshirt — Sick!
After releasing one of the most innovative rap albums of all time in 2018, then following it up with a big flop that next year, Earl Sweatshirt’s Sick! could have been anything. This unique piece of rumination mixed with a little bit of celebration and a lot of introspection feels like a subtle warmth shining through a cold day in the rain. Delivering head-spinning bar after bar over grimy but groovy beats, Earl shines the occasional sprinkle of hope as he takes us through his gloomy, blurry world.
4. JID — The Forever Story
The Forever Story is just one successful bop after another. JID is an incredibly technically skilled rapper who puts his ego aside, using that skill to make music that is not only impressive, but really fun to listen to. His detailed storytelling is complemented beautifully by the production, flows, and even annunciation, all of which combine for some serious danceability that never gets boring.
3. Black Country, New Road — Ants From Up There
We say rock and roll is pretty much dead, but progressive groups like Black Country, New Road make sure that it will go down kicking and screaming. Each of the seven members is almost constantly present, creating a one-of-a-kind sound that allows you to choose what part feels like the centerpiece. The comically indie lyrics tell a story of pain that rings deeply through the bones.
2. Big Thief — Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
This album is one hulking spiritual journey that puts indie folk’s best feet forward. While this album is as emotional as any other on this list, the sense of comfort throughout the album makes it an easy listen that makes you want to drop everything, lie down, and space out. The sweetness and pure love poured into this beautiful mix of folk and modern rock sounds that feels like a token you can carry with you to remind you of loved ones when you’re away.
1. billy woods — Aethiopes
This mysterious, dusty piece of work perfects everything it does. The mysterious stories from his personal life full of pain, anger, and indignance against the system that has run his life and the lives of his ancestors are gripping and bone-chilling. Producer DJ Preservation must have been a foley effect artist in a past life, with his instrumental resourcefulness for the beats making everything sound not only new, but also terrifyingly real.
That’s the list — a few innovators striking gold, and a few artists continuing to perfect the respective arts for which they are already known. After a year filled with great new music and with no sign of it stopping, fans should be excited for 2023.