7 Hip Hop Albums From 2023 We're Grateful For This Thanksgiving

BYWyatt Westlake1018 Views
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Astroworld Festival 2021
HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: Travis Scott performs during 2021 Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 05, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage)
The feel-good season is upon us, and we're reflecting on a few albums that we're glad [finally!] dropped this year.

Now that Halloween has come and gone, the holidays are quickly approaching. With the end of the year approaching, list season is also almost upon us. End-of-year lists are a fourth-quarter affair that celebrates and concludes the year in music. This year has seen a wide range of hip hop releases from legends and rising stars alike.

To kick off November and this year’s Thanksgiving season, we highlight some standout hip hop albums from 2023 that we’re grateful for. These selections have been in rotation all year long, holding significant replay value and leaving lasting impressions on hip hop as a whole. Here are 7 of the best rap albums of 2023, listed in no particular order. Take a look at the albums below.

Travis Scott - Utopia

This year, Travis Scott made his grand return to music following the tragic events at the 2021 Astroworld Festival. It had also been five years since his last album of the same name, his most significant release to date. A highly anticipated release, Utopia exceeded expectations, resulting in arguably Travis Scott’s best work since Rodeo. With cinematic production and an all-star guestlist, the album plays like a blockbuster film. While Utopia's numerous high-profile features help create an unforgettable listening experience, Travis Scott shines bright. He raps some of his best verses in recent memory. Utopia’s tracklist is unpredictable and adventurous as Travis explores the future of his sound.

Nas - Magic 2

Last year, Nas concluded his Hit-Boy-produced King’s Disease trilogy with a bang. This year, the dynamic duo did the same with their Magic album series. They started with Magic 2, a concise listen that saw Hit-Boy push Nas out of his comfort zone. The production was significantly more modern than the first Magic, but its sequel was still built around the sound they had built together. While Magic 2 might not be Nas and Hit-Boy’s greatest work, they raised the bar incredibly high for themselves and made one of 2023’s best rap albums. Even more impressive is that Magic 2 is a great album on its own merit but is not even the best Nas and Hit-Boy release of the year.

Nas - Magic 3

Just a few months later, Nas and Hit-Boy returned with Magic 3. It celebrated their historic six-album run and was the perfect end to the Magic trilogy. Compared to Magic 2, Nas and Hit-Boy’s 6th collaborative album restored the feeling of the first Magic. It is rooted in classic boom-bap production and chopped loops. In addition to continuing their reign, Nas also maintained his skills as a storyteller with the two-part “Based on True Events.” With Magic 3, Nas and Hit-Boy ended their unprecedented series of full-length releases on the ultimate high note.

J Hus - Beautiful And Brutal Yard

This year saw the release of J Hus’s highly-anticipated third studio album, Beautiful and Brutal Yard. While the afroswing pioneer’s latest album did not include any production from frequent collaborator Jae5, it did not disappoint in the slightest. Hus provides the infectious melodies he is known for, but Beautiful and Brutal Yard is significantly more rap-driven than his previous albums.

Light-hearted party starters like “Who Told You” with Drake and “Palm Tree” see J Hus at his most playful with his distinctive lexicon of slang terms. Bangers like “Cream” and “Bim Bim” show him at his most menacing. With his latest album, J Hus builds on the genre he helped pioneer while exploring the vast sounds of the UK scene. After a long wait, we are certainly grateful for some new J Hus.

Killer Mike - MICHAEL

One rapper whose artistry shined bright throughout 2023 was none other than Killer Mike. This year, he released his first solo album in 11 years, following 2012’s R.A.P. Music and his work with El-P as Run The Jewels. The aptly titled MICHAEL is Killer Mike’s most personal work to date as he unveils the deeper layers of his mind and upbringing. Deviating from the abrasive Run The Jewels sound, the Atlanta native’s latest solo record is uniquely southern with its blend of hip hop, soul, and gospel.

While Killer Mike is more candid than ever on the album’s most touching moments, MICHAEL still contains the hard-hitting bangers he is known for. For the past ten years, Killer Mike has been making an impact as a member of Run The Jewels, but his latest solo effort marks a new phase in his career. MICHAEL is his most transparent work yet and one of the best rap albums of 2023.

Avelino - God Save The Streets

Avelino has been making waves in the UK hip hop scene for a long time without releasing a proper studio album. Despite that, he is widely respected by British greats like Stormzy, Dave, and his mentor, Wretch 32. After almost a decade of mixtapes and earth-shattering freestyles, the Tottenham, London wordsmith’s long-awaited debut arrived this year. God Save The Streets is the album we had been waiting for as Avelino reaches his full potential. He finally captures his endlessly creative wordplay, translating into a concise body of work executive produced by Wretch 32 and overseen by Fraser T. Smith. 

With a Sex Pistols-inspired album title and cover, God Save The Streets sees Avelino both proud and concerned for his home city as he declares, “Rap is the new punk.” The album is filled with cautionary tales of the “Vicious Cycle” of violence and poverty, as well as deep moments of reflection and gratitude like “Acceptance.” A UK rap masterpiece that has seemingly gone under the radar for American listeners, Avelino’s career-defining debut is undoubtedly one of 2023’s best hip hop releases.

Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist - Voir Dire

A full-length collaboration between Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist is an underground hip hop fan’s dream. After years of speculation and a supposed YouTube-only release under unknown aliases, Voir Dire has come to fruition. The two have been more consistent than ever, especially The Alchemist, as he has produced eight collaborative projects with just as many rappers. Voir Dire is some of the best work that both Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist have dropped yet, which speaks volumes considering the quality of their previous works. 

Earl spits some of his sharpest lyrics, while Alchemist provides some of his most enchanting loops. Between the original Gala Music release and the revised tracklist on streaming platforms, Earl and Al did not disappoint. A dream combination, Voir Dire is everything that fans could have wanted from the long-fantasized album. For that reason, we could not be more grateful to the two for delivering one of the best rap albums of 2023.

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About The Author
Wyatt Westlake is a writer from Somerville, MA. He has been writing about hip hop, RnB, and beyond for almost a decade, joining the HNHH team in 2023. Majoring in Communication Studies, he is currently finishing his BA at Temple University. Wyatt is also a radio presenter, hosting his own shows and curating eclectic playlists since 2019. An avid concert-goer, one all-time moment for him was when Dave brought him onstage to perform “Thiago Silva” in front of a sold-out crowd.
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