Here’s my list of the 20 best albums I heard this past year. It should go without saying that these aren’t the only good albums worth hearing from 2021; they’re just my 20 favorites. There are plenty of great albums that didn’t make the list. There are also some albums here that I didn’t get a chance to review, so this will be a good way for me to give them some shine. It should also be noted that there is a possibility of me hearing something in the future that would’ve made the list. My 2020 list would definitely be different if I made it today. Anyway, if the title of the album is written in pink, you can click it to go to my full review. So yeah. Check these albums out and let me know what you think of them. Also, tell me what your favorite projects of 2021 were.
20. Call Me When You’re Outside by Steel Tipped Dove
This is one of the better albums I’ve heard in 2021. There’s not a single track here that didn’t impress me. Like I said earlier, even if there were no features here I would still be hooked by the production. The artists that contributed to this release all did a fantastic job though. I really don’t have any consistent gripes with the album. I hope Steel Tipped Dove does something like this again in the future because this album was a massive success in my opinion. Fans of Abstract Hip Hop are seriously fucking up if they decide to skip over this release. Do not sleep on this shit. It’s dope as hell.
19. Childhood Fantasy, Chapter 2 by Will Tesla
This album is even better than I was expecting it to be. I honestly think it’s one of the better projects I’ve heard in 2021. Will Tesla proved himself to be not only a competent lyricist, but a dope songwriter. It really just comes down to the production and rhymes just being really good. This isn’t some super creative, experimental concept album. It’s just a guy who’s really good at rapping making fun songs over some great production. I do think it’s cool how he sampled a bunch of video game soundtracks for these beats. That’s why I feel like Will Tesla is like Ty Farris mixed with Mega Ran. I’m a big fan of both of those artists, so I mean that in the best way possible. This shit is dope as hell. Don’t sleep on it.
18. DIVINENATION by Sleep Sinatra
This album is really great. To be honest, it’s even better than I was expecting it to be. The one thing that I have to emphasize is SINAI’s production. Not only are these beats sufficient, but I’d actually say that they are a selling point of the album. Sleep is one of those MCs who I can always count on to kill every verse, so the quality of each song is really dependent on the production choices. I have no consistent gripes with this album. I think every track is worth listening to. Don’t sleep on this project. It’s dope as hell.
17. Death & the Magician by Rome Streetz & DJ Muggs
Not reviewing this album is one of my biggest regrets of 2021. This is the second year in a row that Rome Streetz has been on my year end list, and I still haven’t ever written a review for his work. He’s definitely in the list of my top 5 contemporary Gangsta Rap artists. He’s just really goddamn good at putting rhymes together. DJ Muggs‘ production on this album is awesome too. My favorite track on the album is called Shooting at the Dance Hall, and it’s got one of the weirdest beats on the album. Rome Streetz’s flow over it is fucking awesome too. There’s not a single average verse on the album. Rome Streetz murdered the whole project, and DJ Muggs’ production is superb. Definitely make sure you don’t miss this album.
16. Psychological Cheat Sheet 2 by Vic Spencer
This album is dope as hell. I think it’s one of the better projects I’ve heard so far this year. August Fanon’s production here is fantastic, and Vic’s rhymes are on point. I really don’t have any consistent gripes with this project. Most of the songs are structured the same way, but I’d be being disingenuous if I said it really bothered me. I think the best moments come when Vic is rapping with a specific concept or story in mind, like on Hades Was a Hoe. There’s not a single track here that I don’t think is good. I think this is a pretty noticeable jump in quality from the first album, which I already really liked, so I’m looking forward to the third entry in this series, which I’ve seen Vic mention on Twitter. Anyway, give this album a listen and let me know what you think. It’s really great to me.
15. Heavy Is the Head by Ransom & Big Ghost Ltd.
This album is really damn great. I’d actually say it’s one of the better albums I’ve heard in 2021 so far. At this point Ransom has proven himself as an elite MC, so it’s really up to the producers and features to live up to his level of quality. Thankfully Big Ghost delivered some really awesome beats on this project. Honestly, I think this is my favorite album from Ransom yet. I can’t wait to see how he follows this up because the dude is only getting better in my opinion. Don’t sleep on this project. It’s dope as hell.
14. Haram by Armand Hammer & The Alchemist
This album is dope as hell. It’s one of the better projects I’ve heard all year. There aren’t any tracks that I don’t think are dope. I think it’s neck & neck with Shrines to be honest. If I had to choose one over the other I’d probably go with Shrines just because I feel like it’s a darker sounding record, but the soundscapes that The Alchemist provided for this album are just as good as I was hoping they’d be. I feel like if you’re familiar with Armand Hammer you pretty much know what to expect on this album. The writing is as confusing and interesting as it’s always been. The production here isn’t as dark as I expected it to be, especially after seeing the cover art for this album, but it’s all super detailed and diverse. A track like Sir Benni Miles sounds completely different from Falling out the Sky, which I appreciate. I don’t have any consistent gripes with this album. I think it’s a major success. It’s really great.
13. Lobster Tales in My Tesla by Patchz & Scorcese Lorde Jones
This album is dope as hell. Again, it’s a very bittersweet listen. I usually don’t really get upset when a celebrity dies, but since I actually knew Scorcese his death really shook me. I’m not gonna lie and say we were best buds or anything, but it was still shocking and unexpected. I don’t think my first listening experience is something that most people will be able to understand or experience for themselves just due to the circumstances, but it was intense. Listening to music doesn’t usually feel like that, so it was just wild for me. But yeah, the music itself is great. The production from Patchz is fire, and from what I understand he didn’t use any samples, so it’s all original music. If I was a rapper I’d wanna work with him after hearing this because I really love these instrumentals. Scorcese himself of course killed it like I always expected him to. As I’ve said a lot already, this was a very different listening experience for me just because of the circumstances, but I’m so glad we got it. I just wish he was here to read my thoughts on it.
12. An Evening with Silk Sonic by Silk Sonic
This album obviously stands out from the rest of the list because it’s not a Hip Hop project at all. It’s one of the most popular projects of the year though, so you may or may not be surprised to see it here. Anderson .Paak actually does rap a few times on the album, so I guess it’s not too out of place on this list. Anyway, I’ve never really been a fan of Bruno Mars. I’ve always been impressed by his vocal performances, but the Poppy music he makes just doesn’t appeal to me. With that said, him and Anderson .Paak came together like peanut butter and chocolate here. This shit is smoother than fuck. Believe it or not, I actually like this more than any other album Anderson .Paak has put out. I think it was a massive success, and I wouldn’t mind hearing a follow-up from these guys. It’s dope as hell.
11. Garbology by Aesop Rock & Blockhead
The main reason I didn’t cover this project is just because I was so busy with school around the time it came out, but Aesop Rock is one of my favorite rappers, so I was really excited for it, and it thankfully didn’t disappoint. It doesn’t really throw any curveballs at its listeners in my opinion. It’s just Aesop Rock rapping his ass off as always over some really detailed production from Blockhead. I couldn’t decide which one of them I was more impressed by. As much as I love Aesop Rock’s production, it was nice to hear him link back up with Blockhead. This is actually one of my favorite Aesop Rock albums now. I think it’s dope as hell.
10. Bleak Americana by D. Lanham & Ronesh
This album is dope as hell. It’s pretty much exactly what I wanted. D. Lanham’s writing is as good as ever, and the jazzy production from Ronesh is the perfect backdrop. The features all came through with great performances as well. There’s not a single verse on this album that didn’t impress me. The production grows on me more and more with each listen too. I really don’t have any consistent gripes to be honest. I mean, this project doesn’t really have any super catchy, memorable hooks, but that’s not really the appeal in my opinion. The main selling point is the detailed production along with the poetic lyricism from D. Lanham. I always appreciate rappers who actually put effort into saying something unique. This album is just confirmation that Ronesh & D. Lanham are one of the best duos in the underground right now. I can’t wait to hear more. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Don’t sleep on it.
This album is dope as hell. I’m really glad I didn’t let this one slip by me. I’d never heard of this group before, but they ended up really impressing me. I was already into MISTER, but I’m new to Blaksmith, so I’ll have to keep an eye on him. I’ll also be looking out for anything these guys put out in the future. I really don’t even have any consistent gripes with this project to be honest. I think Blak & MISTER have great chemistry, and I love how hard-hitting so much of the percussion here is. The drums on this album are fire. Don’t sleep on this shit. Give it a listen and thank me later. It’s really goddamn great.
8. The Pen for Whom the Sword Moves by Teller Bank$
This album is dope as hell. Honestly, I think I might like this one even more than his preceding album. I don’t know. I guess it really depends what I’m in the mood to hear. If I wanna hear sadder stuff I guess I’ll go back to The Grotesque & Beautiful, but I love how cold and hard this newer album is. I’m also sold on Teller Bank$ as a producer now because these beats are really good. This album just solidified him as one of my favorite artists in the underground right now. I didn’t really mention it in the body of this review because I’ve said it already in the past, but he’s got one of the most unique voices in Hip Hop at the moment, so he always commands my attention. This is one of the better albums I’ve heard in 2021. It’s really great. Check it out.
7. Back to the Flows by Cloud Envy
This album is dope as hell. I think it’s one of the best albums to come out in 2021 so far. Cloud Envy’s 2019 album proved to me that he was a talented MC, but this album is way more polished. After this I look at him as a legitimate songwriter rather than another MC who can just rap really well. The production throughout this project is top notch, and Cloud Envy’s flow is on point the whole time. There’s not a single verse on this album that I didn’t enjoy, and that includes the features as well. I think there’s a lot of chemistry between Cloud Envy himself as well as the featured artists that he worked with here. I knew I would like this album to some extent, but this surpassed my expectations. I can’t wait to see what Cloud Envy does in the future because he’s clearly a really talented dude. This shit is fire. Don’t sleep on it.
6. The Part & Parcel by Teller Bank$
This album is dope as hell. Teller Bank$ is turning out to be one of the most consistent artists in the underground. I can’t decide whether I like this more than his preceding couple of albums. I feel like my favorite project from him really depends on my mood. I definitely have a soft spot for Ed Glorious’ soulful, sample-based production style though. There’s not a single track on this album that I don’t like. Pretty much every single beat and verse on this album impressed me. I wasn’t lukewarm on any facet of the project. This is easily one of the best projects I’ve heard all year. I look forward to seeing what both Teller Bank$ and Ed Glorious do in the future. This shit is fire. Don’t sleep on it.
5. A Magnificent Day for An Exorcism by th1rt3en
This album is pretty amazing to me honestly. There’s not a single track here that I don’t think is dope. Pharoahe Monch is just as skilled of a rapper as he’s always been in my opinion. I of course appreciate the dark soundscape, and the political content is much appreciated. I really don’t have any consistent gripes with this project. Usually when rappers try to go for a Rap Rock fusion, it ends up being corny as hell, but I think Pharoahe Monch knocked this outta the park. It was just nice to get a project from him after almost 7 years. He takes his sweet time with every project, but considering how great the finished product always is, I can’t even complain. I think this shit is dope af, and it easily met my expectations. It’s just as fantastic as I was hoping it’d be. Don’t sleep on this shit.
4. Phenomenal by Scuare
This album is pretty amazing to me. I think it’s a step up from Alphabet Soup, which was already a really great album. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with either one, but I just personally prefer this one. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I got kind of an aquatic, watery, island motif from the soundscape, which coincides with the album cover. I love when albums do that. I need to get a physical copy of this album. I’d love to have it on cassette, but a vinyl record will suffice as well. I really have no consistent gripes with this project. I think the production from Scuare is fire, and I appreciate how unique it is. I feel like Scuare has a very recognizable production style. A lot of the beats here are surprisingly danceable. This shit has some earworm grooves on it. It’s easily one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. Don’t sleep on this joint. It’s dope af.
3. A YEAR OF OCTOBERS by Y*O*U*N*G*M*A*N & Celestaphone
I think this album is amazing. Celestaphone’s dynamic, layered, detailed production is phenomenal, and YOUNGMAN’s whole existence is just further proof that MC Paul Barman is one of the best writers in Hip Hop right now. I think they’re a perfect duo honestly. They really fit each other’s styles well. The beats are weird as hell, and YOUNGMAN’s approach to rhyming is pretty unique. This is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. It’s been a while since I’ve had this much trouble choosing a favorite song from an album. I think it’s dope af.
2. If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed by Conway the Machine & Big Ghost Ltd.
I feel like Conway the Machine is one of the artists whom I’ve covered the most over the past couple years on this blog. It really fucking sucks that this project had to be the one that I didn’t review. I think this shit is amazing. Big Ghost‘s production is phenomenal, and Conway slaughtered every single verse here. I gotta give a shoutout to Ransom for having a major verse of the year contender on Kill All Rats too. That’s one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long ass time. The whole album is amazing. I sincerely apologize for not reviewing it.
1. New Man by Saga Asad
This album is dope af. I legitimately don’t have any consistent gripes with it at all. I think Saga Asad fits over August Fanon’s production beautifully. This album is exactly what I wanted it to be. I think Saga Asad’s a fantastic lyricist. I feel like fans of the current lofi abstract Hip Hop renaissance will definitely appreciate this album. The selling point for me is definitely the lyricism. Even if the beats were trash I imagine I’d enjoy this album just because the rapping is that good to me. Thankfully August Fanon’s production here is phenomenal. Again, I have nothing negative to say about this record. It’s the best album I’ve heard this year so far. Don’t sleep on it. It’s dope af.
Hey OG, long time no see just remembered your site. Didnt realize you were a big Aes fan, he’s probably my personal fave artist. I think haram > garbology tho IMO
Have you heard bruiser wolf’s album, shit is so funny
Anyways, wishing you the best
Lol its connorstephens i guess me and monahan made a fantasy football blog in 2017, classic
I have listened some great underground albums since last year, since Griselda, Trust Gang and Roc Marciano. But your picks are very interest. I’ll check it out your list. Great countdown and happy new year OG ✌😎