Top 20 Hip-Hop & R&B Albums of 2023

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2023 was a unique year for both hip-hop and R&B. Some artists took a hard look inwards while others chose to fixate on the gluttonous lifestyle of their choosing. In the end, in an era of tumultuous cultural and political turmoil, it was genuineness and vulnerability that truly shined.

Killer Mike released his first solo album in eleven years while Nas released Magic 3 on his 50th birthday (which just so happens to also be hip-hop’s 50th anniversary). Heavyweight producers like The Alchemist and Statik Selektah showed up big once again, adding their touch to countless tracks and albums this year.

Today, we’re thrilled to share a breakdown of the hip-hop and R&B albums we enjoyed the most this year. From Drake’s long-awaited mega-album, For All The Dogs, to Sampha’s introspective, experimental masterpiece, Lahai, or KAYTRANADA & Aminé’s sunny joint-effort, KAYTRAMINÉ, check out our list below to make sure you didn’t miss any of the top releases of 2023. Enjoy!

slowthai Ugly

20. slowthai – Ugly

Ever since his song  “Doorman” with Mura Masa, we’ve been begging British rapper slowthai to give us a punk project. He finally granted our wishes with Ugly. Despite his beginnings as a rapper, slowthai has always felt punk in both his antics and collabs with bands like IDLES. This is finally reflected sonically too, with each raw, gritty track serving as a middle-finger to the world. Listeners might be surprised to hear as much singing as there is rapping on this album (if not more), but the rebellious attitude and rowdy feel of his earlier albums are never lost. Between gritty guitar riffs on “Wotz Funny” and cocky bars on grime tracks like “Yum,” Ugly is an homage to the British music scene Slowthai grew up with and its many evolutions. – Laurel Barkan

6LACK Since I Have A Lover

19. 6LACK – Since I Have A Lover

Each of 6LACK’s albums have served as a sonic version of a life update on where he is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Since I Have A Lover is intended to be the third installment of a trilogy of projects after FREE 6LACK and East Atlanta Love Letter. While previous projects found the rapper/singer dealing with heartbreak, Since I Have A lover shifts gears into his newfound love and romantic obsession. There’s an innate sense of hope in his voice that can be heard on “Inwood Hill Park” and “Since I Have A Lover” while still exploring the moody, hazy side of R&B. – Mike Ali


18. Russ – SANTIAGO

Staying authentically true as an independent artist, Russ was the driving force behind the album’s strategy and creative direction, even financing every facet of the project and its rollout. SANTIAGO is loosely inspired by the book ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, a rich story that has helped countless people in pursuit of their personal journey. Russ opens up more than he’s ever done before, resulting in a deeply personal project that might not appeal to the mainstream circuit as much as it does to his devoted fans. – Mike Ali

Danny Brown Quaranta

17. Danny Brown – Quaranta

Danny Brown has come a long way since emerging onto the music scene as an angsty teenager. Quaranta is the Detroit-born rapper’s sixth album and also his most introspective and confessional body of work to date. The album was released after a tumultuous time in Danny’s life, following a divorce and a stint in rehab. The result is a painfully honest collection of music that finds him offering the world a microscopic glimpse at his life. All in all, Quaranta showcases Danny Brown’s humanistic growth and pain, staying true to himself and his creative vision. – Mike Ali

KOTA The Friend Protea

16. Kota The Friend – Protea

If there was one album to define the summer of 2023 hip hop sound, it was Protea. This album is pure move and groove and full of feel-good vibes. Protea is stacked with heavy hitting collaborators, but the highlight of this album is absolutely the production. Kota’s vocals blend perfectly with the beach vibes, whether spitting (“Fireplace”) or sing-rapping (“Forget About It”), this album was a bright ray of sunshine in the hip-hop landscape this year. – Derek Lavezzo

Logic College Park

15. Logic – College Park

This year marked Logic’s first foray into becoming an independent rapper. The Maryland product wasted no time releasing College Park where he revisited some of the early sounds that ignited his career. The album features snippets of Logic and friends driving through old neighborhoods, adding a nostalgic, storytelling component to everything. College Park features RZA, Redman, Joey Bada$$, Norah Jones, C Dot Castro, Statik Selektah, and more. – Mike Ali

Statik Selektah Round Trip

14. Statik Selektah – Round Trip

You’d be hard pressed to find a producer as currently in-demand as Static Selektah. The thing is, he’s been in-demand for the better part of two decades. In recent, years we’ve seen a return to his own works, recently highlighted by 2023’s Round Trip. Featuring one of 2023’s strongest feature lists from a longevity stance, this album recruits Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Raekwon, Bun B, Ab-Soul, Conway The Machine, and more historic hitters. A primarily boom-bap leaning album, Round Trip stands as a masterclass in soulful sample spinning. – Austin Miller

Drake For All The Dogs

13. Drake – For All The Dogs Scary Edition

Just a month following the release of For All the Dogs on October 6, Drake gifted us with the third part in his Scary Hours series in this reissued album making our Top Hip-Hop Albums list. For All The Dogs lived up to Drake’s standards as one of music’s all time greats. “IDGAF” with Yeat serves as the albums hardest track, while “Rich Baby Daddy” with Sexyy Red and SZA is its danciest and is produced by Honestly, Nevermind collaborator Gordo (formerly Carnage). There’s also “8AM In Charlotte”, the latest time-stamped freestyle that sees Drake’s unmatched wordplay shine. The Scary Hours 3 addition is six tracks and was written and recorded in the five days before its release. It see’s Drake getting things off his chest, rapping with a chip on his shoulder. He addresses his beef with Kanye and Pusha T, brings on J. Cole for another great collab, and shouts out Taylor Swift. – JD Scribner

Madlib Talib Kweli Liberation 2

12. Madlib & Talib Kweli – Liberation 2

Liberation 2 is the sequel to the pair’s fan-favorite Liberation from 2007. Like the first album, Liberation 2 was released as a mixtape, making it hard to find on DSPs but well worth the extra effort. The project features African artists Cassper Nyovest and Seun Kuti, collaborations with Q-Tip, Wildchild, Westside Gunn, Roc Marciano, and a verse from Mac Miller. Expansive in concept, Liberation 2 is a colorful exploration of love, revolution, spirituality, and more. – Mike Ali

Killer Mike MICHAEL

11. Killer Mike – MICHAEL

“Quality over quantity” is exemplified by none on this list more than Killer Mike. Michael, his first solo project in eleven years, saw the Atlanta rapper speak on issues like racism, politics, abortion, personal growth, and more. An air of deep spirituality permeates fourteen tracks of gospel-laced production and candid observation. A feature rich project, Michael’s guest list includes Andre 3000, Young Thug, 6LACK, Ty Dolla $ign, 2 Chainz, CeeLo Green, Future, Dave Chappelle, and more. Always an artist of substance, Killer Mike’s featured guests are held to the same standard delivering verses and choruses rich in messaging. – Austin Miller

Nas Magic 2Nas Magic 3

10. Nas – Magic 2 & 3

Ok so this might be a two for one special but asking us to choose between Nas and Hit-boy’s two 2023 albums is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. These two projects, both produced by legendary producer Hit-Boy, are the last two collaborations between the two timeless artists. It seems only right that two timeless artists would cap off a storied partnership with two timeless albums. Nas, now 50 y/o, emanates refinement and focus. There’s a palpable command to his story-telling flows that has only gotten better in three decades of non-stop writing. As one of Hip-Hop’s most prolific and recognizable voices, Nas takes center stage only including three features (50 cent, 21 savage, and Lil Wayne) across twenty six tracks, but each feature is delivered and dosed with purpose and intention. – Austin Miller

Daniel Caesar NEVER ENOUGH

9. Daniel Caesar – NEVER ENOUGH

The talent of Canada’s Daniel Caesar is on full display from top to bottom on this album. The emotion he’s able to invoke and the aura he creates on NEVER ENOUGH is second to none. This album is ballad after ballad of love and heartbreak. Caesar’s voice ebbs and flows just beautifully through this album, hitting the highs in “Homiesexual” with TyDolla$ign and keeping the mellow in “Pain Is Inevitable.” NEVER ENOUGH is pure R&B bliss and easily is one of the best projects I heard this year. – Derek Lavezzo

Sampha Lahai

8. Sampha – Lahai

Sampha proves time and time again he is one of the most gifted vocalists of our generation. His second album, Lahai, comes six years after his breakout debut Process and it is just as transcendent. Where the themes in his first album were loss and grief after the death of both his parents to cancer, Lahai is filled with love, and sees the English songwriter’s perspective shift with the birth of his daughter. His layered vocals bring texture to the projects complex beats, and this combination make this album truly breathtaking and takes you on a spiritual journey. – JD Scribner

Masego Masego

7. Masego – Masego

Our favorite purveyor of smooth jazz-rap Masego released his self-titled album this year. We’ve been fans of his musical talent for years, but on Masego, the multi-hyphenate musician has never sounded better. Whether it be sampling the “Cha Cha Slide,” using a phone dial sound effect as an instrument, or a simply delicious sax solo, Masego’s creativity and talent know no bounds on this project. His silky smooth voice is on display on tracks like “What You Wanna Try,” and then he switches up to spitting bars on “Remembering Sundays.” Our favorite track is the ultra-smooth “Say You Want Me,” which flows like cool water with its afro-beat rhythm and dancehall vibe. Although this is Masego’s fourth album, it feels like his most fully-realized body of work. – Laurel Barkan

Larry June & The Alchemist The Great Escape

6. Larry June & The Alchemist – The Great Escape

The San Francisco rapper has an uncanny ability to sooth listeners with his laidback, meditative vocal approach. The Great Escape is the first collaborative project between him and legendary beatmaker The Alchemist but their chemistry is unmatched. The productions, often lush and hypnotic, prove to be a perfect compliment to Larry June’s calm, cool, and collected demeanor. Making guest appearances on the project are Action Bronson, Big Sean, Ty Dolla $ign, Slum Village, Wiz Khalifa, Jay Worthy, Joey Bada$$, and Curren$y. – Mike Ali



KAYTRANADA and Amine’s collaborative side-project has to be one of the coolest things that happened this year. Both artists ooze swagger and no one could have predicted their acute cohesiveness on tracks like “4EVA,” “STFU3,” and “Who He Iz.” There’s also a plethora of star-studded collaborators on the project, including Pharrel Williams, Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean, Snoop Dogg, and Amaarae. – Mike Ali

Jorja Smith falling or flying

4. Jorja Smith – falling or flying

Jorja Smith’s confidence and star-power is evident on her sophomore album, falling or flying. The 26-year-old British sensation lyrically explores her relationships on this project, with friends, lovers, and most of all herself. From a production standpoint we see Jorja Smith vocalize over beats with Afro, Soul, Pop Punk and of course R&B influence. falling or flying is highlighted by “Little Things”, an energetic floor-shaking hit that’s equal parts jazz, funk, and house, topped by her divine voice. – JD Scribner

Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist Voir Dire

3. Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – Voir Dire

The always unpredictable Earl Sweatshirt once again came out of nowhere with this project, teaming up with legendary producer The Alchemist. Voir Dire is only available via Gala Music as what the service calls a digital collectible, adding to the unusual nature of the release. Musically, The Alchemist’s productions lean heavily on the jazz-centric side of things while Earl Sweatshirt leaves us with plenty of metaphors and obscure references. All in all, this surprise album is a remarkable use of each other’s skills from front to back. – Mike Ali

billy woods & Kenny Segal Maps

2. billy woods & Kenny Segal – Maps

The NY-based enigmatic rapper first connected with LA producer Kenny Segal on their 2019 album, Hiding Places. Fast-forward four years and the pair sound better than ever together. Maps is an album of sheer restlessness. It contains half-sketched scenes scattered throughout seventeen quick-hitting tracks as billy woods navigates between humor and dread, weed and food, technique and style. Kenny Segal’s colorful, albeit sometimes disorienting, production style proves to be the perfect canvas for billy’s particular lyrical cadence. All in all, Maps is as fresh sounding a hip-hop project we’ve heard all year and a testament to the jazz-leaning origins of the genre. – Mike Ali

Noname Sundial

1. Noname – Sundial

The Chicago rapper’s first project in five years has proven well worth the wait. While her acclaimed debut album, Room 25, was her coming out party, Sundial is much more self-aware of herself and the culture. She’s constantly challenging the way in which Black art is regularly exploited by white platforms but with poise, elegance, and intelligence. Noname’s beautiful sense of humor still shines throughout, cracking jokes and dropping sexy double entendres. Sundial also features some well-respected collaborators, including Jay Electronica, Eryn Allen Kane, Ayoni, Common, and Billy Woods, who’ve pieced together what we would have to consider the best album of the year. – Mike Ali