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Many hip-hop heads may claim that 2019 was a slow year for music, but the Sideline Observer has outlined our picks for the under listened albums of the year. From old 90s rap groups to hot up-and-coming youngsters, check out this list of must peep projects from last year.
January // Boogie – “Everythings For Sale”
After a nonstop flurry of releases in the Fall of 2018, January was pretty slow from a hip-hop/R&B standpoint with only a few notable releases. While Boogie was able to garner some hype with this record, it was soon forgotten. Don’t let that fool you — this is one of the best rap albums of the year. Boogie’s raw talent shines through on every track, as he raps like he always has something to prove. His voice is two characters in one, with a tight flow and a special intonation that feels like he’s bubbling with tension, releasing it with every word.
February // Smif-N-Wessun – “The All”
With their first full-length studio album since 2011, the Brooklyn rap duo Smif-N-Wessun re-displayed their ability to reside at the top of the rap game with The All. Since their debut album “Dah Shinin’” (1995) brought huge amounts of recognition to the pair’s style, Smif-N-Wessun has released numerous projects and worked with countless elite artists along the way. Once again, Smif-N-Wessun has teamed up with rap greats in Raekwon, Rapsody, and others to release one of the most slept-on projects of the year. Peep “The All” to receive a refreshing reminder of East Coast ‘90s hip hop redesigned to fit the tastes of 2019.
March // Solange – “When I Get Home”
Solange’s third studio album saw her take more risks, experiment more freely with song and album structure, and express herself more than ever before. While the album’s 19-song, 39-minute structure makes it difficult for many inexperienced Solange listeners to understand or enjoy, it’s nevertheless an awesome project that deserves more viewership. She tackles social issues from many different angles, giving the sonically daring album a hard edge.
April // Omar Apollo – “Friends”
Young mega-talent Omar Apollo has made an impact in 2019. Whether it’s his six-song EP, his The Cave freestyle, or his host of other collaborations, the world knows Omar in a way they have never before. While his objective attraction might be distracting, it only adds to his overall aura as a multi-instrumentalist with a beautifully seductive voice. “Friends” contributes to his discography in a way that won’t further impress fans familiar with his earlier work, as it displays skills he’s already put in the spotlight, but it has absolutely added momentum to his rise to fame.
May // Steve Lacy – “Apollo XXI”
Steve Lacy, in a similar stylistic vein to Omar Apollo, dropped “Apollo XXI”, complete with rocking impressive vocal range and instrumental capability, this May to mixed reviews. Many who heard “Steve Lacy’s Demos” in 2017 expected more of the same and didn’t respond well to more experimentation on the highly-anticipated follow-up. However, this is the kind of album that ages well. Upon further listens, it’s clear that everything that was awesome on Demos is just as present on “Apollo XXI”, but just appears more subtly due to the longer nature of the album. Don’t sleep on Lacy’s talent; this album is perfect for so many feelings and situations.
June // GoldLink – “Diaspora”
“Diaspora” sees GoldLink explore a wide array of genres within the African diaspora’s music, paying homage to his roots while creating a legacy of his own. From the upbeat dancehall fun of “Zulu Screams” to the furious bars of “Maniac,” this album is special. It might not have the attractive grit and grime that made “At What Cost” so special, but this full-fledged debut studio album is a big step for the DC MC.
July // YBN Cordae – “The Lost Boy”
After coming into fame alongside Almighty Jay and Nahmir with the 2018 “YBN Mixtape”, it was time for the talented 22-year-old Cordae to come out with his own project. What followed was the July release “The Lost Boy”. With 15 tracks and strong features like Pusha T, Anderson .Paak, Meek Mill, and others, Cordae’s rookie release was poised for success. “The Lost Boy” became one of the most compelling albums of the year, with “RNP” earning supreme recognition and the project as a whole receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album.
August // Rapsody – “Eve”
Following the success of 2017’s “Laila’s Wisdom”, Rapsody has cemented her place as an elite artist with a number of fantastic features and the release of “Eve” in August. Rapsody delivered the mass of work that we have been patiently waiting for since 2017 with 16 songs all named after influential black women of history. With veteran features like GZA and Queen Latifah, as well as up-and-coming stars like JID and Mereba, “Eve” ranks on my list as a top album of 2019 as a whole.
September // Sampa the Great – “The Return”
The Australian rap scene has long been under-recognized, and 27-year-old Sampa the Great’s premier discography is no exception to that. Despite this, Sampa the Great’s 2019 “The Return” earned her some long-awaited recognition and provided additional insight into the potential of her music. As a passionate artist who prioritizes issues of racial and gender equity at the forefront of her lyrics and collaborations, Sampa the Great stands as one of the most energizing rap artists of the year with “The Return”. With 19 songs, top-tier bars, and elite production, “The Return” and Sampa the Great are a must-peep going into 2020.
October // Danny Brown – “uknowhatimsayin¿”
For his fifth studio album and first project since 2016’s “Atrocity Exhibition”, Danny Brown packed a punch with the 34-minute release of “uknowhatimsayin¿” in October. The album represents Danny’s evolution over the last few years. With executive production from Q-Tip and credits from Flying Lotus, JPEGMafia, and Thundercat, the project is chock full of hard-hitting bars as expected, alongside the most relaxed beats in Danny’s discography. “Uknowhatimsayin¿” is an absolute must peep for all fans looking for the latest progression in alternative rap and Danny Brown’s unique sound.
November // Tinashe – “Songs for You”
Following her February departure from RCA records, it was time for Tinashe to explore her personal creativity without any control from the label. Later on, under the management of Jay Z’s Roc Nation, Tinahse released “Songs for You” in November. With all 15 self-produced tracks and only a few features, Tinashe put her talents on full display with this project. Tinahse’s career is still strongly progressing, and with lively vocals and crisp hard-hitting beats, “Songs for You” is a required listen for all R&B fans.
December // Free Nationals – “Free Nationals”
Bursting at the seams with entertaining talent, it was a matter of time before this album came to wake up the people that have been sleeping on the Free Nationals. This album built momentum with a series of impressive singles, including the true hit “Time” featuring Mac Miller and Kali Uchis as well as provoking tracks such as “On Sight” and “Beauty and Essex” which brought JID and Daniel Caesar into the studio, respectively. This album is jam-packed with fun features, playful energy, and serious instrumental talent.