So much rap music comes out all the time, and especially with frequent surprise releases, it can be hard to keep track of it all. So, as a way to help keep up with all of it, here’s a roundup of the 10 rap albums from September 2022 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven't spent enough time with some great September rap albums that aren't on this list. What were some of your favorites of last month? Let us know in the comments, and read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order).

Sudan Archives
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Sudan Archives - Natural Brown Prom Queen
Stones Throw

Natural Brown Prom Queen is Sudan Archives' second album, following 2019's Athena, and she has EPs dating back even further than that, but it feels like an arrival. It's a loud, bold, fearless blend of hip hop, R&B, funk, soul, art pop, and more that finds Sudan sounding more powerful than ever as she tackles macro topics like race, gender, and sex on a micro level, and takes on the character of Britt, a "girl next door from Cincinnati who drives around the city with the top down and shows up to high-school prom in a pink furry bikini with her thong hanging out her denim skirt." (Sudan was born in Cincinnati and her birth name is Brittney.) It's an album that's brimming with self-confidence, and even the parts that deal with insecurities sound incredibly self-assured. The music ranges from lush orchestral arrangements to futuristic electronics, and it constantly changes shape and blurs the line between genres. It's an album that's fun and carefree but also full of purpose and attention to detail. It remains to be seen if it'll make her much more popular than Athena did, but if it does, Sudan deserves it. She already sounds like a star.

Pick it up on orange dream vinyl.

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ka-languish-arts-woeful-studies
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Ka - Languish Arts & Woeful Studies
Iron Works

The cultishly loved Brooklyn rap veteran Ka returned this month with two surprise-released albums on the same day, Languish Arts and Woeful Studies. Two albums at once can seem daunting on paper, but they clock in at less than an hour combined, and like all of Ka's recent albums, they have an alluring sound that ropes you in right away and keeps you hooked. Ka produced both albums almost entirely himself, save for three tracks by Animoss and one by Preservation, and guest appearances come from Chuck Strangers, Joi, and GoneToHeaven. In true Ka fashion, the production is dark and atmospheric, the perfect backdrop for Ka's somber delivery. His songs never pop out at you; they require patience and repeated listens to take them in, and Ka uses these tucked-away gems to tell real-life, in-depth stories about growing up in poverty and oppression-stricken Brownsville. His delivery may seem subtle on the surface, but his detailed storytelling is anything but.

The only way to get these albums at the moment is in the form of $20 downloads on his website.

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billy woods
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billy woods - Church
Backwoodz Studioz

New York rapper (and Armand Hammer member) billy woods already released one of 2022's best albums so far with Aethiopes back in April, and now he returns with his second album of the year, Church. While Aethiopes was entirely produced by Preservation, Church was entirely produced by Armand Hammer collaborator Messiah Musik, and Messiah provides him with a backdrop that's a little warmer and brighter than Aethiopes was. woods follows suit, with bars that feel louder than more direct than the ones on his last album, and the result is an album that feels more accessible and immediate on first listen. Just as woods' two 2019 albums Hiding Places and Terror Management did, Aethiopes and Church make for a good double feature. Each shows off a different side of woods' sound, and each is impactful in its own way. In a statement, woods said the album is an exploration of memory, faith, marijuana, fate, and "the price of love and the cost of doing business." His Armand Hammer partner ELUCID appears on two songs and other guests include AKAI SOLO, Fielded, and Fat Ray.

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Sampa the Great - As Above, So Below artwork
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Sampa The Great - As Above, So Below
Loma Vista

Over the course of a few EPs/mixtapes and her great 2019 debut album The Return, Zambian-born rapper Sampa The Great established a sound that pulled equally from African music and American hip hop, and she takes that even further on her sophomore album As Above, So Below, which embraces her birthplace's homegrown music genre Zamrock, a combination of traditional African music and psychedelic rock that was established in the 1970s by bands like W.I.T.C.H., who Sampa recently learned counted her uncle as a member early on. The current lineup of W.I.T.C.H. appears on the song "Can I Live" on the new album, and that's not the only track that embraces Zamrock. Also featuring appearances that range from US rappers Denzel Curry and Joey Bada$$ to UK rapper Kojey Radical to Zambian rapper Chef 187 to Australian singer Mwanjé to Afrobeat legend Angélique Kidjo, As Above, So Below is constantly fusing sounds from across different continents, eras, and styles of music. One minute it sounds like a deep cut off '90s American hip hop radio, the next it's full-blown Afrobeat. Speaking about recent single "Lane" (the song with Denzel Curry), Sampa said, "We’re not going to stay in one lane, we’re going to create multiple ones... My truest self encourages me to explore different lanes, and go beyond what I think I know of myself." It's a quote that could double as the M.O. for this album overall.

Pick it up on black vinyl.

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Freddie Gibbs
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Freddie Gibbs - $oul $old $eparately
Warner

Freddie Gibbs returns with his cheekily-titled Warner debut, $oul $old $eparately, and it's been a long and hard-earned path to his major label debut. He actually got signed to Interscope in 2004, but he was dropped just two years later, before he ever got a chance to release an album on the label. With the short-lived stint behind him, he went back underground with a series of self-released mixtapes and eventually indie-label albums, some of which are among the most widely-loved underground rap albums of the past decade, including his two Madlib-produced albums and his Alchemist-produced Alfredo. Compared to those albums, $oul $old $eparately definitely sounds like a major label debut -- it sounds like Freddie's bigger budget resulted in shinier production -- but it's true that Freddie hasn't sold his soul. Alchemist and Madlib did handle a track each on this album, and Freddie's also got innovative electronic musicians like Kaytranada and James Blake involved, alongside some bigger modern rap staples like DJ Dahi, Boi-1da, and Sevn Thomas. Freddie still raps his ass off the way he has his entire career, he's still got an ear for good beats and well-matched guests (including Pusha T, Rick Ross, Anderson .Paak, Raekwon, DJ Paul, and Scarface), and he's still cranking out good songs.

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EST Gee
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EST Gee - I Never Felt Nun
CMG/Interscope

Louisville's EST Gee tells dark, gritty, dead-serious tales of street life and he wraps them in melodies that are welcoming enough for outsiders without sacrificing the depth of his lyricism or his ability to rap. He's also very prolific, having released at least one full-length project a year since 2019, including this past April's Last Ones Left, a collaborative project with well-matched Detroit rapper 42 Dugg. He keeps the momentum going on I Never Felt Nun, which finds Gee doing what he does best across 21 songs. He gets radio-friendly assists from Future, Jack Harlow, Bryson Tiller, and a back-to-rap Machine Gun Kelly, but for the most part, Gee's the kind of artist who makes the mainstream come to him, not the other way around. The only other guest verse on the album is from another rapper who had that same mindset when he started to take off almost 20 years ago, Jeezy. He has the final verse on the final track, and when he wraps up his verse with praise for Gee, it feels like a real passing-of-the-torch moment.

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Boldy James
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Nicholas Craven & Boldy James - Fair Exchange No Robbery
self-released

Detroit rapper Boldy James has been on a tear lately. He's released seven full-length projects in the past two years (among other short releases, deluxe editions, and tons of guest verses), and it's not easy to keep up with him. But his new project Fair Exchange No Robbery -- made entirely with Montreal producer Nicholas Craven -- immediately feels like one of his strongest. Craven provides a soulful, sample-based backdrop, and Boldy's calm, measured, yet deadly storytelling is at its finest. Aside from trading lines with fellow Detroit rapper Gue Wop on the thrilling duet "0 Tre Nine," there's not a single guest on the album and there are barely any parts that count as choruses; just Boldy dishing out detailed lyricism and keeping you at the edge of your seat the whole time.

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Rome Streetz
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Rome Streetz - Kiss the Ring
Griselda

The very prolific Brooklyn rapper Rome Streetz has been making a name for himself amongst the current generation of rappers who take things back to the dark, gritty boom bap of mid '90s NYC, so it makes sense that he ended up linking up with the Griselda crew, and his new album Kiss the Ring is his Griselda debut. It was executive produced and curated by label head Westside Gunn, and Gunn gives Rome Streetz the full Griselda treatment. Beats come from the label's usual suspects like Conductor Williams, Camoflauge Monk, Denny Laflare, Alchemist, and Daringer; and all of the guest appearances are from Griselda artists or friends of the label, including Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, Boldy James, Armani Caesar, and Stove God Cooks. It should come as no surprise that Rome Streetz fits perfectly within Griselda's sonic universe, and he blesses this album with exactly the kind of detailed storytelling that caught the label's attention in the first place.

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Symba
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Symba - Results Take Time
Starr Island/Atlantic

Results Take Time is a very good title for Symba's new album. The twentysomething Oakland rapper released his first mixtape a decade ago, which was followed by an ill-fated deal with Columbia Records in 2017, and it's only been in the past couple years -- after releasing his 2020 Atlantic debut Don't Run From R.A.P. -- that he finally seems to be reaching wider audiences. I admittedly hadn't heard him at all until he recently put out his single "Never End Up Broke Pt. 2" with Pusha T, and he won me over right away with a verse that stood tall next to Pusha T's. That song is one of 16 on Results Take Time, and Symba brings that energy to all of these tracks. He's a relatively old soul, with more of an interest in '90s and early 2000s rap than most of what currently rules the rap airwaves, and he's got a sharp delivery that would make his heroes proud.

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Real Bad Flights
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Pink Siifu & Real Bad Man - Real Bad Flights
Real Bad Man

The clothing company and production team Real Bad Man have a series of guest-filled mixtapes called On High Alert, two albums with Boldy James, one with Smoke DZA, and now one with Pink Siifu, who's appeared on multiple volumes of On High Alert. It's Siifu's first project since last year's multi-layered, genre-defying GUMBO'!, and compared to that project, Real Bad Flights finds Siifu churning out hazy, head-nod-inducing, classicist rap music. He's joined by Boldy James, Armand Hammer, Ahwlee, Kari Faux, Chuck Strangers, lojii, and others, and Siifu and all his guests sound great over Real Bad Man's hypnotic beatwork.

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Honorable Mentions
38 Spesh - 7 Shots
Baby Tate - Mani/Pedi
Black Soprano Family - Long Live DJ Shay
Bronze Nazareth - If You're Worried, You Should Be
Kid Cudi - Entergalactic
KXNG Crooked & Joell Ortiz - Harbor City
LMD & Madlib - Flying High
Lakeyah - No Pressure (Pt. 2)
Lucki - Flawless Like Me
Lukah - Raw Extractions
Rhys Langston - Grapefruit Radio
Sonnyjim & The Purist - White Girl Wasted
Yeat - Lyfë
YG - I Got Issues

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