This was a slightly slower week for albums in the hip hop world, but a very stacked week for singles, with new songs from Syd, Normani, Leikeli47, Coi Leray/Nicki Minaj, Nigo/Lil Uzi Vert, 700 Bliss, Princess Nokia, MIKE, Tha God Fahim, Yaya Bey, Joyce Wrice, and more. Read on for all the rap and R&B we posted this week…
SYD – “CYBAH” (ft. LUCKY DAYE)
Syd has finally announced her much-anticipated sophomore album — and first in five years — Broken Hearts Club, and you can read more about new single “CYBAH” here.
NORMANI – “FAIR”
Former Fifth Harmony member Normani’s Cardi B collab “Wild Side” was one of 2021’s best R&B songs, and she shows off a softer, more atmospheric side on “Fair,” which feels like yet another great one.
LEIKELI47 – “LL COOL J”
Brooklyn rapper Leikeli47’s anticipated new album Shape Up comes out in April, and new single “LL Cool J” (which stands for “Ladies Love Cool Jewelry”) is an instantly-satisfying new song and maybe the best one we’ve heard from this album yet.
COI LERAY – “BLICK BLICK!” (ft. NICKI MINAJ)
The latest single off NJ rapper/singer Coi Leray’s debut album gets an added dose of starpower from Nicki Minaj, and both of them are in fine form on this fun track.
NIGO – “HEAVY” (ft. LIL UZI VERT)
Bape founder Nigo releases his new album I Know Nigo next week, and he’s been rolling out singles with awesome guests, including A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi, and Pusha T. Here’s one with Lil Uzi Vert, a dose of melodic trap that would fit right in on one of Uzi’s own albums.
700 BLISS (MOOR MOTHER & DJ HARAM) – “TOTALLY SPIES” (ft. LAFAWNDAH)
700 Bliss, the collaborative project of Moor Mother and DJ Haram, have announced their debut album, and you can read more about lead single “Totally Spies” here.
PRINCESS NOKIA – “NO EFFORT”
Princess Nokia has made a lot of different types of rap music over the years, and for this one she’s in hard-hitting, no-bullshit mode.
MIKE – “MAKEDA”
The ever-prolific NYC rapper MIKE is back with a new song, and it finds his trademark hazy rap sound in fine form.
CISCO SWANK & LUKE TITUS – “NOTHING’S CHANGED” (ft. SABA)
As mentioned, Cisco Swank and Luke Titus are releasing a collaborative album Some Things Take Time in April via Sooper Records, and it includes this appealing jazz-rap song with Saba.
SADA BABY – “BOP STICK”
Sada Baby is gearing up to release his new album Him Not Them later this year, and here’s the kinetic “Bop Stick,” which samples Slick Rick’s classic “Children’s Story.”
LANDSTRIP CHIP – “WRONG WAY” (REMIX ft. BABY TATE)
Atlanta rapper/singer Landstrip Chip has released a new remix of his downtempo R&B song “Wrong Way,” and this one features airy guest vocals from Baby Tate.
DOECHII – “PERSUASIVE”
TDE’s newest signee is Tampa rapper/singer Doechii (who appeared on Isaiah Rashad’s 2021 album and opened SZA’s 2021 tour), and her first single for the label is the chilled-out rap&B of “Persuasive.”
TANNA LEONE – “WITH THE VILLAINS”
The latest signing to Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free’s pgLang company is LA rapper Tanna Leone, and his first single since signing is the ominous “With the Villains.”
THA GOD FAHIM – “4 MATIC”
Tha God Fahim will release a new album, Six Ring Champ, next week (3/25) via Nature Sounds. It features three songs with frequent collaborator Your Old Droog, and this great new single which finds Fahim spitting over a woozy beat from Nicholas Craven.
YAYA BEY – “KEISHA”
Brooklyn R&B singer Yaya Bey has announced a new album, Remember Your North Star, which Yaya co-produced with Phony Ppl’s Aja Grant and DJ Nativesun and which comes out 6/17 via Big Dada. Read more about lead single “Keisha” here.
JOYCE WRICE – “ICED TEA” (prod. KAYTRANADA)
R&B singer Joyce Wrice teams with Kaytranda for this new song, which you can read about here.
ZORA – “RUNNITUP” (ft. MYIA THORNTON)
Minneapolis rapper/singer/producer Zora has announced her new album, Z1, due May 20 via Philly queer punk label Get Better Records. It’s a loud, brash, rap/dance music fusion, and Zora says, “We wanted to make a song about metaphorically running up on somebody who didn’t give us what we were owed. In reality, this song is pretty explicitly about US Capitalism and how we need to just overthrow it.”
SUPA BWE – “SERENGETI” (ft. MICK JENKINS)
Chicago rapper Supa Bwe is releasing a new project, No Thanks, on March 25 via Freddy Got Magic, and it’ll include this distorted, punk-rap protest song featuring Mick Jenkins.
JADA KINGDOM – “DICKMATIZED”
Reggae/R&B singer Jada Kingdom is back with a new song, “Dickmatized,” a cool, chilled-out song that’s about exactly what you think it’s about.
IBLSS – RAJA’S SUN
Underground New York hip hop producer iblss has released this new project which is loaded with impressive guests, including Maassai, Nappy Nina, Quelle Chris, AKAI SOLO, Nakama, S!LENCE, and Zeroh, and the whole thing is a hazy, psychedelic head trip.
25 Early 2000s Rap Albums That Hold Up Today
Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)
Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030 (2000)
Lil’ Kim – The Notorious K.I.M. (2000)
OutKast – Stankonia (2000)
Ludacris – Back for the First Time (2000)
Eve – Scorpion (2001)
Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein (2001)
Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)
Jay-Z made a name for himself rapping alongside Jaz-O and then Big Daddy Kane in the late '80s and early '90s, but took his time when it came to making his own album. And while he was watching and waiting, the young Queensbridge rapper Nas released his 1994 debut album Illmatic, an instant-classic that received a now-legendary score of five mics from The Source and changed rap forever. Jay took obvious notes from Illmatic (and sampled a line from it) when he finally released his own debut album, 1996's Reasonable Doubt. Gone was the fast-rapping Jay-Z of the Jaz-O days and in his place was an artist with a smoother, grittier style who told real-life stories of life on the streets in Brooklyn over some of the finest production of the era (courtesy of Ski, Clark Kent, Illmatic contributor DJ Premier, and others). Jay-Z intended for Reasonable Doubt to be a classic, and it was, but it wasn't the instantly-game-changing album that Illmatic was and it couldn't compete with the flashy, pop-crossover "Jiggy Era" that Puff Daddy started to lead after Biggie's tragic death. So Jay-Z went in an increasingly pop direction, and by the time of his 1998 single "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," he wasn't just competing with the "Jiggy Era," he was starting to take over.
Going pop in the late '90s and early 2000s also meant getting dissed by other rappers, among them Prodigy of Mobb Deep and Nas, whose feud with Jay-Z was about to boil over as Jay-Z geared up for his best album since Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint. Months before its release, Jay made Hot 97 Summer Jam history by debuting "Takeover," a diss track aimed at Prodigy and Nas, during his set, alongside a childhood photo of Prodigy in dance clothes on the big screen. The finished version of "Takeover" ended up on The Blueprint, and the studio version proved it to be not just a brutal diss track but also a genuinely great song, and one of many on The Blueprint. Jay-Z didn't stop being "pop" on The Blueprint -- it still had the radio-friendly "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," the sentimental balladry of "Song Cry," and other "pop" moments -- but he figured out how to put the accessibility of the "Jiggy Era," the grit of the streets, and the album-oriented structure of Reasonable Doubt into one whole masterpiece of an album. Production came largely from Just Blaze and Kanye West (plus Bink, Timbaland, Eminem, and others), and together they established a rich, soulful production style that would dominate rap for years. There's perhaps never been a better example of the classic Kanye sound than "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)." Jay's ear for beats on The Blueprint was matched by his most consistently great rapping since Reasonable Doubt, and still some of the very best rapping of his career. Unlike his previous guest-filled albums, Jay carried the album almost entirely by himself, and he never lost steam. The only guest appearance came from Eminem on "Renegade," and look, Nas is right, Em out-rapped Jay on the track, but Jay still packed some of his finest rhyme schemes into that song.
Aesop Rock – Labor Days (2001)
Nas – Stillmatic (2001)
El-P – Fantastic Damage (2002)
Eminem – The Eminem Show (2002)
If we're picking one album per artist, a lot of people would go with 2000's near-perfect The Marshall Mathers LP for Eminem, but if pressed, I always go with The Eminem Show because it feels like the grand finale to the classic Eminem era. The Marshall Mathers LP is just as essential, but Eminem as we came to know him doesn't exist without The Eminem Show.
An artist who almost always knew how to title an album, Marshall Mathers introduced the world to his massively offensive alter-ego Slim Shady on 1999's The Slim Shady LP, he introduced us to the man behind the madness on The Marshall Mathers LP, and he took a look at the impact Eminem the artist had on the world with The Eminem Show. (He also admitted the show was over with 2004's Encore, and then made a series of failed comeback attempts with Relapse, Recovery, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, and Revival, before finally abandoning this trend on the still-just-okay-sounding Kamikaze and Music to Be Murdered By.) Eminem catapulted to the forefront of rap because of white privilege but also became a scapegoat for everything white suburban conservatives hated about rap, and there's perhaps no better response to all of it than "White America," the first proper song on The Eminem Show. And then there's "Sing for the Moment." The Marshall Mathers LP gave us "Stan," a Dido-sampling ballad about the real-life dangers of toxic fandom and the importance of mental health, and The Eminem Show gave us "Sing for the Moment," an Aerosmith-sampling ballad about the importance of rap music to young kids amidst backlash from the media, the government, and scared parents. You might argue that song ruined white rap forever (and also unfortunately convinced Eminem he needed more and more ballads on later albums), but it also spoke directly to and validated the feelings of a lot of kids who needed to hear it. The Eminem Show also attacked George W. Bush ("Square Dance"), took on personal issues like the toll fame takes on a person ("Say Goodbye Hollywood") and fatherhood ("Hailie's Song"), and also reminded the world Eminem was still better than most people at making straight-up rap songs ("Business"). One of three songs on The Eminem Show produced by the man who made Eminem a star, Dr. Dre, "Business" found Eminem packing so many career-best punchlines over a top-tier Dre beat, reminding us that -- when you put all the baggage associated with Eminem aside -- he was truly one of the greats at the pure art of rapping.