Okayplayer’s 22 Greatest Albums of 2022

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Whereas the music was continually good in 2022 — generally even nice — there weren’t many recreation changers. Listed below are the albums that stood out from the remainder.

Again in July, on the official midpoint of the 12 months, we wrote that 2022 was “an eventful music 12 months — however not essentially a memorable one” and that no album had but “dominated the cultural panorama.” After which, actually two weeks later, Beyoncé got here. 

It’s onerous to name any 12 months that contains a Beyoncé album an unmemorable 12 months in music. And her newest album, Renaissance — an prompt basic — helped raise what was, at that time, a ho hum stretch, giving music a a lot wanted infusion and a real cultural second (regardless of the very fact she hasn’t performed promo for the album.) However she didn’t elevate the tide along with her. Whereas the music was continually good this 12 months — generally even nice — there weren’t many recreation changers, regardless of the very fact that there have been many comebacks, from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Ari Lennox, Ab-Soul, and extra. 

So how do you make a “Better of 2022” with a music 12 months like this? For Okayplayer we went again to the basics: what are the albums that had essentially the most profound affect on us? 

Listed below are Okayplayer’s 22 finest albums of 2022.  

22. Domi and JD Beck — NOT TiGHT

Picture Credit score: Artist

DOMi and JD BECK are two future jazz wunderkinds who’ve injected some a lot wanted enjoyable into the style with their debut, Not Tight. The Anderson .Paak-co-signed duo made their title on-line by way of this strategy, with DOMi and JD exhibiting their ridiculous chops on keys and drums, respectively — with a sprinkle of humor dashed in. This fusion of jazz virtuosity and humor is what makes Not Tight so nice. Most instances it feels playful and eccentric, the mostly-instrumental album bouncing between colourful chords and odd time signatures. However there’s moments that present the duo may make pop songs in their very own distinct means in the event that they needed to, as is the case with the .Paak-featuring “Take A Probability.” With Not Tight, DOMi and JD be part of a roster of splendidly gifted and hilarious jazz-adjacent figures (MonoNeon, Louis Cole, Thundercat) who could not take themselves severely, however positively take their music severely.  — Elijah Watson

21. Flo Milli — You Nonetheless Right here, Ho?
Flo Milli

Picture Credit score: Artist

Flo Milli is among the most fun rising feminine acts in hip-hop proper now. On You Nonetheless Right here, Ho? the Cell, Alabama native is again to rapping aggressively. It’s this ardour that has allowed her to flourish over the course of the previous two years. On this venture, she’s exhibiting her starvation, however she’s additionally presenting tracks that may serves as inspirational anthems for her followers. “Massive Steppa,” “PBC” and “Immodest” are prime examples of her potential to make assured, relatable feminist anthems. — Robyn Mowatt

20. Yaya Bey — Keep in mind Your North Star
Yaya Bey Remember Your North Star

Picture Credit score: Artist

Yaya Bey’s Keep in mind Your North Star is a real blues document. Analog model spoken phrase interludes are weaved between comfortable keys, sunny island riddims, and mellow horns, as Bey unpacks how love exists inside and round her. Tales of emotional quick altering from males lay in tandem with realizations on how misogyny has formed Bey’s understanding of affection. At instances it looks like being handed her private journal, full of misty eyed recollections and humorous musings on time spent, stolen, and reclaimed. — Larry Little

19. Ravyn Lenae — Hypnos
Ravyn Lenae Hypnos

Picture Credit score: Artist

With a moody environment and nasally vocals that shift between feeling sensual and motherly, Hypnos is Ravyn Lenae marking herself out because the heiress to Erykah Badu. Hypnos is essentially the most strikingly authentic R&B album of the 12 months. On it, Lenae reveals immense vocal vary throughout 16 songs, with “Inside Out” nailing a tragic excessive falsetto and “M.I.A.” mixing cherub vocals with a blissfully stoned sugar entice move. The Chicago artist can do absolutely anything and album spotlight “Gentle Me Up” — the place Lenae sings: “Come inside, present me you’re the chief / Switching sides, make me a believer” — proves she’s a songwriter able to intercourse innuendos that aren’t simply mischievous but additionally profound, a mix missing in lots of her friends.  — Thomas Hobbs

18. Lupe Fiasco — Drill Music In Zion
Lupe Fiasco Drill Music In Zion

Picture Credit score: Artist

Lupe Fiasco’s Drill Music In Zion is a number of the Chicago rapper’s most targeted music in years. The tidy venture showcases every thing Lupe does properly as a rapper – pensive reflection, bold rhyme schemes, and serpentine flows that tessellate all of it collectively – and locations it underneath a neat umbrella of atmospheric jazz loopings to assist make clear his musings. Whereas DROGAS Wave’s bloated runtime handled grandiose existential ponderings on fictional underwater slaves, Drill Music In Zion lives within the now, and Lupe Fiasco as an alternative chooses to settle into every tune with intentional thought in regards to the state of our society. The album serves as a collective sigh, with Lupe reminding us that whereas the pandemic has waned, racist “killers” are “nonetheless on the market.” “Why ought to he have such views of the ocean?” Lupe asks at one level. This time he doesn’t have a solution. — Mackenzie Cummings-Grady

17. Rome Streetz — Kiss The Ring
Rome Streetz

Picture Credit score: Artist

Twenty years in the past, Rome Streetz would have incited a significant label bidding warfare for the books. The Queens-raised, Mattress Stuy-based rapper’s spotless supply of frigid avenue gospels and meticulously-calculated revenue margins conjures the kind of grime and grit cinema that outlined the marquee rap crews of the early-aughts. Kiss The Ring, the rapper’s grand and gracious Griselda debut, is a hard-hitting spotlight reel of these powers over the broadest and most numerous palette of manufacturing featured on a Rome outing but. On “In Too Deep,” Rome punches the numbers on the plausibility of his come-up over a cascading vibraphone riff. “Ugly Balenciaga’s” is a full-chested flex grounding a shaky accompaniment of wobbling vocals slipping out and in of pitch. And “Cry Champagne” toasts an unlikely ascendence, leaving the darkest components of an outdated life within the rear view. — Zo

16. Alex Isley — Marigold
Alex Isley Jack Dine Marigold

Picture Credit score: Artist

Alex Isley, the daughter of Ernie Isley, doesn’t rely closely on her title to make her mark in music. Working with producer Jack Dine — her musical accomplice since 2019 — Isley continues to blossom extra after every venture and Marigold is her most achieved document but. The posh of her voice, coupled with Dine’s wealthy manufacturing, provides listeners an intimate escape from the troublesome moments, with gems resembling “Love Once more” and “Beneath The Moon.” — Quierra Luck

15. Syd — Damaged Hearts Membership
Syd Broken Hearts Club

Picture Credit score: Artist

5 years after her braggadocious solo debut, Fin, Syd is again to being in her emotions. On Damaged Hearts Membership, the Los Angeles native gives her most susceptible venture but. And Syd, who’s admitted to an ongoing battle with despair, permits her melancholia to do the speaking. “Quick Automobile,” an ode to Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit of the identical title, sees Syd escaping into wanderlust with the lover of her goals. Whereas on the symphonic “Candy,” the vocalist’s ethereal tone breaks by way of the floor as she vows to surrender “clubbin’” and “frontin’” for a devoted romance.  — Jaelani Turner-Williams

14. Drake — Truthfully, Nevermind
Drake Honestly Nevermind

Picture Credit score: Artist

It’s all the time fascinating to look at Drake uncover a musical sub-culture. It all the time begins the identical means. There’s the path of follows throughout the accounts of producers and content material creators sending ripples by way of the algorithms, the murmurs of secret video shoots, a spicy IG submit or two, after which, increase, a complete venture impressed by his newest fascination. And, for what it’s price, these types of tangential collections of songs have been a few of his most attention-grabbing and least cringe outings so far. On Truthfully, Nevermind, the primary, and objectively higher, of his 2022 albums, doom-scrolling by way of viral movies introduced Drake again to the infinite malleability and international enchantment of dance music. Particularly, the house-heavy variants which might be rooted in Chicago and Detroit, however nonetheless resonate and thrive throughout Baltimore, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Whereas there are few contributions from producers truly based mostly in these cities, Truthfully, Nevermind enlists Black Coffee and Carnage (producing as “Gordo” throughout the album,) to emulate and increase the uncooked components of a revived regional sound inspiring numerous permutations of footwork routines throughout TikTok. “Falling Again” opens the album with a name to digital dance music’s Windy Metropolis origins, threading a spell of hazy synths and snare-less drum applications with a mantra-like melancholy that even Drake simply barely pulls off. Six tracks in, “Sticky” ramps up the BPMs and a jarringly low bar rely with some guiltless raunch over stabs of creaky chords and a propulsive four-to-the-floor kicks. And “Jimmy Cooks” commits to chaos, stashing the 12 months’s strongest instance of Drake and 21 Savage’s impenetrable chemistry within the closing slot of what is going to inevitably go down because the most-streamed home album of all-time. It’s in all probability not an prompt basic, and even the kind of venture we’ll spend an excessive amount of time analyzing for sly subliminals down the road. However Truthfully, Nevermind is, arguably, considered one of Drake’s most compelling and cohesive style excavations so far. — Zo

13. Earl Sweatshirt — SICK!

Picture Credit score: Artist

Even in his unenthused supply, there’s no denying simply how a lot Earl Sweatshirt enjoys rapping, As he’s gotten older, his work has gotten extra dense and wealthy, his rhymes (and the way he delivers them) requiring a number of listens to actually perceive what he’s attempting to articulate. On SICK!, nonetheless, the sensible rapper eschews the denseness for one thing extra clear and direct, even enlisting Younger Guru as an engineer to ensure there’s no discrepancy on what’s being stated. In its brevity, Earl reveals how he continues to be considered one of rap’s most constant wordsmiths. Regardless of its moodiness, “Titanic” is so playful, Earl’s wordplay so enthralling, that you just’re prone to chortle in amazement at how he’s connecting traces collectively. “Tabula Rasa” rides with a considerably off-kilter beat courtesy of Theravada and Rob Chambers, however Earl glides over it effortlessly, creating completely different pockets and rapping with an urgency that ends the observe. SICK! finds Earl trying ahead to the long run. He’s not only a rapper however now a father, and with that has come an optimism and confidence that may be felt all through the album. — EW

12. Pusha T — It’s Nearly Dry
Pusha T It's Almost Dry

Picture Credit score: Def Jam Recordings

It’s Nearly Dry proves Pusha T’s strategy to coke raps remains to be pure. Delivering his larger-than-life drug-dealing tales over Donny Hathaway and Jerry Butler samples, Pusha T intertwines tales of his youth in Virginia together with his disillusionment with fame and rappers who’re thought-about his friends. The album is produced totally by Pharrell and pre-QAnon Kanye West. “Brambleton,” which options Pharrell’s finest manufacturing in years, is a melodic revelation that unveils complicated layers to Pusha’s private story. Whereas Ye’s soulful-sample-based manufacturing drive songs like “Food regimen Coke” and “Dreamin of the Previous.” —Kia Turner

11. Denzel Curry  — Soften My Eyez See Your Future
Denzel Curry Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Picture Credit score: Artist

Soften My Eyez See Your Future traded within the trunk-rattling of 2019’s ZUU for one thing brooding and reflective. The backdrops, courtesy of Cardo, JPEG Mafia, Kenny Beats and even Thundercat, are hazy and spacious, full of tidy drums, ghostly vocals, and silky piano keys, all whereas Denzel Curry turns a important eye inward and ruminates on his mortality and disruptive paranoia. Whereas recognized for harboring a fierce urgency on the mic, Curry’s move as an alternative unspools like a gentle stream, as he asks allegorical questions like “Why I really feel like hiding a reality is discovering a lie?” alongside double entendres about Star Wars. All of it quantities to a candid Denzel Curry that followers have by no means seen earlier than.  — MCG

10. Roc Marciano & The Alchemist — The Elephant Man’s Bones
Roc Marciano The Alchemist

Picture Credit score: Artist

Whether or not it’s boasting in regards to the historical gargoyles sculpted into the roof of his condominium or simply the fun of getting cosy inside a Hermes blanket, one of the best Roc Marciano verses are pushed by snarky supply and the veteran MC pushing himself to seek out eccentric new methods to articulate the concept of residing lavish. And in a profession full of necessary albums that saved artsy, verbose underground hood rap alive and kicking, The Elephant Man’s Bones may simply be Roc Marciano’s most achieved venture but. With exact, crime noir-inspired manufacturing by The Alchemist, Roc’s raps are subsequently crisp and reducing, and it feels such as you’re listening in on a adorned warfare common dictating his memoirs over a glass of whiskey. The Blaxploitation-honouring “Quantum Leap” sees Roc speak about seeing gentle on the finish of a tunnel, a line that displays a relaxed way of thinking after years of hustling on the unbiased circuit, whereas the elevated environment and luxurious piano-line of “Zig Zag Zig” greater than lives as much as a hilarious punchline about being “excessive as Giraffe’ pussy.” Right here, Roc Marciano is spitting a number of the finest rhymes of his profession—it could be no shock if he turned a brand new lyrical muse to Uncle Al, identical to how the late Prodigy was once. — TH

9. Mavi — Laughing So Onerous, it Hurts

Picture Credit score: Artist

It’s uncommon for a rapper to attribute their creations to femininity or softness, particularly in a style that’s recognized to weaponize such emotions in opposition to them. However that intentionality and self consciousness is what makes Mavi’s Laughing So Onerous, It Hurts stand tall in an overcrowded musicscape. The rapper’s sophomore launch is an invite into a fragile but wince-inducing means of therapeutic from loss and destruction whereas being forthright about how he contributes to his personal struggling. Emotions of disgrace (“Having My Manner”) and longing (“My Good Ghosts”) exist in congruence with ideas on fragmented relationships (“3 Left Ft”) and a dedication to the grind. Mavi raps with the knowledge of an outdated griot whereas absolutely embodying the arrogance and furor of a younger man in his early 20s; his light but inspirational cadence spurring listeners to hitch him in taking emotional stock inside themselves. — LL

8. Fortunate Daye — Candydrip
Lucky Daye Candydrip

Picture Credit score: RCA/Preserve Cool

Candydrip is a well-crafted album by Fortunate Daye and his key collaborator D’Mile. Lately, the latter has left a definite mark on the sound of contemporary R&B, and for Candydrip they workforce up once more to create poignant music impressed by ‘70s soul, including key pop components. Daye is aware of he’s one of many faces of R&B proper now. Nonetheless, he has extra bold tendencies, blurring the traces between R&B, pop, and alt, which might be heard on tracks like “Deserve” and “Fever.” — RM

7. Ari Lennox — age/intercourse/location

Picture Credit score: Artist

If Shea Butter Child had a extra mature, skilled, and sexier older sister with boundaries, it could be age/intercourse/location. On the album, Ari Lennox finds herself on the crossroads of ditching romantic uncertainty whereas maneuvering by way of an exhausting relationship life. From the opening observe “POF,” the place she questions the “lame fish” swimming in direction of her, to her flirtatious collaboration with Fortunate Daye, “Boy Bye,” which performs out with slick-talking forwards and backwards, Lennox’s storytelling chops and singing potential give the women an album for us by us. — KT

6. Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & the Massive Steppers
Kendrick Lamar Mr Morale And The Big Steppers

Picture Credit score: Artist

As his final album part of Prime Dawg Leisure, Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and the Massive Steppers was an bold finish to an period. All of his earlier albums proved his capabilities as a rapper and artist, pushing himself to create every thing from an idea album about rising up in Compton to an Afrofuturist homage to Black music of the previous and current. Even his second to final TDE album, DAMN., earned the Pulitzer Prize in Music. So, making a deeply private and susceptible double album as his follow-up wasn’t actually a lot of a shock. On Mr. Morale, Lamar is a person battling not simply himself however the expectations positioned upon him. He’s extra targeted with therapeutic himself than he’s being rap’s savior, making for an album that tackles the concept of cancel tradition, materialism, homophobia, transphobia, sexual assault, and extra. In addressing such complicated themes, Lamar is inconsistent and messy. Take “Auntie Diaries” for instance, the place Lamar’s use of a homophobic slur overshadows the affect of arguably one of the vital necessary tracks on the venture. Different instances, Lamar is so efficient at broaching these weighty subjects that it’ll probably go away you emotional, as is the case with the poignant confession that’s “Mom I Sober.” Mr. Morale isn’t Lamar’s finest, but it surely could possibly be his most bold, lyrically. To see him carry himself down from the rap God pedestal we’ve positioned him on and present himself as a fallible and flawed man, spoke to listeners — particularly Black males — in a means that different mainstream rap albums haven’t just lately.  — EW

5. Brent Faiyaz — Wasteland

Picture Credit score: Artist

On the opening observe of Brent Faiyaz’s Wasteland, “Villain’s Theme,” you hear a collage of interview clips surrounded by menacing synths and violin plucks. Inside them Faiyaz makes an attempt to reframe his “poisonous” artist label. He claims, as an alternative, that he musically paperwork an innately human quest for “short-term euphoria” inside a fast-paced existence. The album chronicles this passage as Faiyaz is led by the looming strings of producer Jordan Waré to his eventual doom. Faiyaz’s signature croons really feel proper at house atop manufacturing that feels meant for a movie rating. His most thematic and narrative based mostly venture but permits him to make use of attractive melodic sparkles like dynamic scene cuts. Hear Faiyaz’s icey falsetto supply of “You simply spilled Louis 13 on my McQueens,” on “Rolling Stone,” or his sharp flutter turned to guttural melisma through the road, “Now my bitch hooked on Chanel,” on “Jackie Brown.” — Miki Hellerbach


Picture Credit score: Artist

Vince Staples holds his Lengthy Seaside origins near coronary heart on his fifth album. RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART ranges in moods, whether or not celebratory “(AYE! FREE THE HOMIES)” or grim (“WHEN SPARKS FLY”). Staples’ newest effort harkens again to sounds of his youth, with a nod to G-Funk legend DJ Quik and bringing collaborators Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign alongside for a experience. The album highlights narratives from these trapped within the cycle of gang violence as Staples connects his crime-ridden streets to common hoods — enter Atlanta rhymesayer Lil Child, who brings Staples to the Soiled South on “EAST POINT PRAYER.” — JTW

3. Steve Lacy — Gemini Rights
Steve Lacy Gemini Rights

Picture Credit score: Artist

If anybody wanted a peek into the multi-faceted minds and hearts of a Gemini, Steve Lacy gave the world its finest glimpse. Launching his second studio album, Gemini Rights, off into excessive gear with “Static,” we hear Steve profess being uninterested in boys and wanting a girlfriend, which in the end leads the way in which for baring honesty that solely continued to shine and be heard on a number of standouts all through the album’s period. Composed of 10 tracks, Mr. Lacy completely fused components of Up to date R&B, Jazz, Rock and different genres whereas remaining the primary character. If TikTok is to be credited for Steve Lacy’s Billboard chart success, It’s Gemini Rights that units a strong basis for his radiant future as a solo artist. — Travis Grier

2. Beyoncé — Renaissance
Beyonce Renaissance

Picture Credit score: Artist

Beyoncé’s sensible album Renaissance is a end result of the a long time she’s spent expressing herself musically. All through the album, she injects dance music, disco, and home which creates an vitality that’s infectious. The inclusion of legends Grace Jones, Nile Rogers, and Raphael Saadiq — along with modern acts like Hit-Boy, Tems, and Nija Charles — created an intergenerational musical trade that landed like a cultural comet. — RM

1. J.I.D — The Endlessly Story

Picture Credit score: Artist

“I bought the shit you might play on your mama; I bought the shit you might play for the hoes.”

That assertion couldn’t ring extra true for J.I.D who’s at his finest on The Endlessly Story, an album house to a large spectrum of information, from the hard-hitting “Encompass Sound” to the gospel-inspired “Sistanem” which, in some way, sound like they belong underneath the identical cohesive roof. That’s the great thing about J.I.D’s The Endlessly Story — J.I.D’s versatility as an artist constructs new ranges of pleasure on every observe. Sounding like considered one of R&B’s personal on “Kody Blu 31,” however spitting ferociously among the many greats on “Stars” and “Simply In Time,” this album holds J.I.D at his most supreme degree: poised, passionated, and exact. There can not be a dialog about immediately’s most gifted and constant in hip-hop with out J.I.D being among the many finest.  — TG