Selections of noteworthy hip hop.
Well, it’s half-way through 2023 somehow, so it’s time to round up some notable releases from the first half of the year. It’s been a bit quiet in my opinion and I don’t think anything is sticking out as a classic to me quite yet (except for maybe that Danny Brown and JpegMafia joint), but that doesn’t mean some quality stuff hasn’t dropped, or that I haven’t overlooked a ton of albums. Either way, here are a few more new drops from this year that stuck out to me just a bit.
Jack Harlow – Jackman.
What can I say, this goes down easy. Maybe not that greatest album of all time, but it’s nice and smooth – a throwback to the style of hip hop with a simple breakbeat, a nice sample and some competent lyricism. It’s not particularly boundary pushing and fairly easily forgotten and certainly not giving Harlow the “best white rapper brand since Eminem” brand that he’s looking for, but I gotta say, I enjoyed it for what it is. It’s solid, and I think Harlow’s heading back in the right direction after a few missteps in his previous albums.
Prof – Horse
Prof has been in the game for over 15 years making rap tunes, but I have never really tuned in before Horse, his eighth album. It turns out, I’ve been missing something right up my alley. Prof is funny, smart, biting and engaging. His lyrics are quick-fire bullets and the production is a tight, sonically unified selection that pulls the project into a new universe. Plus, Prof has gotten some fantastic features from Methodman and Redman, Kevin Gates and Cozz. I’m going to have to go back and dig into his earlier stuff now. More on Prof soon!
billy woods x Kenny Segal – Maps
I told myself I wouldn’t do this. I said, “Noah, haven’t you written about Billy Woods enough?” “Noah, do you really need to plug his next album after you plugged his last one and the one before that?” I really, really, really tried not to write about Billy Woods again, but what can I say, he doesn’t miss. Maps is the sequel to his work with Kenny Segal on 2019’s Hiding Places – which, if you are interested, goes for over $2k on vinyl these days. Their newest collaboration is everything you expect from Billy Woods – esoteric but profound bars over a layered production sound, full of abstract sounds and exciting vibrations. If you liked what you’ve heard before, you won’t want to miss what comes next.
Metro Boomin – Heroes & Villains (Villains Version)
Metro Boomin has been running the production game out of Atlanta for the last decade or so, and along the way dropped a couple solo albums, including last year’s Heroes & Villains. I took a listen then and always it was immaculately produced, but it felt a bit empty somehow and really long. This year, in the lead up to his production-lead on the new Spiderverse film, Young Metro dropped the ChoppedNotSlopped version, full of pitched down vocals and slowed-down, promethazine-infused beats. To my mind, the purple version is much-improved, especially if you like that chopped aesthetic. And if you don’t like your beats chopped and screwed, well then, I assume you’re not fucking with Metro Boomin anyway and if Young Metro don’t trust you, Imma shoot ya.
Spark Master Tape – The Sale of a Soul
Speaking of chopped-up-sounding music, after a five-year absence, Spark Master Tape is back with some fresh SWOUP! With his trademark pitched voice and Memphis-inspired trap beats full of heavy bass and snap drums, Spark’s return brings along a level of consistency rarely seen. With a decade and five mixtapes under his belt, his latest album is nearly as strong as his debut. The Sale of a Soul sounds like it could fit in with any of his earlier albums – Spark is just as funny, dark and aggressive as he ever was and the production is the same sample-laden, bass-heavy, trunk-blasting mania as a decade ago. Now if only we could get it on some other streaming services, Spark might break on through.
Noah Springer is a writer and editor based in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @noahjspringer.