20. LÄRS – MOLOTOV
PROD: GRIMM DOZA, REVENXNT. FEATURING: SANJIGGYRONIN, GRIMM DOZA, CRIS SHIMMY, SKULLLELEVEN.
Easily the finest project Dots has released this year, Molotov compiled some of his best previously released Doza collabs (‘Toro‘, ‘Twacked‘), alongside a handful of brand new joints to create an excellent fourteen track album that will likely go down as one of his best. This is certainly his most focused, rewarding effort from a songwriting perspective, sitting comfortably alongside classics like Nudes and Opiates. The melodically-inclined songs (‘HOMiNiD‘, ‘X-Ray‘) here are easily amongst his best, and a great place to jump into the rapper’s discography.
19. BLOOD MONEY – YEAR OF HORROR 2
PROD: ICXXY, BLOODLINE GENESIS, LOKO LOS, JEWISH REAPER, SNOWICY, STEALTHMOBBMUNEY, RLVVNT. FEATURING: CYRUS KROW, RONIN REDUX, BLU LEE, SAMEFLANNEL.
Lovingly (or hatefully, I guess) compiled over the course of ‘the most depressing summer ever’, Blood Money FKA Koran’s second official project Year of Horror 2 is a blistering nineteen minute tour of the most enthrallingly vivid musical universe that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this year. This guy has the perfect voice for hip-hop as raw as this, his snarl is palpable and threatening but also filled his pain and anguish. The beat selection here is absolutely impeccable, as is the feature list, and honestly if this had been longer it would have ranked a lot higher. Here’s to an amazing 2020 for you bro, Year of Horror 3 will undoubtedly be a massive step up once again.
Also worth checking out: Year of Horror.
18. BARRY MARROW – THE SHED IS THE OVEN
PROD: VIKRAM, FRANK SRIRACHA, KILLER KANE, ISAAC LARUE, BIZZAR, RUCI. FEATURING: SEKWENCE, BIG BREAKFAST, BIGLARRY.
The long awaited album proper from New Jersey MC Barry Marrow packs in everything that makes his music great: an inimitable confidence exuding from every word, surprising snapshots of melodic proficiency, and of course his musical partnership/friendship with executive producer Killer Kane. It may be a short release, but there’s zero filler here and each song is extremely memorable and carefully pieced together (especially the two part centrepiece ‘Laguna/Soul Sleeper‘). For Barry the only way to go now is up, and I hope to hear a sequel to this sooner rather than later.
17. GOODNIGHT ELIJAH – FORWARD MOTION!
PROD: CLEEXSHAY, NIKO, MELOGOD, PLUG CLUB, TYYDEKU. FEATURING: SAMEFLANNEL.
I covered this tape earlier in the year and I had many great things to say about it, all of which I firmly stand by, but I really must stress quite how well-curated this project is. Elijah is often his own worst critic, but he achieved something really beautiful with Forward Motion! and I can’t wait to hear more from him in the new decade.
16. BIG J – DIRTY SOUTH
PROD: SCREWMANEFLAME, RUCI, HERME$, TYRIS WHITE, SPACEGHOSTPURRP, SOULJA LOS, DRETTI FRANKS, VNUS808. MIXING: 4JAY. FEATURING: GRIFFIE, HERME$.
Another short but sweet project, Dirty South stands tall at the top of of Jay’s discography due to its thick, syrupy atmosphere that imbues every track with a uniquely southern sound. This guy is an astonishingly good rapper and in order to display this talent to its fullest potential he assigns the few guests that are here to the very necessary hook work. Dirty South takes on a breezier, more carefree sound in its final third, and this really helps to distinguish it from similar offerings that have dropped in the past twelve months as well as to establish Jay as one of XL Cartel (and Palm Beach in general)’s most versatile secret weapons.
15. KRONE – XRK NEBULA
PROD: KRONE, LIL TRVSH, KRXXK, THUKK!, SAYDA, RODEOGLO. MIXING: DJ SLUR. FEATURING: BLOODYBAY, JONI, EVILLAIRE, 4JAY.
Krone and Joni have described themselves as making hellscape drill in the past, and really there’s no better description for their planet-shattering musical ventures. Originally a five track EP, the former’s first full length project is now at a healthy ten tracks, eighteen minutes long and every minute of it is essential listening for anyone searching for a truly unique experience in an over-saturated, often homogenous underground scene. This is a glimpse into the grimy future of the genre, straight from the frontlines of Yorha.
PROD: LORD JAH-MONTE OGBON, BIG GUCCI KROW, DJ RAY, WEIRDOUGH, BRAIN ORCHESTRA, ANDY, DFNS, DAPZINI, KILLER KANE, GNASPHER, FLLS, DENZEL DAVON, SAMBON. FEATURING: DØØF, BRAIN ORCHESTRA, DFNS, JAYPLUSS, FLLS.
The crown jewel of Jah-Monte’s 2019 discography, God Body & Soul is an epic double disc that sees the Best Rapper in Charlotte go harder than ever over his most soulful selection of beats to date, delivering his trademark array of amazing adlibs between the toughest raps of his career. In all honesty, Jah-Monte levels up every time he drops and it would be a crime to state that only one of his albums from this year is top twenty worthy, but so are the rules.
13: HERME$ – LUNA DE SANGRE 2
PROD: SAYDA, SAM MURRAY, THAWICKETONE, LOKO LOS, IAMPISSED, ICXXY. FEATURING: 4JAY, ICXXY.
Of the six Herme$ projects that dropped throughout this year, Luna De Sangre 2 is the most fully fleshed-out. Unlike the first, entirely BMB-produced instalment in the series, this project has a diverse cast of collaborators that work in conjunction with the rapper to craft his most polished product to date. Sayda’s contributions to this tape are particularly worthy of praise, he provided Herme$ with some of his best beats ever on ‘Blvck Mxney‘ and ‘Super Android 17‘. Here more so than ever, the Palm Beach rapper proved himself to be a serious threat on the mic and one of the most elite artists in the current underground scene.
12. BIGLARRY – REFUTATIONS
PROD: KILLER KANE, REVENXNT, SOULFULJONE$, KLSR, ISAAC LARUE. FEATURING: LÄRS, SEKWENCE.
Every rapping member of Souless dropped at least one great project this year, but none were more anticipated than Refutations. Crafted tirelessly by Larry and a group of talented producers, the follow up to the uber-dark BitterEnd is a perfectly assembled seven track release. Kicking off with ominous, looped menace courtesy of Killer Kane (‘Chablis‘), things soon take a turn into more pummelling territory (‘Stoic‘, ‘Suva‘) and ends with an epic SeKwence collaboration (‘Diamonback‘) that proves that the chemistry that Souless have as a team is more powerful than ever before.
11. THUGYEEZY – TIME IS KILLING ME
PROD: SIR BACKHAND JONEZ, KILLER KANE, VIKRAM, KENI BURKE. FEATURING: CAMBANK$, BARRY MARROW, LORD JAH-MONTE OGBON.
Yet another project that I neglected to properly review in 2019, ThugYeezy’s sophomore effort is his boldest achievement to date. With Killer Kane on the executive boards, the album is razor sharp in sound and across it’s half an hour runtime features some of the best production that underground hip-hop has offered up this year. The raps here are absolutely ludicrous, if Yeezy was going off on Soon It Will All Make Sense then he’s essentially scorching the musical landscape with this one. Beautifully arranged, Time Is Killing Me deserves its dues as one of the year’s best straight-laced rap records.
10. WHOSE – OKAY, ROLL
PROD: WHOSE. FEATURING: PRETTY, URSUS., THE THOUGHT.
The conclusion to the The Yellow Dice Is Cursed trilogy, Okay, Roll is Whose’s most accessible, sonically pleasing collection of songs so far. The quasi-industrial savagery of Natural 1 returns, as do the more atmospheric, melodic passages found on Natural 10, but the way that these songs successfully combine utilise everything great about the rapper/producer/general jack of all trades’ music elevates them far above their predecessors. The beats here are more out there than anything released prior, the tense, tumultuous rumble of ‘MMA Showboat‘ and the rainy day jazz-hop of ‘SlimThug04‘ being just two examples of the rap smorgasbord that the California artist offers up here. Whose has never been a slouch on the mic by any means, but here he really stepped it up and sounds like a rabid dog on a chain from the moment that his gravelly voice rears its ugly head on ‘You Won’t Want Me When I’m Dead‘. Add in an outro that sounds like the theme to a sci-fi western TV series, and you have one of the most complete-sounding projects of the year on your hands.
9. FERRARA – BREAKDOWN
PROD: LXRD UNKNXWN.
Making the decision earlier in the year to essentially scrap everything that he’s ever released and start afresh, Ferrara bounced back explosively with the year’s best EP, Breakdown. Influenced by post-punk and synth pop, he utilised cavernous production from the UK’s Lxrd Unknxwn for a short but incredibly sweet slice of musical perfection. Ferrara is still rapping here, but he’s also projecting like Ian Curtis on six flawless hooks. Make no mistake, if you tune in to this release it will be the most enjoyable seventeen minute experience you will have this year.
PROD. BLOODLINE GENESIS, CONTACT LENS, NOVELIST, SHINOBI DAV.
Remi might just be the best discovery that I made in 2019. I’ve covered him numerous times now, and I’ve said a lot about the quality of this tape in the process, but I still feel as if I haven’t fully conveyed the importance of this release. A true landmark in the UK underground scene, this tape is jam-packed with brutalising flows, crushing atmospheres and monolithic sound design. To call Winter Souljuh merely a great mixtape would simply be an injustice, this is likely the sound that will shape the scenes on both sides of the Atlantic for years to come.
Also worth checking out: Remi’s Revenge 2.5.
7. KLI9SE – KLI9SE
PROD: LOKO LOS, ZEROSUIT, KILLKIN, SCREWMANEFLAME, LAZYGOD, CHIEF BEEF SALSA, SNOWICY, SHADOW STAR. FEATURING: 5G, XADAX, ERVO, JEWLE$, GAWD GRAZA, LIL PERCY.
Of any of the releases in my top 20, none of the processes by which they came to life come close to the painstakingly intense nature of Kli9se‘s creation. A few of these songs were released prior, like the 5G collaboration ‘Spawn‘, but the new cuts were developed with lofty ambition of making the rapper’s first full length tape a truly unique, defining statement in a scene awash with clones and copycats. They totally succeed, as right out of the gate the Kemo general is a force to be reckoned with. Attacking each of the cybernetic production masterpieces with immense precision, Kli9se never compromises his principles. In the latter half of the album, he raps extensively alongside the other members of his collective on three now classic tracks (‘Way2Hi‘, ‘Kemo9Acc‘, ‘Caution Tape‘) and ensures that Kemo made a significant stamp on 2019’s musical landscape. This is definitely the project that the rapper needed to make, and I couldn;t be happier that it turned out as perfectly as it did.
6. 4JAY – XXEXXXYMBOL
PROD: RODEOGLO, F16, LOKO LOS, 4JAY, LIL TRVSH. MIXING: 4JAY, DJ SLUR. FEATURING: LIL DISCEASED, SELLASOULS, 2SHANEZ.
4Jay dropped upwards of ten mixtapes this year, each plunging deeper and deeper into the seemingly limitless well of creativity that Jay and the other Jewel Xxet members draw from. Xxexxxymbol is the highlight of his 2019 to me, largely because it’s his most focused and concise and also because the beat selection is the best that he’s ever worked with across the board. His raps are as tough as ever and while his mixes are as demented and harrowing as they’ll likely ever been, I know for a fact that in 2020 his music will take on a completely different, even more unrecognisable form. Jay constantly releases new songs and always betters himself when he does, so picking just one of his projects from this year was a challenge, so you’d be doing yourself a real disservice by missing out on his output in the coming decade.
5. LIL DISCEASED – TRENCH MUZIC 3: THE AFTERMATH
PROD: LIL TRVSH, ZEROSUIT, 4JAY, CHARLESGLOBE. MIXING: 4JAY. FEATURING: FERRARA, 4JAY, HERME$, DARTH ROACH.
Another project that took its creator far longer than they initially anticipated, Trench Muzic 3 was undeniably worth the wait. Disceased has presented a fantastic roster of singles to us in the past six months, but those songs seem inconsequential when compared to this towering obelisk of an album. He’s unlocked previously unheard melodic tendencies here, applying them to many of the highlights here including ‘IDKWhyy‘ and ‘All I See‘ (perhaps the definitive SouthernGawthMobb track). Trvsh solidified himself to be one of the best producers in the underground with this one, something that he’d hinted towards multiple times throughout 2019 but has now become indisputable fact. There’s a reason that so many people want to do full length projects with the guy: his work on the boards is pretty much unparalleled. Disceased and Trvsh have always been the backbone of SGM, and here they leave the best statement of intent possible as we head into a new, even more prosperous decade.
4. KROW – BOOK ONE
PROD: C FRE$HCO, KILLER KANE, MANWITHXFACE, BIG GUCCI KROW, THELONIOUS MARTIN, BDB $UFF, TAYMASTERCHEF. FEATURING: BINK, SEKWENCE, THUGYEEZY, BARRY MARROW.
It’s obvious from the very moment that this tape begins that Krow poured his all into Book One, presenting as he has ten glorious tracks that each highlighted a key aspect of the rapper/producer’s rough, soulful take on hip-hop. Flanked by gorgeous production, the Alabama native unleashes vocal hell on nine of the songs here (rapping alongside fellow Souless titans SeKwence and Barry Marrow in the process) and flexes his beatmaking chops on three. Equipped with the most effective single rollout of the year, Book One was a guaranteed hit from the start and is undoubtedly only the beginning of the group’s most understated member’s conquest of his field.
3. Astral Trap – Special Tech Equipment
PROD: GYPTXVN, MANNY DUBBS, CRMSON, AKIMAT, CHOP000, ZEPEDA, ZOOT, VISION4K, NEIGHBORHOOD ARION, STEVIE DURAG, ALIENGAWD, BENJISTACKS, EOG, FELD, CHARLESGLOBE, SCREWMANEFLAME, DXVL, RAINS DEAF. FEATURING: GUSH GOD, QUUN.
If there’s one thing to take away from Astral Trap FKA Dari Loso’s enormously successful 2019, it’s that he’s no stranger to putting together truly epic sets of songs. This twenty five track album is the stronger of the two full lengths that the currently Seattle-based rapper delivered onto us this year, it’s production ranks filled with the best of the best and its atmosphere denser and more tangible than literally anything else worth listening to in the underground rap scene today. Each song is included on the basis that it fits into the vast, overarching theme of futurism found on STE, and yet thanks to Dari’s incredible work ethic each track is a perfect track in its own right. There’s a mystical energy to the music here, a feeling that affects every fibre of your being and leaves you wanting much, much more despite the vast wealth of Dari’s music currently at your disposal. Stratagem Witch is likely going to be even more incredible.
2. SEKWENCE – WONDER IF HELL HAS A BUFFET
PROD: THELONIOUS MARTIN, NTVRME, OXELA, SPVCED, ISAAC LARUE, KILLER KANE, KWANLI, RUCI, REVENXNT, DWEEB, PROMISE, MANWITHXFACE. FEATURING: SWADE, BARRY MARROW, TINA, NTVRME, LÄRS.
What hasn’t been said about this album already? SeKwence is now weeks away from releasing his supposed magnum opus Lake Water, but it’s almost hard to envision how it could possibly be better than this. WIHHAB is an astounding album that constantly surprises and challenges expectations of what the Alabama MC’s music should sound like, and for now at least it contains the best rapping that he’s ever put to record. Checkout my full review for a detailed breakdown of the album, and keep a look out for this guy in 2020, he’s about to come with even more heat.
1. SLY QUEASY & THUGYEEZY – BEFORE THE FUNERAL
PROD: QUEASY, AASIR, PROMISE, KIEZIN, HOOLIGAN, RIORIDGEVONTE, FUTURE DE GRAMPS. FEATURING: GNETICZ, ALPINE, SEKWENCE.
I was torn on what to palce at the number one spot for a while, but in the end I realised that awarding it to anything but Before the Funeral would be a massive mistake. Sly has told me numerous times that the album was incredibly difficult to put together and that it was a long, arduous journey that led to its release, but I for one an eternally grateful to both rappers that it eventually saw the light of day. These two have a chemistry like no other, bouncing off of each other’s rhymes and inspiring harder raps around every corner. This is a frequent occurrence across these ten songs and, while Sly handles the bulk of the hooks and many of the beats, on every song this truly feels like the work of a a genuinely great pair of friends that are pushing each other to be better artists. You can read my original review here, but all I’ll say for now is that no other album this year brought me the unparalleled joy that this project did. For that reason, it’s my album of the year by a significant margin.