10 Best Rap Albums of April 2022

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 April 2022 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven't spent enough time with some great April 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).

billy woods

billy woods - Aethiopes
Backwoodz Studios

In the past two years, billy woods released two of the most highly acclaimed underground rap albums in recent memory with Armand Hammer (his duo with ELUCID), as well as a collaborative album with Moor Mother, but he hasn't released a solo album since 2019's Hiding Places and Terror Management. That changes today, with Aethiopes. Like Hiding Places, the new album was entirely helmed by a single producer, this time Preservation, who's best known as one half of Dr. Yen Lo with Ka and as a longtime Mos Def collaborator. woods and Pres have worked together before -- including on Terror Management -- and they prove to have a ton of chemistry for the length of this entire album. As stunning as the last two Armand Hammer albums are, that project tends to have a little more of an abstract haze than woods' solo material, and Aethiopes finds woods delivering his most direct, fired-up bars since Hiding Places, with punchlines that pop out at you and stick in your head right away. He's also roped in some truly great guest verses, including from El-P, Boldy James, Quelle Chris, Despot, Fatboi Sharif, Denmark Vessey, his Armand Hammer partner ELUCID, and more, and the variety of different style rappers keeps the momentum of this album going. It's a lean 13 songs that always leaves you wanting more, and it gets better every time.

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Pusha T

Pusha T - It's Almost Dry
Def Jam

Kanye's Wyoming Sessions ended up being a hit-or-miss project, with Kanye's own albums being one of the misses, but if there's one artist who actually used those sessions to push their career forward it was Pusha T. As great as the Clipse member's first two solo albums were, Daytona took Push's solo career to a new level and further established him as not just a veteran but one of the best traditional rappers of present-day. When classicists like Freddie Gibbs and Benny the Butcher needed standout guest verses for career-boosting albums like Bandana and The Plugs I Met, the post-Daytona Pusha T was there to do both. Hype for Daytona's followup started building ever since Push dropped a couple non-album singles in 2019, and now that it's been another three years, anticipation is impossibly high. Fortunately, It's Almost Dry proves that Pusha T is still doing what he does best.

The new album was co-produced by Pusha T's frequent solo-career collaborator Kanye West, and also by The Neptunes, who were entirely behind both of Clipse's classic first two albums. Kanye also appears on two tracks -- one alone and one with Kid Cudi -- and The Neptunes' Pharell Williams is on "Neck & Wrist" alongside Jay-Z. Don Toliver, Lil Uzi Vert, Labrinth, and Pusha T's Clipse partner Malice are on the album too. You can hear the influence of both Kanye and The Neptunes, with the vintage soul samples that the former built his career on as well as the trunk-rattling maximalism that The Neptunes revolutionized rap, pop, and R&B with. The result feels like the culmination of everything Pusha T has touched for the past 20 years, and he rises to the occasion with bars as tough and memorable as he's ever been.

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Vince Staples

Vince Staples - Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Blacksmith Recordings/Motown

Last year, Vince Staples released his great self-titled album, a collection of the the most intimate, plainspoken songs he'd ever released. Around the same time he was making that album, he also made Ramona Park Broke My Heart, and he says there's a "direct correlation" between the two albums, saying, "I was in a similar state of mind. I’m still working through things and the questions that life poses." The difference, he adds, is that "this one has more answers." The other difference is that, after making the most minimal, bare-bones music of his career on the self-titled LP, Ramona Heart finds him returning to a more upbeat, accessible sound. Still, it's Vince Staples, and "accessible" is relative; the album's got some undeniable hooks, but these songs are still too eccentric to qualify as pop-rap, and they're just as personal and introspective as the songs on his last album. Like every Vince Staples album before it, it sounds like nothing else in his discography and it serves as a reminder that Vince refuses to make the same album twice. His career has been an ever-changing journey, and at this point it's very clear: coming along for the ride is always worth it.

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redveil

redveil - learn 2 swim
self-released

Maryland rapper/producer/pianist redveil has been steadily rising and staying prolific since dropping bittersweet cry at the tail-end of 2019, and learn 2 swim has quickly become the breakthrough that he's deserved for a while. When asked about formative influences, the 18-year-old names Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, artists who -- if you want to feel old -- have been making music for more than half of redveil's life. He got co-signed by Tyler after releasing 2020's niagara, and he's only gained more famous fans since then. He celebrated his 18th birthday with a video featuring life and career advice from Denzel Curry, Saba, MAVI, Rich Brian, and femdot. He's currently on the road opening Freddie Gibbs' tour, and after that he'll open part of Denzel Curry's tour too. Among the guests on learn 2 swim are Fly Anakin and Ovrkast (both on "automatic"), two of the most prominent voices in underground rap right now. learn 2 swim is entirely self-produced, and you can hear the influence of Tyler and Earl in its glistening keys, jazz passages, and warped soul samples. You can also hear Denzel Curry in redveil's delivery, which is often fired-up and accessible in a way that separates him from the growing number of hazy-sounding Earl Sweatshirt acolytes. It's not unusual for a young, up-and-coming artist to sound like a product of their influences, but redveil is already bringing something new to the table too. He's twisting together everything he learned from his heroes and reshaping them in ways that feel as fresh today as those artists did a decade ago.

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Fivio Foreign

Fivio Foreign - B.I.B.L.E.
RichFish/Columbia

When the ascendant Brooklyn drill star Pop Smoke was tragically shot and killed at 20 years old, not long after (not undeservingly) declaring himself the new king of New York, comparisons were immediately made to Biggie. It was a comparison that had legs; like Big before him, Pop and his distinct low voice brought a new sound to the birthplace of hip hop, and in the years since his passing, his legacy has only grown. Fivio Foreign, a fellow Brooklyn drill rapper and former Pop Smoke collaborator who once lived in Pop's shadow, now releases his proper debut album B.I.B.L.E., and he looks to be positioning himself as the Jay-Z to Pop Smoke's Biggie. He's the student that's carrying the torch for his hero, and continuing to bring what Pop started to the masses. B.I.B.L.E. is the mainstream-friendly album that Pop never got to make, with polished production and slick R&B hooks that give the album widespread appeal without sacrificing the unique Brooklyn drill sound. Its lead single "City of Gods" even feels like a direct sequel to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." Like that song, it features Alicia Keys singing a hook about New York City, and it also features co-production and guest vocals from longtime Jay-Z collaborator Kanye West, who actually said Fivio reminds him of Hov. On it, Fivio raps, "Pop was the king of New York/Now I'm the n**** in charge," a sentiment Jay-Z has expressed about Big on multiple occasions.

"City of Gods" quickly became a hit, so much so that Alicia Keys already released her own "City of Gods (Part II)" to capitalize on its success, and B.I.B.L.E. seems poised to keep the momentum going. It clearly aims to be a Blueprint-style classic, and whether or not it will be that impactful, it does share some traits with that album. It has street songs, radio songs, a sentimental slow jam ("Left Side"), and the songs never drag or blur together; each one stands on its own, and almost any of them seem like they could be Fivio's next hit. With 17 tracks, it sounds long on paper, but it actually clocks in a few minutes shorter than The Blueprint, and in an era where mainstream rap albums tend to run long, it's refreshing how carefully constructed this one feels. And all these Jay-Z comparisons would feel too hyperbolic if Fivio didn't sound so much like a star. Fivio hasn't always sounded this focused, but on B.I.B.L.E., he has the confidence and the vision needed to get the whole world paying attention.

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Defcee

Defcee - For All Debts Public and Private
Closed Sessions

Chicago rapper Defcee released one of 2021's more underrated underground rap albums with the Messiah Musik-produced Trapdoor, which was released on billy woods' Backwoodz Studioz label, and now he's back with a new album, For All Debts Public and Private, this time released on Closed Sessions and produced entirely by the label's in-house producer, BoatHouse. billy woods may not be releasing this one, but his group Armand Hammer reprise their role as guests (alongside Closed Sessions artists Kipp Stone and Mother Nature, as well as SolarFive and greenSLLLIME), and Armand Hammer's inclusion is a perfect fit. They've pushed their way to the forefront of abstract yet laser-focused underground rap, and their fans would benefit from hearing Defcee, who scratches a similar itch and operates at the peak of his powers on this LP. (Fans of classic Def Jux should take note too.) With just 11 songs in 32 minutes, Defcee trims all fat and just zeroes in on delivering impactful song after impactful song. Some say you should always leave 'em wanting more, and Defcee definitely does.

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EST Gee 42 Dugg

EST Gee & 42 Dugg - Last Ones Left
CMG/Interscope

Louisville's EST Gee and Detroit's 42 Dugg are both rappers who know how to achieve pop-level accessibility without sacrificing their street-level grit or their regionally-specific sounds. They're both signed to Yo Gotti's CMG label, both have high-profile Lil Baby collaborations, and both have collaborated with each other on multiple occasions too. They've got a lot in common, great chemistry together, and some of the most appealing voices in modern rap, so it should come as no surprise that their new collaborative project Last Ones Left feels like one hit after the next. A lot of the most-loved joint rap albums of the past decade or so have come from two superstars, but Last Ones Left is a great joint album from two rappers on the come-up, each sounding hungrier and hungrier as the album goes on, eager to prove themselves as they simultaneously aim to out-rap and uplift their friendly opponent. If Gee and Dugg keep going at this rate, it might not be long before they are superstars.

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Digga D

Digga D - Noughty by Nature
CGM/EGA

"I'm as hard as Stormzy and Dave," the 21-year-old UK drill rapper Digga D asserts on "Statement" off his third mixtape Noughty by Nature. He hasn't achieved nearly the same level as international crossover success than either of those rappers, but Noughty by Nature did just top the charts in the UK, and his music is a lot rougher around the edges, but Digga D's commercial ambitions aren't necessarily accompanied by pop-friendly tendencies. "Anything you hear man rapping about is facts, nothing's fabricated," he assures on "Intro," alluding to other UK drill rappers he sees as less authentic. Like other drill rappers around the world, Digga D has had his fair share of run-ins with the law, and as detailed in the BBC documentary Defending Digga D, he's been given a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) that limits what he can say in his music, which is why Digga D himself has bleeped out several names and places mentioned in the songs on this new tape. More so than fellow Brits Stormzy or Dave, Digga D's path to fame mirrors that of 50 Cent, another rapper who took authentic street smarts to the top of the charts, so it's fitting that Digga samples and/or interpolates not one but three of 50 Cent's hits on Noughty by Nature, sourcing "21 Questions" on "Hold It Down," "Best Friend" on "What You Reckon," and G-Unit's "Stunt 101" on "Pump 101." (50 also isn't Noughty by Nature's only link to the States; US rappers Moneybagg Yo, Hotboii, and B Lovee all appear on this project, lending it even more transatlantic appeal.) The mainstream-ization of drill has been polarizing, as politicians scapegoat the genre and crossover stars get accused by fans of watering down its roots, but Digga D seems like he's reveling in all the controversy that surrounds him, making winking references to the things authorities don't want him to say while growing increasingly popular off the strength of sheer talent alone.

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Action Bronson

Action Bronson - Cocodrillo Turbo
Loma Vista

When Action Bronson released his 2011 breakthrough debut album Dr. Lecter, he emerged as a '90s-rap devotee who was entirely at odds with the mainstream rap of the time, but he continued to rapidly rise and signed an unlikely major label deal just a few years later. But the pop-rap world never fully suited Bronson, who returned to an indie label a few years ago, and even as his chart presence decreased and reviews of his music got less enthusiastic, Bronson's fanbase remained strong, as evidenced by the many large shows he's played recently. He's always stuck to his guns, even when it wasn't trendy to do so, and that seems like it's paying off. Likeminded artists that have long been in Bronson's inner circle like Griselda, Roc Marciano, and The Alchemist have been getting more attention than ever lately, and Bronson's new album Cocodrillo Turbo fits squarely into that world, with production from The Alchemist, Roc Marciano, in-house Griselda producer Daringer, and Bronson himself, and appearances from Roc, Griselda's Conway the Machine, Bronson's longtime collaborator Meyhem Lauren, and Meyhem Lauren's equally talented, equally '90s-sounding brother Hologram. All of the guests are in fine form on this thing, as is Bronson himself, who sounds as invigorated here as he did a decade ago.

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Ockham's Blazer

Ockham's Blazer - Ockham's Blazer
Fake Four Inc

Ockham's Blazer are a new seven-piece group fronted by underground rapper PremRock (also of ShrapKnel), and their self-titled debut album takes you on a journey through jazz and psychedelia, and PremRock's alt-rap style goes perfectly with the stirring backdrop. Read more about it here.

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Honorable Mentions
Coi Leray - Trendsetter
Future - I Never Liked You
Girl Talk, Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T., and Smoke DZA - Full Court Press
Jae Skeese & Big Ghost Ltd. - Authenticity Check
Josiah the Gift - Mightier Than The Sword (Side B)
Ransom - No Rest for the Wicked
Tee Grizzley - Half Tee Half Beast
Sadistik x Kno - Bring Me Back When the World Is Cured

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