From Nas To Nardo Wicks, Little Simz To Lloyd Banks – AllHipHop’s 20 Best Albums Of 2021

From Nas To Nardo Wicks, Little Simz To Lloyd Banks - AllHipHop's Best Albums Of 2021

The year in albums was amazing and the diversity was amazing. From Little Simz to Lloyd Banks and Nas to Nardo – it was all there in 2021.

The innumerable number of albums that are released every year is almost impossible to keep track of. It is equally difficult to quantify which albums are “the best,” taking into account personal preferences, charting data, regional biases, the hood vs the computers vs the critics vs the fans vs the industry, and then some. Here is our list of 2021’s best, but drop your faves in the comments.

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Little Simz gave us one of the absolute best album of 2021. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert presented Hip-Hop with everything it could be and perhaps should be. The British-Nigerian rapper burst through globally in 2021 with a true classic and an honest opus that presented lyrical prowess fused with the introspection of a wise, ol’ sage. She gave us 1998 Lauryn Hill vibes without sounding like her predecessor. She tumbles over issues like systemic racism, family beef, toxic relationships, violence, and her “daddy issues” without sounding preaching, overbearing or corny.

 There’s a war inside, I hear battle cries
Mothers burying sons, young boys playing with guns
The devil’s a liar, fulfil your wildest desires
Now I don’t wanna be the one to doctor this
But if you can’t feel pain, then you can’t feel the opposite
The fight between the Yin and Yang’s a fight you’ll never win
I study humans, that makes me an anthropologis

– “Introvert”

Musically, Little Simz was one with the sonic landscape of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, giving listeners a true gem and offering other rappers a portrait of an album as art. This 19-track trek with a young Black female was a journey worth riding shotgun. [Listen Here]

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert - Album by Little Simz | Spotify

Lloyd Banks – Coti (The Course of the Inevitable)

Lloyd Banks did that ish. The former G-Unit rapper finally made a truimphant return with Coti, his fourth studio album. The album represents the “Comeback of the Decade” with over 10 years between studio albums. However, Banks came back with a vengeance by sharing his truth unapologetically (his daughter is featured on the album art) and rapping with the best of them (Benny The Butcher, Ransom, Freddie Gibbs, Styles P). Coti is chock-full of maturity, but the impact is not diminished with lessened punchlines. Some say the album was a bit too long, but after 10 years, he had plenty to get off his chest. With praise from Travis Scott, J. Cole, Busta Rhymes, and others, the future is bright. [Listen Here]

C O T I - song by Lloyd Banks | Spotify

Boldy James – Bo Jackson

 The Alchemist and Boldy James are quite a dynamic duo and Bo Jackson is the third full album from the pair. Bo Jackson is a continuation of their previous work. The Detroit emcee’s slow, cocky, menacing, and possibly sociopathic temperament is present, but he turns it up even more. The Alchemist also rises to the occasion opening up a portal to grander songs like  “Fake Flowers”, “E.P.M.D.”, and “Steel Wool”.  Earl Sweatshirt and Roc Marciano show up on “Photographic Memories,” offering a cornucopia of chill, a real treat. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but we’re here for it. [Listen Here]

Bo Jackson - Album by Boldy James, The Alchemist | Spotify

Tyler The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost

Tyler The Creator had something to prove and he proved it while rubbing it in the face of certain purists. He spun the block on those haters with Call Me If You Get Lost, his middle finger to convention…while embracing convention. But with Tyler, nothing is truly normal. The album, a partnership with DJ Drama has all of the ostentatiousness of a blockbuster, but also the tenderness of an acoustic soul singer that employs electronics from time to time. He has this cocky brashness that, coupled with his natural boyishness, that sounds like a kid that finally made it. Frank Ocean, 42 Dugg, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, Pharrell, and others. They all join in the adventure that is Tyler The Creator. [Listen Here]

Call Me If You Get Lost - Tyler The Creator - playlist by Meech La'Flare |  Spotify

Lil Durk – The Voice (Deluxe)

Lil Durk continued to be the street’s favorite and The Voice Deluxe helped keep him there at the top. The Voice is dedicated to King Von and he doubles down on the notion with the deluxe version. The album, a 28-track monster, serves up a posse of guests. Also, The Voice Deluxe presents a less inhibited Durk, freer to be himself in full, as the original stopped at 16 songs. One thing is for sure, the re-up is a bit more somber, painful,d and basks in paranoia. At this point, the Chicago staple deserves all the wins he gets. [Listen Here]

The Voice (Deluxe) - Album by Lil Durk | Spotify

Nas – Magic

AllHipHop’s emcee of the year had one helluva year. Dropping Magic in the latest hour of December, he certified his year in stone. The QB King talked that talk the whole time on his second album in 2021. On “40-16 Building” he spews, “Take my quotes, I’m here to give hope/ Start a company from one of my phrases / We in the age of letting dumb sh#t kill your kingdom / Body bags for no reason, young sh#t, blunts lit, slurring off of the Seagram’s.” A terse 9-tracks, this album exemplifies why we love Nas so much. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, Nas’s style is impetuous, his songs are impregnable, and he’s just ferocious on the mic. Magic isn’t bogged down by guests, but A$AP Rocky and DJ Premier make appearances. And, of course, there is Hit-Boy, who is really an impressive complement to Nas. [Listen Here]

Magic - Album by Nas | Spotify

Mozzy – Untreated Trauma

Mozzy managed to do something that most don’t: capture the environment that cultivated him. Untreated Trauma gives us more than a look at life in  Oak Park, Sacramento. The Cali rep paints a picture while presenting a delicate balance between blessings and tragedies, balling and falling. The results are reminiscent of a “Menace II Society” spin-off that delves sonically into the intimacies of the hood. However, Mozzy is not from South Central so the nuances are apparent here as well. Despite the red hue, denoting his hood tribe ties, the album is not as dark as it seems, nor is it truly addressing the trauma. But Mozzy is not dishonest and neither are  EST Gee, Babyface Ray, Celly Ru, Kalan.FrFr, who ride shotgun. [Listen Here]

Untreated Trauma - Album by Mozzy | Spotify

Nardo Wick – Who Is Nardo Wick?

Nardo Wick had everbody asking the question: Who Is Nardo Wick? By the end of the year, the intended audience new the answer. The Jacksonville, Florida native became reknown for his impactful song, “Who Want Smoke?” Charismatic and confident, Wick drops lyrics that are the sum total of his Southern influences. The 20-something employs violent imagery (See “Chop Chop” and “Blam Boom”) to hype folks up and yet this oft-terrifying concept only strengthens his position. Overall, Who Is Nardo Wick is nu trap, a multi-dimensional talent, laid-back and deadly. [Listen Here]

Who is Nardo Wick? - Album by Nardo Wick | Spotify

Young Thug – Punk

Young Thug’s Punk has nothing to do with the musical genre or the suggestion that he’s a coward. The album offers a portal for Thugger to become even more experimental than in the past. “Die Slow” opens Punk and sets the tone with a soft accoustic, drumless beat and a vocal backdrop. It is an interesting juxtaposition. The album is uncharacteristically soft unless somebody like J. Cole jumps in and adds some rougher texture. Thugger joins him there though and that is the beauty of this album. However, at 20 tracks, it does get a bit long. By the time, “Rich Ni##a Sh#t” comes Thugger and the late Juicewrld give a welcome change in tone. “Bubbly” with Drake and Travis Scott offers the same. Overall, this album offered enough for most listeners and pushed the boundaries. [Listen Here]

Punk - Album by Young Thug | Spotify

Key Glock – Yellow Tape 2

Key Glock’s Yellow Tape 2 offers no guest appearances and he pulls that off. In this era of over-collaboration and audience sharing, this is quite the feat. The 24-year-old South Memphis native continued to be uninterested in being carried. He rides a beat effortlessly though. Folks like Pyrex and Juicy J help tremendously and Key Glock obliges. Pop this tape in the whip and go for a ride. [Listen Here]

Yellow Tape 2 - Album by Key Glock | Spotify

DMX – Exodus

We lost DMX in 2021. That sh#t hurt. However, before he departed the earth, he left us with Exodus. His 8th album was intended as a comeback album, so it is inundated with guest appearances. Jay-Z, Nas, Swizz Beatz, The Lox, Moneybagg Yo, Benny The Butcher, Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, and more. Truthfully, Exodus is not X’s best work (we’re talking about the Grand Champ here), but it allowed us to say goodbye properly. It also underscored the evolution of a man that had endured addiction, mental health woes, the streets, stress, and more. Moreover, we got to hear “A Letter To My Son,” an absolutely heart-breaking song full of insight. Every DMX album offers a prayer. Now we offer ours. [Listen Here]

Exodus - Album by DMX | Spotify

Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B

Westside Gunn has steadfastly served the fiends with his special brand of dope. The A-Side of Hitler Wears Hermes 8 was an incredible feat, but he topped it a month later with Side B. Technically this double album is supposed to be played as one unit, but it is also technically two distinct albums. 20 songs. The project features Larry June, Conway The Machine, Benny The Butcher, Tyler The Creator, 2 Chainz, Jay Electronica, Mach-Hommy, and others. Hitler VIII finalizes the popular mixtape series with an exclamation point with more producers than the first album and also more. Gunn is an icon in business, music and also art curation. Respect to all the producers too. JR Swiftz, Nicholas Craven, Daringer, Jay Versace, Madlib, DJ Green Lantern, The Alchemist and numerous others hold it down. This is fine art redefined. Pure and uncut.


Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B - Album by Westside Gunn | Spotify

Young Dolph & The Paper Route Empire – PAPER ROUTE iLLUMINATi

PAPER ROUTE iLLUMINATi is technically a “mixtape” – Young Dolph’s words – but we have no choice but to include it in the list of great albums of 2021. It is also a compilation album of Dolph and his consortium of rappers that harken to the old days of Hip-Hop dynasties. So, Key Glock, Snupe Bandz, and Joddy jump headfirst into the fray and Gucci Mane joins for the win. The project clocks in at a whopping 78-minutes, but it never wears out its welcome. The crew keeps it interesting on songs that range from maniacal & menacing to straight storytelling. The sad reality is PAPER ROUTE iLLUMINATi was Dolph’s last project before he was brutally murdered in his hometown of Memphis. May he rest in peace. [Listen Here]

Listen to Paper Route Empire's Compilation Project 'Paper Route Illuminati'  | Complex

Nas – King’s Disease II

Nas has the distinction of being the only rapper with two albums in the year-end. Before Magic’s release in December, King’s Disease II was an incredible work for the 48-year old. And then came Magic, which was arguably better. Regardless, KD2 remains a powerful work that could garner the native New Yorker another Grammy like its predecessor. Eminem, Lauryn Hill, EPMD, A-Boogie, YG, Charlie Wilson and, of course, producer/rapper Hit-Boy. Nas is aging in reverse and if he continues in this fashion, with this level of quality, his kingship will be undisputed. [Listen Here]

King's Disease II - Album by Nas | Spotify

Baby Keem – The Melodic Blue

Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue felt like it came out of nowhere, but he was born into this creatively. The cousin of Kendrick Lamar, truly managed to define himself as a creative force. The Melodic Blue splashed the Billboard 200 chart with an estimated 53,000 total albums moved and he became a critics darling. “Trademark USA”, “Pink Panties”, “Range Brothers” (with K-Dot), and other songs from TMB made Keem a darling with critics and fans alike. [Listen Here]

The Melodic Blue - Album by Baby Keem | Spotify

Wreckage Manner (Style P and Havoc) – Wreckage Manner

There are artists that emulate the real and there’s the real. Both Havoc and Styles P are party to a pair of acts that shaped the hardcore horizon in New York City. The Mobb Deep and The Lox brethren come together as Wreckage Manner. The album of the same name gives a more introspective glimpse at a pair of gangsters that has – to quote Prodigy – “seen it all, been through it all.” The results are stellar.  “Nightmares 2 Dreams”, “Hymn To Him”, “F#ck Around” and other songs gave fans of “real rap” fans all they needed in 2021. With Hav on the beats and both vets on the rhymes, this is an exceptionally good album. [Listen Here]

Wreckage Manner - Album by Styles P, Havoc | Spotify

J. Cole – The Off-Season

J. Cole made his triumphant return to rap in 2021. He didn’t disrupt the order with The Off-Season but managed to shake things up nicely. The album presented the North Carolinian as his most musically diverse and his co-dees show up in a major way as well. 21 Savage, Lil’ Baby, Cam’ron, Bas, Morray, Lil’ Jon all show up in impressive, varied fashions. The star of the show is Cole, who dazzles lyrically at times. “Put an M right on your head – you Luigi’s brother now,” he drops. Cole has consistently captivated audiences and The Off-Season is not different. He covers a wide range with songs like “p u n c h i n ‘ . t h e . c l o c k” (emotive), “l e t . g o . m y . h a n d” (introspective/spiritual), “9 5 . s o u t h” (lyrical crunk), “a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e” (bars) and more. Salute, Cole. [Listen Here]

The Off-Season - Album by J. Cole | Spotify

Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2

The original was immaculate as a brick of pure white and the sequel did not disappoint. On The Plugs I Met 2, The Butcher returns to the sordid conditions that made him what he is today. With the dirty production by Harry Fraud, the album comes close to being as good as the first installment. The “hood Bill Gates” really impresses on the one and manages to solidify himself as one of this era’s greats. Sure, the drug talk wears thin at times, but Benny makes it sound so good. Benny succeeds, in part by, standout performances from Fat Joe, Chinx, 2 Chainz, French Montana, Jim Jones, and breakout star Rick Hyde. [Listen Here]

The Plugs I Met 2 - Album by Benny The Butcher, Harry Fraud | Spotify

Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram

The Alchemist continues to be a fixture in the musical landscape of Hip-Hop, gently shaping the culture from behind the boards. Armand Hammer pushes the underground upward with Haram in a way that harkens to the Golden Era of subterranean rap. “You don’t gotta be here if you don’t wanna,” Armand yells on the brief track “Roaches Don’t Fly.” But song after song, we are drawn in like flies to feces. There’s quite a high level of mastery here – from both men as Earl Sweatshirt, Quelle Chris, Curly Castro, and others jump in the fray. That’s word to J-Live, Kool Keith, The Juggaknots, Company Flow, and others that paved a way for this to blow the manhole off. [Listen Here]

DOWNLOAD ALBUM: Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – HARAM | Tbtjamz

Drake – Certified Lover Boy

Drake cannot be ignored. He continued to bully the charts and set a standard for Hip-Hop to flourish in pop music. Certified Lover Boy was a triumphant return of sorts even though there were numerous delays. When it finally hit, the landscape shifted. CLB debuted at Billboard 200, pushing a massive 613,000 album-equivalent units In this day and age? Who does that? Drake! This was the largest opening week of any album in 2021. On top of that, it was Drizzy’s 10 number-one album. He also shattered Apple Music and Spotify records for the biggest opening-day streams on those platforms. Bruh. Fans enjoyed the album and Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Giveon, Jay-Z, Project Pat, Tems, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Future, Young Thug, Yebba, 21 Savage, and Kid Cudi jumped on to co-sign this as the commercial album of the year. [Listen Here]

Certified Lover Boy by Drake | Spotify Playlist