20 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2019 - Rolling Stone
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20 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2019

In a year where rap’s biggest stars (Kanye West excepted) took a break, a new class of stars, from Megan Thee Stallion to DaBaby to Roddy Ricch, emerged. These are the albums that defined the year in hip-hop

20 Best Hip-Hop Albums

While 2018 was a year of titans re-entering the fray — we got albums last year from very nearly every heavy hitter, from Drake to Nicki and Kanye West to Jay-Z — 2019 was all about new names. DaBaby bookended the year with two thunderous statements in Baby on Baby and Kirk; Megan Thee Stallion established herself, quickly and confidently, as one of the most charismatic lyricists of her young generation; and Roddy Ricch broke through seemingly every month with a new hit, before dropping his uniformly excellent Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial. A new cadre of Chicago rappers emerged, led by Polo G and Calboy, who put an emotive twist on the city’s traditionally nihilistic scene, and crafted two of the best albums of the year in the process. Meanwhile, near-veterans Young Thug and Tyler, the Creator put out statements that, in retrospect, served as coronations. They, along with the chaos-courting Brockhampton, put out their most assured work to date, and established their commercial weight alongside critical consensus. These are our picks for the best hip-hop albums of the year, now that all the introductions have been made. 

Young Thug
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Young Thug, ‘So Much Fun’

For six years, Young Thug was an uncontainable force: The otherworldly linguistics, the riotous ad-libs, and borderless melodies, along with the dresses and skirts and gender fluidity, broke a genre in need of breaking. But after a string of critically lauded yet commercially disappointing releases, Thug’s momentum stalled. Then So Much Fun resuscitated the mercurial musician. Direct and digestible, the album is Thug at his most streamlined. There are no heady concepts or genre detours; instead, the track list is loaded with major stars (Future, J. Cole, Travis Scott), and every beat is uncomplicated and dynamic. Thug ceded the floor on “Hot” and “Bad Bad Bad” to his streaming behemoth protégés (Lil Baby, Gunna), engaged in a rare press run, and dropped video after video. After years of deconstructing hip-hop and remaking it in his image, Thug spent 19 songs playing the game, and in the process became the commercial star he was destined to be.

Polo G
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Polo G, ‘Die a Legend’

“I’m a killer, girl, I’m sorry/But I can’t change,” Polo G raps in the chorus of his hit “Pop Out,” the centerpiece of the Chicago rapper’s debut, Die a Legend. In someone else’s hands, that apology would be cursory; in Polo’s, it’s a thematic concern. Chicago rap is having a moment this year — its sound is melodic, pained, beautiful — and Polo G is the emerging leader of a new class of rappers from the city. It’s easy to see why. Die a Legend is a remarkably confident full-length, marked by both a sensational ear for beats and a near-reflexive sincerity. Just as he can turn a party track regretful in a second, Polo’s delivery is perpetually nimble, always searching for the gap between rapping and singing — it’s not a new approach, but in Polo’s hands, it feels like an announcement.

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