The Music God’s ‘Graffiti Street Symphonies’ Presents The Best of 2019 Top 50 HIP HOP releases
Once again it’s time for my Annual Best of lists. I often get asked how I come up with the lists and what criteria I use to create them.
During the year I receive hundreds of records from each of the genres that I create lists for. There is so much amazing music floating around out there, there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to showcase it all. I try to cover as much as humanly possible but it’s simply not possible for me to get to everything or give each record as much time as I’d love to give them all.
All of these bands and a ton more like them can be heard on my radio show, Auditory Riot, which airs live here on TapDetroit.com or can be heard in podcast form in various places.
With that being said, my tastes in music is unconventional at best and psychotic at worst. I love the independent spirit of music and find myself much more attracted to underground music than the mainstream stuff that corporate radio pushes. At the end of the day though, A diamond shines and Garbage is still garbage!
When choosing the music that makes my year end lists I keep a few basic rules in mind:
1) No greatest hits, re-issues, live, cover albums or box sets are eligible.
2) A record must contain a minimum of SEVEN songs to qualify, thus no EP’s will be included.
3) The list is NEVER based on record sales or commercial numbers.
4) Music is Subjective and these are simply MY favorites that have impacted me in personal ways, thus staying on my heavy rotation for the entire year. I am NOT sponsored by any band, label, PR or otherwise. These choices are mine alone!5) For the first time this year, I will be making playlists which will include my favorite song from each album. These will be found on both Apple Music and Spotify.
Now, let’s get to the fun!
50) Won Run – Won Run
Arkansas based Funk Rap that is just a blast to listen to. Imagine if Kottonmouth Kings and The Beastie Boys had an offspring.
49) The Good People – Good For Nuthin’
NYC based rap collective that takes Boom Bap back to it beginnings. A Modern record for folks that love that classic style!
48) Nas – The Lost Tapes 2
Nas returns with the second edition of the Lost Tapes series. Classic Nas style here.
47) Scarlxrd – Infinity
British rapper that combines rapid fire rhyming, metalcore screams, and industrial style beats in the vein of Ghostmane. Great record for when you just want to rage at shit.
46) Tom MacDonald – Ghoststories
Canadian Youtube rapper that records incredibly engaging songs with both a biting political message while retaining a great sense of humor.
45) Ill Conscious – Logistix
Baltimore based rapper that delivers a conscious style of lyrics mixed with boom bap beats.
44) The Game – Born 2 Rap
The Game returns here with his classic Advocate style for a CD that features Nipsy Hussle and many other greats. A definite return to form for Game.
43) Hell Rell – Forgive But Never Forget
The Bronx MC returns with a booming slab of songs guaranteed to give the speakers in your ride a proper beating!
42) Sutter Kain & Apollo Valdez – Dark Midnight
Sutter and Apollo worked together last year on the Pull The Fucken Trigger project and this sounds like a great continuation of that work. Dark, ominous, and definitely not for the weak, this record is for those that like their Rap music a bit more on the evil side!
41) Ill Bill & Stu Bangas – Cannibal Hulk
Savage rhyming, massive beats, and blast your face bass lines are what this release is comprised of. Another record not for the weak minded hip hop fan.
40) Spice 1 – Platinum O.G.
West Coast MC returns with a dose of that classic West Coast style he’s been delivering for almost 3 decades.
39) Prolific – The Hydra
Canadian rapper/producer/ more drops this record that combines fierce rhyme schemes with huge sounding production. Fans of people like Q-Unique, Merkules, and Diabolic will love this record.
38) Merkules – Special Occasion
Merk returns with more rapid fire rhymes that showcases his unique talent of mixing braggadocios lyrics with a biting sense of sarcasm.
37) Ghostface Killah – Ghostface Killahs
Ghostface drops what might be his best record yet. If you’re a Wu Tang fan, you’re gonna want this but if you’re not, this is probably not going to change your mind. Let’s face it though, if you’re NOT a Wu Tang fan, are you truly even a fan of hip hop?
36) Slaine – One Day
Slaine doing what Slaine is best known for. One of the true underrated Underground kings. Slaine never fails to deliver head slapping songs that will have you bouncing!
35) E-40 – Practice Makes Paper
Man, It’s E-40! Do I even have to tell you why this record is here? A Double CD release that continues the legacy that 40 is known for.
34) Sean Strange – Street Urchin 2
The 2nd CD in the Street Urchin series. It’s everything you loved about the first one but even BIGGER than the first. It’s Sean being Sean. I shouldn’t have to say more.
33) Recognize Ali – Underground King
With features from Vinnie Paz, Skyzoo, Lyric Jones, and more, this record slaps ya with knowledge and fire beats!
32) Epic Beard Men – This Was Supposed To Be Fun
Rap group that combines the talents of Sage Francis and B. Dolan. This is what Hip Hop is supposed to be in 2019 but very seldom is!
31) Onyx & Snowgoons – Snowmads
30 years into their career and Onyx sounds just as lethal as when they started. With Snowgoons production behind them, the guys sound even more intense than normal. This prolly won’t get them any new fans but those that are already fans are gonna love this!
30) Little Brother – May The Lord Watch
Phonte and Big Pooh return with their first new record in a decade. They deliver fire without missing a beat, like they been doing this the whole time.
29) L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae – Complicate Your Life With Violence
North Carolina based producer L’Orange teams up with rapper Jeremiah Jae here to deliver a slamming set of tunes that are smart, tough, and fun. A winner on every level.
28) Snowgoons – Snowgoons Infantry
The Goons are my favorite producers currently in the business! These guys never fail to deliver the most head rattling, dark, and vicious sounding hip hop that you can find. Flawless production that is mixed with the best underground rappers alive, this record is no exception. A masterpiece!
27) Diabolic & Vanderslice – Collusion
Bolic and Vanderslice join forces here for a record that is as hilarious as it is serious. Very few rappers can rise to the level of what Diabolic delivers when he’s at his best but Vanderslice totally does here. I hope these guys do more in the future.
26) Big Tone + House Shoes – Big Shoes
Detroit based rapper and producer is the first of a group of artists from the Motor City. If you doubt what Detroit has to offer (other than Eminem), this is a good place to start.
25) Sevin – 4eva Mobn
Christian rapper and head of the HOG MOB collective, Sevin is an artist that will not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind a Christian message in your music, I promise that Sevin delivers some of the most seriously uplifting hip hop you’ll hear!
24) Valid – Mihajlo
Detroit based Serb rapper Valid delivers his debut record that is a great introduction to his talent. I trust we’ll be hearing lots more from him in the near future.
23) Caligula Stylez – Rated Hardcore
A record that I found while checking out a different artist on Bandcamp, it immediately caught my attention with it’s grimey as fuck rapping and Onyx style delivery. I’d love to hear this dude on a Snowgoons track!
22) Madchild – Demons
Madchild delivers another winner with DEMONS. Everything you love about Madchild is on display here.
21) Lowkey – Soundtrack To The Struggle 2
British based Iraqi rapper returns with the sequel to his smash, Soundtrack To The Struggle. While not everyone may agree with the political heavy message here, you can’t deny that Lowkey is passionate about the message he is delivering. There’s hooks galore and serious flows that will turn heads for true fans of hip hop.
20) Vinnie Paz & Tragedy Khadafi – Camouflage Regime
Vinnie and Tragedy join forces here on a record full of songs guaranteed to terrify and confuse mainstream rap fans. That’s not a bad thing though. We need more records like this to keep underground rap alive!
19) Ras Kass – Souls On Ice 2
Ras returns with the sequel to his classic debut. Ras exposes uncomfortable truths about American culture in a venomous display of power here. Another record that will not be for the casual fan.
18) The Black Future Foundation – Black Is A Beautiful Thing
Comprised of Akron, OH based artists G-Blakk and Xcursion, they deliver a beautiful collection of uplifting tunes with a sharp political message that celebrates Blackness on all levels! Snag this one! It’s a GEM of a record that will definitely please all true Hip Hop fans.
17) Marlon Craft – Funhouse Mirror
Hells Kitchen based rapper delivers a bold set of tunes with a social justice message for the ages.
16) Xcursion – D.O.N.T.E.
Akron, OH based rapper Xcursion lands here with 1 of the 2 CD’s he released this year. With a sound that has a definite Method Man type of vibe to it, this record is a banger that sound huge when you’re rolling down the road in the whip!
15) Yelawolf – Trunk Muzik 3
Yela comes in with what was my early favorite for record of the year. Yela has gotten better with each record and I believe he’s finally found his TRUE style on this record mixing rapid fire rhyming over some of the most vicious bass lines this year!
14) Che’ Noir – The Thrill Of The Hunt 2
Buffalo based female artist that is the only lady to make the list this year. Che stakes her claim as the TRUE current Queen of Hip Hop on this one. Forget all these women out here rapping about ass, drugs, and money, Che is here to drop BOMBS on your ass and to let you know she’s not fucking around! Best female rapper in the biz for my money! If you do NOT know her name, you sleepin’ on one of the best in the game REGARDLESS of sex!
13) Rome Streetz – Noise Kandy 3
NYC rapper lands here with the 3rd edition of the Noise Kandy series. Full of excitable raps over crazy sounding beats, this is another perfect example of what TRUE Hip Hop should sound like.
12) Chris Orrick & The Lasso – I Read The I Was Dead
Detroit based artist and producer comes in with another unforgiving set of songs with a social conscience. Easily one of the best rhymers that Detroit has to offer! (yes, FAR BETTER than that OTHER white boy, for my money!) He’s once again delivered a collection that is guaranteed to challenge your conventions but will have your head rocking while doing it!
11) Madhattan – Brown Water Bible
Another rapper that I discovered while surfing Bandcamp. This became an immediate favorite. Full of Wu Tang style rhymes that are recorded over a huge mixture of styles. The type of record you listen to with the lights dimmed and just let your mind absorb the awesomeness on this thing!
10) Crucifix – Desperado
A long time staple of the country rap style, Crucifix is so much more than that. His life story is the shit that best selling action movies are made of. His talent for writing incredible hooks and laying some truly astounding rhymes over them is why he’s one of the most sought after rappers in the South.
9) Apollo Brown – Sincerely, Detroit
Apollo created this project for the sole purpose of showcasing all the amazing talent from the Motor City that is NOT named Marshall Mathers. I get that Em has earned his place in Hip Hop, but I’ve truthfully never gotten the hype. To me, the talent is SO MUCH deeper here and this is the perfect example. A massive amount of talent is on display here all produced flawlessly. If you want to know what DETROIT style Hip Hop TRULY IS…look no further!
8) KRS-One – Street Light
One of the TRUE Godfathers of the art, KRS is still out here showing us how this shit is supposed to be done! These young cats WISH they could throw down with HALF the talent this dude brings! Absolute KNOWLEDGE bombs all over here! Turn this thing on get your brain elevated!
7) G-Blakk – The Soundtrakk
Akron based G-Blakk drops here with his newest solo record that is years in the making and well worth the time we waited for this one to drop! If I owned a label, this would be one of the FIRST people that I would go after! A record full of conscious style rhyming, killer beats, and window rattling bass, don’t sleep on this cat! I’ve long believed it’s only going to take the right person hearing him and he’ll blow up!
6) Diabolic – The Disconnect
I became a fan of this guy from his work with Immortal Technique. He’s long been one of the Top 5 living MC’s in my book! Absolutely vicious rhyme schemes that are not for the casual fan, this is for us cats that treat the art as a religion!
5) NF – The Search
It’s been sort of surreal watching this guy go from a local Michigan based rapper to blowing up into one of the biggest rappers in the world right now. Of course the Eminem comparisons are going to be obvious to most, I believe that NF has far surpassed Em on every level. Everything about this record is a testament to how much power music can have to save lives. This one has to be listened to LOUD to really appreciate all the little intricate details of the production.
4) Snotty Nose Rez Kids – Trapline
Canadian First Nations rappers that land here with their 3rd release. I was turned onto these guys from their “Creator Made An Animal” video. It was an immediate kick in the ass that had my head rocking while chair dancing across the studio! This record deserves every award it gets and more!
3) Crypt – Tales From The Crypt
I discovered this guy from his Youtube Rapper Reacts series. His videos are great and when I finally heard the record it was one of those “HOLY SHIT!” moments! It’s been a long time since I’ve truly FELT a record like I felt this one! I’ve literally LIVED what he’s rapping about on most of these songs. This has been on almost constant repeat since I first heard it!
2) NEMS – Gorilla Monsoon
I discovered NEMS from his appearance on a Chris Webby track earlier this year. Another HOLY SHIT! moment. Sometimes you hear a rapper that you doubt if they ever lived what they rap about…and then sometimes you hear someone that you JUST KNOW is ALL ABOUT the life they rap about. Nems is one of them rappers you can just TELL would be a serious ANIMAL if you crossed him! When it comes to new artists, pound for pound my FAVORITE in the game right now!
1) Kuniva – The Bando Theory
So, after saying what I said about NEMS, you might wonder how I have this one above him? Well, this is kind of a record that I didn’t WANT to like due to it’s association with Em…but it’s just an undeniable Hip Hop fucking CLASSIC! With that same kind of ferociousness that made Wu Tang so unique, this record personifies everything that is DETROIT!
Grimey as fuck rhymes and ground shaking beats showcase why Kuniva might be one of the most slept on artists in Hip Hop. This record truly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as 36 Chambers, It Takes A Nation, Illmatic, and Ready To Die as a record that is an absolute classic in the genre! Hands down, my most listened to record this year and one that I recommended to so many friends, they’re sick of hearing me talk about it!