The 20 Best Rap Albums of 2023: Staff Picks

It was a strange year for rap. For the first time in over two decades, an entire calendar year passed without a rap song topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart (Doja Cat’s “Paint the Town Red” came to the rescue in August and broke the dry spell). That, and the overall drop in sales across the genre, had many believing that rap’s time as the most popular music in the United States was drawing to a close. Of course, those worries were a bit unfounded. Drake and 21 Savage as well as Lil Durk and J. Cole dropped hits that peaked at #2. And then Drake and J. Cole would team up later in the year to grab the #1 spot with their explosive collaboration “First Person Shooter.” So, yeah, while rap wasn’t doing as well as in previous years, it was still able to create memorable moments that captured the attention of the entire world of pop culture.

Moments like Bronx newcomer Ice Spice dropping her debut album, which proved she had more up her velour sleeves than “Munch.” Or, the aforementioned Doja Cat putting her money where he mouth is and releasing a project that’s majority rap. Or Gunna making one of the year’s catchiest, most meme-able songs, on top of an album better than anyone who just came home from a contentious prison stint had any right to make. Or what about Jack Harlow surprising everyone with his most personal project yet before going away and making what may turn out to be the biggest single of his career so far?

The year may have started slowly, but, in the end, it delivered. And we think next year is going to be even better. So while we wait for 2024 to officially begin, check out 20 of our favorite rap albums of 2023.

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