[LISTEN] BEST ALBUMS OF 2021

As we come to the end of a long and exciting year for music, we’ve rounded up our favourite projects that arrived in 2021 and take a dive into why we’ve picked them…

Ghetts – ‘Conflict of Interest



The only slight that people have been able to make against Ghetts during his trailblazing career was the lack of a classic album. This notion is certainly debatable when considering either of his ‘Ghetto Gospel’ projects, yet ‘Conflict of Interest’ has put this topic of conversation to bed for good. The album is the East London rapper’s magnum opus, and as is implied by the title of the first track, ‘Fine Wine’, Ghetts is only getting better with age. There are West-Coast influences on the production for ‘Hop Out’, while elsewhere Ghetts uses the featured artists on the tape brilliantly, providing heterogeneity when the album needs it most. ‘Conflict of Interest’ will go down in UK music history as the album where Ghetts cemented himself as one of, if not the greatest to ever do it.
Joe Simpson

Larry June – ‘The Orange Print

June’s ‘Orange Print’ is the statement piece album to reiterate everything the west coast artist is about. Coupling his seasoned Mac Dre rap style, which is loaded with the motivational language of E-40 and the forceful nature of Iyanla Vanzant, June has created his own seat in the world of luxury rap. The braggadocious nature of Larry in ‘Orange Print’ romanticises green tea dates, early morning hikes, smoothies and green cosmograph Daytonas. Equally justifying his thug, per se, June reminds listeners he’s ‘one hund’, affirming himself as a ‘James Bond with the new coupe, sipping green juice, counting money,’ in ‘Still Cookin’. Decorating his profile with intricate rhymes about his comic book collection, financial freedom and cars (Tangible Assets), ‘Orange Print’ is the guide to positive thinking and health. Larry June plays the role of a wise sensei over dreamily smooth 70’s samples, instructing his listeners on a different formula in a world riddled in a pandemic, and genre that indulges in materialistic happiness. Recruiting Trae The Truth, Money Man, Herm Lewis and Dej Loaf, ‘Orange Print’ is yet another bold reminder of the sonic workflow of Larry June. Thandie Sibanda

M1llionz – ‘Provisional License

‘Provisional License’ is one of the most exciting drill projects to come out this year, as M1llionz built on a fantastic 2020 to deliver his longest and most inventive body of work to date. The tape centres around skits of a car journey between the rapper and a girl, already showing no fear in terms of stepping out the box. His conversational, unique flow has become iconic, and when this is backed up by the stellar production of Honeywood and Jevon, M1llionz is a force to be reckoned with. The Birmingham man teamed up with Headie One on ‘Air BnB’, whilst also showing signs of experimentation with flows and vocal performance on the Michael Jackson inspired cut, ‘Mobbin’. If this project is anything to go by, M1llionz will be a mainstay in the UK scene for many years to come. Joe Simpson

Vince Staples – ‘Vince Staples

Offering his 6th instalment following a 3-year hiatus, the hip-hop game has sorely missed Staples’ cutthroat wit, his inappropriately hilarious charm and his supernatural methods of freestyle. Teaming up with Kenny Beats to deliver a lovechild of easy-going yet effective instrumentals, Vince has entered his self-titled album hour, historically a classic album if you ask Beyonce and Aaliyah. 

Vinces’ rap style mimics that of a cartoon network melodic tale but is packed with the smartest and wittiest punchlines. The comedic side to Vince is almost bittersweet in this project, we do hear it in his adlibs now and then, but this album is a confessional undertone for the slow drive listeners and those willing to listen. There isn’t a lot of comedy in Vince’s paranoia and gang-life PTSD confessions, “Hanging on them corner/ the same as hanging on a ceiling fan”, he declares on ‘Sun Down’, but it makes sense this being his most “personal album yet”.  Some may find humour in his confession to staying far away from Malibu and Calabasas since his newfound wealth.

Angst-ridden as it may be, Vince is still effective in evoking a cool demeanour throughout. With interludes that feature his mother’s words and a nod to a childhood friend (‘Lakewood Mall’), the album is a talk to those who are willing to listen and an opportunity for his fans to take in a different side to Vince. . Vince sits at a comfortable space at which he isn’t looking for the latest chart-topper; in his own words, ‘made it out don’t make shit for the masses,’ Vince wants his flowers in pay and not fame – he’d rather laugh from the sidelines of mundanity, but he’s grateful for the growth. Thandie Sibanda

Jevon – ‘Fell In Love In Brazil

Jevon is an artist whose music has somewhat flown under the radar, but that takes nothing away from his immense talent in terms of both production and lyricism. The album encapsulates the artist’s heritage, mixing Hip-Hop and UK Rap whilst basing itself in a Brazilian soundscape. Jevon’s bars are thoughtful, witty, and always seem to match the mood of the instrumental, whether he is playing the tongue-in-cheek outsider on ‘Gringo’, or soul searching on ‘Ego’. ‘Fell In Love In Brazil’ is an album that is coherent and refreshing, and Jevon should be celebrated as one of the UK’s greatest talents. Joe Simpson

Skii Fall – ‘WoiiYoie Tapes Vol 1.’

Skii Fall is the latest crooner on the streets. A sharp tongue that speaks in patois but amalgamates a Montreal swagger, ‘WoiiYoie Tapes Vol.1’ is just a taster of the talent. The small EP, boasting a 3-strong lineup under Graduation Records, solidified Skii Fall as a ‘one to watch’ rocket. Combining the Sad boy rap style that Uzi sprang, while equally packed with the punch of a driller – WoiiYoie exhumes the coolest vibes. Skii Fall’s ability to ride a beat, as displayed in ‘My Gully’ left blurred lines as to what genre he actually fits into, but left listeners with an excitement as to the musical opportunities that could be delivered from the talent. Thandie Sibanda

Dave – ‘We’re All Alone In This Together

There really is no stopping Santan Dave. Following his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Psychodrama’ was always going to be a mammoth task, but with ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ Dave has managed to release two game-changing projects by the age of 23, which is almost unheard of and demonstrative of his talent. Guest appearances from the likes of Stormzy and Wizkid amongst others bring variety, but when Dave finds himself solo, this is where he is able to convey emotion so brilliantly through both his bars and performance. ‘Heart Attack’ will go down as one of the most powerful and thought provoking tracks of the year, while ‘Three Rivers’ shows the rapper’s knowledge and insight on difficult topics. It is scary to think that we might not have seen Dave’s prime yet, but in the meantime, his greatness must be acknowledged. Joe Simpson

Mach Hommy – ‘Pray For Haiti

New Jersey rapper Mach Hommy explores his heritage on this album, including a ‘Kreyol (Skit)’ that examines the Haitian language and colloquialisms through an academic lens. Released by Griselda Records, there are three guest appearances from Westside Gunn, adding his signature flows and cadences to dreamy soundscapes and, complimenting Mach Hommy beautifully. This is particularly apparent on the track, ‘Folie á Deux’, while Mach also proves across the tape that he can carry a track on his own, with ‘The Stellar Ray Theory’ one of the stand out rap tracks of 2021. Griselda Records certainly have a winning roster, and Mach Hommy is an integral part of it.  Joe Simpson

Little Simz – ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Little Simz has opened doors this year, not only for women in rap but also for the UK in general. ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ combines elite levels of lyricism with experimental sounds,  creating an outstanding body of work that build upon the success of Simz’s last release, ‘Grey Area’. The artist explores her relationship with her father beautifully on ‘I Love You, I Hate You’, while ‘Standing Ovation’ feels as if we are seeing the rapper at her pinnacle. Gaining recognition and acclaim on both sides of the pond, it seems that Little Simz is at the forefront of a golden era of UK Rap, and shows few signs of slowing down. Joe Simpson

Tyler, the Creator – ‘Call Me If You Get Lost

There is no one in the world of rap and hip-hop that seems to enjoy the freedom of artistry as much as Tyler, The Creator. Following on from the experimental and critically acclaimed ‘IGOR’, Tyler decided to go in a completely new direction on ‘Call Me If You Get Lost’, bringing some nostalgia for the mixtape era by drafting in DJ Drama to create his own Gangsta Grillz mixtape. Tyler also brings out the best in others, as can be seen with the performances of NBA Youngboy on ‘Wusyaname’, or Lil Wayne on ‘Hot Wind Blows’. The mercurial unpredictability that the artist possesses will always generate excitement for Tyler, but it feels as if he has found comfort in creativity across his last two projects, subverting genres and elevating him to superstar status. Joe Simpson

Lily Mercer’s Notable Mentions

Headie One – ‘Too Loyal For My Own Good’

“This album stayed on repeat for the longest time and I honestly preferred it to 2020’s ‘Edna’. Displaying the trademarks of Headie’s sound and why many consider him the king of UK Drill, there was also a versatility and softness shown with songs like ‘Satisfy Me’.” 

Don Toliver – ‘Life of a Don’

“Front to back a winner, this album was on repeat for weeks in my house. Featuring party tracks like ‘5X’, plus super chill melodic vibes on ‘Double Standards’ and ‘Way Bigger’.

BackRoad Gee – ‘Reporting Live (From the Back of the Roads)’

“Literally perfect front to back, I got chills multiple times listening to this project. It’s one of the first times I’ve heard such a perfect blend of Hip Hop and Afrobeats on one project.”

Young Nudy – ‘Dr EV4L’

“I love this album so much, there’s a solid run of songs that are truly magical. Plus the features are elite, with Young Nudy’s cousin 21 Savage making an appearance. The G Herbo link up was a surprise treat, with their different styles merging in a perfect way.

Freddie Gibbs x Madlib – ‘Piñata [Deluxe]

“For many rap lovers, this is album of the year for sure. Epic Madlib production and as always, the highest quality of lyricism served up by the King Freddie Gibbs. Released a whole seven years after the original., this was a real treat for fans of the original”

Westside Gunn – ‘Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely Adolf’

“We know exactly what to expect from Westside Gunn and the eighth part of the Hitler Wears Hermes series did not disappoint.”

Conway The Machine – ‘La Maquina’

“We love us some Conway and La Maquina is one of the stand outs from his entire catalogue. The production is insane and we love it.”

Digga D – ‘Made In The Pyrex’

“After ‘Woi’ we all needed more Digga in our lives and this project was pure Drill, making it one of the most significant bodies of work for that genre. He left his mark on the scene with the project, making him one of the front runners for UK Drill”

Benny The Butcher x Harry Fraud – ‘The Plugs I Met 2’

“With beats laced with Harry Fraud’s magic, Benny the Butcher slid with grace. The features were dynamic too, with an unexpected cameo from 2 Chainz that became one of my faves from the EP”.

Big Scarr – ‘Big Grim Reaper’

“I first heard Big Scarr around Spring when this album dropped. As the cousin of Pooh Shiesty and a 1017 artist, the album was full of fun features. Plus his “whoa, let’s go” ad-lib is my favourite of the year.” 

Bruiser Brigade – ‘TV62’

https://bruiserbrigaderecords.bandcamp.com/album/tv62

“Danny Brown fans need no introduction to Bruiser Brigade but 2021 saw the collective reach new heights. With Bruiser Wolf leading the charge, this is one to check out if you didn’t in 2021.”

Lil Durk x Lil Baby – ‘The Voice of the Heroes’

“Two of today’s most high profile rappers was bound to be special and Durk and Baby did not disappoint! Baby’s verse on the title track set the pace for this album and had me hype even before the release. 

Young Thug – ‘Punk’

“While i still hold 2019’s ‘So Much Fun’ at a higher regard than ‘Punk’, I loved the softer side of Trap shown by Thugger on this album. ‘Road Rage’ stays on repeat. 

Maxo Kream – ‘WEIGHT OF THE WORLD’

I’ve loved Maxo’s music for close to a decade now and this album was his most mature project yet. Features were fire and production insane while still maintaining his trademark style.”

Kanye West – ‘Donda’

“Obviously we have to include album that spawned the debate of the year! Also a must mention, due to the fact I had ‘Remote Control’ featuring Young Thug on repeat.”

Drake – ‘Certified Lover Boy’ 

“Mentioned for the same reasons as above, plus the fact ‘Way 2 Sexy’ was impossible to escape this year.”

Joe’s Notable Mentions

Potter Payper – ‘Thanks For Waiting’

K-Trap – ‘Trapo

Children of Zeus – ‘Balance

Juls – ‘Sounds of My World

Jordy – ‘SMH

Unknown T – ‘Adolescence