10 Modern Hip Hop Projects You Might Have Missed
Hip hop has been so exciting this decade, with such a variety of artists and sounds throughout the mainstream and the underground. However, there is still so much great material that people either haven’t taken the time to check out or don’t even know about. In no particular order, here are ten more hip hop projects I think deserve a little more praise and attention.
1. Shottie & TeV95 – GOAT FARM
GOAT FARM is the explosive collaboration between rapper Shottie and producer TeV95. Shottie has a swagger to his voice which matches well to the charm of his lyrics. His writing is full of witty wordplay and punchlines and no shortage of braggadocious bars, giving him such a confident presence which dominates any track. TeV95’s production builds on this confidence and amplifies it, with aggressive beats to build on his energy and softer moments to allow Shottie’s rhyme skill to be on full show. The beats on GOAT FARM are diverse but the project remains cohesive thanks to the consistent performances from Shottie. Some of my favourite beats include the fluttering piano of “Keep It Pushin”, the melancholic horns of “My Plug” as they rise and fall, and especially the chopped up vocals on “Terp Talk”. It’s a great collaboration where both artists shine, and leaves me excited to see them work together again.
2. Mourning Run & Skip the Kid – Great Tribulatia
If you’re a fan of abstract hip hop, I highly recommend Great Tribulatia. As someone who is familiar with most of Skip the Kid’s work, I was delighted to find this is one of his best produced works yet. The beats can be dense and futuristic at times such as on the amazing opener “Full Reduction” with its ominous synths and heavy bass, or with the endless record scratches and rising strings of “Skip Scratches”. Aside from the production, both halves of Mourning Run give excellent performances, with more confidence and fire to their verses than ever. The rhyme schemes and wordplay is just as intricate as the beats Mourning Run rap over, and guests like Patty Honcho and KnowItAll don’t fall behind either.
3. Blank Thought – Winter Break
Blank Thought is a producer who scarcely had a rest from beat-making last year, and he’s keeping up the momentum in 2023 with Winter Break. The list of features on this album fit the ethereal sound of Thought’s music perfectly. A few notable examples are Wesley Rocco on “a titan in my own right” who flows effortlessly over the throbbing bass, and Jonny Farias on “you’ve got my best regards” whose layered alliteration and rhyme schemes make for an impactful verse to kick off the record. The main highlight, of course, is Blank Thought’s production. Many of the beats are understated, with faint melodies looping in the background while hard bass and crashing drums weave in and out between samples. Winter Break captures a chilling, ethereal atmosphere, as frigid as the ice-blue of the album cover.
4. Noveliss – Vagabond
I wish I had discovered Vagabond earlier in the year, because it’s one of the most lyrically mature and sonically elegant hip hop projects I’ve heard from 2022. Inspired by the Takehiko Inoue manga of the same name, Vagabond is full of powerful imagery and uplifting storytelling linked to the literature it’s based on. Noveliss has a straightforward but satisfying delivery to his lyrics, maintaining a steady flow where the detail of his writing is the main appeal. Complementing his style is the gorgeous production which builds the soft and tranquil atmosphere with layers of ascending synths and groovy bass. In only twenty minutes, Noveliss accomplishes more than many rappers could in an hour.
5. J4K – BIBLIOTHEQUE
In terms of instrumental hip hop, BIBLIOTHEQUE is an immediate highlight from 2022. Full of groovy basslines and sparkling samples, it’s one of the most crisply produced projects of the year and needs no vocals to be an engaging experience. The clatter of drums and high-pitched synths on “BIG JONES” last less than a minute, but the simplicity of the elements and the brevity of their presence make it a short and sweet highlight in the tracklist. In contrast, the layers of detail on “KONG” – with animal noises and (what sounds like) the crash of waves weaving in and out of the funky beat – justify its length and form one of the most immersive moments on the album. J4K’s sound is simple on the surface, but listening closely there is an impressive level of detail and precision to each song which makes every beat a joy to listen to.
6. Thought Provokah – I Let My Tape Rock Til My Tape Pop
As soon as I heard I’M GOOD I’M GOOD in December last year, I was hooked on Thought Provokah’s lyrically mature and conceptually imaginative brand of rap music, and his new album is just as great. The album explores all of Thought Provokah’s inspirations as an artist, going through all the music and experience which shaped his sound today. It’s a brilliant celebration of music injected with moments of thoughtful introspection. With a diverse list of producers credited, the album has an ever-changing sound tied together by Thought Provokah’s inability to spit a bad verse.
7. 2nd Cousin – The Cookout
2nd Cousin is the duo of rapper Noah Brasos and producer Act Won, and the two complement each other so well. Noah has a dominating presence on this EP, with an unflinching bravado to his performance which hooks me to every verse. The subject matter ranges from despairing introspection to unfiltered braggadocio, and Noah’s performance is made even better by the support of Act Won. Act Won’s production choice on the project is so diverse, with no two tracks sounding similar. “Orthodox” is easily my favourite beat on the EP, formed of a blend of atonal sounds to create this strange, ominous atmosphere. The glimmering synths on “2nd Cou2in (Represent)” have the same futuristic sound of house music, showcasing just how dynamic the production is on this project. In under twenty minutes, 2nd Cousin hop across the musical spectrum, borrowing elements from various genres and combining them into one of the most exciting EPs of the year.
8. Onwuka & INSMNC – Portals
I’ve been lucky enough to hear Portals early, and I can’t recommend more that you mark your calendars on 20th January for the official release. It’s a wild concept album where Onwuka is teleported through portals into different worlds, detailing all the strange settings and stories of the worlds he ends up in. INSMNC’s production style is loud and futuristic with no shortage of synths, giving the project a similar feeling to Del’s Deltron 3030 but even more chaotic. Onwuka matches the manic production perfectly with an animated performance where his charisma never wavers, spitting verse after verse with unrivalled passion. The two work together perfectly, with INSMNC’s beats and Onwuka’s lyrics making the concept so vivid and complete.
9. BlaQ Chidori & Skelbeats – BlaQ Osteology
Skelbeats flexes his versatility as a producer on BlaQ Osteology, straying away from the horror-inspired darkness of That’s Not My Skeleton and going for a more joyous sound with a heavy emphasis on jazz. “Rain On BlaQ Skullz” is instantly catchy with the looping horns, kicking off the album on a high. BlaQ Chidori thrives on this more upbeat sound, with an arsenal of one-liners and bars of witty wordplay to spit on every track. This album is also a relatively new sound for Chidori too, in stark contrast to the hard-hitting griminess of White Melodies earlier last year. Together, Skel and BlaQ are a great duo, playing on one another’s strengths while also encouraging each other to break new ground and challenge themselves. While I enjoy their solo catalogues, I can’t wait for the duo to get together again.
10. Klwn Cat & Matt Draugos – Dragon Li
Much like other artists on this list, Klwn Cat is a producer whose work ethic is simply inhuman, with the quality of his work never wavering despite the never-ending quantity of his output. Dragon Li is one of his best works yet, being a full collaboration with rapper Matt Draugos. The production is some of Klwn Cat’s most cinematic, such as the dramatic saxophone on “Anti-Gravity Sails”, the triumphant melody of “Moose Tracks” or the explosion of vocal samples and ominous strings of “Whiplash”. And that’s not to say Matt Draugos doesn’t pull his weight, because his performance throughout the album is consistent, rapping ferociously from beginning to end as if he never has to breathe. The list of guests make this an even more exciting listen, with a few of my favourite appearances being BlaQ Chidori and KnowItAll on “Iron Monger” and Patty Honcho on “Walls of Jericho”.