So much rap music comes out all the time, and especially with frequent surprise releases, it can be hard to keep track of it all. So, as a way to help keep up with all of it, here’s a roundup of the 10 rap albums from August 2023 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven’t spent enough time with some great August rap albums that aren’t on this list. What were some of your favorites of last month? Let us know in the comments, and read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order).
Noname – Sundial
Noname’s new album is here! Even getting to say those words feels like a minor miracle. It’s been a long five years since the Chicago rapper released her masterful Room 25, and Noname has threatened to retire multiple times since then. She even suggested she might shelve this album after announcing it, due to social media backlash about it having a Jay Electronica guest verse. That’s just one example of Noname being pressured to respond to criticism that other rappers wouldn’t be subject to, and you can feel her exhaustion from being a public figure coming through in these new songs. On “Balloons,” she laments the fact that so many fans want rappers like her to write songs about trauma. On “Potentially the Interlude,” she asserts: “People say they love you but they really love potential, not the person that’s in front of them, the person you’ll grow into.” Maybe Sundial isn’t the album you wanted Noname to make, but it definitely seems like the album she wanted to make, and that should be all that matters. It’s also a remarkable album, and I can’t imagine any fans of Room 25 not liking this one. Like its predecessor, it pairs in-depth lyrical wisdom with lively jazz instrumentation. Soulful backing vocals come courtesy of Jimetta Rose, Eryn Allen Kayne, Ayoni, and Stout, and the cast of guest rappers includes the aforementioned Jay Electronica, Common, and $ilkmoney, plus a show-stopping verse from billy woods. Sundial has no filler and whips by with a 32-minute runtime that’s about a third of the length of some this year’s biggest major label rap albums. From the sequencing to the instrumentation to the guests to Noname’s own delivery, everything about this album feels carefully considered.
Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – Voir Dire
Finally, after years of working together and teasing an entire collaborative album, Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist have released a full-length together. (The pair previously released the album on YouTube under a fake name, and a press release notes that it “was discovered by fans through a scavenger hunt that consisted of a series of real-life and digital puzzles that had to be solved before the album was revealed.”) As on the various tracks they’ve made together over the years, The Alchemist’s hazy samples and Earl’s abstract, stream-of-consciousness lyricism go together like two peas in a very trippy pod. It’s hypnotic from start to finish, instantly-satisfying but clearly requires multiple close listens to unpack the many layers in Earl’s delivery. It has one guest appearance–likeminded rapper MIKE–and is otherwise fueled by the inner-workings of Earl’s mind, without so much as a hook for the casual listener to latch onto.
Just as the music is off-kilter, so is the way to listen to it. The album is streaming for free on the NFT website Gala and the songs are also available to purchase as “digital collectibles,” and those who purchase it become eligible to receive additional awards. The song “Sentry” (ft. MIKE) is streaming everywhere and also has a video out now and you can watch that right here:
Open Mike Eagle – Another Triumph of Ghetto Engineering
Following last year’s solo-album-meets-label-showcase A Tape Called Component System With The Auto Reverse, the prolific and endlessly creative rapper Open Mike Eagle is back with another project, Another Triumph of Ghetto Engineering. It’s got nine songs, two of which feature OME’s Auto Reverse pals Video Dave and Still Rift. One of those songs is a posse cut with the Auto Reverse crew and Hannibal Buress’ rap alter-ego Eshu Tune, and Another Triumph also has appearances from West Coast underground rap hero Blu and East Coast rap veteran / Outsidaz member Young Zee. Mike says “These songs are all fancy ways of saying ‘fuck you’ to people that ignore us and ‘thank you’ to people that care if we live or die,” and he urges you to “pay close attention to the song titles,” which include “I bled on stage at first ave,” “BET’s rap city,” “a new rap festival called falling loud,” and “the wire s3 e1.” Like Component System, it’s a delightfully weird project born out of a pure love of rap music. You can tell that Open Mike Eagle is an artist who’s absorbed influences from all throughout rap history, and he warps and reshapes familiar sounds into something that’s entirely his own. The beats never really go where you expect them to, and the raps are even more unpredictable. If you’re one of the people who’s been ignoring Open Mike Eagle, Another Triumph is as good a reason as any to stop doing that.
another triumph of ghetto engineering by Open Mike Eagleanother triumph of ghetto engineering by Open Mike Eagle
Mick Jenkins – The Patience
Mick Jenkins is tired of being patient, and that feeling informs his fourth full-length album. Some of the lush jazz-rap that informed his last two albums is present here, like with the fluttering keys of penultimate track “Guapenese,” but the Chicago rapper tends to favor a harder, more ominous backdrop on this one that matches his newfound urgency. He recruits fiery spitters like Freddie Gibbs, Benny the Butcher, and JID, and he stands tall next to all of them. As ever, he’s a masterful rhymer, an out-of-the-box thinker, and he has an ear for melody. On The Patience, he applies those familiar tricks in new settings and proves to be more versatile than ever.
Bandmanrill, Sha EK, & MCVertt – Jiggy In Jersey
Jersey club has been infiltrating the mainstream, with artists like Drake and Bad Bunny nodding towards it on recent songs, but one of the strongest forces behind the genre’s latest wave is Newark producer MCVertt. MCVertt is behind one of Jersey club’s biggest crossover hits, Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock” (a collaboration born out of mutual admiration, as MCVertt’s producer name was inspired by Uzi), but he spends much more of his time working with Newark rapper Bandmanrill. Bandmanrill has a sound that mixes both club music and drill, and he’s also a frequent collaborator of Bronx drill rapper Sha Ek. All three of them have teamed up for this new 27-song, nearly-hour-long project Jiggy In Jersey. The project actually kicks off with the new song that MCVertt produced for A$AP Ferg and “Pound Town” rapper Sexyy Red, which has all the makings of yet another crossover hit, and then hits Bandmanrill, Sha Ek, MCVertt, and a couple other guests (Lil Zay Osama, DJ Sliink) doing what they do best. It goes back and forth between thumping club beats and pounding drill beats, topped off by a seemingly endless amount of energy from Bandmanrill and Sha Ek. It’s a little long, but in its best moments, it shows how much magic can be made when three powerful artists come together and have this much chemistry.
Joey Purp – Heavy Heart Vol. 1
Following a 2022 collaborative project with KAMI, Chicago rapper Joey Purp has released his first new solo project since 2021’s UpLate, which marked Joey’s production debut. Like UpLate, Heavy Heart Vol. 1 has no features, but this time Joey enlists an array of producers (including Knox Fortune, Smoko Ono, Thelonius Martin, DEXLVL, and more). The result is a diverse beat selection that ranges from chipmunk soul to Chicago house to trap, and Joey sounds as charismatic and versatile as ever. It’s a short project with nine songs in 18 minutes, but hopefully “Vol. 1” in the title means more is on the way.
Gloss Up – Shades of Gloss
Memphis rapper Gloss Up is having a big year. The GloRilla associate released her Before the Gloss Up mixtape in January, then announced a collaborative album with the whole “Shabooya” crew (Aleza, Slimeroni, K Carbon, and producer Hitkidd), and now she releases her second mixtape of the year, Shades of Gloss. It’s got a posse cut with her usual crew (“Mention Me”), and other charismatic rising rappers like Sexyy Red and Saucy Santana come along for the ride too. Like its predecessor, it’s a blast to listen to, with an onslaught of knockout punchlines and sticky hooks.
Burna Boy – I Told Them…
The prolific Afro-fusion leader Burna Boy had been releasing an album a year since his 2018 breakthrough Outside, and after only putting out some non-album singles in 2021 (maybe blame COVID), he’s back on track. Love, Damini came out last summer, and now he follows it with I Told Them. Burna Boy has said that ’90s US hip hop was a big influence on this album, and it shows; RZA and GZA both contribute spoken word interludes, recent single “Sittin’ On Top of the World” (ft. 21 Savage) is based around a nostalgia-inducing Brandy & Ma$e sample, and J. Cole adds a ’90s-style verse to closing track “Thanks.” The album also still has plenty of Burna Boy’s usual breezy, polyrhythmic Afrobeats, some modern Atlanta trap, an R&B-leaning collab with UK rapper Dave based around a pitched-up sample of British-Ghanian singer Kwabs’ “Cheating On Me,” a folk ballad, and more. It’s Burna Boy’s shortest album to date, and multiple songs jump out as early highlights.
Genesis Owusu – Struggler
Genesis Owusu is a multi-genre artist, but he’s less about breaking down barriers between different genres and more about finding the common ground between them. The three most prominent ingredients in the Ghanaian-Australian artist’s sophomore album Struggler are post-punk, hip hop, and funk, and Genesis hones in on the thing that all three of genres share: energy. More than anything else, “energetic” is the best way to describe this album, and Genesis’ excellent, must-see live show. (He’ll be on a North American tour this fall.) His rhythms are driving, and everything is loud. He’s got a beautiful singing voice, but so often he chooses to yell instead. And his yelled moments are some of his catchiest; at the end of the day, he’s using all of those various styles of music to create pop music. The album gives you a respite from all the fervor with two chilled-out R&B/soul songs (“See Ya There” and “Stuck to the Fan”), but then Genesis turns right back up to 11. Struggler is a reminder that creative, artistic, boundary-pushing music and fun music don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
ovrkast. – RESET!
Oakland rapper/producer ovrkast. made a name for himself with the hazy, abstract rap of his 2020 debut album Try Again and collaboratons with likeminded artists like Earl Sweatshirt and Mavi, but for his new EP RESET!, he goes for something a little more in-your-face. The six-song, 11-and-a-half minute project is marked by ovrkast’s loudest production, boldest rapping, and stickiest melodies yet. It still finds time to show off his chiller side, like on the jazzy “Month In Brooklyn,” but most of RESET! reaches out and grabs you in a way that ovrkast.’s music never has before. It’s a more direct approach and it suits him well.
DJ Muggs – Soul Assassins 3: Death Valley
Fat Tony & Taydex – I Will Make A Baby In This Damn Economy
Homeboy Sandman – Rich
Iceboy Violet – Not a Dream But a Controlled Explosion
Joell Ortiz x L’Orange – Signature
Quavo – Rocket Power
Browse Best Rap Albums for past months