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 8 rap albums from June 2023 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven't spent enough time with some great June 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). Killer Mike, Michael
Killer Mike - MICHAEL Loma Vista
Killer Mike reinvigorated his career with 2012's El-P-produced
, but it didn't lead to him further pursuing his solo career. Instead, he and El-P teamed up as Run The Jewels, and they became one of the most beloved rap acts--groups, duos, solo artists, or otherwise--of the last decade. Now he returns with his first solo album since 2012, and it's very clear why these had to be Killer Mike songs and not Run The Jewels songs; they're far too personal. True to its name, R.A.P. Music MICHAEL is as much a memoir or an autobiography as it is a rap album. He raps about stories and struggles from all throughout his life, from growing up with a teenage mother to his mother's death in 2017. Even many of the musical choices on the album reflect Mike's upbringing, from the gospel music he would hear in Black churches as a kid to the soul records his mom used to play. The album has features on almost every song--including El-P, André 3000, Future, 2 Chainz, Curren$y, Young Thug, Mozzy, Cee-Lo Green, Ty Dolla $ign, Kaash Paige, 6LACK, Eryn Allen Kane, Dave Chappelle, and more--yet it still feels entirely like Mike's story. It feels like all of these other rappers and singers are there in supporting roles, to help Mike make this deeply personal record. They add their own perspective, and musical range, and they help give the album momentum, as Mike opens up in ways he never has before. Pick up our exclusive grape vinyl variant.
Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi Vert - Pink Tape Generation Now/Atlantic
Lil Uzi Vert is back with their first proper album in over three years, and first since his Jersey club-inspired single "Just Wanna Rock" (co-produced by rising Jersey club producer MCVertt) took over the world. "Just Wanna Rock" isn't a rock song, but Uzi does want to rock. The album has songs with metal bands Bring Me the Horizon and Babymetal, which kinda just sound like Bring Me the Horizon and Babymetal songs, and a cover of System Of A Down's "Chop Suey!" called "CS." The 26-song, 87-minute album also includes "Just Wanna Rock," and plenty of other songs that stick to Uzi's usual ragey, ravey vibes. Other appearances come from Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, and Don Toliver, and it features some prominent samples/interpolations, including Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" on the Nicki Minaj-featuring "Endless Fashion" and Chief Keef's "Hate Being Sober" on "Mama, I'm Sorry."
Sexyy Red - Hood Hottest Princess Open Shift/Gamma
At the tail end of April, fast-rising St. Louis rapper Sexyy Red came through with "Pound Town" and it's already in the running for Song of the Summer. It got a remix with Nicki Minaj about a month later, and Kali enlisted Sexyy Red for the 314 representation on her quest to do countless location-specific remixes for her own SOTS contender, "Area Codes." In June, Red put out her new album
Hoods Hottest Princess with the Nicki version of "Pound Town" and 10 other ridiculously fun bangers, including one featuring Juicy J and one where she crowns herself the Female Gucci Mane. The record is full of booming, bouncy, Southern rap-inspired beats, and Red's sassy shout-raps are about as infectious as it gets.
Dave Central Cee
Dave & Central Cee - Split Decision EP Neighbourhood / Live Yours
Dave has become one of the most respected names in UK rap, and Central Cee is currently one of UK rap's fastest-rising stars--last summer's "Doja" became his biggest hit yet, reaching out #2 in the UK, going viral on TikTok, and cracking a few US charts as well. On their new collaborative EP
Split Decision, these two rappers put their heads together for four songs, and they sound incredibly natural as they trade bars across their instant hit "Sprinter," pensive slow jams "Trojan Horse" and "Our 25th Birthday," and the shit-talking closing track "UK Rap." It's a very brief project, but the chemistry between these two and the impact of the songwriting feels monumental. Here's to hoping there's more where this came from.
DJ Rude One
DJ Rude One & RXK Nephew - The ONEderful Nephew Closed Sessions
Rochester rapper RXK Nephew makes
way too much music to keep up with, but if you're still looking for an easy way in, The ONEderful Nephew might be a good place to start; it's one of his most concise, digestible projects yet. It's a collaboration with DJ Rude One, the Brooklyn-via-Chicago producer and Single Minded Pros member whose last solo album featured boom bap torch-carriers like Roc Marciano, Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn, and Your Old Droog. RXK Nephew is a much less traditional spitter than those guys, and his choices in beats are usually much more unpredictable, but he proves to be a very commanding MC in this context. The ONEderful Nephew is only a small snapshot of what RXK Nephew is capable of, but it's exciting to hear him bottle up his usual chaos in this more controlled environment.
Big Freedia - Central City
Big Freedia - Central City Queen Diva
Veteran New Orleans bounce trailblazer Big Freedia is always busy with one thing or another, but it's been almost a decade since she released a full-length album. Her last was 2014's
Just Be Free, and now she finally followed it with Central City. It's also her first album since being featured/sampled on chart-topping singles by Beyoncé and Drake (sometimes credited, sometimes not), and it feels now more than ever like Big Freedia's pop appeal is obvious to mainstream America. It also feels like Freedia leans into that on Central City, which is full of radio-friendly guest vocalists and countless songs that feel like they could be singles. Guests include rappers Kamaiyah and Lil Wayne, belters Kelly Price, Ciara, and Faith Evans, New Orleans brass band The Soul Rebels, past Freedia collaborator Boyfriend, and singer/songwriter Sonyae. Speaking about the album, Freedia promised an album "where I pay homage to my city, my roots, hip-hop, and to the art of creating a new sound," and that's exactly what this is. There's a great mix of familiarity and innovation, there's a lot of hip hop, a lot of New Orleans, and it feels like an album anyone could get behind, whether you're a longtime Freedia diehard or you first heard her voice on "Break My Soul."
Mike Dimes - Texas Boy Since the 80's/Camp Billy
Since going viral on TikTok with "My Story" from his 2021 debut project
DLOG, Texas rapper Mike Dimes has kept climbing. He put out one of 2022's best rap albums with the even better In Dimes We Trust, and now he's back once again with Texas Boy. The album starts with an intro track from veteran Texas hip hop DJ OG Ron C, who introduces Mike as one of Texas' brightest new voices, and Mike nabbed some impressive guest rappers too, including Denzel Curry, Maxo Kream, Wiz Khalifa, and Joey Bada$$, the last of whom he's cited as one of his biggest influences. (The album also features fellow rising Texas rappers BigXthaPlug and Hoodlum, along with South Carolina sing-rapper Dro Kenji.) Texas Boy has plenty more where the hard-edged bangers of In Dimes We Trust came from, but it also expands his sound, working choir samples and vulnerable ballads into the otherwise-chest-puffed mix.
Chester Watson, fish don't climb trees
Chester Watson - fish don't climb trees POW Recordings
Experimental rapper Chester Watson is back with a followup to 2020's great
, and this time the inspiration comes from the popular quote that's A Japanese Horror Film apparently misattributed to Albert Einstein: "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." "As a Black person, we're always judged on criteria that are literally meaningless," Chester says. He uses the "fish don't climb trees" quote as a launching point, and then dives into poetic, metaphorical verse over a backdrop that favors psychedelia and slowed-down jazz. By the end of the record, you're fully immersed in an intimate, abstract world that's uniquely Chester Watson's own.
McKinley Dixon - Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? City Slang
Richmond artist McKinley Dixon's followup to 2021's acclaimed
For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her is about 20 minutes shorter than its sprawling predecessor, but no less ambitious. The album title is named after a trilogy of novels by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, and it opens with poet Hanif Abdurraqib reading an excerpt from Jazz. It then goes on to offer up nine more songs that trek through sweeping orchestral arrangements, fiery jazz instrumentation, uplifting funk/soul choruses--with help from guest singers Anjimile, Angélica Garcia, and Ms. Jaylin Brown, and guest rappers Ghais Guevara, Seline Jaze, Teller Bank$, and Alfred.--that are as intricate as McKinley's lyricism.
Veeze - Ganger Navy Wavy LLC
In the four years since releasing his 2019 debut project
Navy Wavy, Detroit rapper Veeze churned out a steady stream of singles and guest appearances (on records by Babyface Ray, Lil Yachty, Lil Baby, Pooh Shiesty, and more) and became one of the most prominent voices in Michigan's thriving rap scene in the process. He's now back with his sophomore project Ganger, which offers up 20 tracks (and a remix of one ft. Lil Uzi Vert) of Veeze's slurred, laid-back delivery over the kinds of raw, bouncy beats that have come to define Detroit street rap. The album's midsection boasts appearances from Lil Yachty, Babyface Ray, Icewear Vezzo, and Lucki, bookended by long stretches of Veeze holding it down by himself.
7xvethegenius & DJ Green Lantern - The Genius Tape Broadband Sound
While Griselda Records is primarily Westside Gunn's baby, his Griselda partners Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher have both also been busy building their own labels/empires, Drumwork and Black Soprano Family, respectively. One of Drumwork's brightest voices is 7xvethegenius, whose guest verses always stand out and who's always a highlight when she appears on stage at Conway's live shows. Her proper Drumwork Records debut is expected to arrive this summer, but first she's dropping off
The Genius Tape. It's entierly produced by DJ Green Lantern and it features Conway as well as Rome Streetz, Che Noir, AA Rashid, and TF. It's cut from the gritty East Coast boom bap cloth that most Griselda-related releases are, and 7xvethegenius uses these ten tracks to show off her ability for cold, hard rhymes that stand out from the pack.
The Alchemist - Flying High ALC
The Alchemist is back with a new short-but-sweet EP,
Flying High, with four new guest-filled songs and then instrumental versions of each track. He recruits Earl Sweatshirt and billy woods for "RIP Tracy," T.F. and Boldy James for "Trouble Man," MIKE and Sideshow for "Bless," and Larry June and Jay Worthy for "Midnight Oil." When it comes to underground rap, Alchemist's curation is as good as it gets, and his dusty post-boom bap instrumentals are always the perfect backdrop for rappers like these to go off.
Honorable Mentions BabyTron - 6 Curren$y & Harry Fraud - Vices Kool Keith - Black Elvis 2 Statik Selektah - Round Trip Young Thug - Business Is Business
Best Rap Albums for past months.