CWHT's Top 10 Hip-Hop & Rap Projects of 2021
Updated: Jun 30
10. Shaybo––Queen of the South––Black Butter Limited
Shaybo’s vocals on this dancehall soaked half-hour mixtape are delivered with an infectious confidence. The south Londoner’s debut mixtape contains more than enough substance, while never feeling really bloated. “Good Time” seems to be the only sore thumb.
Choice Cuts: “My Sister (feat. Jorja Smith)”, “No Worries (feat. Wale)”, “Carry & Go”
9. Lakeyah & DJ Drama––My Time (Gangsta Grillz: Special Edition)––Quality Control
Lakeyah’s 2021 Gangsta Grillz mixtape was sidelined in light of Tyler, the Creator’s, which is a shame. I like this project for it’s high-energy and the performances she gets out of people that I wouldn't normally listen to––most notably Tyga! “In Person” is one of the best tracks here. It’s the mixtape’s most-streamed for a reason. On My Time, DJ Drama comes across less, and therefore more cohesive than he did on his and Tyler’s LP. His personality does not fail to leak on to the beginning and end of most songs.“Check” and “A Letter To You” are better for having little of Drama’s voice besides the classic “Gangsta Grillz!” sample in the final seconds of the latter. Every featured artist brings their A-game.
Choice Cuts: “In Person (With OG Parker feat. Tyga)”, “Check (feat. Moneybagg Yo)”, “Upset (feat. Bankroll Freddie)”, “Loving Me”
8. Moor Mother––Black Encyclopedia of the Air––Anti
Philadelphia-based Moor Mother self-describes their music as “Low fi/dark rap/chill step/blk girl blues/witch rap/coffee shop riot gurl songs/southern girl dittys/black ghost songs''. The fact that Black Encyclopedia of the Air is so hard to pin down is a big part of it’s allure. If R.A.P. Ferreira and clipping. were less full of themselves, you’d still have something that wished it sounded as good as Moor Mother does in 2021. In the words of ‘Exclaim!’: “With Black Encyclopedia of the Air, Moor Mother uses her genre-agnostic style to tackle the world’s most popular genre and make it undoubtedly her own.”
Choice Cuts: “Mangrove”, “Vera Hall”, “Made a Circle”
7. Sa-Roc––The Sharecropper’s Daughter (Deluxe Edition)––Rhymesayers Entertainment
In Sa-Roc’s own words, The Sharecropper’s Daughter is “a sonic reflection on the generational inheritance of trauma and triumph that shapes our humanity and the way we see the world. The Sharecropper’s Daughter Deluxe further showcases Sa-Roc’s sharp skills as a lyricist, and her gift for captivating melodies and engaging content, featuring six new tracks, as well as a guest verse from the late MF DOOM. The new songs pull no punches in showcasing Sa-Roc’s continual growth as an artist who, as NPR recently put it, “is a modern day griot whose aura radiates calm in a world of chaos.”
Choice Cuts: “The Rebirth (feat. MF DOOM)”, ”Hand of God”, “Dark Horse (feat. Chronixx)”
6. Nappy Nina & JWords––Double Down––LucidHaus
Nappy Nina gave us one of 2021’s strongest EPs with Double Down. Her verses are delivered with an effortless swagger that reminds us that less is more. Nina prioritizes thoughtful lyrics over hyphe bars. Double Down is the Brooklyn MC’s 5th and strongest project. JWord’s breezy and dynamic beats make one think that the seventeen-minute EP was designed with the ability to improve the listener’s mood in mind.
Choice Cuts: “Wanted, “Thin Ice”, “4am”
5. DijahSB––Tasty Raps, Vol. 1––Self-released
Toronto rapper DijahSB is on something of a hot-streak. Proceeding April's Head Above the Waters is an EP of precise and substantial originals titled Tasty Raps, Vol. 1. Don’t refer to DijahSB as the best non-binary rapper in the game––refer to them as one of the best overall right now. The employment of wavey beats under thoughtful lyricism makes for a delightful listen. There isn’t a bad song on Tasty Raps, Vol. 1.
Choice Cuts: “New Balance”, “Heat to Dance (feat. Mick Jenkins)”, “New Harrison Again (feat. Harrison)”
4. Tkay Maidza––Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3––4AD
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 is the final act of Tkay Maidza’s EP trilogy. The Australian musician's adventurous and experimental trilogy of EPs is rounded out with another batch of laid-back, plush songs that mix rap, pop, R&B and reggae effortlessly. Standout “Kim” pays homage to the 2000s cartoon show Kim Possible with one of Maidza’s most swaggering hooks: “Bitch I’m, bitch I’m Kim,” she roars over ping-ponging synths and shuddering bass, her voice filtered as though shouting through a speakerphone. Like last year’s stadium-sized Shook, it’s electrifying proof of Maidza’s talent for catchy songs that punch above their weight.
Choice Cuts: “So Cold”, “Kim (with Yung Baby Tate)”, “Cashmere”
3. Mimz the Magnificent & Dunn––Infinite Lawn––Planet Locale
The monotonous delivery that both Mimz and Dunn employ allow their words to remain in sharp focus throughout the entirety of Infinite Lawn. There is a cohesion to the lofi production that weaves and undulates through the thirty-seven minute album. By cutting 2021’s coolest collaborative hip-hop album , Dunn & Mimz let the listener know that they’re among the strongest of the contemporary New York underground rap scene.
Choice Cuts: “You’ll Never Win”, “Afrikan Sword Swinging”, ”Walking the Racecourse (feat. Desde BK & 0120)”
2. Cartel Madras––The Serpent & the Tiger––Sub Pop
The Serpent & The Tiger is the third installment of the Project Goonda trilogy (which includes 2018’s Trapistan and 2019’s Age of the Goonda) and features the highlights “WORKING,” “FEAR & LOATHING,” “DRIFT,” “Dream Girl Concept,” and “LAVENDER NIGHTZ.” With 10 songs and a total time of 26 minutes, it’s a potent if brief example of their energetic hip hop, combining a variety of trap and house beats with their rapid-fire flow and lyrics revolving around self-expression and autonomy.
Choice Cuts: “DEEPINTHEJUNGLE (feat. Backwash)”, “LAVENDER NIGHTZ”, “WORKING”
1. Little Simz––Sometimes I Might Be Introvert––AGE101
Atmospheric and lush production lends itself to what truly sounds like Simbiatu 'Simbi' Abisola Abiola Ajikawo’s manifesto. “Woman” featuring Cleo Sol, “I Love You I Hate You”, “Standing Ovation”, and “I See You” especially meld brutally honest lyrics with the appropriate choral and orchestral accompaniment.
“Protect My Energy” is a trancy disco number that has the MC using her best singing to date in order to explain how solitude and silence bring her solace over the most danceable beat on the album. What’s more, “Protect My Energy” is followed by the afrobeat banger “Point and Kill” featuring Obongjayar.
The album on the whole feels like an executed vision. Only after my third consecutive listen did I realize that the acrostic for Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is SIMBI. Talk about a manifesto.
Choice Cuts: “Two Worlds Apart”, “Speed”, “Rollin Stone”, “Protect My Energy”, “How Did You Get Here”
Baby Keem––The Melodic Blue––Sony
Mach-Hommy––Pray for Haiti––Griselda
Vince Staples––Vince Staples––UMG