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The Thunderbolt

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The Thunderbolt

Top 5 Hip Hop/R&B Albums of 2023

A Recap of Best Hip Hop/R&B Albums of 2023

With the end of 2023 coming to a close I would like to take this opportunity to rank my top 5 Hip Hop/R&B albums that have come out in 2023. This year many new artists have burst through the Hip Hop/R&B scene and solidified their status as up-and-coming artists who are putting out amazing and out-of-the-box albums that are redefining the genre. On the other hand, we have seen the big dogs of the industry continuing to put out timeless and classic albums. This top 5 list will be albums that have been my favorite and most played throughout this year. I will not be using any ratings from outside sources or amount of sales as a reference for my list but instead pure enjoyment and love for the albums. Using production, lyricism, replay value, and overall enjoyment I will rate my favorite albums from this year.

  1. Playing w/ Fire – Redveil

Playing w/Fire is an EP (Extended Play) by the upcoming artist, Redveil. Released Apr. 19, 2023, with a fairly short run time of 6 songs spanning 16 minutes. While this can be up for debate on whether this quick EP should be considered on the list, considering how much content and variety Redveil can put on this EP, I believe he deserves recognition and praise for this project.

For some background on Marcus Morton (Redveil), he was born in Washington D.C., on Apr. 20, 2004. At just 19, Redveil has already released 3 Studio Albums, with the earliest release when he was just 15 years old. Redveil has seen short spurts of popularity and fame with his most popular song Weight being a trending song on Social Media at one point when he released his album Niagara back in 2020. 

What Redveil does on this EP is nothing short of remarkable, the amount of passion and replay value on these songs are amazing. I had the opportunity to see Redveil in concert last Apr. and it was an awesome experience. He performed his songs from this new EP and the amount of energy and stage presence that Redveil showed while performing made the concert one of the favorites I’ve ever been to. The production on this EP is my favorite part of this project and it all being self-produced by Redveil is just another testament as to why Redveil deserves a bigger platform and is ready for the big stage.

Favorite Tracks: Giftbag, Black Enuff (ft. JPEGMAFIA), Captain


  1. Let’s Start Here. – Lil Yachty

Lil Yachty’s 5th studio album, Let’s Start Here, is something we have never seen from him before. Lil Yachty’s discography before this release had been very centered on the era he entered which was the soundcloud era. This era was very centered on the trap/mumble sub-genre of hip hop. With this release of Let’s Start Here. Lil Yachty showed how diverse and creative he can be. Lil Yachty has always stood out from the crowd with his big influence in the fashion industry as well as the music industry and this release further solidified this idea.

The album itself is not as much of a hip-hop album but instead, a psychedelic funk/rock album that can transport you to a different realm of music that shocked the entire hip-hop community. On my first listen I had to check my phone to see if I clicked on the wrong artist as I could not believe that Lil Yachty made this. The intro track The BLACK Seminole. kicks off this album with a hard-hitting almost euphoric drum beat and synthesizers that seem to be pulled straight out of a Pink Floyd album. This almost 7-minute intro track takes you on a journey with guitar solos, and rock-inspired drum fills with the addition of the familiar voice of Lil Yachty accompanying his work. To add to the song just a little more Yachty finishes his intro track with a 2-minute outro of a woman belting her heart out to the chaos that ensues in the background behind her. This album feels like a trip through space and time and the intro track is the perfect start for this euphoric journey.

Although this album may not exactly be considered a Hip Hop album; it certainly isn’t, but I believe it is important to shed light on this important album that could begin to start a change within the hip-hop genre, and who better for the job than Lil Yachty? He has never been afraid of being different or outside of the box when it comes to his music and his style. I feel that this album will be looked back on in a few years as the first album to step out of the same mold that it seems the community has been stuck in for a while. I would love to see other artists step out of their comfort zones and experiment with their music in a similar way that Lil Yachty has with this trailblazing album.

Favorite Tracks: The BLACK Seminole., Running Out of Time, Drive ME Crazy!, sAy sOMETHINg, REACH THE SUNSHINE.


  1. UTOPIA – Travis Scott

UTOPIA written by Travis Scott has been the most anticipated album release in the community ever since he released ASTROWORLD back in 2018. After 5 long years of waiting and controversy on July 28, 2023, the wait was over and we were introduced to UTOPIA. Travis Scott is one of if not the biggest names in the hip-hop game right now and his release of UTOPIA only solidified his status in my eyes as one of the most influential artists within the last decade.

To be influential though as an artist you have to have your evolution and influences that make you the artist you are, and it is very clear with this album that Travis Scott shows who he is, along with who has inspired him to get to this point in his career. His uses of samples and production styles on this album are very similar to artists such as Kanye West, and Kid Cudi who have been heavy influences to Travis Scott since the beginning of his career. In the intro track of UTOPIA titled HYAENA Travis wastes no time in starting it off with a variety of samples varying from vocals from a 70s funk band to piano from the 60s, while also sampling icons such as James Brown and Funkadelic all to combine to make a perfect production for Travis to go in and rap like rent is due. Throughout this entire album, Scott’s use of samples and production are very over the top and heavily influenced by Kanye West’s album “Yeezus”. Although over the top the sampling and production of the album work perfectly and make total sense for an artist like Travis Scott who loves to be extravagant and full of sound.

Something that I love most about this album is its originality and variety. When UTOPIA was originally released it was met with very mixed reviews from fans who were upset with how different the album was compared to his last projects, almost as if a majority of his fans wanted him to make a part 2 of ASTROWORLD that would have the same sound and style. Instead, Travis Scott matured from his last album and has progressed and evolved causing him to make richer music with more variety and style that I am all for. Something that Travis didn’t stray away from was getting some help on the album with an absolute star-filled list of features varying from Drake, Beyonce, Playboi Carti, 21 Savage, Young Thug, Bad Bunny, Kid Cudi, The Weeknd, Sampha, Yung Lean, Rob49, Westside Gunn, Swae Lee, Teezo Touchdown, James Blake, Future and last but not least SZA. With Travis Scott being able to bring a list of this many talented artists into his album it’s no surprise that he was able to produce something of such a high caliber of artistry. 



  1. NEVER ENOUGH – Daniel Caeser

NEVER ENOUGH, is Daniel Caeser’s third album in his discography and I believe it is his best yet up to this point. Daniel Caeser is no stranger to being open about his doubts, frustrations, or worries in his life and this album is another testament to that. The R&B/soul singer is very accustomed to being vulnerable with his listening audience and this is a common theme on the album with him referencing subjects such as love, loss, reminiscence, pain, and learning to be confident in yourself.

The album takes us through an emotional trip with heavy-hitting lyrics, mellow and soft production, and an introspective feeling that makes you reflect on the same subjects in your own life. The third track is one of my favorite tracks on the album titled Toronto 2014 where Caeser reflects on his upbringing in Toronto and reminisces about his life before the fame of a singer. He sings about missing his old self and how simple his life was in the lyrics, “ If only I could find a way through space-time… Back to when I was happy being me”, as well as throughout the song saying “Take me back to 2014”. To add to the song Caeser brings up themes of fear specifically death, in lyrics such as “ Pray my days will never hit one… Take me far away from the sun”. In many of his songs, he sings about love such as, Valentina, and Do You Like Me?. Other songs consist of the downfall and breaking of that love with songs like Let Me Go, Shot My Baby, Homiesexual, and Pain Is Inevitable where he hits us again with introspective lyrics ending the song with “Pain is Inevitable, misery’s choice”. After all of these subjects of worries and doubts in his life, Daniel Caeser boasts his newfound confidence ending NEVER ENOUGH preaching to his audience with the final track Unstoppable saying, “And who’s gon’ stop me?… I’m unstoppable”.

This album takes us on a journey through Daniel Caeser’s mind and thoughts in his life and we can see them be resolved in real time throughout the album. What Daniel Caeser does with NEVER ENOUGH is truly remarkable and a big feat in his career. I believe that this is an album that many people can relate to and I can pick parts from many songs throughout that can resonate with his audience. This has been one of my favorite albums to have come out in the last 5 years and has been on my music rotation since its release in Apr. Not only is the album phenomenal lyrically but the simple yet hypnotizing production and strong vocals from Caeser make the album very easy to put on in the background or dive deep to analyze all the intricate details and messages throughout the genius that is NEVER ENOUGH by Daniel Caeser.

Favorite Tracks: Toronto 2014, Disillusioned, Shot My Baby, Homiesexual, Valentina



JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown, two of the biggest names in the experimental hip-hop genre came together and decided to collaborate to produce and make SCARING THE HOES which came out on Mar. 24, 2023. Within the subgenre of experimental hip hop, these two artists coming together was the equivalent of the mainstream collaborations within hip hop Drake and 21 Savage as well as Kanye West and Jay-Z. For months the experimental hip-hop community waited with eager anticipation for JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown to drop their highly anticipated project. Two weeks before its scheduled release the two artists released singles titled, Lean Beef Patty and SCARING THE HOES. These songs set the tone for what the rest of the album would sound like and it was exactly what the fans and I wanted. Lean Beef Patty was the first of the two singles to come out and I was instantly hypnotized by the song on my first listen. From the first second of the song, you are instantly thrown into a chaotic and overwhelming amount of production that can change any second that keeps you on the edge of your seat. 

The album continued this theme with its official release with lots of captivating production and brash lyrics over chaotic and grimy beats. On the fourth track Garbage Pale Kids we are greeted by the song with a sample of a Nintendo commercial from the 80s advertising an upcoming tennis video game, which sounds as bizarre as it gets but goes on to transition into a sample of a Japanese ramen commercial with children singing from the 80s. This bizarre and random sample is joined together with hard-hitting bass and hypnotizing drums as Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA go back and forth rapping on this bizarre and gross-sounding track. Although on paper this sounds ridiculous when put in the perspective of how these artists make their music it is a stroke of genius on their part and is a perfect example of why they are such icons in the experimental scene. The rest of the album is filled with rich production that can switch from one beat to the other at any second giving every song a fresh feel and nothing sounding similar or repetitive. With the album consisting of 14 songs and a run time of 36 minutes the longest the album goes without some sort of beat switch is 52 seconds. This is remarkable considering how well the album flows into each other and how each beat switch almost feels seamless and that to me is why this album is so amazing. For me, there is not one second of this album that I feel bored or uninterested no matter how many times I listen to it.

JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown are known for their very out-of-the-box style and sound that many people can be turned off to, but when you can open up to it you can be met with a new fresh way of making music. The way that MAFIA and Brown go about making music is so original and authentic that you can’t help but admire what they do. Their uses of samples are so obscure and weird that they fit perfectly in their music and their brand of music. For example in their song Burfict! on the album, the song itself feels like an NFL theme song turned into a rap song, and this is because of how they can take something that no other hip-hop artist would think of using as a beat and turn it into something original and fresh. That is what I believe separates JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown from anybody else in the industry. This album may not be for everybody and MAFIA and Brown are fully aware of that. They know that they won’t get worldwide fame or have their songs played on the radio and they are more than okay with that which I find inspirational. I believe that it is a testament that you do not need to please everybody to find success in what you do but instead find the people or audience that will support you for your ideas and what you can come up with and put out into the world. That is what I believe JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown are all about and that is why SCARING THE HOES is my favorite album of 2023.

Favorite Tracks: Lean Beef Patty, Steppa Pig, Garbage Pale Kids, Burfict!, Kingdom Hearts Key, God Loves You, Jack Harlow Combo Meal

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