Greatest Albums of 2023 – Mic Cheque


Final yr in music was one for the historical past books. It’s no shock 2023 had lots to stay as much as, and it actually tried. Artist comebacks, reinventions, long-awaited blockbusters, and some surprises turned the gears because the twelve months unfolded. Looking back, 2023 took a while to get going, with the second half of the yr choosing up steam with high-profile, high quality releases. From Travis Scott’s anticipated showstopper to Sampha soothing the soul, loads of albums scratched the itch throughout hip hop, R&B, pop, rock and various.

The Mic Cheque workforce have rounded up the highest thirty finest albums of 2023, staying largely inside the hip hop realm whereas contemplating non-rap tasks for the listing as nicely.

Listed here are some extra contenders on the periphery of the listing, or weren’t lived with lengthy sufficient to be included within the high thirty.

James Blake, Taking part in Robots into Heaven

Greatest tracks: “Loading”, “Inform Me”

Kali Uchis, Pink Moon in Venus

Greatest tracks: “Moonlight”, “I Want You Roses”, “Fantasy”, “Blue”

KwolleM, Melo

Greatest tracks: “No Coronary heart”, “Mainstream”

Noname, Sundial

Greatest tracks: “Oblivion”, “Balloons”

Olivia Dean, Messy

Greatest tracks: “The Hardest Half”, “Dive”, “Hazard”

Jordan Ward, FORWARD

Greatest tracks: “FAMJAM4000″, “Sidekick”

Yung Nudy, GUMBO

Greatest tracks: “Okra”, “M.R.E.”, “Ardour Fruit”

Jorja Smith, Falling or Flying

Greatest tracks: “Little Issues”, “Go Go Go”, “Strive Me”

Ragz Originale, Naked Sugar

Greatest tracks: “Lengthy Keep”, “Flashbacks”

Majid Jordan, Good Individuals

Greatest tracks: “Ready for You”, “Arms Tied”, “Violet”

McKinley Dixon, Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?

Greatest tracks: “Solar, I Rise”, “Tyler, Endlessly”, “Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?”

The Japanese Home, Within the Finish it All the time Does

Greatest tracks: “Unhappy to Breathe”, “Touching Your self”, “Boyhood”

Freedom Sounds / Def Jam

For his main label debut, Navy Blue drew us additional into his shut circle. Methods of Understanding is a superb breakdown of the psychological—what’s happening inside Navy’s thoughts? The raps are the solutions, articulated over dreamy manufacturing largely courtesy of Budgie. “How come I’m hurting in my 20s? / I suppose it’s life,” he says on “Life’s Phrases”, merely summarising mid-life experiences not only for himself however for everybody relevant. It’s additionally partly an ode to his grandparents who’ve impressed knowledge and sense into the person he’s at present.

Greatest tracks: “Chosen”, “Phases”, “The Medium”, “To Fall in Love”, “Kill Change”

ISO Supremacy / United Masters

The Maryland crooner’s mixtape is chock-full of R&B flips, from the likes of Timbaland and TLC to basic Neptunes. They’re typically temporary but satisfying snapshots as Brent takes the listener on a nostalgic joyride. When tracks are extra fleshed out they’re courtesy of silky collabs with Coco Jones and ASAP Rocky. As traditional, Brent Faiyaz’s vocals are a sugar-rush dipped in 2000s Enjoyable Dip. Although not as fleshed and razor in songwriting as 2022’s Wasteland, Bigger Than Life leaves listeners curious for the escalation in Brent’s younger profession.

Greatest tracks: “Greatest Time”, “Second of Your Life”, “Tim’s Intro”, “Outdoors All Night time”

Endlessly Residing Originals

In September, Cleo Sol launched two albums in back-to-back weeks. The standout effort was the latter providing, the ten-track Heaven. Being the cryptic artist she is, there’s an unclear indication that the albums are companion items. Heaven hints at rebirth; baptism; washing away your sins and getting nearer to God. Gospel influences play all throughout Heaven, and in its finest moments echo Cleo’s magnum opus, 2021’s Mom.

Greatest tracks: “There Will Be No Crying”, “Life Will Be”, “Need”, “Gold”

Paper Route / EMPIRE

Key Glock put enjoyable again into entice in 2023. Glockoma 2‘s normal and deluxe version invigorate the style with eccentric beats, addictive flows, and many persona from the Memphis rapper. The usual version with the purple album cowl held standouts like “Dust”, “Randy Orton” and “Key Rex”, topped up with highlights from the blue deluxe version resembling “No Hook”, “Let’s Go” and “Lean Habits”. Whether or not you’re taking the purple capsule or the blue capsule, the outcome continues to be Key Glock bangers.

Greatest tracks: “Dust”, “No Hook”, “Key Rex”, “Work”, “Ratchet”, “Let’s Go”, “Fuck a Function”, “Lean Habits”


A six-year hiatus got here to a halt in 2023. Paramore’s return felt monumental, proving they’re not simply one other washed rock band cashing in a lukewarm comeback. Pop and post-punk by no means feels compromised on This Is Why, granting hearty performances within the type of “You First” and “Crave” and stepping singles just like the title observe. A comeback that wasn’t phoned in.

Greatest tracks: “You First”, “Crave”, “This Is Why”, “The Information”, “Determine 8”

Hollace Inc. / Republic

The Canadian R&B singer hones his abilities again to his strengths; feathery love songs backed by minimalism and potent songwriting. By no means Sufficient is male vulnerability that correctly avoids the poisonous outlooks that are inclined to dominate R&B these days. Its finest moments summon the spirit of Caesar’s 2017 debut, Freudian, whereas pulling off some dangers right here and there.

Greatest tracks: “Valentina”, “Cool”, “Disillusioned”, “Superpowers”, “All the time”

Mass Enchantment

On Magic 3, Nas and Hit-Boy take a worthy remaining bow, granting a few of the finest materials of the eighty album tracks they’ve created collectively. Magic 3 celebrates Nas’ fiftieth birthday, in addition to the fiftieth birthday of hip hop. The ode lives as much as each half-centuries, a becoming demonstration of an skilled man nonetheless operating a recreation that was as soon as simply 21 years previous when Nas launched Illmatic. Hit-Boy rectifies the principle situation discovered on Magic 2—the beats on present aren’t any joke. All through their partnership, Nas sounds most rejuvenated when the manufacturing strikes him. Behind-the-scenes footage shared by Hit-Boy has proven Nas’ response to sure beats. It’s from right here the place the inspiration hits, leading to high-calibre rapping each time.

Greatest tracks: “Fever”, “By no means Die”, “Superhero Standing”, “I Love This Feeling”, “Sitting with My Ideas”, “Jodeci Member”, “Based mostly on True Occasions, Pt. 2”

VLNS / Loma Vista

It’s straightforward to neglect how lengthy Killer Mike has been round. His output within the final decade has come below the collaborative effort of Run the Jewels, with producer and rapper El-P. It’s due to this fact refreshing to see an album like Michael in 2023, Mike’s first solo album in eleven years. Wealthy in options and No I.D. manufacturing, Michael is blatantly momentous, and unequivocally Southern.


The Freeminded / ALC / EMPIRE

Delving deeper into the music, The Nice Escape is in contrast to something we’ve ever heard from each Larry June and The Alchemist. The ambiance that the pair assemble all through the document is heavy, taking part in into the road dream profile from a very completely different angle. Larry’s luxurious statue steady to play a poignant function within the lyrical content material coexisting with Al’s dreary fashion of manufacturing. In some instances, the shift in sound permits Larry to hop into completely different pockets that usually wouldn’t have been attainable. Tracks like “Orange Village” and “Exito” play into this notion as we see Larry open up his palette to loops and chops that in any other case wouldn’t have actually clicked along with his catalog.

Greatest tracks: “Summer season Reign”, “89 Earthquake”, “Porsches in Spanish”, “Ocean Sounds”, “What Occurred to the World?”


South London singer-songwriter and producer Jim Legxacy labored out a components on his third undertaking. Storage breakbeats and basic samples are channelled by bitesized tracks elevated by Jim Legxacy’s treacle vocals. It’s half emo, half one thing completely new.

Greatest tracks: “hit it mild it twist it”, “sweet reign (!)”, “dj”, “faux smiles”, “amnesia111”, “eye inform”, “ur marges crib”, “homeless n***a pop music”

YSL / 300

The YSL outcast emerged from the shadows to finish a comeback for the historical past books. With each invaluable cosign out the window, Gunna delivered a featureless album to exhibits he’s YSL’s most respected asset. It’s residence to one of many greatest rap hits of the yr in “FukUMean”, changing into his highest-streaming solo track to this point. A Reward & a Curse retains it primarily PG, permitting Gunna’s raps to be taken significantly for the primary time in his profession. He raps with a frown, dropping mature observations which aren’t something revolutionary however do assist to color his mindset since gaining his freedom.

Greatest tracks: “Bread & Butter”, “FukUMean”, “Rodeo Dr”, “IDK Nomore”, “Again to the Moon”, “Alright”

Fats Possum

Billy Woods and Elucid proceed to seek out indiscoverable pockets on their newest Armand Hammer providing. We Purchase Diabetic Check Strips is eerie, anxious and meandering. Listening to Check Strips is like navigating by a 1,000-acre maze. At one level they’re rapping over JPEGMAFIA-sampled phone beeps, elsewhere they’re grinding gears on noisy manufacturing that’s changing into oddly typical for his or her requirements. Check Strips challenges listeners, in addition to the capabilities of Billy Woods who continues to be a jack of all trades.

Greatest tracks: “Landlines”, “The Gods Should Be Loopy”, “Woke Up and Requested Siri How I’m Gonna Die”, “Trauma Mic”, “I Preserve a Mirror in My Pocket”, “Don’t Lose Your Job”


Mick Jenkins finds his footing once more on The Endurance, slicing out something that’s not very important to the expertise. It’s 11 tracks and 28 minutes, correctly plucking options from Freddie Gibbs, JID, Benny the Butcher and Vic Mensa, and laying spacious manufacturing for Jenkins to work with. It’s clear Jenkins takes a leaf out the Griselda boys’ e-book, discovering an ear for beat choice that resonates with the present traits of the underground (“Guapanese”, “Sitting Geese”).

Greatest tracks: “ROY G. BIV”, “Guapanese”, “Smoke Break-Dance”, “Sitting Geese”, “Present & Inform”, “Farm to Desk”

Black Butter

Bakar’s been working arduous to be the face of UK indie. Final yr’s album No person’s House set a basis, however Halo amalgamates all his expertise and potential for his most realised effort to this point. Halo may be peppy in cuts like “All Night time” and “Proper Right here, for Now” whereas honing indie folks for tracks like “Hate the Solar”. Generally all it takes is a guitar lick and Bakar’s vocal melodies to lead to an album spotlight. The stability is frequently addictive.

Greatest tracks: “All Night time”, “Alive!”, “I’m Achieved”, “Hell N Again”, “Proper Right here, for Now”


British singer-songwriter Ama Lou laid a few of the most emotive R&B of 2023 on her debut album, I Got here House Late. Crammed with poignant writing, teary manufacturing and climactic hooks, I Got here House Late is poetic from minute one to finish. “Trigger the north winds pushed barely / On horses, I’ll experience in / And I really feel you proper by me / A Trojan disguise, I hope not,” she delicately sings on “Tokyo Cowboy”, considered one of many songs the place the masterful singer makes use of prolonged metaphors to convey her message. It’s a gripping album that tugs on the heartstrings with no mercy.

Greatest tracks: “Caught Me Operating”, “Pissed off”, “Be Nicely”, “Tokyo Cowboy”, “Vary 95”


On her debut studio album, PinkPantheress graduates from TikTok princess to digital popstar. The traits that led to her success are nonetheless there to some levels: the short-track format, UK storage beats, and cooing vocals. However there’s an improve to the track constructions, lyricism and hooks. Songs like “Ophelia”, “Able to Love” and “Blue” are conventional pop songs that concurrently may solely be sung by PinkPantheress. Heaven Is aware of takes PinkPantheress fever to the following degree, residence to probably the most catchy pop songs of 2023.

Greatest tracks: “Able to Love”, “Really feel Full”, “Ophelia”, “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2”, “One other Life”, “Emotions”, “Good to Meet You”, “The Aisle”


JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown despatched experimental rap goons right into a frenzy after they acquired phrase of a collaborative album within the works. The aptly-titled Scaring the Hoes is accessible sufficient for typical rap followers to get pleasure from, however you continue to want that left-field ear to get pleasure from its most daring moments. Above all, it’s two rappers having enjoyable everywhere in the most kooky rap album of the yr. Hoes, be ready to be scared.

Greatest tracks: “Scaring the Hoes”, “Lean Beef Patty”, “Kingdom Hearts Key”, “Steppa Pig”, “Burfict!”, “Run the Jewels”, “Orange Juice Jones”

Backwoodz Studioz

You want a extremely superior ear to fathom what Billy Woods is rapping about. All the time providing a dense hear with every album, it’s the way in which he strings bars collectively that few rappers can accomplish. The 2 verses on “Smooth Touchdown” are vivid to the syllable, including one other thought to the tapestry like an additional carriage being connected to a transferring prepare (“The worst individuals’ll wiggle out the rubble / Perhaps “Suicidal Ideas” was the “On a regular basis Battle” / For a quick, candy, second it was nothing within the thought bubble”). In different bars, he’s downright simple (“I give up lookin’ for options / Purchased a pistol and discovered use it”). All’s achieved over probably the most daring beats by Kenny Segal.

Greatest tracks: “Smooth Touchdown”, “FaceTime”, “Hangman”, “Yr Zero”, “Babylon By Bus”


Kelela places listeners in a sixty-minute trance on Raven, submerged in ambient electronica. Raven may be so minimal but so distinctive, a expertise that’s evident on tracks like “Divorce” and “Washed Away”. Waists may be whined to “On the Run”. We’re taken to the breakbeat room within the membership on “Contact”. You’re feeling such as you’re drifting slowly within the black water discovered on the quilt on the title observe. We may go on and on. Level being, the imaginative imagery out there from the songs on Raven speaks to its sheer creativity and genius to convey a lot with so little.

Greatest tracks: “Contact”, “On the Run”, “Divorce”, “Raven”, “Completely happy Ending”, “Bruises”


Arlo Parks leans additional into pop territory on her second album, studying from the method of Collapsed in Sunbeams to make her songs catchier. But she’s nonetheless in a position to get equally intimate, as discovered on spring-kissed songs like “Impurities”, “Purple Part” and “Pegasus” with Phoebe Bridgers. It’s nonetheless undoubtedly indie pop, a few of the most interesting you’ll discover this yr.

Greatest tracks: “Impurities”, “Purple Part”, “Devotion”, “Weightless”, “Pegasus”


MIKE expands his mystique for a high ten album of 2023. A daring format, Burning Need is a 24-track album crammed with cuts below two-minute runtime, totally self-produced below MIKE’s alias DJ Blackpower. The beats are soulful, jazzy, sample-centric gems gleaming below the kaleidoscope of MIKE’s lyricism. The fleeting nature of the album works to its benefit, with transitions between tracks to include intentions in sequencing, including opposite to the idea that you possibly can shuffle all 24 tracks and get the identical album.

Greatest tracks: “Golden Hour”, “Let’s Have a Ball”, “Sixteens”, “Plz Don’t Lower My Wings”, “They Don’t Cease within the Rain”

Tan Cressida / ALC / Gala / Warner

“Voir dire” is a French authorized time period that interprets “to talk the reality”. May Voir Dire be the album that The Alchemist mentioned was hidden on YouTube below an alias identify? We might by no means know. No matter that, hip hop lastly obtained the long-yearned collaborative album between Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist. Together with each business variations of the album (which totals to 14 tracks), Voir Dire is a blissful merger that was at all times certain to finish in matrimony.

Greatest tracks: “The Caliphate”, “Sentry”, “100 Excessive Avenue”, “Mancala”, “Free the Ruler” (+ “Geb”, “All of the Small Issues”)


Someplace in a message chat, Frank Ocean and Sampha had been competing to see who may go the longest with out placing out an album. After a six-year wait, it’s Sampha that bit the bullet and fed the ever-patient world. In contrast to Course of, Lahai exists in a joyous parallel universe. Instances have modified. Sampha’s now a father, and has clearly launched into a profitable journey of heaving. “I ain’t scared as earlier than, ain’t as scared as earlier than,” he says on the album’s lead single, “Spirit 2.0”. However sonically, it’s the identical Sampha we’ve grown to like within the most interesting of doses. On Lahai, Sampha is deservedly liberated.

Greatest tracks: “Dancing Circles”, “Jonathan L. Seagull”, “Suspended”, “Spirit 2.0”

Boy Meets Euphoria / Columbia

There’s a man on the market that goes by the letter Q. We’re satisfied he’s come from the previous to ship upper-echelon music. The true story is that is Q Marsden, son of Steven Marsden, producer of the well-known Diwali Riddim. However he doesn’t want the affiliation along with his father to earn his success. Q’s music is deeply rooted in throwback 70s soul, funk and R&B. Not on no novelty Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak degree both—that is the actual Class A stuff. His debut album, Soul,PRESENT, masterfully brings again the essence of soul to the twenty first century. The vocals, manufacturing and hooks are probably the most natural throwback sound you’ll feast yourselves to this yr.


Golden Angel / Interscope

Amaarae is a ready-made pop princess. The Ghanaian-American singer first made waves along with her viral TikTok hit “Unhappy Girlz Luv Cash”. Her whispery pitched vocals are granted full autonomy on Fountain Child, the very best bonafide pop document of 2023. Every observe is full of melody, taking affect from web pop, R&B, afrobeats, indie and punk. When it comes collectively, it’s all nonetheless uniquely Amaarae. Whether or not it’s the hedonism of “Princess Going Digital”, the astrology-infused “Co-Star”, or the Kill Invoice-esque “Wasted Eyes”, Fountain Child is a haven of melody with lots happening for it to not be a standout of the yr.

Greatest tracks: “Princess Going Digital”, “Disguise”, “Wasted Eyes”, “Reckless & Candy”, “Co-Star”

Cactus Jack / Epic

The Houston native’s fourth album affirms Scott as a sweeping sonic conductor, granting the imposing blockbuster listeners anticipated. Sonically, it subverts expectations of what ‘utopia’ ought to sound like. As an alternative of a blissful, heavenly expertise, Utopia is a dim land of chaos. This makes Utopia lack a operating thread all through the album, particularly when it jumps from entice and industrial hip hop to bop and reggaeton.For a 19-track album, there are lots highlights, and nothing worthy of a skip. Opening observe “HYAENA” is his most combusting intro to this point; “THANK GOD” is flooded in darkness; “I KNOW ?” is a Rodeo remnant.

Utopia exhibits that at 4 albums deep, Travis hasn’t misplaced his knack for sequenced auditory journeys. It’s an album that takes parts from his finest work whereas standing tall in its personal id. With regards to rap explosions, nothing in 2023 will come near the combustion of Utopia.

Greatest tracks: “FE!N”, “MY EYES”, “HYAENA”, “I KNOW ?”, “TELEKINESIS”, “LOOOVE”, “SIRENS”

High quality Management Music / Motown

Lil Yachty hit the reset button this 2023. Just some months prior, Yachty discovered his music being a meme in methods he hadn’t skilled since his peak of 2016. “Poland” took the web by storm. It was a track that was so unserious it wasn’t supposed to come back out till followers demanded for it. This was all occurring whereas he was recording & introduced a ‘non-rap psychedelic undertaking’. For a minute, Yachty’s profession was on the mercy of the web. How wouldn’t it have felt, being compelled to launch meme tracks when you’re engaged on music so vastly completely different to that?

However Yachty regained management. On the apex of the yr, he launched Let’s Begin Right here, signalling one of many greatest rebrands in trendy rap—an unprecedented but pleasant pivot into progressive rock that unlocks not only a new layer of Yachty, however new pores and skin. Let’s Begin Right here is what you’d get if Pink Floyd, MGMT and Tame Impala had a rap-leaning lovechild. The entice 808s are chucked out for guitars, drums and synths, full of non-linear twists and turns that make the document a real various rock album. The chance may be likened to Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR, Infantile Gambino’s Awaken My Love and Mac Miller’s The Divine Female, albums that take an inventive danger and stick the touchdown. To assist him out, Yachty enlisted collaborators resembling Patrick Wimberly, Mac DeMarco and Magdalena Bay (an UNO-reverse on white artists enlisting black collaborators for his or her hip-hop-centric efforts).

Greatest tracks: “The Black Seminole”, “The Trip”, “I’ve Formally Misplaced Imaginative and prescient!!!!”, “The Zone”, “We Noticed the Solar!”, “Say One thing”


“What makes you’re feeling so vital? Are you able to spell it out for us?”, Yves Tumour sings on “Parody” off their fifth studio album. What does really feel vital is that this actual album, an exciting twelve-track artwork piece inhabiting the chambers of indie rock, pop and digital music. Reward a Lord Who Chews… impeccably combines the best parts of in style genres for probably the most addictive left-leaning album of the yr. What you actually respect from the album is the detailed instrumentation. The drums solo increase over the midpoint of “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood”, the electrical guitar can’t be escaped on “Meteora Blues”, and the heavenly strings on “Ebony Eye” are a soundtrack to ascension. Yves’ symbolic writing shouldn’t be be brushed over both.

It makes for probably the most epic sonic expertise of 2023, by an artist who continues to be completely different and push the boundaries of up to date music.

Greatest tracks: “Ebony Eye”, “Meteora Blues”, “Pretty Sewer”, “In Spite of Conflict”, “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood”


Waited a pair years to your favorite artist to drop an album? That’s nothing. Strive 9 years within the case of North London’s CASISDEAD. The masked rapper’s debut album is an distinctive world-builder, bleak but glistening in its dystopian soundtrack to an immediate basic, producing a puzzling, addictive universe executed with precision. Well-known Final Phrases is each vivid and cryptic, a theatrical sci-fi journey drowned in dreamy 80s synths. It’s a starry-eyed escapade from the actual world into one thing far worse, mired by dependancy, management, self-indulgence, and dormant trauma. CASISDEAD ensures it takes a number of listens to grasp the dense narrative, centred round a dystopian society being fed an apathy-inducing drug by an organization known as DeadCorp. Shut your eyes and you’ll image the scenes CAS is describing, from the eerie “A Spark” and “Steptronic” to the skits that add context to the story. Above all, it’s CAS’ means to marry hip hop with the choice, granting a completely unique UK rap album that’s the first of its form.

At each flip, the listener is offered with probably the most refreshing album UK rap’s had in years. Well-known Final Phrases is an enthralling expertise, maximising efforts, ambition and creativity. In a yr the place hip hop’s been below the hearth for its lack of dominance, CASISDEAD exhibits the world beat the chances and grant an immediate basic. Concentrate UK rappers, this the brand new bar. 

Greatest tracks: “Pat Earrings”, “Marilyn”, “Actin’ Up”, “Venom”, “Skydive”, “Matte Gray Wrap”, “Boys Will Be Boys”, “Earlier than This”

0207 Def Jam

With Actual Again in Type, Potter Payper gives a fully-realised, self-accomplished undertaking worthy of rap album of the yr. Potter Payper treats Actual Again in Type like his massive day, the place the partner is a primary rap album, and the vows are the songwriting, lyricism and manufacturing. Tales of upbringing and abuse are advised on “All My Life, If I Had…” and “Cash or Victims” respectfully. Lyrical peaks are discovered on the title observe and “What They Ain’t”, granting a few of the finest rap verses of the yr. Manufacturing shapeshifts on a spread of cuts. Earlier critiques of Potter’s lack of hookwriting are additionally put to mattress. Mixing transitions. Idea songs. Private content material. No stone is left unturned.

The cherry on high of all these checkboxes is the eagerness. Few albums this yr transmit humane ardour fairly like Actual Again in Type did, and the identical may be mentioned for UK rappers with out an album of their catalogue fairly like this. When Potter Payper performs at this degree, actual can by no means be out of fashion.

Greatest tracks: “Actual Again in Type”, “Multifaceted”, “Monitor Flocaine”, “Fairly Befitting”, “Cash or Victims (Kayla’s Story)”, “What They Ain’t”, “White Ash”


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