The Best Hip-Hop/Rap Albums Of 2024... So Far

You know what this is. +reviews of the latest from Michael Christmas and Saint Jame$

The Best Hip-Hop/Rap Albums Of 2024... So Far
ShrapKnel. Photo credit: Matt Shaver

There's a game being played out there, and it's called Best Of The Year So Far content. At this point, with so many music media outlets shrinking or vanishing altogether, it's almost comforting to see this industry going through the motions of announcing its overwhelmingly obvious midyear picks that people can't help but click on. Naturally, CABBAGES plays a bit differently, being that it's neither bound to the stanbase hivemind nor in the thrall of moneyed major label artistry.

So for this questionable entry into the timely fray, this newsletter continues to honors its longstanding agenda of promoting hip-hop/rap music discovery with a devout focus on independent artists. What follows below are ten albums from 2024, in no particular order other than vaguely alphabetical, that this publication considers worth your time as a listener. Check out the picks below with the understanding that, by design and on purpose, your Sony/Warner/Universal faves didn't make the cut.

bbymutha, Sleep Paralysis

Spiritually honoring the lineage of Hypnotize Minds, albeit refracted through the lens of deconstructed club, the Tennessee native's latest demonstrates phenomenal growth with energetic songs that feel like funhouse mirrors surreptitiously installed in a strip club.

sleep paralysis, by BIGMUTHA
11 track album


As adventurous as he was in the Antipop Consortium days, the leftfield rapper revels in the barely controlled chaos of Vladislav Delay's productions, spilling his guts and brain-dumping his data in a verbose yet dextrous fashion summed up in one word: fresh.

14 track album

Bruiser Wolf, My $tory Got $tories

Funnier than any of Chappelle’s last four specials, the idiosyncratic Detroiter takes his undeniably uproarious Rudy-Ray-Moore-as-dope-boy act even further than before, slyly revisiting well-trod topics with some astoundingly fresh takes. 

Nicholas Craven & Boldy James, Penalty Of Leadership

With instrumentals as rich as any in the Quebecois producer's impressive discography, you can hardly tell that his Griselda affiliated rapper counterpart recorded his rewind-worthy verses in a wheelchair, with his drug dealer rhetoric as razor sharp and unforgiving as ever.

Penalty of Leadership, by Nicholas Craven & Boldy James
11 track album

Heems & Lapgan, LAFANDAR

Backed by an enviable selection of indie rap notables, from Kool Keith and Saul Williams to Open Mike Eagle and Your Old Droog, the erstwhile Das Racist emcee makes a triumphant return with the aid of a crate-digging producer whose aesthetic

LAFANDAR, by Heems, Lapgan
12 track album

Hua Li 化力, ripe fruit falls but not in your mouth

Leaning into her self-described crying-in-the-club vibe, the Montreal-based artist deftly converts her deeply felt thoughts and lived-in experiences into head-nodding relationship confessionals and emotional baggage bops.

ripe fruit falls but not in your mouth, by Hua Li
10 track album

Seafood Sam, Standing On Giant Shoulders

Embracing the aural aesthetics of throwback soul and smooth jazz fusion, the Long Beach artist both grooves and soothes on this breathtaking breakthrough album with his meaningful lyricism as its lodestar. 

Standing On Giant Shoulders, by Seafood Sam
15 track album

ShrapKnel, Nobody Planning To Leave

Curly Castro and PremRock prove that the third time's a damn charm, as their follow-up to 2022's formidable Metal Lung surpasses their joint catalog with highly concentrated references and downright brilliant turns of phrase over truly inventive beats by Controller 7.

Nobody Planning To Leave, by Curly Castro, PremRock & Controller 7
14 track album

Varg²™, Nordic Flora Series, Pt. 6: Outlaw Music

An end-of-days rave revelation from the YEAR0001 DJ/producer, this guest-heavy project exposes everyone from Rx Papi to Eartheater to Drain Gang's Bladee, Ecco2k, and Thaiboy Digital t0 the shimmering radioactive futurism of his technoid hip-hop visions.

Wave Generators, After The End

New Kingdom alum Nosaj reaches new heights alongside producer Height Keech on this radical debut that not only finds the veteran emcee in peak condition but also simply rocks harder than just about any rap album in recent memory.

11 track album

Michael Christmas, Unsexy (buy it / stream it)

It's been a decade since then-teenaged Michael Christmas officially stepped into the indie rap arena with his Is This Art? mixtape. While the Boston native may not be the most prolific of his generation, each of his projects since that debut consistently contain both quality and comedy. Such is the case again with Unsexy, a self-described "experimental" album that concisely captures his simultaneously sophomoric and smart lyricism over some 1970's inspired beats. He sets the irreverent tone without hesitation on opener "Shake Some 4 DOOM," practically giggling his way into a first verse stuffed with slick references before kindred spirit Chris Crack intervenes in his own special way. Song titles like "Glory Hole Gang" and "Felash" (sound it out, if you dare) convey his sense of humor, but it's what he does with the setups that make his punchlines hit. "Pimp Juice," for instance, cleverly remarks on the controversial Nelly-inspired beverage's white adoption amid off-hand reflections on his romantic Ls. Locally sourced rappers Connis and FELIX! add variety to the groovy "Girl Blue," while New York's Lungs and Phiik live up to their recurring Company Flow comparisons on the punchy "Snooter."

Saint Jame$, BY ANY MEAN$ (buy it / stream it)

The story goes that UK producer Saint Jame$ intended for BY ANY MEAN$ to drop back in the summer of 2023, only to have it held back over a sample clearance. Despite its deferred release, the ten track effort nonetheless sounds inherently current, both for the quality of its new bap instrumentals as well as the caliber of its intentionally all-American rapper guests. Griselda fiends will rightfully marvel at how many of the Buffalo label's affiliates and alums appear here, from Conway The Machine to Elcamino. Boldy James features on four different songs, while Rome Streetz spits on three, though curiously the pair never overlap with one another. The Detroit-repping former delivers gunplay details with Pink Siifu and Hus Kingpin on "CERTIFIED" and the Queens-bred latter indulges in a narco convo with Kool G Rap and Chase Fetti on "MORE BRIX." The only rapper to get a solo look, Estee Nack leaves a potent powdery residue over the deliberately languid melodies and drowsy drum fills of "CA$H I$ KING."

Three new tracks for you to snack on...

TaliaBle, "Problem Solving Pit"

Nacho Picasso & Televangel "Do It For Johnny"

1up Tee & STAR BANDZ, "Click"

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