Hip Hop has been the driving force of popular culture for the past couple decades, but recognition of this went into overdrive in 2023 as it celebrated its 50th anniversary. Whether it was special live events, pop-up museums, Hall of Fame inductions, limited edition merchandise, or even cruise ship celebrations, all eyes were well and truly on Hip Hop — and it was a beautiful thing to behold.
But while past legends were given their much deserved flowers, future stars shone just as bright setting the tone and trends for Hip Hop as it heads into its next 50 years. Sexyy Red dialed up the raunchiness, Veeze built up a cult following, and Teezo Touchdown went off script and toed the line between rap and rock, much to the approval of his biggest celebrity fan, Drake. Speaking of Drizzy, he himself had a huge year, as did his former label boss Lil Wayne and longtime collaborator J. Cole.
Some of the year’s biggest stories included the return of Travis Scott and Megan Thee Stallion, both of whom endured tragic life-changing incidents, as well as Gunna, who many didn’t think would ever overcome the scrutiny he faced for pleading out of the YSL RICO case. André 3000 dropped a surprise flute album, Killer Mike reminded fans where his mic-killing moniker comes from with his first solo album in over 10 years, and although Kendrick Lamar stayed consistent with his reclusive ways, he did just enough to capture the attention of fans.
On the R&B side of things, SZA dominated… well, everything. Chris Brown delivered his best album in almost a decade, Brent Faiyaz paid homage to those that came before him, and Victoria Monet put it on her mama. International artists continued to infiltrate the US in a big way thanks to the likes of Central Cee, Bad Bunny, Tems, Burna Boy, Sampha and Tyla. 2023 also played host to a female takeover. In addition to the aforementioned powerhouse women, Ice Spice, Latto, Doja Cat and Cardi B were all instrumental in taking the attention away from the fellas.
As with every year, 2023 had its losses. We sadly had to say goodbye to Gangsta Boo, De La Soul’s Trugoy The Dove, Big Pokey, Magoo, and C-Knight of the Dove Shack, among a number of other beloved stars. However, some tech-savvy fans weren’t ready to bid farewell to their favorite artists, using Chat GPT and AI to bring them back — even if it did divide the industry.
HipHopDX prides itself on being a valuable and trusted source on all things Hip Hop for those who love the culture as much as we do, and our annual DX Awards reflect this. Some nominees you’ll know and agree with; some you won’t. We just hope you engage in the conversation and keep representing for your favorite artists.
— Will “ill Will” Lavin, HipHopDX Senior News Editor
Every year, the HipHopDX team get together to discuss, debate and sometimes argue about the year’s best songs, albums and artists. The end result: the HipHopDX Awards. We’ll be rolling out the nominees all week and you can check back here for the winners of each category beginning December 18.
Editor’s Note: Nominees are eligible from December 1, 2022 — December 1, 2023.
THIS YEAR’S Hip hop AWARDs WINNER SCHEDULE
HIP HOP ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2023
In an era characterized by instant gratification and overnight success, rappers come and go but only a handful manage to hold the public’s attention past the honeymoon phase. The select few who hit the ground running and figured out ways to retain their momentum amid all the competition this past year demonstrated that just because things are a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how they have to be. Whether you like it or not, these artists are here to stay.
The 2023 Hip Hop Rookie of the Year is…
Arguably one of the biggest stars of the year not just in Hip Hop but across all genres, Sexyy Red’s mainstream dominance has been somewhat of a marvel. Though she’s been active since 2018, the 25-year-old red-haired phenomenon took over the airwaves in 2023 thanks to her Tay Keith-assisted smash hit “Pound Town,” which was later bolstered by a Nicki Minaj remix. Add to this her blockbuster hit “SkeeYee” and second mixtape, Hood Hottest Princess, and there’s no denying she owned the summer and 2023 as a whole. Love her or hate her, Sexyy Red outshined the rest of her rookie class this year.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for Hip Hop Rookie of the Year.
BIGGEST COMEBACK OF 2023
A lot can change in the space of 12 months — especially in the world of Hip Hop, the evolution of which has been accelerated by social media, streaming services and bedroom studios. This year, numerous rappers have seen their stock rise and fortunes change, either by overcoming adversity or returning from hiatus to remind fans why they fell in love with them in the first place — or, in some cases, reinvent themselves entirely.
The 2023 Biggest Comeback is…
For a while, many doubted that Gunna would be able to climb his way back to the heights he achieved just 11 months prior when he earned his first No. 1 album with DS4Ever. Some even wondered whether his career was over altogether.
With the release of his third album A Gift & A Curse this past summer, though, Gunna silenced the critics and proved that not even snitching allegations can drown the Drip King. Loaded with infectious, hard-hitting anthems and a defiant edge that’s reflected in its lack of guest features, the project peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart while its platinum-certified single “Fukumean” cracked the Top 5 on the Hot 100 chart, becoming one of the biggest (and unlikeliest) rap hits of 2023.
Gunna also delivered two sold-out — and impressively put-together — arena shows in New York City and Los Angeles, proving the line of people still riding with him outnumber those ready to tear him down. Gunna definitely had the biggest comeback of 2023 and he has shown no sign of slowing down moving into the new year.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for Hip Hop Comeback of the Year.
BEST R&B ALBUM OF 2023
Although 2023 was by no means a smooth year globally, there was no shortage of soothing new R&B albums to provide listeners with some healing. Some new stars made their mark, while a number of prominent artists in the genre dropped new projects for the first time in years.
The Best R&B Album of 2023 is…
Five years after SZA’s debut album CTRL, the pressure of delivering a follow up that matched expectations was high. But SZA delivered with SOS.
Throughout her career SZA has operated in the space of experimental R&B, foregoing traditional song structures, power vocals, and one dimensional writing for other techniques. Though SOS finds itself experimenting with new sounds, there’s a clear shift to a more pop-focused sound.
In her decade-long career SZA has proven that her strength as an artist lies in her sharp writing and the blending of genres to build her own unique sound world. This mingled with the stream of conscious flow, many of her songs emote shapes that mold SOS into a deeply personal – sometimes too much – body of work.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for R&B Album of the Year.
BEST R&B SONG OF 2023
2023 proved to be a big year for R&B. Whether it was the genre’s mainstays delivering blockbuster projects, rising stars making a name for themselves, or global talents thriving from across the pond, R&B got its shine back after years of question marks over its commercial viability.
The Best R&B Song of 2023 is…
The fourth single from last December’s stunning and ambitious SOS, “Kill Bill” is a tribute to being pulled under the riptide of a breakup that one finds hard to accept. If the album cover depicting the TDE superstar sitting in the middle of the ocean is the visual motif of the album, “Kill Bill” is the aural one.
The R&B mainstay’s sing-song delivery contrasts delightfully with the violent lyrical content inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 epic. Relatable on so many levels, it begs the question: would you rather live in a toxic relationship than be alone? Regardless of your answer, the one thing everyone can agree on is that this song was stuck in their head at one point or another this year.
- Amaarae — “Reckless & Sweet”
- Doechii – “What It Is”
- Toosii – “Favorite Song”
- Victoria Monet – “On My Mama”
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for R&B Song of the Year.
BEST RAP & HIP HOP MUSIC VIDEO OF 2023
It’s been more than 40 years since video killed the radio star, but nothing has come close to killing music videos yet — not even YouTube algorithms or MTV’s pivot to Ridiculousness. Creative music videos are not only a good marketing tool in 2022 but they add new dimensions to songs and paint visual pictures to the bars. This year, some of the best Hip Hop music videos were both cinematic and innovative.
The Best Rap/Hip Hop Music Video of 2023 is…
DIRECTED BY: GIBSON HAZARD
Drake and J. Cole‘s “First Person Shooter” video begins with a cameo from The Office‘s Brian Baumgartner — played Kevin Malone — who hilariously tackles the role of a company CEO outsmarted by his employees who duck of into a conference room to watch the 6 God and Dreamville boss battle it out in an intense game of ping pong — replacing themselves with life-sized puppets.
Including a play on the famous Spider-Man meme with both Drizzy and Cole in costume and a post-apocalyptic scene featuring a group of men donning canine masks (a nod to the title of Drizzy’s new album, For All the Dogs) while parading down a dark subway tunnel, the widely cinematic sparring session is the collaboration we didn’t know we needed. From start to finish, this video was perfectly executed and left no room for debate about who had the video of the year.
- Doja Cat – “Paint The Town Red”
- Kendrick Lamar – “Count Me Out”
- Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem – “The Hillbillies”
- Tyler, The Creator – “Sorry Not Sorry”
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these videos for Music Video of the Year.
BEST PRODUCED HIP HOP SONG OF 2023
Hip Hop has gone through several stages of evolution over its 50 years, through which the craft and its disciplines continue to expand. This goes for production as well as bars and delivery. Today, more than ever, producers are sampling music made decades ago as well as other Hip Hop songs from not too long back that were already built on borrowed cuts, and the percussion added to these snippets ranges anywhere from trap to boom-bap to drill as the prospects increase with a growing influx of new ideas. All of these tracks made noise at different parts throughout the year, and HipHopDX believes they’re among the best produced of 2023 and are destined to remain in rotation way into the new year.
The Best Beat of 2023 is…
Produced By: Dunk Rock & Florian “Flo” Ongonga
A masterclass in hitmaking, “fukumean” finds Gunna flaunting a life of glamor over measured hi-hat clicks and a bass thump that is guaranteed to give the track a whole new identity when played on monstrous speakers. The composition is held in place by a piano loop that allows its trademark “iya” soundbite to flow comfortably between the Atlanta rapper’s bars.
Teaming up with Dunk Rock and Florian “Flo” Ongonga proved to be tremendously beneficial for the 30-year-old as it reminded the Hip Hop community just what he’s capable of doing when presented with the right beat. Even if you don’t know the words to the song, you know the instrumental.
- Drake – “8AM In Charlotte”
- Drake (Feat. J. Cole) – “First Person Shooter”
- Metro Boomin (Feat. Future & Chris Brown) – “Superhero”
- Sexyy Red – “SkeeYee”
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these producers for Hip Hop Beat of the Year.
BEST RAP & HIP HOP PRODUCERS OF 2023
Even the finest ingredients cannot guarantee an appetizing meal if the person behind the chopping board doesn’t get its preparation right. Moderation, timing and restraint all contribute to how tasty a dish turns out, and those very distinctions are what the HipHopDX staff took into consideration while shortlisting this year’s most effective studio chefs.
The 2023 Hip Hop Producer of the Year is…
Just over the past year, The Alchemist has reached every corner of Hip Hop by working with Drake, Earl Sweatshirt, Larry June, Action Bronson, Curren$y, Hit-Boy, MIKE and Wiki, among others. Prolific as ever, he dropped four LPs, two EPs and multiple singles to add another spectacular year to his resume. As he continues to uplift heroes and aspirants with equal vigor, his legacy remains under construction until further notice with unwavering support from the community he helped cultivate. It was a great year for Hip Hop production but Alchemist slighted out his competition as our Producer of The Year.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these producers for Hip Hop Producer of the Year.
BEST R&B ARTIST OF 2023
R&B — much like Hip Hop over the past, well, three decades — has come under plenty of scrutiny in recent years but 2023 has seen an array of artists, both new and old, carry the torch for the beloved genre while illuminating new territory. From SZA’s utter dominance and Sampha’s long-awaited return to Coco Jones and Victoria Monét’s breakout campaigns and Brent Faiyaz giving Future another run for his money as the most toxic man in music, the notion that R&B is on life support is sadly misguided.
The Best R&B Singer of 2023 is …
Few artists in the entire music industry have had a bigger year than SZA. In fact, perennial pop juggernaut Taylor Swift might be the only one. Released last December after years of delays and anticipation, the singer’s sophomore album SOS has proven to be a blockbuster success, becoming her first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 while demolishing numerous chart records — including those previously held by icons like Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Mary J. Blige.
SZA’s win should come as no surprise with hits like “Kill Bill” and “Snooze” alongside guest appearances on Drake’s For All the Dogs, Travis Scott’s UTOPIA and Lizzo’s “Special.” The former high school outcast confirmed in 2023 what many TDE fans have long suspected: that SZA is a bona fide star.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for R&B Singer of the Year.
BEST RAPPERS OF 2023
Being awarded Rapper of the Year is among the highest of honors that can be bestowed upon an MC. And with rap being one of the fastest-evolving genres of music, especially since new sounds and trends sprout up on a daily basis, earning the coveted best rapper title means not only has the winner identified new sounds and trends before they hit the masses, but they’ve excelled in honing their craft.
The Best Rapper of 2023 is…
Having not released a solo album in over a decade, 2023 marked the welcome return of Michael Render, better known as Killer Mike — or one half of rap duo Run The Jewels with El-P. However, setting his collaborative endeavors to one side, Killa Kill from the Ville went solo this year, delivering his autobiographical blockbuster MICHAEL.
Easily his most personal album to date, the follow-up to 2012’s R.A.P. Music taps into Mike’s struggles as a teen growing up in Atlanta as he tried to figure out his place in the world, as well as the come-to-Jesus moments he had at different junctures in his life. But most importantly, it celebrates the women in his life who helped shape, educate and love him as he walked the path to stardom.
Proving what true rap fans knew already, MICHAEL exemplifies what it means to be an upper echelon MC. It’s the perfect vehicle for Killer Mike to properly introduce himself to the masses in the same way Nas did with Illmatic, JAY-Z with Reasonable Doubt, and Biggie with Ready To Die — and rap fans in 2023 are thankful. Killer Mike stood out as our rapper of the year in the last 365.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for Rapper of the Year.
BEST INTERNATIONAL ARTIST OF 2023
This year saw the full realization of the love affair which has been brewing for years between mainstream Hip Hop/R&B fans in the US and the artists who cater to similar audiences abroad. Thus far, 2023 has been the most balanced year for international music on urban and pop airwaves in the US. Because, for the first time in recent history, the top international artists finding success in the States represent a variety of genres, cultures and nationalities and are authentically showcasing their culture on the global stage.
The Best International Artist of 2023 is…
From the top of the charts (Latin or otherwise), to viral TikTok hits, to your favorite basketball team’s arena playlist to the Kardashian universe, nowhere was off limits for Bad Bunny in 2023. Artistically, he continues to push boundaries with his visuals and experiment with sounds that fans might not automatically associate with Latin Caribbean or Latin Urban music.
Culturally, Bad Bunny shows up as himself each and every time, forcing those who want to engage with him and his content to do so on his terms. This year, that meant both a Grammy acceptance speech and SNL intro monologue en español. It was clear that Bad Bunny is a superstar globally and it would be hard to deny him this award.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these artists for Best International Artist.
BEST RAP VERSE OF 2023
The year of Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary blessed fans with a lot of great music, but when it came to pen game, the list of nominees for Best Rap Verse raised the bar (pun intended). As the ongoing rift between art and over-commercialized, manufactured hype rages on, this year’s shortlist continue to push others to either up their bars or hire better ghostwriters.
The Best Rap Verse of 2023 is…
Widely regarded as one of Hip Hop’s most celebrated lyricists, André 3000 boasts an impressive discography as one half of OutKast. Despite this, he has never released a full-blown solo album — a detail frequently pointed out by his critics. This backdrop made his well-received, albeit bar-free, flute-focused album, New Blue Sun, even more captivating and, for some, frustrating. Compounding this frustration is the fact that, despite claiming “it’s just not happening for [him],” the ATLien delivered this absolutely stunning verse for friend and longtime OutKast affiliate Killer Mike’s “Scientists and Engineers” just five months earlier.
In this guest appearance, 3 Stacks tackles the overwhelming demand for his music, the burden of legacy and his ongoing search for personal satisfaction: “Communication comin’ in/ Too much that I can’t communicate with all of them/ I do wish I had scientist or engineer friends/ Let’s go, get out of here, petrol is cheaper than it’s ever been/ And then, who’s to say when all would end?”
He also echoes a sentiment he shared with NPR that he’d love to be “out there playing with everybody,” suggesting that even if he has to wait a lot (lot) longer, it’s not off the table. “Hope I’m 80 when I get my second wind/ Small potatoes all I ate before potato chips would cut my corner lips/ Operator, operator, I would pray that you connect me to a sip/ Of sangria, Zambia, camera cameo, hand me a handful of hips.”
Given the quality of this verse, it’s challenging to attribute his hesitation to release a solo (Hip Hop) album to anything else but stage fright.
- Cardi B – “Put It On Da Floor Again”
- J. Cole – “First Person Shooter”
- J. Cole – “The Secret Recipe”
- Kendrick Lamar – “The Hillbillies”
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these songs for Rap Verse of the Year.
BEST HIP HOP SONG OF 2023
When it comes to this year’s best song nominees, the artists and sound couldn’t be more diverse. From mainstream hits to album cuts these were some of the standout songs that stayed on our playlists or were simply unavoidable.
The Best Hip Hop Song of 2023 is…
In 2023, Sexyy Red unleashed her biggest song to date, “SkeeYee.” Produced by Tay Keith, the up-tempo, heavy-hitting track is proof that less is more when it comes to crafting hit records. A simple chorus with an anthemic “skeeeyeee” chant scattered throughout is all it needed to become a contender for song of the year.
Sexyy Red might not be a lyrical miracle spiritual spitter but what she lacks in metaphors and wordplay she makes up for in spades with attitude, delivery and ass-shaking songwriting. Just play this song at any party and the reaction will let you know why this is the biggest Hip Hop song of the year.
- Doja Cat – “Paint the Town Red”
- Gunna – “fukumean”
- Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem – “The Hillbillies”
- Killer Mike (Feat. André 3000 & Future) – “Scientists & Engineers”
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these songs for Hip Hop Song of the Year.
BEST HIP HOP ALBUMS OF 2023
When it comes to our Hip Hop album of the year nominations, certain albums pushed the conversation forward and some were sonically close to flawless. As the eclectic 2022 comes to a close, here are the albums that didn’t leave our rotation this year.
The Best Hip Hop Album of 2023 is …
Killer Mike’s MICHAEL, executive produced by No ID, is an eclectic, heartfelt swirl of majestic soul and songwriting that’s as piercing as it is intimate. Mike explores tragedy and love with a mix of naked sincerity and the types of detail that usually has to be extracted from memory.
As he’s explained in multiple interviews, this isn’t Killer Mike, it’s Michael Render, a human being that’s more than the sum of whichever labels we try to prescribe him. At about 54 minutes, MICHAEL is a dense, but efficient body of thoughts and sounds, one embedded with instrumentation and gospel choirs you’d find in Black churches across the South.
Of course, soundbeds like those are natural for Atlanta rappers of a certain age, but in this case, the dosage is more sizable — Mike’s deliberate move to incorporate the music of his childhood while paying homage to the culture that raised him results in a definitive body of work. Whether the GRAMMYs get it right or not, this is the Rap Album of the Year.
Dive deeper into why our team nominated these albums for Hip Hop Album of the Year.
History of the HipHopDX Awards
HipHopDX is not new to this, we’ve been making our best of year picks for more than 15 years! For anyone who wants the full historical record of all DX‘s picks over the years, check out our past awards below:
- 2022 HipHopDX Awards
- 2021 HipHopDX Awards
- 2020 HipHopDX Awards
- 2019 HipHopDX Awards
- 2018 HipHopDX Awards
- 2017 HipHopDX Awards
- 2016 HipHopDX Awards
- 2015 HipHopDX Awards
- 2014 HipHopDX Awards
- 2013 HipHopDX Awards
- 2012 HipHopDX Awards
- 2011 HipHopDX Awards
- 2010 HipHopDX Awards
Artwork & Graphic Design by JR Martinez