2021’s music landscape felt like a return to normalcy. Artists who had to push their albums back from 2020 release dates instead delivered over the last twelve months, with some embarking on individual tours and gracing festival stages. Several high profile rappers set to drop at the end of 2021 decided to pull back for various reasons, the two most prominent being wanting to refine their work or not wanting to rush back into a world that is still hindered by the pandemic.

2022 has the potential to be huge if all goes right. This would mark five years since Kendrick Lamar released Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN, and four since Cardi B’s Grammy-winning debut album Invasion of Privacy. While the highly-desired Rihanna album looms large, her new beau A$AP Rocky hasn’t released a project in quite some time either. The same goes for Pusha T, who is set to release his follow-up to the Grammy-nominated Daytona this year.

With the viable expectation of some legacy acts and up and comers surprising us as well, it only makes sense to cover what we know is coming and forecast some other drops that have the potential to finally see the light of day. Here is HipHopDX’s list of most anticipated albums.

The Most Anticipated Hip Hop Albums of 2022

Kendrick Lamar

In 2021, King Kendrick Lamar resurfaced, appearing twice on cousin Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue. But right before the year ended, he shook things up by announcing his upcoming album would be the last under TDE before he fully transitions to pgLang. K Dot releases always cause a frenzy, but the curiosity comes in what exactly he will have to say after radio silence throughout the pandemic. It was rumored his next project would be heavily rock-influenced, but either way, the game can use an album from the Compton wordsmith after receiving new Drake and J. Cole this past year. With Kendrick set to perform at the SuperBowl Halftime show this year, the only question is if the album will drop right after the performance, or if the rollout is going to start there and continue throughout the year. Most recently, longtime K. Dot producer Sounwave poured fuel on the fire by posting an Instagram picture with the caption “New creations on the way.”

 

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Earl Sweatshirt

The deep baritone Chicagoan returned from a brief hiatus in the fourth quarter, unloading singles “2010” and the Armand Hammer-assisted “Tabula Rasa” with accompanying videos. Earl’s fourth studio album Sick! is set to release on January 14, 2022, with production from The Alchemist, Black Noi$e, Samiyam, and Mr. Sweatshirt himself. Now operating as a completely independent artist for almost four years, the Odd Future OG has enjoyed doing “riskier shit.” One can only imagine what he’ll bring listeners in 2022. 

Gunna

Though Gunna did not release a solo album this year, he maintained a strong presence with standout Slime Language 2 cuts “Solid” and “Ski,” in addition to his usual hearty output of feature verses. Beyond the music, Sir Sergio Giovanni Kitchens was a trending topic on social media for his polarizing, extravagant outfits, so much so that Rihanna opted to morph into the YSL artist for Halloween 2021. Whether the ensembles are awe-inspiring or humorous, it makes sense for Wunna to prepare for the fourth edition of his popular Drip Season series. After slight teases on Instagram he announced DS4 will officially drop on January 7. Starting the year off with a splash, one could say.

 

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A$AP Rocky

Music has seemed more like a hobby as of late for the self-proclaimed “Jiggy Muthafucka,” with sparse appearances on other people’s albums and singles following 2018’s TESTING. TESTING was lauded by some for its ambitious experimentation, and disappointing to others for being spotty and unfocused. Rocky’s record when locked in on music is strong, so if 2022 is his comeback year then we could be in for something worthwhile depending on his approach. Will he continue to divulge all of his fashion endeavors, or will he get more personal and depict his experiences being arrested in Sweden? Either way, we’re ready to see what Rocky has in store.

Pusha T

Rap fans are interested in new music from Pusha T and what he has to say, whether it is a project produced exclusively by Madlib or the more recently confirmed album fully laced with Kanye West and The Neptunes beats. The album can go in any direction, as the Virginia kingpin was blessed with a son in 2020, started his new label Heir Wave Music Group, watched Ye rekindle his relationship with rival Drake, but also, unfortunately, had to bury his mother. Push has never rushed his product, so the wait is worth it following 2018’s DAYTONA and his subsequent monster feature run.

Dr. Dre

West Coast legend Dr. Dre has nothing left to prove in music, carrying the distinction as one of the greatest Hip Hop moguls of all time. Still, the slight mention of anything he’s working on gets people’s attention. His latest round of teases includes a December Instagram post to announce Casablanco, an album anchored by longtime collaborator Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry. They are no stranger to one another, previously collaborating on 2014’s Friends & Lovers and 2015’s Compton. With their chemistry dating all the way back to 2005, this is sure to be special. 

 

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Saba

Many would place Saba’s 2018 sophomore album Care for Me among that year’s best, and with good reason. The Chicago multi-talent operates like a recluse but is very present in his vulnerable, emotive music. Though he had an active 2019, partnering with Dreamville for a few cuts on Revenge of The Dreamers 3 and Smino and Noname for the collective Ghetto Sage, it feels like the appropriate time for another solo Saba effort. His next album Few Good Things is set to release February 4, and based on his track record, it will likely provide more than just a few solid singles. 

Lil Uzi Vert 

The Philadelphia dynamo has made multiple headlines this year due to plastering a pink diamond on his forehead and adding more piercings. Undeniably, the 26-year-old has provided multiple gems over the course of his active career and there are high expectations coming off of 2020’s Eternal Atake, LUV vs. The World, and the Future-tag-teamed effort Pluto x Baby Pluto. Uzi’s forthcoming album was delayed around Halloween and the title has changed from The Real Uzi 2 to The Pink Tape and may now be called Delta Tape. Regardless of the moniker, this effort could be pivotal in helping people forget his antics, especially with speculation of a Drake feature. 

50 Cent 

50 Cent has been busy establishing his own television universe with Power, Ghost, Raising Kanan, and BMF all maintaining high levels of popularity. Through all this, he intended to release an album this past fall but evidently, those plans went awry. Though he isn’t in a rush with his new endeavors flourishing, it will be interesting to see what the 46-year-old can put together seven years removed from his Animal Ambition LP. Perhaps he’s had time to finish the incomplete Eminem records discussed back in July, but he remains mum on the rest of the potential features because he’s “the most exciting person.” Gotta love Fif. 

 

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Freddie Gibbs

Freddie Gibbs has been on a tear over the last few years, maintaining a consistent release schedule without feeling too overwhelming. After previously opting for projects exclusively produced by Madlib (2019’s Bandana) and The Alchemist (2020’s Grammy-nominated Alfredo), he is looking ahead toward SSS (Soul Sold Separately). He took to Twitter to announce this album will feature both of the aforementioned producers in addition to Boi 1da, Pharrell, Justice League, DJ Paul, Tay Keith, Kaytranada, Bizness Boi, and more. Guest rappers will be revealed alongside the tracklist, but listeners may be in for his best work yet with this.

Diddy

Sean “Love” Combs’ Off The Grid Vol. 1 was supposed to be on DSPs as of September, but things did not happen that way. He enthusiastically announced the project back in July, ushering in his “love era” and marking his first release since 2015’s MMM. His son, King Combs, told DX at Rolling Loud New York “the album would be out soon,” making it likely for a 2022 release date. With no shortage of names to call on for a verse, his own individual musical acumen, and a generally positive disposition, the expectation of something great from the original Bad Boy is completely understandable. Much like the second word of G. Dep’s 2000s classic, it’s all in the delivery.

Cardi B

Cardi B has a big 2022 ahead, announcing an upcoming album and movie back in mid-December. She’s been riding a huge wave of momentum since 2018’s Invasion of Privacy earned her a Grammy for Rap Album of the Year, appearing on “WAP” with Megan Thee Stallion, “Wild Side” alongside Normani, and Lizzo’s “Rumors” in addition to her own single “Up” doing numbers. Cardi and Offset welcomed their second child back in September, so there’s no shortage of life experiences for Cardi to spit about. Though she set a high bar for herself with Invasion, there’s no doubt the charismatic Bronx native has all of the potential to take things to another level.

The Cool Kids

Blog era favorites Chuck Inglish and Sir Michael Rocks have a three-course meal on the way with the triple album Before Shit Got Weird. The LP will feature solo albums from each artist, and then a collaborative outing, in the same ilk as Rae Sremmurd’s SR3MM. They’ve already released “Hibachi” featuring KEY! and Nikki Sweets, and “All Or Nothing” featuring Larry June. It’s always refreshing to hear from our veterans, and even nicer to reflect on better days. The Cool Kids may just provide a healthy dose of nostalgia on top of quality raps.

 

Eminem

It’s felt like Slim Shady has possessed a renewed desire to rap ever since 2017’s Revival was panned by critics. 2018’s Kamikaze and 2020’s Music To Be Murdered By were aptly named and, for a subset of rap fans, made any new Eminem music a priority for what or who he might be throwing shots at. So, naturally, some cryptic posts from producer Fredwreck and longtime partner-in-pop Skylar Grey from back in September drew the intrigue of many Marshall Mathers fans. Though their “subtle” promotion only materialized into two tracks for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, it’s very possible we’ll be hearing from the rap gymnast very soon following his two-year pattern as of late.

Kanye West

Despite all of the goodwill he has undone, one thing is indisputable–when Kanye West is locked in on music, you want to hear what he comes up with. While he’s one of the most unpredictable beings in the Hip-Hop game, it’s not a shock he may want to come right back with Donda 2, according to reports from close associate Steven Victor. Ye has teased many projects before and pump-faked twice as many release dates, but a sequel to his Grammy-nominated LP coming in 2022 isn’t so far-fetched; there may not be a more opportune time for him to maximize his usual self-indulgence. He better include a CDQ version of Drake’s “24” if we’re going to be asked for another near two hours of listening time, though.

Kanye West Has Started Working On 'Donda 2,' Says Pusha T's Manager


Albums That We Hope Come Out This Year

  • Lauryn Hill
  • Lupe Fiasco
  • 6LACK 
  • Nas
  • King Von
  • Frank Ocean
  • Yeat
  • Lil Baby
  • Coi Leray
  • Shenseea
  • Denzel Curry
  • Joey Bada$$
  • MAVI
  • Vince Staples
  • Schoolboy Q
  • Lil Wayne
  • Kid Cudi
  • Future
  • Danny Brown
  • Megan Thee Stallion
  • Lil Kim
  • Baby Tate

Paragraphs By Armon Sadler

Be sure to check out some of our other Year End Award Categories, articles and our previous year’s winners below: