Top 5 Rap Artists of 2022

By: Anthony Riquelmy 

With 2022 coming to an end, we can definitely say this was an amazing year for the rap genre. Many different artists exceeded their expectations and excelled to a new level this year, while many already-established artists managed to stay on top of the rap game all year. 

There were so many great albums, EPs and singles that raised the ears of listeners around the world. Here are my top five rappers who pioneered the year of 2022.

5. Denzel Curry

After Denzel Curry’s critically acclaimed album “TA13OO” released in 2018, fans were excited to see what was next from the Florida rapper. Curry released four albums between 2019-21, and even though they were worth listening to and carried a message, they just weren’t at the level of TA13OO. 

This all changed when Curry released his latest album “Melt My Eyez See Your Future” on March 25, 2022. This is by far one of his best projects, as his flow and lyrics are top-tier. He raps, reflecting on his rap career and the experience of being an African-American in these critical times. It doesn’t stop there as he spreads to the topics of pushing through and never giving up on tracks like “Walkin” and “X-wing.” The album is close to perfect in my eyes, and was a heavy pick for rap album of the year up until the end after other albums slightly outshined this one.

Even though the album was overlooked by others, it was just enough to put Denzel Curry in my five best rappers of the year, as he exceeded expectations and elevated to a new level in 2022. I’m very excited to see what he does in 2023 and beyond that.

4. Drake

It’s pretty clear that Drake is one of the best artists of our generation, and his longevity is unmatched. Drake has managed to be one of the most popular artists for years and it doesn’t seem like he’s coming down from the top of the food chain anytime soon. But at the start of the year it seemed like the start of his downfall was beginning. 

During the summer, he released his surprise album “Honestly, Nevermind” and to make a long story short, this album was terrible. The album is steered towards a dance genre with influence of house genre. Drake tried to experiment with this and include his old singing sound and it just didn’t work. Almost every track sounded the same and it felt like a never-ending album of torture. By far, this was easily Drake’s worst album but it did have a few songs that were listenable. Songs like “Jimmy Cooks,” were actually playlist-worthy with Drake and 21 savage having great chemistry throughout the track.

After “Honestly Nevermind”, I wasn’t expecting Drake to drop any more albums during the year, but later in the year in October, Drake and 21 Savage announced they were releasing a joint album named “Her Loss”. 

The idea of the pair releasing an album sounded intriguing, but not enough for me to get my hopes up after Drake’s last project. It sounded like the album was going to be rushed and disorganized, but when “Her Loss” released on November 4th, I was proven wrong. From track one of the project, this album was instantly one of the best albums of the year for me, as Drake proved that he’s definitely got some gas left in the tank. Drake went all in as some of the best tracks on the album including “On BS”, “Major Distribution”, and “Privileged Rappers” that really showed Drake is still at the top of the game. 

Not only was Drake elite on his own project, he was also amazing on some of his features including “Churchill Downs” from Jack Harlow and Future’s “Wait For U”. He was at the same level of the artists who made the songs, if not better.

3. Kendrick Lamar

After not releasing any music since April 14, 2017, Kendrick Lamar left the world in a standstill. Fans were wondering when he would even come back on the rap scene, let alone releasing a project or album. 

This speculation changed when Lamar came back in the summer of 2021 with a feature on Baby Keem’s “family ties”. He didn’t disappoint with this, as he claimed in the song that whoever was on top during his vacancy is a visitor and he’s come to take back the top spot.

Kendrick Lamar did just that as he electrified the world with his first single in five years and his first in 2022, “The Heart Part 5”. This song was a masterpiece all around, as everything was exactly on point. The production, the cadence, the flow, the music video, and even the idea and message of the song really just showed me why he’s one of the greatest rappers of all time. 

The song centers around the idea of perspective as Kendrick Lamar puts himself in the shoes of public figures and rappers like Kobe Bryant, O.J Simpson, Jussie Smollett, Kanye West, Nipsey Hussle, and Will Smith. He describes their problems and how it relates to the cycle of pain and abuse that our world lives in. This song’s message was special and will be remembered for a long time. 

After dropping that single, Kendrick released his latest album “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” five days later. There were mixed reviews for this album at first, but later in the year it was considered one of the best albums of the year as this is probably Kendrick’s most personal album yet. The album was not advertised like his previous album “Damn”, but it was almost just as successful. The best songs from this album include “N95”, “United In Grief”, and “Silent Hill”. 

The project was definitely worth waiting for, and for such a long wait, it couldn’t have been any better. Hopefully we get more content from Kendrick this year in 2023.

2. J.I.D

“His Potential is GOAT status” said J.Cole, “A lot of people want it, but they not willing to put in the work. He’s not one of those people.” This is what J.Cole said about JID when he signed him to Dreamville back in February, 2017.

Since his signing with Dreamville, JID pushed on the gas and never let go, dropping many albums and singles until 2022. But what’s the difference between that time period and 2022? He’s taken it to a whole new level. On August 26th, JID released his latest album. On this project, he proved why he is one of if not the best wordsmith of the new generation of rap as he uses his lyrics, cadence, and flow to make my pick for the best album of the year “The Forever Story”. On this project, JID uses everything in his arsenal and uses his storytelling to guide the listeners on an adventure rapping about his personal endeavors and stories with his family. He speaks on these particular topics a lot in songs like “Crack Sandwich” and “Kody Blu 31”.

His style and choice of words is like a piece of art, as he breathes fresh air into the Atlanta rap scene, and his music acts as a delight for old-school rap fans as he also reaches out to the new-school rap fans. If JID released slightly more content, he would’ve definitely been in my number one spot, but that doesn’t take away from how amazing his year was and I look forward to what he’ll do in the future.

Honorable mentions

Future- Released his “I Never Like You” album and appeared on many songs as a feature including Metro Boomin’s “Superhero” and DJ Khaled’s “BIG TIME”.

Gunna- Released his “DRIP SEASON 4EVER” album with popular tracks “pushin P” and “too easy”, he also appeared on features for Metro Boomin’s “All The Money” and Cordae’s “Today”.

Jack Harlow- Released his “Come Home The Kids Miss You” album with popular tracks “First class”, “Dua Lipa”, “Churchill Downs”, and “Nail Tech”.

Benny The Butcher- Released his “Tana Talk 4” album with popular tracks “Johnny P’s Caddy” and “10 More Commandments”.

Pusha T- Released his “It’s Almost Dry” album.

1. 21 Savage

The best rap artist of 2022, 21 Savage has stolen the trophy and ran away with it. From his collaboration album with Drake to his features, Savage’s fingerprints were all over this year as he skyrocketed the Atlanta rap scene through the atmosphere and showed what Atlanta rap can sound like.

For me, 21 Savage was always usually among the best rappers out, but he never had my number one spot. His past projects like “Savage Mode II” and “i am > i was” were very good albums that showed his potential to be one of the best in the game but didn’t prove he can be the top dog, this all changed in 2022.

With 21 Savage and Drake releasing their “Her Loss” album, this showed that 21 savage can hang with the big hitters like Drake, and in this album, Savage actually outdid Drake dropping clever bars and rhymes. When Drake’s lyrics and sound began to go dry in parts of this album, Savage reset the mood and made this album very enjoyable, especially on tracks like “Broke Boys” and “ On BS”. Even though the duo weren’t fully in-sinc and didn’t go back to back, they both used their personal skills to excel the album.

Not only was 21 Savage amazing on his own projects, but he was probably the best feature artist of the year as well. He appeared on tracks like Pharrell Williams’ “Cash In Cash Out”, Metro Boomin’s “Umbrella”, “Niagra Falls”, and “Creepin”, Drake’s “Jimmy Cooks”, DJ Khaled’s “WAY PAST LUCK”, JID’s “Surround Sound”, and much more.

 21 Savage not only gave us quality, but gave us quantity as well as he appeared on many different tracks and albums throughout the year. He just dominated the year of 2022 and there wasn’t too much thought to who was going to be in the number one spot of this list.

In my opinion, the year of 2022 for the rap genre was a success. Some rappers on this list reached my high expectations while others on this list completely surpassed them. These five rappers really excelled this year and hopefully they continue the pace and ride the wave into 2023 the same exact way, if not better.







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