The Best Albums of 2024 (So Far)

About halfway through the calendar year, we take a look at some of the best albums that have dropped in 2024. 

In music terms, the year 2024 might be defined by the Kendrick Lamar and Drake beef. But there’s plenty of other music that has made an impact, whether motivating, inspiring, or just a lot of fun. Many people wonder if hip-hop is dead because it’s not reigning at the top of the charts like it used to. Perhaps “Not Like Us” proves that theory wrong, as K.Dot’s West Coast anthem snagged the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was referenced by everyone — even Turkish football club Galatasaray.

But now more than ever, music seems to follow the path of total football. Just like the Dutch philosophy encourages fluid, positionless play, we’ve seen today’s today’s artists defy traditional genre labels. They’re mixing country with R&B with rock. And it works!

While we continue to cross our fingers for a new album from Dave, who went off on Giggs’ “Incredible Sauce” last year by comparing himself to Thierry Henry in the Champions League, here are the best albums of 2024 so far.

Dark Times, Vince Staples

Vince Staples delivered yet again.

For his final project on Def Jam, the Long Beach MC released Dark Times, a 13-track journey exploring life’s letdowns and reminiscing on simpler memories. When announcing the album, Staples said his new music came after reflecting on his Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 mixtape and there’s references to his discography in the new project. The same whining synth that made “Blue Suede” a standout serves as the conclusion of “Government Cheese.”

The project is dark, but the bouncy “Étoufée” is an infectious ode to New Orleans and the gentle voice of Baby Rose on the single “Shame on the Devil” brings Dark Times to an ethereal place. Maddy Davis has a similar effect on “Nothing Matters,” which is an homage to Lauryn Hill. On this song, Staples shows off his elite pen with wordplay on Muhammad Ali’s famous quote. “Floatin’ like a butterfly, you got me on the ropes/I’m tryna dance with feet of clay, if cash is (Cassius) all these women want then I don’t wanna fight no more.”

Do Not Disturb, Nemzzz

Nemzzz proved he’s more than a TikTok rapper with his Do Not Disturb album. The 20-year-old artist has a laid-back flow and is a solid storyteller about his ambition and relationships. Standout tracks on the sprawling project include “ETA” where Nemzzz’s voice is balanced well by the growl of German MC Luciano, the piano-tinged reflective “L’s” and the drill-infused “I Know You Care” featuring British rap vet Headie One.

Nemzzz gained popularity in 2021 when “Elevate” dominated TikTok. Although he used his album to assert that he doesn’t like notifications — probably unless it’s Manchester United match updates — he showed he can hold his own with some of the best in the game.

World Wide Whack, Tierra Whack

Tierra Whack reminds us all that it’s okay to be your wonderfully weird self. The Philadelphia rapper easily avoids the sophomore slump with World Wide Whack, a thoughtful project that’s equal parts fun and reflective.

“Ms Behave” has drums and a mechanical feel that would have perfectly fit on the Black Panther soundtrack, and it leads right into the whimsical “Chanel Pit,” whose beat could serve as the theme song for a children’s show, although the braggadocious bars are meant for a more mature audience. Throughout the project, Whack reflects on bouts of depression and wrestling with loneliness. She ultimately offers her fans hope that they’re not alone.

Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going, Shaboozey

If Luke Combs is country’s Alex Morgan — the longstanding talisman atop the game — Shaboozey is Sophia Smith, the newcomer carrying the torch.

The Virginia artist started off 2024 with not one, but two appearances on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album. His single, “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” skyrocketed him to new heights and now he’s basking in all the glory with the help of his new album, Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going.

The project features the hit song and also showcases Shaboozey’s full range of artistry. He’s most well-known as a country artist at this point, and the opener, “Horses and Hellcats” has just the right amount of twang to let his gritty voice shine. “Last of My Kind” furthers his outlaw image and adds a little rock edge with the help of Paul Cauthen. “Drink Don’t Need No Mix” has a hint of ‘90s R&B and brings in the hip-hop flavor with an assist from Dallas rapper BigXthaPlug. Shaboozey proves that you don’t need to be defined by a genre to become a superstar.

We Don’t Trust You, Future & Metro Boomin

If there was an album that’s made the most noise so far in 2024, Future and Metro Boomin’s We Don’t Trust You might be it. This is mostly due to “Like That,” where Kendrick Lamar poured gasoline on his beef with Drake while also throwing a few barbs toward J. Cole.

The song kicked off a two-month-long back-and-forth between rap’s biggest names, a stretch that will go down in hip-hop history as one of the most electrifying ever. Beyond that, Future does his thing delivering toxic goodness. The title track, “Claustrophobic” and “Seen It All” are what we’ve come to expect from Pluto while “Runnin Outta Time” shows his more pensive side. A standout is “Ice Attack,” where Metro’s beat switch alone deserves a Grammy.

From the Fire, Audrey Powne

Audrey Powne is a soulful jazz artist who impressed with her debut album, From the Fire. I first heard of her when Derek Minor sampled “Mind Full” from her band Leisure Centre for his 2019 song “Dope” with Propaganda and John Givez. From the Fire shows what a thoughtful artist she is, opening with the cinematic “Overture.” There’s a bit of boom-bap on “Feed the Fire” and the gentle crescendo of “Indigo” is mesmerizing. She lets all her emotions out on the looming conclusion, “Souled Out.”

On Purpose, With Purpose, Ghetts

On Purpose, With Purpose reminded us all that Ghetts is still one of Britain’s best. It’s the follow-up to the extravaganza that was 2021’s Conflict of Interest and he didn’t miss a beat. Top Boy fans will be excited to hear Kano on the aptly-titled “Mount Rushmore,” which also features Wretch 32. The project is a balance of light and dark as the first half features the looming “Anakin (Red Saber)” and “Blood on my Hands,” and then the second half leads listeners down a road of reflective gratitude with “Hallelujah” and “Blessings.” Perhaps Ghetts felt extra inspired after his favorite football club, Arsenal, enlisted him to voice a hype video.

Please Don’t Cry, Rapsody

Rapsody released her first album since 2019’s Eve, and Please Don’t Cry was worth the five-year wait. While Eve was a tribute to influential Black women in hip-hop culture, Please Don’t Cry opens up by asking, “Do you even know who you are?” and leads into “Marlanna,” the North Carolina MC’s given name.

Joining Rapsody on her journey of healing and self-acceptance are A-listers including Hit-Boy on the rappity-rap “Asteroids,” Baby Tate on “A Ballad for Homegirls,” Lil Wayne on “Raw” and the legend Erykah Badu on the soulful “3:AM.” The mechanical “Black Popstar” with Grammy-nominated singer DIXSON is a standout as is the super vulnerable “That One Time” and the incredibly fierce “Back in My Bag.” There’s a variety of sounds from boom-bap to island vibes with most of the production provided by BLK ODYSSY. Rapsody can spit bars with the best of them, but it’s her emotive storytelling that truly sets her apart. This project assures that hip-hop is alive and well.

Blue Lips, ScHoolboy Q

ScHoolboy Q transports fans to a new world with Blue Lips, his first album in five years. The TDE veteran showcased the continuation of his evolution beyond certified gangsta rapper with the rock-infused “Pop” featuring Rico Nasty, the jazzy “Blueslides,” and the thumping “oHio.” It’s evident Groovy Q isn’t concerned about proving himself as an elite rapper (those who know, already know), but instead wanted to create a piece of art about the difficulties of life in the hood and the power of overcoming them. It resonates so much that Urban Pitch editor Ramsey Abushahla named it Q’s magnum opus.

Trail of Flowers, Sierra Ferrell

You might have heard Sierra Ferrell on Zach Bryan’s “Holy Roller” song. Her ethereal voice helped create the track’s beautifully eerie soundscape, and her own music has the same effect. Ferrell’s Trail of Flowers album is folksy and fresh. It opens with the anthemic “American Dreaming,” which the United States women’s national team might want to use to help recover from their World Cup letdown with the Olympics around the corner. The album then flows into the wallowy “Wish You Well” and the beach-tinged “Why Haven’t You Loved Me Yet.” Ferrell’s lane is clearly country, but her whimsy is inviting for all.

Diane’s Baby, Corey Paul

Houston rapper Corey Paul has already established himself as a heartfelt storyteller, but he took it up a notch with his latest album, Diane’s Baby. Some of the songs are dedicated to specific characters in the narrative who have each gotten caught in the trap of street life in one way or another. The climax is the seven-minute masterpiece “Ruby Mae,” an homage to Paul’s grandmother with a soulful hook from Franko. “Coca” is chilling and “Joy” perfectly exemplifies the emotional roller coaster called life. The single “I Did It” with Dre Murray is dripping with H-Town goodness and the video is out of this world.

Born in the Wild, Tems

Tems was circulating the industry for a while when she made a splash on Future’s “Wait For U.” Now the Nigerian songstress truly stepped into her own spotlight with her debut album, Born in the Wild. The project starts off gracefully with Tems’ buttery smooth voice and picks up pace with the vibrant “Wickedest” followed by the single “Love Me JeJe.” The hit “Me & U” is also on here, and J. Cole makes a guest appearance on “Free Fall” where they both battle through miscommunication and unmet expectations. The skits on Born in the Wild add a personal touch as Tems croons through stories of love, loss and living in purpose.

Sorry, I Changed, Aaron Cole

Aaron Cole has climbed the ladder of the music industry and is now an award-winning rapper. His new album, Sorry, I Changed, comes after a season of life events, including switching labels and the death of his grandmother. The Virginia MC reflects on how he found healing and gratitude on the other side. A must-listen is the Kirk Franklin feature on “SBTN,” and “Safe Haven” is another standout track that shows the daily battle between confidence and insecurity. The reference to the Shedeur Sanders wrist flex is fun and relatable on such a thoughtful song. “Look @ God” and “Prayed 4 Me” come together for a glorious victory lap.

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