From the Sound of the Underground to the Top of the Billboard Charts, Audible Treats Clients Made Waves in 2022
Please Consider These Excellent Albums For Your Year-End Lists
It’s been an all-too-common refrain over the past few years: we’re living in unprecedented times. One of the more benign, but still challenging, things that is unprecedented in our modern life is the vast ocean of music that is available at our fingertips.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of albums, mixtapes, and other assorted releases flood the digital airwaves each week–it’s hard out there for any artist, indie or major, to cut through the noise and create a body of work that draws attention. Spotify reported that an average of 100,000 songs are uploaded to the platform every day.
Even among the vast competition, Audible Treats clients managed to stand out, building strong fanbases not by pandering to the masses, but by staying true to themselves and making the art that authentically reflects their points-of-view and lived experiences. These projects take us to the heart of Chicago’s South Side, the streets of Castalia Heights in Memphis, the bleak landscape of Detroit’s 6 Mile, and the vacant flats of Shepherd’s Bush in London. Others are less grounded, beaming in from a universe of the artist’s own creation.
Some have recently argued that hip-hop’s dominance is waning, but this selection of albums speaks to the genre’s strength. They’ve racked up hundreds of millions of streams, climbed Billboard charts, and continued to build a roadmap for these artists and their families to escape the circumstances of their birth. As the late Young Dolph understood, the main objective of the rap game is to build a legacy that lasts forever.
Check below to read about eleven albums that made a mark this year–please consider them for your Best Albums of 2022 lists, and don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom to find a couple albums that will make a big impact on the year’s final months.
Play these albums loud. Preferably in a residential area.
Happy listening from the Audible Treats team,
Michelle, Gavin, Dan, Kerry, Kevin, Annjie, Destiny, T’Keyah, Chris, Frank, Alexandra & Julio
With wide-ranging tastes and talent to match, $NOT occupies a sonic universe that is entirely his own. The 14 tracks on his 2022 album Ethereal paint a portrait of an artist growing into his potential, making experimentation feel as natural as breathing. Aided by creative direction from A$AP Rocky’s AWGE, $NOT indulges in his most adventurous artistic ideas on this album, trying his hand at every style under the sun. He recruits Joey Bada$$ for “How U Feel,” a traditionalist boom-bap workout, just minutes after teaming with Trippie Redd for the synth-heavy rager “ALONE” and trading verses with Juicy J in the lounge-accented Tennessee trap of “Halle Berry.” The follow-up to 2020’s Beautiful Havoc, the otherworldly Ethereal is $NOT’s most successful project to date, with hundreds of millions of streams across platforms and a #66 peak on the Billboard 200.
Though his life was tragically short, King Von left a towering legacy, establishing himself as one of rap music’s most vital and talented storytellers. A labor of love that compiles unheard music from the artist’s oeuvre, What It Means To Be King is packed with the ferocious bars and gripping narratives that earned him a huge fanbase, but also hints at some of the directions he might have taken if he had more time. The album features contributions from many of the people who knew Von best, including regular producer and collaborator Chopsquad DJ, his “twin” Lil Durk, and fellow O’Block natives like Boss Top and DqFrmDaO, along with street rap heroes like like 21 Savage, Moneybagg Yo, G Herbo, and more, making plain the level of respect Von commanded in the rap game at large. Putting an exclamation point on Von’s legacy and establishing him as a generational talent, What It Means To Be King debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 with over 64k sold in its first week.
Streaking through the UK rap scene like a comet through the night sky, Central Cee is the UK’s most promising rap star. His February mixtape 23 was the latest indication that the lad from Shepherd’s Bush has worldwide mass appeal. Home to hit singles like the slinky “Retail Therapy,” the inspirational “Khabib,” and head-nodding “Straight Back To It,” all of which charted in the UK Top 25, and the worldwide smash “Obsessed With You” (#4 in the UK), 23 is a steely, confident, and fun-loving salvo from a young artist who knows this is just the beginning. Among the tape highlights: “Eurovision,” a border-crossing posse cut which brought together 8 rappers from four countries and fiery verses in French, English, Spanish, and Italian. 23 debuted at #1 on the UK Official Charts, fending off stalwarts like Tears For Fears, and kept selling, landing on the Official Charts’ list of Biggest Albums of 2022 So Far in the UK.
A shrewd slick-talker and an accomplished businessman, Icewear Vezzo is one of the key figures in the red hot Detroit rap scene. Filled with sinister, piano-led production, his mixtape Rich Off Pints 3 acts as a hustler’s handbook, bursting at the seams with handy street lessons for aspiring executives, sneering missives that take aim at fakes, and heartfelt reflections on the hard work it takes to achieve a better life. Continuing the story started by 2021’s Rich Off Pints and Rich Off Pints 2, ROP3 highlights Vezzo’s strength as a songwriter, bringing rock-solid concepts and crisp turns-of-phrase that leave a lasting impression. Welcoming guests like Key Glock, G Herbo, and fellow Detroiter Baby Money, plus 2021 hits “Up The Scoe” ft. Lil Durk and “Know The Difference” ft. Lil Baby, the strength of Rich Off Pints 3 helped Vezzo earn a new record deal with Quality Control Music.
Stylish and substantive, with a supernatural sense of metaphor and a massive vocabulary, Lupe Fiasco is one of his generation’s finest rhymers. Released 16 years into his career, DRILL MUSIC IN ZION is a standout album in his illustrious discography, a focused statement that reflects on the past and paves a way forward, preaching strength through mindfulness and self-sustaining community. The product of a burst of thoughtful spontaneity, Lupe created the new album over a short period, diving into a folder of beats sent by Soundtrakk and emerging with a fully-realized album in just three days (“Sometimes deadlines are lifelines,” says Lupe). The title juxtaposes the street music of his hometown of Chicago–music that emerged as a way of dealing with hellish living conditions–with the biblical promised land, positing that art created out of pain might not be worth the pain itself.
Though it was created quickly, Lupe’s eighth studio album is packed with the twisty narratives and layered meanings that have become Lupe’s trademark, spliced with incisive social commentary and winking observations about the way we live today. Highlights include “NAOMI,” in which Lupe fuses playful political analysis with poignant emotional resonance, and “MS. MURAL,” a textured and deeply felt story-song that continues a series that started on 2014’s Tetsuo & Youth (“Mural”) and continued with his last album, 2017’s DROGAS WAVE (“Mural Jr.”). As usual, Lupe stuns with his verbosity, but one of the album’s most powerful moments occurs when he decides to hold back: on album closer, “ON FAUX NEM,” Lupe spits: “Rappers die too much. That’s it, that’s the verse.”
After steadily building a rabid fanbase over the course of nearly a decade, Chicago rapper LUCKI finally found overdue mainstream recognition in 2022. The vehicle for this recognition was FLAWLESS LIKE ME, the rapper’s most ambitious and expansive full-length to date. Accompanied by carnivalesque, blissful synth melodies that provide a counterpoint to LUCKI’s purr, the fast-rising rapper paints a surreal portrait of his semi-charmed life–LUCKI swerves in his souped-up foreign in one bar, before bemoaning a lost love or wistfully recounting his struggles with drug addiction. For the first time in his career, LUCKI rolls out the red carpet for guest rappers–on “KAPITOL DENIM” ft. Future, LUCKI goes toe-to-toe with Pluto himself, and he trades twisting verses with Babyface Ray in the woozy and hard-hitting “WHITE HOUSE.” The album includes bonus tracks “SUPER URUS” and “Y NOT?,” two fan favorites that fit the expansive vibe of the project.
FLAWLESS LIKE ME was the culmination of a long rise from the underground for the 26-year-old artist. The album debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200 chart, with over 25k sales-equivalent units in its first week.
Pi’erre Bourne has established himself as one of the best producers in the game, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s just formidable on the mic as behind the boards. His 2022 album Good Movie is an expansive showcase for his skills with melody, mixing his immersive beats with languid auto-tune and insistently infectious hooks.
On album standout “Psane,” Bourne and Don Toliver conjure up a frenetic banger with bright video game synths and layered vocals that set the stage for Bourne’s joyous verses. Highlights like “What I Gotta Do” and “Where You Going” incorporate elements of Jersey/Philly club music into his atmospheric world, while kinetic songs like “Moving Too Fast” ft. Young Nudy and “SossHouse Party” are natural next steps for his candy-coated signature sound. Simple and emphatic, words spill out of the rapper effortlessly: on “Kingdom Hall,” he stacks outlandish metaphor after outlandish metaphor, intoning “Shakes-pi’erre, Romeo & Juliet/She may die for the kid.”
With multiple albums in the books in 2022, including the Juicy J collab Space Age Pimpin’, Pi’erre Bourne is in the midst of a creative renaissance. Pi’erre’s hero’s journey reached a climax with Good Movie, proving that he could conquer all comers with peerless instrumentals and inventive vocals.
When Young Dolph tragically passed last year, he left a hole too big for one person to fill. Luckily, Dolph spent a decade fostering a creative community of folks determined to follow in his footsteps: Paper Route Empire, a thriving independent record label and video production company with a talented and hungry group of artists eager and equipped to fulfill their mentor’s vast vision.
Paper Route Empire Presents: Long Live Dolph is tribute to the man and a toast to the future, showcasing the talents of the label’s formidable roster. Spanning 8 tracks, the project features contributions from almost every artist on Paper Route Empire. Jay Fizzle, PRE’s longest-tenured signee, leads the tape with the Ricco Barrino-assisted, gospel-inflected “LLD,” a tribute to the man who he credits with helping his 16 year-old self escape the streets. Kenny Muney offers a plaintive remembrance of his mentor using one of Dolph’s signature phrases on “Role Model,” and Big Moochie Grape defiantly claims his intention to take Paper Route Empire to new heights on “In Dolph We Trust.” On album highlight “Proud,” Key Glock honors his mentor and declares his intentions to keep the mission going: “F*** that humble s***, let’s go, you know I’m spazzin’ out ‘bout mine.”
Long Live Dolph is reflective, but it is also triumphant; 2022 was a banner year for the PRE label, as artists like Key Glock, Kenny Muney, and Big Moochie Grape released accomplished albums of their own. Possessed with an undying fervor that can’t be quenched, PRE won’t stop til their empire stretches from coast to coast.
Releasing three full-lengths in what could be considered a relatively light year for the underground stalwart, BONES is beloved by his fans for his consistent excellence, a quality not diluted by his prolific output. Embracing his folk hero status, his AmericanSweetheart album establishes BONES as a blue-collar rock star for the internet era. The versatile artist subsumes a variety of styles into his dark aesthetic, but his lyricism is playful, packing in references to films like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Rocky IV, and more.
Songs like “Juno” and “7thGenerationBlunts” bear the influences of Memphis trap, but other highlights absorb sounds from hip-hop history: “Playback” is a haunted slice of East Coast boom bap, “Panic Button” finds BONES ripping fast raps atop the “Amen” break, “CoolHandLuke” kicks off with a Pharrell-esque four count, and other songs sneak in references to artists like the St. Lunatics and Pretty Ricky. The album’s more emotional tracks show off BONES’ skill with melody and ability to pack deep feelings into crisp turns of phrase: “I hate that I made you put up with me/Disgrace fits me so comfortably,” he intones on “CutYouLoose.”
With influential fans like A$AP Rocky and Justin Bieber, BONES is well on his way to making the jump from underground king to radio darling. AmericanSweetheart is the proof that he might not need to change his style in the process.
Dro Kenji uses his supernatural sense of melody and precocious pen game to craft emotionally charged bangers. The third and most ambitious of the full-lengths Kenji released in 2022, ANYWHERE BUT HERE is a showcase for the 20-year-old artist’s expressive singing, as he delivers arresting arias that are alternately heartfelt and flex-heavy. The album features appearances from Kenji’s fellow Gen Z rap stars, including Midwxst, NoCap, Ka$hdami, and Mike Dimes on the hard-hitting breakout hit “STEP BACK.” With some of the best pipes in the underground and Internet Money with his back, Kenji looks primed to reach even greater heights in the near future.
A charismatic riser with a million watt smile, Trapland Pat wins acclaim with his verbal dexterity and unique musicality. His first album for Alamo Records and Bang Biz Ent, the imprint founded by Fredo Bang, Trapnificent is a refined example of the South Florida sound, incorporating elements of Pat’s love for rappers like Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, and Kompa music that he absorbed through his Haitian heritage. Pat taps frequent collaborator PepperJack Zoe, who produced his breakout hit “Big Business,” to handle the bulk of the production, his creeping piano-led beats providing grounding for Pat’s larger-than-life bars and hummable melodies. The album features two featured verses from his label boss Fredo Bang, and rolls out the red carpet for a tasteful collection of guests including Mozzy, BIG30, and Eli Fross.
Trapnificent earned praise from Pitchfork, who called the project a “zippy distillation of his regional roots” and said that Pat’s music is “extremely regionally and culturally specific, like so much exciting and promising new rap music.” The Deerfield Beach native followed up the project by inviting the Boss himself, Rick Ross, to hop on the remix to his breakout hit “Big Business.”
Chief Keef’s remarkable rise in 2012 changed the face of rap music forever, igniting a drill movement that has spread worldwide over the past decade. In the immediate aftermath of that fateful year, Sosa retreated inward, sharing the experimental and mind-bending Almighty So mixtape in 2013. Home to fan-favorites like “Blew My High” and “Ape Sh*t,” Almighty So developed a cult following, becoming a go-to pick for discerning fans of the rapper’s massive discography.
Now, riding a new creative high and making money moves as the founder of his own imprint 43B, Keef returns to the recesses of his mind with Almighty So 2, his next mixtape. Home to recent singles like “Racks Stuffed Inna Couch” and the TikTok-viral “Tony Montana Flow,” the upcoming project promises new flows, bombastic instrumentals, and clever phrases that only Sosa could turn. Stay tuned for more updates.
Before 03 Greedo went to jail in the Summer of 2018, he went to work, recording thousands of songs in a burst of inspired creativity, ensuring that he’d be able to feed the streets during his sentence. Coming soon, the defiant Free 03 reiterates Greedo’s position as one of the most innovative rappers in the game today. Created in collaboration with L.A. hitmaker Mike Free, Free 03 brings a widescreen, high-definition version of Greedo’s creeping West Coast sh*t. Greedo continues to unfurl his taffy-like melodies and stream-of-consciousness flows, as demonstrated on the recent single “Drop Down” ft. KenTheMan. The latest in a line of producer collaborations by Greedo that includes Netflix & Deal with Kenny Beats and Still Summer In The Projects with Mustard, Free 03 is coming soon.