Here are the greatest hip-hop albums of 2019, Tone Deaf’s official list of the projects that we believe deserve the most praise.

10. Sampa The Great – The Return

Sampa The Great wasn’t joking when she said that she might enter her final form. Bringing Australian hip-hop back into clear prominence, she quite literally returned to the top, releasing an hour and 17-minute long project that perfectly encapsulates everything that the artist is capable of.

Tracks like ‘Freedom’ feel like something that Madlib would conjure up in his studio with one of his frequent collaborators, and yet that’s just the thing, this album is no overseas export, it’s a gorgeous hotpot of homegrown talent, and it is simply delicious to the ears. With such an extensive tracklist you’d expect there to be at least one dip in quality on the long journey to the end, and yet there just isn’t. Sampa brings her A-game to every beat she makes her own, and the result is an incredible project free from flaws or lack of focus. – Michael Di Iorio

9. Tyler the Creator – IGOR

For anyone who thought 2017’s Flower Boy was Tyler the Creator at his truest and most real, they were sorely mistaken upon the arrival of 2019 project IGOR. Throughout the entire project, Tyler explores the blossoming and wilting of a tumultuous relationship. These are twilit contemplations tossed into the sun, sunken hearts poured out into the Notes app only to be tossed to the abyss that is the deleted drafts section of your phone.

Featuring the likes of Kanye West singing literal gibberish and the beautifully textured voice of Solange Knowles, Tyler forms an entire narrative around a character free from trappings of artificiality. It’s a work as honest as the pains of heartbreak are, and it is an excellent step-up from the already incredible discography that the man has established for himself. – Michael Di Iorio

8. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

How does one put excellence into words? With 2019 album Bandana, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib understood the pressures they had to follow up the incredible 2015 project Pinata. Critics were watching, fans were watching, and in all reality, the duo was probably watching themselves. All this in mind, the pair exceeded all expectations that the world had placed upon them. This project is the work of two colleagues turned best friends who understand each other and have learnt to bounce off the others’ talents.

The result is a masterpiece of an album, a bounty of well-crafted stories and narratives accompanied by ridiculously addictive beats that offer more clarity into the world of Gibbs that just isn’t seen on other albums in the rapper’s discography. – Michael Di Iorio

7. Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

Danny Brown’s fifth album, executive-produced by Q-Tip, is a showcase of what happens when a rapper has years to perfect his craft, and yet still wants to push limits. Coming off the incredibly experimental Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown had the entire world in his hands going into this project. Taking elements of experimentation from that project and toning them down into something more mature, delicate and personal, Brown proves himself constantly to be at the upper echelon of the game.

Tracks like ‘Theme Song’ are a winding snake of whispers and violins, which never dare to overshadow the wordplay of Brown. Instead, they form ghostly silhouettes for him to drape himself in, as he continues to impress not only his audiences, but himself as well. – Michael Di Iorio

6. Chance The Rapper – The Big Day

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Chance’s brilliance is  balancing a childlike wonder and worship with credible, technically impressive hip hop, and that’s what he does brilliantly on this The Big Day. 

The highlight of the record clearly being ‘The Sun Comes Down’ where it truly picks up momentum from the second verse.

I don’t want nobody to be at my wedding
That won’t be there for my marriage
They can see that shit on Facebook
They can like it, they can share it
Like look at that lil’ dress and how she wear it
I thought that pregnant belly prolly tear it
You know they only did this shit for money
I know one day that they just co-co-parent
I gotta zoom in, count up all the carats
I know that nigga probably went to Jared
I know that nigga probably so embarrassed
But they don’t know nothin’, baby
That’s why I tell you when I say it, I say
Don’t look down, don’t look down
When they, when they try and make up all that bullshit
I just tell you
Don’t look down, don’t look down
And when we goin’ towards the sky, when we get into that atmosphere
Don’t look down, don’t look down
And when they go into the comments, we like a comet
Don’t look down, don’t look down
Don’t look down

5. Godfather of Harlem (OST) – Various Artists

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The soundtrack to Stan’s crime drama Godfather of Harlem is just as brilliant as the show it’s self. A star studded line up create the score and soundtrack for the show including; John Legend, YBN Cordae, 21 Savage, Pusha T, Samm Henshaw, Swizz Beatz, A$AP Ferg, Wale, DMX and more.

4. Kanye West – Jesus Is King

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Tone Deaf reviewed Jesus Is King back in October. We liked the record then, and having spend 3 more months with it since we love it even more now. It’s truly a grower and an inspiring record.

Saleh remains with the standout track with ‘Use This Gospel’ coming a very close second.

3. Common – Let Love

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Common’s Let Love is a hip hop legend’s reflective masterpiece.

Opening with soft piano keys that transition into hard drums, crash cymbals and sauntering keyboards Let Love takes you into the mind of a father and hip hop godfather who seems more focused on making beautiful art than a hip hop statement piece.

Although Let Love likely won’t be Common’s highest selling record or most critically acclaimed, it may be his best record to date. Produced with a trio of jazz specialists—percussionist Karriem Riggins, composer and pianist Samora Pinderhughes, and upright bassist Burniss Earl Travis II it is understand and hypnotic from start to finish.

2. YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

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The Lost Boy is jammed full of fantastic lyricism, wordplay, rhyme schemes and flows. Everything old school hip-hop fans love and appreciate delivered with a new school sound and perspective from the young MC.

YBN Cordae raps about life with the precision and skill of a veteran rapper, but the wide-eyed wonder of a kid hitting the mainstream way too young – and over a 15 track record, he balances both brilliantly.

Had Stormzy not have dropped such a stunning album in December, YBN Cordae would of had the hip-hop record of the year.

1. Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head

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Stormzy takes his sound and confidence to a whole new level on Heavy is the Head. It is a true evolution to all his past work culminating it an emotional, sophisticated, reflective and assured set of lyricism. Backdropping these lyrics are instrumentation and vocals that feels like both a gospel album and an anti-authoritarian protest record.

With very few fillers on the album (if any), Stormzy’s status superstar is solidified and he has set the benchmark for all hip hop coming out of the U.K. (and all non-USA countries) in 2020.

Heavy is the Head is without question, the hip-hop record of the year.