Music

Okayplayer’s Best Albums of 2022 So Far

With half of the year in the books, we look at the best albums of 2022 so far, featuring Kendrick Lamar, Syd, Kehlani, and more.

We are officially at the midpoint of the year. And it’s been an eventful music year — but not necessarily a memorable one. Despite a number of “blockbuster” releases — from A-list artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Kehlani, The Weeknd, and more — you would be hard pressed to find an album that dominated the cultural landscape, despite the fact that live concert attendance is booming. It’s no longer only small to mid tier albums getting lost in the algorithmic sauce. (When is the last time you had a Dawn FM conversation?)

Now, more than ever, music fandom spaces are fractured. And the biggest albums of the year depend mostly on your worldview. This makes coming up with consensus tricky. In looking at the midyear point, we decided to let the staff pick from their heart. Scroll down to see Okayplayer’s best albums of 2022 so far.

Brandon Hill — Editorial Intern

Photo Credit: Artist

It’s been a good year for hip-hop if you like jazzy raps, synthy singers, and emotional trappers. Vince Staples’ quietly released album, which is my favorite album so far, is both a thorough project and a generous offering of singles. Kehlani’s latest album, Blue Water Road, brings a similar serving of weightiness. Denzel Curry’s jazzy psychedelic project might be my favorite from him yet, while The Weeknd impressed by going less poppy and more dark with an album that had strong thematic lines.

1. Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
2. Kehlani — Blue Water Road 
3. Denzel Curry — Melt My Eyez See Your Future 
4. The Weeknd — Dawn FM 
5. Lil Durk — 7220
6. Robert Glasper — Black Radio III 
7. Millyz — Blanco V
8. Saba — A Few Good Things 
9. Quelle Chris — Deathfame
10. FKA twigs — CAPRISONGS

Dimas Sanfiorenzo — Acting Editor-in-Chief

Photo Credit: Artist

My favorite projects of the year all sort of irritated me at first. This isn’t really uncommon. With every week being like a WikiLeaks dump, I’m routinely frustrated by new releases. But with my top five, there was something alluring calling me back. These are the five albums I’ve played the most this year. And they all share the same kind of duality — I’ve played most of these on headphones, while daydreaming to hear them in a live setting. 

1. Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
2. Babyface Ray — FACE
3. Bad Bunny — Un Verano Sin Ti
4. Syd — Broken Hearts Club
5. Drake — Honestly, Nevermind

Elijah Watson — Senior Culture & News Editor

Photo Credit: Artist

If there’s a through-line that connects my favorite albums of 2022 so far, is each artist’s or band’s desire to experiment with their sound and redefine themselves. From HYPNOS standout “Skin Tight” to Diaspora Problems opener “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?),” there are these moments of brilliance across these albums that not only show some of the best songwriting these artists have done, but a willingness to want to push themselves lyrically and sonically in really interesting ways.

1. Ravyn Lenae — HYPNOS
2. Earl Sweatshirt — SICK!
3. Soul Glo — Diaspora Problems
4. Bartees Strange — From Farm to Table
5. Toro y Moi — MAHAL

Jaelani Turner-Williams — News Writer

Photo Credit: Artist

Halfway into 2022, my favorite albums prove that contemporary R&B and rap can be equally abstract and high-spirited. For a dose of healing, spin Blue Water Road opener “little story,” as Kehlani’s delicate vocals rhapsody towards the song’s end. Ramona Park Broke My Heart is an upbeat homecoming for LBC native Vince Staples and on “AYE! (FREE THE HOMIES)” the rapper returns to his street survival tactics. Give each artist an open ear to discover their authentic selves – you’ll be glad you did.

1. Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
2. Lucky Daye — Candydrip
3. Syd — Broken Hearts Club
4. Kehlani — Blue Water Road
5. UMI — Forest in the City

Kia Turner — Content Creator

Photo Credit: Artist

The artists who did the best work this year were in a state of evolving. From the experimental production of It’s Almost Dry and CAPRISONGS to the advanced storytelling and concepts of Blue Water Road and Ramona Park Broke My Heart, that element summarize for me why these projects are some of the best to be released this year so far.

1. Lucky Daye — Candydrip
2. Vince Staples — Ramona Park Broke My Heart
3. FKA twigs — CAPRISONGS

4. Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry
5. Kehlani — Blue Water Road

Quierra Luck — TikTok Correspondent

Photo Credit: Artist

I’m an R&B girl at heart. Each album chosen represents a strong sense of self, intimacy, and confident artistry in a world of TikTok dances and social media dependency.

1. Alex Isley — Marigold
2.
Kehlani —  Blue Water Road
3. Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry
4. Syd tha Kid — The Brokenhearts Club
5. Kenyon Dixon — Closer

Robyn Mowatt — Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Artist

1. Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar often thrives when he’s sharing anecdotal moments he’s living through; Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers allowed him the space to continue doing so. Throughout Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Kendrick rose to the occasion as he presented his thoughts on cancel culture, fatherhood, therapy and grief. But, he also stumbled as when he divulged intimate memories of growing up watching a trans family member navigate transphobia and homophobia.

2. Lucky Daye —  Candydrip

Executive produced by mastermind D’Mile, Candydrip offers up a damn good reason to keep believing in R&B. Sonically, the release has ‘70s inclinations which are heard in the rich instruments used throughout.

3. Alex Isley — Marigold

Alex Isley manages to capture the sheer beauty of love in Marigold. While some songs come across as lighthearted, others are packed with a bevy of emotions that over-lovers often find themselves visiting.

4. Ravyn Lenae — Hypnos

Ravyn Lenae shines the most when she’s sharing her melodic voice on alt-centric songs that have a hint of R&B. “Xtasy” produced by Kaytranada is one of the strongest tracks on the release, it’s a groovy song ideal for the somber years we’ve been living through. She also digs into her sensual side on “Skin Tight” featuring Steve Lacy who played a large part in the production of the album.

5. Future — I Never Liked You

Future is a master at serving up easily digestible toxicity. The way he skirts around infidelity, popping Xanax and his other demons isn’t new, but he makes it sound appealing. Though the narratives he covers in I Never Liked You make up his typical lyrical territory, it’s not a small feat to still be considered a titan in Southern hip-hop.

Travis Grier — Social Media Contributor

Photo Credit: Artist

If there are warriors on the frontline to prove that R&B is indeed alive and thriving, these artists are leading the way in 2022. Encapsulating core elements of the genre, but also crossing the line of artistic risk and freedom, these albums provide rhythm, blues and a dose of enchanting magic to keep you hooked. Adding in a touch of versatility, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not appreciating their genius.
class.

1. Kenyon Dixon — Closer
2. Amber Mark  — Three Dimensions Deep
3. Lucky Daye — Candydrip
4. Alex Isley — Marigold
5. Syd — Broken Hearts Club

ZO — Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Artist

With many of music’s marquee names stepping out of their respective COVID-19 hibernations last year, 2022 felt like it could very well be a quiet stretch of creative output from rap and R&B’s elite. But just a few week in, that suspicion was mostly dispelled by a slate of albums that spanned the chaotic spectrum of pandemic-induced sentiments. Earl Sweatshirt channeled a crippling paranoia and anxiety on his aptly-titled fifth studio album, SICK! Quelle Chris mined the isolation for gratitude and graciousness on Deathfame. Kendrick Lamar openly processed five years of self-prescribed hermetic absence on his raw and endearingly unkempt comeback album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Ravyn Lenae broke through her own boundaries with some wildly entrancing experiments on HYPNOS. And Drake beckoned a fractured and traumatized populous to dance their pain away with his house-obsessed Honestly, Nevermind. While the parameters of the pandemic’s full influence may still be mostly obscured, it seems music’s mightiest pens and melody-crafters are sitting in the unshakeable uncertainty of our day and breaking from the formulas that are no longer useful in this new perpetual state of disorder.

1. Earl Sweatshirt — SICK!
2. Quelle Chris — Deathfame
3. Kendrick Lamar — Mr Morale & The Big Steppers
4. Raven Lenae — HYPNOS
5. Drake — Honestly, Nevermind

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Graphic: @popephoenix for Okayplayer

Okayplayer

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