Review

2022 In Review: Day 6 – Rap and Hip-hop

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2022 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

The clear winners of 2022 were fans of experimental hip-hop, as Qim Isle, Lee Hyun-jun, GongGongGoo009, and Untell all dropped albums of stunning quality that pushed auteurist or sonic envelopes forward. (And the list really does go on with Che, Lil Law, Xaoil, Illtal…) At the same time, the scene saw drill music take full root and become the dominant sound of 2022, with seemingly every other rookie hopping into the arena of menacing bass and no-nonsense flow. Like with anything trendy a lot of it was not good, but some leaders emerged nonetheless.

Be advised that Qim Isle – Some Hearts Are for Two was named our Runner-up Album of the Year on Day 3, and it will not reappear in the hip-hop-specific list of albums below.

Notes:

  • The “Next 10” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • The 2022 Rap and Hip-hop Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Albums

Best Rap and Hip-hop Album 2022

Lee Hyun-jun – 번역 중 손실 (Lost in Translation)

It’s tough to pick out just one thing that makes Lost in Translation the most impressive hip-hop effort of the year. There’s the album’s ambition, telling gradually sprawling and emotionally complex tales of the ways we communicate with and interpret one another, and Lee Hyun-jun’s authorial command over it. There’s Lee’s technical accomplishments, his lyrics filled with cerebral and sonically satisfying wordplay (the latter half of “Hello Stranger” a highlight) and his delivery crystal-clear with a steely edge and snarling fury. (His singing is also genuinely good – it charges tracks like “Autonomous Driving”.) The production is top-notch too, with the artifice of these electronic-dominant tracks making you just uneasy enough while leaving plenty of room for Lee’s high-tone rapping to shine through. In a year headlined by these visionary albums, Lost in Translation had the grandest object and the best execution.

The Runner-up

GongGongGoo009 – ㅠㅠ (UU)

UU was right up there with Lost in Translation, though: this was maybe the tightest margin among a #1 and #2 this year. GongGongGoo009’s debut album was also a fluidly rapped, intricately woven narrative with inventive presentation, revolving around a few repeated themes like financial struggle, the outlets of relationships and sex, and deaths of loneliness. 009 uses non-musical devices liberally throughout, most notably the “narrations” that keep intruding on tracks (including faux-documentary commentary, surreal text-to-speech descriptions, and news report snippets). The stilted and clinical unease of these devices feeds a growing sense of wrongness; the way that 009 turns that into the album’s closing act, where the exhausted boldness of “As If It’s the End” coexists with the cold realities of “UU”, is a singular achievement.

The Next 10

Fana – Fanatiic

Fredi Casso & Dsel – Second II None

Lil Moshpit – AAA

Newtown Bangers – Anti Vogue

Nucksal & Cadejo – 당신께 (Sincerely Yours)

Owen – Cry

P-Type – Hardboiled Café

Sharkrama – 재가열 (Reheat)

Skinny Chase – J에게 (To J)

Untell – Human, the Album


Songs

Best Rap and Hip-hop Song 2022

GongGongGoo009 – 집중 (Concentration)
Written and composed by GongGongGoo009
Arranged by Hukky Shibaseki

The bleakness of UU is broken in two pivotal tracks, “Walk” and “Concentration”. The latter of these is a sonically striking effort, alternating between a surprising groove powered by the soulful and brassy Aquarian Dream sample (ubiquitous including in “AEAO”, one of our favorite 2014 rap singles), versus a breakneck flow over chopped strings. Each section is composed with crisp fidelity, and 009’s defiant, furious determination to be okay someday – call it the Korean “Alright” – soars over UU’s more cynical arcs. Even ignoring the irony of the album that it comes out of, “Concentration” felt electric in a way that few others approached.

The Runner-up

Untell – I’m From (Feat. Rad Museum)
Written by Untell, Rad Museum
Composed by Sang Jung Shin, Hypekeys, Nowhere Man, Protonebula, OBSN, Untell
Arranged by Protonebula, OBSN

Untell is both opinionated and stylish as a lyricist. “I’m From” showcases both as the young rapper tackles an uncommon topic: whether trauma can be shared across different people groups. “You must feel it a contradiction / this skin color I got while adopting your culture / But we are the same black / and at the same time different black / Empathize with you more than anyone / Because while stepped on by different feet / We’ve lived feeling the same emotion”, he raps in reference to Korea’s own history of being colonized. While Untell doesn’t fully work out this anthropology en route to an ending that stresses unity, it’s a serious attempt. On top of the sharp writing it’s also got one of the year’s most memorable beats, as a soulful band-set accompaniment starts tranquil before roiling into fever pitch, then bluesy guitars lead us into a wired second act.

The Next 10

Che – Elevator Flow

Lee Hyun-jun – SOMA

Nochang – 없는계절 (Hollow Season) (Feat. Aine, C Jamm, Yunhway)

NSW Yoon – Confidence (Feat. Since, Hangzoo)

P-Type – For Sale, My Rhymes, Never Used (Feat. Justhis, Don Malik)

Qim Isle – Some Hearts Are for Two

Roh Yun-ha – Skip Bottom (Feat. Blase)

Since – High Risk High Return (Feat. Polodared)

Tiger JK – POV

Woo – Uniform (Feat. pH-1)


Honorable Mentions

Albums

Baehyuni – 자유주제 (ZYZZ)
Big Naughty – 낭만 (Nangman)
Blase – MultrillVerse
Boo Hyunseok – Camoflauge
Chamane – 26
Che – Kpop
Cika – Flame in 031
Devine Channel – Unorthodox
Dopflamingo – 무문관 (The Gateless Gate)
Easymind – Split
Epik High – Epik High Is Here 下 (Part 2)
Homies – Generation
Ian Ka$h – Icebox
Illtal – 적응 (Adaptation)
Justhis – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night II
Keith Ape – Ape into Space
Leellamarz – Violinist 2
Legit Goons – Family Sitcom
Lil Law – Dncinghumn
Loopy – The Django Tape
Loxx Punkman – O.N.E
Loytoy – Where To?
NSW Yoon – Beauty of the Pain
Ohiorabbit – 덤 (Dumb)
Paloalto – Dirt
Panda Gomm – Vertigo
Paul Blanco – Promised Land
Sharkrama – 냉각열 (Cooldown Heat)
Since – High Risk High Return
Tomnig – 12 Years of Digscvry
Viann – 꼼짝마! (Freeeeeze!!!)
Werema – How to Celebrate
pH-1 – But for Now Leave Me Alone

Songs

Ahn Byeong-woong & Khakii – Get the Bag (Feat. Don Mills, Since, 365Lit)
Ahn Byeong-woong – No Roof (Feat. Colde, Khakii)
Baehyuni – 자유주제 (ZYZZ)
Baehyuni – 제 (Ceremony)
Balming Tiger – 섹시느낌 (Sexy Nukim) (Feat. RM of BTS)
Be’o – Brunch (Feat. Wonstein, Sion)
Big Naughty – 낭만교향곡 (Romance Symphony) (Feat. Changmo, Jay Park)
Bill Stax – 기승전떨 (Introduction, Development, Turn, Weed) (Feat. Lobonabeat!)
Boo Hyunseok – 일등병의 편지 (64 Letter)
Che – Poison (Feat. Kid Milli)
Cherry Boy 17 – Shake (Feat. Roh Yun-ha)
Cika – Ansan 2 (Feat. Don Mills)
Devine Channel – E.A.T (Feat. Milli, Omega Sapien)
Dok2 – Lit Up the Fire
Dopflamingo – Therapy (Uncr. Hwaji)
Epik High – Prequel
Epik High – Super Rare (Feat. Wonstein, pH-1)
Fana – Fana Funk (Feat. Justhis)
Fana – Green Is the New Black (Feat. Sway.D, Takewon, Zene the Zilla, Bill Stax)
Fredi Casso & Dsel – Darma Nym
Fredi Casso & Dsel – No. 2 (Feat. Deepflow)
Giriboy – 길 (Way) (Feat. ChoiLB, Big Naughty, Kvsh, Kim Seungmin, OLNL, Kid Milli, Thama)
GongGongGoo009 – 돈 가져와 2 (Bring the Money 2)
GongGongGoo009 – 마지막처럼 (As If It’s the End)
GongGongGoo009 – 산책 (Walk)
Homies – Generation (Prod. Lean$moke)
Huckleberry P – Wolves (Feat. Liggy, Ahn Byeong-woong, Basick, Damini, Sikboy, JJK)
Ian Ka$h – GTFO (Feat. Fleeky Bang, Chillin Homie, Don Mills)
Ignito – 황금마차 (Golden Carriage)
Illtal – 면역 (Immunization) (Feat. Ignito)
Illtal – 이모작 (Eemojak)
Jay Park – To Life
Justhis – Red Pill (Born from the Blue Pt. II) (Prod. Code Kunst)
Keith Ape – Mull
Keith Ape X ZillaKami x SosMula – All Alright
Khundi Panda – 녹는 점 (Melting Point) (Feat. Samuel Seo)
Khundi Panda, Son Simba, BewhY, Une, Viann – Idea
Kid Milli – Benzo
Kim Younggy – 음과 양 (Darkness and Light)
Lee Hyun-jun – Windows 95 Launch Dance
Lee Hyun-jun – 번역 중 손실 (Lost in Translation)
Leellamarz – Freedom (Feat. Dut2) (Prod. Way Ched)
Leellamarz – Sisi La Famille (Feat. Keem Hyoeun, The Quiett)
Legit Goons – 데드스탁 (Deadstock)
Lil Law – Model Walking
Lil Moshpit – Yooooo (Feat. Kid Milli, Sokodomo, Polodared)
Lilboi & Takewon – 새로고침 (Refresh)
Loopy – Django
Minit – #2021 (Feat. Avokid, Big Naughty)
Mushvenom – 안될것도 되게 하래서 되게 했더니만 됐다고 하네 (Space Muship)
NSW Yoon – Nah Nah Nah (Feat. Say Royce)
NSW Yoon – Tech Fleece Freestyle (Feat. Khan, Hangzoo)
Newtown Bangers – Package (Feat. Khundi Panda)
Noah1luv – 내일 (Tomorrow) (Feat. Aite, Blnk)
Nucksal & Cadejo – 숲 (Forest) (with Echae Kang)
Nucksal, Tiger JK, MC Meta – 대무가 (Daemuga)
Owen – Calling
P-Type – MIC “The Hammer” (Feat. Paloalto, Chin)
P-Type – The Simple Art of Rhyme (Feat. Kwaii)
P-Type – 에필로그: 씬을 위한 오드 (Epilogue: Ode to Cin) (Feat. The Quiett, Samuel Seo)
Paul Blanco – Better Days
pH-1 – Mr. Bad (Feat. Woo)
Qim Isle – Waterfall
Sharkrama – 착수엄금 (Hands Off) (Feat. Deepflow)
Since – 휘파람 (Whistle)
Tomnig – Back in the Day (HipHop Version) (Feat. Don Malik, Paloalto)
Tomsson – 역전포차 (Yeokjeon Pocha) (Feat. MC Meta, Sungsoo Lee of HarryBigButton)
Viann X Hofgang – 내려가 (Go Down) (Feat. ChoiLB)
Xaoil (451) – Thanatophobia (Feat. P-Type)


Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2021 In Review

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review

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