Following a year that featured a global pandemic, outside is opening back up in 2021, and so is the music industry. With the green light on tours, more more artists are willing to drop music so they can hit the road and promote their work. In turn, some dope projects have been released so far this year.
Quite a few big names have returned with solid projects following sizeable breaks. The real is back, the ’Ville is back, as J. Cole ended his three-year hiatus to drop the new album, The Off-Season, in May. Jermaine did not disappoint. Typically adverse to features, Cole taps 21 Savage, 2021 XXL Freshman Morray, Lil Baby and more on the new album. He still gets plenty of run, delivering razor-sharp bars and proving his quality over quantity method is still a solid equation.
Tyler, The Creator showed out in June with his new album, Call Me If You Get Lost, the follow-up to the Grammy Award-winning Igor LP. T proves he’s still at the peak of his powers with another enigmatic release that finds the Odd Future rapper tapping into his multi-musical talents with high proficiency. He manifested a Gangsta Grillz tape with this one, tapping DJ Drama to host the effort, following a 2010 tweet in which Tyler shared his desire to create a project with the famed DJ.
Some newcomers and respected lyricists have solidified themselves as stars as well. Former XXL Freshmen Polo G and Rod Wave earned much-deserved No. 1 albums for Hall of Fame and SoulFly, respectively. Griselda continues their impressive run with standout releases from Mach-Hommy with Pray for Haiti and Conway The Machine with La Maquina.
With six more months left to go after what has been a promising year musically thus far, XXL has curated the best hip-hop projects of the first half of 2021 below.—C. Vernon Coleman
See Best Hip-Hop Projects of 2021 So Far