January in Hip-Hop

January in Hip-Hop

After the clocks ticked to 12 a.m. on January 1st, 2024, the impact on 2023 for hip-hop had been decided. It was a very slow year for the genre, with the major moment of the year coming on August 28th with the release of the highly anticipated album by Travis Scott, Utopia. The year was mainly led by artists such as Ice Spice and Doja Cat, who gained fame with their songs’ uses on social media platforms. Veteran rappers had their time in the spotlight, like Killer Mike with MICHAEL and Nas with two new additions to his Magic trilogy. In the underground scene, Billy Woods had possibly his best year with his album Maps produced by Kenny Segal, and in his duo group with Elucid, they put out We Buy Diabetic Test Strips.

Now that 2024 has begun, many fans hoped for the release of several anticipated albums that had been revealed in the previous year. Although many of these rumored albums did not come out yet in January 2024, it isn’t fair to say that it was a boring month either. To look over this month in hip-hop, let’s first start with its releases.

INSANO by Kid Cudi

Now his ninth studio album, Cudi introduced INSANO through two singles, “PORSHEE TOPLESS” and “AT THE PARTY”. The first single was actually released in June, so this album was a long time coming. Cudi attempts to go into a more experimental direction in comparison to his mainly psychedelic hip-hop on display in his Man On the Moon. Critics have been very hard on this album for its production choices and the way that Kid Cudi holds himself on the release. A large controversy came about because of the track “X & CUD”, which reused a verse from the late artist XXXTENTACION, with many calling the act disrespectful. In its first week, it only sold 8,500 album-equivalent units, but this was most likely because it came out the same day as this next entry.

American Dream by 21 Savage

21 Savage has mainly done work with different producers and artists of collaboration albums in his recent career, and has not put out a solo album since 2018. This release was the largest of the month, selling 133,000 album equivalent units as well as debuting number one on the US Billboard 200. The album itself is one of his most personal works, as it tells his story of migrating from the United Kingdom to America, and the struggles of living in poverty and the crime-ridden areas of Atlanta, Georgia. Its hit single “redrum” is still the most popular song off the album, with its use of the iconic line from The Shining through its chorus. Other notable songs include “all of me” and “n.h.i.e.”, which features Doja Cat in one of her most interesting features.

All Is Yellow by Lyrical Lemonade

Lyrical Lemonade is essentially a company under the Def Jam record label that helps make music videos and create albums, all led by its director, Cole Bennett. This album is a compilation of songs by wildly different artists. The album was criticized heavily for the lack of variety and the bloated feeling that carries throughout the tracklist. All Is Yellow sold around 18,500 album-equivalent units, and that is basically all there is to say about the project.

Not many albums were released this month, but there was large amounts of press on upcoming hip-hop projects and the like.

I AM MUSIC and Playboi Carti’s singles

After his album Whole Lotta Red in 2020, Playboi Carti has not released music since. His only real activity came in the form of the popular song off of Utopia, “Fe!n”, where he noticeably changed his vocal performance into a deeper voice. During December, Carti was active on Instagram, posting about what is believed to be an album name, MUSIC. After this activity, he announced new singles that would eventually be released as music videos on YouTube. “BACKROOMS” featuring Travis Scott was released on January 1st with similar public acclaim as “2024” which was released in December. It is still unknown if the teased album will come out soon, but Carti has previously stated that more singles would be released.

Vultures by Ye

This new album has been very confusing to follow, things change at a moment’s notice, so here are some of the most recent updates revolving around this release. After samples for the album were either not asked for or denied by the original artists due to Ye’s anti-semitic statements, the track list was reworked. This new tracklist was shown off in a particularly odd way, on a shirt worn by Ye’s daughter, North West. Producer and rapper JPEGMAFIA made statements on Twitter towards Ye, saying that the people he is working with are incompetent or just bad at their jobs and brought himself up as a candidate. The following day, JPEG posted on Instagram with Ye with a caption that implies they were working on music. On January 23th, Ye posted a trailer and announced that there would actually be three separate albums with the Vultures tagline, with those release dates being Febuary 9th, March 8th, and April 5th.

Tupac Breaks a Streaming Record

On January 30th, All Eyez on Me by Tupac Shakar reached three billion streams across all of its songs on Spotify. This would make it the first album from 1996 to break this amount of streams and this beats out any other album from the year by a landslide. It is impressive how much of an impact albums from nearly 30 years ago can still make on the modern day.

Rick Ross Gets the Key to Miami

Rick Ross has been a large name in hip-hop throughout the 2000s, especially with songs such as “Hustlin’”, which peaked at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100. As a symbol gesture, Ross was given the key to Miami to commemorate his impact on the genre, as well as the city as a whole. While speaking on the achievement with the Miami Herald, Rick Ross said this about the city, “Everywhere we went, we saw her name before we saw her face. As I got older, as a boss, I understand what the youngsters want to see and want to achieve. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be successful.”

January is usually a small month for releases, but that does not mean that classics have not come out of it in other years.

Veteran by JPEGMAFIA

A landmark in experimental hip-hop, Veteran was released on January 19th, 2018. JPEGMAFIA produced, sung, rapped, mixed, and mastered all of the songs on this album. The beats, although off-putting to some, made the album very unique and interesting to relisten to, with many uses of odd samples. Songs like “1539 N. Calvert” and “Baby I’m Bleeding” showed JPEG’s evolution from his original style into a more mature one while rapping as well as producing. JPEGMAFIA also uses this off-the-wall style to talk about various topics including politics and social media culture, which leads to some very fun vocal deliveries. While the album is not his strongest piece of work, it put the experimental hip-hop scene in the eyes of the public and shaped a lot about how production was thought about from then on.

Long.Live.ASAP by ASAP Rocky

Following his popular mixtape Live.Love.ASAP, this was his debut album that rocked the world when it came out on January 15th, 2013. This album pushed the psychedelic feel that would soon become commonplace in the industry, and would soon be adopted and expanded by Travis Scott. The album’s production was also done by Rocky himself, which allowed him to tailor-make songs to his liking and let him be in full control of the creative direction of the album. The singles show a lot of variety in the release, with songs like “Fashion Killa” being very slow-paced but soothing, and “****** Problems” being high energy with some of the best features of that year. The impact of ASAP Rocky’s early career in hip-hop cannot be understated, and this album is a clear example of its future influence.

That is all for January it was certainly a strange start to the year, but there are many new releases to look forward to, here are a few to end with.

Don’t Be Dumb by ASAP Rocky – A single was revealed for this album last year in the form of “Riot”, but a release date is still unknown. It was rumored to come out in August of 2023 but never arrived, although in an interview, ASAP Rocky gave a little bit of information. While Rocky was talking with DAZED Magazine, he said, “I want to leave expectations wide and open. I don’t want to tell you what to expect. I just want people to experience it how they do naturally.” He also continued to say he believed it was his best work as of yet. Producers like the legendary Madlib, Hit-Boy, and the Alchemist will make appearances on the album, as well as features such as Tyler, the Creator.

Denzel Curry’s album – A potential successor to a previous one of his projects, 13LOOD 1N + 13LOOD OUT RELOADED has very little known about it. A single titled “BLOOD ON MY NIKES” released in late 2023 but many believe that the album will be released within the year.

Run The Jewels 5 by Run The Jewels – This group has not put out an album since 2020, although its members have been very active recently, with both the previously mentioned Killer Mike and his partner El-P winning Grammys for their work on Michael. When talking to High Times, Killer Mike brought up Run the Jewels 5 being close to completion, saying “The album is literally two days away. I have to go in tonight and change two lines on a song. I’m just waiting for some drums from [producer] No I.D. and we’re done.” This is sort of strange because this interview took place in May of 2023, so it possible that it is on hold for some reason or has been delayed to continue work on it.

Metro Boomin collabs with J.I.D. and Future – Well-known producer Metro Boomin has said he has plans in the works with two rappers of Atlanta heritage. J.I.D. and Future. As of January 3rd, J.I.D. is still working on the album daily, which means it has been in the works since March of last year with a lot of activity. Future has also hinted at his own album with Metro through his instagram story. Metro has actually said that he has three albums in the works, which also includes a follow up to Heroes & Villains, but very little is know about the project.

The Fall Off by J. Cole – J. Cole has been hyping this album up through features on other artists songs. Cole has said that this would be his album that he would retire with, and has said he desires to talk about the hunger for success and feelings of decay that come from rapping. The Fall Off was meant to be released in 2021 but was swapped out for The Off Season, so it is possible it is already done but Cole has it on hold. 


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