From R&B and hip-hop to pop and psychedelic funk, these are the albums that the editorial staff at Boardroom has deemed to be the music industry’s crème de la crème of 2022.
As the year wraps, we’re all thinking about the music that helped us get through another year. Whether it be the songs that helped us to mourn a transition or loss or the soundtrack that uplifted us into good spirits, we might all agree that music is the one universal language that we all understand. Between every octave, flow, cadence, and run is an artist telling their story and leaving it all on the track.
Here at Boardroom, the staff has specially selected what we consider to be some of the best albums, projects, and EPs of the year. Listed in no particular order, check out the list below curated by the editorial staff from TDE’s SZA and Kendrick Lamar to bump-worthy Renaissance from the one and only Beyoncé.
JID, The Forever Story
This project has everything you want in a rap album. It has hard-hitting bars, impeccable flows, head-nodding jams, and exquisite storytelling. I don’t think The Forever Story has gotten the love it deserved but it is undoubtedly one of the best releases of the year.
– Randall Williams, Staff Writer
The Weeknd, Dawn FM
The Weeknd’s Dawn FM is a darkly existential album about the afterlife, drug use, longing, and regret that hit at the perfect dark time in the beginning of January when Boardroom was fully remote during the worst part of Omicron. I remember an album most vividly when you can associate it with an event or a period of time, and The Weeknd’s 80’s style synths and addictive bangers got me hooked so bad that no album topped it in the 11.5 months since.
– Shlomo Sprung, Staff Writer
Jockstrap, I Love You Jennifer B
I entered I Love You Jennifer B knowing nary a thing about the London avant-pop duo featuring Black Country, New Road’s Georgia Ellery and producer/synth warlock Taylor Skye, but when opener “Neon” delivered its drop, a deluge of cascading, foreboding cool-kid psychedelia immobilized me in a straitjacket of electro-longing I never knew I needed to fight through. There’s singer-songwriter restlessness wall to wall, but stick around for an acid jazz amuse-bouche (“Greatest Hits”), piston jabs of lush sonic arrangement (“What’s It All About,” like Skye was a Manchester dancefloor Van Dyke Parks), and the mind-wrecking soprano that ultimately lulls you right into Ellery’s honeypot — an Elden Ring-level boss fight of deceptively ferocious lyricism that already, past-tense, got the emotional drop on you.
– Sam Dunn, Managing Editor
Future, I Never Liked You
Other than just being a big Future fan, he’s got a couple songs that tie back into old stories he told on my favorite past tracks (i.e. in “Kno The Meaning” from DS2, he raps, “Brown paper bag, we gettin’ back to the paper, Gettin’ back to the basics” — one of my favorite songs on the album).
– Anthony Puccio, Staff Writer
Predictable? Maybe. Can’t help it. The thoughtfulness of the transitions of this album are what sets it apart for me (“Cuff It” into “Energy” into “Break My Soul” into “Church Girl” is pure perfection). That, and Bey just stepping into the truth that comes with being with a grown ass woman with a combination of grace, power, awkwardness, and ambivalence that feels identifiable.
– Bernadette Doykos, Senior Director, Editorial Strategy
Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Context matters, and in the case of Kendrick, it means even more. The guy hadn’t released an album in five years, making this release one of the most anticipated of the year. Throw in the fact that it’s his last Top Dawg Entertainment project and it makes this album even more special — not to mention the simple fact that Kendrick knows how to reach his audience through his sharp pen and elite delivery, touching on subjects others don’t dare to approach. Whether or not you’re boppin’ to his latest work on daily basis or not doesn’t really matter — you simply can’t have a Best Albums of 2022 list without Mr. Morale.
– Griffin Adams, Editor
Drake & 21 Savage, Her Loss
As one of the few fans that thought Certified Lover Boy was a letdown but actually liked Honestly, Nevermind, I was cool with the concept of Drizzy taking a two-year rap sabbatical. Welp, I was wrong. Her Loss is as barred up as The Boy has ever been and 21’s a worthy co-star. From the car to cardio — or even the rare appearance at “the clurb” — this project occupies and energizes spaces. “Broke Boys” and “Privileged Rappers” top it all for me.
– Ian Stonebrook, Staff Writer
Coco Jones, What I Didn’t Tell You
The girls who get it, get it and the girls who don’t, don’t. As a die-hard Disney Channel girl, I remember when I first learned about Coco Jones when she was on the Next Big Thing competition and starred in Let It Shine with Tyler James Williams and Trevor Jackson. Now, to see her as a grown-ass woman taking control of her narrative in the music industry as a beautiful, unapologetic Black woman with talent is everything to me. What I Didn’t Tell You is a hell of a debut and a grand entrance to not let people know that Coco Jones is back, but that she never left. And those Teyana Taylor “Caliber” visuals? *Chef’s kiss*.
– D’Shonda Brown, Music/Entertainment Editor
Fred again… , Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9, 2022)
Fred again… follows in the footsteps of a number of albums that have been on repeat in my household for years. Specifically, he picks up where the xx left off. The syrupy, drippy vibes of Actual Life (January 1-September 9 2022) can serve as the soundtrack for nearly any moment. Need to focus? Need background music while hosting? Need your sonic selection to match with the beat of the city as your walk to work? This is it.
– Bernadette Doykos
Kid Cudi, A Kid Named Cudi (Re-Release)
At 34, my favorite albums are probably behind me. From Icewear Vezzo to Bartees Strange, I still listen to everything new at least once but rarely much more because I feel like I get more value as a writer from learning through podcasts. With that said, this Cudder reissue took me back to junior year on Gunson Street. “Down & Out” still hits, but “Whenever, Wherever” eclipses all for me now.
– Ian Stonebrook
FLO, The Lead
If anyone ever had a doubt in their mind about the state of R&B, I promise you that FLO’s debut EP will restore all faith in rhythm and blues humanity. For these three young ladies to find such a beautiful effortless harmony that I haven’t heard since Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour is refreshing. The Lead has everything you’ll need from the perfect middle fingers up bop “Cardboard Box” to a top-down anthem “Summertime.” If you really want a hell of a show for some vocals, “Feature Me” is sure to blow your mind.
– D’Shonda Brown
Westside Gunn, 10
I’m definitely biased toward East Coast rappers. It’s really nothing more than that. I appreciate that FLYGOD actually raps and has an old-school vibe with his flow and beats — but I did like Pray For Paris more.
– Anthony Puccio
The curator of emotional pandemonium in sonic form has done it again. SOS was released on December 9 to widespread positive reviews from fans and critics alike. Despite being released in the last month of the year, SOS is one of the most successful releases of 2022. The combination of critical acclaim and Billboard chart success is going to make for a massive 2023 for TDE’s newest superstar.
– Randall Williams
Vince Staples, Ramona Broke My Heart
If my last pick was more about legacy — it wasn’t, but let’s imagine just for fun — then this one was chosen more with the heart. I’ve been a Vince stan for years, but his most recent work is some of his best and most authentic. It’s a relatable collection of work due to the fact that he takes us back to his adolescence, something we all can relate to, even if our backgrounds are all different. We were all shaped one way or another, and Vince gives us a preview of how he was molded growing up on this one.
– Griffin Adams
Nas, King’s Disease III
It was only fitting that Nas’ King’s Disease III dropped on Veterans Day, because this legendary vet still has his fastball at 49 years of age. Younger MCs may criticize the Queensbridge OG for not being relevant anymore, but his classic lyricism and flow still rise above the vast majority of his peers and promise to resonate long after many current rappers’ primes will have come and gone.
– Shlomo Sprung
Missed Kevin Durant’s picks for the best albums of 2022? Click here to get the top five on the latest episode of Boardroom’s “The ETCs.”
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