25 Best Rap Albums of 2023

billy woods is one of those artists whose music creates an entire universe, and the more time you spend in it, the better it gets. As a solo artist and one half of Armand Hammer (with ELUCID), he usually releases at least one top-tier album a year, and it never feels like too much of a good thing. This year, he reunited with producer Kenny Segal from his especially beloved 2019 album Hiding Places for the new solo album Maps, and Armand Hammer also released We Buy Diabetic Test Strips. They both scratch the same abstract rap itch, and each one brings something completely necessary to the table. Both albums are clever, funny, dark, wise, deep, and poetic in equal measure; they’ll leave you hanging on every word for weeks on end. The lists of collaborators are the stuff that indie-rap dreams are made of–Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Quelle Chris, Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring, ELUCID and more are on Maps, while We Buy Diabetic Test Strips features Soul Glo’s Pierce Jordan (as Moneynicca), Junglepussy, Moor Mother, Pink Siifu, and more, plus JPEGMAFIA and El-P as producers–and every contributor takes the opportunity to find their own place within this universe. woods and his cohorts make albums for the sake of crafting immersive pieces of art. There’s no ploy for a hit single, a TikTok craze, or a Spotify playlist inclusion; they’re just continuing to make music on their own terms, and even as the world catches up with them, woods & his friends still sound ahead of the curve.