2021 Top Albums 

At the end of every year, we at SleepWalker put out a list of what we feel are the best musical releases from the past 12 months. The wait is finally over. We give you our top 10 projects of 2021. Let us know if you agree by dming us on IG (@sleepwalker.ent) or on Twitter (@sleepwalker_ent).

#1 Rio Da Yung OG & RMC Mike - DUM N DUMBBER 3

The dynamic duo returns with the third installment of their iconic Dum N Dumbber series, with both artists at peak form. Rio Da Yung OG (FREE RIO) and RMC Mike go back and forth throughout the 14-song project, breaking all traditional ideas of verse formats, and structures as the pair sporadically punch-in on every song. One track may have them going bar for bar likeHawthorne,'' whileGive Me Lyfe,” has them each laying down a long-winded, yet flawless, verse. There are no hooks on this project. It's purely Rio and Mike sh*t-talking at the highest of levels. It seems like every time one of them says one crazy punchline, the other follows up with an even more mind-blowing bar. The vast majority of the album's production is handled by other Flint, Michigan legends: SAV, Wayne616, and Enrgy, who have each produced some of Rio and Mike’s earliest hits. The ever innovative, yet signature structure-less design of DUM N DUMBBER 3, matched with the innumerable amount of quotables in every song, make this project a genuinely historic release. This album showcases some of the most critical artists coming from one of the most important cities in the rap game right now, which is why we are stamping this project as AOTY.

Favorite Tracks: Rio n Mike, S.O.T.B, Mannn Stop

#2 Mach-Hommy - Pray For Haiti

Mach-Hommy’s Pray For Haiti is easily the best lyrical release of the year. Strictly intricate bars from start to finish. The 16-track album features an All-Star cast of producers, including Camouflage Monk, ConductorWilliams, and Denny Laflare, who give the project a sample-heavy, almost gritty, east-coast sound. Mach-Hommy and Westside Gunn executive produce the album, with Gunn rapping on three tracks and providing ad-libs on a few more. Keisha Plum, a poet from Buffalo associated with GRISELDA, and The God Fahim also provide notable features on the project. This album is like if every nerdy rap fan in 2019’s dream came true: Mach-Hommy rapping on CamoflaugeMonk beats with Westside Gunn ad libs. This is the only album in recent memory that makes you pause each track multiple times to let what was just said fully sync in. The dynamic nature of this project entices the listener to try and catch every single bar Mach-Hommy delivers, excited to see what he’ll say next, and how he’ll say it. This project has infinite playback potential, and Mach-Hommy is the most important Haitian since Kodak.

Favorite Tracks:  No Blood No Sweat, The 26th Letter, Blockhain, Pen Rale, Rami feat Westside Gunn

#3 SlimeSito - Life of A Slime

After a year-and-a-half long bid, Slime Sito was finally released from prison at the very end of 2020. Over the past year, he’s dropped four different projects, each one further proving he’s back, and more focused than ever. Life Of A Slime is Sito’s most recent and his best project from his onslaught this year. It’s the closest reflection of vintage Slime that we've seen since his release. Part of this nostalgic feeling is due to the top-tier production from Surreal Gang members: Xangang, Rob Surreal, and KapeThaGoat. The three are trailblazers in the Plugg genre who helped create the signature sonic backdrop that Sito’s voice and lyricism have become so beloved over. SlimeSito fully returned with this project, utilizing his signature punch-in flow that he's helped popularize since 2016. But, he’s elevated that well-coveted flow to another level on this project, rapping with an intensity that rivals the energy from his breakout tape Scarface Sito. He also moves out of his lyrical comfort zone with tracks like “I Miss You…'', touching on far more personal topics, such as the recent deaths of his mother, uncle, and friends, and the impact these losses had on him. This is a more reflective and vulnerable Slime than most of us are used to, which allows his bars to resonate with listeners like never before. To top it all off, the entire tape is hosted by Paterson, NJ native Nino Andretti, an affiliate of DJ PHAT. Andretti runs the track back multiple times, contributes necessary gunshot sound effects, and cuts in frequently with his tag “Yung Nino What’s Brackin!” This album is the highest embodiment of dark Plugg, making it an essential listen for any and all Sito fans. 

Favorite Tracks: Two Face, One Eye Willy…, Moving In Silence, Deep In The Streets

#4 Shawny Binladen - Wikipedia Deluxe

Shawny Binladen’s Wikipedia Deluxe should be considered the pinnacle of sample-drill thus far. NotAtTheTableCarlos and CallupTay handle the majority of the project's production, showcasing their unique skills in flipping nostalgic songs that reside in the recesses of our generations’ minds. Whether it’s the intricate sampling of Kanye’s “Father Stretch my hands Pt.1,” on “ShawnYE,'' or a simple four-bar sample from Kodak and French Montana’s “Lockjaw” on “In The Vault”, every beat on this tape is executed flawlessly. Shawny finds new and creative ways to talk his sh*t throughout Wikipedia Deluxe, packing verses with clever punchlines that he powerfully whispers. This is a unique flow trademarked by Shawny and other artists from Woodhull, Queens. The project is also loaded with A1 features, most notably those coming from Big Yaya, who delivers some of his best verses of the year on the five tracks that feature him. There are also features from Shawny’s essential collaborators K$upreme, Four50, and Big Baby (Big Gltaow). It's clear that Binladen is heading towards the peak of his creativity, effortlessly flowing over all types of melodies and samples, while still maintaining his versatile presence on every track. Wikipedia Deluxe is a clear-cut example of why Shanwy is one of the most exciting artists in the Underground.

Favorite Tracks: Grinch’d Up Life, Feel Like Hect, Revived feat Big Yaya, Not Jazz

#5 Nappy Nina & JWords - Double Down

JWords’ futuristic production that meshes elements of house, techno and traditional Hip-Hop, accompanied by Nappy Nina’s unrivaled skill with the pen led to the creation of one of the most dynamic pieces of sonic art to come out in 2021. The Oakland emcee, who's currently based out of Brooklyn, bodies every verse on Double Down with the confidence of someone who knows they can really rap. Nappy Nina's past in Slam poetry is evident, not only in her wavy delivery that intentionally floats on and off beat, but also in the continuity of her content. There's a constant theme throughout Nappy Nina's verses that tie all her words together. She’s not just punching in, saying whatever comes to mind, but actually talking at length about real life topics such as therapy, the gentrification of Brooklyn’s creative community, and other issues she observes around her. The first bar of every song relates to the last one, and everything in between. This intricate verse structure lays every track with hidden gems that you’ll only be able to notice on your third or fourth listen through. The world-building done by Nina’s lyricism is further enhanced by JWords' complex and high-paced production. The Jersey native chops samples of horns, pianos, and synths, flipping them into brand new sounds. Then, she adds high tempo kick, snare, and 808 patterns that evolve as each song unfolds. The project also boasts features from Stas THEE Boss, and Maassai, who each raise the lyrical bar, which Nina arrives at with ease. The 17-minute album is a quick listen, but this project requires multiple play throughs to catch the true genius behind it.

Favorite Tracks: Is Me A Star, Scrd, Real Tea feat Stas THEE Boss, Thin Ice feat Maassai (co-produced by KeiyaA) 

#6 Harto Falión & Evil Giane - Im_My_Worst_Enemy

Im_My_Worst_Enemy marks the first collaborative effort from Evil Giane and Harto Falión (who produces under the name Trip Dixon), two legends in their own right. The pair have production styles that compliment each other perfectly as the meshing of Giane’s Surf Gang, and Dixon’s L0SER_TABLE sonic styles create otherworldly soundscapes. Each song has five different melodies building on top of one another, which are brought together by minimal, yet poignant 808s and hi-hats. These beats allow Harto to really spit. His lyricism is straight to the point, not a single word is wasted during his in-depth self-reflections. Harto calmly sings, chants, and raps about his daily activities and the inner thoughts that flash through his mind on a given day. His melodic delivery makes it easy to hear what he says without actually understanding him. But, once you start to really listen, you’ll find the genius word play, and genuine lyrical content that make this project incredibly personal and relatable. Im_My_Worst_Enemy pushes listeners to think about who they really are, and ask themselves if they stay true to their real self when out in the world. This project is simultaneously critical and uplifting, drawing deep introspection out of its listener. The nine-song project shows off Harto’s ever-perplexing confident humbleness and pristine self-awareness.

Favorite Tracks: So_Far_Gone, Stay_Solid_Foriver, Ned_Schneebly, Artificial_Happyness

#7 Pi'erre Bourne - TLOP 5

TLOP 5 is by far the most cohesive and put-together album of the year. Pi’erre Bourne continues to raise the bar with the 5th installment of his The Life Of Pi’erre” saga. Per usual, Bourne produced, mixed, and mastered the entire project himself, so it's a fully authentic reflection of his progression, lifestyle, and experiences since his TLOP 4 Deluxe release. He still holds his outstanding ability to sing, croon, and harmonize over his often-dreamy production. However, Pi’erre uses this project to really focus on his lyricism. Tracks like “40 Clip,” and “Groceries” find Pi’erre essentially barring out through the entirety of both songs. Perhaps, the most notable features of the project are the immaculate transitions between each song. Every beat flows flawlessly into the next, resulting in the feeling that you're experiencing one long audiofilm. These may be the best transitions on a Hip-Hop album we’ve heard in the last five years, outdoing his transitions on his previous TLOP projects. The album was also accompanied by a few stunning visuals like “HULU”, which many are calling music video of the year. Every aspect of TLOP 5 is just amazing. Once you start playing the Intro, there's no stopping the album until it's over. 

Favorite Tracks: Couch, Drunk And Nasty feat Sharc, 42

#8 Sahbabii - Do it For Demon

Sahbabii 's newest album Do It For Demon is a beautiful tribute to his late friend Demon. Virtually, all 20 tracks on the project indirectly or directly mention the tragic death of his friend, and the impact it's had on him. This is the most focused Sahbabii has ever been on a project, giving off a very different mood from his previous major releases. On tracks like “Do It For Demon,” Sahbabii reflects on the good memories he made with his friend, and works to honor him after his death. While songs like “Rewind,” capture the guilt and remorse Sahbabii feels for not being able to stop Demon’s death. His vulnerability gives the tracks on this project a dark rawness that pushes the listener to feel all the emotions he's endured while going through the grieving process. Not only has Sahbabii made massive strides in his ability to convey real emotions, he's also solidified his position as having the best ad-lib style in the game. His moaning, chanting, and even animal impressions come in at perfect moments throughout every verse. The production on the project is very smooth, often including ethereal synths, soft guitar and piano loops, and bouncy 808s. Sahbabii continues to push the limits of his ability, trailblazing his own distinct path in the industry.

Favorite Tracks: Other Side, Switch, Frontline

#9 Lucki & F1LTHY - Wake Up Lucki

Long-awaited and highly anticipated, Lucki & F1LTHY’s Wake Up Lucki arrived right on time. This project finds the duo at new heights in their careers that many people from the 2015-2017 SoundCloud community may have never imagined. Both of these artists' evolutions have been amazing to watch over the years. From F1LTHY’s game-changing production on classics, such as the first half of the Carti album, to Lucki becoming one of the most respected artists within his generation amongst fans and his peers. The 12-track project features an ever-growing, yet reliably honest, Lucki who continues to remain reflective about his current life. Having been rapping in the limelight for nearly a decade, Lucki still finds relatable ways to describe his day-to-day life, but now in a more mature way. He raps about finessing labels now, he’s moved past all the heartbreak, but may still get caught up with the right woman. And, the drugs have turned from a forbidden love, to an unfortunate necessity. Tracks like “2019” and “Where I be,'' accurately reflect this lyrical evolution. F1LTHY’s sound has also grown past the monumental Tread genre he helped create. On this project, F1LTHY built every beat from scratch with no samples being used on any of its tracks. This approach is somewhat reminiscent of the more ambient soundscapes he was making in 2013/2014, but Wake Up Lucki’s production is different from any of F1LTHY’s previous work. It’s extremely clean and professional. There are still hints of the signature Working On Dying bounce that’ll surface throughout the project, but its production is far more melodic and at a slower tempo. This project shows two heavyweights from the Underground showing how far they've come, while flexing all their accomplishments.

Favorite Tracks: Neptune Vs. Industry, U.G.K., Love Is War

#10 Kanye West - DONDA (Minus Jail Pt 2) 

Musically, Kanye West's DONDA deserves to be #1 on this list. No one has ever made a project like this, and no one ever will again. He got virtually every male mainstream rapper who was hot at the time to fly down to Atlanta, and record in an underground bunker beneath the Mercedes-Benz stadium. He then put on three different elaborate-ass album listening events that many suggest mimicked the three acts from Dante's Inferno. Yet, the most impressive feature of this project is the fact that Ye got all of these rappers to shift their focus from the "guns, drugs, and b*tches" content that got them all popular, to actually rapping about real-life pain and emotional struggle that all tied into a love of God. Like, he really got Fivio Foreign, Lil Baby, Westside Gunn, and Roddy Rich to go number one on Gospel charts. That's insane. We could go in-depth about all the amazing aspects of this album, from the unprecedented cast of producers, engineers, and writers who contributed to this project, to the different stages of Ye's career each few songs were meant to embody. This isn't even an album, it's a whole experience. 

In the end, despite all of these accolades, the rollout of this project was so problematic that it significantly minimized the impact a project of this magnitude could've had on the world. Ye, deciding to make the last-minute decision to redo "Jail" in order to include Marilyn Manson, who had just been accused of sexual abuse from multiple women, and swapping out Jay-Z's verse for Dababy's, is purely absurd. It was completely unnecessary, and it permanently stained the album and everything around it. This project could have taken music and performance art to an entirely different level, but all that went out the window thanks to Ye doing way too much, and being unnecessarily inconsiderate. Despite all of its musical breakthroughs, Ye ruined his own album. It's really sad to think about, to be honest, and it'll be interesting to see if they give him a Grammy.

Favorite tracks: Come To Life, Off The Grid feat Playboi Carti & Fivio Foreign, Hurricane feat The Weeknd & Lil Baby, Remote Control feat Young Thug, Moon feat Don Toliver & Kid Cudi

Honorable Mentions