As we begin the new year, we take a look back at the Houstonians that put out some of the top albums of the year. Last year we released a series of lists highlighting up and coming artists, women, singers, and producers, but this year we are focused on just the albums. Most lists are just relegated to a top ten but there were several veterans and newcomers that dropped work that should be recognized. Whether they have been releasing music for years or are new to the scene So here, in no particular order, are the top 30 albums of 2022 out of Houston.
Megan Thee Stallion – Traumazine
Megan Thee Stallion has experienced A lot this year and she lets some of that out on her latest release. While many have criticized her for only making party music, on Traumazine she addresses many of those critiques. Tracks like "Anxiety" show the artist opening up about her struggles with mental health, "Plan B" shows she has not lost her lyrical edge, “Her” and “Sweetest Pie” are pop crossovers, and “Southside Royalty Freestyle” pay homage to Houston’s musical history.
Beyoncé – Renaissance
It’s Beyoncé. It’s probably the album of the year. An unexpected dance record from an artist that is proving repeatedly that she will not be compartmentalized. There’s not much I could write about this album that hasn’t already been written. It is act one of a mysterious trilogy and if this is just the first act fans have a lot to look forward to.
Omg2Raw- Before the World Ends
Omg2Raw Is a rapping machine that has often been highlighted by blogs and freestyle videos showcasing his lyrical prowess throughout the city. Before The World Ends shows that he is more than just freestyling MC. The album opens up showcasing his flow but the eight track album shows raw singing and toning down his battle rap flow to give a very laid back and melodic album.
Lizzo - Special
Lizzo garnered success with 2016’s Coconut Oil and its single “Good as Hell.” She then continued her path with 2019’s Cuz I Love You. This year she returned with Special, a monster of an album with hits like “About Damn Time” and the title track. The album continues to show Lizzo’s skills with the pen as well as her vocal range. Her interpolation of Z-Ro’s “I Hate You” into “I Love You Bitch” pays homage to her Houston roots While still being true to her and her pop sound.
Calico Tha Beast – It’s Always Sunny In Houston
The album opens up with a snippet from the hit show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where the group questions whether anybody can do, what they do like they do it. The album then continues, much like Wale’s The Album About Nothing and The Mixtape About Nothing, with Calico using the sitcom to speak about more serious issues like gun control, school shootings and mental health. He even plays off one of the shows main characters, who is often presented as someone that uses women, to critique himself and apologize for a failed relationship on “The D.E.N.N.I.S System.” It’s not all serious with tracks like “Hot Ones,” “Pepper Jack” and “Always Sunny” giving the album a more well rounded feel.
Aaron May - No Recognition
Aaron May dropped Chase in 2019, an introspective album about growing up on the southwest side in Alief, Texas. Then he was relatively quiet. A single here or there, a placement or two in some notable video games, and a relatively quiet social media presence left fans waiting for more. This year he returned with two pieces of work. The EP Outside Lookin In and the album No Recognition. Both are quality work, giving May a jazzy soundscape where he can reflect on his life and growth. The first two tracks on No Recognition, “Time” and the title track, give a true feel for who May is as an artist as well as his potential.
Sauce Walka - Sauce Ghetto Gospel 3
Sauce Walka and his team produce music like a factory. Like Cash Money, Rap-A-Lot, Suave House, and No Limit followed in the footsteps of labels like Motown, Sauce has put emphasis on keeping things in house and putting out music quickly. This year alone he put out five albums on top of putting out artists on his label The Sauce Factory. One of those albums was the continuation of his Ghetto Gospel series. The album, full of soulful beats, brings real attention to Sauce’s lyricism that is not highlighted enough.
Bayou City Comeback Chorus
Bayou City Comeback Chorus is a social justice album that’s the brainchild of The Suffers lead singer, Kam Franklin. After the death of Atatiana Jefferson at the hands of police Franklin wrote “Be The Light” the first track on the 4-track EP. All the songs are written, produced, and arranged by Franklin but she reaches out to fellow artists like Nick Connors, Z’Maji Glamouratti, Lilly Aviana, Uncle Tino, Dende, Ryan Ramirez, and Sugar Joiko. The finished work is '70s funk, R&B, gospel, and jazz all in one. This, along with the Suffers' latest and Franklin’s solo country single “A Bitch Didn’t Listen,” show that the singer will not be pigeonholed.
Kizzy Cobain - Elephant in the Room
There’s not much out about this artist but this year she dropped two albums, Kizzy Effect and Beginning of The End. While Kizzy Effect, an 8-track offering released back in March, is an appetizer, Beginning of The End is 40 more minutes of smooth R&B with tracks like “Could Be,” “Under The Trees,” "Borrowed Time" and “Bad Habits” that have Kizzy singing about unrequited love, failed relationships, and moving on. She is also label mates with another artist on this list, Aaron May, so expect to see more from her and MOVEINTHEAM in the future.
The Sophomores (Tisakorean & Sunny galactic) - Hope v2
Tisakorean’s Star has been rising for some time, starting out as a viral sensation on apps like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. That virality sometimes overshadows the fact he’s a growing musician. He links up with Sunny Galactic to form the group The Sophomores and releases an up-tempo album displaying her singing alongside his hook making. It’s an album that was definitely not expected but pleasantly welcomed. If you’re looking to get into either one of their discographies here would be a good start.
M3cca & Mufasa Enzor – H3ARSUMMUZIK
M3CCA links up with Mufasa Enzor to offer the H3ARSUMMUZIK, a long-awaited album. On an interlude for the 6-track EP, the singer expresses that even though people have asked where her and Mufasa have been they refuse to rush greatness. A six-track EP where one of the tracks is an interlude might not seem like much but M3CCA’s angelic voice on tracks like “Cascade” and Enzor’s production on tracks “Yeez Ago” and “Out of Time” should leave fans and newcomers wanting more.
George Young - The Cool Front
George Young released The Loop back in 2020, a solid offering after A6 year hiatus. The album was his return to the music scene and a showcase of his engineering and production skills. This year he released The Cool Front. If the loop was a showcase of his production skills The Cool Front continues along that path but also has Young stepping up lyrically. With features from M’s Up Milo, Jay Skyy, EDF, Delorean and Bee Honey, The Cool Front gives more of a party vibe than his previous offerings. The seven-track album gives listeners the feeling of the end of summer when things start to cool down which is displayed with the last two tracks “Chasing Sunsets” and “Seasonal Love.” Expect to see more from Young in the future.
The Suffers – It Starts With Love
This is the second time that Kam Franklin is going to be on this list with this time being the front woman for her band The Suffers. The group’s last album was released in 2018 and in June they returned with the long-awaited It Starts With Love. The band might have started out as heavy on ska but now they kind of do it all. “Don’t Bother Me” showcases the band’s up-tempo nature while “I’m Not Afraid” brings a much slower pace allowing Franklin to really display her vocal skills and writing ability. The album overall continues to show the evolution of The Suffers.
Lolita Monreaux - Napoleon Complex
Lolita Monreaux is the first signee to Z-Ro’s Deep Entertainment after the Mo-City Don was surprised by his longtime friend’s ability to rap. The result is this year’s Napoleon Complex where Lolita holds her own alongside Killa Kyleon, Propain, Lil Keke, Paul Wall, Sauce Walka, and, of course, Z-Ro. The laid-back hooks provided by Z-Ro fit well with Monreaux’s rapid-fire flow especially on the Killa Kyleon assisted “Top Back”. Monreaux’s debut is braggadocious, but she also gets reflective on tracks like “Don’t Last” where the MC raps about stripping and its psychological effects. It’s a solid debut from one of Houston’s newest MCs.
Slim Thug & Got Damn Samm– BIGslim
BIGslim is as much of a showcase for Slim Thug as it is for DJ Young Samm. The longtime tour DJ’s soulful production matches perfectly with Slim’s baritone flow. This is apparent on the intro track BIGslim but it is really shown when Samm flips well-known Hip-Hop staples and the duo make it their own. “Made it” flips the Geto Boy’s “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” while “On Go” takes Jay-Z’s “Can I Live” and turns it in to something new. Slim consistently gives solid offerings and his latest release doesn’t disappoint.
Z-Ro – Pressure
The Mo City Don continues to add to his discography with his latest release Pressure. With his latest Ro continues to push the boundaries of melding melodic singing and rapping with “Roll 1 Deep”and “Actin’ Funny.” “Man Hold Up” is quintessential Z-Ro, with its screwed and chopped beat, Z-Ro’s hard-hitting flow, and hi singing, reminiscent of an old school, country gospel church choir. Pressure is another album that rests firmly in Z-Ro’s catalog.
Lil Keke – LGND
Lil Keke dropped LGND this year, a 16-track album released at the top of 2022. The project is loaded with features from the new and old school of Houston. Z-Ro, Sauce Walka, Slim Thug, Propain, Jack Freeman, Martina Marie, J-Dawg, Bun B, Lil Flip and more help the Houston staple add another solid offering to his discography. Tracks like “No Emotions” featuring the late Chucky Trill and J-Dawg, are standouts with J-Dawg and Keke reflecting on their place in life while Chucky Trill provides the hook. The track ends with the verse from J-Dawg lamenting about the death of Trill, an artist whose promise was cut so short. Even though Lil Keke is a veteran in the game he manages to bridge the gap between the new school and the established artists with ease.
DJ Chose – Multi
DJ Chose has blown up over the past year the genres of hip hop and country music. Multi, his hip hop album, garnered traction on social media sites like TikTok due to its hit single “Thick.” Chose is not one to rest and quickly followed up with the next single “Minor Setback (Motivation)” which also gained traction on the clock app because of Chose’s signature intro. The album features Fred’s Bang, Gucci Mane, Megan Thee Stallion, MO3 and more. DJ Chose has a penchant for making club anthems which works well with artists like Kali and KenTheMan on “Where She At”. Expect to see way more DJ Chose in 2023.
DJ X.O. - Big Dreams
This Houston producers tag “X.O. Think he all that” has been playing all over the radio and streaming sites for 2022. Whether producing hits for artists like Finesse2tymes, Rizzoo, Sosamann or himself, 2022 has been X.O.’s year. His latest release, Big Dreams, features Slim Thug and foogiano, who assist on the singles “Make your move” and “Hood Hop." Big Dreams is the collaborative effort between X.O. And Wreckshop Records and hopefully we will see more of them in 2023.
Lebra Jolie - Lebra Jolie
Jolie released her debut, Brianna, in 2018 and returned this year with her latest, Lebra Jolie. Jolie gained steam uploading freestyles to YouTube over a decade ago and, after building momentum via a string of viral clips and freestyles, signed to Interscope Records earlier this year. Her first project is this album and her work in the industry has helped to push her to perform at festivals like Rolling Loud. Tracks like “What Kinda” and “Fuck I Look Like” display Jolie’s signature flow and the Babyface Ray assisted single “Think It’s Funny” show Jolie is more than ready for the national stage.
Tobe Nwigwe - moMINTs
Tobe Nwigwe has taken the Houston Hip Hop tradition of independence and amplified it into something completely new. He’s graced NPR’s Tiny Desk, made it on an Obama playlist, acted on Netflix’s hit show Mo, been featured on the Wakanda Forever soundtrack, is set to be in the next Transformers film, and was recently nominated for a best new artist Grammy. He does all this while creating music that gives his fans the feeling that they are with him and his family/band in the living room. His latest, moMINTs and the accompanying “At The Crib Version” highlight his ability to connect with his fan base. The album has Nwigwe looking at his progress in the industry, starting in Alief and rising to the national stage. “Round Here” was a viral sensation and tracks like “Lord Forgive Me” epitomize Nwigwe’s style.
Killa Kyleon- Mic Jordan
Killa Kyleon is full of confidence and that confidence is on full display with his latest release Mic Jordan. The cover of the album has the Houston MC sitting on a basketball in front of a row of championship trophies in the same manner as one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace the court. Kyleon is well known for his freestyling ability and can quickly put out a mixtape showing off his skills, but on this project, with songs like “Changes,” “Blessing Me” and “It’s The Weather 4 Me.” There is a definite focus on songwriting. The flow is still there and rapid fire but there’s also a lot of progression on this tape that devoted fans will want to see more of in the upcoming years.
GodKing Preach & Things with Todd - Lord Have Mercy
Another album from East Texas with production from Things with Todd. Todd provides the perfect soundtrack for Preach to expound on religion, politics and current events. Much like Golden Triangle, Lord Have Mercy, focuses on lyricism and Preach has eight tracks to display his skills. The album is full of interludes like “Temptation of Christ” and “False Prophet Skit” where Todd weaves audio from pop culture over screwed and chopped gospel. Then those are followed up by tracks like “Newport” and “Praying Hands” where Preach uses his lyrical dexterity to express his thoughts on religion. Godking Preach is known in the Houston underground for his bars and projects like this should garner him new fans looking for even more.
Dinero Sinatra - Plato O Plomo
Dinero Sinatra released the excellent, The Sequel, in 2021 and continues that style with this year’s Plata O Plomo. The album is a mix of the 70’s flare and Sinatra rapping over soulful beats about women, weed, and cars. Has it been done before? Yes, but tracks like “Gustavo,” “Play in Mexico” and “Mafia Style” show he gets highlighted because he does it well. Killa Tex - Blue Pill Tape
The 18th song on Killa Tex’s latest album, Blue Pill Tape, opens with a medley of snippets from radio programs in Houston during the 90’s and then transitions into an ode by Sylince and T-Vybe to the city. It captures Killa Tex’s love for Houston and what this album is about. The 20-track album features E.S.G., Dash the Goat, DeLorean, Rob Gullate, BuddieRoe, Yung Martez and many many more. The album plays like a sunny day in Houston with Killa Tex as your guide as he introduces you to the artists that make up the city’s landscape. The album is jazz, funk, and chopped and screwed rolled into one.
Jdagr8 Gr8ful - Never Satisfied
Jdagr8 was on one of our previous lists as one to watch. The MC has been building up a following with his TillWeAllRich brand. Never Satisfied is a 26-track album helmed by Jdagr8. The only features are Cale Genesis, Mi$TA the Stranger, Zaleb Brown, Slum Baby Jman, Zae Laurent, and Big Aceo. The album is made for the club with tracks like “How It Feel To Be Rich,” “Dirty Cup Clean Clothes” and “Overload”.
Marqus Clae - The Mecca
Marqus Clae has been rapping since the age of 7, toured with Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco, and even signed to Master P’s No Limit Forever imprint Before parting ways in 2018. In 2020 it was announced that he was signing to Def Jam. The result of that signing is this year’s The Mecca, an album That is much more mature and polished than What one would expect from a 22-year-old. Tracks like “Studio Gangsta,” “Jigga,” “Ox & Buns” and “Momma Used to Say” highlight how strong the Dej Jam debut is as well as show that Clae is an artist to keep an eye on.
Micky Woods Jr. & Things With Todd - Golden Triangle
The golden triangle refers to the area of southwest Texas encapsulating the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange. The album only has a few features, including DJ Candlestick, Karlay, Tishany, and Bun B, giving Woods plenty of opportunity to flex his lyrical prowess over Todd’s 12 tracks. The Bun B-assisted “Name This Hoe Later” is a standout track but singles like “Bait” which takes the French musical duo Les Nubians 1998 hit “Makeda” truly shows what Woods and Todd are capable of creating. LE$ - Motion
Le$'s most recent offering opens with the conversation between two people about whether his music is still jammed or not. It highlights that Le$ not only hears the criticism of his work but that he doesn’t care. As an artist he’s continued to grow and if you can’t grow with him, he has no problem leaving you behind. Standout tracks like “Till I Die "truly capture the soundscape that Le$ and DJ Mr. Rogers have created. Throw in the production by Tavaras Jordan who helps Le$ flip high energy cuts like T.I’s “ASAP” into the laid back “WN2FW” and you have another solid offering from one of Houston’ stand out artists.
Alexis Finley – Beautiful Ones
Finely’s debut album, Beautiful Ones, is a classic R&B album displaying her vocal talents over ten tracks. The independent album boosts tracks like “All Me (No Sponsors) where she sings about gaining traction in the industry independently and “Show Me Off”, the albums standout single. It’s a solid first offer from the promising young singer.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)