One thing about working in LA is you get to watch firsthand the annual pilgrimage to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. We tell ourselves each year that we don’t want to be among the devoted who make the desert trek along the I-10, but the truth is, the tickets sold out too quickly (not that we could even afford one to begin with).
But if you’re like us, worry not! We put together a list of seven of the best new hip-hop albums from musicians who also aren’t at Coachella—this way, you can pay homage to your music Gods without dealing with any sacrilegious heathens and hipsters.
Check them out now before they become headliners themselves!
Kevin Abstract, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story
Like an alt-hip-hop take on Friday Night Lights, a startling amount of American Boyfriend goes down at the local football stadium. Makes sense, considering Abstract is a Texas native and just 20 years old. His coming-of-age narrative has elements of Frank Ocean’s stylistic genre-hopping, with electric guitar, string orchestration and plenty of melodic flights that heighten the fraught subject matter.
Twenty-four-year-old Syd Bennett is known largely for her work as a member of neo-soul outfit the Internet and hip-hop collective Odd Future, which counts Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean as members. With this solo effort, the promising young artist carves a niche of her own, filling the gaps between moody soul, booming trap and a range of other styles—from syrupy slo-mo hip-hop to delicately applied EDM stabs—with her cool, confident vocals.
Big Sean, I Decided.
After perfecting his take on booty-centric, pun-loaded hip-hop with 2011’s “Dance (A$$),” Big Sean’s only way to grow was up, and that he has. This record opens with a prayer and continues the sweetness overload with a song-length “thank you” to his grandma. But there’s still a lot of the boy wonder playfulness that has made the Detroit MC such an entertaining wordsmith.
The title comes from Wiley’s nickname as the godfather of grime, a British dance-music subgenre that has been getting more attention stateside (Drake has signed to a grime label, and Kanye West performed with the scene’s stars at the 2015 Brit Awards). It has become an essential and influential part of global hip-hop. Here, the veteran proves he can keep up with the newcomers.
PnB Rock, GTTM: Goin Thru the Motions
The melodic Philadelphia singer echoes the sound of au courant hitmaker Fetty Wap (“Trap Queen”), which isn’t a bad thing. (There’s always room for more than one warbling, airy pop star.) The best songs on his debut album feature a joyful uplift with an assortment of textures from churchy piano vamps to street- tough, trunk-rattling bass.
Jidenna, The Chief
The rapper broke through with 2015’s “Classic Man,” a sly ode to retro fashion with an inescapable melody. For his debut, the Brooklyn resident still has the dapper three-piece suits and investigates a new palette of sounds. “Little Bit More” is pure tropical pop, while “The Let Out,” featuring Migos member Quavo, proves he can hold his own with Atlanta’s finest.
Kodie Shane, Big Trouble Little Jupiter
As part of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team, Shane wields an auto-tuned melody just as well as her Atlanta crewmate. Like Yachty, she’s not yet out of her teens, and fittingly, her music is packed with exuberant boasts and conspiratorial millennial asides. This project captures moods from New Jack smoothness to opaque haze, providing fertile ground for Shane to show off her verbal dexterity.