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HYFIN’s Favorite Albums of 2022

todayDecember 12, 2022 1

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Artwork by Erin Bagatta

Perhaps the most defining aspect of the HYFIN team’s top albums of the year is our range. It’s a very eclectic bunch of songs, emotions, artists and sounds. By the time you’ve scrolled all the way through you’ll see we truly embody the definition of living and thriving in many spaces.

Our station launched on Juneteenth 2022, and that makes this is our first “Album of the Year” list! It’s a mixed bag of the culture we are and that we love. You’ll find industry veterans, newcomers, artists from Milwaukee and around the world. We hope you enjoy our picks and maybe you’ll find something new to add to your music library.

Our team, along with the full Radio Milwaukee crew, submitted our ballots for this year’s vote. Find part one (20-11) here, and part two (10-1) here.

Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

I realize true love is about saving face / But unconditionally / When will you let me go? / I trust you find independence / If not, then all is forgiven / Sorry, I didn’t save the world my friend / I was too busy building mine again / I choose me, I’m sorry

It’s hard to create a body of work that can impress itself upon the masses and make an impact.

But, when the world is going through a deadly pandemic, “universal” becomes an unforgiving and unyielding reality. Over the last two years, many of us replaced the walls we built with mirrors and spotlights. We had to look at each other, but most importantly we had to look at ourselves.

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was Kendrick Lamar’s diary or journal of self-discovery, grief, trauma, toxicity, pride, racism, family, love … choice. But this album wasn’t a selfish gift to listeners; it was presented simply to explore Kendrick’s personal journey and his perspective of Black life and generational curses. 

This album was universal because it was also a challenge — a provocation to listeners to finally sit down, be honest, bare their souls and stop looking to others as idols. To think critically. To love. To give grace. To silence the noise and to work on yourself. 

Because the outcome of all that hard work is freedom.

— Kim Shine

Bad Bunny — Un Verano Sin Ti

Crashing waves hitting the fine sand on a lush beach in Puerto Rico. The singing of the gaviota birds soaring in the sky while attempting to cut through the thick humid air of Vega Baja. Deep vocal tones punching through small crowds of the La Perla venues as a young budding artist. That’s the scene set in the first 15 seconds of “Moscow Mule” from Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti (“A Summer Without You”). 

Bad Bunny started becoming a permanent fixture in my circle around 2016 with the Trap Latino release “Soy Peor.” Could I envision El Conjeo Malo gracing Billboard Magazine’s cover as 2022’s artist of the year? Was it even possible for an all-Spanish language album in the genre to be up for album of the year at this years’ Grammys? No, but I will say, I AM HERE FOR IT ALL! 

Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio carries our island on his shoulders with grace, love and respect. He understands the origins from which the genre came and isn’t afraid to stand alongside his PEOPLE who grow increasingly frustrated with the government taking advantage of the native islanders, as seen in the video for “El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente.”

Un Verano Sin Ti is unapologetically, fun, sexual, alive, sad, playful, upbeat, flavorful, smart and Boricua AF! That is why this release is my favorite album of the year.

— Kenny Perez

Sudan Archives — Natural Brown Prom Queen

On Natural Brown Prom Queen Sudan Archives explores artistry in her own way. She has all the swagger of a Beyoncé and the unsuspecting visuals of an ultra-creative like Jean Dawson.  

She begins the album by asking, “Do you know what you like? Do you care what you be thinking?” before moving to the song “Ciara,” which gives you all the feels of a Saturday night freeway drive, headed home lit from a girl’s night out, and everything has gone right.

Sudan’s entire album is a renegade’s anthem for music lovers and creatives alike. On her song “Loyal,” she lightly croons while asking the listener to “Tell me I’m conceded. Tell me you don’t want me, and I’ll be happy.” She makes no apologies for her rebellious nature. On this album, she proudly boasts in her melanin defiance and artistry.

Nothing displays this more than the video for “Selfish Soul.” At one point, she is surrounded by a group of muddy black women while screaming into the camera: “I don’t want no troubles, I don’t want no fear.” She can then be seen playing the violin upside down on an exotic dancer’s pole. On the title track, “NBPQ (Topless),” she delivers the perfect line to describe the listening experience for this album: “I’m not average.”

Element Everest-Blanks

Sault — (Untitled) God, 11, Aiir, Earth and Today & Tomorrow

Can a number one album actually be five albums?! If you are the mysterious UK outfit, Sault, and released five albums at the same time, the answer is “yes”, at least for me. Sault has been one of the most prolific and important bands in the past three years. They have released 12 projects that celebrate the African diaspora, sonically and thematically.

One of their most impactful, Untitled (Black Is) was released after the murder of George Floyd. The latest project consists of albums – 11, AIIR, Earth, Today & Tomorrow, and Untitled (God) – and they called this an ‘offering to God’ in a message on social media.

Connected by the love of God and spirituality, each album is an exploration of different sonic styles. From AIIR’s modern classical and spiritual compositions to Earth’s spine-tingling psychedelic soul and funk to the trippy punk tracks on Today & Tomorrow, Sault celebrates the idea of God through the beauty and diversity of Black music. Listening to all 56 songs that span across these five albums was one of the most emotional connections to the music I ever had.

— Tarik Moody a.k.a. “The Architect”

Steve Lacy — Gemini Rights

Steve Lacy’s magnum opus, Gemini Rights, is everything one could ask for in a full-length LP in 2022. In this era of the ‘single’, fleshed-out and full, linear albums are not as common as say, even five years ago. That said, prodigious guitarist and creative songwriter Steve Lacy drops some intense head-nodders on this one. “Helmet” grabs me right out the gate and has mad ‘singalong-ability’.

“Bad Habit”, his biggest commercial record to date, has some spicy lyrics that reflect the sentiment of the entire 10-track LP which volleys back-and-forth from bliss, reluctance, confidence and spontaneity. Such is the style of his past projects, but this is a more definitive step towards the playful and passionate nature of the Gemini (zodiac); and the critics agree, with several Grammy nominations and other accolades. The smooth collab with Foushee, “Sunshine” shows Lacy’s dope connection with like-minded artists. Lacy’s visual style adds another nice arthouse touch to his work. In a year of so many stellar releases Gemini Rights stands out distinctly.

— Anthony “DJ A-Biz” Foster

Larry June — Spaceships on the Blade

With his smooth flow, Larry June is that cool, organic, positive cat from San Francisco, California. He drinks orange and green juices and speaks about investing, all while telling everyone, “Good Job.”

June has several mixtapes and three joint albums, and with the release of his latest, Spaceships on the Blade he has shown so much growth. His eighth album is about believing in yourself and hustling to get what you want. June is a mastermind at bringing good vibes and, as he would say, “doing numbers.” He’s all about working hard, and he even shouts out Milwaukee in the song “Breakfast in Monaco” as he talks about living the good life after struggling to get here.

June samples Moti Alumni’s hit “1985”, in his song, “Anotha Day, pt.2”, which immediately took me back to my childhood in Cleveland and listening to my parent’s classic records. This is also the case in the song “Corte Madera, CA”, as June samples the classic “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.

The whole album is dope to me, as Larry June has excellent features and even gives us some positive words from the homie Wallo267. This album has a remarkably diverse sound and is possibly a future classic.

— Chris Alexander

Jean Dawson — CHAOS NOW*

The album begins with a 14-second innovative intro that could only be pulled off by this ultra-creative artist. He asks the listener “What the f**k you looking at?” My answer: the future of the music industry.

Dawson then runs head first into the psychedelic track “Three Heads” before melting his cold exterior for a few beats on “Glory” and letting you inside his complicated life as an artist: “Ex-girlfriend thinks that I’m f***d up, mom thinks that I keep a gun tucked, my best friend thinks that I’m off one, my dad thinks I don’t care to call him, my old friends think that I’ve lost my head.” This album is a culmination of unsuspected chord changes and lyrics that you’ll listen to more than once and find new meaning every time. If you’re into music that repeatedly crosses genres, then CHAOS NOW* is the perfect album for you. It’s a soundtrack to trash your bedroom, dance with your friends on a get-over-your-ex weekend or sit by your big bay window sipping tea. It hits every note of perfection, while purposely trying not to hit any of them.

— Element Everest-Blanks

Element’s Top 10 Albums

10. NNamdi – Please Have a Seat
9. Robert Glasper – Black Radio III
8. Tobe Nwigwe – moMINTs
7. Sudan Archives – Natural Brown Prom Queen
6. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights
5. Jean Dawson – Chaos Now*
4. Danielle Ponder – Some Of Us Are Brave
3. Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately
2. Beyoncé – Renaissance
1. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

A-Biz’s Top 10 Albums

10. DOMi & JD Beck – NOT TiGHT
9. Vince Staples – Ramona Park Broke My Heart
8. Black Star – No Fear of Time
7. Terrace Martin – Drones
6. CARRTOONS – Homegrown
5. Nas – King’s Disease III
4. Sault – 11
3. Tank and the Bangas – Red Balloon
2. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers
1. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights

Kim Shine’s Top 10 Albums

10. Kehlani – Blue Water Road
9. Zed Kenzo – Zechariah
8. Tobe Nwigwe – moMINTs
7. MATTHÙ – Montana
6. Smino – Luv 4 Rent
5. Sault – (All 5 Albums)
4. India Shawn – Before We Go (Deeper)
3. Duckwrth – Chrome Bull
1. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

DJ Kenny Perez’s Top 10 Albums

9. Drake – Honestly, Nevermind
8. Rauw Alejandro – SATURNO
7. The Weeknd – Dawn FM
6. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights
5. Beyoncé – Renaissance
4. Various Artist – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From and Inspired By
3. Jean Dawson – CHAOS NOW*
2. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
1. Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

Tarik Moody’s Top 10 Albums

10. Blue Lab Beats – Motherland Journey
9. Leikeli47 – Shape Up
8. CARRTOONS – Homegrown
7. Bjork – Fossora
6. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights
5. DOMi & JD Beck – NOT TiGHT
4. Sudan Archives – Natural Brown Prom Queen
3. Kojey Radical – Reason to Smile
2. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers
1. Sault (All Five Albums)

Chris’s Top 10 Albums

10. Lloyd Banks – “The Course of the Inevitable 2”
9. Ibeyi – “Sister 2 Sister”
8. Pusha T – “It’s Almost Dry”
7. Robert Glasper – “Black Radio III”
6. Lupe Fiasco – “Drill Music in Zion”
5. Roc Marciano & The Alchemist – “The Elephant Man’s Bones”
4. Kendrick Lamar – “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers”
3. Beyoncé – “Renaissance”
2. Drake & 21 Savage – “Her Loss”
1. Larry June – “Spaceships on the Blade”

B-Free’s Top 10 Albums

10. Kehlani – Blue Water Road
9. Ravyn Lenae – Hypnos
8. Lizzo – Special
7. PJ Morton – Watch the Sun
6. Zed Kenzo – ZECHARIAH
5. Amber Mark – Three Dimensions Deep
4. Domi & JD Beck – NOT TiGHT
3. Zyah Belle – Yam Grier
2. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
1. Beyoncé – Renaissance


Written by: HYFIN

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