This year, Chicago drill celebrated a big milestone. Dec. 18 marked 10 years since Chief Keef took over the world with the release of his major label debut, Finally Rich, a behemoth that gave us the controversial “3Hunna” and genre-defining classics such as “Love Sosa” and “I Don’t Like” featuring Lil Reese.

As of late, however, local rap has been undergoing a transitional phase. So many of its hood stars have passed away in recent years like FBG Duck and King Von. In turn, this has consequently led to its sound being a bit stagnant. Rappers like Taylor Bennett and Kidd Kenn have been defying genres and pushing boundaries, musically and commercially. And new rappers such as Fastmoney Ant, DCG Brothers and PGF Nuk, are blowing up as the city figures out its future rap identity.

Meanwhile, local R&B continues its upward battle for its own national relevance between urban and alternative spaces. Unlike rap, R&B is still figuring out how to market itself beyond traditional means. Both genres are not without those who are vying to become game changers in Chicago — including Johari Noel and Chanell Tru, who are all creating some of the most progressive R&B across the city.

On the other hand, our nationally-known artists are creating some of the most intriguing and unique sounds and receiving widespread critical acclaim for it, including G Herbo, Lupe Fiasco, Tobi Lou, Dreezy, Ric Wilson, Saba, Kaina, Ravyn Lenae and Lil Durk, with the latter celebrating the biggest year of his 12-year tumultuous career. Some of them are even cracking the top 10 on the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 lists. 

To highlight the depth of Chicago music this year, The TRiiBE penned its inaugural top 25 Chicago hip-hop and R&B albums of 2022 — and, honestly, making this list wasn’t easy at all. We meticulously hand-picked, observed, and listened to nearly 40 albums from Chicago’s hottest local and globally-recognized talent. [Reporter’s note: all December releases will be considered for 2023].

We considered artists all across the Chicagoland area and those with deep ties to Chicago culture. The debate got heavy when it came down to rappers Freddie Gibbs and Smino. Both hail from different Midwest cities; Gibbs calls Gary, Ind. his home, and Smino reps his St. Louis birthplace all day. However, we took Gibbs off the list but gave him the title of “honorary Chicagoan” in our honorable mentions section because of his proximity to Chicago’s music scene when Gary wasn’t on the national radar. We kept Smino on the list because he’s rooted in the Chicago-based Classick Studios, and lived in Chicago for years. 

Together with TRiiBE music correspondent Rome J., we ranked each one based on creativity, replay value and overall quality; along with the varying degrees of local and nationwide impact. All debates, disagreements and challenges are warmly welcomed and encouraged.

Check out the list below.


Switch Music


The new prince of drill, PGF Nuk made his mark in 2022 with the menacing banger “Waddup,” and the follow-up electrifying remix with Polo G. Striking while the iron’s hot, he delivered with a strong Alamo Records debut, showcasing his knack for making high octane and infectious songs like his stellar track, “It’s Nuk”.


Flawless Like Me


The syrupy and carefree music of the West Side-bred LUCKI has allowed him to carve a lane of his own. With Flawless Like Me, he gives us a joyfully infectious album loaded with catchy earworms such as the opener “Made My Day.”


Trench Baby 3

Lil Zay Osama

Trench Baby 3 is Lil Zay Osama’s murderous victory lap after celebrating one of his biggest years after signing with OTF Records. As his most polished album thus far, the Bronzeville-bred rapper doubles down on the explosive and hyper-violent imagery he’s known for on the vengeful “F**k Yo Homie Dead Ass” while offering a balance through his melodies like the reflective “Obligated” and “Have You Ever.”

Rome J. Selection

The Trophy Room

Joel Q

After dropping loose singles throughout the year, the rising MC caps off a busy 2022 with his triumphant fourth-quarter release, The Trophy Room. Through his dense, sharp lyrics and chest-beating soundscape, Joel Q delivers a stellar EP that demands its listeners to stay tuned. Check for the album’s mighty opener, “Hall of Fame,” and the captivating “Law of Attraction 2.”


The Kid That Came Outta Nowhere

Shoebox Baby

Picking up where Chief Keef and King Von left off, Shoebox Baby is the latest upstart rapper from Parkway Gardens, a.k.a. O-Block, with his debut album, The Kid That Came Outta Nowhere. Delivering songs like “Send This Bitch Up” with the rawness and intensity of a hurricane, Shoebox Baby shows why he’s among the hungriest newcomers in the city.


For All Debts Public and Private

Defcee & Boathouse

Boathouse’s surreal and smokey soundscape on For All Debts Public and Private served as the perfect background for the Closed Sessions-affiliated Defcee to lay down his heaviest and most urgent bars yet. “Dunk Contest” and “Ragnarok” are but a few songs featuring Defcee aiming high throughout the 11-track record.


Fighting Demons

Juice WRLD

Released on the second anniversary of the sudden passing of the fast-rising superstar, Juice WRLD’s Fighting Demons —  and in conjunction with his HBO documentary Into The Abyss — is the darkest and most painful one out of his catalog thus far. Songs like “Burn” and “Girl Of My Dreams” revealed his progression as a hitmaker that, sadly, we’ll never experience again.



Kidd Kenn

Chicago’s red-hot teenage spitter Kidd Kenn has broken through many barriers with his bold sexual expression, heavy-hitting lyricism, and commanding flow. His latest EP, Grown, is a bite-sized, colorful explosion as exhibited by the dynamic tag-team banger “At It Again” with Deli Boe, and “Body.” The South Side native is at his most wicked and dominating, from start to finish.



Chief Keef

In December 2021, Chief Keef dropped 4NEM as a surprise Christmas gift to the fans. Not only did it slap, but it woke up the sleeping doubters who hadn’t been following the increasing lyrical prowess he’s displayed on every one of his mixtapes since 2012’s platinum debut, Finally Famous. Eclectic and carefree as ever, 4NEM is a wild and glorious ride with the Three 6 Mafia-sampled “Hadouken” and “Yes Sir,” proving why he remains one of the most influential and exciting rappers of his generation.


Coming of Age

Taylor Bennett

The fearless and boundary-pushing rapper has begun to carve a beautiful catalog of music, as his creative and genre-blending versatility is on full display on Coming of Age. With every musical risk he took on the album, where he blends his rock, pop and hip-hop influences, listeners greatly won; check for mellow cuts like “Today” and uplifting bops like “Easy Outside,” which is a treat to see live.

Rome J. Selection

Pillow Talk


With 10 years of captivating ears with a voice that can cut through the hardest hearts, Tink’s sultry abilities have only grown with time, as she displays on Pillow Talk. Her unique R&B and pop vocals over Hitmaka’s mid-2000s-inspired production allow songs like “Mine” —  her and Muni Long’s flip on Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” — and “Drunk Text’n” with Layton Green to serve as a reminder. Tink is one of the most infectious singers to have come from Chicago drill. Never forget that.



Dreezy & Hit-Boy

As one of Chicago’s most beloved, enduring, and bone-crushing female MCs, Dreezy took producer Hit-Boy’s jungle of 808s and high-speed drums and kicks and became a rap lioness, mauling through the competition with HITGIRL. Balancing aggression with introspection and writing that resonates on tracks like “Phases” and “21 Questions,” a flip on 50 Cent’s 2003 hit, HITGIRL shouldn’t be missed.

Best Debut Album

Jungle Life

DCG Brothers

The Westside-bred duo made a name for themselves through their creative and hilarious take on drill music accompanied by outlandish visuals for tracks like “Mmhmm” and “Stomp.” Jungle Life perfectly encapsulates Bsavv and Shun’s exciting tag-team approach; standouts like “Not Scared” make them the most refreshing up-and-coming group from Chicago thus far.


Please Have A Seat


NNAMDÏ’s colorful and carefree imagination knows no bounds on the genre-mixing Please Have A Seat. Beginning with the spacious and mellowed “Ready To Run,” the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter takes the listener on a freeing, shapeshifting musical adventure through his wacky, yet thoughtful mind, especially on fun songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be Famous.”


Luv 4 Rent


Smino’s third album, Luv 4 Rent, continues his incredible consistency in delivering smooth, mellow, and Black-AF grooves. There are incredible moments, such as him and J. Cole going bar-for-bar on “90 Proof,” and the notable sample flipping Missy Elliott and Kanye West’s production on 2003 Monica’s “Knock Knock” into “No L’s.”


What Y'all Mad About Today

Chris Crack

The hidden jewel of the West Side, Chris Crack continues his consistent delivery of colorful, relevant, and well-curated albums; each made with a splash of insanity. His knack for cleverly striking titles, like “Profiting Off Black Death Isn’t Journalism,” is enough to lure you in. The robust production and well-executed versatility in his raps and ear-grabbing singing on “Grass Is Greener Over The Septic Tank” is enough to keep you invested.

Best Posthumous Release

What It Means to be King

King Von

The late King Von cultivated a near-flawless discography that proved his talent was as big as his street infamy. His stellar posthumous album, What It Means To Be King, is a bittersweet swan song with Parkway Garden’s crown jewel at his most well-rounded. He balances his crossover appeal on the Dreezy-assisted “Hard To Trust” with tracks like “War” and “Grandson For President” that feature the lyrical cold-case files that put him on the map.


Drill Music in Zion

Lupe Fiasco

Since Chicago drill music became influential, the West Side’s wily veteran Lupe Fiasco has watched and addressed his thoughts on the music’s growth and impact on rap while examining the consequences of its success and the violence it has been linked to. His first album in four years, DRILL MUSIC IN ZION thoughtfully weighs in on the frequent waves of tragic violence in rap, the prevalence of gun violence, and the way materialism has set rappers up for failure. He does this over some of the most somber production he’s rapped on. The mournful “On Faux Nem” is one of Lupe’s most beautiful songs that creatively encapsulated the alarming state of hip hop as rappers, locally and abroad, continue to fall from gun violence.



Tobi Lou

The vivid and trippy imagination of Tobi Lou is at the forefront of each one of his incredible projects, and Non-Perishable is no exception. While he has always been able to deliver quality projects, Non-Perishable is one of his most accessible and polished records. It perfectly highlights his musical range. Check for the emotional song “2hrs+” featuring T-Pain.


Survivor's Remorse

G Herbo

Just when you thought the 79th and Essex-bred G Herbo couldn’t up the ante after 25, he pushes his storytelling to new heights on his double album Survivor’s Remorse. “Change (Gun Shots),” and his lyrical autobiography “Outside Looking In,” reveals the impact of a lifetime of battling the hidden trauma that comes from gun violence. The Jeremih-assisted “Flashbacks” is perfect for a late-night ride down DuSable Lake Shore Drive.


Money Got Wings

Fat Money

With Harvey rappers being Chicago’s secret weapon, it won’t be long until the rest of the world catches up with Fat Money (f.k.a. Ty Money) and his Money Got Wings album, which is entirely produced by Cardo (known for his work with Wiz Khalifa & Currensy). Bar for bar, he’s as razor sharp and hungry as he’s ever been with the cunning and controversial “Aww Man” and the blazing “400 Degrees.”

Best Indie R&B Album

It Was a Home


As one of Chicago R&B’s best-kept secrets, 26-year-old Kaina has artistically elevated in a big way with her soul-warming sophomore album, It Was A Home. Her rich and buttery vocals heard over songs like “Come Back as a Flower,” and the fan favorite “Good Feeling,” wraps its musical arms around you like a cozy Chicago home in the winter.

Best Indie Hip-Hop Album

Few Good Things


In the wake of the tragic passing of DJ and producer SqueakPIVOT, Saba chose to honor his childhood friend as well as his grandfather by celebrating life and joy with arguably his best album to date, Few Good Things. With more of a balance in tone, compared to Care For Me, he masterfully lays out an urgent, multilayered, and sentimental album that also tackles the complicated nature of participating in capitalism for the sake of survival and the terrible decisions that poverty forces young Black men down to make on “Fearmonger” and “Survivor’s Guilt;” with the latter featuring a monumental verse from G Herbo.

Best Mainstream Hip-Hop Album


Lil Durk

Overcoming a litany of personal tragedies and career setbacks that would virtually destroy the average artist, the Englewood-bred Lil Durk catapulted his way to a strong resurgence that led him to be one of the biggest superstars in rap today. His platinum-selling 7220 is his most emotionally raw and musically captivating work with songs like the devilish “AHHH HA” and his bluesy tribute to the late Virgil Abloh, “What Happened To Virgil” featuring Gunna.

Best R&B Album
Best Overall Album


Ravyn Lenae

Since her 2015 debut Moon Shoes EP, the 23-year-old R&B dreamweaver Ravyn Lenae has consistently provided near-perfect projects filled with soul-stirring vocals that provoke the imagination. After taking a few years off, she resurged and took our breath away yet again with her first full-length LP, Hypnos. With the help of producer-writer and singer Steve Lacy, KAYTRANADA, Mereba and Smino, Ravyn’s writing and ethereal vocals are taken to new heights on honey-coated spells like “Inside Out,” “Deep In The World” and her lead single “Skin Tight,” altogether, making this the best Chicago album of 2022.

Honorable Mentions


600 Breezy

Drillary Clinton 4

Katie Got Bandz
Rome J. Selection

Life with Louie

King Louie

The Poet Who Sat By The Door

J. Ivy
Honorary Chicagoan

$oul $old $eparately

Freddie Gibbs
is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.