It’s nearly a wrap on 2023, a year in hip-hop that featured some dope albums, fire production and some standout moments that hip-hop fans will never forget.
Juvenile had people putting respek on his name over the summer with what has been tabbed a one of best Tiny Desk hip-hop performances in years, maybe only eclipsed by Scarface‘s appearance on the platform in December. Hilariously, Juvie had no idea what Tiny Desk was when the idea was first proposed to him on X, formerly known as Twitter. His live set wound up being one of the most viral rap performances of 2023.
Five years after releasing Astroworld, and nearly two years after the Astroworld Festival tragedy, Travis Scott made a triumphant return with his new album Utopia. The release proved to be just what fans were missing as La Flame moved nearly 500,000 units of the album in its first week, the largest first-week sales numbers for a hip-hop album this year.
The seemingly unthinkable happend in November, when lyricist savant Andre 3000 FINALLY released his debut solo album, New Blue Sun. It wasn’t exactly what fans were hoping for, being sans lyrics and full of instrumentals, but it was a highlight moment all the same. Will we ever get a solo rap album from 3 Stacks?
“There’s this misconception that I just won’t do it,” André said of releasing a rap album, in a press release for New Blue Sun. “I think people feel like I’m sitting around on rap albums, or sitting around and I’m just not putting them out in that way. And no it’s not like that.”
He continued: “In my mind, I really would like to make a rap album. So maybe that happens one day, but I got to find a way to say what I want to say in an interesting way that’s appealing to me at this age.”
See 10 of the best moments from 2023 below.
Travis Scott Returns to the Top of the Rap Game
After a five-year hiatus from releasing a full-length project, Travis Scott returned to the very top of the rap game when he dropped Utopia in July. Accompanied by the visually stunning film, Circus Maximus, Cactus Jack delivered an opus that moved 496,000 units in its first week and spent four straight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Travis has been celebrating his triumphant comeback by blessing fans across the globe with sold-out performances packed with energy. Now, Utopia finds Travis Scott with a nomination for Best Rap Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards in 2024.
Nicki Minaj Reclaims the Throne With Pink Friday 2 Album
In a year that finds the women of hip-hop dominating the space more than ever before, Nicki Minaj proved in 2023 that she still reigns supreme. Acclaimed collabs with Ice Spice on tracks like “Princess Diana” and the Grammy-nominated “Barbie World” showed any naysayers that she has plenty left in the tank. Coming through with herPink Friday 2 album at the tail end of the year, Nicki’s chart-topping LP sold 228,000 album-equivalent units in the first week. That number finds the Barbie Queen achieving the largest sales week for any female rapper so far in the 2020s. With all of that, the past year saw new fans and lifelong Barbz alike booking first-class tickets to Gag City.
Andre 3000 Drops First-Ever Solo Album
Andre 3000’s unprecedented hip-hop career has had fans clamoring for a 3-Stacks solo album for decades. With the release of New Blue Sunin November, that finally happened in 2023 and snatched headlines accordingly. Without rapping a single bar on the long-awaited solo album, Andre 3000 convinced an entire legion of hip-hop heads to kick back and soak in 90 minutes of classical instrumentation with his flute playing as the star of the show. Despite any dismay that may have come from fans longing to hear one of the greats rock the mic on New Blue Sun, Andre still contributed rhymes to one of the best hip-hop projects of the year in the form of Killer Mike’s Michael. The album’s lead single “Scientists & Engineers,” which also features Future, is in the running for Best Rap Song at the 2024 Grammy Awards.
Gucci Mane and T.I. Publicly Squash Their Beef
After spending more than a decade at odds, Gucci Mane and T.I. publicly squashed their long-running beef in October of 2023. At the massive 1017 Day celebration in support of Gucci’s latest album, Breath of Fresh Air, GuWop introduced Tip to the roaring crowd at the famous Tabernacle in Atlanta. As T.I. shared a sentiment of “love” and “respect” toward Gucci Mane, the two shook hands live on stage, ending the storied smoke that dates back to 2012. Gucci solidified the moment by sharing a video clip of him and T.I. on stage together to his Instagram story along with the caption, “Much respect @tip.”
50 Cent Solidifies His Legacy With 100-Date Final Lap Tour
As 2023 marked the 20th anniversary of 50 Cent‘s iconic 2003 album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the Queens rap legend celebrated the occasion on a global level. With Busta Rhymes serving as the opening act on all dates, 50 embarked on his 100-date Final Lap Tour in July. The high-production value intercontinental trek spanned six months and wrapped up on Dec. 19 in Nonthaburi, Thailand. Along the way, Fif chronicled his worldwide impact on hip-hop fans through cinematic video clips shared on social media. The G-Unit boss also took the opportunity to invite some of the rap game’s heaviest hitters to perform alongside him on stage in select cities. The Final Lap Tour included guest appearances from the likes of Eminem, J. Cole and Nas, among many others.
De La Soul’s Entire Catalog Finally Becomes Available for Streaming
In a monumental moment for the music industry, the legendary De La Soul‘s entire music catalog was made accessible on all major streaming platforms for the first time in 2023. Following a years-long battle with their former label, Tommy Boy Records, Reservoir Media acquired De La’s rights, cleared any outstanding samples and all six of the iconic trio’s albums officially hit DSPs back in March. Despite the tragic loss of member Dave “Trugoy” Jolicoeur earlier in the year, De La Soul fans found themselves rejoicing all throughout 2023.
The Nasty Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion Saga Concludes
Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion drama dragged on for three whole years before finally coming to a conclusion in 2023 when the Canadian crooner was sentenced to 10 years for the 2020 shooting of Megan Thee Stallion, and later had his appeal denied. The situation has been one of the most divisive incidents in the hip-hop community, and at times brought out the worst in people, with flat-out lies, mudslinging and fake news reaching a fever pitch during the December of 2022 trial. However you feel about the outcome, the end of the Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion saga was much needed.
Scarface’s Tiny Desk Performance Goes Viral
Legends getting their flowers was a running theme of 2023, which marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Scarface‘s Tiny Desk performance in December showed why the iconic rapper is revered by many as the King of the South. With legendary producer Mike Dean by his side, ‘Face played instruments and delivered his biggest hits with the vigor of a man who may not hold a mic again. It was a whole moment that won’t be soon forgotten.
Juvenile’s Fantastic Tiny Desk Performance Happens Almost by Accident
Juvenile went viral in April on X, formerly known as Twitter, with one simple reply to a fan that reads, “Wtf is a tiny desk and no.” The tweet was in response to X user @theylovemike requesting a performance from the New Orleans legend on NPR’s Tiny Desk. After Juvie was bombarded by tweets, he explained that if the request received 10,000 retweets, he would reconsider. Fast forward to June, both the hip-hop community and NPR made it happen with the result being an incredible performance from Juvie the Great that included Mannie Fresh leading a myriad of talented musicians through 10 of Juvenile’s greatest hits.
Hip-Hop Turns 50
On Aug. 11, 2023, hip-hop turned 50 years old. 50! Commemorating the day DJ Kool Herc DJed a back-to-school party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, N.Y, the anniversary was tributed throughout the year in the form of various rapper-involved observations, award-show celebrations and more.