The first half of 2019 was an admittedly slow time for hip-hop releases, but that changed in July. We finally got the blockbuster Dreamville collaborative project that we all watched come together in real time back in January, newcomers like YBN Cordae and Yung Bans impressed with excellent debut albums, and Chance the Rapper came through with his own “debut album.” There was no shortage of excellent new music to sift through, so we did the digging for you and put together our picks for the top releases of July 2019. These are the best albums of the month.

Dreamville, ‘Revenge of the Dreamers III’

When Nick Fury was forming the Avengers, he said that his goal was to “bring together a group of remarkable people.” This is what J. Cole sought to do when making the third installment of Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers series. He harnessed not only his own stacked Dreamville roster, but also enlisted the talents of artists like T.I., Vince Staples, DaBaby, Guapdad 4000, and Buddy, among many others. ROTD3 is a blockbuster collaboration album done right. The 10 days worth of studio sessions that birthed the project provided a perfect storm of talent, wed with friendly competition: an event that only Cole and Dreamville could seamlessly put together. With tracks like “Sacrifices” that reveal Cole’s new son to songs like “Wells Fargo” and “1993” that make you feel like you’re in the booth with them making it, ROTD3 is a reminder that Dreamville is in a league of its own. —Jordan Rose

Baby Keem, ‘Die For My Bitch’

Baby Keem’s new project, Die For My Bitch, is a must-listen. Keem hits deep, diving into issues ranging from women to money to power. Speaking with Complex about the wide range of sounds heard on the project, he explained, “It's not just one type of song. It's not supposed to be like that. It's supposed to be everywhere. It's not an album. It's a mixtape.” The various sounds are all held together by Keem’s vision, though, with the young artist handling writer, producer, and rapper duties on most tracks. Baby Keem has arrived. —Zoe Johnson

YBN Cordae, ‘The Lost Boy’

The transition from boy to man is difficult, and the transition from boy to rap star is even more challenging. This is the journey that YBN Cordae takes us on in his debut album, The Lost Boy. The 21-year-old rapper seeks to establish his place in rap, and gets assisted by big names like Pusha-T, Chance the Rapper, Ty Dolla $ign, and Meek Mill (and gets laced with production from the likes of J. Cole). A leader of the new school who pays homage to the old school, Cordae flexes his lyrical and narrative ability here. He layers the album with skits from his late grandmother's house that act as meaningful interludes to the story that The Lost Boy tells. Cordae is transparent throughout the project. He’s not afraid to recognize his growing pains on songs like “Broke As Fuckk” or address his family struggles on “Family Matters.” Then, the album is closed appropriately with “Lost and Found,” Cordae’s proclamation that despite being lost, he’s now found himself, and we should be on notice. —Jordan Rose

Yung Bans, ‘Misunderstood’

The city of Atlanta continues to make noise. Despite Yung Bans being born in St. Louis, his music career has been built and elevated in the A, allowing for the presence of Gunna, Young Thug, and Future (among others) on Misunderstood. Production from Kenny Beats, Wheezy, and Wondagurl gel with Bans’ melodies to breed instant, catchy hits like “Touch The Stars” featuring Lil Tjay. This album makes you think: Maybe XXL missed the mark by not making Yung Bans a 2019 Freshman, because Misunderstood proves he's one of the best newcomers in the game. And he keeps getting better. This is easily Bans’ best work to date. —Kemet High

Maxo Kream, ‘Brandon Banks’

Maxo Kream is a storytelling powerhouse. The newest installment in his catalog, Brandon Banks, assumes the name of his father and exemplifies the impact his family has on his life. On Brandon Banks, Maxo’s content remains consistent to that of his entire career, but provides more details on the tribulations that he went through growing up in Houston. “Do you ever play Grand Theft Auto 5? Punken was story mode,” he explained to Complex. “I beat that, now I’m moving to online. Brandon Banks is online. It’s the same storyboard, the same universe, just a different angle.” Brandon Banks is also anchored by standout features from A$AP Ferg, Schoolboy Q, Travis Scott, and Hot Girl Summer ringleader Megan Thee Stallion. Maxo Kream made RCA Records look really smart for that $1.5 million deal. This is great. —Kemet High

Jaden, ‘ERYS’

Following the release of SYRE, Jaden  has returned with ERYS. Taking on the inverted alias of his introductory project, Smith delivers a 17-track LP featuring A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi, Tyler, The Creator and more. ERYS treads the delicate line between alternative hip-hop and rock with a project that tells the story of Jaden’s alter ego, as he captures the world of a dystopian society. Overall Jaden Smith bodies all 78-minutes and delivers a thoroughly enjoyable, eclectic summertime album. —Zoe Johnson

Blood Orange, ‘Angel's Pulse’

After four studio albums under the Blood Orange moniker, Dev Hynes has returned with the “epilogue” to his lastest project Negro Swan. This time around, Hynes delivers a self-proclaimed mixtape by the name of Anglel’s Pulse. Throughout the tape, Hynes creates electric songs that incorporate wistful choruses and soft-spoken poems. While the content blends with the rest of the 33-year-old’s discography, collaborations with Justine Skye, Project Pat, Ian Isiah, and Gangsta Boo show the depths of Blood Orange’s growing range. Giving fans a project worth a first, second, and third listen, Blood Orange’s re-up has us fired up for his next release. —Zoe Johnson

Young Dolph & Key Glock, Dum and Dummer

Young Dolph and Key Glock just dropped a 22-track mixtape of trap ballads called Dum and Dummer, and it hits. Not only are they putting on for their record label, Paper Route Empire, but they’re putting on for the entire city of Memphis as well, with southern-influenced production from Bandplay. Powered by standouts like “Water on Water on Water,” “Reflection,” and “Baby Joker,” Dum and Dummer proves that Young Dolph and Key Glock are at the top of Memphis rap. Their new collaboration speaks to their musical chemistry, humor, and ear to the streets. —Kemet High

Chance the Rapper, ‘The Big Day’

Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day is nowhere near a perfect album, and it deserves a lot of the criticism it’s receiving online. That being said, I’m not even 23 years old yet, and some songs on here have me thinking that maybe getting married right now wouldn’t be all that bad. Throughout the project, Chance recreates the magic from his wedding day and every emotion that came with it. As retrospective as it is light-hearted, we hear the struggles Chance went through to get to this point on songs like “We Go High,” as well as the relief that he’s finally found his soulmate on songs like “The Big Day” and “Found a Good One (Single No More).” We also get Chance in some of his most reflective moments, like when he lays out his will and discusses what he wants his legacy to be on “Sun Come Down.” The Big Day feels like the ushering in of not only his marriage but also a new stage in his life. You may not be able to relate to Chance anymore, and you might be tired of his ultra-positive raps, but you can still be happy for him. —Jordan Rose

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