2023: Highlights From The World Of Music Journalism

A look back at some of the best music writing of the year.

Image via Complex Original/Willkay

As much as music can define a moment in time, the conversations, essays and reviews it provokes are just as important.

Good music writing can add context, highlight connections to the art that came before, and perhaps most importantly of all, document those stories that might otherwise be lost as time goes on. As ever, there was plenty to discuss this year: J Hus returned to us with a huge Drake collab and a new album, Andre 3000 got everyone into flutes, Central Cee and Dave hopped out their “Spinter” for all to see, and women continued to dominate rap both in the UK and US.

And on top of all that, grime’s masked villain CASISDEAD gave us his 23-track dystopian epic, Famous Last Words, R&B star Jorja Smith released her first album since going independent, and Nines shattered any illusion of retirement with not one but two new albums. And still: there's loads more that happened this year.

Along with so many amazing releases were some pretty remarkable pieces of music journalism, too. While conversations have been circulating online recently about its current state, it’s times like these—when we get to look back on the past year’s greatness—that we remember just how many talented wordsmiths there are out there.

Here’s the best of what the Complex UK team (and extended family) have been reading and rating in 2023.

Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, EIC

Central Cee, Britain’s Hip-Hop Ambassador
Carrie Battan, The New Yorker
March 12, 2023

‘Touch Mic And Shell It!’ How British Freestyle Rap Videos Became A Global Phenomenon
Will Pritchard, The Guardian
June 13, 2023

When I Fell In Love With Hip-Hop
William E. Ketchum III, Vulture
Oct. 9, 2023

Alternative British Rap, Please Step Forward
Yemi Abiade, TRENCH Magazine
Oct. 17, 2023

Regional Rap Classics Are Slowly Disappearing From The Internet
Alphonse Pierre, Pitchfork
Nov. 3, 2023

From Castro Saint To CASISDEAD: A Brief History Of Grime’s Masked Villain
Son Raw, TRENCH Magazine
Nov. 6, 2023

James Keith, Contributing Editor

I Almost Quit, Then I Read Rick Rubin’s Book
Insanul Ahmed, Pigeons & Planes
Jan. 17, 2023

The Price Of Pop Fandom
Marc Hogan, Jill Makes, Marina Kozak, Pitchfork
Aug. 3, 2023

How Hip-Hop Conquered The World
Wesley Morris, The New York Times
Aug. 10, 2023

It’s No Mystery: Earl Sweatshirt And The Alchemist’s ‘Voir Dire’ Is Available To Stream
Andre Gee, Rolling Stone
Oct. 6, 2023

André 3000 On His Surprise Flute Album: ‘It’s Pure Excitement – Like A Child Seeing Bubbles For The First Time’
Jeff Weiss, The Guardian
Nov. 17, 2023

Chantelle Fiddy, Contributor

Introducing... Orii Jam
Kat Friar, UD
March 6, 2023

UD 2023’s ‘Knowledge Exchange’ With Ray BLK & Jacqueline Springer
Kat Friar, TRENCH x UD
May 5, 2023

How The Cost Of Living Crisis Is Impacting DJs & Producers
Patrick Hinton, Mixmag
May 11, 2023

Nines, UK Rap's Humble Hustler, Is Preparing To Go Global
Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, Mixmag
May 30, 2023

In Memory Of Jamal Edwards
Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan, TRENCH x Google Arts
Sept. 11, 2023

Yemi Abiade, Contributor

Digga D: Trial By Fire
Connor Garel, Dazed
May 31, 2023

How Black Musicians Carved Out A Space In Ambient Music
John Morrison, Okayplayer
Aug. 22, 2023

‘In My Mind I Was Already Gone’: The Endless End Of Outkast
Paul Thompson, The Ringer
Sept. 22, 2023

Sampha’s Circle Of Life
Craig Jenkins, Vulture
Oct. 20, 2023

An Extremely Rare Interview With CASISDEAD
Sam Davies, The FACE
Oct. 26, 2023

Rahel Aklilu, Contributor

Son Raw, Contributor

Grime’s Blog Era: An Oral History
Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, Complex UK
Jan. 9, 2023

The Making Of Mach-Hommy, Part 1: Designated Unicorn
Paul Thompson, The FADER
Feb. 28, 2023

What’s A God To A Machine? (On Frank Ocean At Coachella)
Jeff Weiss, The Ringer
April 20, 2023

How Nines Became One Of UK Rap’s Most Cherished Figures
Yemi Abiade, TRENCH Magazine
May 3, 2023

Review: Buju Banton – ‘Til Shiloh
Edwin ‘Stats’ Houghton, Pitchfork
Nov. 5, 2023

Robert Kazandjian, Contributor

The Master: How Chunky Grew From Magnetic MC To Artist All-Rounder
Tracy Kawalik, Mixmag
April 25, 2023 

Hak Baker And The Power Of His Electrifying Protest Music 
Fred Garratt-Stanley, NME
June 9, 2023

Ragz Orignale Takes Centre Stage With His World Building Album
Nicolas-Tyrell Scott, i-D
June 30, 2023

Mali Wave: The Rise Of Somali UK Rap
Rahel Aklilu, The FACE
Aug. 29, 2023

An Afternoon Shooting Hoops With UK Rap Legend D Double E
Emmanuel Onapa, Dazed
Nov. 29, 2023

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