At this time of year it’s a holiday tradition to be thankful, and I can think of no better place to start than by thanking the writers and the patrons of this website. It would be impossible to do what we do without the support of each of you, and I’m sincerely grateful for that. I’m also thankful to the former writers who have since moved on and happy to see them succeeding wherever they are in life. I’m thankful to all of the record labels and publicists who have looked to us for reviews, and I’m even more thankful if we write a harsh review but they still receive it gracefully. I’m thankful to my wife, my friends, our cats, and to all of the people who make social media a little more kind and a little less negative. We sorely need more of that online.

Unfortunately there’s another holiday tradition that I’m not at all fond of but one that unfortunately has to be done when it’s time for a Year in Review. We’ve had another year of heartbreaking losses in rap through either illness or violence. It’s hard to say which one is more preventable than the other, but I think violent deaths bother me more. I’d like to see a decrease in the size of this list from year to year but there’s yet another tradition that leads us here — the systemic racial inequality that gave birth to hip-hop culture in the first place. It was and still is the voice of people who have been denied access to opportunity, but that same inequality also instills anger that at times is directed toward the people who succeed instead of to the failings of the system we’ve inherited. Anger channeled can be a force for political and social change, but shooting the messenger won’t ever change a damn thing. I hope you’re as weary of a roll call for the fallen as I am. Not all of these are victims of violence… but far too many are.

The only thing sadder than this long list is that it may have accidentally omitted some up-and-coming rappers who hadn’t even gotten to make a name locally or nationally, and that 2023 isn’t over yet and there may yet be more to come. There were some albums that made this a year worth remembering though and they’re worth mentioning here.

As another man who is no longer with us used to say, “Take care of yourself, and each other.”

Steve ‘Flash’ Juon