In one of the most loaded years in music history, these albums stood head and shoulders above the rest.
25) Black Panther Soundtrack – Various Artists, 24) Swimming – Mac Miller, 23) Scorpion – Drake, 22)Victory Lap – Nipsey Hussle, 21) Room 25 – Noname, 20) Redemption – Jay Rock, 19) FM! – Vince Staples, 18) Harder Than Ever – Lil Baby, 17) Championships – Meek Mill, 16) Nasir – Nas, 15) My Dear Melancholy – The Weeknd, 14) Drip Season 3 – Gunna, 13) KOD – J. Cole, 12) Book of Ryan – Royce Da 5’9”, 11) DROGAS WAVE – Lupe Fiasco
10 KIDS SEE GHOSTS– Kanye West & Kid Cudi (Released June 8th)
A Kanye West and Kid Cudi collab album. What more could you ask for? With classic tracks like Gorgeous, All of the Lights, and Erase Me already under their belts, the possibility of hearing the two together again was one of the most exciting prospects of 2018. Hint: it didn’t disappoint. The artists use their tumultuous experiences in recent years to openly discuss depression and anxiety as they work to overcome their issues. West is as vulnerable and humble as he’s ever been, and the project is a return to form for Cudi. Reborn is the clear highlight of the album, with Kanye giving his best verse of the year and Cudi controlling the pace of the very spacey production that he fits so perfectly over. The best feature of the album is its 24-minute runtime. West gets enough chance to explore his wild mind without it becoming repetitive, and Cudi gives us a taste of his world without overstaying his welcome.
9)DiCaprio 2– JID (Released November 26th)
Right in the middle of an era of up-and-coming mumble rappers that sacrifice lyricism for an unorthodox style of rapping, there is JID. The Dreamville rapper has been making noise in the underground for years, with DiCaprio 2 being his first big opportunity to become a household name. JID didn’t miss. His combination of a rapid fire flow and top tier lyricism is on full display throughout DiCaprio 2, among the features he landed from big time artists such as J. Cole, A$AP Ferg, and Method Man. Songs like Slick Talk establish JID as a technician with wordplay, as his many flow switches are sudden yet seamless. Off Deez with Cole and Westbrook with Ferg offer early hits on the album, and it never loses steam from there; being one of the fastest and most re-listenable albums of 2018.
8) Vacation In Hell– Flatbush Zombies (Released April 6th)
3001: A Laced Odyssey was one of the most under-appreciated albums of 2016, and since its release, a sequel has been anticipated by many hip hop fans. Erick Arc Elliott, Meechy Darko, and Zombie Juice make for the best hip hop trio of the year (yes, even over the Migos). Vacation In Hell is exactly what the title makes it sound like. The artists embrace the theme by utilizing gritty flows and lyrics over beats that invoke an otherworldly feel. Each song on the album has its own place, with the versatility of the group being on full display throughout. Guest features from Joey Badass, Denzel Curry, and Bun B among others are used sparingly, but fit perfectly in the album – not taking away from the group in any way. The Zombies are in full control of the 19-track effort – making it feel like a trip to a much better place than hell.
7) CARE FOR ME– Saba (Released April 5th)
I missed the initial April release of the Chicago MC’s second album – but luckily stumbled upon it in October, and it has been in daily rotation since. Saba was someone that I knew created good music, but surprised me with his ability to rap at such a high level. From the opening track BUSY/SIRENS, Saba’s lyrical ability is put in the forefront. For the next nine tracks, listeners are treated to one of the best storytelling rap albums since Good Kid, MAAD City. Saba raps over very subtle instrumentation about the highs and many lows that life throws your way. The album is a personal delve into many events that transpired during Saba’s upbringing in Chicago, and the pain in his voice when talking about his friend Walt’s death on PROM/KING makes for one of the most gut-wrenching tracks of the year. Thought it wasn’t a breakout year for Saba as an artist, true hip hop fans will appreciate CARE FOR ME for years to come.
6) Oxnard– Anderson.Paak (Released November 16th)
The prime example of taking time to create good music. Anderson.Paak took two and a half years to release his third studio album, and the wait was definitely worth it. With wall-to-wall production from Dr. Dre, Oxnard is the definition of the word groovy. Paak fully embraces himself on the album – one moment sounding like a 60’s jazz singer, the next like a 90’s g-funk Compton artist. The whole album feels like Los Angeles: it’s dreamy, optimistic, and a wild ride. The features go hand-in-hand with Paak’s aesthetic; with Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Pusha T all adding to the themes and momentum created by Paak. Songs such as Tints, 6 Summers, and Brother’s Keeper are among the year’s best, and prove that Paak can singlehandedly keep the funk genre alive.
5) Tha Carter V– Lil Wayne (Released September 28th)
Tha Carter V reached legendary status before it was even out. The label disputes between Birdman and Lil Wayne kept the album from reaching shelves in 2014, its previous release date, and the last four years, the album spent most of its time somewhere between the Bermuda Triangle and (supposedly) the slimy hands of Martin Shkreli. Fans’ anticipation was at an all-time high as an agreement between Birdman and Wayne was reportedly worked out early in the year. When the album was released in late September, it was one of the most incredible moments in hip hop history. Wayne didn’t only meet the astronomical expectations, but in many places, he exceeded them. Tracks like Dedicate and Uproar kicked the album off, and Wayne didn’t let up on the gas pedal from there. Mona Lisa is arguably the rap track of the year, and the tracks between, all the way to the outro of the year, Let It All Work Out, makes for one of the best listens of 2018. Tha Carter V is a triumph for an artist many considered past his prime, and an accomplishment that is unmatched – offering a true storybook ending for Wayne.
4) Daytona– Pusha T (Released May 25th)
Pusha T won 2018. For a rapper that has been rapping at the highest level since the early 2000’s, it’s hard to imagine breaking out and topping previous efforts in a time which would be the decline in most artists’ career. Push uses his grimy delivery to illustrate stories of his time as a drug dealer over some of the hardest and most unorthodox beats known to man, hand curated by Kanye West. There isn’t a single bar on the album that is bad. The whole project is straight to the point and extremely blunt. The Games We Play is the definition of a perfect song, and What Would Meek Do proves that Pusha can rap about more than just dope dealing. Daytona is one of the hardest albums in recent memory, with uncompromisingly harsh lyrics and flows, and is the first time Pusha got the respect he’s deserved and desired for so long.
3) Dirty Computer– Janelle Monae (Released April 27th)
Dirty Computer is a 14-track experience that is incredibly easy to get lost in. Tracks with varying sounds of R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, and Electronic influences (among others) somehow make for a cohesive album that flows from one track to another effortlessly. Songs like Make Me Feel and Screwed with Zoe Kravitz are among the most infectious tunes of the year, and left listeners’ necks sore from excessive head-bopping. The Prince influences are apparent throughout the project, but don’t ever take the spotlight from Monae – she’s clearly the star; the album is 100 percent hers. The 49-minute listen at hand is equally fun and meaningful, and most importantly something only Monae can offer.
2) ASTROWORLD– Travis Scott (Released August 3rd)
Upon its release, Travis Scott had the whole world convinced that a whole new world existed: ASTROWORLD. The place was filled to the brim with amusement park rides that took listeners on a nostalgic trip of Scott’s past as a love letter to the city he grew up in, Houston. La Flame flashed his creativity on songs like STARGAZING and SICKO MODE with Drake and Swae Lee, making for some of the most irresistible experiences of the year. Travis’ versatility comes into play with R.I.P. SCREW and ASTROTHUNDER, which offer dreamlike experiences that feel like worlds worth visiting themselves. On HOUSTONFORNICATION, Scott gives one of the verses of the year, and despite the chaos throughout the album, the project is one of the most fluid and focused of the year. Ad-libs, background vocals, and layered production offers something new to discover on every listen, only adding to one of the most enjoyable projects of 2018.
1) TA13OO– Denzel Curry (Released July 25th, 26th& 27th)
From the release strategy to the music on the album, everything about TA13OO is pure genius. Each night in July, I checked Apple Music as soon as the next chapter for the album was premiered, and found it getting better and better each night. By the time the whole project was out, it was clearly something special. Curry is in complete control throughout the 43-minute runtime, commanding each track with his one-of-a-kind delivery. Whether Denzel is creating an atmosphere with TABOO, at an all-time high in CASH MANIAC, or ruthlessly attacking an aggressive instrumental on SWITCH IT UP; he is always comfortable and in his element. TA13OO was my favorite album of the year as soon as it came out, and still hasn’t been beat. The songs have provided new meanings upon multiple listens, and have aged like fine wine as the year has gone on. It’s damn near impossible to find a flaw with the album, and even then, it feels like nitpicking. From start to finish, TA13OO is the most coherent, interesting, and significant album of 2018.