Top 10 Albums of 2018
My list this year is hip hop heavy. Go figure. I’ve always been drawn to depressing indie music and deep cut rap albums, and there happened to be a superior selection of the latter in 2018. Though with all the genre blending in recent years, it’s hard to definitively categorize any project as just one thing. So let’s ignore the labels and dive into some amazing new music. Let’s celebrate 2018 properly.
**I’d also like to apologize for leaving Astroworld off the list. I respect the quality of the production but I just can’t get into the style. I really did try my hardest.
10) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
I absolutely loved Invasion of Privacy. Judging by all the love for Cardi B in fellow top-ten lists, that statement isn’t exactly controversial. But to put it in perspective, Cardi B is very much outside of my normal taste. Migos, 21 Savage, any of those other guys… I’m just not into it. That only goes to emphasize how good Invasion of Privacy actually was. Cardi B has elevated above her peers, taking the hip hop world by storm in 2018. She went head-to-head with Nicki Minaj, one of the most respected rappers in the game, and came out on top. She collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip hop and outperformed them on their own tracks. She is arguably the biggest name of the year and she’s deserving of every accolade.
9) Vince Staples – FM!
At just 25 years old, Vince Staples is already on his third studio album. What’s even more remarkable is the idea that a kid that young has managed to create one of the most unique sounds in hip hop and continued to expand upon it with each new project. Between his music and his budding acting career, the future is impossibly bright for Vince Staples. The creativity seems to extend beyond the confines of a traditional rap career. I’d expect more of a Childish Gambino trajectory to be honest. But as long as he continues to drop albums like this, I’ll continue to keep him in steady rotation. More Vince please.
8) Saba – Care For Me
There’s a new wave in hip hop these days. A resurgence of true artists seem to be pushing back against the main stream trajectory of the genre. There are still pockets where poets, story tellers and lyricists are at the forefront and slowly but surely, those pockets are expanding. Saba – part of that Chicago collective that includes Chance the Rapper and Noname among others – released his second studio album this year and it’s the best of his career. At 24 years old, Saba has a ton of potential. You have to feel good about all the young talent in hip hop right now.
7) Lucy Dacus – Historian
Ah, sweet indie bliss. Throw on the vinyl, prepare a nice cup of coffee, and have yourself a relaxing ass Sunday. That’s what Lucy Dacus does for me. There’s a certain wit to her lyrics that elevate her often-heavy subject matter, creating the perfect balance of a well-rounded project. Put on the map by her debut album No Burden in 2016, this year’s sophomore follow-up showed off her growth as an artist and lyricist. Lucy built upon her huge 2018 by joining Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers in the supergroup boygenius, but we’ll have more on that later
6) Noname – Room 25
Noname is a Chicago-based emcee with a distinct ‘Chance The Rapper’ sound to her work, but don’t you dare label her a copy-cat act. Though I’m sure she would credit Chance for some of her first and biggest opportunities – most notably her “Lost” verse on Chance’s Acid Rap – Noname has continued to evolve into a stand-out act of her own. In 2018, after a mixtape and years of feature verses, we’ve finally been blessed with Noname’s first studio album. Room 25 is getting a lot of love on the year-end lists and rightfully so. Get on the train early, Noname isn’t going anywhere.
5) Mac Miller – Swimming
This year had its tragedies as well. On September 7th, at just 26 years old, the music community was rattled by the passing of Mac Miller. The news came just five weeks after the release of his fifth studio album, and one of the most well-rounded projects of his career. After leaning into more of a singing approach in 2016’s The Divine Feminine, Mac Miller continued the trend in this year’s Swimming and I’m all in on it. There is still a very obvious hip hop influence to these past couple albums, but the increasingly melodic approach did wonders in conveying an emotional element to the music. It seemed like Mac’s best work was still ahead of him. RIP.
4) Anderson .Paak – Oxnard
Not to start with a negative, but Malibu is still Anderson .Paak’s best album. The 2016 release is as close to a masterpiece as I’ve heard from the California native. That said, Oxnard is a brilliant cover-to-cover album and very deserving of a top 5 finish in 2018. In fact, I may not even have a full grasp of it yet. Dropping in mid-November, my appreciation for this album has only increased with time. “6 Summers” and “The Chase” were early favorites and feature verses from Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T and J. Cole really help to make this project special. You’ve also got to respect the old school features by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip. Never forget where you came from, hip hop.
3) J.I.D – DiCaprio 2
I’ve been singing the praises of the Spillage Village crew for years now. J.I.D and EARTHGANG are the most interesting new sound in hip hop and they’re not getting nearly enough credit for it. Signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records in 2017, the Atlanta natives are finally making some bigger waves in hip hop circles and it’s about damn time. J.I.D’s DiCaprio 2 was everything a lyrical snob could ask for. In a time when the dumbed-down style of mumble rap seems to be getting all the love, it’s refreshing to hear new artists embrace the poetry of it all. That’s what drew me to the genre in the first place. Be on the lookout for EARTHGANG’s Mirrorland dropping early next year, as well.
2) boygenius – boygenius
This was my favorite story of 2018. For those in the know, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus are indie royalty, despite all being fairly new to the scene. The idea that these three would link up for an album and a tour is quite simply a dream-come-true for fans of the genre. The only downside to the creation of such a super group is the length of it all. The album was only 6 songs, the tour was fairly abbreviated, and I’m simply not ready for them to split back into solo acts. Here’s to hoping we get a reunion soon. Also, I just heard that Julien Baker is hooking up with Matt Berninger for a collaboration track and I am BEYOND excited for that. Always nice to have something on the horizon.
1) Kanye West – Ye
This was always going to be my top choice. Ye stands alone as a brilliant album, but it’s really only a fraction of Kanye’s work in 2018. May and June marked the hottest Yeezy season since the G.O.O.D. Friday run back in 2010. Releasing incredibly well-produced projects from Pusha T, Nas, Teyana Taylor and the Kid Cudi collaboration KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Ye was the stand out album from an avalanche of great music. If you’re like me, you just threw it all into one big playlist anyway. Kanye reigns supreme.