(AllHipHop Features) Straight up: this has been one of the best years for Hip-Hop in a long, long time. If you didn't find something you liked, banged or just enjoyed. you probably weren't trying very hard. The truth is, year-end reviews, recaps and best-of lists don't fully encapsulate the magnificence that was the year 2018. Albums have suffered to some degree with the advent of streaming services that allow for the great works to be broken down into digestible playlists.
However, many, opuses emerged head-and-shoulders above their peers, despite the overall fanfare. If anything, this year showed us who was who. We learned who is able to operate at a high level and maintain a sense of their artistic self. We learned who was able to craft classic material without having to rely on social media, beef or gimmicks. There is something about years that end in "8" - 1988, 1998, 2008 and now 2018 has joined the predecessors in the history books of greatness.
Compiled, written and edited by Micah Drago, Chuck "Jigsaw" Creekmur and Rashad D. Grove.
Daytona- By Pusha T
Pusha T has made a lot of great music between his solo career, and his epic days with The Clipse, but no project has had quite the same feel to it that Daytona had. At a time where Kanye West was seemingly at the center of every controversy, the Virginia rapper came through with a handful of really great beats for Pusha T’s third solo album. Couple that with the fact that this album was the audio ending of Push’s now-fabled beef with Drake and it’s hard to argue against Daytona for album of the year.
2.Victory LapBy Nipsey Hussle
Neighborhood Nip is one of the hardest working rappers in the business, so it’s not surprising that he put together a great motivational album in Victory Lap. The LA rapper not only found a way to combine great lyricism with some of the best production we heard all year, he did it all while giving us fans free game and what feels like a cup of coffee in audio form when we’re feeling lethargic. It is hard to believe, but this is Nip's first official commercial album. We salute, Nipsey Hussle!
3.Book Of RyanBy Royce Da 5' 9"
Royce Da 5' 9" gave fans options in 2018. He presented us with a duet album with, [PRhyme]( 2, as well as his magnum opus, Book of Ryan. We knew book of Ryan was going to be special when the Detroit legend was promoting it before PRhyme 2 was even a week old. We all know Royce is a great emcee, but this album offered much more than multi-syllabic bars. More autobiography than album, Royce offers astounding emotional depth, revealing storytelling and clarity on Ryan. Through engaging beats, he explains how he's evolved, largely through sobriety. He brings Eminem, J. Cole, Ashley Sorrell, Pusha T, Jadakiss, Fabolous and Marsha Ambrosius along for the roller coaster ride.
4.KODBy J. Cole
It seems like J Cole gets a spot on every album of the year list dating back to his 2013 album Born Sinner, and each of them has been well deserved. Cole’s 2018 album KOD was absolutely one of the best projects of the year, receiving critical acclaim from just about everybody and offering some of the best songs of the year. With guys like Cole and Kendrick leading the charge, Hip-Hop should have no problem excelling another 45 years.
5.Astroworld- By Travis Scott
Houston rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld took us to other worlds and dimensions, while other rappers were decidedly Earthly*.* While Travis Scott’s music clearly fits with the newer sound, you don’t have to love autotune or singing to love Travis Scott’s music. In fact, I’d go as far as to say you don’t have to be a rap fan to enjoy Astroworld—as long as you enjoy music that sounds great, you’ll love this album from front to back.
6.G-HostBy Styles P
There are a lot of really great rappers who have stood the test of time, but few have effortlessly transitioned from one era to the next like Styles P. On what was his ninth studio album in G-Host, Styles P is still delivering some of the best bars in hip-hop with incredible consistency. Plus, a range of features from some of rap’s top young talent—Nino Man and Oswin Benjamin in particular—makes this album feel like a sort of passing of the torch.
7.Drogas WaveBy Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco is somewhat polarizing in terms of his music. Some would say Lupe is one of the greatest lyricists of all time while others would point out the overall inconsistency of his music. No matter what camp you’re in, it’s hard to deny that Lupe came back strong with his 2018 effort Drogas Wave. Although the album was a bit long with two sides consisting of 24 tracks, there was a lot of great music to enjoy from start to finish.
8.Streams of Thought Vol. 1 & 2By Black Thought, 9th Wonder and Salaam Remi
If somebody had told you five years ago that Black Thought would have a spot on an album of the year list in 2018, you’d have probably thought they were crazy—and we wouldn’t blame you. Thought has given us stellar guest appearances, but not a solo effort prior to this year. Despite making his debut 25 years ago with The Roots, Black Thought is still one of the most potent spitters in Hip-Hop. He ended 2017 with one of the best Funk Flex freestyles we’ve had the pleasure of listening to and transitioned perfectly into 2018 with Streams of Thought, an excellent extended play with production handled entirely by Jamla producers 9th Wonder and Khrysis. It would be easy to swap out the first for Streams of Thought Vol. 2 with Salaam Remi which is masterful as well.
Here they both are.
9.Tha Carter VBy Lil Wayne
2018 was the year finally got a new album from Lil Wayne that we loved. The rapper had been embroiled in a hellacious corporate beef with former mentor (and one time daddy) Baby that resulted in years of delayed greatness. When the dust settled, Lil Tune Chi was back on top with his Hip-Hop sons that have been vying for his space for years.
10.Kids See GhostsBy Kid Cudi & Kanye West
After a few projects that weren’t entirely well received, Kid Cudi fans have been waiting for something that feels a bit more like the Man on the Moon series. While that’s not exactly what Kanye West and Kid Cudi delivered with Kids See Ghosts, the two still came together to create one of the more creative and enjoyable projects of the year. Hopefully this will be a step in the right direction musically for Cudi who seemingly still has a lot left to offer us.
11.Dime TrapBy T.I.
These days, T.I. simply does not get all the credit he deserves for pushing the culture forward. Like Jay, he continues to operate at a high level sonically as well as lyrically, which is the blessing of Dime Trap. Dime Trap was the maturing of the dope boy on the surface, but really it was Tip exorcising his demons, evolving as a CEO, and solidifying himself as one of the best spitters rap has seen. He gave us the depth of a grown man and the passion of a trap star. Kudos.
12.BelovedBy Dave East And Styles P
While most people were complaining, Styles P and Dave East were creating. While a lot were saying New York lost its way, they dropped a jewel on the city. The dynamic duo represent what Hip-Hop needs to do to remain strong and this is definitely a "best of both eras" effort. The trade bars, but also weave in their loves and lives in a way that does not sound corny or out of place. This is pure undiluted Hip-Hop. No gimmicks.
13.FMBy Vince Staples
Some critics said Vince Staples' FM was "too California" for a modern day rap album. We completely disagree. The album, a clear nod to the West, is all that we love about Hip-Hop's distinct ability to rep, but also have universal appeal. “Don’t Get Chipped”, “Relay”, and “No Bleedin” have Vince offering gangsta rap with radio in mind. We were here for it.
14.SwimmingBy Mac Miller
First thing’s first, rest in peace Mac Miller. Despite his struggles with drug addiction and depression, the Pittsburgh rapper always found a way to deliver amazing music. Not only that, each album showed a significant amount of progression from the last. Swimming was perhaps the best example of this, an album that found Mac expanding his horizons musically and personally. This album was full of introspective tracks with great bars and solid production, a fitting way for a brilliant musician to end his career.
15.RedemptionBy Jay Rock
Jay Rock has long lived under the mighty shadow of Kendrick Lamar, but that ended with the release of Redemption. The album was critically received and universally accepted by Hip-Hop junkies and pop fans in need of a fix. And Jay Rock happily served all fiends. Clocking in at 44 minutes, the album is flawless. He tracks his course, oftentimes presenting life as bleak, but ultimately victorious. Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Future, J. Cole, James Blake, and Jeremih jump in to assist Jay Rock in fashioning his classic.On Redemption, it is clear that Jay Rock is in search of higher levels and he has achieved that.