By Chuck Creekmur Micah Drago, Rashad D. Grove, illseed and MeeMee Bee.
(AllHipHop Features) This was a ridiculously dope year for Hip-Hop. In the words of Dave East and Styles P, we got everything! I make no excuses, there are a gaggle of albums that may have slipped under our radar or your radar or just deserve a mention. You too. This is not to say that they are not top tier talents or under other artists mentioned in our other esteemed lists. It was almost impossible to cover everything. IF you loved Nick Grant, its easy to miss a Styles P. Saba was at the top of lists, but also being tuned into Benny The Butcher as well is a tough proposition for the hardest Hip-Hop lover. This list is not as authoritative as others and we encourage feedback and additions to the list. Who were you feeling? Add them!
Nick Grant - Dreamin' Out Loud - Nick Grant was firmly committed to growing as an artist in 2018, while many of his peers were clout chasin' trolling and dropping sub par efforts. A beast with the bars, Nick goes all out on Dreamin' Out Loud, mixing up his approach to hit from all angles. From the conscious "Black Woman," to the revealing "Father Figure," the young gun does not shy away from weighty content. But, he also knows how to talk his talk and songs like “Save the Trilldren” are as good as it gets these days. On his second official opus, Nick brings big wigs like DJ Khaled and Yo Gotti to his Hip-Hop party.
Saba - Care For Me - In 2018, Saba really took the world by storm on his own terms. Care For Me managed to resonate all year despite being released in April. Saba's honestly, fresh style and sing-songy approach to lyricism set him apart from his peers. Now, make no mistake about it, this album was met with universal critical reception and many will wonder how it even made this list. Well, quite frankly, it all depends on who you are tuned into, who hits you up and what's getting played in the office. Tragically, we admit we were uninformed until the later part of the year, but recognize this as one of the year's true gems.
Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs - Fetti - Easily one of the best collaboration albums of the year, Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs mesh tremendously well. With The Alchemist handling the production, Fetti is a great body of work from two iconoclastic MC’s.
Quincey White - White Noise - You may know Quincey White as Dubb, a moniker he used when he featured on Nipsey Hussle’s “Don’t Take Days Off.” On the heels of his latest EP, The 7, Quincey White is well on his way to building a strong catalog and finding his lane in hip-hop with White Noise. Despite being a fairly short offering, White Noise is one of the most complete albums of 2018 and has plenty of replay value thanks to its short length.
Ice Cube - Everythang’s Corrupt - Ice Cube is a hip-hop icon and one of the greatest MC’s of all time. On Everythang’s Corrupt, a politically charged LP, Cube let’s us know that he’s never gonna slow down.
Wacka Flocka - Big Homie Flocka - How did Wacka Flocka drop a hood classic and it get past so many people? When the Trap Kings conversations come up, Wacka is not mentioned enough. But in 2018, he dropped a massive street "tape" that offers fans of trap music more than enough to get them through life. Still, the 30-something year old sprinkles sufficient intelligent amid the turn up that you can tell he's still growing up. Waka dropped well over an hour of music, while short EP-like albums were the flava of the year. Flava!
Phonte - No News Is Good News - After nearly 20 years in the game, Phonte made one thing clear with No News Is GooTrav, d News: He hasn’t skipped a beat. This is just the second solo studio album Phonte has released and the first full-length project we’ve heard from him since 2011, and it sounds like an album that was mindfully crafted. From the hard-hitting intro to slightly more experimental songs like “Change of Mind” with Freddie Gibbs, No News Is Good News is a great example of a veteran rapper adapting to the changing climate while remaining unique.
Styles P G Host - Styles P is easily on the hardest working MC’s in the game. The self-proclaimed “Your favorite rappers, favorite rapper,” with G Host added another great album to his discography.
Rich Homie Quan - Rich as in Spirit - Four or five years ago, it seemed like Rich Homie Quan was everywhere. Behind hits like “Type of Way,” “Lifestyle” and “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh),” RHQ racked up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube and had a strong presence in the mainstream. Up until the release of Rich as in Spirit, it felt like quite some time since we had heard from the Atlanta rapper—and it seemed like he was all but gone. In truth, he was taking that time to meticulously craft his debut studio album. The result was a project that was received with critical acclaim, proving that Rich Homie Quan is more than just a rapper who can make hits—he’s a talented artist.
Jim Jones - Wasted Talent - Jim Jones may have crafted his best work in 2018. Capo dropped Wasted Talent at the top of the year to critical reception. Named after Chazz Palminteri's 1993 crime classic "A Bronx Tale," took listeners on a trip to a grittier, harder New York that presently exists in a lot of now-gentrified places. The album also features Jadakiss,YFN Lucci, Lil Durk, Mozzy, Alexza, Ball Greezy, 5 AM, Axel Leon and an assortment of producers like The Heatmakerz. In the movie, a character says, "the saddest thing in life is wasted talent." Lucky for us, Jim is using most of his.
Trev Rich - Clarity - The first time Trev Rich came across our radar was his “Dreams (Interlude)” from Joe Budden’s A Loose Quarter mixtape. A three-minute barrage of inspirational bars was all it took for Trev Rich to find his fan base, and he’s been putting out quality work ever since then. However, Clarity is by far his best work to date. Not only is this album excellent musically, each track feels like a piece of a puzzle that fits perfectly with the others, and this cohesion further enhances what’s already a great album.
Nickelus F - Stuck - If you were listening to Drake before his he blew up with So Far Gone, you might remember Nickelus F. While he and Drake haven’t worked together in some time, the Richmond, VA, rapper has been perfecting his craft, expanding his talents and carving out a space for himself in hip-hop. In fact, Nickelus F was behind both the bars and the beats on Stuck, which is perhaps why the project sounds so good. It’s clear that Nickelus F has a great ear for production in addition to his lyrical talent, and we’d love to hear him behind the boards more in the future.
Nino Bless - Illuminati Reject II - A lot of rappers have a shining moment that they can never recreate again, but Nino Bless has managed to make every project an improvement on the last. Not only is Nino one of the best when it comes to bars, but he’s also found a way to create a unique brand of music through his collaborations with independent artists. Features from Neenah and production from Kenny Buttons are just some of the highlights of Illuminati Reject II. At this point in his career, Nino Bless seems like he’s settled into his role in hip-hop and found a perfect avenue to express himself.
Michael Millions - Hard to Be King - This was a difficult pick because of its length, but you can’t fault an album for having 19 tracks if the quality doesn’t suffer for it. Richmond native Michael Millions hasn’t released a full-length project since his 2015 EP Beautiful, but Hard to Be King was well worth the wait. Virginia is known for its musical creativity, but Michael Millions takes it to new heights by effortlessly transitioning between every style while finding a way to make consistently dope music. Hard to Be King is a perfect depiction of what the RVA rap scene is all about—creativity without sacrificing lyricism—and you can expect to hear a lot more from Michael Millions and this city in the coming years.
Don Trip - Christopher - Don Trip doesn’t say much off the mic, but he always finds a way to express himself while making great music. It seems like every Don Trip project has the same consistent level of quality from start to finish, and Christopher is no exception. Still, you won’t hear most hip-hop publications talking about how talented Don Trip is lyrically or how he’s been providing the same brand of grown folk rap that JAY-Z has been so beloved for in recent years. But none of that really matters—if you know, you know.
Styles P Dime Bag - Styles P closed the year out with another banger. With Dime Bag, Styles P displays his greatness as one the best on the game. What a year, the Lox general had!
Nym Lo - The Big Horse - Harlem rapper Nym Lo might not be a household name in hip-hop, but he’s well on his way with his debut album The Big Horse. Nym Lo’s music is an amalgam of gritty, New York-inspired bars and unique flows, the result of which is a sound that’s hard to find in hip-hop today. The Big Horse is the perfect fusion of everything we love about classic NY hip-hop and modern hip-hop, and we can’t wait to hear what Nym Lo has in store for the future.
Masta Ace & Marco Polo - A Breukelen Story - "I'm so underrated, its a travesty," Master Ace spews on "Kings." In the year 2018, we saw a lot of OGs and vets step up and drop powerful, cohesive, incredible albums. Master Ace and Marco Polo are no different. The duo release a series of audio paintings with the "look and feel" of two Brooklyn reps. While producer Marco Polo wasn't born in BK, his beats provide Ace with a lush, immaculate soundscape for the legend to rap over. Ace was a part of the Juice Crew of the 80's and 90's that was dominated by super lyricists like Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. But, as time continues on, Ace has proven to be the marathon man. Styles P, Elzi, Pav Bundy, Lil Fame of M.O.P., EMC, Pharaohe Monch and others join in the race to cross the finish line with a classic.
Lupe Fiasco - Drogas Wave - Although this album got a spot on our albums of the year list, it’s still widely overlooked by hip-hop fans. Lupe Fiasco has endured a lot between bad record deals and outlandish expectations, but despite all this he’s still making great music seven albums in. You don’t have to love Lupe’s style or subject matter, but there’s no denying he’s one of the best lyricists rap has ever seen. And with Drogas Wave going far beyond the simple lyrical excellence you can always expect from Lupe, it’s a recipe for greatness.
Benny The Butcher - Tana Talk 3 - New York is known for raps about gritty cities and explicit tales about hard times. Well, Buffalo, New York is not considered the 5-boroughs, but the Griselda Records crew is holding it down for the whole state. Benny The Butcher, like his cohorts Conway and Westside Gunn, draws from his hood to release one of the strongest projects all year. On of that, Tana Talk 3 was released completely produced by The Alchemist and Daringer, which means the beats are A-1.