At the end of every year, there are always some people that regard the year as “the best year in hip hop since [insert random good year for hip hop]”. I usually avoid making those types of statements, but I can’t help it this time around. 2018 was truly a memorable year for so many reasons. With excellent projects that range from non-stop psychedelic trap bangers to some of the purest rap LPs we’ve seen in a long time, 2018 must have inspired so many newcomers to take up music, purchase some beats for sale and make some of their own killer records.
Many amazing bodies of work were released in all different parts of the hip hop spectrum this year. This is by no means a fully cumulative list, it is simply my top 10 hip hop releases of the year. I also included some honorable mentions that almost cracked the top 10. Without further adieu, here is part one of the list.
Even though this is a top 10 albums of the year list, there were plenty of albums that came out this year that were good but just outside the top 10. Here are 3 projects that nearly snuck their way into the top 10.
Tha Carter V – Lil Wayne
This highly anticipated album was one of the best surprises of 2018 for many reasons. It had a mix of older tracks as well as some that were clearly newer. The project contained 23 tracks, which many considered kind of bloated. However, most of the songs were quality and showed why Wayne is still one of the best pure rappers out there. If it was cut down to 15-18 tracks, this project may very well have earned a place in the top 10 of 2018.
Redemption – Jay Rock
After a few years of crafting this new project, TDE mainstay Jay Rock finally released his highly anticipated new album in June 2018. On this project, we heard Jay Rock attempt to crossover a bit into the mainstream realm with tracks such as “Tap Out”, “Win”, and “Knock It Off”. Regardless of his attempt at becoming more mainstream, this is Jay Rock’s best album thus far. This was a last minute scratch from my top 10, but it’s still a very good project.
I Am > I Was – 21 Savage
It’s safe to say that 21 Savage ended 2018 with a bang when he dropped his sophomore album. We got a small taste of what 21 had been cooking up from his features on Metro Boomin’s album Not All Heroes Wear Capes. In terms of trap albums, this is almost as good as it gets in 2018. However, it isn’t simply a trap album. Savage was able to refine his sound and improve in every way on this project. It was a super hard decision for me to not put this stellar project in the top 10, but you’ll soon find out why it wasn’t included.
10. Championships – Meek Mill
If we’re talking about best stories of 2018, we have to include Meek Mill’s release from prison. Following his release in April 2018, Mill went back into the lab and recorded his “comeback” album. The album was released in November 2018 to positive reviews from critics, and it is very easy to see why. With an all star feature lineup including Cardi B, Jay Z, Future, and former foe Drake, this album just reeks of success and realness. This is probably Meek’s best project yet, so check it out.
9. DiCaprio 2 – J.I.D
Dreamville Records artist J.I.D released his sophomore album DiCaprio 2 earlier this year to critical acclaim. The project contains 14 tracks with features from J. Cole, Joey Badass, 6lack, and more. One of the reasons that this project is so special is because of the versatility that J.I.D displays on many of the tracks. For example, songs like “Off Deez” and “Workin Out” don’t sound similar in the slightest, and yet they fit perfectly well on the album. This album introduced the J.I.D to the masses and it’ll be interesting to see what direction he goes in next.
8. Taboo – Denzel Curry
Florida’s Denzel Curry released his third studio album Taboo earlier this year after working on it for over 2 years. The project is split into 3 parts; Act 1: Light, Act 2: Gray, and Act 3: Dark. Similar to J.I.D on DiCaprio 2, Denzel Curry conveys the topics he is discussing in a variety of different ways and they all work together to form a cohesive and interesting project. Standouts from this fantastic project include “CLOUT COBAIN”, “BLACK BALLOONS”, and “PERCS”.
7. TESTING – ASAP Rocky
Ever since he entered the rap game 6 years ago, ASAP Rocky has been an enigma. Each project that he’s released has become subsequently more experimental. TESTING features an aesthetic that matches its name: the testing of new styles. This project wasn’t as well-received by fans as I’m sure Rocky would have liked, but it is still amazing nonetheless. To be honest, the project just works. Everything from Rocky’s vocals, the featured artist lineup, the production, and the atmosphere sound so good together. I applaud ASAP Rocky for taking a chance with this album because it paid off.
That’s it for part 1 of my top 10 hip hop albums of 2018. Be on the lookout for part 2 coming soon!