Few things move me more in this Universe than a high-quality rap verse. Because of this, I wanted to celebrate the ten best verses from 2018. Just like any other #ListWeek post, this is merely my opinion and shouldn’t be taken as fact or truth. If you disagree or feel the same about these verses – shoot a comment down below and start the discourse. Regardless, thank you all for being here. To the music!
– Benny P
Gritty street storytelling is in full effect on Conway’s best verse from 2018. He opened up his Blakk Tape project with this one and I am still dumbfounded. So grimy, so raw, so well-delivered. It’s a close race, but I think The Machine is my favorite from the Griselda camp. That’s a huge compliment, cause that camp is stupid good. Voice is timeless…
Some of my favorite punchlines of the entire year. Mick hits the gas pedal from the first bar and stacks witty wordplay upon witty wordplay throughout the entire verse. Kaytranada and him are a dangerous duo. Kay brings the fury outta Mick…just spin ‘Ps & Qs’ for some added proof. Jenkins really is too filthy. Drink more water, y’all.
Through all the incredible guest verses J. Cole spit in 2018 I kept coming back to this one the most. I gotta say, this is 10/10 storytelling. Blows my mind how Cole can paint so many scenes across multiple years of his life – everything just flows together. Once Cole spit this back in March I had a feeling he was gonna be on one this year. If only I knew what was to come.
Favorite flow of 2018. When an MC can throw something at my ears that I’ve never heard before, it’s an instant thumbs up from me. Especially when you combine some speed with it and make it tough to deliver. Double especially when you drop dope wordplay throughout the flow’s entirety. Saba did all that. Stank face everytime.
Mr. Vocabulary shines again. It feels disrespectful to use words to try and describe Aes’s wizardry. He writes at such an elite level, any description of his work below that same level feels inadequate. But hey, it’s all good. 99.9% of the population will never be able to twist words like this man. Aesop Rock is simply the chosen one. Who else is pumped for Malibu Ken!?
Maxo Kream’s pen game matured in leaps in bounds this past year. Kream always has had tons of potential don’t get me wrong, but his last verse on his Punken album put him in a different league. The whole track is immaculate and Kream exudes so much emotion through his bars. Vivid and intense as all hell, I can picture his family on the roof watching the water level rise. Can’t imagine what that was like for all of them. Hoping that Maxo can stay outta prison with his case coming up, one of Houston’s best and brightest.
Two Saba verses on the year end list! That’s how good this artist was in 2018. Saba’s third verse on this song is not for the faint of heart. You know the whole time it’s leading to him describing where he was the day his cousin John Walt left this physical Earth. But the way he builds to it, while riding a rather challenging beat I must say, is undeniably masterful. Art can help the grieving process, and also connects us. I know when I need to feel the blue vibes and grieve myself, this verse will always be there in support. RIP John Walt. Long live Pivot Gang. You a real one for this, Saba.
Drake really shouldn’t have sent that invoice. King Push leveled up his career and then some on this verse. I always knew he had the upper hand lyrically when it came to the Drake beef, but I wasn’t ready for what he did on this track. Not a wasted word or second in this stanza. Push dismantled everything important and close to Drake, right in the middle of an album rollout. This hip hop beef shit ain’t for the meek. Anyone getting offended at what transpired here should study the 90s rap beefs a little more – this was all in fair game if you’re asking me. Is ‘The Story of Adidon’ the best diss track of the 2010s? I think it may just be. Pusha was straight up disrespectful and I absolutely loved it. For the culture.
Heaviest verse of the year right here y’all. Evidence’s wife recently passed from cancer, just months after giving birth to her and Ev’s first child. Don’t really have the words nor perspective to contextualize just how devastating and painful that must’ve been, and still is. The way Ev tells this story on this verse is downright beautiful. The line “I look my eyes in the sun, I mean my son in the eyes, and ask what the fuck I’ve done to ever feel so alive” is probably my #1 line of the year too. Instant goosebumps every time.
To me, the best art gives my life meaning. All the problems in my life disappear when I listen to this verse. It gives be supreme perspective. That’s the power of music. Artists can share their pain, their struggle with us. We take it in and share a mutual strength, via their art. All love to The Weatherman. Words can’t change the past, but I hope he takes solace in knowing he helped a lot of other people this year because of his art. He sure helped me, and I owe infinite love for that. Thank you.
Fifteen years after “retiring” with The Black Album, Jay-Z spit the illest verse of this past year. Yet another testament to his GOAT status. The timing of this verse is just impeccable, Hov blessed Meek with a gift right as he got outta his bid. Almost as if to say “Welcome back, Meek. Let me break down my secrets of success for you and the game, while also showing to everyone that I’m still not to be played with. Take notes if you want, regardless I’m going to continue my cultural takeover.” You can abridge that however you want, but it’s clear that Hov was coming for the crown when he rapped this. He lays it down unlike any other MC. Own your own shit, have multiple business ventures and sources of income, and make sure you take your actions and word seriously. Can’t think of much better life advice than that. Add a Biggie sample and that’s the cherry on top. Nobody breaks the real down better than Jay. Nobody. Hov is home.
Honorable Mention (more possibly to come)
Black Thought – ‘Twofiteen (Verse 1)’
YBN Cordae – ‘Old Niggas (Verse 1)’
Lil Wayne – ‘Big Bad Wolf (Verse 1)’
Dave – ‘Hangman (Verse 1)’
Mick Jenkins – ‘Consensual Seduction (Verse 1)’
Kendrick Lamar – ‘King’s Dead (Verse 2)’
Mach-Hommy – ‘King Georgie (Verse 1)’
Stro – ‘Steal & Rob (Verse 1)’
Conway – ‘BRUTUS (Verse 3)’
Jonwayne – ‘To Make a Long Story Longer (Verse 2)’
Noname – ‘Self (Verse 1)’
Millyz – ‘Showoff Radio Freestyle August ’18 (Verse 1)’
Kid Cudi – ‘A$AP Forever Remix (Verse 2)’
Mac Miller – ‘Small Words (Verse 3)’
Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Azucar (Verse 1)’
Sylvan LaCue – ‘Do Not QUESTion (Verse 1)’
Action Bronson – ‘Corniche (Verse 2)’
Ghostface Killah – ‘Padded Locks (Verse 2)’
Elucid – ‘Medium (Verse 1)’
Jay Rock – ‘Broke (Verse 2)’
Rapsody – ‘Sojourner (Verse 2)’
Brittney Carter – ‘Paper Crowns (Verse 1)’
Pusha T – ‘Santeria (Verse 3)’
Your Old Droog – ‘Live From NYC (Verse 2)’
Milo – ‘Galahad in Goosedown (Verse 1)’
Ab-Soul – ‘Bloody Waters (Verse 1)’
Kendrick Lamar – ‘Black Panther (Verse 1)’
Sylvan LaCue – ‘Empathy (Verse 3)’
J. Cole – ‘BRACKETS (Verse 2)’
Kendrick Lamar – ‘Mona Lisa (Verse 3)’
Lil Wayne – ‘Let it All Work Out (Verse 3)’
DrxQuinnx – ‘Greenbacks (Verse 1)’
Benny the Butcher – ‘Broken Bottles (Verse 1)’
LGP Qua – ‘INSOMNIAC (Verse 1)’
Frank Ocean – ‘Purity (Verse 1)’
Method Man – ‘Hot Box (Verse 2)’
J.I.D – ‘Off da Zoinkys (Verse 1)’
Freddie Gibbs – ‘Bundy & Sincere (Verse 2)’
Curren$y – ‘No Window Tints (Verse 1)’
Billy Woods – ‘Dettol (Verse 2)’
Smino – ‘VERIZON (Verse 1)’
Domo Genesis – ‘Hood Famous (Verse 1)’
J. Cole – ‘A Lot (Verse 3)’
Lupe Fiasco – ‘Mural Jr. (Verse 1)’
Tha God Fahim – ‘Location: State of Mind (Verse 1)’
Eminem – ‘Caterpillar (Verse 3)’
Lou the Human – ‘Play Your Part (Verse 2)’
Nas – ‘Echo (Verse 1)’
images via J. Cole, Conway, Mick Jenkins, Colors, 1 Music Rights Societies, Saba, Aesop Rock, Ben Colen, Maxo Kream, NPR, Pusha T, Anthony Morrison, Evidence, Rhymesayers, Jay-Z, Meek Mill and all rightful photographers/directors
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– Benny P