The end is upon us. It has all lead to this. The top albums from 2018! This past year was absolutely bonkers in terms of releases. Up-and-comers, 2010 icons and longtime legends all dropped hot shit. Not going to lie…this wasn’t an easy list to compile. But, it was more than worth it. Below you will find the upper echelon of 2018 music. If you were under a rock, on a deserted island or just plain sleeping then look no further. You’re in exactly the right place. Enough small talk, enough banter! Let’s get into the final, and most important list, of #ListWeek 2018.
– Benny P
30) Jamla – Jamla is the Squad 2
One of those projects where the feature list alone makes it undeniably good. 9th Wonder’s crew has doubled up since the label’s first effort back in 2011, showcasing some of the best rap and producing talent the game has to offer. If you’re looking for music from the soul, then look no further.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Knocking at My Door,’ ‘Machine & McQueen,’ ‘REDBLUE,’ ‘Good to Me,’ ‘No False Moves’
29) Michael Christmas – Role Model
Boston’s finest. Christmas’ debut on Fools Gold kept my spirits high all 2018. Clean rapping, relatable lyrics and a great ear for beats. Something tells me Mr. Christmas will only get better and better as time moves forward. #NewEnglandHipHop
Favorite Tracks: ‘These Days,’ ‘Everybody Eat,’ ‘Not the Only One,’ ‘Ball’ ‘Upset’
28) Jay Rock – Redemption
I played this project so much since it dropped, not putting it on my lists would be a crime. The way Rock can balance introspective tracks, hood tales and hype songs all together is no easy feat. A little something for the whole crew on this album.
Favorite Tracks: ‘ES Tales,’ ‘For What it’s Worth,’ ‘The Bloodiest,’ ‘Redemption,’ ‘Wow Freestyle’
27) Tierra Whack – Whack World
Still in awe of this idea. Whack perfected the short song in 2018, and her visual companion for the album was just as impressive. This is how you turn heads early on in your career. Take notes my upcoming artists!
Favorite Tracks: ‘Flea Market,’ ‘Bugs Life,’ ‘Cable Guy,’ ‘Fruit Salad,’ ‘Hungry Hippo’
26) Anderson .Paak – Oxnard
Not gonna lie…feel like Paak’s hype wasn’t as big as it should have been this past year. Although Oxnard wasn’t as pop-accessible as his prior release, I still found the LP to be filled with polished and fun hip hop/r&b. Always in a positive mood when this man’s music is playing. Infectiously good vibes always.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Anywhere,’ ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ ‘Sweet Chick,’ ‘Smile/Petty,’ ‘Saviers Road’
25) Blood Orange – Negro Swan
Dev Hynes is from another galaxy or something. His voice sounds out of this world. Every note is full and complete. Hynes has been putting out dynamite material under the Blood Orange name for years now, but Negro Swan may be his best effort yet. That good!
Favorite Tracks: ‘Runnin,’ ‘Take Your Time,’ ‘Dagenham Dream,’ ‘Minetta Creek,’ ‘Chewing Gum’
24) Mac Ayers – Something to Feel
Speaking of out of this world voices, let’s dig into some Mac Ayers. One of my dearest discoveries from 2018. How I hadn’t heard of him sooner still escapes me. Haunting, passionate and gorgeous vocals all throughout this album.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Next to You,’ ‘Under,’ ‘I’ve Always Been,’ ‘Something to Feel,’ ‘Get to You Again’
23) Nostrum Grocers – Nostrum Grocers
Spoiler alert! Both of these MCs will be appearing again on this list. With just cause. Rory and Elucid eviscerated these instrumentals. How these MCs can layer witty wordplay with serene symbolism consistently amazes me.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Medium,’ ‘Thermometer,’ ’98 Gewehr,’ ‘Circumcision is the First Betrayl,’ ‘Camera’
22) Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele
AYO. Westside. Gunn. What a climb he’s made since dropping the stellar FLYGOD album back in spring 2016. Blientele ranks even higher for me than that LP, which says something. Gunn balances in-house Griselda tracks with powerful collabs with veterans of the game. Add upper echelon production and it’s all over. GxFR on top.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Brutus,’ ‘Wrestlemania 20,’ ‘Amherst Station,’ ‘Elizabeth,’ ‘The Steiners’
21) Jericho Jackson – Khrysis & Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson
When you look at this album on paper you already know it’s going to be good. Khrysis comes from Jamla. A cloth cut from the soulful quilt of 9th Wonder. Elzhi stands as one of the most technically talented MCs from the Midwest ever…rap mechanics are cerebral. Lived up to the hype and then some.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Listen,’ ‘Breguets,’ ‘Thank You,’ ‘Overthinking,’ ‘To Do List’
20) Denzel Curry – TA13OO
TA13OO sounds like Curry was playing Mariokart and hit the star power-up. He’s always made quality albums but this was in a different section. He went from five rows up direct to courtside if you know what I mean. There’s R&B vibes, abrasive bangers and slick cuts all mixed in together, with Curry snapping on every song he touched. Conceptually I thought he knocked it out the park. One of the leaders in the South right now in my book.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Black Balloons,’ ‘Mad I Got It,’ ‘Clout Cobain,’ ‘Black Metal Terrorist,’ ‘Vengeance’
19) Royce da 5’9″ – Book of Ryan
Is Book of Ryan Royce’s grandest achievement in his career thus far? Think I have to say yes. Much like Curry on TA13OO, Royce introduced us to a whole new level of his game on here. He brought the raps over and over and over again. Had Boogie, Eminem, J. Cole, Chavis Chandler, Marsha Ambrosius, Robert Glasper, Pusha T, Jadakiss, T-Pain AND more featured on it. Royce also tried making a different song on each track too, which should get props. No two songs sound alike and that’s not easy on a 21 song project.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Boblo Boat,’ ‘God Speed,’ ‘Dumb,’ ‘Caterpillar,’ ‘Life is Fair’
18) Georgia Anne Muldrow – Overload
The Queen is back. Overload stands as Muldrow’s first album in three years and she has not lost a single step. If anything she’s continued to progress. There’s some downright magical songs and vibrations on this album. Can put me in an aware and focused mindset instantly. Production is near-flawless. Muldrow a visionary.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Vital Transformation,’ ‘Overload,’ ‘Blam,’ ‘Ciao,’ ‘Play it Up’
17) Pusha T – DAYTONA
No question in my mind that Push had the dopest drop out of Kanye’s Wyoming sessions. Sound is dense as hell for only seven tracks. Each song packs a different move in a masterful combo. Before we know it King Push has knocked us out with a devastating seven punches, claiming the throne once more. PUSH.
Favorite Tracks: ‘If You Know You Know,’ ‘Come Back Baby,’ ‘Santeria,’ ‘The Game We Play,’ ‘What Would Meek Do?’
16) Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
At 21 years old Ms. Jorja Smith is the youngest member of this list. Which makes her debut album Lost & Found even more spectacular. To exhibit this much vocal range, songwriting power and sheer grace at 21 is wunderkind status. Merely the beginning…
Favorite Tracks: ‘February 3rd,’ ‘Lifeboats,’ ‘Blue Lights,’ ‘Lost & Found,’ ‘Tomorrow’
15) Skyzoo – In Celebration of Us
Skyzoo was been working towards this album his whole career. It’s music for his people. And he brought it to them as precise and real as you can get. All while dropping hot rap joints throughout the project. A NYC legend in my ears, not really up for debate. Pillars.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Everybody’s Fine,’ ‘Crown Holder,’ ‘Sound Like..,’ ‘Forever in a Day,’ ‘Hoodie SZN’
14) J.I.D – DiCaprio 2
Did someone say pillars? Feel so grateful to have J.I.D in the game right now. Man put out some straight classic songs on DiCaprio 2 and his rapping sounded sharp as a Ginsu. Flow is like Ditto from Pokemon. Can morph into anything. Props to Method Man, Joey Bada$$, BJ the Chicago Kid, 6lack, Ella Mai, A$AP Ferg, and OF COURSE J. Cole. Props to the entire Dreamville camp actually. They taking over in 2019.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Skrawberries’ ‘Off da Zoinkys,’ ‘Stick Talk,’ ‘Hot Box,’ ‘Just da Other Day’
13) Roc Marciano – RR2: The Bitter Dose
Mr. Marci dropped three ill releases in 2018, but the sequel to 2017’s Rosebudd’s Revenge took the cake. Marci has crafted his sound to almost resemble an audible mob film. Scenes of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Paid in Full and American Gangster play in my head as Roc paints scenes of pristine street art. A modern GOAT. This is luxury.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Tent City,’ ‘Corniche,’ ‘Happy Endings,’ ’67 Lobby,’ ‘Respected’
12) Armand Hammar – Paraffin
Sheeesh. That’s the only word on my mind when I’m spinning this LP. Billy Woods and Elucid trade mind-bending bars like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The whole album has this gritty edge to it, and you constantly are riding the waves of top-notch 16s. Feels dystopian in a way. No one putting out music like Armand Hammar right now.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Dettol,’ ‘Vindaloo,’ ‘Sweet Mickey,’ ‘Ecomog,’ ‘Alternate Side Parking’
11) Mac Miller – Swimming
Swimming is Mac’s crown jewel. I remember thinking that the day it dropped. All the songs on the album were so unique and showcased the diverse sides of Mr. Miller. The whole idea of “swimming” in the ocean of life rather than letting it take you over and drown you is as powerful as it gets. Hit me in my core.
My two brothers and I were in the mountains this past summer, driving through some of New England’s most heavenly views. We sat in silence mostly as this album played, windows down, taking in all the beauty of this Universe we are so lucky to call home. It was almost a religious experience looking back, and gave me a feeling of fulfillment that I can’t describe. My soul goes back to that place whenever I hear Swimming, and I have to show immense appreciation. Thank you Mac Miller. Love to the infinite.
Favorite Tracks: ‘What’s the Use?,’ ‘Self Care,’ ‘Small Words,’ ‘2009,’ ‘Come Back to Earth’
10) The Alchemist x Freddie Gibbs x Curren$y – Fetti
ALCHEMIST YOU DONE IT AGAIN! Second for second, no album packed more of a kick than Fetti. It’s a god damn movie. Gibbs one of my favorite rappers ever. Spitta is one of the flyest to ever do it. This tape will only age with finesse and prestige. Props to the Fetti Boys….LIGHT ONE FOR MAC MILLER.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Bundy & Sincere,’ ‘Tapatio,’ ‘New Thangs,’ ‘Saturday Night Special,’ ‘No Windows Tints’
9) Evidence – Weather or Not
The Weatherman is three for three – his solo albums do not disappoint. First off, one of the cleanest and most consistent flows in the entire game. Second, gotta give it up to how raw Ev was on the mic. Some of the deepest raps delivered all 2018 are on here. Always sending good energy to this dude, his music really heals. #ProtectEnzo
Favorite Tracks: ‘Throw it All Away,’ ‘To Make a Long Story Longer,’ ‘Weather or Not,’ ‘Powder Cocaine,’ ‘Rain Drops’
8) Smino – NOIR
Another year, another Smino album in the top ten. NOIR is a seductively smooth and bounce-filled LP from front to bottom. Smino can rap, sing, croon, flow and finesse with the game’s best; this album can be played in nearly any setting. If you ain’t on the Smino wave I think I gotta judge you a little. I kid, but please don’t sleep on the sauce. Vibes like a motherfucka.
Favorite Tracks: ‘LMF,’ ‘Kovert,’ ‘Skedos,’ ‘MF Groove,’ ‘Summer Salt’
7) Sylvan LaCue – Apologies in Advance
Ambition. Vulnerability. Passion. What other words can I use to describe this masterpiece? LaCue laid it all out there. This album is a therapy session, and the listener is the therapist. A bold concept, but one that we can find connection and meaning through. Hope people appreciate LaCue as much as I do. An important MC in the modern age.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Perfect Imperfections,’ ‘Selfish,’ ‘Best Me,’ ‘Empathy,’ ‘5:55’
6) Noname – Room 25
Aight, I’m going to say it. Noname is a living legend. I like to stay a little down to Earth but I can’t hold it in any more. She legit might be one of the best to ever grace the mic. Think about it. She doesn’t drop verses often, but when she does they usually hit the 11/10 scale. At least, that’s what I thought about what I heard on Room 25. If this doesn’t touch your soul I don’t know what will. Music for life.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Ace,’ ‘Self,’ ‘Don’t Forget About Me,’ ‘Regal,’ ‘Montego Bae’
5) The Internet – Hive Mind
WE IN THE TOP FIVE BABY! The Internet is here to bring us home. The band’s fourth album bursted through the R&B scene back in July, vastly pleasing fans and new listeners alike. It’s groovy, filled with funk and is immaculately produced. Not to mention that the vocals are crisp as leaves in the Autumn. Syd, Martians, Lacey, Paige and Smith mesh with absolute synergy. 2010s Soulquarians.
Favorite Tracks: ‘La Di Da,’ ‘Roll (Burbank Funk),’ ‘Come Together,’ ‘It Gets Better (With Time),’ ‘Hold On’
4) Mick Jenkins – Pieces of a Man
Wanna know how you make the game listen up? A Gil Scot-Heron homage, supreme confidence and vicious verses that command attention. At least, that’s what worked for Mick Jenkins. Pieces of a Man makes my soul shine. Mick was able to showcase some of the many complexities that make up his effortlessly cool style, over some of the year’s finest beats. Everyone from Kaytranada to High Klassified to BADBADNOTGOOD to Black Milk to THEMPEOPLE to Nez & Rio to many more contributed to this one, creating a wide soundscape of beats for Mick to annihilate.
As I said, we are only witnessing pieces of who Mick is on this album. That’s the genius behind it. It’s so easy to judge people these days based off one look. Mick said, “nah, I want to show y’all sides of who I am. Not just one image I’m trying to maintain,” and it paid off greatly. One final note though. If these are only pieces of Mick…then just imagine how scary the full monty is.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Reginald,’ ‘Padded Locks,’ ‘Gwendolynn’s Apprehension,’ ‘Grace & Mercy,’ ‘Consensual Seduction’
3) Milo – Budding Ornithologists Are Weary of Tired Analogies
Huge smile on my face as I write this and I can’t explain why. Hearing or even just thinking of this album gives me a certain feeling of life. It’s pure expression. The music plugs itself into my brain from the first second on ‘mythbuilding exercise no. 9’ and whirls me around for the next 38 minutes. Production is the flyest shit I’ve heard the dude rap over too. Props to Kenny Segal, Ol Burger Beats, Randal Bravery, Jefferson Park Boys, Mt. Marcy, Q the Sun, Steel Tipped Dove and Scallops Hotel himself.
This album hits me in two distinct ways. At times, I don’t want to think when I hear this. I don’t want to analyze. I want to live. I want to be free. I want to yell. I want to pound on things. I want to dance foolishly like a madman. It’s an intoxicating feeling. Other times I want to sit crossed-legged with a blank notepad and pencil, trying to break down all the meanings (how you always spit the synonym!?) and treasures of Ferreira’s words. He’s a one in seven billion wordsmith and to say his pen game is ill would be an understatement. I grow a little every time I spin Budding Ornithologists Are Weary of Tired Analogies front to back. ALL GLORY TO RUBY YACHT!
Favorite Tracks: ‘Mid Answer Trying to Remember What the Question Is,’ ‘Nominy,’ ‘Deposition Regarding the Green Horse For Rap,’ ‘Galahad in Goosedown,’ ‘Thinking While Eating a Handful of Almonds’
2) Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Sneaking in towards the end of the year is the young rhymelord Mr. Earl Sweat. Don’t have to explain what makes this album special. Some Rap Songs is unprecedented art. Complexly constructed loops of life, loss and the sharp love that makes this existence worth pursuing. Poignant and damn near perfect raps of celestial height. The way it ends with his parents being layered over one another and that sample from his uncle – hip hop history right there. I can play this album over and over again without thought or bore, and I am in servitude to the music. Can’t wait to see where this album will fall in the history of the genre…a special moment from the past decade undoubtably.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Azucar,’ ‘Ontheway!,’ ‘Eclipse,’ ‘Cold Summers,’ ‘December 24th’
1) Saba – CARE FOR ME
We’ve made it, my friends. The number one album of 2018. This is an important title. To be crowned #1 in a year of such output must come with deserving merit. Lucky for us, no MC deserves the title more than Saba.
His sophomore album is a cinematic journey that takes us through the cascades and pitfalls of living in urban America. The electricity of youth, the confusion of romantic pursuit, the heart-wrenching pain of loss…it’s all covered on here. It honestly sounds like Saba put his whole life and existence into CARE FOR ME. I imagine him finishing the last track and falling onto the floor, like an ultramarathon runner crossing the finishing line. Might be a tad dramatic but it’s where my heart goes. I feel so in tune with myself, with life itself when I spin this LP. It clears my mind, gives me supreme perspective of what’s really important. When all seems lost in the world, or even just in my world, CARE FOR ME is there for me. Fewer remedies heal me more than the lush notes of ‘Heaven All Around Me.’
I simply want to thank you, Saba. The pain you experienced leading up to and in making this album must have sucked the life out of you. But please take solace in knowing that it will heal the pain of countless others in prospective future. And that my friends, is why this culture is so damn important.
So, the crown moved from North Carolina to Chicago in 2018. Love to all these artists. Love to this culture. Support hip hop. Spread love. We’ll always be holding it down for you here at RhymeBeat. Thanks again y’all…here’s to an even better 2019. Peace.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Heaven All Around Me,’ ‘Calligraphy,’ ‘Smile,’ ‘Logout,’ ‘Prom/King’
Honorable Mention (more possibly to come)
Vince Staples – FM!
A$AP Rocky – TESTING
Kendrick Lamar & TDE – Black Panther
PRhyme – PRhyme 2
Nickelus F – STUCK
Reason – There You Have It
Shane Reis x God.Damn.Chan – VEIB
Chris Crack – Just Give Me a Minute
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Chuck Strangers – Consumers Park
J. Cole – KOD
Phonte – No News is Good News
Bas – Milky Way
Roc Marciano – Behold a Dark Horse
Jean Grae x Quelle Chris – Everything’s Fine
Trapo – Oil Change
Quadry – Malik Ruff
Shad – A Short Story About a War
Sango – In the Comfort Of
Bishop Nehru – Elevators: Act I & II
Flatbush Zombies – Vacation in Hell
Kali Uchis – Isolation
JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap
Scallops Hotel – Sovereign Nose of Your Arrogant Face
Maxo Kream – Punken
Kenny Segal – Happy Little Trees
Planet Asia – The Golden Buddha
Cozz – Effected
Dessa – Chime
Myke Bogan – Joe Fontana
Rejjie Snow – Dear Annie
O.C. – A New Dawn
Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD
Dr. Octagon – Moosebumps
EarthGang – Royalty EP
ewonee – ’73
Apathy – The Widow’s Son
Westside Gunn – HWH 6
CZARFACE x MF DOOM – Czarface Meets Metal Face
Murs – A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable
Sarah Violette – AnxiousLove
Playboi Carti – Die Lit
Kadhja Bonet – Childqueen
Dem Atalas – Bad Actress
The Electric Heart – The Electric Heart
DrxQuinnx x Lil Kydd – The Citizen
ANoyd – Blame it on Jay Z
Dabrye – Three/Three
Black Thought x 9th Wonder – Streams of Thought Vol. 1
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Tom Misch – Geography
Qari – No Time to Explain
Pac Div – 1st Baptist
Smoke DZA – Not For Sale
Phoelix – TEMPO
Lupe Fiasco – DROGAS Wave
Blueprint – Two-Headed Monster
Sudan Archives – Sink
Mad Squablz – Lamps
Patrick Paige II – Letters of Irrelevance
serpentwithfeet – Soil
R+R=NOW – Collagically Speaking
Femdot – Delacreme 2
Kiefer – Happysad
Pink Navel – Born on the Stairs
Black Thought x Salaam Remi – Streams of Thoughts Vol. 2
Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Freeway – Think Free
Drake – Scorpion
Marlow – Marlowe
.38 Spesh – Son of G Rap
The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE
Clyde Guevara – FreeJAH
Buddy – Harlan & Alondra
Joey Purp – QUARTERTHING
Masego – Lady Lady
Knowledge the Pirate – Flintlock
Millyz x Statik Selektah – Saints & Sinners
Innanet James – Keep it Clean
6lack – East Atlanta Love Letter
BROCKHAMPTON – Iridescence
Hermit and the Recluse – Orpheus vs. The Sirens
Octavian – SPACEMAN
Flee Lord – Loyalty or Death
Ohbliv – EZ Widas
Ivy Sole – Overgrown
Logic – YSIV
IshDARR – Slow Down, Kid
Stro – Nice 2 Meet You, Again
DJ Muggs x Roc Marciano – KAOS
Jean Deaux – Krash
Myles Bullen x Pauly Beats – Not Dead Yet
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V
Vdon – The Bone Collector
Huey Briss – Black Wax
Apollo Brown x Joell Ortiz – Mona Lisa
Phony Ppl – Mozaik
Metro Boomin – Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Termanology – Bad Decisions
Curren$y – Fire in the Clouds
ANKLEJOHN – VAN Ghost
Noveliss – Cerebral Apex
Edan x Homeboy Sandman – Humble Pi
MIKE – Renaissance Man
Action Bronson – White Bronco
Masta Ace x Marco Polo – A Breukelen Story
Rico Nasty – Nasty
Pink Siifu – Ensley
August Greene – August Greene
Spose – We All Got Lost
images via Mac Miller, Jamla, Elzhi, Khrysis, Denzel Curry, Loma Vista, Warner Brothers, Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Alchemist, EMPIRE, Evidence, Rhymesayers, Smino, Interscope, Sylvan LaCue, Blame the Label, Noname, The Internet, Sony Music, Mick Jenkins, Cinematic Music Group, Rory Ferreira, The Order Label, Earl Sweatshirt, Saba, Saba Pivot LLC & All rightful photographers/owners
– Benny P