Merry Christmas, all!
As we close another year of music, all of the albums dropped this year have cemented their place in music history…for better or worse. Instead of doing a completely randomized top 50 list this year, I’ve decided to take a different approach to going over this year’s music…
This is the 2018 List of Album Superlatives!
Sexiest Album of 2018:
Janelle Monae- Dirty Computer
Dirty Computer isn’t just Janelle Monae’s confirmation of her status as a pop icon, but God, this album is sexual as hell. Whether it be the incredibly smooth and funky electronic production, Janelle Monae’s celebration of sex and identity throughout many scandalous and catchy lyrics, Dirty Computer is easily one of the year’s best on how blunt it is with its femme fatale qualities.
Most Unnecessarily Long Album of 2018:
Migos- Culture II
105 minutes of Migos is too much, even when the hype around this album was high. Sure, “Stir Fry” was a banger, but that was one of maybe 4 songs out of 24 that were quality; the rest were the Migos literally putting their careers in autopilot, and taking a purple drank-induced nap.
Underdog Album of the Year:
Kanye West: ye
The second part of Kanye West’s producing five-albums-in-five-weeks rollout this year was arguably the most important for the Chicago rapper and self professed god. After an onslaught of controversial tweeting, highly scrutinized interviews and rants, and a complete reworking of the new album up until its release in a Wyoming live stream, ye finally dropped in its completely messy blaze of glory to a doubting fanbase. Despite its rough aesthetic and seemingly bad timing, ye actually succeeded in reminding us that Kanye still has the rapping and producing chops, and that he’s as “insecurr” as ever.
Weirdest Style Change of 2018:
Arctic Monkeys- Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
The Arctic Monkeys are a rock band…or at least they were at some point. Now they’re making lounge music? Granted, it’s cheeky as hell and is still pretty gorgeous to listen to, but after a five year hiatus I don’t think anyone expected Alex Turner to do so much drugs between his previous album and this one that he’d become a lounge singer on an interstellar hotel and casino.
Best Rap Rock Album Since….Well Since Ever:
Kids See Ghosts- Kids See Ghosts
The third album of G.O.O.D Music’s summer rollout, a long overdue Kanye collaboration with a revitalized Kid Cudi, was the exact opposite of its predecessor, ye. A seamless kaleidoscope of psychedelic, rock, and hip hop instrumentals that allowed the inner madness of Kanye and Cudi to truly shine in some of the best lyrics and rhymes they’ve recorded in years. It was a joint therapy session for the two where the listener is the psychiatrist, except instead of talking about their problems, they rap about them over Kurt Cobain guitar chords and 1930s Christmas song samples.
Most Likely to Get a “Meh”:
Gorillaz- The Now Now
I mean, the “Humility” single was catchy for a summer song…but everything else about Gorillaz’ The Now Now was the musical equivalent to a halfhearted shoulder shrug. It wasn’t offensive, but not great; it wasn’t ambitious, but it kinda tried. After multiple listens, I still can’t remember anything about the latest project from a British virtual band that featured a Powerpuff Girls character as a band member. How is that even possible?
Pusha T- Daytona
The first album of the G.O.O.D Music summer album rollout was immaculate, flawless, and a precursor to how Pusha T would end up ruling the rap world for 2018. With Kanye West behind the boards chopping up some of the darkest, most luxurious beats of the year, Pusha T stakes his claim for Rap Legend over a stellar 21 minutes of drug raps. His pen game is some of the best the year has to offer, his demeanor cocky and dangerous, and his confidence undeniable behind the constant “yeughs” in his cold verses. There’s literally nothing wrong with Daytona, the 7 track album of a perfectionist that hasn’t made a mistake yet in 2018.
Most Batsh*t Insane Rap Album of 2018: JPEGMAFIA- Veteran Imagine if someone had the copy and paste feature on sounds they heard, and went wild copying and pasting a few seconds of every instrumental in trap music today to make a beat. Now make that beat change for 19 abrasive songs with equally narcissistic, wild, and violent lyrics. Congrats, you now have JPEGMAFIA’s Veteran. Peggy’s melodic screaming over sampled throat singing, and claims that he will curb stomp the sh*t out of you are only a small sample of the insanity that this album contains.
Best South Florida Representative:
Denzel Curry- Taboo
Out of all the Soflo rappers out there breaking into the mainstream, Denzel Curry seems to be the one putting the most effort into crafting a unique role for the genre. Inspired by elements of hardcore hip hop, punk, and even metal music over some bass-riddled production, Curry’s Taboo is an amazing look into the Carol City native’s tortured soul over a semi-conceptual rap album centered around light and dark. The beats bang and the lyrics’ll make your head hang, but it’s easily the best South Florida rap album dropped this year, and one of this year’s best period.
Most Likely To Get a Fat Skip:
Fall Out Boy- Mania
So everyone can agree that “Young and Menace” is godawful, right? Alright, now this album is that song plus nine other overproduced, house-rock fusions that are scientifically proven to induce a chemical desire in humans to automatically press the skip button on streaming. Should they not have access to this skip feature, these same test subjects were shown to go insane, begging for death or for their Spotify accounts to be taken away.
Best Comeback Album of 2018:
MGMT- Little Dark Age
A lot of people counted alternative duo MGMT out, repeatedly failing to meet audience expectations after their debut album Oracular Spectacular. The duo came back in a big way, however, with Little Dark Age. An equally silly and creepy synth pop album that has an incredibly strong selection of snarky and odd synth ballads, the album hit it big with some huge singles that stole the hearts of many (including me), and simply led to an album that was just fun for all.
Most Likely to be Overhyped: Lil Baby and Gunna- Drip Harder
I may piss off a few people here, but I really can’t stand Lil Baby. I can’t stand his stupid face, his stupid slurred voice, the fact that he can’t even rip off Future properly, and the fact that he’s gotten big off of one or two good songs that he got bodied on. Gunna is here too, but he’s off point for some of the quality stuff that he produced this year. Combine the lackluster performances with some low tier trap production that is accomplishing the bare minimum, and Drip Harder feels like the most generic trap release in a year of many generic trap releases.
I’m Not Angry, Just Disappointed:
A$AP Rocky- Testing
I love A$AP Rocky’s first three albums, and I wanted to love Testing, but I simply couldn’t. The mixing throughout was sloppy as hell, Rocky sounded bored on nearly every song, and even the features were all over the place. I can understand the idea of testing out new sounds, as Rocky can be a big boundary pusher in hip hop, but he clearly sounded very uncomfortable (and even asleep) on some of these experiments here. “Praise Da Lord” goes hard though, and I regret saying it was one of the worst songs here. It’s probably the best track on the album.
Most Mid Album of 2018:
Drake needs an editor, big time. Scorpion, a double album of decent rap and awful R&B was supposed to capture his lukewarm audience after they began to doubt him as a deadbeat dad and past his prime…and it made a lot of money off its length. Nothing here truly stands out as career defining for Drake, except for maybe “Nice For What” and the few struggle bars Champagne Papi drops here and there. As it is though, it’s too long, lacked self awareness, and had about 4 standout songs among 25 tracks that amounted to a MID album.
Most “Pretty Good, But Not As Good As Before” Album of 2018:
Father John Misty- God’s Favorite Customer
You know that feeling when you go see a movie sequel that was pretty good, but the first was so amazing that you still feel just slightly empty? That’s God’s Favorite Customer in a nutshell. Father John Misty’s folk and alternative groove is still on point here, with some harrowing song topics and performances to boot, but the album never reaches the perfect highs that were reached in 2017’s Pure Comedy, leaving it feeling just a little rushed (even if it is pretty great and absolutely worth a spin).
Best Rock Album of 2018:
Car Seat Headrest- Twin Fantasy
Will Toledo is often regarded as an indie rock god, and its easy to see why with Twin Fantasy, 2018’s best rock album. A remake of his incredibly rough (but still excellent) 2011 Twin Fantasy, the 2018 Edition puts in new instrumentals, cleaner vocals and production, and even tweaks lyrics to make old tracks entirely renewed. It’s incredibly emotional, uplifting, and even powerful at times with how Toledo and his guitars scream and pummel your ears. Ambition is the name of the game here, especially with a monstrous 16 minute song near the end, but the long song lengths and quirky lyrics are always on your mind, always grabbing your attention with the skilled riffs and awkward-yet-endearing singing. Will Toledo, my boy, we don’t see each other much, but I hope you keep making albums as amazing as this.
Most All Over The Place:
Kendrick Lamar/TDE- Black Panther the Album
Kendrick Lamar and his label Top Dawg Entertainment are at the top of the throne of mainstream hip hop, both in critical and commercial terms, so teaming up with Marvel to make a whole compilation album to promote the upcoming Black Panther film makes perfect sense. While it wowed at plenty of times with some excellent songs, features, and Kendrick verses, there were also plenty of “ehhh” moments that didn’t really live up to the quality of previous Kendrick albums. There was quality whiplash everywhere you went, leaving you excited to see the film, but a little dissatisfied with the final product’s okayness.
No One Asked for This:
Quavo- Quavo Huncho
Well, after 105 minutes of Migos and an infinite amount of Quavo features being released earlier in 2018, the leader of the Atlanta trio decided to spread his wings and fly on his own solo album…that was an hour and 6 minutes long. No one really wanted a Quavo album, as far as I can tell. It’s essentially another Culture II, except without the other members of the Migos, so it’s borderline pointless. Again, not a soul asked for this.
Coolest Concept of the Year:
Vince Staples- FM!
Vince Staples never takes a break for too long; after last year’s hip house experience called Big Fish Theory, Staples continued making strides in being a unique West Coast idea engineer on FM!. A fun stab at a radio broadcast concept that sounds incredibly similar to real life DJ runs over the airwaves, FM! sounded like the soundtrack to a droptop drive through the West Coast in all its grime, grit, and guntalk. At a brisk 20 minutes, its constant looping will be more and more rewarding with each listen.
Album with the Longest Wait Time:
Lil Wayne- Tha Carter V
It dropped, and wasn’t half bad! It was way too long, sure, but Tha Carter V had some tracks on it that proved Lil Wayne may just be this rap generation’s Yoda: wise beyond his years in the art of rap, a mentor and influence to many, and can absolutely use force when necessary. “Mona Lisa”, “Uproar”, and “Let It All Work Out” are some excellent tracks that’ll live in Lil Wayne’s long history of quality rap.
Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Class:
J. Cole- KOD
J. Cole lectures people that drugs and greed are bad over mostly stale beats and terrible singing. Someone needs to give this guy a caffeine pill in the booth, because his sleepiness is infectious as hell. No wonder the album sold so well; a lot of people are sleep deprived lately.
Most Likely to Be Bodied by Production–
Nas is a New York legend with a knack for excellent lyrics and topical storytelling, but his beats have mostly faltered behind him. Kanye took responsibility for the beats on Nasir, and absolutely floored everyone with gargantuan choirs, cinematic beat drops, and haunting samples. Nas…well he was off here. Everyone loved Nasir when it came out, but over time, those same people took a big step back, and realized that MAGA Kanye bodied one of hip hop’s most celebrated greats behind the boards.
Most Likely to Get You Turnt–
Playboi Carti- Die Lit
Die Lit is a lot like it’s cover: it’s hectic, punkish, and downright weird at times. Playboi Carti expanded his sound in a big way on this album, with some downright infectious hooks and adlibs, insane production, and an excellent lineup of features. Playing this at anytime or anywhere will get you doing front flips into the mosh pit like you were off the multiple drugs Carti raps about here.
“Wait, This Came Out?”
YG- Stay Dangerous
Wedged between the momentous Astroworld rollout and the surprisingly great (and heartbreaking) Mac Miller album, Swimming, YG definitely picked the worst possible day to drop his sequel to 2015’s Still Brazy. It didn’t help that the album was one of the most generic trap albums of the year, complete with some boring production and lackluster singles. It went one ear and out the other for the select few people who actually listened to it.
Best R&B Album of 2018:
Blood Orange- Negro Swan
An absolutely beautiful, atmospheric, and pleasant look into R&B monster Dev Hynes. The production here is haunting, catchy, and has a wonderfully melancholic yet uplifting aesthetic despite the lyrics telling such a dark tale. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but Negro Swan is worth the title of the Best R&B Album here.
Best Pop Album of 2018
Kali Uchis- Isolation
While some could make the argument that this is the best R&B album of the Year, Kali Uchis’ pop sensibilities are undeniable here. The production is varied, tropical, and sticks to your ears months after a listen. The sensual, lighthearted vocals and lyrics from Uchis on tracks like “Body Language” and “Flight 22” are stunning, and just make me so happy to see a Colombian singer make such a big impact on the culture.
Worst TDE Album Ever:
Jay Rock- Redemption
No one can take away Jay Rock’s reputation as a hardcore street thug with a knack for equally gritty and funny rhymes (see the song “Money Trees” for one of the best rap verses of the decade), but Redemption was anything but for Rock. There was glossy, toothless production, a lack of Rock’s hard-as-nails bars and song topics, and bizarre hooks and vocal inflections that made him seem like a less talented Kendrick Lamar. Redemption was a lot of things, but it was definitely not a Redemption for Rock from his string of disappointing studio albums.
Of the Highest Quality:
Earl Sweatshirt- Some Rap Songs
A review of this album will come soon, but know this: Some Rap Songs is easily the best 25 minutes of experimental jazz rap that I’ve experienced this year. Earl didn’t just meet expectations: he set new ones for everyone else in his lane of cutting edge rap music.
Most Slept On:
Hermit and the Recluse- Orpheus vs. the Sirens
Not a lot of people listen to Ka, the underground New York artist known for his quiet flow but incredible rhyming and quadruple entendres, so Orpheus vs. the Sirens was bound to be missed by most. But Ka’s collaboration with producer Animoss under the name Hermit and the Recluse is a heady, wondrous rap journey through Greek legend that’ll please any fan of clever music and Percy Jackson.
The Only Album That Deserves Its Length:
Lupe Fiasco- Drogas Wave
Lots of albums exceeded an hour of music this year (check Culture II and Scorpion), but Drogas Wave deserved its length. A sprawling epic covering slavery in the physical, fiscal, and cultural senses, Drogas Wave was Lupe Fiasco’s rebirth in the rap game with some excellent rhyming and production. It may have fell on deaf ears, but it’s absolutely worth a listen!
Album of the Year:
Travis Scott- Astroworld
Everyone in 2018 listened to Astroworld; you listened to it, I listened to it, your mother listened to it, your grandmother listened to it. Your friend that doesn’t even like rap listened to it. Astroworld was this year’s biggest musical event, and it actually lived up to the hype. A year defining single in the sinister banger “Sicko Mode”? Check. Some of Travis’s best beat switches and collaborations ever? Check. Killer music videos, hype, and positive reviews coinciding with commercial success? Check. Everywhere you look, Astroworld is there. It’s 2018’s Musical Year in a nutshell, its magnum opus of hedonism and splicing of trap music with all other genres.
Here’s to a great year of music in 2019!