10 Best Albums of 2018 (1/1-3/22)

This year is shaping up to be another great year for music, so here are 10 of my favorite releases so far. Mixtapes and EP’s are included.

January

Culture II – Migos

After last year’s Culture, the Migos had a lot to live up to with Culture II. Their unique use of the triplet flow would need to carry them to different heights in 2018, however, Culture II had some trouble finding its footing. With 24 songs and a lot of repetition, the Migos couldn’t necessarily top last years work. Regardless, Culture II does stand on its own when not being compared to the group’s previous work. With a majority of the songs being nothing but pure hype and top-notch features, the Migos deliver an above average album. With songs like “White Sand”, “Walk It Talk It”, and “Top Down On Da NAWF” being some of the better songs on this album, the Migos can once again dominate the charts and prove once again that they are one of the greatest musical trios of all time.

migos-culture-2

February

Amen – Rich Brian

Debut albums are imperative in modern music. The debut of an artist can be the make or break for their career now more than ever before. Rich Brian needed Amen to work so he can fully transition from music video star to respectable artist in the rap genre. Amen did an exceptional job at introducing the world to Rich Brian, however, this is greatly attributed to his style. The look, style, and sound of Rich Brian scream eccentricity. This unusualness greatly benefits Amen. Rich Brian created some of my favorite songs on Amen such as “Trespass” and “See Me” which each deliver a satisfactory level of hype and appreciation towards Rich Brian’s work. While this album does has some flaws and may not be for everyone, I believe that for a debut release Rich Brian is on the right path.

DVAa4KjV4AQORh8.jpg

Black Panther (The Album) – Kendrick Lamar

With movie soundtracks on the rise, it only makes sense that Kendrick Lamar would be the one to bring the best lyrics, production, and guests to Black Panther. Kendrick’s connections are what really make this album a high-caliber release in 2018. Kendrick Lamar’s voice echoes all over this album as he puts several guests on the spot and allows them to voice their own interpretation of what the Black Panther is about. Songs like “Paramedic”, “X”, and “Pray for Me” are just a few of the prodigious songs that can accurately portray the trials and tribulations that Black Panther faces in his billion dollar grossing movie. Hopefully, this soundtrack can be the spark that lights the way for more outstanding movie soundtracks in the future.

black-panther-the-album-cover

2 Heartless – Moneybagg Yo

Moneybagg Yo’s 13th mixtape 2 Heartless is an exhilarating way to start the year for the Memphis rapper. After a solid string of releases in 2017, Moneybagg was destined for greatness this year, and thankfully he delivered. 2 Heartless proves a point in its 18 songs. Moneybagg is here to stay, and his greatness will stretch for years to come. With 14 solo songs and four features, Moneybagg is able to drive this mixtape in the right direction with his heartfelt storytelling about his quest for money, fame, and love. This album is a great listen in one sitting, however, a few songs can be enjoyed outside of the project. Surely, this is not the last we’ll hear from Moneybagg this year and any future releases have a lot to live up to with 2 Heartless being a great way to start his year.

Moneybagg-Yo-2-Heartless-.jpg

Victory Lap – Nipsey Hussle

Nipsey Hussle blew open the gates this year with his explosive release: Victory Lap. In 16 songs Nipsey Hussle invigorates the iconic West Coast sound in 2018. Nipsey Hussle seriously delivered on his debut album as he paints a vivid picture of gangs, money, and music in California. Although being named Victory Lap, Nipsey Hussle details his troubles from gangs and violence that eventually propelled him to stardom and success. After almost a six-year grind, Victory Lap is Nipsey Hussle’s trials and tribulations finally come to fruition on this debut album. I can confidently say that this album is going to be a staple of West Coast rap and a huge victory for Nipsey Hussle as he continues to follow his ambitions for success.

nipsey-hussle-victory-lap-artwork.jpg

If There Is Light, It Will Find You – Senses Fail

Senses Fail took a rather softer approach this year on their seventh album, If There Is Light, It Will Find You. The harsh and abrasive sound from 2015’s Pull the Thorns from Your Heart is dropped in favor of a more melodic and cordial concept. This style works wonders on this album as it shows a style reminiscent of the middle 2000s. This revitalization of their older sound is pulled off very well and also greatly benefits from having the lead singer Buddy Nielsen writing all of the lyrics for this album. Senses Fail have proven time after time again that they are one of the few dominant emo bands to stand the test of time, and this album only adds to that statement. Hopefully, their next release can build upon and improve this older sound and breathe new life into the genre. Until then, If There Is Light, It Will Find You is an essential album for 2018 and vital for the resurgence of the emo genre.

If-There-Is-Light-Cover.jpg

Gangin – SOB X RXE

After a huge success on the Black Panther album, SOB X RBE once again delivers their second album in two years. Gangin once again displays the talent that this quartet has to offer. With loud beats and quick lyrics SOB X RBE continue the unique sound that they displayed to their fullest potential on “Paramedic” from the Black Panther album. With two impressive releases in two years, SOB X RBE simply cannot do wrong it seems. Their outlandish sound is refreshing in such an oversaturated genre. Songs like “Once Upon a Time” and “Carpoolin'” are some of my favorites off this album, and I cannot wait to see what else this quartet has to offer in the near future.

sobxrbe

March

Planet – Tech N9ne

Planet is a huge landmark for Tech N9ne’s career as it’s his 20th album release. Since his debut in 1999, Tech N9ne has released at least one album almost every year since. With this incredible track record, a few of his releases have had their problems. With last year’s Storm being one of his weaker albums, Tech N9ne had to reinvent himself to get back on track to crush his 20th album. Planet is worthy of taking this 20th slot as it shows Tech N9ne displaying almost 20 years of technical ability. Tech N9ne is a master of his craft and Planet is a reassurance to this claim. Planet is considerably a slower paced albums which is great for Tech N9ne as he’s allowed to demonstrate his rhyming skill to the fullest extent. After 20 albums, and numerous features and collaborations Tech N9ne continues to show the world the power of Strange Music and more importantly the power of words. If Planet is any indication, Tech N9ne unquestionably has another 20 albums left in him to deliver to the fans.

1280x1280.jpg

? – XXXTentacion

XXXTentacion delivers his heart and soul on his second album, ?. This album is a great way to start off the year for XXXTentacion and continues to solidify his authenticity for being one of the more influential artists of this modern age. ? benefits from the range and versatility that XXXTentacion has to offer. Songs like “I Don’t Even Speak Spanish Lol” wouldn’t normally be seen in this context nor would it even be good, however, XXXTentacion has cracked this formula on ?. With 17 and ? under his belt, XXXTentacion has had an impressive run over the past two years and I doubt we will be seeing him slow down anytime soon.

x-630x630

Corinthiax – Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal has become quite the favorite of mine recently, especially with his collaborations with former GothBoiClique member Lil Peep. After his work with Tigers Jaw, Wicca Phase has been a solo artist for a few years now as he continues to explore himself through music. Corinthiax is another strong release from Wicca Phase as he continues his reflection of love and happiness. With this short EP only having five songs, the emotion conveyed is visible in every second of each song. With songs like “Corinthiax” and “High Strangeness”, Corinthiax has something to offer for everyone. With this being his first release of 2018, I believe we will be seeing some more quality releases from Wicca Phase Springs Eternal this year as he continues to excel at mastering his distinctive sound.

b4c889119973099d8580015db5cf3fc5.1000x1000x1

The Rodeo

Music is a reflection of society, person, and time, however, sometimes an album comes out that transcends these three basic ideas. When an album surmounts these ideas they become legendary and almost mythic in thought. I felt this way in 2013 when Kanye West released Yeezus but it wasn’t until 2015 that I’d feel that way again.

Rodeo by Travis Scott is the album that overcame the three basic ideas and solidified itself as one of my favorite of all times, but why? With Rodeo being a trap record, it’s a little difficult to see it being impacting and emotional but yet Travis Scott beat these odds in only 16 songs. Rodeo is a timeless album with outstanding features and a deep narrative that makes it stand out more than any other trap album.

Travis Scott pours his heart and soul into Rodeo and creates a strong album out of it. Not many albums can easily make it into my top ten list but Rodeo certainly fits the bill. In order to understand Rodeo, we must discuss each song and what it attributes to the greater idea of the album.

Immediately, starting with “Pornography” the album kicks off into high gear with a voice-over by T.I. who describes the life of Jacques Webster and his journey to become Travis Scott and eventually leaving his mother’s porch. Travis Scott “is the leader of the stampede of lost souls” in this excerpt and instantly the tone of the album is set. Rodeo immediately embraces its trap and melodic sound with “Oh My Dis Side” which features frequent Travis Scott collaborator Quavo. This song comes straight out the gate with a combination of hype and dark tones that simply isn’t always done well on trap records. Travis Scott’s story about trying to leave his mother’s porch he resides at is deep, yet it’s shrouded by a positive and meaningful reflection of his past choices and his future outcomes because of these choices.

An emotional trap banger is essentially the start of this album and simply cannot be beaten. Travis Scott breaks musical norms within the first track and from there on out a masterpiece begins to form in Rodeo. Rodeo only gets better on the next song “3500” which happens to be one of the best songs of 2015. Travis Scott teams up with Future and 2 Chainz to deliver yet another hit on only the third song of the album. Every verse is meaningful and shows a new side of each rapper, a side that isn’t often explored. With “Wasted” and “90210” we further explore the psyche of La Flame and his journey to be where he’s at today, this idea is heavily reinforced on the sixth song “Pray 4 Love” which features The Weeknd.

Easily one of the greatest songs on Rodeo, “Pray 4 Love” explores the past of Travis Scott while boasting one of the greatest features by The Weeknd. “Pray 4 Love” is the epitome of feeling and emotion on Rodeo and from here on out Rodeo explores its hype side setting the feelings aside. “Nightcrawler” (which is my favorite song on Rodeo), is essentially nothing but hype with amazing features from Chief Keef and Swae Lee. The lifestyle and fame of La Flame is the center of “Nightcrawler” as Travis Scott parties his way through every verse and enjoys his lavish and well-earned lifestyle.

The next song on Rodeo features the one and only Kanye West. “Piss on Your Grave” is perhaps the angriest Travis Scott becomes on Rodeo and one can definitely tell this song was made with someone in mind. With Travis Scott leading the new generation of musicians on this song, their attack on corporate and executives is well justified as it’s time to let the kids run the game. Finally, the song that most know Travis Scott for, “Antidote”. The lead single from Rodeo is definitely a highlight of the album but sometimes still feels overplayed since it was seemingly an anthem for 2015.

Yet, Rodeo prevails and throws us right back into the moody and emotional phase with the final act of the album. “Impossible” is the fruition of the feelings that La Flame possesses. After “Impossible” comes one of the most unique pairings of all time; Travis Scott, Young Thug, and Justin Bieber. “Maria I’m Drunk” is a slow melodic song which boasts some of the most intriguing wordplays from Young Thug and a decent verse from Bieber. After the slow rhythm passes, Rodeo jumps into a more melodic and upbeat song with “Flying High” which is remarkably quite catchy after a while.

“I Can Tell” is the beginning of the end for Rodeo as Travis Scott begins to close out the album. As Travis Scott explores his past and realizes what brought him to where he is today. The album closes with “Apple Pie” which is the end of Travis Scott’s time on the porch. Travis Scott makes amends with his mother and informs her that he must go on alone to finally find what he was searching for all along; the Rodeo. With T.I. finishing out the album, we the listener are poised with the most important questions:

“Did he win? Will he survive the rodeo?”

And just like that Rodeo comes to a close and the journey of La Flame is complete. With Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight being a worthy successor to Rodeo and the eventual release of AstroWorld, Travis Scott has come a long way. From the porch, he’s gone on to debut at number one; selling 53,000 copies of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight in the first week. I love Rodeo for what it stands for; Independence. The jumping off of the porch is the most essential part of Rodeo and is a nice parallel to life and having to eventually leave the past in the past and chase the future. Rodeo is the ultimate reflection of society, person, and time. Travis Scott made a masterpiece with Rodeo, and I for one cannot wait to see what we will experience in AstroWorld.

Best Artist of 2017

2017 had a lot to offer just as every year tends to do, however, 2017 introduced the world to a group, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. 2017 gave us Brockhampton and their remarkable Saturation trilogy. This collective who prefer to be known as a “boy band” took the year by surprise with their consecutive releases and accompanying music videos. This boy band currently has 14 members and continues to impress with every release. The formula to Brockhampton is quite simple in retrospect, but the execution is what makes them stand out better than any group before them.

Brockhampton was formed in 2012 and went by the name of AliveSinceForever until 2014 when Brockhampton was created. With Kevin Abstract taking the helm of the band leader and Ameer Van being a founding member, their journey to the Saturation trilogy would require a lot of risks and trust. Allegedly, a forum about Kanye West created the Brockhampton we have now, despite the few changes to the members. With Brockhampton hosting a diverse cast of members including members who are black, white, gay and straight it’s easy to see how diversity plays a huge part in their success. Each member of Brockhampton is unique to the point where almost everyone who listens can resonate with at least one member and maybe even more. With all of the members being roughly around 20 years old, the achievements and hype of Brockhampton is something they were entitled to when the first Saturation album was released this year.

In my personal opinion, the Saturation 2 is the best of the trilogy. This album ranked at number three on my list of albums this year and surprisingly beat out a lot of other well known and respected names. I could easily choose Brockhampton as my favorite artist of this year based solely on that album. The Saturation 2 improves upon everything that the first one had to offer, which is then reinforced in the finale of the trilogy. As a standalone album, The Saturation 2 hits every mark and sets more for them to hit moving forward. With near perfect production and unparalleled verses by each member the album excels and makes me want to listen to it every day to which I have. Although I was late in discovering Brockhampton since I’ve heard this album I’ve become a huge advocate of spreading their name to as many rap fans as possible. The Saturation trilogy is not only a great introduction to the group but also invites listeners to explore some of the solo content their members have put out, especially Kevin Abstract.

Kevin Abstract’s album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story is an impressive album by itself, but when compared to the Kevin Abstract we hear in Brockhampton, the stark difference of character continues to add layers and depth to the group. A lot can be said about the members of Brockhampton but my favorite member has to be Ameer Van. Ameer Van’s verses, voice, and talent stand out the most to me and I find myself identifying myself with him which is quite rare for me to do.  His competition to be my favored member is definitely a close one and I could see myself having multiple favorites with the release of their future albums. Every member of Brockhampton contributes something new and different which then creates some of the most outlandish and realistic verses ever heard.

Brockhampton exploded in 2017 and certainly had a good reason to do so. Brockhampton needed to be heard and their message needed to be delivered. While the group delivered more than their fair share of hits and albums this year, what lies ahead can only get better and hopefully will rival my thoughts on the Saturation 2. Until then, Brockhampton remains as my favorite artist of 2017 while also becoming my favorite boy band of all time.