Best Albums of 2018

Here is the list of my favorite albums of 2018! I apologize for the delay but nevertheless, I present to you my favorite 10 albums of the year 2018.

Honorable Mention: Backward Books 2 – Azizi Gibson

This year’s honorable mention is Backward Books 2 by Azizi Gibson. Azizi Gibson is a relatively new artist in the world who I can definitely see making an impact in the future. Azizi Gibson paints himself as a colorful character with his covers along with sampling dialogue that is based on anime. Azizi Gibson is another incredible example of mixing rapping, singing, and speaking into exquisitely crafted yet highly entertaining songs. In addition to being vocally talented, Azizi Gibson excels at generating tones for his songs. In songs such as “Rain” and “New Wavy” there is a playful side showing off what he can do, however, songs like “Night Crawler” and “Polidicks” give off an emo-rap vibe as a stark contrast to the rest of his work. With this year’s top lists being very difficult to come up with since 2018 was a great year for music, Azizi Gibson taking 2018’s honorable mention is a huge compliment in my opinion and I hope you give him a chance in 2019.

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10. DiCaprio 2 – J.I.D

J.I.D is the newest artist on this list and his name deserves the utmost respect after the release of DiCaprio 2. This album channels J.I.D’s talents to create novel sounds, flows, and styles that can rival some of hip-hop’s current heavy hitters. J.I.D even goes as far as to recruit artists such as A$AP Ferg, Joey Bada$$, and his own mentor J. Cole. Songs like “Westbrook”, “Off Deez”, and “Just Da Other Day” are just a sample of the preponderance that J.I.D can create in the studio. In 50 minutes and 14 songs, J.I.D shows prowess in every way imaginable. J.I.D adapts to match each beat and will even match the level of energy that his guest features bring to the table. I think DiCaprio 2 is a great way to start off this year’s list as J.I.D sets the standard as the first entry. 2019 is the year that I believe J.I.D will become a relevant name in hip-hop and he unquestionably earns it.

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9. Black Panther The Album- Kendrick Lamar

Black Panther was a movie that surprised a majority of critics and box-office projections alike. Disney put ten years into their Marvel cinematic universe dubbed the MCU and it shows with the release of Black Panther. However, setting the wonderful visuals and performances by Chadwick Boseman and Anthony B. Jordan aside, Disney gave Kendrick Lamar permission to create the soundtrack for the film. Realistically, Disney giving one of the most prolific hit-makers the chance to create a soundtrack for what would become one of the highest-grossest movies of all time sounds like a dream, yet it surely happened. And that’s without mentioning that the album is uncensored too. Kendrick Lamar recruited a plethora of artists to help cultivate this masterpiece while still giving it a well-balanced pace throughout its 14 song duration. Black Panther The Soundtrack also features a diverse collection of sounds with the song  “X” being one of the most hype-inducing songs of the year while “King’s Dead” has resulted in becoming a meme adored by many. With Kendrick Lamar pushing SOB X RBE into the world with their song “Paramedic!” there is realistically no way this album isn’t a top ten release of 2018. I can only hope that Disney decides to give this concept another chance when Black Panther 2 inevitably comes out in the future.

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8. KOD – J. Cole

Conscious rap is an interesting sub-genre in hip-hop mostly because it’s so hard to abide by. It wouldn’t make sense for a conscious rapper to preach a message and then go against their very words. J. Cole has been one of the most interesting rappers recently as he’s become a complete 180 of what he used to be. J. Cole used to have great features and many noteworthy hits, however, since the release of 2014 Forest Hills Drive he’s become a solo artist in almost every way. Doing a majority of producing and writing has allowed his lyrical expertise to be flaunted on each album since 2013’s album Born Sinner. J. Cole has never been a bad rapper and he’s never been a simple one either. Albums like KOD serve as a warning message to those who consider giving into their demons in exchange for fulfilling their wildest dreams. J. Cole wants to help others by showing that you can be your best version without selling your soul for drugs and money. However, he knows it’s not an easy temptation to resist but he provides a clear way to resist by using KOD as a message to all those who ponder. KOD is a conscious rap album disguised as a trap album in some parts, and these “hits” allow J. Cole to convey his message through deception. Regardless if J. Cole and I have the same views on his album, I think it deserves its spot on my list for being such a remarkably executed conscious rap album.

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7. Kamikaze – Eminem

2017 saw the release of Eminem’s highly debatable album Revival which was met with fairly average reviews that even split a good amount of his fanbase. Unfortunately, for Eminem, he has a legacy to uphold and an average album at his age is something he won’t stand for. Refusing to be the Star Wars: The Last Jedi of hip-hop, Eminem decided to board his plane and crash it straight back into the rap game. After being the end of many jokes since the release of Revival, Eminem takes it all too personally and attempts to go after a majority of his critics. From music reviewers to “mumble rappers”, Eminem leaves no stone unturned in 2018. The name Kamikaze is fitting because if Eminem’s career is really on a decline and this album could potentially be one of his last, he of all people would rather go out with a bang instead of slowly fading away. It is also worth mentioning that this album is the reason the MGK vs Eminem feud came to be throughout the year. With Kamikaze and “Kill Shot” being wonderful releases from Eminem this year, I don’t think he has any plans to leave the game anytime soon and he fully intends to bring us with him throughout his journey.

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6. DAYTONA – Pusha T

DAYTONA didn’t capture my interest that much at first but this album grew on me after discussing it with some close friends. Pusha T was the first release in Kanye West’s 2018 “Wyoming Sessions”/”Cruel Summer” projects. DAYTONA features production from Kanye West and shows Pusha T at his best. “The Games We Play” and “What Would Meek Do?” are some of my favorite songs on the seven-track album because they give Pusha T’s lyricism time to shine. An album shrouded in controversy due to its cover and the eventual escalation of the feud with Drake would have to catch people’s attention and that’s exactly what it does. Pusha T saved some of his best ideas for this album and it shows. The Pusha T and Kanye West duo proved to be one of the best albums of 2018 as it gave both a chance to display what they truly excel at. I hope Pusha T can recreate the magic that went into crafting this album in the future.

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5. Swimming Mac Miller

Swimming is the last album from Mac Miller, however, it is also one of his best pieces of work to date. If his single “Self Care” wasn’t enough to make you look into this album, I highly implore you to do so. Whenever an artist passes there tends to be a renaissance in their work. This resurgence provides fans with a chance to connect once again with the artists they adored, or even allow new fans to be created due to viva voce. While nobody expected Mac Miller’s passing, Mac Miller was always aware of his lifespan. Swimming is essentially Mac Miller’s goodbye project to the world. Mac Miller discusses his life and the problems he had growing up into the man he was, however, throughout the lyrics Mac Miller seemingly closes up loose ends and prepares himself for the short future he had left. This idea is very unsettling and depressing to most, but Mac Miller doesn’t view his end as such. Mac Miller constantly battled with substance abuse and he clearly knew he could never be free of its grasp on Swimming. Being in and out of sobriety would only perpetuate the problem he had and sadly the drugs took over on September 7th, 2018. While the world may have lost a lyrical genius, Swimming remains as his last testament to the world and deserves its rightful spot on my list.

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4. Ye – Kanye West

While Ye isn’t Kanye West’s best album, it does bring a genuine sound that hasn’t been heard from Kanye West in quite some time. His first release since The Life of Pablo had some living up to do, and unfortunately, it doesn’t hit every note but that doesn’t mean this album is bad in any way. Ye is limited by its length which only gives Kanye West seven songs to show off his competence but he does make the best of those seven tracks. “I Thought About Killing You” is one of my favorite intros to an album and this fact is amplified if you watched his release party live stream. After Chris Rock gave a small speech about the brilliance of Kanye, the album started with the slow-starting yet explosive song. After the beat switches and the song comes to a close, Ye takes you on an emotional journey throughout Kanye West’s brain. His thoughts and ideas are the focus of the album as he discusses topics of mental health, relationships, and the future. Ye is also home to my favorite song of 2018, “Ghost Town” which is enough to land the album in a top five spot. “Ghost Town” is the amalgamation of love, life, and progress as 070 Shake, Kid Cudi, and PARTYNEXTDOOR team up to create this beautiful song. While Ye wasn’t Kanye West’s best work, it’s far from being his worst project in 2018.

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3. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – Kid Cudi & Kanye West

Kid Cudi and Kanye West really outdid themselves in 2018. Whether it’s their glorious team up on Kanye West’s song “Ghost Town” or their first collaborative album KIDS SEE GHOSTS, the duo had 2018 in the palms of their hands. KIDS SEE GHOSTS starts off with the explosive yet lovable “Feel The Love” and ends on the slow yet positive “Cudi Montage”. The album itself feels like a love letter to the genre that made them so successful but in the process took many things away from them. With both Kid Cudi and Kanye West having to battle depression and other mental health issues throughout the years, their comradery shows throughout the short but sweet seven-songs. “Reborn” is the absolute best part of the album as it gives not only Kanye West his usual space to vent and rap, but also gives Kid Cudi full power of the chorus and bridge that brings the song into a higher plane of excellence. If the rumors are true and KIDS SEE GHOSTS isn’t a standalone album, I will happily see what’s in store in the future.

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2. Artificial Selection – Dance Gavin Dance

Throughout the year there was a majority of non-hip-hop albums that caught my eye, however, one that stood above all is Artificial Selection by Dance Gavin Dance. This album was my #1 going into writing this list and after a much needed internal struggle, I was able to place this album in its rightful place as #2 on the list. Artificial Selection is one of the more refreshing and colorful albums to come out of 2018 in my opinion. Their singles were a huge driving force when it came to me listening to this album because of songs such as “Midnight Crusade” and “Care”. Dance Gavin Dance did an exceptional job at using their singles to draw potential listeners in even if I was already looking forward to this album. Hardly anything bad can be said about this album. This album is high on my list mostly due to personal connections and feelings that this album gives me with every listen. But please listen to this album if you haven’t already, I can guarantee that you can at least find one song on Artificial Selection that you’ll like.

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1. Redemption – Jay Rock

I cannot lie when I said that I slept on this album until a few months ago and therefore regret that decision every time I listen to any song off this album. Jay Rock used to be an artist I would listen to because he’d usually be featured or featured Kendrick Lamar on their albums. “Money Trees” from Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is one of my favorite songs and that’s mostly due in fact to Jay Rock’s incredible contribution to the song. On Redemption Jay Rock really makes a name for himself in my mind as he takes his wordplay and delivery to another level throughout the 14 song duration of the album. Jay Rock proves on this album that he is one of the few modern rappers that can perform well with or without guest features. Since the album has seven features ( “WIN” features Kendrick Lamar but he isn’t credited) on 14 of the songs, Jay Rock has to carry his weight by himself on half of the album which results in some great personal and endearing songs. However, the features that Jay Rock brings to this project are wonderful choices to compliment his refined style and rhythm. Redemption once again sees the meme-filled “King’s Dead” which drops the Kendrick Lamar feature from Black Panther The Soundtrack. “OSOM” is a song that I especially love as it gives J. Cole yet another song to shine on in 2018 outside of his KOD project. “Wow Freestyle” is also a major highlight for Jay Rock as it gives him and Kendrick Lamar about three minutes to rap some of their finest and catchiest bars in the freestyle style. I never expected myself to consider Redemption my favorite album of 2018 let alone a Jay Rock album at that but he gave Redemption his all and should be commended for doing so. Jay Rock truly surprised me with Redemption and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us.

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Expression Pt.2 – ?

One of the more controversial figures of modern music has made his intentions clear with his newest album titled ?. XXXTentacion has had a rough start whether it be from Drake, legal issues, or even betrayal. Even with a bumpy origin and difficult career, XXXTentacion has been creating some of the most out-there music lately. His unique take on music has seen him ranging from aggressive to sad often, however, on ? his full potential is realized. XXXTentacion is arguably one of the most talented musicians in modern music, but why?

XXXTentacion originally got famous off of “Look At Me”, which is a very abrasive and aggressive track that many people celebrated especially during his time spent incarcerated. Following his release, he released 17 which became yet another large topic of discussion. People were confused when they heard this aggressive rapper making slow, sad, and thought-provoking music which stemmed from depression and obsession. 17 was a turning point in his career as it not only showed his versatility, it also showed his true feelings and thoughts. These thoughts are quite saddening and hint at an internal struggle of love and hate for those he cares about. The album introduced us to a new side of XXXTentacion one that would be fully explored on ?.

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The album is a further indoctrination into the mind, heart, and soul of XXXTentacion. This album is far from rap, as it has a very slow and angsty sound. XXXTentacion steps out of his comfort zone and crosses the genre line especially on songs like “NUMB” and “Changes”. is XXXTentacion showing his true intent and feelings, while still keeping his signature style intact at times. The sound of ? is rare as it has hardly been seen coming from an artist who started their career in rap. Lil Peep and Trippie Redd are roughly the only comparative musicians that come to mind when discussing this sound. The alternative nature of ? what makes it work so well, the sound is refreshing yet powerful.

In 18 tracks, XXXTentacion accomplishes what many artists can’t. invokes emotion from the deepest depths of one’s psyche. shows the grim reality of life through deep lyrics and slow beats. XXXTentacion has departed from his rap roots on ? and I hope this transition continues to see the light of day. With each release, XXXTentacion is slowly dissipating music norms as he continues to put out another high-quality album that deviates from the standard trap sound that modern rap has fallen into.

 

 

Best Albums of 2017

The rules for this year’s list are simple. One album allowed per artist. Only albums I can see myself playing in the future and/or have an effect on myself or music as a whole. Only albums from January 1st – December 31st.

Honorary Mention: Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 – Lil Peep

Of all of the albums released this year, one stuck out to me more than some others; that being Lil Peep’s debut and final non-posthumous album release from Lil Peep. With Lil Peep’s recent passing I figured putting him on this list as my honorary mention would be the most justifiable. Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 is Lil Peep at his best and was just a sample of what could’ve come from the 21-year-old. His work with emo rap helped revive the emo genre and shed some new light on the outdated and forgotten style. Lil Peep’s personality of a loving boy who’s been mistreated and hurt by people he thought loved him resonated a lot with me along with his fairly huge fanbase he accumulated in such a short amount of time. This album has a song and style for almost everyone; songs like “Benz Truck” and “The Brightside” show two completely different perspectives of Lil Peep and add a commendable contrast in style. Although I was a big fan of Lil Peep and his untimely passing affected myself along with his fan base, however, I am glad he released Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 so his debut album could live on indefinitely, thus solidifying his legacy.

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10. IWASVERYBAD – IDK

IDK put out an explosive album this year with IWASVERYBAD, and I must commend him for his work. From start to finish this album explores IDK’s flow and talent as he rips through each song. IDK’s voice and execution is the most distinct factor that sets this album apart from much of today’s current rap music. This album is solid and is filled with many names such as MF DOOM, Swizz Beatz, and Chief Keef. Songs like “Pizza Shop” and “17 Wit a 38” offer a refreshing style that is sure to go a long way if continued. If IDK keeps up this work and continues to surprise his fans, I believe he will become a big name within the next few years. I highly recommend this album and this artist especially his older work under the moniker of Jay IDK.

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9. At What Cost – Goldlink

This year seems to be full of surprises from debut albums and At What Cost is a testament to that statement. DMV rapper Goldlink shines through on his debut album as his groove and flow follow him. This album is silky and smooth as Goldlink manages to effortlessly slide through each song with his incomparable style, giving each song a new layer of depth in the process. Songs like “Herside Story”, “We Will Never Die”, and “Crew” are the climax of Goldlink’s style and sound as they contribute the most singularity to this project. Additionally, being filled with features from artists such as Jazmine Sullivan, Shy Glizzy, and Wale solidifies the fact this album was created to be as polished as possible. Given that this is just his debut album, I think the 2015 XXL Freshman has a shot at success ahead of him as he continues to stroll on each song on At What Cost.

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8. Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

Pure Comedy is without a doubt a masterpiece. Father John Misty invokes thought and emotion unlike any other current artist today. His gloomy yet seemingly positive outlook on life is beautiful as each lyric tell a story within themselves. Father John Misty’s unique indie-folk sound works wonders with his narrative and soothing yet powerful voice and lyrics about life, death, and everything in between. This album is an experience, to say the least; and songs like “Pure Comedy”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, and “Birdie” need to be heard. I find it hard to talk about this album from a critical and informative standpoint because of how necessary it is to listen to. I absolutely recommend Pure Comedy to anyone reading this and especially anyone who loves the folk sound.

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7. Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

For Tyler, the Creator this album is balanced, to say the least. Tyler, the Creator comes alive with an authentic humanistic approach and appropriate beats to match. Tyler finds the perfect balance of loud and quiet on this album that he has been seeking since Wolf back in 2013. Tyler’s contrasting sounds finally come to be harmonious in Flower Boy for the first time. This album by Tyler is truthful and deep, as he explores missed opportunities, especially love. The journey from Goblin to Flower Boy has been quite extraordinary as Tyler has had time to delve into different genres and sounds each becoming more cohesive with time. This album is easily Tyler’s greatest release to date and boasts a plethora of features which only further endorse Tyler’s balanced sound. If Tyler, the Creator continues to perfect his balance of sound, the future seems bright for the Odd Future founder.

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6. Process – Sampha

Sampha somehow did it again and released another great project. Not since his 2013 EP Dual has Sampha released a project, but Process was worth the 4-year wait. With “Timmy’s Prayer” being one of my favorite releases of 2016 I couldn’t wait to see what Sampha had in store. Process is the culmination of Sampha’s feelings and time over the 4-year gap, and it couldn’t be any better. This album hits hard and can make the toughest shed a tear as Sampha is brutally honest about himself and life in the most symphonic way possible. The piano was seemingly made to compliment Sampha’s unique voice and projection as the two combine to make truly flawless pieces. It’s safe to say that I would wait any amount of time to hear Sampha release another project that could rival Process.

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5. Without Warning – 21 Savage & Offset

2017 was the year of collaborations with at least four albums paired some of the best current names in the industry. Of the profuse amount of releases, the one that stands out the most is 21 Savage and Offset’s Without WarningWithout Warning is the most volatile of the collaboration’s released in 2017 and for good reason. 21 Savage has had an amazing year with his debut album and numerous of features that topped the charts, meanwhile, Offset had a prolific year with the Migos debut album as well as his own personal life and relationship with Cardi B. This pairing, however, isn’t an obvious choice as the duo haven’t put out as much work with each other, but nonetheless they make it sound as if they’ve been working together for years. With production being handled by Metro Boomin and sprinkled with some features by Quavo and Travis Scott, this album is the recipe for success. While songs like “Rap Saved Me” and “Ghostface Killers” display the duo’s synergy, yet songs like “Ric Flair Drip” and “Run Up the Racks” show their individual talent on raging beats by Metro Boomin. Without Warning is the blueprint for collaboration albums, and I for one cannot wait to see if this duo plans to release another project.

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4. As You Please – Citizen

With Citizen ranking high on my list of favorite songs of 2017, the placement of this album on this list was obvious. Citizen is one of my favorite emo bands and after their previous work and “Jet” they should be yours too. As You Please is a welcoming followup to their 2015 album Everybody Is Going To Heaven which I enjoyed more than their previous album, YOUTH. Somehow Citizen continues to outdo themselves and produce some of the best emo music since it’s revival. As You Please is a reaffirmation of Citizen’s influence and talent in the genre whilst still leaving the door open for even further experimentation and exploration. I enjoyed every song on this album especially “Jet” and recommend it to anyone who likes emo or is at least interested in what I believe to be the best band of the emo revitalization era.

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3. Saturation 2 – Brockhampton

I was unfortunately late on the Brockhampton hype train, so when I did finally listen to the Saturation 2 I was astonished. This collective of 14 guys continue to break the boundaries of “boy bands” and have ushered in the new rules and regulations on how a collective should function. With each member contributing their talent it’s not shocking how well Brockhampton can function seamlessly and coherently. I chose the Saturation 2 out of the trilogy due to the differing production and lyrics. The production of the Saturation 2 is exceptionally impressive. With some of the beats sounding like they came straight from the Middle East; the creative choices make this Saturation the superior of the three. Regardless, Brockhampton has already solidified their name as one of the best boy bands of all time.

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2. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album simply reinforces the reasons why he is one of the best rappers of all time. A stark contrast to To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN is loud, angry, and accessible. This album boasts nothing but hits, each one proving time and time again why it deserves to be on the album. Kendrick Lamar once again defies the norms and continues to raise the bar for himself and others.

“Kendrick further goes in-depth of his psyche, social systems and the effect of fame on his life but also the world around him with his fourth album release, DAMN. Creatively the production of the album shines due to it’s “double album” style of being able to be listened to forwards for the “weakness” side of the story and reverse for the “wickedness” side of the story, As a seamless continuation of the Good Kid, M.A.A.D City narrative of the life of Kendrick, the tone of the album is frustrated and angry at the state of the world but also reflective in how our own lives can affect the world around us. This is a statement album and should remove any doubt of who the greatest rapper on the planet is right now.” -ZiggyStarscream

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1. SYRE – Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith really surprised me with this one. When I heard SYRE was coming out and heard the trailer, I knew I would like this album, however, I didn’t know at the time that I would love it more than anything else this year. The fact that I put SYRE higher than Saturation 2 and DAMN should be enough to convince anyone to listen to this. The album soars beyond any expectations that were set for Jaden Smith and continues to amaze me each time I listen. Songs like “BLUE”, “Icon”, “Fallen”, and “George Jeff” are Jaden Smith at his best, he isn’t the greatest musician, lyricist, or rapper but he is the greatest relatable figure for myself and the youth as a collective. If you take nothing away from this list, at least give SYRE a listen, it has my official seal of approval and my praise to the highest extent. Jaden Smith won 2017 with SYRE now we can only wait to see what else he has to surprise us with in the future.

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