It's been an interesting year in music to say the least. Highly anticipated albums flopped (JT's Man of the Woods, Nicki's Queen, A$AP Rocky's Testing) while albums that seemingly came out of nowhere surprised us all (see below). Artists like Ariana Grande and Cardi B made 2018 the year of the woman. Collabs from Kanye West/Kid Cudi and The Carters made 2018 the year of the joint album.
Additionally, Kanye made 2018 the year of compact, seven track albums, whereas Drake, Migos, and Lil Wayne made 2018 the year of the 20+ track super-albums. Whatever you listened to this year, there was no doubt that there was something for everyone. Here are some of the standouts:
50. Culture II, Migos
After an skyrocket to fame in 2017, The Three Migos were quick to follow up their excellent debut album with its sequel. Culture II is a double album that boasts a 24-deep track list. It delivered hits like "Walk It Talk It", "MotorSport", and "Stir Fry" (No. 37 on my 50 Best Songs of 2018 list). Though not better that its predecessor, Migos show no sign of slowing down, even as individual artists (except maybe Offset...yikes).
49. Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt
It's been three years since I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, and it's good to finally hear some new material from Earl. With most tracks being less than two minutes long, it's still incredibly solid.
48. Championships, Meek Mill
I've personally never been a huge fan of Meek's in the past, but Championships is actually a dope album and I commend the rapper because you can hear the hard work put into it. In fact, it was Drake's "Back to Back" that kind of turned me off to him and cemented my stance as a Drizzy fan. However, I'm glad that they recently squashed their beef because "Going Bad" is almost as good as their collab from before Meek's prison stint, "R.I.C.O."
47. My Dear Melancholy,, The Weeknd
After commercial success with Beauty Behind the Madness and Starboy with matching world tours, Abel was able to deliver something much darker in 2018. He took a step back from upbeat Daft Punk-produced singles and gave us vibes reminiscent of his Trilogy days. Now that Selena is out and Bella is back in, it makes you wonder what next sounds will be.
47. Ephorize, cupcakKe
Released at the very top of 2018, Ephorize is an excellent album that showcases how much talent the Chicago artist has. cupcakKe is an underrated female rapper and deserves more recognition for her quick wit and adaptability. She can definitely hang with Cardi, Nicki, and Missy if given the chance.
45. Stay Dangerous, YG
The Trump-hating, Bompton-based rapper gave us one of the best songs of the year, "Big Bank", and now "Slay" is on the come-up. YG has crafted countless hits in just the past few years and he shows no sign of stopping with Stay Dangerous, which is filled with trunk-rattling anthems.
44. ONEPOINTFIVE, Aminé
It's crazy to think that Aminé is still somewhat of an unknown name, even to casual hip-hop fans. They all know his song ("Caroline"), but don't know the man himself. ONEPOINTFIVE contains banger after banger mixed with clever wordplay.
43. Scorpion, Drake
Drizzy remains as relevant as ever with his fifth solo album, Scorpion. In a single year where he released "more slaps than The Beatles" (12!), he's untouchable. Even though there are some throwaways on this double album donning 25 tracks, three of them were big enough to make a huge impression and go viral in a typical Drake fashion.
42. beerbongs & bentleys, Post Malone
The anticipation and hype around Post's second studio album was insane. Who knew that some country guy from Texas with tattoos all over his face would deliver an album so versatile that it'd be nominated for rap and pop GRAMMY awards? Met with mixed reviews, b&B is actually pretty good and Posty knows how to make hits regardless.
41. TA13OO, Denzel Curry
Curry's third studio album is separated into three different acts: Light, Gray, and Dark. It's a concept album that is very cohesive and explores a wide variety of topics that are usually avoided in hip-hop. Luckily, Curry does it with ease all while maintaining consistent production value.
40. Voicenotes, Charlie Puth
At just 27 years old, Charlie Puth is one very talented man. He sang, wrote, produced, and engineered all of Voicenotes, which is extremely commendable. On top of that, it all came together surprisingly well. "Done For Me" with Kehlani was actually one of my favorite songs of 2018 that barely made the cut. He was inspired by late '80s/early '90s "dark R&B", which he makes apparent.
39. Die Lit, Playboi Carti
Playboi Carti is the true definition of a Gen Z kid living in a Gen Z world. His debut album title, Die Lit, and album cover alone embodies all of that and he's steadily headed in the right direction toward commercial success. It's a fun album and Carti takes nothing seriously, but that's fine because that's his brand.
38. Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Metro Boomin
Mega producer, Metro Boomin, is one of the hardest working people in the music industry today. He has a special talent of hearing things not every else is able to hear and then turn them into something absolutely amazing. He was able to nab collabs with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Drake, 21 Savage, and Young Thug, but the highlights are mostly with Travis Scott.
37. Lush, Snail Mail
Snail Mail, aka Lindsey Jordan, is on her way to become one of the most sought-after names in the indie rock scene. Lush has been critically acclaimed by critics alike, and for good reason. She's just 19, but tells a mature story about losing out on love. The album is a spectacular debut and it's exciting that she's just getting started.
36. so sad so sexy, Lykke Li
so sad so sexy is so sad and so sexy. The album came out four years after I Never Learn and her sound has changed drastically, but that's a good thing. Before the release of s⁴, Lykke Li had endured major life changes, including giving birth to her first child and going through the passing of her mother. The themes are much bleaker than we're used to, but she's not afraid to show us vulnerability.
35. CARE FOR ME, Saba
What's admirable about Saba is that he seems like the type of rapper that makes music just to make music. He doesn't care for the attention and just wants people to listen if they're open to it. Some elements of CARE FOR ME are hard to hear and believe, especially with "LIFE", but that's the point. He's telling his life story, unfiltered and raw.
34. Heaven & Earth, Kamasi Washington
You need to get used to the name Kamasi Washington. Like, you know him, but you don't know him. At least not yet. Ever since the jazz saxophonist released his fantastic studio debut, The Epic, Washington has gone on to collaborate with Flying Lotus, Run the Jewels, and Kendrick Lamar. Heaven & Earth is definitely more conceptual and straightforward in his idea of Afro-Futurism.
33. SR3MM, Rae Sremmurd
At over a 100-minute run time and and 27 tracks long, SR3MM is officially the longest album to make this list. The hip-hop duo made a giant leap of faith to make their third album a three-disc set. One was a joint effort, SR3MM, and the two others were solo projects, Swaecation and Jxmtro. It's as if they were trying to top Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (they didn't, but it was a very nice try).
32. Swimming, Mac Miller
The late rapper (who passed away just one month after this album's release) was able to give us his best work to date with Swimming. It's obvious that his break-up with Ariana Grande was a key theme with the album, but it sounded like he remained positive and optimistic overall. In his short career, Miller was stunningly able to create five studio albums, three EPs, and a staggering 14 mixtapes. Miller was posthumously nominated for a Best Rap Album GRAMMY for Swimming.
31. The Kids Are Alright, Chloe x Halle
The young Atlanta sisters have the ultimate Beyoncé stamp of approval as they are one of the very, very few artists signed to Parkwood Entertainment, Knowles' exclusive label. The duo not only have angelic voices and opened for Bey and JAY on their OTR II Tour, but they also act on Freeform's Grown-ish. Their album is a letter to themselves and they just want the world to know that their generation will be fine because it's filled with geniuses.
30. Oxnard, Anderson .Paak
The Dr. Dre protégé's third album is an ode to his hometown in Southern California. The rapper/singer shines as a gifted wordsmith throughout Oxnard, especially on "Who R U?" and "6 Summers". However, the standout single,"Tints", is the real gem and proves that .Paak can keep up with the one and only Kendrick Lamar.
29. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975
Originally planned to be just an EP, The 1975 realized that it was steadily becoming a bigger deal and eventually blossomed into the magnificent full-length album that is A Brief Inquiry. What I can appreciate about the pop rock back from England is their sound is distinct and uniquely their own, but it has evolved with each LP. Makes you wonder what they'll be like 20 years down the road.
28. Hive Mind, The Internet
The Internet has been on hiatus since the band released their exceptional debut, Ego Death, so it was exciting news when word go out that they were set to finally release their follow up album. After some of the members experimented as solo artists and found some success, it's clear that the R&B troupe are at their peak when they're all together.
27. Shawn Mendes, Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes turned 20 years old in 2018 and it's insane that he's already released three full length albums. The young, Canadian pop star is on the right track to become the next Justin Timberlake (one of his main inspirations) and the proof is in his self-titled body of work. Mendes takes a small step outside of his comfort zone and heads in the direction of sharing personal stories.
26. Cry Pretty, Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood is unlike any other country music star you find these days. She's able to dive into the pop and R&B world without losing her sense of self (looking at you, T. Swift). It took guts release tracks about the gun violence issues Americans regularly face, given the genre she's normally associated with. Cry Pretty shows growth both personally and musically for Underwood.
25. Tha Carter V, Lil Wayne
Weezy's Carter series has always accustomed fans to hear the rapper at his best and the fifth installment is no exception. Another one of the super albums of 2018, Tha Carter V is consistent throughout with sounds and bars reminiscent of Tha Carter III (his best from exactly a decade ago). Here's to another five more.
24. KOD, J. Cole
Yet another J. Cole album that went platinum with no features ("kiLL edward" is actually just another version of himself). "KOD" has multiple meaning according to the rapper, but the rest is up for us to figure out and interpret. What's kind of cool about the album, and what I think makes it work so well, is that it's as if Cole is teaching his listeners something. Also, the fact that the last track is an "intro" makes one wonder if something else is coming soon.
23. A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
A Star Is Born is easily one of the best films of the year, so it only makes sense that the soundtrack is just as good. There's an insurmountable amount of chemistry between the two main stars and when they sing a song together, it's pure magic. It's no surprise that Gaga is near perfect on each song on the soundtrack, but it's a surprising delight to hear that Bradley Cooper has impressive musical chops.
22. Room 25, Noname
When I first listed to Room 25, I was in my car on my way home late at night, so when the first lines I heard were "Maybe this the album you listen to in your car / When you driving home late at night", my mind literally exploded all over my car's interior. From there on, it was an album perfect for that setting. And although she may be soft-spoken, Noname has hella bars that she delivers effortlessly.
21. Pieces of a Man, Mick Jenkins
Not much is known about Mick Jenkins, but he's absolutely original, refreshing, and authentic. Pieces of a Man pays tribute to Gil Scott-Heron's album of the same name and Jenkins raps about being judged in pieces and not as a whole. It's strong and diverse, with features from Ghostface Killah, Corinne Bailey Rae, and BADBADNOTGOOD.
20. Head in the Clouds, 88rising
Head in the Clouds is the Asian Cruel Summer. The only difference is that the former is actually really good (no shade at G.O.O.D. Music). Joji, Rich Brian & Co. come together on a compilation album that equal parts rap, R&B, and overall fun. What's cool about 88rising is that they're inclusive. They included guest spots from up-and-comers 03 Greedo, BlocBoy JB, and Playboi Carti.
19. Be the Cowboy, Mitski
I first discovered Mitski when Puberty 2 dropped and I thought it'd be a tough task to top it. The Japanese indie rocker was able to pull it off and Be the Cowboy was met with critical acclaim. Her fifth studio album contains themes of her changing identity and self-actualization and topped multiple "best album" lists, including Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, and Vulture.
18. ye, Kanye West
After a controversial first half of 2018, ye is easily West's weakest effort to date, but it's still actually better than critics made it out to be. Sure, it sounded as if it were crafted in just days, but "Ghost Town" alone was pretty impressive to make in that small window. He just wants everyone to love each other. Is that too much to ask for? I'm just hoping that Yandhi is better planned (also, R.I.P. Turbo Grafx 16).
17. K.T.S.E., Teyana Taylor
Another rushed album from Kanye's Wyoming sessions was Taylor's K.T.S.E. (Keep The Same Energy), but it was just a smidge better than ye. Apparently, some samples didn't clear in time for the album release and it's the only album from Wyoming that had eight tracks instead of seven. However, the overall sampling and production of this album is what makes it standout.
16. Whack World, Tierra Whack
We've seen all the super albums released in 2018, but Tierra Whack said, "screw that" and dropped an album comprised of 15 individual one-minute songs. It's remarkable what Whack did in 15 minutes. A bunch of bops with different personas on each one paired with a visual aspect is something almost unheard of. She's just a class clown trying to make it big.
15. Negro Swan, Blood Orange
Dev Hynes' latest album is one that is extremely personal and honest. Negro Swan gives outsiders a look into what it's like to be black, queer, depressed, and filled with anxiety. It also features a track with Puff Daddy and Tei Shi and I'm pretty sure that's never happened before. At the end of the album, Hynes is filled with hope and wants to carry others out of darkness.
14. Isolation, Kali Uchis
On first listen, it's obvious that Uchis is influenced by music from the 1960s. For a 24 year old musician, it's pretty rare that you'll hear them name Ella Fitzgerald or Curtis Mayfield as inspirations. On Isolation, Uchis' debut, she's able to pull off a sound that sounds brand new and super vintage at the same exact time.
13. Redemption, Jay Rock
Last year, Kendrick Lamar and SZA stepped into the spotlight to represent what TDE had to offer. In 2018, they let Jay Rock shine with his third studio album. Rock has always been a well-known member of the Top Dawg family, but he finally left a big impression. Redemption is the LA-native's best work to date and shows immense growth since his earlier days.
12. Honey, Robyn
Robyn has been out of the game for eight years, but with Honey, it sounds like she never left. Fans all over world had to rely on listening to "Dancing On My Own" over and over again for years before we got some new material from the Swedish singer, but it was worth the wait. She was much more involved in the production of the album and delivered a plethora of emotional, electronic disco. Let's just pray that she's done with these extended hiatus.
11. FM!, Vince Staples
Vince Staples is easily one of the best rappers of the last five years. Summertime '06 and Big Fish Theory were both met with rave reviews and FM! is no different. His innovation continues to impress as his 22-minute album is played out like a segment from Big Boy's Neighborhood, a popular, LA-based radio show. He even goes as far as creating "snippets" of "new music" from artists Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga (the latter of which needs to be released in full ASAP). All of the featured artists are also California natives, who the album seems to be entirely dedicated to.
10. Ella Mai, Ella Mai
The DJ Mustard protégé takes it back to basics on her debut, self-titled album. The title also doubles as an acronym and each letter is explained chronologically throughout. The throwback style of Mai's sound is nostalgic and is one bop after the other. "Boo'd Up" was inescapable this year and "Trip" is following in its footsteps. Just be on the lookout for "Everything" to be the wedding song of 2019/2020. The Londoner came on strong and hopefully her momentum doesn't slow down.
09. EVERYTHING IS LOVE, The Carters
The surprise joint album of 2018 came from the most powerful couple in music (and maybe even the universe). Fans have waited for years for this album to happen and it finally happened. EVERYTHING IS LOVE closes out a trilogy, which was kicked off with Lemonade, which then led to 4:44. Beyoncé's album revealed her husband's affair with "Becky", JAY's album was an open apology, and their collaboration effort was a reconciliation. LOVE then led to an extravagant world tour where the whole crowd was going apeshit.
08. Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
It's unfair to Musgraves to call her "just a country artist" because she's actually much more than that. She's a genre-bending cosmic country artist who's also a borderline pop-disco queen. Golden Hour will go down as a classic in the artist's discography and perhaps the decade. It makes a ton of sense that the solar eclipse inspired her to make this album full of sweetness and soulfulness. Her third album has already won awards, topped "Best Album" lists on People and Entertainment Weekly, and was recently nominated for Album of the Year at next year's GRAMMYs.
07. Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe
One of the original Afro-Futurists, Janelle Monáe has been hard at work by acting in films in the past few years, but finally delivered Dirty Computer, her first "emotion picture" and fourth studio album. The ultra-feminist's attention to detail is off the charts. She made sure that nothing had to be explained or examined. Its all straightforward and Monáe mainly wanted women to feel empowered and celebrated. You can tell she went the extra mile to make something that was perfect and it paid off. Computer topped multiple "Best Album" lists, including The New York Times and NPR. Intellectuals love her.
06. Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B
There's no doubt that Cardi B was the breakthrough artist of 2017 when she dropped "Bodak Yellow." Even if you didn't like her or the song, you knew every word. When Cardi announced she was set release her debut album, the world waited in anticipation. April 5th came around and she dropped a bombshell. To my surprise, every song was a hit and in my constant rotation for months. We invaded her privacy, but she showed us everything she's got. Her debut was ended up on dozens of "Best Albums" list, but took the top spot for reputable publications like The Ringer and Rolling Stone. Not only that, but she was the featured artist to have on a track in 2018.
05. KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Kids See Ghosts
I damn near lost it when Kanye West announced that he and Kid Cudi were releasing a joint album in June, and just waiting for it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Everything that they've worked on together in the past was nothing but sheer perfection (Man on the Moon I & II, 808s & Heartbreak). When we got a hint of what KSG was going to be on the previous week's ye, it was thrilling. KSG is basically MOTM3 just with a different title. Even the album artwork, a Takashi Murakmi original, is reminiscent of MOTM1's color palette. It brought back so many memories of 2009.
04. ASTROWORLD, Travis Scott
We're used to Travis Scott sing-rapping a lot, but with ASTROWORLD, the Houston native goes full-fledged hip-hop. His follow up to Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is a dedication to his hometown, in which the real AstroWorld amusement park was taken away and Scott wanted to musically represent what it meant to locals. On top of that, the groundbreaking "SICKO MODE" was easily one of the best songs of the year, with it's three beat changes, and that alone makes the album a classic. Scott also describes ASTROWORLD to be his best work today and that's something that most fans can agree on.
03. sweetener, Ariana Grande
sweetener, before it was even released, was more than an album; it was a movement. After the tragedy that happened at one of her shows in Manchester, UK, Grande went off the grid for months before returning to music. With each single's release throughout the year, her fourth album was anticipated to be her best, and it definitely is. With heavy production from Pharrell Williams and simple, trap beats sprinkled throughout, sweetener is exactly that. It's the remedy that both her and her fans needed after experiencing some of the darkest times in the singer's life.
02. DAYTONA, Pusha T
The best of the five Wyoming Sessions albums was surprisingly the first one and Pusha T's. Pusha has always been a consistent rapper ever since his Clipse days, but DAYTONA (formerly titled King Push) stands out from the rest. He's even confident that it's the best album of the year, and it almost is. It also sparked a great amount of controversy. The album cover is a photo of the late Whitey Houston's bathroom, which is drug-littered, and Bobby Brown hated it. Yet it remains and will always be remembered as the artwork. DAYTONA also ended on the track, "Infrared", which started an insane, ongoing beef with superstar Drake. It's weird to think that Kanye spent most of his hard work on something that wasn't his, which then led to Push's first Best Rap Album GRAMMY nomination and third nomination ever.
01. Black Panther: The Album (Music From And Inspired By), Various Artists
The best movie of the year also had the best album/soundtrack of the year. Each individual song is perfect and could all be radio singles (and I don't know why they didn't just do that). In fact, four of the tracks ended up on my 50 Best Songs of 2018 list. It was all from the mind of Kendrick Lamar, who was tapped to curate the album, and although he isn't on every song, you can still find his fingerprints from top to bottom. Even though there are numerous artists and sounds on the album, it's very cohesive. After DAMN. and it's subsequent world tour, I thought K-Dot was for sure going to take a breather from music. He said, "nah" and made even more music that was still on par with his last solo album.
At the end of 2018, Lamar is finally quieter, but the rest of the artists on the soundtrack have discovered booming success. All of TDE went on tour. Travis Scott, Vince Staples, The Weeknd, and Swae Lee all dropped bodies of work that also made it on this list. Khalid, Jorja Smith, and SOB X RBE also released noteworthy music in 2018. Black Panther: The Album is a celebration of the film and may of these artists at their best. The fact that it's a perfect compilation is just a bonus.