The most disappointing hip-hop releases of 2018, pt. 2

 

For part 1, click here.

 

Every album that is released has certain expectations to live up to, it’s part of the due process of releasing something that is meant to be consumed by the public. The ones left on this list, however, had VERY high ones to live up to. As the saying goes: ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall’.

Every project here were meant to be high profile releases, created to make a major splash on the charts and in the minds of listeners. Yet, none of them did. Instead, the middling and unfulfilling quality of these albums only served to harm the legacy of the artists involved. 

A bad album hurts, but a disappointing one leaves deeper scars.

 

 

5. YG – Stay Dangerous

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YG isn’t the most lyrical rapper, nor is he the most conscious rapper. What separates him from many of his peers is a quality that cannot be imitated – rawness. His prior two albums My Krazy Life and Still Brazy were exercises in gritty street raps. Two West Coast masterpieces that thrived on the everyday violence and paranoia of YG’s past. A gangsta rapper at his core, YG was able to provide an uncompromising look at Compton and solidify himself as one of the most genuinely ‘real’ rappers out there.

Yet on Stay Dangerous, YG chose to forego his unembellished aesthetic in favor of chart success. Singles like “Suu Whoop” and “Big Bank” were pure unadulterated party-trap bangers, a clear departure from the unfiltered story-telling of “Who Shot Me” or the politically charged “FDT”. The final stretch of the album did show flashes of his past brilliance, but it was little too late as the initial bulk of the album would have turned off most listeners that were looking for something more substantial. YG chose the safe route and failed to evolve.

 

4. Nicki Minaj – Queen

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Every song on Queen felt like Nicki Minaj was making them out of pure spite towards Cardi B’s success. Once the undisputed queen of rap, Nicki had been sitting comfortably atop the throne and released only a handful of mediocre singles (“Changed It“, “No Frauds“) in the past 3 years since The Pinkprint. Then, following Cardi B’s no. 1 hit after no. 1 hit, Nicki started to get desperate for similar chart success. 

Not to say that this resulted in an album filled with abysmal songs though. Singles “Chun-Li” and “Barbie Dreams” are absolute bangers that will go on as two of the best songs of her career, with the most of the other tracks on Queen sounding perfectly solid. However, it did result in an overall lack of cohesion as Nicki jumps from one hot trend to the next. From dancehall (“Ganja Dreams”) to tropical pop (“Bed”) to sultry R&B (“Chun Swae”), all of which barely have any commonalities with each other. The album ended up being a mixed bag that barely had anything to say.

Queen was poised to be Nicki’s rebound back into mainstream consciousness after extended periods of silence. She did achieve her goal though, but perhaps not in the way that she hoped. The album ended up being a launch pad for her petty antics as she antagonized her way into the limelight. But in order to be remembered as one of the greats, you got to let the music speak for itself.

 

3. Migos/Quavo/Takeoff – Culture II/Quavo Huncho/The Last Rocket

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Quality Control (the label that houses Migos along with a host of today’s biggest trap rappers) has THE most ironic name in the rap industry. With more than 10 releases from nearly every artist, the label sets their sights on saturating the market to manipulate today’s playlist-dependent music consumption habits. This is ever more prevalent with their flagship act – Migos.

Riding the wave of acclaim from their Culture album in 2017, the group struck while the iron was hot and dropped its sequel, Culture II early this year. But unlike its predecessor, they doubled the length of the tracklist and its runtime. It was met with critical deride as critics and fans alike blasted it for being overblown, sluggish and a general waste of time

The album did end up being a commercial success though, with the 9th best first-week sales for a rap album this year with 200k sold. However, the group wasn’t done. At the tail end of summer, the group announced solo albums by each member before the year was out and the internet left out a collective groan. Their iconic triplet flow and sound were getting stale, and fans weren’t looking forward to their separation, especially when it is their charisma as a group that was what won fans over in the first place.

As Quavo’s solo Quavo Huncho dropped first, everyone fears were justified. Another bloated tracklist (19!), along with a lack of experimentation and innovation made the release an absolute bore that was forgotten within the week. This was followed by Takeoff’s The Last Rocket, a project that embraced brevity with only 14 tracks but unfortunately suffered the same weakness as Huncho. Fans just got more of the same that they’ve heard from Migos since 2013.

Now, as Offset’s album looms in the distance (Dec 14th) and Culture III in early 2019, it’s time to realize that Migos may be way past their prime, and the saturation of their already infinitely copied style isn’t exactly the best way to maintain relevance anymore.

 

2. Beyoncé & Jay Z (The Carters) – EVERYTHING IS LOVE

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How can a great album feel so disappointing at the same time? Both Beyoncé and Jay Z respectively dropped their most intimate and poignant albums to date with Lemonade and 4:44. Both a deep dive into their marriage and the tumultuous hurdles they had to overcome to salvage their relationship. Two titans of the music industry revealing how human they could actually be, laying themselves bare through their craft. Yet when it came to their surprise collaborative album, their supposed victory lap, they brought along braggadocio and disingenuous trend-chasing songs that had little to do with their shared trauma.  

There is a single heartfelt moment on this that explored the culmination of this confrontational arc they set for themselves – the closing track “LOVEHAPPY”. It’s a somber and earnest confession that highlights the strength that forgiveness can bring. But every other song that preceded this made its message ultimately ring hollow. 

Lead single “APESHIT” embraces the current trap trend. Enlisting the help of Quavo and Offset, Beyoncé eviscerates the triplet flow with Jay Z not far behind with a killer verse of his own. It’s an incredible song that will probably go down as one of the year’s best. However, content-wise it’s just The Carters telling you how rich they are and how much better their life is than yours. The rest of the tracks don’t veer too far away from these lyrical flexes.

This is even more disappointing when both artists brought their A-game and graced us with an album that SOUNDS amazing, but falls short when it comes to providing anything substantial about their personal gripes. Of course, as fans, we aren’t entitled to know everything about their private lives but since The Carters initially and willingly let us in, it would have been nice to be given a more well-rounded conclusion to their saga.

 

1. Nas – Nasir

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For 2 years Nas told us that “Nas Album Done“. Fans were clamoring for new Escobar and since the release of his excellent Life is Good album in 2012, they hoped he had it in him to drop another classic in the vein of Illmatic. But another 2 years went by with little to no information a potential release date. It almost seemed as if Nas would pull a Dr. Dre and quietly enter semi-retirement. Then, out of nowhere…

Hype for the project broke the stratosphere. One of the best rappers of all time paired with one of the best producers alive, fans salivated at the potential of the songs the two would bring out of each other. Announced as part of Kanye’s 5 album rollout, the Kanye-produced Nas album was as equally as anticipated as Kanye’s solo album. However, the album dropped and it turned out to be the worst one out of all of them. 

Production-wise, Kanye gave his best. The beats on it were both grimy (“Cops Shot The Kid”) and triumphant (“Everyday”), perfect for the Queens wordsmith to work his magic but the star himself failed to deliver. Heralded as one of the premiere storytellers in rap, fans were eager for him to explore his personal experiences because it was an album that. He. Named. After. Himself.

Yet all he delivered were half-baked punchlines and questionable political statements. Considering the domestic violence accusations leveled at him by ex-wife Kelis, it was expected of him to address it in his music as he had done with many other of his controversies in the past. But the silence was deafening. Nas seemed disinterested and was contempt with releasing a subpar project that garnered the ire of fans and detractors alike.

Nas has gotten lazy and perhaps a sign that Life is Good may be the last great project that we will ever get from the aging legend.

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