30. J.I.D – DiCaprio 2
The best rappity-rap album of 2018 (sorry Eminem), J.I.D’s mainstream debut proves that he’s an absolute force to be reckoned with, one that will shape up the future of rap in the years to come. Though coming up a bit short in terms of cohesiveness, the mixtape-like structure of DiCaprio 2 is but a mere appetizer to what he can offer in terms of technical ability.
On the other hand, his prior album – The Never Story saw him flexing his lyricist muscles, a debut that brought about similar conversations as Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80. One of hip-hop’s new golden children, if J.I.D is able to combine the best of both his worlds, then it’ll be time to make way for rap’s new superstar.
29. Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele
One of the grimiest albums released in hip-hop this year, Westside Gunn proves that outside his Hitler Wears Hermes series, he still has the same grit and hostility that made him an underground rap darling. Wrestling references and street tales galore, Gunn cruises through the record like a hood elder statesman driving down the block, reminiscing on the old days.
Rhyming over the dirtiest beats I’ve ever heard, Supreme Blientele is an exercise in brevity and longevity, as the sample-driven production calls back to the boom-bap rap of the 90s. Firmly rooted in tradition, Westside Gunn is a breath of fresh air in today’s trap-ruled hip-hop scene.
28. St Vincent – MassEducation
Genre: Acoustic, Folk, Singer/Songwriter
Normally I’m not a fan of acoustic versions of old albums, but MissEducation serves as a shining exception to that. A reimagining of her 2017 album Masseduction, St. Vincent strips down the eccentrically bombastic aspects of the songs and equips herself with only her voice and a piano.
The hypersexualized energy and unbridled concepts are replaced with heartfelt endearment, breaking down the artistic barriers between St Vincent and the listener. It’s the gold standard for any acoustic album from here on out.
27. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
Genre: Alternative, Indie
Young Fathers occupy a lane that’s hard to pin down. On one hand, their hip-hop influenced drums could classify them as a rap group. On the other, their chanty vocal deliveries give their music an almost gospel-like quality. On the third hand, their insufferably cryptic lyrics can make the most indie of bands blush.
Yet, all these qualities combined create a one-of-a-kind album that is brazenly unforgiving in terms of accessibility but still manages to sound absolutely intriguing at the same time. Young Fathers are in a genre of their own.
26. Noname – Room 25
Genre: Hip-Hop, Jazz Rap
A slight step down from her acclaimed 2015 mixtape – Telefone, Room 25 is still a wonderfully dense album that solidifies Noname as one of hip-hop’s top poets. Though criticized as ‘whisper rap’ by some, her subdued delivery adds a layer of warmth that complements the almost methodical approach of her songwriting.
Sacrificing the catchiness of her prior work, Noname chooses to provide an intimate look at her sexuality, ideals and newfound maturity. Over its brief 35 minutes, there’s a silent confidence that brims throughout. It’s Noname announcing her arrival as one of the best rappers alive.
25. AUGUST 08 – Father
The 3rd 88rising act on this list (and won’t be the last either), AUGUST 08’s brand of R&B on this record is a reflective one. Providing listeners son an introspective journey on his strained relationship with his father. Yet what could have been an album of anger and vent instead became one of allure and honesty.
AUGUST’s tender voice as lays himself bare on the emotional turmoils from his formative years are nothing short of extraordinary. There’s a seething rage underneath the buttery smooth tracks, but it just falls short of being a bitter record. The subtle moments of intimacy that he laces throughout the project turns this album into the musical equivalent of a gentle giant.
24. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Genre: Hip-Hop, Lo-fi Rap
On each passing release, Earl Sweatshirt transforms ever more into a rap version of a reclusive hermit. On Some Rap Songs, Earl is at his most inaccessible; every beat as experimental as the last, it almost seems as if he chose to rap off-beat and barely apply any sort of flow throughout the entire project.
But this album wasn’t made for an easy listen. After playing the album back numerous amount of times, each verse began to sound more intelligible and every beat choice became more understandable. It rewards you with repeat listens as Earl’s bars slowly get dissected with each listen. It’s an unflinching look into the traumatic experiences of Earl Sweatshirt.
23. Frank Ocean – Endless (Remastered)
Technically this album was released in 2016 alongside Blonde, but the vinyl presses of it only came out this year and the finalized mixes essentially create a whole new experience that just begs to be dissected once again. No longer lo-fi, this record is brimming with mellow exuberance.
Emerging from its older brother’s shadow, Endless is an actual project that can stand on its own two feet. Much slower paced than Blonde and also less conceptual, this album’s strengths lies in each individual track rather than the sum of its parts. As if climbing up to the top of a long, dwindling, seemingly endless flight of stairs, Frank Ocean invites you into his melancholic world after an excruciating wait for new material.
22. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence
Nowhere near the brilliance that they showed on their SATURATION trilogy, iridescence is still a very solid major label debut from the group. Though still staying true to many of their stylistic choices such as the vocal pitch changes and unconventional song structures, this latest effort sees them sacrificing the insanely sticky hooks in favor of candid lyricism.
It’s not a surprise given the mountain of controversies they had to wade through to get to this point. Mostly recorded within the span of a week, the record is essentially a coping mechanism for each member as the energy all of them bring just bounce right off the charts. Striking while the iron’s hot, the group proved that losing a core member did little to stop their momentum; and as the first part of a new trilogy, they’ve successfully created a firm foundation for the future of Brockhampton.
21. J Cole – K.O.D
The concept for K.O.D is a noble one – essentially an antithesis to the drug-filled lifestyle of many of today’s young rap stars – J Cole sends out a warning to the potentially short-lived careers that many of them are setting themselves up for. Beyond that, Cole also laments on the dangers that their influence could have on the kids. Preaching without being patronizing, it’s a captivating message that needs to be heard.
Yet musically, the album fails to support the concept as well as it should have. Rapping over trap beats and signature J Cole production, he falls short of creating an electrifying album that the intended audience would have naturally flocked to. Instead, K.O.D is an ‘old head’ album that excels at showing off Cole’s strengths. Unfortunately, it fails to bring anything new to the table but even at his most competent, J Cole is still miles above his competition.