35 Best Albums of 2018
Ah, the end of the year. The time where everyone debates which albums were good, which ones were bad, and which shouldn’t ever be played again.
A lot of the albums I had on my previous list didn’t make the cut. After 5 months of thinking and listening to new releases, everything changed.
PS: The link for each album is embedded into the title.
So here it is:
35. Fetti – Curren$y, Freddie gibbs, the alchemist
This deadly trio made a case for collab album of the year. With excellent production from The Alchemist, a seemingly reinvigorated Curren$y, and a hungry Freddie Gibbs, Fetti is a home run. The chemistry is phenomenal, and at a brisk nine tracks, the album has no filler to deal with. I’ll take a second album from this collective any day of the week.
Highlights: Location Remote, Willie Lloyd, Saturday Night Special
34. Good thing – leon bridges
It’s as if the 60s are reborn with Leon Bridges new project. He blends both the classic sound with new R&B tendencies with ease. His production is breezy and Bridges smooth vocals are radiant throughout the entirety of the album. It’s a pleasant listen throughout and some songs will throw you directly into your feelings, but when it sounds this beautiful, can one really complain?
Standouts: Bad Bad News, Beyond, If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
33. A brief inquiry into online relationships – the 1975
Early reviews suggested that A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was this generation’s Ok Computer. While there are certain songs that could easily be found in a Radiohead project (“How to Draw / Petrichor”), the third album from the British rock band is an ambitious effort that lands its feet right on the ground. Despite a few misses on the project, the album is poignant, relatable, and accessible. It’s certainly not a Radiohead project, but it tries valiantly to stand out like one.
Highlights: Love It If We Made It, How to Draw / Petrichor, I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
32. Black Panther: the album – various artists
Typically, soundtracks meant to accompany movies suck. The songs are cookie-cutter and really shallow. However, Black Panther: The Album is a different beast. I had doubts about it when it was announced, but when I saw Kendrick Lamar’s name attached to it, hope loomed over me. If there was one guy who could make a great soundtrack it’s this guy (Editor’s Note: Future makes a solid case as well). The album is consistently solid throughout its duration and the songs don’t necessarily even need Kendrick to succeed. There’s a bit of everything on this album, from traditional African sounds to more familiar gangsta raps. It holds up well, even if the pop-sensitive songs weigh down the overall quality of it.
Highlights: X (Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Saudi), Opps (Vince Staples, Kendrick Lamar, Yugen Blakrok), King’s Dead (Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future)
31. Pieces of a man – mick jenkins
Mick Jenkins’ second studio album is hazy, weed smoke-covered affair. The production hasn’t evolved all that much from his previous effort, but Mick’s solid bars and thoughtful tracks go a long to show that he’s an elite MC with a knack for developing conceptual albums that play to his strengths. It’s lyrically dense, but the beats don’t weigh it down as other “lyrical” albums tend to do. Take a seat and appreciate the wonderful rapping of a man who’s still as hungry as he was on The Water[s].
30. Harlan & Alondra – Buddy
Buddy’s west coast influenced debut album is a joy to get through. With some clear influences from 90s Los Angeles legends and a few from this decade, Buddy captures the essence of G-Funk and modern hip hop. He enlists the help of Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign, A$AP Ferg, Guapdad 4000, and the great Snoop Dogg and each of them add their own flare on their respective tracks.
Highlights: Hey Up There (feat. Ty Dolla $ign), Stuck On Central, Shameless (feat. Guapdad 4000)
29. Quarterthing – joey purp
Savemoney’s Joey Purp follows up his iiidrops mixtape from 2017 with an equally eclectic body of work. The production is a highlight as Purp finds a way to flow masterfully over a variety of beats. Purp is a great rapper who doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls that other lyrically focused rappers do; he knows how to make an album. The guests on this project provide a nice touch as RZA, GZA, Ravyn Lenae among a few others lend their voices to this project.
Highlights: Aw Sh*t!, Elastic, LeBron James
28. Honeybloom – choker
If you’re a fan of Frank Ocean, then Honeybloom is probably the album for you. He is a clear product of Ocean, but this project does enough to distinguish himself. The production is lush, the songwriting is strong, and Choker’s performance is a breath of fresh air.
Highlights: Starfruit LA, Windbreaker, Juno
27. Lost & Found – Jorja Smith
British singer Jorja Smith began raising a few eyebrows when she appeared on the standout track “Get It Together” off of Drake’s 2017 playlist, More Life. Having already released some singles such as “Blue Lights” and “Teenage Fantasy”, it was easy to see her future rising in a big way. Her debut, Lost & Found, is a quiet album that focuses on Smith’s sultry voice and elegant songwriting.
Highlights: February 3rd, Teenage Fantasy, Blue Lights
26. Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae
The third album from the Janelle Monae is a funky R&B groove session that showcases her versatility. She hops on beats that sound like they could’ve been found on a Prince record (“Make Me Feel”). Other songs are socially aware such as “Django Jane” and “Screwed” featuring the great Zoe Kravitz. Between Monae’s voice and the great production backing her, Dirty Computer set the bar high early on in the year.
25. Fleurever – Jazz Cartier
Jazz Cartier’s debut album is also his strongest project yet. It’s dark, but catchy. It’s aggressive at times and gentle at others. While it succeeds at showcasing Cartier’s talent behind the mic, it also shows that he’s capable of crafting a solid listening experience.
Highlights: Gliss, IDWFIL, Godflower
24. Hive Mind – The internet
The true potential of funk/R&B band, The Internet comes to fruition on Hive Mind. Syd’s fantastic vocals lead the album in a smooth and sexy direction while her bandmates contribute to an equally satisfying musical palette. They clearly work well together. The songs don’t lag behind in any way. If Ego Death was their Batman Begins, then Hive Mind is The Dark Knight.
Highlights: Come Over, La Di Da, It Gets Better (With Time)
23. Die Lit – Playboi Carti
Call it Soundcloud Rap. Call it empty songs. Call it whatever you want, but Die Lit is one of the most fun projects of all year. The production is addictive and obscure. Carti’s adlibs and deliveries are insanely amusing, and, most of all, the project isn’t a slog to get through despite its 19 tracks. It’s consistently great and the only people hating on this album probably haven’t even heard it.
Highlights: R.I.P., Choppa Won’t Miss, Fell in Luv, Shoota
22. TA13OO – Denzel curry
TA1300, the conceptual album from Florida native Denzel Curry is a dark, loud, and aggressive project that showcases the rapper’s range. The album is split into a “Light”, “Gray”, and “Dark” which sounds exactly like it’s described. It starts with an accessible first act and descends into further insanity as the tracklist progresses. It is by far Curry’s best project yet that showcases his limitless potential.
Highlights: TABOO | TA13OO, CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N, VENGEANCE | VENGEANCE [FEAT. JPEGMAFIA & ZillaKami]
21. Veteran – jpegmafia
It’s hard to describe Veteran as anything else other than absolute fucking insanity. Comparable in energy to TA13OO, it’s certainly the wild ride itself. Peggy succeeds at delivering crazy verses over even crazier instrumentals that stands out as one of the best left-field hip hop albums of 2018. He defies every norm of hip hop with Veteran by not adhering to any of the styles set in by bigger artists. This Peggy’s world and we’re just living in it.
Highlights:Baby I’m Bleeding, Panic Emoji, I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morissey Dies
20. Drip Harder – Lil Baby & Gunna
The collaborative effort from Lil Baby & Gunna simply works. While both being products of Young Thug, their styles mesh together in a way that sounds original. Not one consistently outshines the other; both rappers are at home on Drip Harder.
Highlights: Belly, Close Friends, Drip Too Hard
19. Dicaprio 2 – j.i.d.
A disciple of King Kendrick and a comparable voice make it easy to dismiss JID as a just a clone. That couldn’t be more wrong. While JID isn’t shy of his influences, DiCaprio 2 is a creative milestone for the Dreamville rapper. With his quick flow, poignant lyrics, and his excellent selection of beats, JID places himself at the top of his own label, surpassing the head J Cole.
Highlights: Slick Talk, Off Deez (feat. J Cole), Off Da Zoinkys
18. El Mal Querer – Rosalia
El Mal Querer is a concept album rooted in Spanish flamenco. The project follows a toxic relationship going through the motions. Rosalia’s voice is fantastic and often a show stopper. Though it’s a brief 30 minutes and sung entirely in Spanish, the second studio album of the young singer is captivating. Each song is considered to be its own chapter so the filler is thankfully kept to a minimum. It’s a gripping story that deserves more recognition than it’s currently receiving.
Highlights: Malamente – Cap.1: Augurio, Bagdad – Cap.7: Liturgia, De Aqui No Sales – Cap4. Disputa
17. East Atlanta Love letter- 6lack
The curse of the sophomore slump has plagued many artists. After 6lack’s excellent debut, Free 6lack, expectations for this album were at an all time high. Despite a few misses towards the end of the soundtrack, East Atlanta Love Letter is a clear step forward. Doubling down on the dark and slowed R&B from his debut, the Atlanta crooner uses his voice masterfully detailing failing relationships all across the album.
Highlights: East Atlanta Love Letter (feat. Future), Sorry, Nonchalant
16. Beast mode 2 – Future x zaytoven
Ah, the original new age mumble rapper. “How can we like his music if we don’t understand what he’s saying?” Leave these criticisms at home when listening to Beast Mode 2 because this is the strongest I’ve seen Future in a long time. His harmonizes remain unmatched and Zaytoven’s production is sharp and consistently dark. He keeps it nice and short at 9 tracks making it an easy project to digest all while making each song feel unique.
Highlights: Racks Blue, Red Lights
15. Invasion of privacy – cardi b
Admittedly, I was not a fan of Cardi when Bodak Yellow dropped. But as her newer singles dropped, I started liking her more and more. I was really shocked when she dropped this album because there was a sense of cohesiveness to it. The album fucking bangs from front to back. Sure, the lyrical aspect isn’t particularly revolutionary, but who is listening to Cardi for her insightfulness? She makes great bangers and even when she does decide to get a bit more introspective (Thru Your Phone, Be Careful), she does so without sounding annoying. Really the shocker of the year so far if you ask me.
Highlights: Get Up 10, I Do, Best Life, Thru Your Phone
14. Noir – Smino
Smino’s second studio album is unlike anything else you’ve heard this year. With a mastered sing-songy flow and wonderful falsetto, the St-Louis rapper’s voice is more than enough to make you want more. The album is definitely raunchy, but that shouldn’t sway you. Noir is a great follow-up to a great debut from 2017. Watch out, Smino wil crack the top 10 eventually.
13. FM! – Vince Staples
Though less ambitious than Summertime 06 & Big Fish Theory, FM! is filled to the brim with bangers. As one might assume, the FM represents the radio. With skits scattered all across the short project, it does truly feel like you’re tuning in to a Los Angeles radio stations. Hell, Vince even managed to pull out an Earl Sweatshirt feature from the depths of oblivion, even if it was for a brief 30 second interlude. It’s a fun 22 minute project that succeeds in every way.
Highlights: FUN!, Outisde!, Tweakin’
12. Some rap songs – earl sweatshirt
After almost four years, Earl has surfaced book to us with a small collection of songs aptly titled Some Rap Songs. Another 20 minute album, this project is not an easy listen. It’s dark, Earl’s raps are hard to decipher and the musicality to it makes it a rather inaccessible album. Despite those criticisms, Some Rap Songs is Earl’s defining album. It’s a broken look into the mind of a man who’s seen his fair share of struggles. It’s not an easy look, but it’s a rewarding one. Earl is back.
Highlights: Shattered Dreams, December 24, The Mint (feat. Navy Blue)
11. Room 25 – noname
Room 25 is the second official project from coveted rapper Noname. She proves her rap skills aren’t a joke by going in on every single track on this album. From the brief, catchy intro “Self” to the beautiful outro, “no name”, the young artist is full of energy and ambition. She flows excellently over the beats provided and makes full use of her guests (see Saba and Smino on “Ace”). Noname isn’t just a “female rapper”, she’s one of the best rappers out today and dammit she released one hell of an album.
Highlights: Blaxpoitation, Ace (feat. Saba & Smino), With You
10. Isolation – Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis’s debut Isolation is a unique R&B flavor for 2018. She has this sexy vibe that works for her all across the album. She adds a flair to each of her songs that make them uniquely Kali. The production is summery and happy, Uchis’ vocals are really strong, and the length is perfect. Her collaborators are used intricately and none of them manage to overshine Kali, but they do make the tracks they appear on that much more special.
Highlights: Miami (feat. BIA), Just a Stranger (feat. Steve Lacy), In My Dreams, After the Storm (feat. Tyler, the Creator & Bootsy Collins)
9. Iridescence – Brockhampton
After an excellent trilogy of albums in 2017, Brockhampton had all eyes on them. Their newest album, Iridescence, is a harsh left turn for the boy band. It’s far more experimental than any of the Saturation entries. Despite the loss of Ameer Vann, the band picks up the slack with everyone contributing in more ways. It’s been a tough year amid the scandal, but they seem to be all right. This project won’t satisfy everyone, but it’s a good artistic push.
Highlights: Weight, Tape, Berlin, San Marcos
8. negro swan – blood orange
The newest effort from Devontee Hynes’ Blood Orange moniker as a deep look into the life of a black man in the 2010s. He addresses many different topics ranging from love to depression. It’s an inclive effort as Hynes sings about black depression, queer identity, and struggles during his youth. However, it’s not as dark as it sounds. In fact, Negro Swan is a very hopeful album. It’s bright and colorful. Hynes’ voice and songwriting are showstoppers here. Hynes also manages to produce a bulk of the album himself thanks to his incredible talent as a multi-instrumentalist. This might very well be Hynes’ strongest project to date.
Highlights: Orlando, Hope, Saint
7. Analogue – odie
Out of nowhere, ODIE drops one of the most interesting, debut projects this year. The second debut project to be featured in the top 5, Analogue is ODIE introducing himself in a pool of Toronto rappers that share a sound carved out by Drake. This does not sound like the vintage “Toronto” sound but draws some influence from it. ODIE’s songwriting is sharp and introspective and the beats offer a sense of surrealism. It’s a short project with no filler and each song stands out on its own. He’s paving his own way and it shows.
Highlights: North Face, Faith, Midnight
6. Whack world – tierra whack
In a year where long-as-hell albums are (unfortunately) becoming a trend, it’s nice to see artists switch it up. This short, 15-minute project is perhaps the most creative album of the year. There are 15 tracks on Whack World each lasting a full 60 seconds. The album flows naturally and each song is a hit. There are absolutely no misses here. Whack transitions effortlessly to full fledged singing ballads to rapping among the best. Oh, and there’s an accompanying video that perfectly complements the album. She’s a tour-de-force that should not be overlooked going into the new year.
Highlights: Flea Market, Fuck Off, Pretty Ugly, Fruit Salad
5. Swimming – mac miller
2018 broke my heart. After receiving one of the best, saddest, gloomiest, yet hopeful albums of the year, Mac Miller tragically passed away from a drug overdose. To say he was taken early from us would be an understatement. However, his parting gift to us, Swimming, is a 45 minute therapy session. Mac addresses the demons he’s been plagued with. He talks about his drug use, self-care, his breakup with Ariana Grande, and life in general all across the record. It’s a fitting goodbye to one of the most consistent rappers of the decade.
Highlights: What’s the Use, Self Care, Jet Fuel
4. Astroworld – travis scott
After a mediocre release in Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, I was worried that perhaps Travis was stuck in a bit of a lull. “Butterfly Effect”, the album’s lead single, underwhelmed me when it came out in 2017. However, fast forward a year and Travis dropped what may be his project yet. Neck in neck with Days Before Rodeo, the newest effort from the Texas native finds the rapper experimenting with different beats, flows, and guests. The run from “Stargazing” to “No Bystanders” is unparalled on any other album this year. Don’t let that previous statement make you think the rest is weak. It’s very strong. Astroworld is Travis’ playground and he invited all of us to join him.
Highlights: Stargazing, Sicko Mode, Can’t Say
3. Daytona – pusha t
Coke raps, aggressive flows, and nasty production included, this is clearly the best solo effort from Pusha T. While clocking in at 7 songs and 21 minutes, DAYTONA began the streak of short albums produced by Kanye West; the production is Kanye at his best. Pusha’s lyrics don’t change the game but his flows are as sharp as ever. This album finds Pusha at his cruelest and meanest. The way he flows on the tracks is fantastic and his ending that included some shade at Drake fueled the album’s fire even more. It’s a cutthroat project that begs to be in your face. Here’s hoping Pusha T continues his hot streak with next album.
Highlights: The Games We Play, Come Back Baby, Santeria, Infrared
2. Care for me – Saba
Saba delivers a brutally honest album in the form of Care for Me. The general themes are death and depression as the Chicago rapper deals with the recent murder of his cousin John Walt. It’s a pain that no one should have to deal with, but Saba uses this album as a coping mechanism. In short, it works. Jazzy beats are spread across this album and the lyricism present might just be the best of all year. It may not be an easy project to get by, not because it’s long, but because it’s heavy. It takes a lot of courage to make a project like this and I can compare its themes, albeit minimally, to 2017’s A Crow Looked At Me. While not as dark, Care for Me deals with death and depression in the best way possible.
Highlights: Busy / Sirens, Calligraphy, Fighter, Life
1. Kids see ghosts – kids see ghosts
Kanye West at #1. Who would’ve thought? A lot of people have turned away from Kanye due to his antics this year, but musically, Mr. West is still at the top of his game. This time around, he recruits Kid Cudi to form the group Kids See Ghosts. The result? The best album of the year and, quite frankly, Kid Cudi’s best work ever. It’s even fair to say that Cudi is stronger than West on this project. Regardless of who did better, this album is near perfect. Once again clocking in at 7 songs, the 23 minutes it runs for are 23 perfect ones. From Kanye using his voice in an indescribable way on Feel the Love to Cudi’s outstanding chorus on Reborn, this project is a creative accomplishment for both artists. It’s a rap-rock collaboration that should not have worked, but here we are, with the best album of 2018.
Highlights: Feel the Love, 4th Dimension, Reborn, Cudi Montage