You know what time it is! List time! Because we are nothing if not list makers. Actually, this site pretends to pass off original content but we’re really about the lists. Seriously though, I love lists because they’re a good way to pick everyone’s mind. I often find a few things I missed during the year. I’m only one man, so I can’t listen to everything. So I present to you, my list of best albums for 2018.
(Note: June 15th was my cutoff so don’t expect any recent releases. Haven’t had time to sit with those albums)
10. J. Cole – KOD
Although I’m not one of those J. Cole fans, I always make an argument about his importance. My argument was looking very funny after 4 Your Eyez Only. While this album is very much everything you expect from a J. Cole album, it’s his best since Born Sinner. Cole sounds like he has something to rap about again and I’m happy about it.
9. Rae Sremmurd – Sremm 3
These guys must be crazy. Not only did they go the Speakerboxx/Love Below route but they decided to throw in a group album for extra measure. I respect this move because there’s no other group interesting enough to pull this off. While not quite Outkast, Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee make one of hip-hop’s most fun groups.
8. Maxo Kream – Punken
I won’t lie, I find myself conflicted when it comes to “problematic” raps these days. My core beliefs have evolved to a place that makes it seem hypocritical to listen to certain rappers. No matter what, I’m still a fan of good rappers and Maxo Kream is a good rapper. No matter how “problematic”, Maxo Kream’s vivid and gritty street tales are a must-listen for 2018.
7. Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap
Nipsey is the best not-so-great rapper out and that sounds like a sly diss but it isn’t. His delivery is simple but he speaks to you directly. His music is no frills. You know what you’re getting when you press play on his album. It just works. Victory Lap is probably my favorite Nipsey album front to back. He’s mastered his formula and it shows.
6. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
Trying to explain Young Fathers to someone is trying to sell someone on escargot. If you can get past the salty, slimy taste, it’s pretty good. That description alone is probably why I’ll never have escargot and why I’ll never try to sell you on Young Father. If you’re brave enough, the experience is worth it. Cocoa Sugar is their most focus outing so far. It’s an eclectic mix of acid hip-hop, electro music, Afro-beat and more. Through the dissonance are beautiful moments of harmony. There’s really nothing else like it.
(A video isn’t good enough, I had to post their performance)
5. Phonte – No News is Good News
New Tigallo! New Tigallo! New Tigallo! It’s always pretty exciting when Phonte drops something new. He splits his days between rapping and singing so fans are eager to hear him rap again. No News is Good News is exactly what the fans wanted. Phonte makes relateable, grown-man raps sound cool. Nobody else could pull off a song like “Expensive Genes”. Nobody.
4. Trouble – Edgewood
I used to get on Twitter every six months and ask “Why isn’t Trouble bigger?”. Seems like he had all the makings of a star but nothing quite materialized. Maybe it was legal issues, flipping back and forth between labels, who knows? Edgewood is the album I’ve been waiting on Trouble to make since I first heard his December 17th mixtape. Produced by Mike Will, it’s a very focused album with a specific sound. Easily one of the top albums this year.
3. K.L.U.B. Monsta – When Gawd Ready
I like to champion local hip-hop because Alabama has an underground scene that’s refusing to stay under the surface. It’s ready to rise at any moment. So, when something is good, I try to pass it along. K.L.U.B. Monsta’s When Gawd Ready isn’t good, it’s great. It draws comparisons to classic Southern sounds while introducing other unique sounds into the fold. It’s easy to see this group has great chemistry and they three-man weave on every track. If you haven’t given it a listen, make sure you check it out. Thank me later.
2. Pusha T – Daytona
Rap is a young man’s sport. Always has been. Every great rapper has a shelf-life unless your name is Shawn Corey Carter (And even then, “Cake…cake cake cake cake”). After a certain age, skills diminish and there’s nothing left to say. At forty-one years old, Pusha T is better than ever. He showed glimpses of growth on King Push: Darkest Before Dawn but Daytona is his “Best rapper alive” proclamation. He’s always been in the conversation but the solo output wasn’t there. This album gets straight to the point and has little time to waste. He’s finally found his sound. It’s never too late.
1. Saba – Care for Me
On any given day, my #1 and #2 are interchangeable. Pusha T is one of my favorite rappers ever and Daytona is easily my favorite solo album from him, but I can’t deny a special album by someone else. Although inspired by tragic events, Care for Me is the results of stars aligning. It’s one of those few albums every few years that’s truly meaningful. I can’t sing its praises much more than I already have, so I’m just going to tell you to check it out for yourself.
That concludes my list. Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite albums of the year so far?