Thomas' Top 10 Albums of 2018
Streaming has taken the music industry by the throat in 2018. Since streaming has become the primary way consumers get their music, content has been easier and easier to come by and consequently, 2018 has been a historic year for hip hop. There are albums that pain me to leave off of this list, that probably would have made a top 10 list in years past.
We’ve also seen a year with a lot of surprises. Spoiler, my list has three albums by Dreamville artists and J. Cole is not one of them. As a J. Cole stan, it pains me to admit there were ten albums better than KOD, let alone three on his own label. Maybe this is just a sign Cole is following in the footsteps of his own boss Jay-Z in becoming a primary ear for talent. I mean Cole even joined himself as the only artist to go platinum with no features for the third time in a row and I still couldn’t find a spot for KOD putting my own biases aside.
I mean really we even had Lil Wayne return from his hiatus from the game (yes, we’re going to pretend I Am Not A Human Being II never happened). This list was relatively difficult to make, not because of lack of quality but because of how hard it was to cut albums I never wanted to admit weren’t top 10.
This list is NOT my 10 favorite projects of the last year, it’s what I believe to be the top tier of albums based off of quality alone. I’ll stop rambling and get to the point, without further adieu, my top 10 albums of 2018:
10. Dope Boy Diaries….. by DTheFlyest
The Brockton, Massachusetts native is still a relative unknown despite catching a Lil Baby feature on his debut album. The Baby assisted track, “Fugazi,” is a masterpiece and DTheFlyest showcases a melodic ability that compliments his hard-hitting content. “Fugazi” is undoubtedly the track drawing attention to the Brockton native’s album but the rest of the album carries an addictive sound that combines the new school move towards a more melodic sound while staying true to his roots to produce a sort of new school gangster subgenre of rap in the mold of his counterpart Lil Baby. The flyest in the city is putting on for the Massachusetts rap scene and could easily become a star if he gets the listens the quality of his album warrants.
9. Milky Way by Bas
Bas is the original sidekick to J. Cole on their label, Dreamville Records. He began to take a backseat to newer Dreamville signees like Cozz and J.I.D despite his seniority. But the Queens rapper came into his own with the release of Milky Way, a refreshing project that masters the balance between substance, sound and lyricism, resulting in his best project to date.
8. Swimming by Mac Miller
Mac Miller’s Swimming was a musical evolution for the artist. Mac returns to the melodic tendencies of Watching Movies with the Sound Off while adding a more upbeat twist in an experiment that pays off. Swimming is a sad story in that the album was the most substance heavy project of Mac’s career. The upbeat sound was a decision by the Pittsburgh native to send a positive message through the tales of his own life and career. Mac never got the credit he deserved as one of the best artists and lyricists of his generation and Swimming is a beautiful capstone to the rappers tragically short career. Rest in peace to a real one and a great that had an influence on his fan’s lives that can’t be truly put into words.
7. Effected by Cozz
Dreamville album number two on my top 10 comes in at number seven with Cozz’s sophomore project. Cozz is on his way to stardom through an elite storytelling ability and a unique sound that combines hard bars over bass heavy production. Effected is music made to bump in your car from the production to the tale-telling and ambition infused lyricism. Catching features from Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, Cozz proves he can hold his own with the best of them.
6. Kids See Ghosts by Kids See Ghosts
Kanye and Cudi’s reunion was long awaited and ended up being well worth it. Both rappers are elite artists and putting their musical ability side by side is a recipe for greatness. The substance of Cudi’s music brought a similar emotional relevance out of Kanye for the project. Kanye also came with some great verses that fit like a puzzle piece alongside Cudi’s unparalleled melodic greatness. It’s a sort of personal bias, but I’m not a fan of the seven song album and if this project was a bit longer I can’t help but think it’d be higher on the list.
5. Daytona by Pusha T
Another good music project comes in at number five. Push keeps doing what Push does on Daytona and that is at the same time it’s greatest strength and biggest weakness. There’s isn’t a lot of variety in subject matter on the album, which makes for a hard project revolving around the Clipse rappers drug-dealing past in the same mold of his past discography.The samples on this album are of the nature that only an artist as lyrically skilled as Push could master and some riskier picks paid off for the GOOD Music exec. This project also sparked the feud between Push and Drake with not-so-subliminal subliminal diss tracks like “What Would Meek Do?” and “Infrared,” which ended in one of the better rap beefs of recent memory. I can’t help but give more credit to Daytona as a result of the uproar the album ultimately caused in the game.
4. Redemption by Jay Rock
The senior member of TDE came out of nowhere with one of the year’s most complete albums. “Jay Rock has always been conscious of his subject matter, but on Redemption, Johnny McKinzie mastered all of his strengths and attacked his prior weaknesses, without sacrificing his own musical character, to result in his most complete LP to date, and that is to take no credit away from the quality of the production.”
3. DiCaprio 2 by J.I.D.
J. Cole’s newest signee has become a fan favorite in rap circles. With an unmatched versatility to either flow at the speed of light, paint a vivid picture, drop insanely complex lyrics and metaphors or produce an incomparable melodic sound, J.I.D. brings it all on DiCaprio 2. A relative newcomer to the game, J.I.D spits like a veteran on an album that mastered almost every possible aspect of hip-hop without sacrificing a consistent and complete sound unique to the Atlanta native.
2. Vacation in Hell by Flatbush Zombies
Flatbush Zombies dropped the most underappreciated project of the year. The Zombies are the best group in the game producing consistent content at the moment. The trio’s ability to make up for each other’s weaknesses and diversify their sound and content make for one of the year’s best albums. Despite Vacation in Hell being a bit lengthy, I don’t see a skippable song on the project and that can be credited to the group’s ability to stray away from trends in the game while maintaining an elite lyrical mastery and staying true to their own outsider image. Nobody and nothing can be compared to Vacation in Hell and the revolutionary sound of the Beast Coast members.
1. Astroworld by Travis Scott
Travis Scott has taken a hold on the rap game. We all expected an addictive sound that is fit for listening in any and all situations, but the real value of the album comes from what no one expected Travis to do. Though by no means an elite lyricist yet, Travis conquered his own weakness in venturing out to expand his lyrical and metaphorical ability. Cactus Jack showed an immense amount of growth on this album in that he showcased a level of emotional substance we hadn’t yet seen from the Houston rapper. Astroworld takes the crown as album of the year due to a song making ability unmatched by anyone in the game, great production and just enough lyricism and substance to give the album true staying power.
Honorable Mention: East Atlanta Love Letter by 6LACK, FM! By Vince Staples, Harder than Ever by Lil Baby
Written by Thomas Herron