Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know 2018 has been a great year for Hip-Hop. From debut albums to the return of icons in the rap game, in 2018 rap has changed. Love This Track has broken down the best Hip-Hop albums of the year. The death of several rappers, makes this list a somewhat sober one. However, as time moves on, the style of rap as whole will continue to evolve. In no particular order, check out our list below!
Migos – Culture II
Label: Quality Control Music/ Mowtown/ Capitol Records, Inc.
Released: January 26
Clocking in at one hour and fifteen minutes, Migos produces one the most fun albums of the year. Playing like a club mix, Migos’ album is best in its simplicity. Though it does mix it up, Culture II is unified in themes of wealth and flexing. With features from Drake and Big Sean, this album is solid.
XXXTENTACION – ?
Label: Empire Distribution, Records, and Publishing/ Caroline Distribution/ Capitol Music Group/ Bad Vibes Forever
Released: March 16
The late rapper’s final record must be included in this list simply for the way it redefined our view of XXXTENTACION. Even with this pop direction, X’s depressed subject matter is clear. He expresses feelings of brokeness on “Moonlight,” while he croons melodically. On “Sad!” X’s emotional turmoil comes even more to the surface. As he tries to work through these emotions, the album becomes more heart wrenching, such as on “changes.” Even in death, X has an impact on us and our understanding of how music interacts with real life.
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Label: Atlantic Records
Released: April 5
To break from the emotional hip-hop, we have Cardi B’s pop culture reference fuel. From her signature ad libs, to her bars about rising to fame, Cardi’s debut satisfies. Her flow and material are unique in her execution. From stripping to her blatant disregard for how you feel about her. This only elevates her abilities, by focusing on her own introspection while also having enough fun to avoid being too emotional. On this album, Cardi hits the sweet spot between excited self-realization and understated vulnerability.
J Cole- K.O.D.
Label: Dreamville Records/ ROC Nation, LLC/ Interscope Records
Released: April 20
In the much awaited fifth album by J. Cole, we are engaged smooth jazz stylings to contrast its dark themes. His feelings on the different forms of addiction are displayed clearly here. Cole discusses obsession with women on “Photograph” and “Kevin’s Heart”. On the latter he deals with the implications of cheating through Kevin Hart’s publicized issues with the very same. “ATM” coalesces the prominent theme of capitalist obsession through album, with Cole aligning it with the root of evil. Similarly, the repetition on “Friends” highlights ignorance of the problems of others. This album is an indictment of the very same drug culture heralded by other rappers.
Post Malone – beerbongs and bentleys
Label: Republic Records
Released: April 27
Post Malone’s drug fueled rap is fun and stands out for its unabashed commitment to utilizing drug culture to discuss issues of fame and relationships. On “Rich & Sad,” Malone fights for a relationship in the face of fame. But for Malone, wealth can also be something worth flaunting if you’ve earned it, such as on “Psycho.” His search for the perfect woman drives “Same Bitches” and his need for closure drives “Over Now.” In the iconic “rockstar,” Malone evokes the traditions of old school rock music. Malone’s second album has made him one of the most relevant rappers of the year.
Playboi Carti – Die Lit
Label: AWGE/ Interscope Records
Released: May 11
As trap’s prodigal son, Carti establishes himself as one of the best in his debut album. Similar to Post Malone, Carti considers himself a rockstar on “Love Hurts,” acknowledging how fame has changed his life. Further, on “R.I.P.” Carti expands on the role wealth has had on his relationships. With this album, Playboi Carti has cemented himself as a fixture of trap.
Juice WRLD – Goodbye & Good Riddance
Label: Interscope Records/ Grade A Records
Released: May 23
As a stalwart of a new wave of emo rap, Juice Wrld has redefined what emo rap can be. With guitar riffs, pop samples, and vocals, Goodbye & Good Riddance displays an alternative approach to rap. In addition, Juice Wrld’s discussion of psychological problems shows his divergence from the rest of the hip-hop community. Utilizing skits to isolate the core of his broken state throughout the album illuminates our takeaway from the album: relationships are hard.
A$AP Rocky – Testing
Label: ASAP Worldwide/ Polo Grounds Music/ RCA Records
Released: May 25
Rocky discusses aspects of his real life on this sonically experimental album. His themes for the album focus on several aspects of his fame, finding his place, and the effects of loss. Rocky’s amazing flow on “A$AP Forever” and the Kodak Black feature on “Calldrops” are some of the best of the album. Rocky also shines on the Frank Ocean assisted Purity, finding issues with his own success yet still seeing the importance of that fame for his family. He delves into his own spirituality on “Praise the Lord” by finding the place between faith and the sometimes monotonous, sometimes traumatic events of his life. Overall, Rocky is both pensive and pleasing, you’ll be listening to it on repeat.
Pusha T- Daytona
Label: GOOD Music/ Def Jam Recordings
Released: May 25
Though mired in controversy for his “Story of Adidon,” Pusha T drives further into intensity with this album. The Kanye production assist Pusha’s lyrics provide for a tight, fully realized album. His dealing lifestyle is front and center, and he expects us to understand. Such as on “If You Know You Know” and “The Games We Play,” Pusha argues the importance of realness. In an anthem to his own skill, Pusha raps emphatically on “What Would Meek Do?” No matter the thoughts on his controversy with Drake, this album is one of his best.
Kids See Ghosts- KIDS SEE GHOSTS
Label: GOOD Music/ Def Jam Recordings
Released: June 8
Following Kanye’s solo album, he returns with collaborator Kid Cudi to become Kids See Ghosts. On this collaboration, Kanye’s focus on production and Kid Cudi’s focus on emotional lyrics serve to create a balanced piece. In contrast with Kanye’s own album, sounds are cohesive across songs. Less critically conflicting, this is a deep album. On songs such as “Feel the Love” and “Kids See Ghosts” repetition leads to moments of unexpected bars and great flows. Neither artist outshines the other, and on “Fire” they synthesize a sound unlike any other. For all their similarities over the years, they come together to form something new with Kids See Ghosts.
The Carters- EVERYTHING IS LOVE
Label: Parkwood Entertainment/ Sony Music/ S. Carter Records/ Roc Nation, LLC
Released: June 16
In an extravaganza of hip-hop and R&B, Beyonce and Jay-Z blow us away with a collaboration under a new name: The Carters. The name and album symbolize the synergy of hip-hop’s royal family. With Jay-Z’s understated lyrics throughout most of the album, Beyonce arrives in front and stays there. Beyonce dominates on “Boss,” a song about her own boss status. On “Black Effect” Jay-Z relies on his distinct flow to elevate his own blackness beyond his sometimes overshadowing wealth. The Carters discuss their problem with friendship on “Friends” in the aftermath of conflict with Kanye and Kim. Most of the album however, is a discussion of their own relationship issues in one way way or another, becoming a very entertaining public therapy session.
Drake – Scorpion
Label: Young Money Records/ Cash Money Records/ Republic Records
Released: June 29
Through controversy and public embarrassment, Drake recovers excellently in this album. Drake’s focus on the effects of his wealth on his family and his insecurities about starting his own family. Though he still relies on his wealth, he now shows understanding of his responsibilities to those he cares about. Drake’s album leans more towards R&B than any of his previous albums, highlighting the shift towards R&B within hip-hop as a whole.
Denzel Curry – TA13OO
Label: Loma Vista Recordings/ PH Records
Released: July 27
The disconnect between artist and fan, between fame and reality. These are the themes Denzel Curry focuses on as we travel deeper into his mind. As he raps about the darker topics, he brings depth to a well produced and intense album. On “Clout Cobain” Curry considers how flawed drug culture is and what it means for its supporters. With “Sirens” he tears down all forms of American violence along with J.I.D. and Billie Eilish. His references to Pokemon, Disney, police brutality, and death make for an in-depth analysis of society’s biggest flaws and undiscussed issues.
Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD
Label: Grand Hustle Records/ Epic Records/ Cactus Jack Records
Released: August 3
Travis Scott’s third album expand his self-created mythology and serve to continue his series of well-received albums. Utilizing production by Tame Impala and Thundercat, with vocals from Frank Ocean, James Blake, and Juice Wrld, Scott creates an engaging and emotionally honest album. Discussing the themes of the negative effects of stardom, his relationship issues, and what it takes to be a successful artist. “Stop Trying to be God” boasts a phenomenal Stevie Wonder solo, elevating Scott’s style to another level. His love for the city of Houston shines through both the album and the artist’s upcoming Astroworld Festival taking place there. The interweaving of meaning and auditory bliss makes this album one of Scott’s best.
Mac Miller – Swimming
Label: REMember Music/ Warner Bros. Records
Released: August 3
Following his death, Mac Miller album on emotional health, has become has magus opus. On Self Care, Miller defied views of how he dealt with the breakup. Miller talked through the effects of the breakup on “Hurt Feelings” and found that growth suited him. Miller’s emotional hurt clearly drove the album, but also served to illuminate the deeper parts of Miller. Those are the parts that dealt with depression and had a disdain for the media. This album was Miller’s journal of therapeutic exercises that just happened to sound amazing.
Nicki Minaj – QUEEN
Label: Young Money Entertainment/ Cash Money Records
Release Date: August 10
The queen of rap returns with an electric album. In her fourth album, Nicki Minaj has released a series of hits bound to be on our minds and in our ears for years to come. With a feature from Eminem on “Majesty” Minaj raps about power and fame. On “Barbie Dreams” Minaj raps over a Biggie’s beat to reverses gender roles and takes on some of her male counterparts. “Coco Chanel” deals more with the effect of being a female artist surrounded by men. This album is one of Minaj’s best and blows away the competition.
Bas – Milky Way
Label: Dreamville Records/ Interscope Records
Released: August 24
In his third album, Bas continues to strive for self-affirmation. The most relaxed album yet, “Milky Way,” sets the listener up to blaze through the tracks. In “Boca Raton” Bas is joined by A$AP Ferg to rap about chilling in the titular South Florida city. The theme of self-affirmation is at its most effective with “Tribe.” From the influence of close relationships and featuring a J. Cole at his best, “Tribe” has made Bas’ album one of the best of 2018 to vibe to.
Suicideboys – I Want to Die in New Orleans
Label: Caroline Records/ G*59 Records
Released: September 7
Suicideboys cement themselves as a staple of underground rap with their debut album “I Want to Die in New Orleans.” The album is an homage to their hometown, and glimpses where they intend to go next. On the opener “King Tulip,” we see comparisons between now and the past. “Meet Mr. NICEGUY” deals with the duo’s drug problems in the face of romantic failure. Self-hatred is a recurring theme, most present in “Carrollton,” which also deals with the political issues in New Orleans.
Brockhampton – Iridescence
Label: Question Everything, Inc./ RCA Records
Released: September 21
Brockhampton returns with the first of a new trilogy of albums with “Iridescence.” Sonically divergent from previous works, this album comes in the face of the departure of Ameer Vann following sexual assault allegations. The album’s theme about the effects of stardom are likely affected by this. With “Tonya,” the first song performed live after Vann’s removal, the most emotional side of Brockhampton’s fame is present. Continuing the theme of stardom, the entire group faces overwhelming side effects of their fame on “Weight.” The effect of wealth on the group is compared to society on “District,” which also considers the mental effect of different levels of wealth. Brockhampton shows with this album that even turmoil cannot stop them.
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V
Label: Young Money Entertainment/ Republic Records/ Universal Music Group
Released: September 28
After a 4-year delay, Lil Wayne releases his twelfth album. Tha Carter V is a culmination of Lil Wayne’s work up to this point. In an emotional opening, “I Love You Dwayne,” Wayne’s mother professes her love for him. “Dedicate” displays the braggadocious and energetic Wayne many are familiar with, using a sample of 2 Chainz, who has stated Wayne’s influence. Wayne’s energy continues on “Uproar” which deals with his issues with other people. On the album’s outro, “Let It All Work Out,” Lil Wayne discusses his suicide attempt. Tha Carter V maintains Wayne’s place in rap, as an influencer.
6ix9ine – Dummy Boy
Label: ScumGang/ Create Music
Released: November 27
6ix9ine’s debut album shows the considerable split between critics and fans. Regardless, with numerous features and an atmospheric feel, Dummy Boy is an album to listen to. On “Tati” 6ix9ine utilizes his iconic rap style to dissect social media culture. The Kanye West feature on “Kanga” shows the support 6ix9ine has in the rap community for his unique presentation. “Dummy Boy” continues the focus on drug culture from 6ix9ine and his contemporaries.
Meek Mill – Championships
Label: Maybach Music Group/ Atlantic Records
Released: November 30
Following his release from prison, Meek Mill once again dominates the rap scene with “Championships.” On his fourth studio album, Mill considers the implications of his incarceration on his life and career. On a beef-ending “Going Bad,” Meek Mill and Drake discuss fame and interpersonal conflicts. “Dangerous” details Mill’s relationship troubles, while featuring PnB Rock and Jeremih. “Championships’” focus on social justice reflects Mill’s own understanding of the issue. You have to wonder, what is next for the iconic artist?
Kodak Black – Dying to Live
Label: Atlantic Records
Released: December 14
Kodak Black returns to the spotlight after a release from prison on his second album. “Dying to Live” features Juice WRLD and Travis Scott, and considers the party lifestyle. The lead single, “If I’m Lyin, I’m Flyin” considers how fame and his arrest record have become intertwined. Even in the face of his arrest record, Kodak revels in drugs and partying in “Zeze.” In a divergence from decadence, “Testimony” deals with his legal problems and other life struggles. “Dying to Live” is both Kodak’s most introspective and energetic album to date.