In retrospect, 2018 delivered a plethora of Hip Hop music. Notable album releases in every month of the year ensured a ubiquity of the genre of Hip-Hop. After listening to multiple records many times throughout the year, I settled on a list of albums that I feel — warrant the most reverence in a jam-packed year. The enumeration to follow is a detailed list of my favorite Hip-Hop projects from 2018.
Street Gossip — Lil Baby
Say what you want about trap music — it is the zeitgeist in this reality. Lil Baby is one of the sub-genre’s golden children and delivers what I feel is his most inspired opus to date. Lil Baby is an artist — who — like many of his peers in the bass-infused, repetitive, melodic variant of rap, has a conspicuously invigorating tambour in his voice. Baby’s flows are a staple of this project whose features — 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, Young Thug, and Gunna — do nothing beyond accentuate the artist’s sonic style. Despite having lyrical connotations that do not extend far beyond the normative — wealth and “drip” (expensive designer apparel) — Baby delivers some likable wordplay with sequences like “When your wrist like this\You don’t check the forecast\everyday it’s gonna rain” on Pure Cocaine and “I was too gone, now a nigga pop shit\I was in Japan, buyin’ drip and blowin’ Yen” on the song, Word on the Street. At thirteen songs, Street Gossip does not overstay its welcome and certainly puts Baby’s exuberant music personality on full display.
Favorite Songs: Pure Cocaine, Anyway, Crush A Lot, Time, Global
Tha Carter V — Lil Wayne
Tha Carter V is a triumphant return to form for one of the Bling-era’s most prominent darlings — Lil Wayne. The album is the long-anticipated follow-up to Tha Carter IV, a record produced in 2011. An eighty-seven minute listen, Tha Carter V is an amalgam of ideas from Wayne’s musical style’s heyday and more contemporary rap quirks. Boasting an elaborate set of features from artists such as the recently deceased XXX Tentacion, Travis Scott, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar — the Carter V delivers balladry, pomp, nostalgia, and humor. Although the final five-song stretch of this project can be quite bland with less effervescent tracks and some off-beat rapping from Wayne, the project is nevertheless, an entertaining opus.
Favorite Songs: Mona Lisa, Let it Fly, Problems, Open Safe, Don’t Cry
Astroworld — Travis Scott
Another trap entry on this list — Astroworld rekindles the vibrance of Travis Scott’s distinct cloud-rap-trap aesthetic. Astroworld puts forth some of the imagination of some of the better entries in Travis’ discography like Days Before Rodeo and Rodeo as the rapper’s creativity as a rapper and producer shines through on songs like No Bystanders, Stop Trying to be God, and Astrothunder. Also, SICKO Mode exists and evokes an unrelenting happiness that persists through the song’s three melodies. A great listen for old and new Travis Scott fans, Astroworld is an album that removed the stain from lackluster entries in Scott’s portfolio like Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight and whatever the hell Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho was.
Favorite Songs: SICKO Mode, No Bystanders, Stop Trying to Be God, RIP Screw, Astrothunder
Fetti — Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y and The Alchemist
Released on Halloween of 2018, Fetti is a project that combines the lax flows of New Orleans rapper, Curren$y with the gritty, punchy style of Indiana-born Freddie Gibbs. Fetti — at twenty-three minutes — is the shortest of all the records on this list but certainly delivers soothing, classy beats produced by the Alchemist and a unified tonal signature from its lead acts despite their contrasting styles. Freddie’s sense of humor and cognizance of social issues is recognizable on songs like Location Remote — the first song on the album — where he raps “Niggas making statements they Manafort-Papadopoulos\Trump sweating bullets on diet coke sniffing powder up\And if he build the wall, we gone take the dope underground with us”. Curren$y’s idiosyncratic approach is just as visible on New Thangs where he raps “I pulled up in a what’s this\I came out in a what’s that”. Overall, Fetti is a fantastic short project which I found easy to play ad-nauseam.
Favorite songs: Everything that is not Bundy & Sincere
Daytona — Pusha T
Pusha T is good enough to be your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Pusha’s storied career warrants appreciation for his creative word-play and slick, in-your-face delivery. Daytona is a symbol of the rapper’s modus operandi — meticulous craftsmanship: everything about the album — from the subtle album art to the lyrical content — makes for a complete rap package. The first in a series of short projects released by G.O.O.D music in the summer — Daytona is packed with all kinds of rhetoric. The song If You Know, You Know is an education in various aspects of the dope game which delivers witty lines like “Bricklayers in Ball Shorts\Coaching from the side of the Ball Courts” — a reference to the constructive summertime endeavors of a dope-selling collective and “A rapper turned trapper can’t morph into us\A trapper turned rapper can morph into Puff” — a reiteration of street ambition and existential realities.
Perhaps my favorite song on this amazing record, Santeria, addresses the death of one of Pusha’s longtime friends. A catchy Spanish hook (one I swiftly memorized) and conversationally vindictive tone make for a truly memorable effort. I especially love the sequence “I’m backing this hit nigga\You ever seen shark tank?” which summarizes Pusha’s anger at the passing of his friend.
There remains a lot to be said about the splendor of this album — there are many places where a more verbose review is available. The summary is -Daytona is undoubtedly my favorite opus of 2018 and should earn Pusha T the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
Favorite Songs: I loved every song.