Holy shit this was a great year for Hip Hop. A lot of dope releases from a lot of dope artists. We saw multiple projects by DJ Muggs, a team up between Masta Ace and Marco Polo, and multiple albums from top tier rappers. Also, 38 Spesh dropped an insanely important project with Kool G Rap. Most rappers want to be the star, but Spesh put out an entire project to pay homage to G Rap. The insanely dope Royce Da 5’9 dropped a solo and a Prhyme project. Lastly, some of my friends dropped spectacular projects. Nkenge 1x, Joshua, and Big Lo all put out heavy rotation albums.
Without any more delays, these are my picks for the top albums of 2018. The criteria is the same as it always is. It’s based on what I listened to the most. Also, it has to be a full length with original production. This list was incredibly difficult to put together, because 2018 was such a great year for Hip Hop.
10. Roc Marciano – Behold a Dark Horse
Production includes: Roc Marciano, Q-Tip, Alchemist, Preservation
Features include: Black Thought, Knowledge the Pirate, Busta Rhymes
Roc had a great year. He blessed us with multiple projects. All of them were incredible. He has an avant garde approach to rap that is gangster and so elegant at the same time. This project was originally only available through his website. His direct to consumer from artist approach has always made him a champion of the people. It was also really cool to see Busta on the project, considering Roc was once a member of the Flipmode Squad.
9. Ghostface Killah – The Lost Tapes
Production includes: Big Ghost LTD
Features include: KXNG Crooked, Benny the Butcher, Big Daddy Kane, Raekwon, Snoop Dogg, E-40, LA the Darkman, Ras Kass, Hus Kingpin
Ghostface is top 5 dead or alive. The only real critique about this project is that it’s very feature heavy. And in a Ghostface project, I only really want to hear Ghost. No one on the project is wack, so don’t get me wrong, I just prefer the features to be a little less. Big Ghost LTD handles the production on this. I feel like Big Ghost is an absolute genius on the boards. From his work with Westside Gunn, to last year’s number 2 on my top 10 with Hus Kingpin. “Buckingham Palace” is my favorite track on the project and it starts the album off. No matter what, you can never go wrong with Ghostface Killah, and you can never go wrong with Big Ghost LTD. Them teaming up together is like seeing the Alien and Predator join the same side and kill all of civilization.
8. El Camino – Walking on Water
Production includes: Shay, Rick Hyde, IceRocks, Boodeini
Features include: Benny the Butcher, Meyhem Lauren
El Camino is an artist I can proudly say I did a record with. Prior to that, I was already on him heavy for his affiliation with Benny, Conway, and Westside Gunn. This project shows that he’s the offspring of groups like the Wu Tang Clan. We see him team back up with Boodeini who produced his first full length. El Camino started the year off rocky, but managed to start his Anti-Gun Violence clothing label, and deliver Walking on Water. He is more poetic than his subject matter usually lends credit to, and he has always had a great ear for picking beats. At just over 30 minutes, the only downside to this project, is that it isn’t long enough.
7. Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap
Production includes: Murda Beatz, Mike & Keys, DJ Khalil, Jake One, Rance, MyGuyMars
Features include: Kendrick Lamar, YG, The-Dream, Puff Daddy, Cee-Lo, Buddy
Nipsey dropped one of the toughest singles with “Rap N….” on this album. Unfortunately, I could not sing along with it. This album shows the growth of an artist that has been in the game for a little over a decade. The great thing about this project, and Nipsey’s message, is that he promotes financial wellness. And he manages to convey this message while still being cool. Sonically, the album is very hardcore sounding, but the reality is, Nipsey has a very positive message. I always appreciate a message like that from someone who came from out of the gutter. He’s always had an authenticity along with a strong message.
6. Jay Rock – Redemption
Production includes: Boi-1da, Jack One, Sounwave, Carter, Crooklin, Mike Will Made It, Hit-Boy, DJ Swish
Features include: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, SZA, Future, Jeremih, Tee Grizzley
Jay Rock dropped a great project. He managed to put together a variety of sounds, but made them go together very seamless. I didn’t really get into his previous effort, and I need to go back and revisit it. Kendrick is on this album twice, but he doesn’t carry Jay Rock by any means. With tracks like “Win” this album sounds more like a proclamation towards triumph. It was a great effort, and though it varies from the sound I usually prefer, I really enjoyed this album a lot.
5. Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 6
Production includes: Sadhu Gold, Alchemist, Daringer, Marco Polo, Evidence, DJ Muggs
Features include: Keisha Plum, Benny the Butcher, Flee Lord, Nick Grant
Westside Gunn blessed us with two releases this year. Recorded in a matter of days, he gave us the 6th installment of his Hitler series. This series is something important to me, because it was the release of part 2 that put me on to Westside Gunn to begin with. He continues in a format similar to Supreme Blientele, where he his usual cast, but now he is also accompanied with the likes of Nick Grant and producers like DJ Muggs. He revisits his signature style of sometimes rapping on little to no drums. A style that really elevated the vibe of his music. He will rap extremely hardcore on a beat that is very beautiful. Westside continues to take us on a journey to a world of dope dealers and art dealers. And he has some of the craziest cover art you have ever seen.
4. Shortfyuz – Lost Sol ‘96
Production includes: Shortfyuz
Features include: Sean Price, Crimeapple, Termanology, Chris Rivers, Illa Ghee, Styles P
I admit that I wasn’t totally up on producer Shortfyuz. The reason I initially pressed play was because the 2nd track has a feature by one of the goats-Sean Price. After that, I let it continue to play, and I found the whole project to be dope as hell. I love the production and how the tracks weave in and out of each other. It has an almost cinematic feel, and features a lot of dope verses by a lot of dope MCs. I may have been asleep on him to start with, but I am awake now.
3. Conway – Everybody is F.O.O.D.
Production includes: Daringer, DJ Green Lantern, Pete Rock, Statik Selektah
Features include: Skyzoo, Elzhi, Busta Rhymes
Conway released this project and it’s sequel exclusively through his website. The fact it was harder to get, made it that much more sought after. Part 2 was a candidate for this list, as well as his previous release the Blakk Tape. Conway is one of the most authentic MCs you will ever see, and he does it so naturally. His pen game remains very dope on this project, and I love his approach to creating music. “Piper” with Pete Rock is probably my favorite track on here, because of the way he flows on the beat. Another stellar release, by an already stellar MC.
2. Benny the Butcher – Tana Talk 3
Production includes: Daringer, Alchemist
Features include: Keisha Plum, Westside Gunn, Meyhem Lauren, Royce Da 5’9, Conway
Over the summer, Benny released the very dope and heavily slept on A Friend of Ours. I am not sure why it wasn’t talked about more. But in the 4th quarter he woke everyone up with Tana Talk 3. The Griselda Records pinch hitter came out swinging. Tana Talk 3 shows lyrically he is difficult to fuck with. And not only that, he is also an MC that doesn’t write anything down. His skill is spectacular, and seems so effortless. As a non-drug dealer, admittedly, some of the punch lines went over my head at first. But that is a statement at to how dope he is, because it made me want to go back and study his lyrics until I understood. Amazing project, by an amazing MC, and I am very anxious to see how 2019 pans out for him.
1. Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele aka Chris Benoit aka God is the Greatest
Production includes: Daringer, The Alchemist, Pete Rock, Harry Fraud, Sadhu Gold, Statik Selektah
Features include: Jadakiss, Benny the Butcher, Conway, Roc Marciano, Anderson. Paak, Busta Rhymes, Keisha Plum
Westside Gunn is a genius in both music and marketing. His love for art and culture causes him to take a different approach to his music than most of his peers. I have been a huge advocate for him for years now, and it’s great to see him finally get the recognition he deserves. I left this album on repeat for most of the year. Feature and Production wise we really witnessed a growth while he maintains his signature street aesthetic. And also don’t sleep on the fact that as a feature artist, Busta Rhymes spit one of the best verses of the year on this project. Questlove refereed to this album as a guilty pleasure, but I do not feel guilty for listening to it nonstop. God is the Greatest!