2018 has been another stellar year for music; we’ve had the slew of releases from G.O.O.D. Music that bought us ‘Kids See Ghosts’, ‘Ye’ and ‘DAYTONA’, as well as big releases from some of our favourite Brits like Wiley, Young Fathers and Novelist. It’s also been a year tinged by sadness as we say an all too early farewell to Mac Miller, whose final album ‘Swimming’ was undoubtedly one of this year’s stand-outs. Without further ado, let’s dig in…
It feels odd referring to ‘Dear Annie’ as Rejjie Snow’s debut album. After all, it’s now been five years since his first EP, ‘Rejovich’ caught him an initial buzz. Now signed to 300 Entertainment [also home to Fetty Wap and Young Thug] and having moved to Brooklyn, Snow delivers an album that feels as warm and lush as it does self-contained in its own lane. Skits are so often unwelcome interjections, but they’re used to great effect on ‘Dear Annie’ to give structure to its narrative.
Earl Sweatshirt’s third album is possibly even more inaccessible than his second. Tracks just sputter into existence unannounced; no intro, often not even a pause after the last. Earl’s vocal sometimes sits so low in the mix its barely audible among the lilting, lo-fi beats. But it’s all intentional, Earl barely lets you in to his world at all – we’re very much kept at arm’s length. Expect abstract beats and a difficult, but extremely worthwhile, listen. Stream below via SoundCloud.
‘White Bronco’ is Action Bronson’s fourth studio album, and the first he’s released independently since 2011’s ‘Well Done’. As well as A$AP Rocky, Bam Bam also recruits Yung Mehico and Fuck That’s Delicious co-stars Meyhem Lauren and Big Body Bes for bars, as well as long time collaborators Harry Fraud and Party Supplies, as well as the likes of Knxwledge, The Special Victims, Daringer, and Samiyah on the heavily Jazz inspired, often psychadelic instrumentals.
Mick Jenkins’ long-awaited sophomore album is here, and ‘Pieces Of A Man’ is well worth the wait. Asked about the meaning behind the album, the Chicago MC said it’s “just as simple as it sounds. It could definitely be broken down into a couple different things. I think there’s a lot to unpack but essentially it is pieces of me. Pieces of what makes up Jason Jenkins as a person, and then I’m speaking to certain things about myself that the average man can identify with, especially the average black man. Things the stereotypical man would have to deal with.”
Mac Miller’s final studio album ‘Swimming’ is an incredibly poignant listen following his untimely death. Mac’s public break-up with singer Ariana Grande is evidently a source of inspiration, but happily it’s self-love, healing, and psychological growth Mac dwells on, rather than wallowing in self-pity. “Tell them they can take that bullshit elsewhere / Self care, I’m treatin’ me right, yeah / Hell yeah, we gonna be alright,” he sings on single ‘Self Care’. Stream below via SoundCloud.
Still proudly independent, Novelist released his debut LP ‘Novelist Guy’ this year on his own label, MMMYEH Records. His beats are as harsh and synthetic as ever, a far cry from his production on last project ‘Be Blessed,’ but in a lot of places his bars are far more thoughtful. “I don’t see success in the way that other people see it,” the self-professed Lewisham king tells RWD Mag. “My album being done and sounding exactly like I wanted it to sound; that’s success fam.”
Jay Rock releases his third studio album ‘Redemption’, his first body of work since his motorcycle accident in early 2016. “I’m just here to give you the real, man,” he says, “and just basically give y’all more of me. And just showing you my growth, that’s basically what I’m doing on this album… Like I said, everything is a growing process—everybody say ‘everybody stay the same’—but nah, you grow man, you get wise and you go through stuff, you go through trials and tribulations.”
A$AP Rocky follows last album ‘AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP’ with the brand new ‘TESTING’, an conceptual album centered on experimentation with new sounds: “People are scared to test new sounds, so they go with what’s current, ‘cause it’s the easy thing to do. I don’t just rap – I actually make music. That’s why it takes time. These sonics represent me,” says the Harlem rapper.
We can say with some confidence that no one is making music quite like Young Fathers right now; their sound is so distinct it sticks out a mile from their would-be contemporaries. New album ‘Cocoa Sugar’ is their third [‘DEAD‘ won the 2014 Mercury Prize, followed by ‘White Men Are Black Men Too‘ in 2015], and was written and recorded in the band’s basement HQ over the course of 2017.
Over the last few years, Pusha T has occasionally hit upon a unique, winning formula. Tracks like ‘Nosetalgia’, ‘Numbers On The Board’ and ‘Crutches Crosses Caskets’ feature beats so stark in their minimalism they’re borderline uncomfortable. While they lurch onward, all eyes are on Push’s tales of dope dealing. It’s precisely this formula that seems to have been distilled on ‘DAYTONA’; verse after verse of unadulterated Push punctuated only by Soul-sampling hooks. Previous two albums ‘My Name Is My Name‘ and ‘Darkest Before Dawn‘ both had occasional radio-friendly moments, but ‘DAYTONA’ has none. As far as we’re concerned this is Push T’s best and most cohesive body of work to-date.
So there it is – our top 10 albums of 2018. Let us know if your favourite made the cut, and who’d make your list. Here’s to another year of amazing music in 2019.