Top 5: The five best hip-hop albums of 2018
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Top 5: The five best hip-hop albums of 2018

2018 was an exciting year in hip-hop culture and saw a lot of conflict and controversy. It also saw some fantastic highs, but those locked into the dynamic culture of rap music will know that it was an extremely volatile period. 2018 was most interesting in the realm of female rap. Following a four-year hiatus, this was when Nicki Minaj decided to make a comeback and the year that Minaj penned a deal with Apple for her show Queen Radio.

Cardi B’s entrance into the hip-hop mainstream in 2017 began to unfold in 2018, and Nicki’s angst was on full display. The year saw Minaj and Cardi B get into a physical altercation at the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party and saw heated social media exchanges between the two. However, it also saw the Queens rapper verbally abuse and defame Travis Scott following the success of his project Astroworld.

Aside from Nicki’s craziness, the year also saw other strange occurrences. 2018 saw a vulgar Kanye talking about oral sex on Lil Pump’s ‘I Love It’ while he simultaneously sought to preach to fans about Jesus at his Sunday Services, then jump on tables and talk about racism. But, there is another individual who was running rampant in 2018, and that is Tekashi 6ix9ine.

The previously mentioned Brooklyn emcee had the culture fixated on him. He was strange, to say the least. With tracks such as ‘Billy’ and ‘FeFe’ accruing hundreds of millions of YouTube views, the rainbow-haired rascal was the point of focus. Regularly taking to Instagram to goad artists, flaunt firearms and abuse his counterparts, it’s hard to dispute 6ix9ine’s entertainment value.

Although there was a lot of nonsense in 2018, there was also a lot of quality music released. One of the most notable songs of the year was Tyga’s mega-hit ‘Taste’, which rose to over 1billion views on YouTube. The song was inescapable and highly catchy. J Cole also released a quality album in KOD. Across the pond in the UK, several songs took hold that year and sent the country crazy. Tracks such as ‘Gun Lean (remix)’ by Russ and ‘Taste’ by Aitch saw a real coming together of artists, the type the UK had never seen before. Shortly after, UK music began to explode.

However, although there are blurred lines, many other acts began to steal the limelight in the US and UK, with artists such as Stefflon Don making waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Her track ‘Senseless’ was a club mainstay that year. There was a lot of quality music released, and although there is no winner concerning public attention, 2018 undoubtedly saw Tekashi 6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj at the centre of things. Nicki Minaj’s ‘Queen Radio’ rants, fights and music with tracks such as ‘Chun-Li’ were front and centre, and the same can be said for 6ix9ine, giving fans a double-trouble of controversy and music. However, concerning quality, five artists stole the show.

Below you can see our pick for the five best hip-hop albums of 2018.

The five best hip-hop albums of 2018:

5. KOD – J Cole

J. Cole, along with Drake and Kendrick, is considered one of the best rappers of the new school, and when the conversation of top artists comes up, he is sure to be included, and it’s no surprise why because KOD is sensational. The album’s name is an acronym for “King Of Diamonds.” Featuring production from the likes of Vinylz, Willie B and Pop & Oak, the album was handled primarily by Cole himself and, as a result, debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200.

The album addresses issues around drugs, pain and addiction with tracks such as ‘Once An Addict’ and others. Speaking with Vulture Magazine, Cole explained that he made KOD because, “We live in a society where all this drug use is normalized, it’s the norm, it’s okay, it’s f*cking encouraged, it’s f*cking promoted,” he says. “You turn on the TV ‘you feeling down?’ Of course I’m feeling down, I’m a f*cking human being. Try this. Whatever this thing is. Like, nah, how about you actually feel sad and figure out what the f*ck it is that got you feeling sad, so you can work on that?”

4. Invasion Of Privacy – Cardi B

Invasion Of Privacy was Cardi B’s debut album and was a body of work that gave fans several hits. Spearheaded by its lead single ‘Bodak Yellow’, the project undoubtedly deserved its Grammy win for ‘Best Rap Album’. Cardi B (real name Belcalis Almanzar) was relatively new to hip-hop then, and few knew her besides fans of the reality TV show ‘Love & Hip-Hop: New York.’ However, her arrival was controversial. Many saw her as an inauthentic artist and a symbol of cultural regression. Still, many warmed to Almanzar and concerning sales, she remains one of the most potent female rappers. 

Invasion Of Privacy didn’t only boast ‘Bodak Yellow’ but several other hits, including ‘Money’, ‘I Like It’ and ‘Be Careful’, all of which achieved multi-platinum status. Aside from the album’s quality, it also turned heads as 2018 saw Nicki Minaj release her fourth project, Queen. With both women competing for the spot of best female rapper, a rivalry emerged quickly, culminating in a fight between the two artists at the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party. Irrespective of the shenanigans that followed the album’s release Invasion Of Privacy was a wave-making, undeniably impactful project. 

3. Kids See Ghosts – Kid Cudi & Kanye West

Kid Cudi and Kanye West have been longtime collaborators, and under the moniker, Kids See Ghosts, the G.O.O.D Music artists took to West’s Wyoming studio to produce a full-length self-named collaborative album. Kids See Ghosts as a project saw two of the most forward-thinking figures in hip-hop bring something new and refreshing to the forefront. With only seven tracks, the dynamic duo managed to explore the concept of the inner demon. The body of work presents the idea that beauty can emerge from depression, and it is quite a profound album. The project was heard Cudi reinvigorated.

The Ohio rapper’s 2015 album, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, was a long, drawn-out 25-track hodgepodge. However, with West at the Wheel for this short but sweet album, listeners got a brief burst of pure imagination. One of the most captivating elements of the project was its eerie yet mellow album cover. Designed by Takashi Murakami, who helped Ye with his 2007 Graduation artwork, Cudi let it be known that the design was a modern, watercolour tribute to the ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji’ painting series. 

2. Astroworld – Travis Scott

Astroworld is an exceptional project that shifted many people’s perception of trap music. Although the Atlanta subgenre has become the de facto sound of hip-hop, many doubted that an artist could make a quality body of work using the genre. However, Astroworld shut the cynics up and blew people away with its aesthetic and sonic creativity. Named after a now-derelict theme park in his hometown of Houston, the album boasts cleverly structured songs and production that encapsulate the psychedelic experience.

Scott effortlessly gives listeners hard-hitting beats while simultaneously leaving enough space for the rich, luscious vocals of artists such as Drake, the Weeknd, and Frank Ocean, who all offset the trippy beats with their melodic vocals. Astroworld marries multiple sonics beautifully and is one of the most cohesive hip-hop albums ever. The 2018 body of work debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified four times platinum. Of course, it is impossible to ignore the tragic Astroworld festival crowd crush that occurred at Scott’s performance following the album’s release. However, it doesn’t take away from the project’s greatness.

1. Scorpion – Drake

Drake isn’t among the most celebrated hip-hop artists for no reason, and it’s safe to say he delivered a godsend in Scorpion. Drake’s versatility is astonishing, and if anyone attempts to call into doubt the vocalist’s talent, one merely needs to present them with this 2018 project. In this body of work, the Toronto native (real name Aubrey Graham) offers a curious insight into his life. He thoroughly showcases his eclectic influences with his choice of collaborators, and it’s a compelling listen. Moreover, the album is enthralling because the Canadian vocalist addresses many of his public beefs, from Kanye West to Pusha-T. 

For Scorpion, Drake worked with various artists, from the iconic bassist Shaun Harris to the legendary DJ Premier. Furthermore, the album ingeniously utilises obscure samples such as ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’ by Dorothy Ashby and ‘Just Memories’ by Eddie Kendricks. Drake proves himself to be a laureate and provides some intense and moving cuts. However, in contrast, there are also some mainstream anthems such as ‘In My Feelings’ and ‘God’s Plan’. Scorpion debuted at number one in the US, UK and Canada and has been certified four times platinum by the RIAA.