My 10 Favorite Rap Albums of 2018

December 31, 2018

We were blessed with a lot of great music in 2018 from a variety of different artists.  Rappers like A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, and Pusha T finally dropped albums after years of waiting, rappers like J. Cole and Drake dominated the charts with their albums and features, and rappers like Gunna, Lil Baby, and Sheck Wes broke out in 2018 and released career-defining tracks.  I listened to a lot of albums this year, but I also haven't got around to listen to some of the bigger albums of the year (fans of Vince Staples, JID and Lupe Fiasco, I'm sorry).  I was impressed with most of the albums that dropped this year, although there were some artists that did disappoint.

 

Without further adieu, let's jump into my personal 10 favorite albums from this past year.  Consider this as a disclaimer, as these are not the 10 best albums of the past year, this list would look completely different if it was.  These are the albums that I had the most fun listening to, ones that I still replay today, and also ones that are great and critically acclaimed.  Before we begin, let's take a look at some honorable mentions.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

 

A$AP Rocky-TESTING- A lot of people believe that this was an underwhelming album and did not meet people's standards, and to an extent I would agree with them.  There are a lot of good songs that I enjoyed on here, including 'A$AP Forever", "Gunz N Butter", and "OG Beeper". "Purity" with Frank Ocean might be the best track on the album, and it was a beautiful way to close the project.  This was an experimental album from Rocky and easily could grow on people as time passes, but for now it is a slight disappointment in comparison to his other releases.

 

Juice WRLD- Goodbye & Good Riddance- Juice WRLD was another rapper that blew up in 2018, especially from his hit singles "Lucid Dreams" and "All Girls Are The Same".  This album was definitely targeted towards teenagers and he spoke a lot about heartbreak during the album, but Juice has also proven that he is going to stick in this game as a rapper.  Tracks like "Lean Wit Me" and "Black & White" showcase his rap ability, while other songs like "I'm Still" and "Candles" show an emotional aspect of his persona.  Aside from a Lil Uzi Vert feature on "Wasted" (another great track), Juice WRLD had no features on this album, which was impressive.  This was an enjoyable album, and I'm looking forward to see what else Juice has in store.

 

 

Don Toliver- Donny Womack-  Don Toliver was unknown to the public for the majority of 2018, but started to receive a following in August when he dropped his first project "Donny Womack".  The next day he was featured on Travis Scott's "ASTROWORLD" (Scott signed Toliver to Cactus Jack Records around that time as well) and after delivering an incredible feature on "CAN'T SAY", many people checked out "Donny Womack".  He has an extremely unique voice, I describe it as a mix of Young Thug and T-Pain, and he also had no features on his album aside from one by Dice SoHo.  I personally enjoyed tracks like "AMG", "Diamonds" and "Issues", and am intrigued with what his future holds.

 

Lil Baby- Harder Than Ever- This one really hurts to leave off of my list, as I loved this album.  This 17-track project introduced me to Lil Baby, and it's hard to find a track that I don't like.  Of course, this album has the Drake-featured "Yes Indeed" that basically blew Baby up, but this album also has songs like "Life Goes On" with Gunna and Lil Uzi Vert and "I'm Straight" which both had tons of replay value.  Artists like Young Thug, Gunna, and Offset delivered great features and Lil Baby put out some of his best work on "Harder Than Ever".  Consider this as a 10B to my top 10 list, it just narrowly missed the cut.

 

 

10. Gunna & Lil Baby- Drip Harder

 

 

Gunna and Lil Baby have a connection that not many rappers can achieve.  In every song they were in together prior to "Drip Harder" they always complemented each other beautifully.  Gunna has one of the smoothest voices in rap and cannot go one song without mentioning "Drip", and Lil Baby's unorthodox and scratchy voice matches up very well with Gunna.  One of the real stars on this album was the producer Turbo, who produced all of the top and favorite tracks on the album, such as "Drip Too Hard" and "Never Recover" which both did extremely well on the charts.  While there were a lot of great tracks, there were a couple of mediocre ones as well, which hurts the case for a higher ranking.  There were only a couple of features on the album, but Lil Durk, Young Thug, and Drake all made impactful performances, even NAV did a good job.  This album was a collision of rap's two up and coming stars, and they managed to deliver a project with tons of replay value.

 

 

Favorite Tracks: 

"Off White VLONE" feat. Lil Durk & NAV

"Business Is Business"

"Belly" 

 

 

9. Kanye West & Kid Cudi- Kids See Ghosts

 

 

It was a GOOD summer for Kanye West, as he released five albums with members of the GOOD music label over a span of five weeks.  His third album, a collaboration with Kid Cudi, was one that fans had been dying for over the years, and they did not disappoint.  Over seven tracks, Kanye and Cudi managed to talk about plenty of topics, most notably mental health.  Kid Cudi delivers a perfect message on "Reborn" where him and Ye talk about their past and struggles with mental health over a soft beat and Cudi's famous angelic hums.  Kanye produced all seven tracks himself, and shines on "4th Dimension" with a great verse and incredible production.  Features included Pusha T, Mos Def, and Ty Dolla $ign, who contributed with great vocals on "Freeee".  This album achieved our expectations and gave us some of the best Kid Cudi appearances we've ever seen, as well as some great production from Kanye.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"Cudi Montage"

"4th Dimension"

"Reborn"

 

 

8. Lil Wayne- Tha Carter V

 

 

The fact that we were actually able to listen to Tha Carter V is an achievement in itself.  I know that listeners worldwide got hyped instantly when the first lighter flick happened on "Don't Cry".  My initial fear before listening is that the album would sound outdated, but Wayne proved me wrong, delivering songs that were easily hits in 2018.  We did receive the usual Wayne, with hilarious punchlines, long stretches of frequent rhyming, and multiple lighter flicks. Lil Wayne showed his versatility, giving us high-tempo tracks such as "Uproar", "Let It Fly" and "Dedicate" while also showing a softer side on "Perfect Strangers" and "Mess".  You can't mention this album without bringing up "Mona Lisa" where Weezy and Kendrick Lamar showcase their tremendous storytelling ability, and is one of my favorite songs of the year.  Lil Wayne gives us a personal side as well with songs like "Open Letter", where he is trying to figure out the reasons or the meaning for his existence and drops lines like "What's the life expectancy when you don't expect sh*t?".  The final track, "Let It All Work Out" has Wayne finally tell us the story of his failed suicide attempt when he was younger, and he explained how he did successfully shoot himself, but did survive and God gave him a second chance.  If that was Lil Wayne's final song on his final album, it was an incredible way to end his long and illustrious career.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"Mona Lisa" feat. Kendrick Lamar 

"Let It Fly" feat. Travis Scott

"Perfect Strangers"

 

 

7. Sheck Wes- MUDBOY

 

 

I was first introduced to Sheck Wes in late 2017, when "Mo Bamba" had been out a couple of months.  With a lot of the songs he released before "MUDBOY", I originally didn't like it, but when I went back and listened to it again, I was hooked.  The same could be said for this album, as I originally didn't really like "MUDBOY" when I first heard it but after a couple listens the album began to grow on me, and I ended up really enjoying it. There are no features on this album and Sheck did everything himself, which was impressive but the project as a whole could have been better with a few features, say fellow Cactus Jack members Travis Scott or Don Toliver.  The production on this album is insane, and he proves that "Mo Bamba" was not a fluke, as he made other bangers like "Gmail" and "Wanted".  Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and Sheck Wes can continue to prove that he isn't a one-hit wonder.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"Mo Bamba"

"Chippi Chippi"

"Mindf*cker"

 

 

6. 21 Savage- "i am > i was"

 

 

This is a late bloomer, as the album came out just over a week ago, but this was an album I was expecting from 21 Savage.  He had been killing every feature he was on this year and continued the streak of dominance onto his own album.  We saw 21 take risks on "Issa" but not necessarily pay off, but expanding out of his comfort zone worked really well for him on his new album.  "ball w/o you" and "out for the night" were major upgrades from similar songs on "Issa" and he even made a heartfelt song to his mother on "letter 2 my momma".  We did get the classic trap and "murder" rap songs from 21 including "break da law" which had an invigorating beat produced by Metro Boomin and Southside and "asmr" which he continues to whisper rap over another Metro beat, but also include some bars as well.  J. Cole had one of the best feature verses of the year on "a lot", and Childish Gambino makes his return to music on "monster" where 21 and Gambino portray the message that all the great things that rappers receive once they become famous, the money, clout, fame, women, can turn them to monsters in the industry.  It's hard to find a track I didn't like, and this was an album that I'm continuing to enjoy into 2019.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"out for the night- part 2" feat. Travis Scott

"a lot" feat. J. Cole

"asmr"

 

 

5. Pusha T- "DAYTONA"

 

 

This is the consensus album of the year for most people, and this is definitely a contender for me as well. King Push and Kanye teamed up for this one, and the first thing you have to talk about is the production. This album had some of the most gripping beats I've ever heard, as Kanye masterfully uses samples to the best of his ability. "The Games We Play" is one of these songs where Push matches Kanye's incredible beat with his own mastermind lyrics and wordplay. With Pusha T, you know exactly what you are going to get: lines about selling cocaine and moving dope with that snarl in his voice that makes his music unique. But the fact that he stays in his own lane and continues to do the same thing is the right move, and Pusha flexes his strengths in the album because he continues to stay with his type of rap. He continues to prove this on tracks like "If You Know You Know" and "Santeria" where he continues to find clever ways to touch upon his past experiences. We get a pretty good Kanye feature on "What Would Meek Do?" and we get the infamous Drake diss track on "Infrared" which set the internet ablaze. Even after "DAYTONA", Push set Drake on fire once again with "The Story of Adidon" where he unloaded a lot of dirt on Drake and actually defeated Drake in a beef, which no other rapper has done. It was a great summer for King Push, and "DAYTONA" was the highlight of it.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"The Games We Play"

"If You Know You Know"

"Santeria"

 

 

4. Saba- "CARE FOR ME" 

 

What would you do if you lost your best friend?

 

 

Honestly, I had no idea who Saba was before 2018, but I had heard a lot of good things about this album and decided to give it a listen.  I'm very glad I did.  This album revolves around Saba's friend and cousin Walt, who was tragically killed at a young age, and you get the feeling that Saba is constantly blaming himself for Walt's death and that he could have done more to prevent it from happening.  The first song, "BUSY/SIRENS" shows a foreshadowing of what's to come, with repetition of "I'm so alone" and "Sirens on the way, now you're lying where the angels lay".  "GREY" includes a instrumental and jazz-heavy second half, where Saba rapidly increases his flow and shows that life and everything around is meshing together, but it's still grey.  Then we have the last two songs, which are both heartbreaking.  "PROM/KING" introduces us to how Saba and Walt became friends, and how people threatened to kill Saba at a party after prom, and he decided to never tell Walt.  The second half shows Walt and Saba growing closer together and making music together, but takes a turn when Walt tells Saba that he was almost killed.  They both brush off the incident, but Saba's tone of voice increases and you can tell he's becoming concerned.  At the end, Saba gets a call from Walt's mom, telling him that Walt is nowhere to be found.  The outro to the song, which is actually Walt himself singing, is heart-wrenching as he talks about making it "to tomorrow".  The final song "HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME" is Saba rapping in Walt's perspective, as he can't feel anything around him and doesn't know that he just died and is being sent to heaven.  It's such a sad and depressing way to end an album, but it is also beautiful and a masterpiece at the same time, and it shows how much Walt truly meant to Saba.  R.I.P. John Walt.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"PROM/KING"

"GREY"

"BUSY/SIRENS"

 

 

 

3. Metro Boomin- "NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES"

 

 

It was rumored that Metro Boomin retired in the beginning of 2018, which was awful to hear since I'm a huge fan of his beats.  Out of nowhere in November he released "NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES" and all was restored in the world, as Metro RETURNED. I knew going into the album that production wouldn't be the issue, but Metro really took it to another level, as each track had their own different twist to it.  He also worked with artists that he previously worked a lot with and have established and strong connections, such as Travis Scott, 21 Savage, and Young Thug.  I believe that the most impressive thing off of this album, however, is Metro Boomin's versatility.  He is mainly known for making hard-hitting and dark trap beats, but he proved that he can venture into many different areas as well.  He took a soft approach on songs like "Dreamcatcher" with Swae Lee and Travis Scott, gave us a heartbroken Travis Scott on the piano-influenced "Only 1 Interlude", produced an ASMR track with 21 Savage with "Don't Come Out The House" and even made a Latin track with J Balvin, Offset, and WizKid on "Only You".  Another thing I loved in the album were the transitions, as there were some smooth ones in there.  There is a small pause at the end of Travis Scott's "Overdue" where you can hear a 21 Savage ad-lib, and it is immediately followed by 21's "Don't Come Out The House". Same can be said at the end of Travis Scott's "Only 1 Interlude", where the beat seamlessly transitions into Gunna and Young Thug's "Lesbian" track. (When I first heard this, I thought it was the same song until I checked my phone.)  Young Metro's first album was a success, and I'm thankful that he is back in the rap game.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"Overdue" feat. Travis Scott

"Don't Come Out The House" feat. 21 Savage

"Only 1 Interlude" feat. Travis Scott

"No More" feat. Travis Scott, Kodak Black, 21 Savage

 

 

 

2. Playboi Carti- "Die Lit"

 

For the Carti haters: remember, these are my FAVORITE albums of 2018. 

 

 

I say this because Playboi Carti is one of the most divided artists in rap.  A lot of people love him, and a lot of people hate him, and there is really no in between.  I just happen to be one of the people who love his style of rap.  Sure, it can be mumbling and inaudible at times, but this album is one of the most dynamic and fun albums I've listened to, and a lot of credit must be given to Pi'erre Bourne and other producers from the album.  These aren't just all trap bangers, however.  We do get some emotion from Carti on songs like "Long Time (Intro)" and "Fell In Luv" where we catch him swooning over a girl and how it took a long time to achieve the success that he has now.  We even get a lyrical and storytelling Playboi Carti on "Home (KOD)", and while it might not be on the level of Kendrick or Pusha T, it's still something.  But, it's still a trap project, and this is an album that is perfect for parties, moshes, or really anything to get you hyped.  "R.I.P." is the perfect example of this, as the awkward but bass-driven production mixed with repetitive, catchy and fun lyrics make for a good time.  Much like Pusha T, Carti knows what his strengths are, and continues to stick with them throughout the album.  Another song that shows this at his finest is "FlatBed Freestyle" which I actually hated at first but is now one of my favorite songs on the album.  Most of the features do a great job on the album as well, especially Lil Uzi Vert on "Shoota" and Travis Scott on "Love Hurts", and Carti even outperforms some features in my opinion.  More than anything, it's just a really fun album to listen to.  There's no deep analysis or deciphering a deep meaning when you're listening, all you have to do is just have fun, which is whole point of the album: to Die Lit.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"Love Hurts" feat. Travis Scott

"R.I.P."

"Shoota" feat. Lil Uzi Vert

"FlatBed Freestyle"

 

 

1. Travis Scott- "ASTROWORLD"

 

If you read my ASTROWORLD review, you could have guessed that this would take the top spot.

 

 

This was probably the most hyped up album in 2018, and I think that it is safe to say that it either met or exceeded everyone's expectations, including mine.  La Flame proved that Rodeo was not a fluke and that he is a top artist in today's industry with ASTROWORLD, and truly made each track a roller coaster.  He even threw loops in when a feature would randomly appear out of nowhere, which makes the listening experience even more entertaining.  After listening to the album many more times, not only does he bring back the spirit of ASTROWORLD, it feels like Travis is bringing you into a journey off his own life. From the dreaming and aspirations he had growing up on "STARGAZING", to trying to stop predicting the future on "STOP TRYING TO BE GOD", to not wanting to get off of his high and becoming more aware and anxious on "WAKE UP" and "5% TINT", to not really feeling like his life is complete on "ASTROTHUNDER", knowing that he cannot change because of the new life he's been given on "BUTTERFLY EFFECT", returning back to his roots on "HOUSTONFORNICATION" and finally returning to the present day and affirming his seriousness in his relationship with Kylie Jenner on "COFFEE BEAN".  And that is only scratching the surface, as there is so much to learn about Travis and the meaning of each track, and ASTROWORLD is the album where La Flame gives us arguably the most emotion and definitely the most out of his personal life.  The great thing about ASTROWORLD is that there is a song for any occasion as well.  If you are trying to get hyped, you can play "CAN'T SAY" or "NO BYSTANDERS".  If you are in your feelings, "ASTROTHUNDER" or "R.I.P. SCREW" are good choices to listen to.  If you're searching for deeper meanings, "STOP TRYING TO BE GOD" and "COFFEE BEAN" can help with that.  And of course, "SICKO MODE" was the song that got Travis his #1 on Billboard and can be played pretty much anywhere.  Every feature played their part and each did a great job and showcased their strengths, like Frank Ocean on "CAROUSEL", Kid Cudi and James Blake on "STOP TRYING TO BE GOD" and The Weeknd on "SKELETONS" and "WAKE UP".  Mike Dean did an excellent job producing and mixing the album, and Travis does deliver some of the best rapping we've ever heard from him.  More than anything, it's a very fun album to listen to, possibly Travis Scott's best project (I can't choose between this or Rodeo) and the most fun and enjoyment I've had listening to an album this year, which is why ASTROWORLD is my favorite and #1 album of 2018.

 

Favorite Tracks:

"SKELETONS" feat. The Weeknd, Tame Impala, Pharrell Williams

"STARGAZING"

"CAN'T SAY" feat. Don Toliver

"HOUSTONFORNICATION"

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