Sparky finishes up 2018 Combine Culture with his top 10 Hip-Hop albums of the year
The year 2018 has come to the end and before the new year starts kicking into high gear I am taking a look back at 2018. These were my favorite albums of 2018 and without further ado here is the list:
Honorable Mention: Logic: “Bobby Tarantino II”/”YSIV”
Neither album would make the list for this year but I had to give Logic some props for two very good albums. I enjoyed the entirety of “Bobby Tarantino II more as it was filled with just banger after banger that allowed Logic’s lyrical skills shine. The reason why “YSIV” is on the list is that it also has some solid tracks but most importantly it has one of my favorite tracks of the year and best feature on any album this year as well on the track “Wu-Tang Forever”. On the song “Wu-Tang Forever” all of the living members of Wu-Tang Clan get their chance to shine on the song. The track clocks in at eight minutes and eight seconds and with no chorus or hooks it just lets these talented rappers show their skills.
#10. Vince Staples “FM!”
On this album, Vince Staples continues to progress as not only a rapper but an artist in general. On “FM!” Staples’ raps flow effortlessly on the beats and his subject matter while very gritty doesn’t feel like impending doom but instead, it feels like a beautiful struggle of living in an urban wasteland. The production of “FM!” is done by Loudpvck and this is the first time they have done an album together but this album still feels familiar to the work Staples had done on the breakout album “Summertime 06”.
#9. Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs, and The Alchemist “Fetti”
This was an awesome collaborative album but two solid MCs and producer The Alchemist. This is the second time that this trio has worked together with the other being track “Scottie Pippen” on the record “Covert Coup”. The album is impeccably produced where tracks weave from one track to the other seamlessly and have a very clean retro feel reminiscent of 90’s boom-bap style. Both Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs are great MCs that work great together and their flows bounce off one another and feel extremely organic.
#8. Czarface and MF Doom “Czarface Meets Metal Face”
When I heard this album was coming I wasn’t just pumped I was elated. MF Doom is a lesser known MC that hasn’t put out a full album since 2009 and his absence is wrapped in mystery. Czarface is a rap trio of 7L, Esoteric and Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck. The production for “Czarface Meets Metal Face” was done by Czarface and feels perfect in their discography. The beats very dramatic and have a Saturday morning cartoon meets B-movie soundtrack feel. The music is purposeful and foreboding at times to eccentric and almost zany. The lyricism is off the wall with tons of pop culture references that span wrestling, TV, movies and even comics.
#7. Noname “Room 25”
This album truly took me by surprise. Noname is a female MC that is tremendously talented and “Room 25” is her debut album and definitely shows off her skills. Her lyrics are very introspective where she is not just finding her inner strength and beauty but her place in the world as well. Her flow isn’t forceful but rather tender and sincere. The production on “Room 25” only enhances Noname’s lyrics with smooth and soulful beats.
#6. Kids See Ghosts “Kids See Ghosts”
This was the album by the super duo Kid Cudi and Kanye West. This album is very experimental but tremendously produce. The blend of singing and rapping on “Kids See Ghosts” is stellar and shows off the talents of both artists beautifully. The features on “Kids See Ghosts” are also awesome with Pusha T and Yasiin Bey/Mos Def lend their talents to a couple of tracks.
#5. Death Grips “Year Of The Snitch”
The album “Year Of The Snitch” is a sonic kick in the face. The lyrics on this album aren’t the most important thing with a couple of tracks even being instrumentals. What makes “Year Of The Snitch” so amazing is its musicianship. When listening to this I was certain that every song had to have multiple samples considering how dense and layered every song is but to my surprise only 4 of the 13 songs even had samples. The album as a whole is a crazy abstract hip-hop gumbo of metal, punk, rock and industrial music blended together.
#4. Earl Sweatshirt “Some Rap Songs”
I did a full album review of this album on this site a couple of weeks ago so I will keep this overview of “Some Rap Songs” short and sweet. “Some Rap Songs” is an amazing record that may be minimalistic in production but still very grim and gloomy. The songs don’t have any real hooks or choruses but the lyrics very introspective and deal with loss and depression. Earl Sweatshirt crafted an album here that will not only be considered amazing now but could be this generation’s Madvillain “Madvillainy”.
#3. JPEGMAFIA “Veteran”
The album “Veteran” by JPEGMAFIA is a sonic tour de force for hip-hop. It is an interesting mix of traditional rap and instrumentals. Every song on “Veteran” feels unique from the previous one but still, everything fits harmoniously. The tempo and instrumentation on “Veteran” are off-kilter and abstract but done in a way that doesn’t feel forceful. Besides the production being unorthodox so are the lyrics. Lyrically the album goes from sarcastic to angry to even vulnerable all in the same song at times.
#2. Royce Da 5’9″ “Book Of Ryan”
Royce Da 5’9″ may have decades in the rap game but “Book Of Ryan” is no doubt the best album of his career. The album is extremely introspective with at times Royce Da 5’9″ even stating that he was making the album so that he could explain his life to his son. The lyrics are not only personal but extremely dense and can go from vulnerable to very braggadocious and then back again flawlessly. “Book Of Ryan” also has amazing features as well with heavy hitters like Eminem, J. Cole, and Pusha T just to name a few all on the album as well.
#1. Pusha T “Daytona”
This was my favorite album of the year and it hasn’t changed since the day it came out. The production on “Daytona” by Kanye West is some of his most dark and foreboding since Yeezus in 2013. The production is not just dark but it is also very precise and at times becomes very sparse to let Pusha T lyrics breathe. Speaking of Pusha T, “Daytona” is one of his best albums lyrically where he balances the gritty with the bombastic. This album also started probably the biggest rap beef of the year with the diss track “Infrared” that pitted the artist Drake up against Pusha T.