We’re quickly nearing the end of December, which means 2018 is already coming to a close somehow. Naturally, that means it’s time for year end lists! With everyone on the internet posting Spotify analytics of what they listened to all year long I figured it was only appropriate to break down the best music of the year…according to me. Full disclosure, this list definitely skews heavier into hip hop than your traditional year end best of list, but hey we started #RushHourRap so what else did you expect? Without further ado, I give you my Top 5 Albums of 2018.
J Cole – KOD
One of the year’s truly most unexpected and experimental heaters of an album. J. Cole dropped “KOD” from the cloud’s, which more and more artists are doing these days, and I cannot believe how Cole continues to hit it out of the park. Kids on Drugs, King Overdose, and Kill Our Demons are the three different meanings of that album title, according to Cole himself.
In succession he has released “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” “Born Sinner,” “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” “4 Your Eyez Only,” and now “KOD.” Mind you, these FIVE albums came directly on the heels of “Friday Night Lights” and “The Warmup,” which in my opinion is the greatest mixtape ever released not named “Da Drought 3.”
Granted a couple of the songs came dangerously close to overkill, which only the likes of Fall Out Boy and Dane Cook have seen as the NBA Playoffs ABUSED the usage of “KOD” in commercials.
Seriously, remember how badly MLB drove that 2007 Dane Cook commercial into the ground?
Fittingly released on 4/20, this is Cole’s first foray into a legitimate concept album as the entire collection is about drug abuse, addiction, greed, and our own demons. It’s a bit of a paradox as “KOD” sounds like an album promoting the typical rap pillars (money, women, drugs), while actually doing the opposite as Cole slips in some mature tidbits of advice for those struggling with these vices.
Without the drugs I want you be comfortable in your skin
I know you so I know you still keep a lot of shit in
You running from yourself and you buying product again
I know you say it helps and no I’m not trying to offend
But I know depression and drug addiction don’t blend
I understand this message is not the coolest to say
But if you down to try it I know of a better way
Best Track: FRIENDS
The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
This really is an incredible album coming out at the perfect time. With anyone and everyone suffering from anxiety, depression, and general insecurity, a lot of people blame social media. Everyone is fronting, showing you the highlights of their lives so you end up scrolling through news feeds of hundreds of people you “know” seemingly doing better than you, looking better than you, making more money than you. It’s easy to see how that can screw with your head. “Modernity has failed us” is one of the most quotable, appropriate lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. These technological advancements that were meant to bring us all closer together have ironically ended up making us feel more isolated than ever before. The 1975 have always been out there, experimental, and straight up weird at times, but more often than not it just works. This album is no exception as it truly is a genre-bending collection of music featuring tracks from pop to rock to jazz to electronica and everything in between.
As The Ringer put it:
“Brief Inquiry is a vivid and panoramic record about what it means to be alive right now, in all its terror and glory. Its explorations of technology-induced numbness put into relief the human joy of reconnecting to another person, or maybe just oneself.”
Best Track: Love It If We Made It
Kanye West & Kid Cudi – Kids See Ghosts
Kanye has had a whirlwind year of borderline schizophrenic behavior primarily around his thoughts on politics and his support of a polarizing president. After misguided outbursts on TMZ, the bizarre sit down/press conference with Trump, and his trademark rants on Twitter it seems like Yeezy finally realized it may be best to just sit the next few plays out.
This didn’t slow down his music production though as Kanye dropped 2 albums this year, with a third one due in November that was recently delayed. The first album he released this year, “ye,” was one that despite mixed reviews I really enjoyed. “Ye” is admittedly a weird Kanye album made for Kanye stans. If you’re not a huge Kanye guy I can see how you’d trash it. I think the biggest shortcoming of that album is that it seems more like a mixtape without any rhyme or reason as to why these songs were selected and put together in the first place. But his second album of the year was a collaboration with old friend Kid Cudi called “KIDS SEE GHOSTS.” Kanye and Cudi go way back having worked together on a number of hits over the years, including All of the Lights, Erase Me, and Welcome to Heartbreak. It’s a fascinating duet as both Kanye and Cudi have publicly struggled with depression and overall mental health with Cudi actually checking himself into rehab. So seeing these two rap about the issues that have plagued them over the years is definitely worth a listen. While this isn’t “Watch the Throne”it’s definitely an awesome collab album with Cudi’s trademark melancholy rhymes helping to level out Kanye’s outlandishness.
As NPR puts it:
“For fans who’ve watched Cudi and Kanye’s relationship evolve from 2008 — from mentor and protégé to adversaries to equals — the announcement of the pair’s joint effort was supposed to be a dream-team rap fantasy come true. In the aftermath of ye, an album currently atop the Billboard 200 but also a mid-year front runner for most polarizing project of 2018, Kids See Ghosts acts as a bewildered fan’s contextual roadmap, providing some clarity for ye and giving an update on Cudi’s mental state.”
Best Track: Reborn
Mac Miller – Swimming
Different than anything Mac Miller had ever put out before, Swimming is a collection of dark, depressing songs wrapped in slow, soft ballads. It’s an album that deals with Mac’s struggle with drugs, loneliness, and love. If it sounds like a movie you’ve already seen thats because it is. Vice points out:
“It’s lucid and lush, brushed with rich sounds assembled using the help of Jon Brion, the composer of Eternal Sunshine and The Spotless Mind, one of Miller’s favorite films.”
It’s an incredibly haunting album in hindsight considering Mac overdosed just a month after its release. RIP Mac. Vice continues;
“it’s a dark record wrapped in light and airy packaging, where its contents are someone looking for freedom in becoming resigned to their sadness, hoping they will soon overcome it—to be better.”
Best Track: Self Care
Kyle – Light of Mine
I know this one is coming out of left field as most of you have probably never heard a Kyle song aside from his collab with Lil Yachty on “I Spy” that popped over the summer. But this is an artist who has quietly and methodically been putting out incredible work for the past 5 years across 3 records. After various mixtapes and indy work, “Light of Mine” is his debut studio album. The self dubbed “beautiful loser,” Kyle raps about everything from video games, and his struggles with women, to growing up as an outcast in the age of hyper-emphasized popularity with social media. “Light of Mine” takes it to another level that is reminiscent of “Thank Me Later” Drake as Kyle croons over incredibly catchy beats with a few A-list features (2 Chainz, Khalid) thrown in for good measure.
2016 hit me like a bag o’ bricks (yup)
2017 switched up, like ooh it’s lit (it’s lit)
I nearly had a mental breakdown
And eight months later had a hit
I guess life is like box a chocolates, huh
You never know what you finna get
Best Track: Ups & Downs
That’s it. That’s the Top 5 albums of the year as determined by me. Love it? Hate it? Want me to curate an entire playlist for the soundtrack to your life? Tweet @the300sboston and let me know what you think.