It was a tremendous year for rap & hip hop. The genre as a whole delivered a large multitude of quality releases for fans to take in. Legends, fresh talent, new concepts, defining albums, and more provided listeners with a vast amount of choices for the personal playlist in 2018. So much that listening to everything released this year was nearly impossible, even for someone who tunes in on a constant basis. I’m forever in discover mode, always looking for the next record that moves me, & this year I found myself at times experiencing somewhat of an inner struggle choosing music to illicit my listening time. Still, amongst it all & after much deliberation, I was able to chisel out the fifty albums that I felt deserving of a mention. These are those albums.
50. J.I.D. - Dicaprio 2
The Dreamville/Interscope signee unleashed some heat before the year was over. From “151 Rum” to “Off Deez” feat. J Cole “Dicaprio 2” is a great record to introduce yourself to J.I.D. with. I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear from the newcomer.
49. Blu & Nottz - Gods in the Spirit, Titans in the Flesh
Ever since “Below The Heavens” I make it mandatory to listen to new Blu music when it drops. Recent endeavors had me with mixed thoughts but with “Gods in the Spirit, Titans in the Flesh” a power combo with producer extraordinaire Nottz comes together in proper form.
48. DopeDiv - Coney Run
The Jerry Parker produced “Changes” grabbed my attention & led to me discovering DopeDiv. The Detroit based group deliver a cohesive offering with “Coney Run” that plays almost like an EP and had me wanting to hear more.
47. Travis Thompson - YouGood?
“YouGood?” got a lot of play from me when it dropped. I feel like it’s got to be hard to feel mad when you listen to a Travis Thompson record. They tend to be upbeat, & if there is a weakness here It would be that a lot of the songs have similar vibes. I look forward to seeing growth on future records.
46. 9th Wonder Presents : Jamla Is The Squad II
A compilation packed with a wide range of artists. I didn’t love everything on here, but the overall squad came through here on the 2nd serving. 9th Wonder’s production is as polished as ever and the bright spots shine. Jericho Jackson, Conway, Black Thought, Rapsody, & SiR were a few of the standouts for me.
45. Prof - Pookie Baby
“Be Around” & “Criminal” ended up being a couple of my favorite records of the year. “Pookie Baby” from Rhymesayers Entertainments Prof is his most put together full length to date. I enjoyed his older stuff but with this iteration, I was drawn in deeper, and the overall sound felt more developed.
44. Binary Star - Lighty & Ears Apart
I didn’t expect a Binary Star album this year let alone two. “Lighty” & “Ears Apart” together as Lightyears Apart. I grouped them together because they came out together. It’s a healthy dosage of fine-tuned boom bap.
43. Kanye West - ye
Judging strictly off the music & not his questionable behavior “ye” did have to grow on me a bit. It’s a different Kanye West, but if you look throughout his catalog we always tend to get something a bit different each time since his first three. As it grew I got sucked in. It’s not his best effort no, but I still enjoyed this record.
42. Lil Wayne - The Carter V
Was it worth the wait? While “The Carter V” definitely had its share of filler, and probably could’ve used a little trimming, it still had great moments for me. “Can’t Be Broken“, “Mona Lisa” feat. Kendrick Lamar, & “Famous” were among those that I had on repeat.
41. Lupe Fiasco - Drogas Wave
Concept albums can be risky to pull off but if anyone is able to execute Lupe Fiasco showcases his abilities to do so here. “Drogas Wave” tells a story in which the veteran emcee illustrates in pristine lyrical detail. As the second part of a trilogy “Drogas Wave” carries the story forward in this solid 7th outing from Mr. Fiasco.
40. Phonte - No News Is Good News
The good news here is Little Brother alumni Phonte hasn’t lost his touch and “No News Is Good News” packs ten well-rounded tracks this time around. With just a couple features Phonte is the star of the show with standouts like “So Help Me God” & “Such Is Life“.
39. Foul Mouth - The Snake Pit
I wouldn’t normally list an instrumental album on this sort of list but “The Snake Pit” isn’t really normal. The Middle Finger Music producer Foul Mouth takes us on a journey through sound that any hip-hop lover could appreciate. Turn the speakers up, soak it all in, “The Snake Pit” is a fantastic listen.
38. Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy
“Invasion of Privacy” was an album I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. I went in with low expectations & was met with a powerful debut album that changed my perspective on Cardi B. “Bickenhead“, “Be Careful“, & “Thru Your Phone” were my favorite three here.
37. NapsNDreds & Nottz - Trouble & a Pair of Dice
As a late arrival in the year “Trouble & a Pair of Dice” led me in with the Neenah assisted “Blind Folds” & captured my full attention with stellar records such as “Spilled Milk” & “Highly Rated” feat. Cormega. It was a busy year for Nottz & teaming up with NapsNDreds comes together like a match made in hip-hop heaven.
36. Big Gov - Betrayal
Big Gov has been establishing himself as one of the most consistent & well-rounded artists out of Detroit for quite some time. With “Betrayal” that consistency is once again showcased in one of the best albums out the city in 2018. Pierre Anthony lends assistance throughout with some of the best moments on “Betrayal” coming when the two join forces.
35. Rapper Big Pooh - RPM
The other half of Little Brother also put out his solo project this year “RPM“. The grown man rap effort has Rapper Big Pooh teaming up with producer Focus in an organic mashup that delivers with its overall substance and sound. “Pray Prey” feat. Cocoa Sarai is my favorite cut on this one.
34. Bumpy Knuckles - Pop Duke Volume One
Once again we have another Nottz backed album for 2018, this man must stay locked in a basement crafting or something with the scope of quality projects he is attached to this year. The OG Bumpy Knuckles spills the tales of a grown man reflecting on his past and grasping at his current. The song “Ol Morning” is a great display of that, and has stayed in my main playlist ever since “Pop Duke” dropped.
33. Nas - Nasir
I’ve seen and heard a lot of people throw shade or disappointment in “Nasir” the Kanye West backed Nas EP. With only seven songs I can understand some finding it too little to satisfy & others just not fond of the rapper-producer combo. Myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the short effort, it’s no “Illmatic” but then it’s not supposed to be, and I was refreshed to hear Nas rap over some different instrumentation.
32. Black Panther - The Album
TDE came through with the best compilation slash soundtrack of the year to critically acclaimed Black Panther brandishing their label packed full of talents. With appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, Travis Scott, Schoolboy Q, SZA, & more listeners had a lot of quality to take in. “King’s Dead” also nailed the mark as one of this year’s strong songs.
31. Noname - Room 25
“Room 25” is possibly the most unique sounding album on this list. It’s the sorta hip-hop I can picture being performed in a quaint coffee shop. Noname first crossed my radar on a Chance The Rapper record a while back impressing me, & with this full length follow up to “Telefone” her poetic spoken word vibes have been molded into a defining style that resonates throughout. It’s artsy hip-hop executed excellently.
30. Aztek The Barfly - Line King
Aztek The Barfly has been a staple in the Detroit scene for some time, now aligned with the freshly minted hip-hop label Middle Finger Music he delivers the full-length effort “Line King“. I gave my full review praising this heavy-hitting bar rap shortly after its release & the Foul Mouth produced masterpiece is still heavy in my current rotation.
29. Young Roc - Fear Of Floating
Here’s a name that showed up on my timelines quite often this year. Young Roc’s “We Are Not The Same‘ was one of the most infectious songs to reach my ears in 2018. The whole project “Fear Of Floating” had me reminiscing of the old Kanye in the “The College Dropout” era with a modern twist. The rapper slash producer also just finished the year with a new EP, and if you’re ever in the mood for some great videos be sure to follow him on Instagram for extra entertainment.
28. Ty Farris - No Cosign Just Cocaine 2: Farris Wonder Drugs
The attention to detail that Ty Farris provides is pristine and “No Cosign Just Cocaine 2: Farris Wonder Drugs” was another shining release out of Detroit in 2018. “Tyrant Talk” feat. Stu Bangas, “The Recipe“, & “Let the Pain Sing“…hell the whole record had me zoned in well listening. The lyrical imagery combined with perfected bars packs a punch that had me going back for more as if I was addicted to some Farris Wonder Drugs.
27. Atmosphere - Mi Vida Local
Slug & Ant have been one of my favorite producer-rapper combinations since I first entered the hip-hop world in the early ’00s. As Atmosphere, the duo has cemented themselves as one of the most successful independent hip-hop acts of all time via the Rhymesayers Entertainment imprint. Once again they deliver & “Mi Vida Local” will undoubtedly stay in my rotation through the new year. “Earring” feat. Musab is also a touching standout & we even get a welcomed visit from The Dynospectrum on “Randy Mosh“.
26. Eminem - Kamikaze
The surprise album that took the internet by storm & fueled the most talked about rap battle of the year. “Kamikaze” brought us back to the angry Slimshady days in elite form. Eminem helped introduce the world to Joyner Lucas on “Lucky You“, gave us the scoop on D12 with “Stepping Stone“, & went for critics throats on “The Ringer” with the unexpected release that will have you dissecting bars in search of subliminal’s.
25. Khrysis & Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson
It was a great year for the producer-rapper combo and as we reach the halfway point here we have Detroit’s own lyrical legend Elzhi teaming up with Khrysis. Together they form Jericho Jackson, the Jamla squad members who also shined on a 9th Wonder compilation this year. “Listen” feat. Amber Navran is classic jazzy sounding boom bap record and this entire debut plays like hip-hop heads treasure chest.
24. Mac Miller - Swimming
We lost an incredible talent this year in Mac Miller, his untimely death coming not far after the release of his somber & at times depressing record “Swimming“. I was saddened to hear the news that Mac had passed as “Swimming” traveled through my speakers during my daily commute for weeks previous. It’s a sad record that has become even more but I also found it to be his greatest effort. R.I.P. to this creative young soul, & remember to always check on your strong friends.
23. Nipsey Hussle - Victory Lap
I’ll admit I still want to listen to this album much deeper, but from a couple listens alone Nipsey Hussle etched his “Victory Lap” into the top half of my playlist for 2018. I found it to be the most substantial offering to date for Nipsey Hussle from my short time with it so far & definitely increased my expectations for future endeavors from the almost modernized G-Funk funk vibes that protrude from “Victory Lap“.
22. Jonnie Morris - It’s All Beautiful and It’s All Good
This debut from Detroit’s own Jonnie Morris was much shorter than most projects on the list, possibly the shortest as I think about it. However, the ep screamed quality over quantity & the charisma, delivery, & storytelling abilities were distinct. “It’s All Beautiful and It’s All Good” spoke to me personally with real-life records like “The Road“, “A Billion“, & “Honor Roll“. As my favorite new discovery of the year, I was left anxious to hear more from the sharp lyricist.
21. Flatbush Zombies - Vacation In Hell
“Chunky” topped off both my Apple Music & Spotify stats for the year as one of my top ten played songs. I can’t say I wasn’t surprised given the fact I can nearly recite the track word for word. “Vacation In Hell” wasn’t just a one track show though, Flatbush Zombies secured a fan in me with this release packed with audible candy. If I had to classify this album I would call it new wave boom bap, one thing is for sure, I welcome any future zombie apocalypse coming from Flatbush.
20. Freeway - Think Free
“Think Free” may come off as one of the overlooked albums this year in my eyes. I feel like Freeway doesn’t always get all the credit he deserves. Records like “All Falls Down” & “The Nation” feat. Jadakiss both garnered major play in my headphones. For an artist who’s been battling kidney disease yet still finding time to put together an album like “Think Free” to address the struggle instead of giving up is an inspiration in itself to me.
19. KiD Swoop - 4 So Long
It was a groundbreaking year for a young KiD Swoop who has been steady putting Pontiac, MI on the map with his critically acclaimed debut “4 So Long“. My personal favorites from the album include “Down & Out“, “Keeping It Real“, & “Shottas“. The future looks bright for the newcomer who won a performance spot at the 2019 Underground Hip Hop Awards & just announced a new project “Little Man, Running Wild” set to release on Valentine’s day.
18. Chavis Chandler - One Winged Angel
“One Winged Angel” is the most formal introduction into Detroit rapper/singer Chavis Chandler to date. With just two features it’s essentially a one-man show here with transitions between rapping and singing executed flawlessly. “Summertime” wasn’t only one of my favorite records of the year but one of the dopest music videos too. “Finish ‘Em” & “Hell & Back” feat. Royce Da 5’9″ also shine. It doesn’t stop there either, I strongly suggest giving a full album listen.
17. Pac Div - 1st Baptist
In a follow up to the well-received “The Div” from 2015 comes another strong offering with “1st Baptist“. I’ve been a longtime fan of Pac Div and this time around I found to be the most satisfying sonic adventure from them. “Time Will Tell” was the #1 most played song on my end of year streaming service stats. It’s not the only gem on “1st Baptist“, the entire project is worth the delve in.
16. Abhi The Nomad - Marbled
“Marbled” is far from the most conventional hip-hop album on my list but it captured so much listening time for me this year I had to place it so highly. I had no idea who Abhi The Nomad was when I fell across it but the energetic, eccentric, & sonically fulfilling songs grabbed my attention and stuck with me. It’s upbeat but still lyrical, & I definitely recommend giving it a chance.
15. Chris Orrick - Portraits
A definitive album from Mello Music Group’s Michigan native Chris Orrick is a progressive blue collar rap record that is perfectly tilted. You get a personal, introspective look into the artist that is Chris Orrick throughout “Portraits“. Solid production & top notch storytelling carry this album that might have flown under your radar. “Design Flaw“, “Bottom Feeders” feat. Fashawn, & the deeply personal record “Mom” are my standouts in this strong showing of work.
14. Saba - Care For Me
“Life” was the song that tipped me onto “Care For Me” and it was an illustrious tip. The growth as an artist from his previous “Bucket List Project” was shown throughout the 42-minute album. The lo-fi sounds of “Fighter” feat. Kaina has Saba flow finessing, & the raw lyricism here spoke to me in the hip-hop form. I’m eager to hear what’s next from Saba in years to come.
13. Anderson .Paak - Oxnard
I might be going against the grain saying this but I wasn’t the biggest fan of “Malibu” so when it came to “Oxnard” I wasn’t overly excited. Giving Anderson.Paak another shot deemed worthwhile in the end and “Oxnard” pulled me in deep. The features on the album were stellar as well ranging from Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, J. Cole, and more. It was a front to back replayable & redeeming listen for me with minimal weak points yet a plethora of highlights.
12. Royce 5’9” & DJ Premier - PRhyme 2
Another match made in hip-hop heaven? In what has arguably been the year of Royce 5’9″ not only did he drop his own definitive album but he also delivered a sequel with legendary producer DJ Premier. Where “Book Of Ryan” was a more personal slash experimental range of records PRhyme 2 provides a more standard boom bap experience. No complaints here as the razor sharp bars are abundant and the paring of Royce & Premier is a seemingly perfect fit.
11. Black Milk - Fever
Detroit bred producer-rapper provided a “Fever” pitch effort. Well feeling like he had taken more of an instrumental forward approach in recent years “Fever” revisits the emcee side of things I remember from my early discovery of Black Milk. It’s an excellent remembrance that consumed my playlist heavily since its inception.
10. Vstylez - Thornton Melon
I gave my full raving review of Vstylez – “Thornton Melon” not too long ago here. Since then not much has changed, “Thornton Melon” is still in my current rotation. Songs such as the Pete Rock produced “Detropolis” & the emcee powerhouse record “Return of the Kraken ( Clash, Pt. 2 )”( feat. Kool G Rap, OC, Masta Ace, & KXN) catapulted to my favorites of the year. Vstylez put on a spectacle for listeners with this fantastic hip-hop serving.
9. Black Thought - Streams of Thought Vol. 1 & 2
Not one but two volumes of “Streams of Thought” graced us this year. Black Thought arguably is one of the best lyricists of all time and these projects show no lack of that argument. I preferred the first to the second but I decided to group them together because they were both equally impressive in their own merits. You honestly can’t go wrong with either when it comes Black Thought’s immaculate flows.
8. Eligh - Last House on The Block
From his work with Living Legends to his collaborations with Grouch, I’ve been following Eligh for years. “Last House on The Block” is one of those defining albums for me on this years list. The title track is gripping, & the infectious back to back songs “Once Again” feat. De’la & “Blue 99” patterned themselves inside my skull. It’s a darker somewhat reflective record that does an outstanding job of creating an overall “feel” and guest verses from Evidence & R.A. the Rugged Man are just some of the welcomed additions.
7. Masta Ace & Marco Polo - A Breukelen Story
Few emcees can master the art of storytelling like Masta Ace. The man responsible for two of my favorite albums of all time “A Long Hot Summer” & “Disposable Arts” gave us all another grand story for 2018. “A Breukelen Story” to be exact, orchestrated by producer Marco Polo, delivers masterful records like “Get Shot“, “Three” feat. EMC, & “Corporal Punishment” feat. Elzhi. It’s a high caliber story that you’ll want to “hear” to the end.
6. Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts
Easily my favorite of all the Kanye West assisted projects this year Kids See Ghosts brings back the Kid Cudi that I had been waiting for. “Reborn” was reborn over and over on my car stereo, and was one of my most “sung to” songs of the year. I loved this record, I played it to death, & Kid Cudi delivers his best effort since his debut.
5. Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz - Mona Lisa
Ah…the final producer-rapper pairing on the list has Mello Music Group’s masterpiece of fine hip-hop art “Mona Lisa” pairing Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz. “Grace of God” feat. DJ Los, “That Place” & “Reflection” round out my top three records on this grown man rap portrait worthy of framing in high regard.
4. Jay Rock - Redemption
Win. Win. Win. “Redemption” plows into my top five albums and for good reason. Jay Rock became the shining star this year for the Top Dawg Entertainment roster with this prestigious addition to the catalog. “Redemption” requires a search for weakness & we truly get to learn more of who Jay Rock is artistically in this extremely solid bout.
3. J. Cole - KOD
J. Cole broke the internet for a moment when he dropped the artwork as well as “KOD” itself. “KOD” was a grower for me, it took time for me to soak it all in but once fully soaked it surely has earned its spot high atop my list. I would argue that “KOD” was the most impactful album of the year and as far as portraying messages I found it to be the most compelling of the year.
2. Evidence - Weather or Not
“Weather or Not” was not only one of my undisputable favorites of the year, but I can see it playing on and on in my future as a timeless record. Production wise, substance, & the emotion that pours throughout Evidence’s best album is “evident” throughout. Taking it all in over & over has been a treat for the ears and there’s no chance I could ever “Throw It All Away” when it comes to revisiting this fantastic hip-hop construct.
( ALBUM OF THE YEAR ) 1. Royce 5’9” - Book Of Ryan
For me, “Book of Ryan” was the clear winner in this year’s race. It felt like a career, hell life-defining record. Cuts like “Power” & “Cocaine” captivate the listener with perfectly delivered storytelling. We get a glimpse into the more personal details of Royce’s life throughout “Book Of Ryan”.
Look from “Success Is Certain“, the “Bar Exam” mixtape series, or his most recent full-length prior “Layers“, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of this man’s work. “Book of Ryan” though? It felt like a computer rendered the perfect rapper algorithm & only Royce 5’9″ received the code. I will never think of Christmas turkey the same way & that very statement is true to why I absolutely loved elements of this album so very much. The way he is able to render rap bars in a way that connects you to the story as if you were actually there is an incredible test of audible imagery.
It wasn’t just those two songs I previously mentioned that captured me, trapping my car stereo, and headphones into repetitive streams throughout the year. “Dumb” was an instant favorite and also led me to the welcomed discovery of Boogie, “Boblo Boat” feat. J. Cole, a homage to the theme park of my parent’s generation, & “Amazing” feat. Melanie Rutherford a brilliant story of one special basketball.
I will enjoy this whole record for years to come, for me, it was the most definitive album of the year from a veteran emcee landing his Magnum Opus.
Just 50 was hard. These are five albums that I had either close to the cut or just needed a little more listening time with. I still believe these projects deserve shine this year!
Meek Mill - Championships
3269 Chise - Chopped Suei
Spose - We All Got Lost
Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs
Token - Between Somewhere
Each and every project on this list including the honorable mentions impacted me musically in some way or another in the past year. It was somewhat reminiscent to a hip-hop revival with variations of the genre providing a little bit of everything for listeners to appreciate. You may agree or disagree with some of my selection, you may even question some of my omissions, but even I had a rough time ranking & building this year’s list amongst a massive amount of quality releases to sift through. As we begin this new year I look forward to a continuation of this hip-hop renaissance and anxious to hear what’s to come in 2019. If there is anything you think I’ve missed or could recommend for a listen let me know in the comments below. Salute to all the hard working artists out there pushing to the next level, and thank you for tuning into my top fifty break-down. – COMMi$$ION
COMMi$$ION (Joe Commisso) has spent half his life embedded in hip-hop one way or another & is driven towards making a positive impact on the art form any way he can contribute. From early beginnings, he entered the Detroit hip-hop scene as a graphic artist designing for a variety of local rappers. All this well secretly honing his own records behind the scene & building a network of driven artists like him by his side to develop their sounds. Now he currently heads the web side of things for DetroitRap.com as Chief Editor, releases his own music, & continues to provide graphic services for the community.
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