Hottest Hip-Hop Albums Released January Through August 2018
It has been an exciting run of new hip-hop album releases so far this year! With a wide variety of artistic styles and flows, the most genre-bending artists have both appeared and returned. We decided to break down the hottest hip-hop albums so far in 2018 in no particular order. Check it out below!
Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD
Label: Grand Hustle Records/ Epic Records/ Cactus Jack Records
Travis Scott’s third album expand his self-created mythology and serve to continue his series of well-received albums. Utilizing production by Tame Impala and Thundercat, with vocals from Frank Ocean, James Blake, and Juice Wrld, Scott creates an engaging and emotionally honest album. Discussing the themes of the negative effects of stardom, his relationship issues, and what it takes to be a successful artist. “Stop Trying to be God” boasts a phenomenal Stevie Wonder solo, elevating Scott’s style to another level. His love for the city of Houston shines through both the album and the artist’s upcoming Astroworld Festival taking place there. The interweaving of meaning and auditory bliss makes this album one of Scott’s best.
Drake – Scorpion
Label: Young Money Records/ Cash Money Records/ Republic Records
Through controversy and public embarrassment, Drake recovers excellently in this album. Drake’s focus on the effects of his wealth on his family and his insecurities about starting his own family. Though he still relies on his wealth, he now shows understanding of his responsibilities to those he cares about. Drake’s album leans more towards R&B than any of his previous albums, highlighting the shift towards R&B within hip-hop as a whole.
Juice WRLD – Goodbye & Good Riddance
Label: Interscope Records/ Grade A Records
As a stalwart of a new wave of emo rap, Juice Wrld has redefined what emo rap can be. With guitar riffs, pop samples, and vocals, Goodbye & Good Riddance displays an alternative approach to rap. In addition, Juice Wrld’s discussion of psychological problems shows his divergence from the rest of the hip-hop community. Utilizing skits to isolate the core of his broken state throughout the album illuminates our takeaway from the album: relationships are hard.
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Label: Atlantic Records
To break from the emotional hip-hop, we have Cardi B’s pop culture reference fuel. From her signature ad-libs, to her bars about rising to fame, Cardi’s debut satisfies. Her flow and material are unique in her execution. From stripping to her blatant disregard for how you feel about her. This only elevates her abilities, by focusing on her own introspection while also having enough fun to avoid being too emotional. On this album, Cardi hits the sweet spot between excited self-realization and understated vulnerability.
XXXTENTACION – ?
Label: Empire Distribution, Records, and Publishing/ Caroline Distribution/ Capitol Music Group/ Bad Vibes Forever
The late rapper’s final record must be included in this list simply for the way it redefined our view of XXXTENTACION. Even with this pop direction, X’s depressed subject matter is clear. He expresses feelings of brokeness on “Moonlight,” while he croons melodically. On “Sad!” X’ emotional turmoil comes even more to the surface. As he tries to work through these emotions, the album becomes more heart wrenching, such as on “changes.” Even in death, X has an impact on us and our understanding of how music interacts with real life.
Post Malone – beerbongs and bentleys
Label: Republic Records
Post Malone’s drug fueled rap is fun and stands out for its unabashed commitment to utilizing drug culture to discuss issues of fame and relationships. On “Rich & Sad,” Malone fights for a relationship in the face of fame. But for Malone, wealth can also be something worth flaunting if you’ve earned it, such as on “Psycho.” His search for the perfect woman drives “Same Bitches” and his need for closure drives “Over Now.” In the iconic “rockstar,” Malone evokes the traditions of old school rock music. Malone’s second album has made him one of the most relevant rappers of the year.
The Carters- EVERYTHING IS LOVE
Label: Parkwood Entertainment/ Sony Music/ S. Carter Records/ Roc Nation, LLC
In an extravaganza of hip-hop and R&B, Beyonce and Jay-Z blow us away with a collaboration under a new name: The Carters. The name and album symbolize the synergy of hip-hop’s royal family. With Jay-Z’s understated lyrics throughout most of the album, Beyonce arrives in front and stays there. Beyonce dominates on “Boss,” a song about her own boss status. On “Black Effect” Jay-Z relies on his distinct flow to elevate his own blackness beyond his sometimes overshadowing wealth. The Carters discuss their problem with friendship on “Friends” in the aftermath of conflict with Kanye and Kim. Most of the album, however, is a discussion of their own relationship issues in one way or another, becoming a very entertaining public therapy session.
Pusha T- Daytona
Label: GOOD Music/ Def Jam Recordings
Though mired in controversy for his “Story of Adidon,” Pusha T drives further into intensity with this album. The Kanye production with Pusha’s lyrics provides for a tight, fully realized album. His dealing lifestyle is front and center, and he expects us to understand. Such as on “If You Know You Know” and “The Games We Play,” Pusha argues the importance of realness. In an anthem to his own skill, Pusha raps emphatically on “What Would Meek Do?” No matter the thoughts on his controversy with Drake, this album is one of his best.
J Cole- K.O.D.
Label: Dreamville Records/ ROC Nation, LLC/ Interscope Records
In the much-awaited fifth album by J. Cole, we are engaged smooth jazz stylings to contrast its dark themes. His feelings on the different forms of addiction are displayed clearly here. Cole discusses obsession with women on “Photograph” and “Kevin’s Heart”. On the latter, he deals with the implications of cheating through Kevin Hart’s publicized issues with the very same. “ATM” coalesces the prominent theme of capitalist obsession through the album, with Cole aligning it with the root of evil. Similarly, the repetition on “Friends” highlights the ignorance of the problems of others. This album is an indictment of the very same drug culture heralded by other rappers.
Migos – Culture II
Label: Quality Control Music/ Mowtown/ Capitol Records, Inc.
Clocking in at one hour and fifteen minutes, Migos produces one the most fun albums of the year. Playing like a club mix, Migos’ album is best in its simplicity. Though it does mix it up, Culture II is unified in themes of wealth and flexing. With features from Drake and Big Sean, this album is solid.
A$AP Rocky – Testing
Label: ASAP Worldwide/ Polo Grounds Music/ RCA Records
Rocky discusses aspects of his real life on this sonically experimental album. His themes for the album focus on several aspects of his fame, finding his place, and the effects of loss. Rocky’s amazing flow on “A$AP Forever” and the Kodak Black feature on “Calldrops” are some of the best of the album. Rocky also shines on the Frank Ocean-assisted Purity, finding issues with his own success yet still seeing the importance of that fame for his family. He delves into his own spirituality on “Praise the Lord” by finding the place between faith and the sometimes monotonous, sometimes traumatic events of his life. Overall, Rocky is both pensive and pleasing, you’ll be listening to it on repeat.
Kids See Ghosts- KIDS SEE GHOSTS
Label: GOOD Music/ Def Jam Recordings
Following Kanye’s solo album, he returns with collaborator Kid Cudi to become Kids See Ghosts. On this collaboration, Kanye’s focus on production and Kid Cudi’s focus on emotional lyrics serve to create a balanced piece. In contrast with Kanye’s own album, sounds are cohesive across songs. Less critically conflicting, this is a deep album. On songs such as “Feel the Love” and “Kids See Ghosts” repetition leads to moments of unexpected bars and great flows. Neither artist outshines the other, and on “Fire” they synthesize a sound unlike any other. For all their similarities over the years, they come together to form something new with Kids See Ghosts.
Mac Miller – Swimming
Label: REMember Music/ Warner Bros. Records
In the aftermath of his public breakup with Ariana Grande, Mac Miller recovers his emotional health with this album. On Self Care, Miller defies views of how he dealt with the breakup. Miller talks through the effects of the breakup on “Hurt Feelings” and finds that growth suits him. Miller’s emotional hurt clearly drives the album, but also serve to illuminate the deeper parts of Miller. Those are the parts that deal with depression and have a disdain for the media. This album is Miller’s journal of therapeutic exercises that just happen to sound amazing.
Denzel Curry – TA13OO
Label: Loma Vista Recordings/ PH Records
The disconnect between artist and fan, between fame and reality. These are the themes Denzel Curry focuses on as we travel deeper into his mind. As he raps about the darker topics, he brings depth to a well produced and intense album. On “Clout Cobain” Curry considers how flawed drug culture is and what it means for its supporters. With “Sirens” he tears down all forms of American violence along with J.I.D. and Billie Eilish. His references to Pokemon, Disney, police brutality, and death make for an in-depth analysis of society’s biggest flaws and undiscussed issues.
Playboi Carti – Die Lit
Label: AWGE/ Interscope Records
As trap’s prodigal son, Carti establishes himself as one of the best in his debut album. Similar to Post Malone, Carti considers himself a rock star on “Love Hurts,” acknowledging how fame has changed his life. Further, on “R.I.P.” Carti expands on the role wealth has had on his relationships. With this album, Playboi Carti has cemented himself as a fixture of trap.
Nicki Minaj – QUEEN
Label: Young Money Entertainment/ Cash Money Records
The queen of rap returns with an electric album. In her fourth album, Nicki Minaj has released a series of hits bound to be on our minds and in our ears for years to come. With a feature from Eminem on “Majesty” Minaj raps about power and fame. On “Barbie Dreams” Minaj raps over a Biggie’s beat to reverses gender roles and takes on some of her male counterparts. “Coco Chanel” deals more with the effect of being a female artist surrounded by men. This album is one of Minaj’s best and blows away the competition.