Top 20 Albums of 2018
20. Kamikaze – Eminem
Where do you even begin with Eminem these days. Unfortunately, we have “Revival” and the fall out of that to thank for Eminem becoming nothing short of a rap meme in 2018, and this project, well, it sort of plays into that perfectly. Don’t get me wrong, yes lyrically Eminem can still rap, he can still eat his competition on the mic and songs like “The Ringer”, and “Fall” prove that. But what this project lacks is artistic direction. What Eminem lacks is artistic direction. The energy, motifs and effortlessness that define his early classics (Marshall Mathers LP, Slim Shady LP) can’t be found here. Here you have generic production which fulfils its role but that’s about it, whilst Eminem desperately fights off competition that aren’t of the same calibre or even genre, making him come off as petty and insecure. This album when it came out banged. And some of the tracks are still very impressive, but they are more lyrical exercises that a whole thought, or even a song. And I will never listen to “Nice Guy” or “Venom” ever again. Eminem still has it lyrically, he just needs to slow down, and make some grown up music. (4:44, Life is Good).
19. NASIR – Nas
2018 saw the return of another bonified hip hop legend, Nas. When I heard it was going to be produced solely by Kanye I almost exploded, the possibilities were endless and the expectations so far through the roof it was just silly. The that dipped upon the news that the long-awaited album was going to be 7 songs long. We waited 6 years for an EP. But, then Daytona hit, and it was phenomenal. Kanye’s 7 song formula had resulted in an album that felt like concise and didn’t waste a single second. Expectations are climbing back up into that whole in the roof. What we did get wasn’t a Daytona. But it wasn’t bad. I don’t find myself going back to NASIR the way I wished I could. It was just good, and Kanye and Nas don’t do “just good”, they do “We Major”. This was two legends teaming up and the result was an album where Nas sounded tired, and Kanye overshadowed him. That’s not to say there can’t be gems found on here. “everything” is by far the standout, and its gorgeous. The-Dream and Kanye assist Nas over an immaculately produced beat that comes crushing in after a vocal performance that would give anyone chills. Nas bares himself on the track talking about the struggle with his kids and media manipulation, and we can just ignore the anti-vaccine line. “Cops Shot the Kid” is a masterclass, and “Adam and Eve” is also a great track. Good, but not great, and it needed to be.
18. TA1300 – Denzel Curry
Not afraid to say I was late to this album, I heard “Ultimate” back in 2015 in the vine videos, and thought very simple to myself, I never need to hear this song or Denzel Curry again. No.
But I was wrong, shockingly. This album got rave reviews and the decision to split it into quarters sounded really cool, so I put it on. The intro title track is incredible, and so far left off everything Denzel has done before I had to double check it was his album. The song details his relationship with an abused woman (and this is the “light” side of the album) over some spacy and beautiful production. “Black Balloons” is an upbeat track that throws it back sonically to the golden era, and those are my favourite tracks. From there the albums begins to fit back into the Denzel Curry mould of heavy SoundCloud beats, but this time I enjoyed them. The beats were impressive, and Denzel’s lyrical capability and flow was even more impressive. Some of the tracks are skips for me, but this is without question his most well thought out and interesting piece of music.
17. Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
This is controversial, I know. People go fucking nuts for this album, and the critical praise can be heard a mile off, and I like it, I really like it, calm down. The reason its so low on this list is I just don’t go back to it as much as the others further down this list. Its an album that I can appreciate whole heartedly, with Kanye’s experimental production which dips its toes in soul, rock, jazz and pretty much everything whilst Cudi gives excellent vocal performances. But it’s just not my favourite that came out in 2018. I listen to “Reborn” almost every week, just for Cudi’s humming and Kanye’s “cardio audio let me jog your brain” line, because they never get old. The Kurt Cobain sample on “Cudi Montage” is excellent and Kanye makes it work as though it was built for hip hop, and Pusha delivers nothing but fire on the intro track “Feel the Love”. I don’t have much bad to say other than, it’s a great EP, and is probably “better” than a lot that is about to come, but I prefer other albums that came out this year.
16. Fetti – Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs & Alchemist.
Everything the Alchemist touches turns to gold. Seriously. Every rapper that’s worth anything has or wants an Alchemist beat. His work with Mobb Deep, Roc Marciano, Kendrick Lamar (The Heart pt. IV, and FEAR. Fucking FEAR), Schoolboy Q, The Game, Nas, Anderson Paak, Raekwon and much more is timeless. These days he’s giving his beats to on the rise underground artists like Griselda, Boldy James and Your Old Droog, providing a platform that most artist dream of. This EP is no different. From a production standpoint, Alchemist delivers 9 outstanding tracks that struggle to not be the forefront of the albums appeal, ranging from soulful, to menacing. Lil Wayne protégé Curren$y is a rapper I’m not too familiar with, and can take or leave, but Freddie Gibbs is a different bracket all together. I don’t know what they put in his drink for the 2 days in which this was recorded, but he is nuts all over this project, delivering some of his best verses to date. Curren$y can’t help but be a little outshined, but he by no means takes away from any of the songs, and their styles provide enough of a switch up that a compliment is paid. This is just a solid 23 minutes of music back to front, and thematically its not very daring, sure, but its brilliant. Location Remote….
15. My Dear Melancholy – The Weeknd
The Weeknd’s mysterious and moody mixtape trilogy back in 2011 trailblazed the genre “alternative R&B” that is occupied by so many artists today. Thanks to him and a handful of other artists, R&B now means “Blonde”, and not Usher’s “OMG”. Whilst “Starboy” was a far cry from the heights of his early career critically, I was still excited to see if the now MJ emulated star of “I feel it Coming” still had some “Trilogy” in him. The answer is yes and no. This EP is an ode to The Weeknd’s foundation sound and is definitely centred around his high-profile breakups with, someone. I literally can’t keep up. The monster intro track “Call Out My Name” wastes no time in setting the tone for the album, and whilst its very dramatic and over produced, I would be lying if I said I didn’t love it. “Hurt You” is vintage Abel, as he warns girls to stay away from him, an uncapable of love sex addicted mega star. “Privilege” is another stand out, with a subtle beat and ambient backdrop. This is by no means the Weeknd’s best work, but it was a great thirst quencher whilst we awaited the next full length album, and the production and vocal performances ensure that it’s a luxurious and painful 25 minutes with very little filler.
14. beerbongs & bentleys – Post Malone
AHHH POSTY. White girls unite.
I resented Post Malone so much pre this release, as I saw him as just another autotune wailer that made thoughtless club music, and I was wrong. I struggled so much to place this album as quality of music wise, I would struggle to place it at 14. But, I played it so fucking much that summer, and that’s because this is an excellent contemporary pop album. Things that surprised me about this album were the fact that Post Malone could actually sing, the production was really interesting if a bit predictable, and the subject matter was extremely personal. This album has the bangers with “Rockstar” and “Pyscho”, but also has vulnerable tracks like “Over Now”, “Better Now” and “Blame it on Me” that still absolutely bang. I can’t help but like this album. “Paranoid” is a great intro track, detailing the anxiety that comes along with such rapid and colossal fame, “Rich & Sad” has hook so infectious you will belt it out wherever you are, and the acoustic power ballad “Stay” is so surprising that it almost fits into the track list seamlessly. This album just sounds so good and was a huge part of my soundtrack to 2018 summer and is the quintessential Post Malone album.
13. Ye – Kanye West
I panned, scoffed at and ignored this release the day it came out. And It stayed that way for the best part of a year. I just couldn’t see the grandeur of MBDTF, the experimentation of TLOP, and the soulful production didn’t take my back to the glory days of College Dropout or Late Registration. There was no need for this release in my mind, and Kanye’s antics mad it far too easy for me to disregard. However, I found myself desperate for more Kanye about a year later, so decided to chuck this on and see if I had missed anything. I had. This album doesn’t exist in the same stratosphere as the other Kanye albums. They were all marked events in time as the world waited to see what the mad genius would hit us with the next, and almost every time he gave us greatness that would change the game in a small or large way. This album didn’t do that, or at least we can’t see the results yet if it did. This album is Kanye confronting the multitude of imperfections and contradictions that surround his reputation and is easily his most personal release to date. The half-spoken intro track “I Thought About Killing You” went from pretentious nonsense, to actually quite clever, and I couldn’t help but nod my head when the beat finally came in. “Yikes” is a catchy banger with Kanye dipping back into the lyrical pool as he addresses his critics, my personal favourite line being “Russel Simmons wanna pray for me too / Imma pray for him cos he got Me Too – ed”. “All Mine” is a little bit harder to justify as Kanye delivers a ridiculous hook, but the flow is still there, and shamefully it can sometimes catch you off guard and you begin to enjoy it. The rest of the track list from there on brings some of Kanye’s most revealing lyrics that tend to centre around his family life, over some of his most laidback and minimal production. I’m never going to argue with someone that says this isn’t worthy of a spot in this list, but for me this album is one that begs to be taken out of the context of Kanye’s monumental discography. This is a relaxed, flawed and lowkey out put from a guy that doesn’t really know what he wants or what he is, and it is a great listen with the right mindset.
12. Supreme Blientele – Westside Gunn
Griselda Records (Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher) are hands down the most exciting and interesting thing happening in Hip Hop. Its just a fact. The three blood related rappers just cannot stop delivering project after project of excellence, with their revivalist sound of the 1990’s looming over the game. They might remind you of Wu Tang, but their sound is unmistakeably 2020. The spooky and ethereal production of Conway, the hauntingly cold sound of Benny, and the soulful menace of Westside are instantly recognisable. With the second full length album from Westside Gunn, he doesn’t manage to top the underground juggernaut debut “FLYGOD”, but he comes close enough. Out of the three, Westside is the artist. His projects always sound immaculate, even if lyrically he may be the weakest by a hair. He knows how an album should ebb and flow, and his ventures into the fashion world mark him as the one with the most artistic drive. When discussing Westside, one cannot avoid the elephant in the room: his voice. His high-pitched squawky delivery is one of the most distinctive and divisive in the community, and it takes first time listeners off guard. I found it very jarring at first, but it quickly fades, and the lyrics come to the forefront. After time, if you are like me, you grow to love it and it almost becomes in an instrument to the production, making for an excellent album. Benny features heavily on this album and as usual slaughters every verse to the point where a stank face doesn’t quite cut it and you have to actually throw your phone across the room, and the Anderson Paak aided “Wrestlemania 20” is soulful bliss.
11. RR2: The Bitter Dose – Roc Marciano
This is the album on the list I am most recently acquainted. Rapper and producer Roc Marciano goes hand in hand with the word “underrated”, and you will hear people online talking about how he is the most underrated rapper of all time until your ears bleed. And whilst I tend to agree, I also don’t think underrated is the right word. Roc Marciano is famously, “Your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper”. Not once has he tried to break through out from the underground and onto the radio, yet regardless he has Jay Z, ?uestlove, and Alchemist on his list of dedicated super fans. Roc Marciano pioneered and dominated the niche and lane that Griselda, Action Bronson and Your Old Droog this decade, and delivered project after project of stunning consistency. This album is a sequel to his 2017 album “Rosebudd’s Revenge”, and whilst I have a slight preference to the original, this one is far more impressive. Much like Griselda, Roc is a “street” rapper whose bars don’t deviate much from the antics of a pimp in Brooklyn. But, don’t be fooled, he’s not like any rapper you know. There are no heavy basslines, no crashing drums, and no trap beats. His production tends to favour experimental soul, in which he then lays over his classic quiet, monotone but utterly brilliant lyrics that sound as tho he’s lying back on his throne as it being recorded. He never gives the competition the satisfaction of yelling or sounding anything other than calm, and once you dig deeper into the lyrics, its hard not to be blown away with the ease. The ease.
This project sees him at his most experimental with the production, and at first it wasn’t particularly grabbing me, but it gets better with every listen. Standouts being the gorgeous “Bohemian Grove”, “Bed Spread King” which uses a bed squeaking as the foundation of the sultry soul, and the phenomenal closer “Power”.
10. DROGAS WAVE – Lupe Fiasco
This album is a monster in every single way. I could right hundreds of pages about this album, seriously. Its 1hr 40 minutes long for starters, and thematically its just insane. Upon listening to this to this album for the first time, unless you are literally Lupe himself, you will be bewildered, and incredibly confused as to what is going on. Well, he had to answer some questions, because this album is a scholarly fantasy. The first half of the albums is about a group of slaves who are tossed into the ocean upon the sinking of the slave ship, only to find out that they can breathe under water. Many of them walk along the seabed back to Africa, but those who don’t stay and liberate other slaves by pulling down the slave ships into the dark depths of the ocean. It’s crazy, but Lupe and his 6-minute lyrical escapades make it work. The intro song is entirely in Spanish and has a real Hispanic feel to the instrumentation, there is a 2-minute violin solo, and then there is the centre piece songs of the first side “WAV Files” and “Haile Selassie”. The second half of the album ventures further than the slave myth and sets its sights on reimagining’s. The two most prominent being “Alan Forever” and “Jonylah Forever”. The first carries on the aquatic theme, as it reimagines the life of Alan Kurdi, the horrific case of a three year old Syrian boy who drowned as his parents attempted to reach Europe in the refugee crisis. The photo of him on the beach is as infamous as it is shocking, but Lupe takes a different approach. Instead of a somber and preachy message, he gives Alan a life, he gives him youth. The light pianos play as Alan dusts himself off and goes on to become an Olympic swimmer with Phelps as his coach and ends up saving himself as an adult. The song is beautiful and gut wrenching. “Jonylah Forever” is a similar concept, but this time of Jonylah Watkins, a six-month year-old baby that was killed as a result of gang violence in Chicago. This song does take a painfully sombre tone as Lupe explores the possibilities for this young girl, imagining that she became a doctor and saved people just like herself. These songs along with so much of this album just stun you and demand that Lupe garners the respect he deserves after putting so much effort and thought into an album that largely went under the radar. Its long, but it’s worth it.
9. Redemption – Jay Rock
People still don’t know the Jay Rock has been around for years. He was the original member of TDE, and as soon as Kendrick joined, he was overshadowed. And sadly, rightly so. Anyone stands next to Kendrick’s catalogue and they automatically becomes a shadow; the man is a living legend of music in the 2010’s. But Jay Rock is a great rapper with an even better ear for beats and is part of the dream team roster that makes up Top Dawg Entertainment. Whilst I would take 2016’s 90059 over this, this album is still seriously good. This is definitely Jay Rock’s most commercial release to date, but its unmistakeably west coast and holds some of his best work. “The Bloodiest” is a viscous opener which sees him switching up his flow all over the shop, but then it rides into the “For What It’s Worth”, a cool calm and collected banger that has Jay Rock turning wise on people out to exploit him. The Black Panther single “King’s Dead” makes an appearance, and although I wish I could wipe Future’s contribution off the face of the Earth, it doesn’t ruin what’s otherwise a great single. J Cole’s feature run also found its way onto this album, and they created my favourite song off the album, and my favourite Cole feature with “OSOM”. Rock and Cole both go absolutely nuts on this moody and spacy song with signature drums that reach into your soul. “Broke” and “Shit Real” expose us to a more introspective Jay Rock, giving us a package that’s not without its faults, but is of a quality the community has come to expect from anyone who steps foot into the TDE camp.
8. Victory Lap – Nipsey Hussle
This album is the biggest surprise for me on this list. It took me forever to come around to this album. When it came around I didn’t pay it attention, when it was nominated for a Grammy I didn’t get it whatsoever, and when Nipsey was tragically murdered in April 2019 and this album was catapulted back to the forefront of the media, I wanted to like it so badly but I just couldn’t. It was his lyrics, and his flow that were just off to me. This album was one that I viewed as just another west coast banger album from an MC who I couldn’t relate to in the slightest and his stop start flow wasn’t doing it for me. But I did really like some of the production. The only song I loved was the title track, and I really loved it. So I let time pass and then I told myself I was going to properly listen to it, front to back, no skips and see what happened. And I finally got it. I tried to ignore the abundance of space in his rhyme schemes and just listen to what he was saying. I could get behind the bangers “Last Time That I Checc’d” and “Grinding All My Life” and began to love them. As far as lyrical substance, I found it in “Blue Laces 2” and “Dedication”. I actually listened to what he was saying and whilst, obviously a kid from Wiltshire isn’t going to “relate” (don’t worry this isn’t going that direction), but he had a story to tell and it was intriguing. The album production wise is almost flawless, whilst at first it does appear to be heavy on the banger side, “Hussle and Motivate” takes a classic east coast beat (Jay Z’s Annie Sample) and gives it a laidback west coast feel to it, giving the album time to breathe. It’s the modern-day equivalent of G Funk, with sun-soaked beats and a rapper that’s a figure in his community attempting to explain what’s going on around him. Its definitely the least “me” album on here, but that’s why it’s so great. RIP
7. KOD – J. Cole
This is again maybe a tad controversial. For a long period of time J Cole was my favourite rapper, and I still think he’s great, but I’m not sure if that statement still rings true. Regardless, I really struggled with where to lace this album, debating between placing emphasis on experience, personal preference or quality. Quality wise, personally many of the albums before this are superior. This album isn’t the album that stans say it is, and its definitely not in the same bracket as Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly. But I love Cole and do love this album. Its quite short and sweet and has Cole over his own production largely once again, but the sound has shifted from the Kanye inspired beats of Friday Night Lights, to a more current trap orientated sound. It has some slightly generic songs like “Photograph” which I won’t defend to the grave, but they sound good and don’t take away too much from the album that it’s a problem. Cole is definitely trying to branch out a little from being labelled by the community and this is a steppingstone. The name means “King OverDose” or “Kids on Drugs” and attempts to tackle addiction as a concept, ranging from prescription drugs to social media. It can come off as preachy sometimes sure, but it isn’t without its banger “ATM” which serves as a party song, whose clever lyrics deconstruct the issue of young rappers gaining to much money and loosing to much sense. For me personally, the track list runs almost perfect from “Kevins Heart”, a song about Kevin Heart’s cheating scandal. The lone trumpet and spoken word in “BRACKETS” makes you ponder where the hell he is going with this, until he comes in with one of his best verses to date about the tax system in America, and its truly brilliant. “Once an Addict – Interlude” is far from an interlude, and might be the best song on here, dealing with his mum’s alcohol addiction. The albums closer “1985 – Intro to “The Fall Off” is one of the strangest and most brilliant diss songs out there at the moment. Cole can be seen as a dinosaur amongst all the hair dye lean drinking SoundCloud rappers out there, and he almost became a villain to them. His response wasn’t a “fuck you”, but a meticulous deconstruction of why they won’t be around long, and how eventually their career’s will destroy them. Cole gets a lot of hate, but don’t hate Cole. Hate his irritating and often delusional stans, but let Cole be Cole.
6. Oxnard – Anderson Paak
Anderson Paak is one of the most interesting people in music at the moment. The multi-instrumentalist / producer / singer / rapper is a threat that knows no bounds and is so talented that its silly. This album was so highly anticipated, and it was considered a bit of a flop by most fans who wanted a sound more like “Malibu”. Its true, with Dr. Dre’s influence and the long list of features, Paak took his sound in a more hip-hop direction, but for me its still easily his most interesting piece of work. Its just sonically brilliant. The production is second to none in creating a sunny and funky California backdrop for Anderson Paak’s crooning R&B vocals that occasionally fall into raps, and the features are epic. I almost view this as a collaborative album where Paak took each excellent rapper of past and present (Kendrick, Cole, Pusha, Snoop, Q Tip) and gave them their typical sound but with a Paak flair. Take “Brother’s Keeper” featuring Pusha T for an example and tell me that you aren’t smashing your fist in the air as Pusha comes in with his celebratory verse colliding with Anderson Paak’s percussion. He bought back the classic Snoop Dogg sound on silky smooth “Anywhere”, takes shots at the president on the maliciously funky “6 Summers”, and almost recreates a 70’s Hollywood car chase on the intro “The Chase”. Then there’s the summer jam “Tints” with Kendrick which is an excellent piece of pop. There not much more I can say other than pick a sunny day and listen to this album, back to front. Anderson Paak!
5. JID – Dicaprio 2
Dreamville’s own JID is quite simply a lyrical miracle but without all the cringey logic and Eminem imagery that comes with that phrase. The guy is a fucking genius and this project is just absolutely crazy. He takes the Atlanta sound that dominates the charts at the moment and is the bed rock for Travis Scott and Migos, and he just transcends. The world play on every single verse that flies at you with effortless highspeed make you wonder if this guys is a fucking wizard. The cadence has obviously drawn Kendrick comparisons, but this man is his own machine. Its almost impossible to listen to a full verse without rewinding back, pausing and picking your jaw up off the floor, and I’m really not exaggerating. I mean:
The production is recognisably current, and Atlanta based, but with its own Dreamville twists. The Kenny Beat’s produced “Slick Talk” is just a lyrical warm up for things to come, and he absolutely bodies the beat and makes it sounds so easy, and so good. J Cole impressively manages to keep up with his protégé on the high intensity “Off Deez”, and “Off Da Zoinky’s” is a plea from JID to his peers to not let the drugs get the better of you. If you are starting to think production variety is needed, early favourite “Workin Out” provides a slow bassline, with some descending piano keys and horns that you just want to bottle up and keep forever. There is even something for those looking for old school flair with the DJ Drama produced “Hot Box” featuring Joey Bada$$ and none other than Method Man. Honestly every song brings something here. JID is the one to watch. I could go on for hours.
4. Tana Talk 3 – Benny The Butcher
Another Griselda member, but this time it’s the lyrical killer Benny. Benny is the best lyricist in the outfit, and hes also the newest to make their mark. Cousin to Conway and Westside, he was latest to the rapping acclaim that his cousins were enjoying, but when he came, he completely stole the show. This project is a hark back to Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, and Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt. Its cold blooded drug rap which sounds like it could get boring after a while, and it would, but if the rapper is as meticulous and phenomenally talented like Benny, it leaves you wanting more. Listening to Benny’s music is like watching an episode of the Sopranos, or watching American Gangster. His vivid imagery and cold lyricism and haunting beats courtesy of Alchemist and Daringer take whoevers listening on a ride through downtown buffalo. This album is without a doubt one of the best debut albums I have ever heard, and Benny as a lyricist sounds like an Alsatian hungry for respect. And that’s exactly it, respect. Benny and Griselda are old school not so much in their sound, but their approach to their craft. They view rap is a skill to be honed, and work tirelessly to bring you their story, but also to gain respect of the peers they grew up on. Already Griselda have contracts with legends such as Jay Z and Eminem, and almost every producer is fighting to work with them, and Tana Talk 3 is exactly why. “97 Hov” is the biggest song on hear, and its clear as to why. The looping piano riffs give Benny so much scope to murder the instrumental as he leaves his listeners in no doubt that he lived what he speaks. A lot of rappers scream and shout about killing this and that and selling drugs, Griselda don’t need to, because you believe them. This is seriously them but they don’t rely on their history to carry the music, the music is as enthralling as they are. Songs on here sound like you need to look over your shoulder just to check you aren’t being robbed, and the album plays out like watching a Scorsese movie, too many gems to count.
3. Daytona – Pusha T
Pusha T is another rapper that made his millions through coke raps, and they are just as enthralling but sound completely different. Pusha, after his brother chose god over their duo “Clipse”, moved over to Kanye’s GOOD music camp and eventually became the head and face of the label. This was the first of Kanye’s 7 track album run in the summer of 2018 and was undoubtedly the best. Its famously all killer no filler. This album doesn’t give you a single second to breath, or say “Holy Shit”, because if you do you will have missed another gem. The production is Kanye at his best, proving that he is perhaps the most versatile producer in the game, as the man who made “Gold Digger” reaches deep into his record collection, picks the perfect samples and creates a luxurious soundscape that doesn’t lack on sharp edges to keep you on your toes. “The Games We Play” is just a joy to listen to. One of Kanye’s best beats whilst Pusha has never sounded more comfortable, firing bars left right and centre that leave anyone who will listen stunned, and a bit scared. Speaking off, there is also the eery closer “Infrared” that takes aim at juggernaut Drake in a way only Pusha could; cold hearted and brilliant. I’m struggling to find much more to say about this project that hasn’t already been said, its top to bottom some of the best hip hop of this decade.
2. Book of Ryan – Royce Da 5’9’’
I always knew that lyrically Royce was one of the most celebrated rappers out there, he managed to step out from underneath Eminem as one of the only rappers that could spar with him in his prime. My issue with Royce was that his raps always felt like battle raps, with very little direction of intimacy that I always felt is needed for me to listen to an artist. I viewed much of his previous projects in the same light as “Kamikaze”, he can rap but why is he rapping, where is this going. Where it was going was “Book of Ryan”. I didn’t bother listening to this album until months and months after its release and it just blew me away. As the title suggests, this is Royce at an artistic height, finally ready to lay himself bare in his music, and talk about his struggles with alcoholism. The Book Of Ryan is an essential listen back to front as it brings all the lyrical excellence of the wordsmith, but gives them a purpose and a direction so that they can be used for good. Sure there is the enjoyable and almost obligatory lyrical flex featuring old friend Eminem on “Caterpillar”, but the majority of the songs on here explore the psyche of a tortured artist from a broken home, who was born into violence and addiction. He narrates from such a personal standpoint on songs like “Power” which details a typical Christmas in the Montgomery which is a shocking as it is poignant. “Amazing” takes a Tears For Fears sample as Royce wanders back through his old neighbourhood to inspire hope to those who need it, and to say hi to all those that doubted home culminating in a heart warming homecoming anthem. “Outside” see’s him airing out his flaws as a father as he addresses his son in a beautiful verse, saying “Im afraid of you drinkin’ / though I never taught you to swim, I’m afraid of you sinkin’”. For those looking for a lyrical fix, there is the song “Dumb” with sees Royce and shady signee Boogie going bar for bar and criticising the short sightedness of the record industry over a minimal piano beat. Royce’s lyrical sobriety commands such authority that you can’t help but listen to every word he says. He even sings on the song “Cocaine” which addresses his dad’s drug habit, and it’s a really solid vocal performance. Lastly, he did what very few can do these days and made the skits not only relevant, but fascinating insights that further the story that he is attempting to convey. Book of Ryan is a masterpiece.
1. Swimming – Mac Miller
2018 was such a momentous and crowded year for me musically, that I felt really compelled to make this list. Also because I am really bored, but realistically anything in my top ten becomes number one when I am in the mood, it was that good of a year for hip hop. This album resonated so heavily with me and has been in rotation almost none stop for the last year or so that it had to be number one for me. I’m not going to write too much as I am going to do a separate piece on this album, but this is the Mac Miller album that showed an artist in unquestionable growth, and its not perfect, but to me it is.