Yes, it’s end of year list season. This time around we decided that ranking all of the releases that dropped in the last 365 would be tougher than in recent history. There are just that many fire projects to digest. So instead of throwing around numbers, we asked the team to pick their favorite of the year and let the people know why it was the best album they listened to in 2018. Follow along with the official playlist here.
XXXTentacion – ?
Writer: Adam Smith
“I love when you’re around, but I fucking hate when you leave”
On March 8th, 2018 the YouTube channel handle under XXXTentacion uploaded the video “#TheHelpingHandChallenge,” which depicted its owner and modern underground rap maverick Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy delivering musical instruments, video game consoles and assorted gifts to a foster home. Just two weeks earlier he was delivering a mass eulogy to the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in the form of “Hope” on SoundCloud. The deeply moving, melodic sonic departure of the song would be an eerie foreshadow to the forthcoming ? album singles “Sad!” and “Changes,” the ulta-melodic former of which would skyrocket to number one after his untimely death on June 28th, 2018 at the hands of gun violence in South Florida.
In a year marred by tragic life losses in the artistic realm, the snare bounce and distorted synths that interpolate between X’s prophetic lines “I feel like I’m destined / I don’t need no Smith & Wesson, no” on “Moonlight” jump start the tracklist of ? in a jarring, unknowingly highsight-driven manner that marinates with the passage of time on both the album runtime and in reality. His murder would contextualize and reframe a near-perfect album in unpredictable ways that continue to demonstrate malleability and a relatable nature with each deep dive. Especially in the face of his controversial existence and how it will ultimately play into his legacy.
Proof comes from a portfolio-like spectrum on ? that introduced raw rap, mature songwriting and seemingly endless creative range. Exemplary moments such as the machine gun cadences on “the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so in love)” over a simple acoustic guitar loops sharply juxtapose the aggressive metal-like grind of genre bending cuts like “Floor 555.” This constant audible polarity doesn’t relinquish much midway or through the back half of the album either, which is best shown on the boom bap moments of “infinity (888)” with the lyrical juggernaut Joey Bada$$, the piano-laced orchestral serenading of “Numb,” and the undeniably great ballad work on “changes.”
While there are moments of X doing whatever the fuck he wants simply because he could, case in point going full a la Blink-182 on “Pain = BESTFRIENDS” with an actual member of Blink-182, the total lack of fear of collaboration with unexpected characters does offer one of the unlikely-yet-best hooks of the year with Matt Ox on “$$$.” This reckless abandon does comically jumps the shark by lovingly trolling industry trends pointing towards the boom of Latin music with “i don’t even speak spanish lol,” but this is forgiven when we hear him belt his fiery vocals on “schizophrenia” while also telling us “don’t give up, don’t give up!”
In his prime, while driving the genre and the culture, XXXTentacion was mastering catching lightning in a bottle right before our eyes in real time, with the pure intention to smash the bottle and explode its contents all over the industry system he lead the charge on bucking. Potentiality was flawlessly conquered on ? in a manner rarely seen except by generation defining artists, and the luxury of time has proven he had “one in that chamber” with the follow up masterpiece Skins that deserves its own endless dissection and praise pieces.
Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober Pt. 2
Writer: Bret Sternberg
“And if you ever need a friend then you got me, and in the end, when I die, would you watch me? And if I try suicide, would you stop me? Would you help me get a grip or would you drop me?”
This was not a very hard choice for me at all. When I think back on 2018, to all of the amazing artists and musicians who dropped some of their best most glorifying work I find it easy to choose one specific artist who’s album impacted me the most this past year. This iconic rockstar of an artist goes by the name Lil Peep, changing the way we digest music while impacting lives and helping pioneer a unique genre around his style in a way that will last forever. As most of us already know Peep unfortunately passed last year on November 16th, 2017 from a spiked drug related overdose which left people terribly saddened and quite literally in tears. Through his music Peep spoke directly to people who deal with the same life struggles and situations which made them feel like they were not alone. Peep was one of those many people in need of help as well, and he expressed this almost every day and in every song. Yes he was a beautiful, happy soul who had no issues expressing his feelings with the world, but still even though he used music as an outlet, he fought with some intensely tough demons inside that tortured and tormented him. Like myself, I understand and directly related to what Peep was speaking on and going through from time to time. Dealing with depression, anxiety, and stress are no joke. These feelings can leave people crippled with pain, not from a physical standpoint but from a mental one. Today, with everyone growing up in a post-modern social media influenced world there is always something that negatively affects them, no matter how minuscule this may be. Whatever is was that triggered that feeling, you now find yourself in a deep thought process you can’t escape. These are the times when I would put on Peep and feel like there was a warm blanket around me and that there were others in this world who felt the exact same way. His music transcended me into a state of positivity. Being able to sit and listen to what someone else was going through, which I could directly relate to felt comforting in a way. Yes his music was known in a way as sad, but he helped so many people see the light by not being quiet, or an artist who fit in with the rest simply by voicing his opinions and struggles that his fans felt as well. He stood out in a crowd full of people and so did his incredibly talented music.
Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 was an absolute phenomenal piece of work. Even though Peep was not around to see the finished product, a year apart from his passing, his team of family and best friends helped put together a beautiful work of art that felt like he had his imprint all over. Peep has always expressed his feelings in past music but as this album released people were curious to where the artists thoughts lied over the time around his unfortunate fallout. In the past as others in the industry who suddenly pass, their albums almost seem unfinished. With Peep’s, this album felt complete. From the minute you enter and listen to the hymn of dark guitars rolling to the surface as Peep makes his magnificent vocal entrance, he lets us into his unflawed mind of the good, the bad, and the misunderstood times in his own life which we can directly reflect upon. This project was a full book with some of the most impactful and meaningful songs like “Runaway” where he talks about leaving his life in the past and never coming back to person he thought he would soon be, to songs like “Life Is Beautiful”, where he reminds himself and the people around him what we should be happy for while flourishing here on earth and to not struggle but persevere in the darkest of times. This perfectly crafted 13 track album encloses everything that made Lil Peep the extraordinary, uniquely beautiful, and one of the most profound artists of his generation.
Mick Jenkins – Pieces of Man
Writer: Ashton Howard
“I dig my personal space / Put the flower in the paper, put the earth to my face”
When it comes to Pieces of Man, Chicago native Mick Jenkins’ third studio album, the themes of growth, consistency & personal satisfaction are highly prevalent. Songs like, “Pull Up” and, “Ghost” stand as personal favorites, with the former serving as an allegory for dead weight friends, while the latter is an ode to personal space that showcases Mick’s pen at its absolute best. Other standouts include, “Plain Clothes” a infectious record that creatively tracks Mick’s ascension as a star, and, “Consensual Seduction,” the Corinne Bailey Rae assisted tribute to consensual sex that features Rae giving a top 5 verse on an album with Mick Jenkins & Ghostface Killah. Although, The Water[s], may stand currently as Mick’s most highly acclaimed album, Pieces of Man looks to challenge that notion emphatically. Did I also mention, “Percy” might be the best the best interlude of 2018?
Saba – CARE FOR ME
Writer: Jacob Blieu
“I got my grandaddy soul, I’m at war, that’s on my mind, I seen Walter body cold, wish I could switch it with mine.”
Choosing a favorite rap album of 2018 is a fucking task for sure, I mean this year has seen one great release after another – with a bunch of my personal favorites dropping off gifts over these past twelve months. From Noname to Mick Jenkins, and smaller acts like MONEYPHONE and My Favorite Color, it’s just been a slew of great bodies of work – but one does standout from the rest. From the forcefulness of the emotion that pulls the listener into his carefully constructed world, Saba’s CARE FOR ME is a storm that must be experienced first hand. The enveloping sense of panic, sadness, and anger – stemming from a pronounced place of survivor’s guilt over the loss of his cousin – leaves one walking through wreckage of a soul rebuilding itself piece by piece. This raw, unfiltered look into the mind of Saba, wrapped in what is simply mesmerizing lyricism, is what Hip-Hop is all about, and why it easily takes my place at the top of any EOY list.
Mac Miller – Swimming
Writer: Mike McLaughlin
“We don’t have a lot of time to waste, somehow we gotta find a way.”
It’s been three months since Mac Miller’s tragic death. Being that his passing came out of nowhere, there was an undeniable shock that everybody felt on September 7th of this past year. His final album, Swimming had dropped only a month earlier, and his musical ability had been getting better and better with each album. Swimming is the pinnacle of his musical ability and creative prowess. With a notable ability to provoke our emotions on each track, Mac reminded us of his rare talent and consistency. The 13 tracks featured were all amazing in their own ways. This musical diversity and emotional disclosure displayed on Swimming is what makes the project my favorite of 2018. Mac Miller was one of the most well-rounded artists that our generation has seen, and his music will live on forever.
Comethazine – Bawskee
Writer: DeAndre Duncan
“They done fucked up, bitch, and let me do me”
Any conversation about the best mixtapes or projects of 2018 has to include Bawskee. With as much buzz as Comethazine was creating throughout the scene, Bawskee is a clear choice. Starting with transitioning from SoundCloud with predominantly underground rap and hip hop to a platform and genre that was both recognized and utilized by various mainstream artists including the current giant, Drake, his first tape would be the defining moment of his career in 2018. Bawskee not only met the lofty expectations that tracks such as “Bands” and “Shoot Me” set, it did more–where Comethazine shows off his infectious style that has the ability to ride a beat as his own instrument, or dominate the track with a flow that is unique enough to catch you off guard when he slips an extra few words in a bar and fluid enough to make you feel his charismatic energy that bleeds through each track. Along with the one of the first singles, “Let It Eat” featuring fellow rising artist Ugly God, the introduction to Bawskee fits perfectly with Comethazine’s career arc and how he has burst into the spotlight with the intensity of tracks such as “Walk”, “V12”, and “Blicky”. His progression from an artist who sticks to his proven style to someone who’s willing to grow by experimenting and putting his own spin on popular flows shines through on tracks such as “My Way”, where he takes the wavy flow that galvanized listener’s ears in early 2018. Overall, this tape has shown Comethazine as he wants you to hear him and that’s what makes it one of the best tapes of the year. He doesn’t try to prove something, he doesn’t stick to the same repetitive pattern over eleven tracks and call it a tape, and he isn’t afraid to step out of his comfort zone. Bawskee is a mere glimpse at what we can expect from the talented rapper, and with Bawskee 2 on the way, you can expect to be blown away again and again.
Playboi Carti – Die Lit
Writer: Jacob Coleman
“I’d rather get caught with it than without it”
In a year full of insane rap beefs, major artists dropping and then passing away, and a whole new sound developing from the younger generation, finding the best album for 2018 was certainly a more difficult task than in years past. Knowing this I reflected on which projects had the most impact on my day to day. Which album could change my mood at any point in the day? This album is the XXL Freshmen, ASAP Mob affiliate Playboi Carti’s project Die Lit.
The Atlanta native’s release of his highly-anticipated debut album Die Lit is the conclusion of where the new sound of music is going. It demonstrates how simplicity, well timed ad libs, and phenomenal production can get you now. It is his first major release since his initial self-titled project Playboi Carti dropped in 2017. The improvement of the young artist is what stood out to me the most. Carti possessed the ability to know what made his fans tick and cater to that which is what made this album a hit. On the 19 track project, Carti has a variety of features including some major players like Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, Nicki Minaj, and Bryson Tiller. Along with connecting with these big-time artists, Carti connects with his long-time partner Pi’erre Bourne who executively produced the album. Throughout the tape it can be seen that Carti is an artist that has mastered his sound and while the simplicity of his verses may sound as mumble rap, there exists an immense amount of energy in each phrase. This infectious energy is timed beautifully by the Pi’erre Bourne beat drops and build ups which lead to a euphoric experience for the listener. Although you may not understand what Carti is saying at first you will definitely feel him in how he presents his music. The emphatic vibe that tracks like “Mileage”, “FlatBed Freestyle”, and “Foreign” help to provide an undeniable replay ability for the project which make it by far one of the most fun projects I have ever heard. Almost every song consists of a type of senseless energy that tried to take me out of my current surroundings and put me in the middle of a mosh pit. With this being said I confidently say Playboi Carti had one of the best projects of 2018 and I really look forward to see what he brings to the table next year.
Key! & Kenny Beats – 777 Vol. 1
Writer: Mark Bricker
“Young money, young money, young money, Drake, Dolly Parton, beg ya pardon, man these bitches fake.”
Key!’s breakout album 777 Vol.1 has propelled to him into the stratosphere and silenced his critics. Not only did he impress from a vocal standpoint, these translucent waves curated by Key! and Kenny Beats just makes this album proper for any situation in life. Throughout each of these 15 cuts, I felt an undeniable confidence that this young Atlanta pioneer brought to the table. He knows it’s his time and the flows were nothing short of stellar.
Now that [referring to pull quote above,] might not be a mind-blowing reference, but it’s Key!’s delivery that makes our ears fiend for more. Every song is an emphatic slam atop Kenny’s near-flawless production. Strides to superstardom and career longevity are bound to bless this guy if he keeps this up, but linking with Kenny was one of his smartest moves to date. Their true friendship has sparked an immaculate opus of chaos, making d one of my favorites of 2018.
Sauce Walka – Drip God
Writer: Kevin Howard
“Came back, I gave her no hug n*gga, cause the bitch was takin’ too long, and forgot to bring the Backwoods home.”
Sauce Walka has been in a league of his own for a while now. Being one half of the Sauce Twinz and creating the establishment known as TSF which is the home of a few up and coming artist, Sauce has been in his bag and when he released Drip God in August, he solidified himself as one of the Texas artist that is headed to the top.
Hearing songs like “Incredible”, “Waterfall Drip”, “They Hurt”, while showing his versatility on records like “The Recipe” and “Shits” you can hear the signature formula that the Houston rapper has mastered perfectly. This is my go to project to listen too whenever I want to hear a wide array of different sounds and hard beats.
Ski Mask The Slump God – STOKELEY
Writer: Jordan Weller
“Pretty please don’t act like me and you is the fucking same thing. Yes n*igga, I switch the flow to unorthodox gang gang.”
The Broward County rapper Ski Mask The Slump God emerged with the rise of the 2015 SoundCloud era from South Florida, alongside the late XXXTentacion, Denzel Curry, Wifisfuneral, Smokepurpp and Lil Pump. While it may have taken a bit longer for Ski Mask’s original sound and unique flow to hit the mainstream, it’s clear that STOKELEY, in addition to BEWARE THE BOOK OF ELI that was released earlier this year, are the projects that will truly elevate The Slump God to legendary status.
STOKELEY both served as the project that shows his true authenticity and trend-setting abilities as an artist, in addition to paying homage in a beautiful tribute to a fallen best friend and collaborator, XXXTentacion. He creatively organizes his track list by starting the project off with an unfamiliar, yet soothing new sound from Ski, where listeners get laid back and melodic vocals in “So High”. He sprinkles the same sounds throughout the project with “Save Me Pt. 2” featuring Austin Lam and “U And I”. His ignorant, aggressive, hard-hitting flow that we’ve fallen in love with is present throughout STOKELEY and taken to new levels with “Nuketown” featuring Juice WRLD, and “LA LA”, serving as some of the fans favorite tracks off the project.
Ski Mask The Slump God’s lyricism, sound, flow and overall sonic performance on STOKELEY is a clear step-up for the Broward County rapper, as he showcases in a 13-track album that he’s one step closer to being the next international superstar coming out of South Florida in 2019.
Stream the official Daily Chiefers EOY Playlist with the staff’s favorite albums from 2018 below.