From the first time I ever heard the rattling of Naughty by Nature through my 23-year-old Father’s Bose speakers to the day I sold a handful of stolen oxy to a white classmate and drove off banging Thug Motivation 101, I’ve been an adamant fan of hip-hop.
In the ever-changing, hyperspeed day and age that we live in, there are a lot of flash-in-the-pan, microwavable tv dinner artists who saturate the market with momentary music. Shit, even some of the most notable musicians get lost in the rat race and the constant delivery of information to market. That’s why it’s so precious and magnificent when we get outstanding projects of substance. With that being said, here are my 5 favorite projects of 2018.
5. K.O.D., J.COLE
I’ve been a fan of J.Cole since I heard him wash Wale up like the high tide on 2009’s “Beautiful Bliss.” Even throughout the “J.Cole is Boring” and “Platinum With No Features” eras, my fanhood never budged. Even if someone uses the same drum patterns or filters for their sounds, if a nigga can rap, he can rap. In my personal opinion, this album is J.Cole’s best and most diverse work since Friday Night Lights. Not only did he experiment with different flows and types of production, but he also had a legitimate theme, touched on intimate subjects, and he gave us some skull-shattering 808’s while still rapping his ass off.
4. EDGEWOOD, Trouble.
KESHA, DREKA— LIL TIFFANY.
Straight from the heart of the eastside, Atlanta’s own TROUBLE delivered one of the most profound and cohesive pieces of art to Date. This debut is highly underrated and in my personal opinion, it’s the equivalent of an Illmatic or Thug Motivation 101, respectively. Trouble’s accent is thick and dark like red Georgia mud, but through his distinct voice and cadence, he delivers hyper-realistic and reflective game unlike any other. The beats are hard, the skits are emotional, the sequencing is consistent with the theme– I mean, what more can you ask for?
3. DAYTONA, Pusha Terrance
There aren’t too many things I enjoy more than high-level, drug dealer rap. Using Whitney Houston’s bathroom as the cover? HARD. Seven tracks with only Rozay and Yeezy as features? HARD. Every bar delivers a punch, Push layers subtlety and complexity like Ernest Hemmingway, and as far as production? Boy, Donda’s son had to turn that MAGA hat backward and remind niggas what time it was. Though he is my favorite hip-hop artist of all time, I can’t excuse Ye’s actions and irresponsibility, but I know how to separate art from artist– and this art is PROFOUND. If you take into account the quality of this product and couple it with all the bullshit it started (Duppy, Adidon, Sandy is a Loser) then you recognize how influential it is to hip-hop.
2. REDEMPTION, Jay Rock.
I’ve been a fan of Eastside Johnny from the Bounty Hunter Bloods for a long time, but there was always something missing from his work. His previous albums were good, his features on label-mates’ records were amazing, but his solo projects never blew me away. I don’t know what the fuck happened between 90059 and this, but WOW. REDEMPTION covers the entire spectrum of what you expect a hip-hop album to be. Hit records, multiple features from the current king of the rap game, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, amazing musical selection, and insightful, expressive records.
1C. 777, KEY!
If you don’t know who KEY! is, you should get fucking familiar. He’s basically the father of the flows that these “mumble” rappers MISuse. Regardless, he’s been delivering quality content as a solo act and as apart of Atlanta’s TWO-9 for damn near a decade. This project, created with superproducer KENNY BEATS, is so good that it’s hard to comprehend. I don’t even know how he finds some of these concepts in his brain or how he gets into the vibration to play with melodies or switch up flows the way that he does. Whether it is hard lyrics delivered over crisp beats or auto-tuned crooning, KEY! Did his fucking thing.
1B. Victory Lap, Nipsey Hussle
AMI!!! Nipsey’s long-awaited Victory Lap is a combination of classic west-coast anthems, deep, emotional songs, motivational anthems, and HUGE stadium records. He was in a special pocket when he created this. You can tell that he took his time to curate every record properly. Amazing records, amazing features, and mind-blowing lyricism. Brilliant. Not only has this man delivered a Phenomenal project, but he gets to go home to Lauren London every night. Talk about legendary.
1. Big Bossin Vol. 2, Payroll Giovanni.
“This the same way my idols put it down/d-niggas ride foreigns off of kilos and pounds/heroin and pills/I done been there for real/when my name got hot I had to switch lanes and chillllllll/like the diamond link I’m rocking/In the foreign reminiscing about my days of rock-swapping”
The only person who can rap about drugs better and in a cooler way than Pusha T and Young Jeezy is Detroit’s Payroll Giovanni. In the second Installment in his Big Bossin series with superproducer Cardo Got Wings, Payroll dances over synth and moog-laced sample flips effortlessly to invigorate the spirit of the hustler. I may be biased because of my midwest, grandson-of-a-pimp, child-of-a-hustler upbringing– but BBV2 is some of the hardest shit that I’ve ever heard in my life. No album this year has made me want to get more money and my shit together than this. Thank you 4-1 P, I hope you make it to superstardom.
Until next wave and from the we$t end with love,
Malcolm Jamaal “Champ” Heaggans.