1. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Earl ain’t been outside in a minute, but the wait was more than worth it. After his father, Keorapetse Kgositsile passed away early this year, I was not sure what to expect from this project… A melancholy lament of memories left unmade? A triumphant celebration of the experiences that have crafted this supremely unique and aesthetically coherent artist that we all know and love? A lazy walk through a gallery of the good ol’ days? A deep introspective journey of self-betterment/awareness? YES.
This album made me expect more from music, and it added something new to the conversation about how the artform is cultivated. What more can we ask for?
Highlights: Shattered Dreams, Ontheway!, December 24, Red Waters, Riot!
2. Vince Staples – FM!
Vince apparently has a big year ahead of him, rumors of up to 8 new projects dropping in 2019 have been circulating the interwebs. If they are anything like this 22-minute masterpiece I am ON BOARD. Vince took a quick break from the genre-breaking bar-based acrobatics we gained a taste for in his project Big Fish Theory, and his features with the likes of Clams Casino and the Gorillaz to. Just. Make. Some. BANGERS. From start to finish this project grabs you by the nape of your neck and forces you to enjoy yourself. It makes you feel like you did when you heard Norf Norf for the first time. I’m glad Vince has chilled out these days, but it’s good to have the old reckless norfside rascal back in full effect.
Highlights: Feels Like Summer, Relay, FUN!, New earlsweatshirt – Interlude
3. The Internet – Hive Mind
Anyone who is familiar with any one member of this cauldron of talent and diligence knows what this group is capable of. Every time they release music I compulsively check in. I can’t help it. They impress me every single time. Their 2018 project, Hive Mind, is no exception to this rule. I can’t even describe to you the alt-r&b wonderland they managed to construct with this masterpiece, so just listen. If I have one issue with this group, it is that there is too much concentrated charisma here. I mean enough is enough geeze.
Highlights: EVERY SONG (seriously), The video for La Di Da
4. The TDE Championship Tour
I was lucky enough to catch this tour when it stopped in Washington. Watching the TDE crew do their thing felt like I was watching the TuneSquad crush the Monstars. Describing this night in detail still would not capture the glory of it so let me just tell you the lineup and you can daydream about it for the rest of the week: SiR, Lance Skiiwalker, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, SZA, and Kendrick Lamar. The only mistakes they made was not doing the Black Hippy remix of THat Part and not bringing my guy Zay along for the ride.
Highlights: SZA singing her heart out for us, the merch, the general appropriation of white sports culture that gave me a good laugh (Q coming out in a golf cart fitted up in argyle for example).
5. Jorja Smith at Showbox SoDo
I’m not gonna waste your time here. Read my friends’ article about this literally flawless show on the Panda Munch and let yourself be even more jealous of us.
6. Tyler, the Creator’s YouTube antics
Potato Salad, 435, Peach Fuzz, and OKRA all released on YouTube a few days before they appeared on Spotify. Why Tyler? I think he wanted us to be clear on one thing: these are just for fun. He put out these random singles without ever hinting at any sort of common theme or an end suited to these means. The reason is the end is simply the enjoyment of the means. Ok ok ok I am getting ahead of myself here and am obviously teetering on the edge of some kind of insanity so let me simplify. He made these to make them. For us to enjoy the fruits of his inspiration and nothing more. Not only do I love these tracks, but I love what they symbolize even more: MAKE STUFF THAT YOU LIKE. It’s not always about a bigger meaning. Sometimes it’s just about making cool stuff. Tyler continues to shatter the illusion that creation is some huge complex mystery unreachable by the masses. And that’s why I will always love him.
7. Mick Jenkins – POAM
I have liked Mick since I was just a tiny rap fan fledgling, so I recognize my bias here, but I think Mick is one of the best that the ever-impressive Chicago scene has to offer. This poet-turned-MC continuously refuses to shy away from the hard stuff in our reality and encourages his audience to seek truth and beauty. A rare message in this genre made even more so because it doesn’t feel corny or forced. Plus he is homies with (and even promised a full length tag-team project) this next guy on my list which is just icing on the cake.
Highlights: Soft Porn, Grace & Mercy, Reginald (ft. Ben Hixon), Understood
8. KAYTRANADA – NOTHIN LIKE U / CHANCES
KAY is the best producer of this generation, don’t @ me. He is extremely active in the culture but is subject to that curse of anonymity that most producers are afflicted by because their work is best done in dark studio corners. I’ve been waiting for another project from this prodigy since the moment I finished the last song on 99.9% for the first time, and this EP was the tiny taste I have been jonesin’ for. I NEED MORE. Hopefully we’ll get a full-length project in 2019.
9. Noname – Room 25
Yet another Chicago gem. Noname might just be the best rapper out there and she does it effortlessly with a pseudo-whispered delivery that is unlike anything else in the game right now. Plus, bars on bars on bars on bars on bars. She is truly talented and it is always an honor to experience her art.
Highlights: Blaxploitation, Ace, Montego Bae
10. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence
The last spot on my list was hotly contested, but I ended up choosing this album because of what it symbolizes for the group that made it. They suffered a huge loss this year after learning of Ameer’s garbage. Many said that he was the core of the group and they would fall apart without him, and they did the exact opposite. They brought all the energy we expect from them and more on this project. They just did what they do best, and nothing felt like it was missing. Instead of focusing on the loss, they pushed forward and put out one of their best and most unique albums to date. Good on you boys.
Highlights: BERLIN, WHERE THE CASH AT, TAPE, J’OUVERT, VIVID
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Blood Orange – Negro Swan, A$AP Rocky – Testing, Anderson .Paak – Bubblin, J.I.D – Dicaprio 2, J. Cole – KOD, Mac Miller – Swimming.