Each year there is a silent, yet universally recognized, competition amongst artists to see who will create the most timeless, creative, thought-provoking, and overall, most impressive project.
This year was no exception. The annual race to the top of the charts proved to be a sprint into the hearts and ears of fans across the globe, and it was led by the likes of Drake and Travis Scott for the entire calendar year.
My duty to you. as your trusted Burbs writer, is to listen to every album that comes out throughout the year, and categorize all of these projects into one concrete list that is more than likely going to piss the living fuck out of my friends due to where I rank which album. (Sorry, Hotto. But, Scorpion is fucking awesome).
SPOILER: CARDI B DID NOT MAKE THE LIST. She is an incredibly talented lyricist, but her style doesn't appeal to me personally.
One last thing before we get started: the variety of each ranked project's length shouldn't be taken into consideration, a project is as long as it is for a reason whether it is an EP or LP.
With that being said, here are the 10 best albums of the year. Feel free to comment below, or shoot me a text on how unbelievably wrong you think I am with your own Top 10.
10. Testing, A$AP Rocky
The hype was beyond real surrounding the head honcho of the Mob's first album release in three years. Testing was marketed in a sloppy, yet awfully teasing manner. Flacko took to Instagram to do the majority of his promotion, and the marketing scheme only assisted the abstract feeling of this project.
Testing still feels like an incomplete project, like when Kanye said that the The Life of Pablo was a living, breathing work of art that could be retouched whenever Kanye felt like he wanted to. Songs like "Sundress" belong on this album, it would've been a wonderful addition to the vibrant aura that tracks like, "Kids Turned Out Fine" and "Black Tux, White Collar". Although the message doesn't seem entirely clear, the music provides enough entertainment itself.
The standout tracks on the album: "Fuck Sleep," "Buck Shots," and "Purity" each provide the religious A$AP listener moments of music that are as thirst quenching as they are adrenaline inducing. Rocky will need to continue to put out solo music more consistently if he wants to commit to becoming the world's, or even New York's, greatest rapper.
9. Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Metro Boomin
Metro Boomin makes beats for rappers that were meant to rap on beats made by Metro Boomin. It sounds simple at first, but take one listen to any of the transitions between tracks on his latest album Not All Heroes Wear Capes, and you'll quickly realize that Metro's methods are not as mad as they are magnifying.
Metro's scope is detailed, he dives into the roots of rapper's strengths and plucks out new flows that the world hasn't had the pleasure of hearing yet. He has boosted Gunna into becoming a household name with the tracks "Space Cadet," and "Lesbian". He's given all of the Astroworld fiends (including myself) a valued relapse of Scott's demonically angelic voice through tracks like "No More," and "Overdue".
The St. Louis based producer has made a name for himself that may even loom larger than a majority of his artistic counterparts. People are now listening to Kodak songs because Metro produced them instead of listening to Metro songs because Kodak features on them.
8. Young Thug, On The Rvn
On the Rvn is like the perfect appetizer for Thugger's next project, which should surely be an entree by all accounts (if it's going to be Slime Season 4).
The project is condense, at only six tracks for a total of 22 minutes, Thug is painting a motion picture with his Atlanta-Alien dialect while features come in and make the most of their guest spots. From Jaden Smith to Elton John, each feature (also including 6lack) delivers a unique take on the track. And if rap music has taught us anything in the last decade, it's that it's nearly fucking impossible to be labeled "unique" on a track that Thugger is also on.
Jeffrey displays excellent signs of progression and maturity on tracks like 'Climax," and "High". He seems to be genuinely reflecting on the struggles that come with being a human who is thirsty for love and acknowledgement, and there are sincere moments of Thug venting out his most inner issues of insecurity and scratching each of the itches on his back.
Truth be told, the man Tugger hasn't sounded this good in years. Super Slimey and EBBTG were both terrific projects, in their own against the mainstream rights, but On the Rvn is the best display of peak Thugger since Barter 6.
7. Pusha T, Daytona
Daytona is Pusha T reading the gospel at church while Kanye makes up instrumentals in the background on the fly, but they are as concise and sound as any of his other production.
This project was one that defied all of my expectations; Pusha T takes the first beat and just fucking sprints off in an Adidas tracksuit with a brick of coke in his back pocket, an owl flying above him attempting to dig at his scalp, and meanwhile he's still jotting down straight up BARS on a legal pad with a pencil thin paint brush.
I knew that this album was going to be good, but I didn't realize how moving it would be until after a complete first listen. Kanye's production on Daytona was better than the culmination of the rest of the G.O.O.D. Music summer. Pusha T was the only artist from G.O.O.D. in 2018 that could capture my attention enough to the point where I would actually look forward to deciphering his lyrics on Genius.com.
Push may have gotten more revenue and streams following his beef with Drake, but all Toronto sad boys aside, this album was a classic by all means. Pusha delivered one of the best albums of the year, and a staple of his career in 2018.
6. J.I.D., DiCaprio 2
J.I.D. sounds like an alternate dimension's Kendrick Lamar who actually committed to becoming the crack head that he portrayed in the TV show "Power".
The Dreamville protege has an after-hours at the school playground vibe to him, as if he's spitting scriptures off the top of his head with a crowd of six of his best friends beat boxing to form the instrumental. He displays signs of ahead of his time lyricism, and a unique rhythmic feel that is rarely translated to rappers this early in their careers.
There are several tracks on this album that are worthy of being listened to on repeat, but the one record that stood out to me the most was the one that featured the church organ for a voice on behalf of BJ The Chicago Kid, "Skrawberries". The lady worshipping anthem that identifies life as a process that requires assistance from others is both sexy, and intelligent in the manner that it's delivered.
5. Playboi Carti, Die Lit!
I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Don't judge a book by it's cover" before. Well, that statement doesn't apply to Playboi Carti's Die Lit! album. You should definitely judge it by it's cover, and don't just judge it, but fully commit to participating in its madness as fully as Playboi is on the said cover.
Although my favorite tracks on the project may have surfaced months prior to the album's official release, I still find myself returning to "Shoota," and "Foreign," on a daily basis. I also found that the track that's in cooperation with Pierre Bourne is an eccentric tune that makes me appreciate technology above all else. "Right Now" is an electronic beam of a beat that perfectly compliments Playboi and Pierre's flows.
"Back to the future! Did it all on computers."
There's also the song that inspired mosh pits all across the nation, "R.I.P." which is surely what the cover art was originally meant for. Carti's aggression feels realer than ever on this bouncy banger that could inspire even a nun to pull up with a gat.
Playboi needs to be more inventive with his flow going forward, because the childish shtick won't be entertaining forever. It's necessary that Playboi experiments with some innovation in order to keep his catalog as refreshing and electrifying as it was when he first bursted onto the scene via Soundcloud a few years ago, when he was a Tsunami of a stylist artist amongst a group of gentle waves.
4. Mac Miller, Swimming
There are some musical projects that just make one feel as if they knew this day was coming the entire time that they'd been a fan of that artist. I had that moment of nostalgia, deja vu, or whatever the fuck you want to call it when Tyler dropped Scum Fuck Flower Boy two years ago. The entire album was as beautiful sonically as it's cover was aesthetically, and it was a telling tale of one of the most impactful moments in Tyler's life (his coming out as a homosexual man in an industry of heterosexual haters). Tyler's music on SFFB demonstrated that he was one of the world's most valued artists, and we listened and agreed with him wholeheartedly. And honestly, at the end of the day, we weren't concentrating on his coming out party, but were embracing his innovation as an artist.
This concept can be directly applied to Mac Miller's album Swimming. The project is a flurry of waves that inspire and evoke emotions of intense and ecstatic happiness, completely lost depressiveness, and general insecurity. As a fan of Mac for over a decade, I could just tell that this album was inevitably coming some day. The first time I heard "Small Worlds," I knew that Mac had been working on something more meaningful than any project before Swimming. I will always appreciate Faces above any other mixtape, because it has done things for me that few artistic pieces ever have, but Swimming is a solidified collection of Mac's deepest desires that feel as if they're coming directly from the pages of his diary.
There is no world that exists in which Mac Miller doesn't make people feel feelings that they're unsure of interacting with. Each track such as "Self Care," "Come Back to Earth," and "Hurt Feelings," is a liberating experience to listen to, but a suffocating moment of intensity that must be grasped gently and listened to attentively. We will surely miss Mac forever and ever considering he was one of the world's most gifted musicians and humans, but we will at least be aware that we have been given the assurance that he reached his full potential, and that was on fully display on his final project, Swimming.
3. Drake, Scorpion
Okay, here's the argument: No matter who you are as a professional artist, you can not drop "Nonstop," "Can't Take A Joke," "Mob Ties," "God's Plan," "I'm Upset," "Nice For What," "In My Feelings," and "Blue Tint," all on the same album and then not be labeled as one of the best musical projects of the year. It's really just that simple, and those are only the mainstream upbeat songs that Scorpion has to offer.
If you're truly a Drizzy stan, then you're not just into his music for the sake of having new tunes for your next week's pregame. You want tracks that detail the mindset that Drake's been evolving in, and living through since his last project.
You also want songs that will make you simultaneously shed a tear, and get aroused at the thought of women that are too gorgeous to not be Drake's girlfriend. You shed the tear because you realize you'll never get the same caliber of a woman that Drake will, because you're not Drake, and you get aroused because you're happy for Drake, because he really deserves a quality woman, and you just want what's best for your favorite artist.
"Peak," "Jaded," and "Finesse," are three songs that are stereotypical sad boy Drizzy tracks, but there's something more to them that just naturally inspires you to sing along and move swiftly within the instrumental. Simply put, Drake's best R. Kelly impression on 40 beats is orgasmic. His voice just glides over the beat, and there's few artists out there that can match his ability to transition between a Toronto based R&B aficionado, to a Memphis-influenced, driven bar-spitter that's as eager to take your head off as he is to crush your reputation.
While the hip-hop community may consider Scorpion to be a flop and one of Drake's worst projects out of his discography, I experienced the opposite effect. This project stood above almost nearly every other one this year, and I've returned to it nearly every day since it's release. There's a song for nearly every one of my various playlists, and there's moods within it that I never would've been able to embrace if it weren't for the 6 God himself.
2. Key! & Kenny Beats, 777
Key! and Kenny Beats may be the rap game's most dangerous duo going into the new year. After dropping their most recent project together, 777, Key and Kenny decided to collaborate for a deluxe edition that features 6lack, Skepta, Rico Nasty, and Jay Critch.
It's safe to say that if Astroworld hadn't dropped this year, then this album would've easily been my number one by a wide margin. Key's aggression serves as a hefty entree on tracks like "Dig It," and "Hater" is so unique that I'm convinced no other artist in the game could provide the same swagger that FatManKey does with the fluidity and flavor that comes on the side.
The man just makes you want to move. It's really that simple. Tracks like "Love On Ice," "Kelly Price Freestyle," and "Boss" have end of the year party vibrance with them. They're glowing instrumentals that function as the ranch dressing of the track, and then when Key smoothly slides in he is the lemon-pepper chicken wing that is both decadent and filling simultaneously.
Aside from the groovy tunes and electrifying bangers, Key also provides introspective looks into the grief that he's obligated to carry with him from past experiences in his now celebrity life. There's no arguing that Key has made a significant mark on hip-hop in the last several years considering his appearances on "Crazy Brazy," "Please Shut Up," and "Look At Wrist," but all of that newly acquired fame can adjust a person's perspective drastically. On the most dramatic song of the entire project, "It Gets Better" serves as a look into Key's diary that is full of bullet wounds, left-behind bibles, and emptied prescription bottles. Key let the world know that he has many different characters he can play, but his most efficient one may be his ability to connect with his listener on a nearly spiritual level.
1. Travis Scott, Astroworld
You know that feeling when you're on a roller coaster, and you're seated next to a dear friend, and your paranoia is starting to kick in at it's highest gear while the gears on the roller coaster vigorously click themselves against the tracks, and you just have a moment to yourself where you say, "Please, God, allow my friend and I to survive this ride. If you do, I'll never get on another ride ever again. Only this one. This will be my only ride," and even though your in God's hands now, you're still somewhat concerned for you and your dear friend's life?
Well, that's what listening to Astroworld is like for me. It's truly hard to go back to other albums after having so fully appreciated this one. There's so many different vibrations throughout the project that it's simple to get stuck on one track for hours on end. I find myself getting lost in tracks like "Houstonfornication," and "Astrothunder" because of the amount of levels in not just the instrumentals, but the waves within Travis's voice. He's grown to the point in his artistry where just one syllable of his voice is beyond intoxicating. Once you get one syllable, that's it, you're itching for more and more and more. Take the beginning of "Can't Say," for example, just the first "No, you," is hypnotic enough to lead you into a trance of completing the chorus out loud by yourself. Travis has that "It Factor" that every artist wishes to achieve, and he's surely honed and perfected it since his debut mixtape, Owl Pharoah.
Astroworld had expectations that were so high that many thought it would be impossible to reach them, let alone blow them out of the fucking water. "Stargazing," "Carousel," and "Sicko Mode," has to go down in history as one of the most legendary introductory trios of all-time. The trifecta of Travis Scott, Frank Ocean, and Drake is essentially hip-hop's seven wonders of the world. The upbeat vibes that the album produces on the first three songs alone wasn't matched throughout the rest of the year across any other artist's entire project.
While many think of Travis as strictly a rager, he proved to the world this year that there are levels to him that are much deeper than a head banging mosh pit orchestrator. "Coffee Bean" is an ode to his girlfriend Kylie Jenner, and it's the concluding track on an album that is largely in part dedicated to their growth as united people.