Before we dive into the deep catalog of this year's best ballads (and there were a lot of them, so I decided to choose 100 instead of eighteen or ten), I would appreciate it if you joined me in a really quick mental exercise. There are only three steps, I promise this won't take very long. So please, indulge me.
First step: Take your imagination, and put your imaginary self in a booth at your favorite bar.
(Let's say just for the sake of this hypothetical situation that it's a Wednesday night and there's no school or work on your agenda tomorrow.)
You are now, in your illustrious imagination, seated in a booth with three of your best friends. You don't have to choose your friends, cause they aren't important in this exercise. They're only important in real life.
Second step: Now, use your imagination to come to the realization that this bar is only going to be playing country music for the rest of the long night ahead of you.
(This particular bar's selection isn't decent country music like Johnny Cash, but is more or less complete dog shit like Taylor Swift, with fifty screaming women "singing" along).
Third and final step: Okay, now here's the big one.
Think very carefully during this portion of the exercise.
Because this final step will determine the rest of your night.
Pick ONE SONG that you want to listen to, with your headphones that you prophetically brought from home, once every five country songs.
At no point in the night are you allowed to change songs. You are obliged to return to the same track once every twenty or so minutes. Got it? Sweet.
Oh, and you're the only one who's hearing this song, because of the headphones, so you kind of look like a lunatic, but that's okay because who isn't somewhat smothered in lunacy at some point in their life?
The purpose of this mental exercise was to demonstrate that you cannot simply choose one song and be content with it. You need time to consider which track would be the most beneficial for your mood, the same mood that is destined to be doomed by the fifty screaming Taylor Swiftians.
I hope you chose a song that will provide a healthy escape for your ears, and soul.
Thank you for participating, and more importantly, thank you for reading this article. I'll do my best to make it enjoyable for you, while simultaneously plugging you with some banging songs from the year 2018.
100. Walk It Talk It - Migos feat. Drake
It's safe to say that the Migos didn't enjoy near the level of success this year that they did in 2017. Culture II just wasn't as memorable of a project as its predecessor. Quavo's redundancy became dry, and his ascension last year was flipped upside down after this year. Luckily for him, Takeoff and Offset had decent enough years to keep the Migos afloat.
99. Notice Me - Migos feat. Post Malone
I don't care for Culture II whatsoever, but this song is groovy as fuck thanks to the Posty feature.
98. 10 Freaky Girls - Metro Boomin feat. 21 Savage
97. Cable Guy - Key! feat. Jay Critch
96. Monster - 21 Savage feat. Childish Gambino
95. HATE THE REAL ME - Future
94. Nowhere2go - Earl Sweatshirt
93. Bands - Comethazine
92. Choppa Won't Miss - Playboi Carti feat. Young Thug
90. King's Dead - Kendrick Lamar feat. Jay Rock & Future
High-pitched Future, aggressive Kendrick, and wavy Jay Rock. There's not much more you can ask for from a track in 2018.
89. R.I.P. Screw - Travis Scott feat. Swae Lee
Personally, I enjoy the chopped version much better, but the original is just as hypnotizing as any other slow track this year had to offer.
88. Toronto - Key! & Kenny Beats
87. Last Memory - Takeoff
86. MAMA - 6ix9ine feat. Kanye West & Nicki MInaj
Fuck 6ix9ine and everything that he stands for, and has done in order to claim the fame that he has. But, this song goes hard as fuck. One of the few Kanye verses that actually stuck with me this year.
85. 122 Days - $UICIDEBOY$
84. Opera - D Savage
I shit you not, I was bumping this song like fifteen times a day for two weeks straight. D Savage is next up, and you can't change my mind on that.
83. Blue Tint - Drake
82. Hot Now - Wiz Khalifa
I waited YEARS for Rolling Papers 2 to finally come out. Once it did, I was incredibly underwhelmed to say the least. This was the only track that has really stuck with me since, but nevertheless, it's one that I appreciate greatly and really capitalizes on Wiz's skills as a lyricist and singer.
81. I Love It - Kanye West & Lil Pump
This provocative duet on behalf of two of hip-hop's most hated is a tune that will surely get your grandma to throw that ass in a circle.
80. SoHo - Jaden Smith
This is the song that you play with your lover on top of a mountain while the sun is setting. The actual Jaden Smith song titled "Play This On A Mountain At Sunset" is not even half of the vibe that "SoHo" is.
79. Car Sick - Gunna feat. Nav
Nav, Gunna, and Tesla pills. A truly great Atlanta-Toronto collaboration that helped put Gunna on the map.
T-78. Jaded - Drake
T-78. Peak - Drake
I refuse to put one of these Side B Drizzy tracks over the other. They each make me shed an equal amount of tears, feel an equal amount of awful, and make me move like a late 90's R&B singer who just wants to prove to his baby mama that his love for both her and his homies is equally real.
76. Foreign - Playboi Carti
Playboi's DieLit! featured several tracks that had been leaked to SoundCloud prior to the album's official release, but that doesn't make the tracks any less valuable. "Foreign" is Playboi showcasing that he can turn any ordinary beat into a banger through his childish, yet enticing and unique dialect.
75. Gmail - Sheck Wes (SHECK JESUS!)
This song won the award for "Making Me Want To Slam My Hand Through A Cement Wall In The Name of Hip-Hop". I think that's the area of concentration for Sheck Jesus going forward.
I just want to take a moment to mention how much I fucking adore Key. Here it is, this is that moment.
73. Noticed - Lil Mosey
Although Lil Mosey looks like the starting shooting guard for a lethal AAU basketball team, his flow is as seasoned as any veteran in the game when it comes to singing over happy-go-lucky trap type beats. This track that is dedicated to Mosey's surprisingly quick come up perfectly represents the focus that Mosey will be utilizing going forward in his young career.
72. A Calabasas Freestyle - Jaden Smith
71. That's How You Feel - Drake
70. High - Young Thug feat. Elton John
Young Thug is the King of R&B. This collab with Elton John that originally surfaced on SoundCloud through another leak (typical Tugger) was one of the most interesting of the year.
69. The Story of Adidon - Pusha-T
Pusha's attack on Drizzy's entire regime was as devastating as it was well-played. It seems as if he fueled the entire beef solely to get off the line, "YOU ARE HIDING A CHILD." And nobody is ever going to blame him for cutting into the industry's most renowned artist, because everybody wants to see the King get stabbed at least once or twice during his reign, but Pusha stabbed him like a thousand different times in a hundred different places on his way to winning the year's best rap battle.
68. 31 DAYS - Future
The song that premiered on Travis Scott's .wav radio is an electrifying display on behalf of two of the year's most recognizable artists: Sheck and Boat.
66. God's Plan - Drake
65. Never Heard of You - D Savage feat. Lil Yachty
63. New earlsweatshirt (Interlude) - Earl Sweatshirt
The song that is a total of TWENTY-THREE whole seconds is a revelation in itself. This interlude on Vince Staples' FUN! showcases Earl Sweatshirt doing what he does best; fitting a substantial amount of bars in a tiny time frame.
62. Get Dripped - Lil Yachty feat. Playboi Carti
The "Get Dripped" instrumental sounds like it was taken from a Saga Genesis video game. Carti and Yachty provide their own variety of colors on top of the decorative beat.
61. Helluva Price - Gunna
The intro track to Gunna's introduction to the mainstream on his most well received album yet, Drip Season 3. "Helluva Price" is a braggalicious banger that previews the run Gunna went on in 2018.
60. Wet Dreams - 88Glam
59. Hurt Feelings - Mac Miller
58. Dig It! - Key! & Kenny Beats
57. Die Young - Roddy Ricch
STILL TEN TOES DOWN IN MY BALENCIAGAS.
56. Small Worlds - Mac Miller
55. Buck Shots - A$AP Rocky feat. Smooky MarGielaa & Playboi Carti
54. Reborn - KIDS SEE GHOSTS
53. It Gets Better - Key! & Kenny Beats
52. On The Run - Young Thug
You really didn't have to put Offset on this. We would've been more grateful if you had just been generous to record another verse and leave it as a solo track.
51. Ascend - UnotheActivist
50. In My Feelings - Drake
Yes, this song became annoying after some time.
Yes, I still dance to it any time that it comes on.
49. Yosemite - Travis Scott feat. Gunna & Nav
The original mix of Nav's verse was laughable, but then it became one of the most memorable features of the year. Gunna, Travis, and Nav is a collection of people that I would thrive alongside.
48. Maintain - Belly feat. Nav
47. Lean 4 Real - Playboi Carti feat. Skepta
46. Privilege - The Weeknd
45. Ten Ten - Jaden Smith
44. 66 - Lil Yachty feat. Trippie Redd
My friend Todd said he didn't like Trippie Redd because he sings like, "AAAaaaaaAAAaaAAAA," and honestly, I don't disagree with him, but I still fuck with Trippie Redd on a Yachty track. They should make more songs together.
43. Finesse - Drake
42. Kawasaki - 88Glam
41. Skrawberries - J.I.D. feat. BJ the Chicago Kid
40. Reckless (Intro) - Nav
38. Can't Say - Travis Scott feat. Don Tolliver
36. Sin - Young Thug feat. Jaden Smith
35. Overdue - Metro Boomin feat. Travis Scott
34. CLOUT COBAIN - Denzel Curry
33. Off White VLONE - Lil Baby & Gunna feat. Lil Durk
32. Brand New Tyga (Interlude) - Tyga
31. Loaded Gun - 6lack
30. Carousel - Travis Scott feat. Frank Ocean
29. Rotation 112th - Jay Rock
28. Mob Ties - Drake
26. Kelly Price Freestyle - Key!
25. Better Things - Jaden Smith
24. Lil Boat - 88Glam
23. If You Know You Know - Pusha T
22. Look Alive - BlocBoy JB feat. Drake
Drake has a tendency of putting people on, and it's safe to say that BlocBoy JB capitalized on his Drizzy feature with one of the most banging tracks of 2018 that inspired the "Shoot" dance.
21. HOUSTONFORNICATION - Travis Scott
20. APESHIT - The Carters
NEVER WILL I EVER FORGET THE QUAVO AD-LIBS, FAST FAST FAST, WITH FUCKING BEYONCE SAYING, "FAST LIKE MY LAMBO" FOLLOWED BY HUNCHO'S FAMOUS SKRRT SKRRT SKRRT. FUCK. I LOVE YOU, 2018. THANK YOU FOR PROVIDING US WITH AT LEAST ONE MEMORABLE HOVA AND YONCE COLLAB.
19. Ghost Town - Kanye West feat. Kid Cudi, 070 Shake & PARTYNEXTDOOR
18. Leave Me Alone - Flipp Dinero
Best breakup song ever?
17. Champion - Nav feat. Travis Scott
Nav's most memorable moment of 2018 aside from his feature on "Yosemite".
16. Stargazing - Travis Scott
Travis's two part intro to Astroworld is completely mesmerizing at first, and is then transformed into a direct adrenaline shot to the heart like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction during the second half.
I still get chills any time I hear, "AND IT AIN'T A MOSH PIT IF THERE AIN'T NO INJURIES."
15. Swervo - G Herbo
G Herbo may single handedly be keeping "Gangsta Rap" alive. The high pitched, and nearly sting-vibrant instrumental is perpendicular to Herbo's low and aggressive voice. The two are in elegant unison throughout the brag-concentrated hood anthem.
Quite possibly my favorite line of the year is, "Trap house pay the rent. P serves off the Sprint. Rap pay my mama rent. YouTube pay my hoe rent."
14. F**k Sleep - A$AP Rocky feat. FKA Twigs
Everybody and their mom knows that Rocky is the sexiest man in pop culture, but "Fukk Sleep" is just another example of how smooth this man, who was surely placed on Earth directly from God's fingertips, can be when transitioning between flows and pitches.
FKA Twigs is the ice cream on top of A$AP's apple pie, and their collaboration made me melt the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and most recent time I heard it.
13. 435 - Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, the Creator is famously a straight-edge artist, but "435" sounds like a track that he recorded while under the influence of one thousand adderalls. The beautiful self-constructed instrumental is an example of Tyler's progression as a musician, while his lyricism is a reminder that he's one of the world's most talented lyricists.
Tyler could be a poet, architect, or salesman if he really wanted to. Let's just be thankful that he's an artist, because he's as valuable of one as they come. ONE TAKE.
12. Russian Cream - Key Glock
Quite possibly the ghetto's newest national anthem, and for good reason. Key Glock has a swagger to him that is reminiscent of peak Dolph, and he takes that style and runs with it on one of the hardest choruses of the year.
11. Shoota - Playboi Carti feat. Lil Uzi Vert
The chorus to this track was one of the most memorable portions of music in all of 2018 for me. Do me a favor, and please just give this track a listen once. You will surely not be disappointed.
8. GHOST - Jaden Smith
The first time I saw the video for "GHOST" was the moment when I realized that Jaden Smith was going to be a revolutionary artist in the rap game.
The dark beat is perfectly complimented by the soliloquy fashion that Jaden spits with.
7. Yes Indeed - Lil Baby feat. Drake
I've thoughtfully considered, and will more likely than not, making a mix that is strictly "Yes Indeed" on repeat with Drake's verse being played in a thousand different ways. Slowed down, sped up, reverb-heavy, echoed, etc. I fiend for Drizzy's verse on Lil Baby's most successful track yet.
6. Self Care - Mac Miller
The all-too-telling track from Mac's Swimming is as moving as it is revealing. The first half of the track begins with a conversation to Mac's self where he's unsure of where he's heading in life through the chorus. Then the track transitions into Mac admitting, and proclaiming, that nobody can trust anybody including themselves.
Okay, honestly, fuck any analyzation of this track. I'd rather take this time to mention how much I miss and appreciate Mac Miller's music. He was a one of a kind artist who will never be capable of being compared to. Mac was one of the most honest people in the music industry, and didn't shy away from the fact that death is inevitable. There are moments where I will listen to any random Mac track, and tears will collect in my eyes. I can't help it, I've had an intimate connection to his music since I started listening to hip-hop music in the seventh grade. I will always miss him, I will always love him and I will never stop listening to him. Rest in Paradise, Malcom. We miss you more than you will ever know. And lastly, thank you. Thank you for being a guardian angel for all of us who have gone through struggles in our lives.
5. Afterlife - Future
Every part of me wanted to put this directly at number one, but that just wasn't the case unfortunately. The track that is devoted to what happens after we die, and how we will behave before we die, is one of the most telling tracks that Future has released since his drug diary HNDRXX.
The only solo Future track on his collaboration album, WRLD on Drugs, with breakthrough rapper Juice Wrld was the only track that really stuck with me for longer than a week. I still listen to the track on a daily basis (about ten times a day, if we're being honest) and is a song that can translate to any mood during any circumstance.
Next time you need a moment of reflection for yourself, let Future's "Afterlife" be your therapist.
The sad boy anthem of the year came from a Soundcloud underdog with the hilarious, but probably very relevant, rapper name lilbootycall. The downtrodden tune is a reflection on the love of Booty Call's life not being as concentrated on his presence as he is her's. Here's to hoping there will be more cathartic tunes from the Gucci bag carrying singer in the next year.
If you're like me, and find the track to be so hypnotizing that you actually wish there was more, well then you're in luck. Check out the extended remix my OG homie Sweese made here, cause that shit BLEW THE FUCK UP.
3. Nonstop - Drake
Tay-Keith is really good at fucking people up, and Drake is even better at rapping on the beats Tay-Keith is fucking people on. The two came together for one of the most thrilling producer-rapper collaborations of the year. I would kill for an entire album that is just those two trying to outperform one another. Scorpion Deluxe soon, @champagnepapi?
2. Hater - Key! & Kenny Beats
Remember that quick mental exercise I asked you to do earlier? Well, to be honest, that was a situation that I was actually in this past year. I was surrounded by moderately tipsy screeching country fans, and was forced to turn to my headphones for comfort.
Not only did "Hater" provide comfort for my headache, it completely revolutionized my entire mood. Once I heard that first "WOAH KENNY!" I went from a downtrodden hip-hop head in a foreign element to an alien who is far superior to everyone who surrounds him. I recited the chorus in the faces of several annoying white women, and proceeded to give absolutely zero fucks for the rest of my evening.
I suggest that you watch the video above (it features fellow A$AP Mob member, Rocky) if you want to be on the same wavelength that I was on that night.
1. Sicko Mode - Travis Scott feat. Drake
What's better than one Travis Scott and Drake song? Three of them.
During my friends and I's Astroworld release listening party, the most heavily anticipated album of the year for our crew, I took a moment to myself and realized that I was happier than I had been in a long time.
To keep my excitement at an all-time high, I purposely avoided all speculative rumors regarding features, track names, and everything in between.
I wanted to feel like a kid on Christmas morning again: completely unaware of what the fuck was coming my way. I itched to be overwhelmed by excellence that was specifically curated for my taste.
After hearing the full version of "Stargazing" for the first time, I was in my own sort of adrenaline heaven. Then "Carousel" came on, and Frank Ocean's voice sent me into a spiraling frenzy of mosh pitting while tears simultaneously rolled down my face.
Towards the end of Frank's verse, I had another silent moment of reflection,
"Why is this only the second song?"
"There is no chance in hell that Travis is going to top this. No way."
"What's better than a Frank feature? They're soooooo rare."
Then, only several seconds later, everything that I thought I had known was turned upside down, and poured all over the top of my curly and ignorant head...
The emotions, thoughts and events experienced during my first listening of "SICKO MODE"
First, a church organ blared over our house's amplifier...
Then I heard an awfully subtle, yet crucially impactful whisper of an ad-lib that said, "Astro..."
Once I heard this, I immediately looked at my best friend Hotto... I had to make sure that I wasn't in some sort of cruel fever dream...
Once I found the strength to make words come out of my mouth, I asked him with extreme caution and desperate hope, "Wait... Drake?????????"
To which he nodded and replied, "Yes, Viv. Drake." A child-like grin sprawled across his bearded face. He had never looked so ready to just say, "Fuck it," and take the world by storm with only us at each other's side. This breathtaking moment that Hotto and I shared will stay with me forever...
We simultaneously felt chills run down our spine. It was like a perfectly synchronized orgasm without any sexual physicality: Our wettest of hip-hop-head dreams was about to become an intense reality...
Drake's voice soared in as if he were the Angel Gabriel when he told the Virgin Mary that she was going to give birth to the Son of God... "SUN IS DOWN! FREEZING COLD!"
Then, what may have potentially been one of the greatest symphonies of all-time, the beat started to build with a spastic amount of drums twitching underneath the heaven-sent instrumental.
Drake then sadly reflected to himself in a way one does when they're at the funeral of a very good friend who had just been shot and murdered, "I tried to show him..."
Drake then erupted out of his sad-boy coma voice and proclaimed a truth nobody in their right mind could ever attempt to deny, "YOUNG LA FLAME HE IN SICKO MODE!"
There I was: shaking, trembling, drooling and sweating profusely from every square inch of my body.
Then, right after Drake had finished his initial sermon...
THE BEAT FUCKING SWITCHED... A bouncy percussion quintet dripped onto the beat and into my veins.
Suddenly, I could feel, see, hear and understand everything in the universe as if I were in The Matrix or on several tabs of acid.
The curtain that Drake had elegantly hung up was ferociously ripped down by Travis with perfectly timed bars that boasted, "MADE THIS HERE WITH ALL THE ICE ON IN THE BOOTH."
Then I pounded my chest like a gorilla, scrunched up my nose, eyebrows and lips to make the stank face. I had gotten the urge to drive off a cliff in a Bentley going one hundred and fifty miles per hour screaming as loud as humanly possible.
I had just experienced the world's greatest verbal pick and roll: a between-the-legs-360-windmill dunk by Travis off of a full court behind the back dime of a lob from Drizzy.
After Travis dropped his plethora of mind-boggling bars that mention: Nike, Remy Martin, Papoose, Chase B, Jamba Juice, crackers and a noose...
Swae Lee slid in as smooth as a young child on a swing at recess, while a chopped-not-slopped bass booster of a voice paid homage to the late Houston rapper, Big Hawk...
Following this perpendicularity of voices coming together: Travis, licking his chops, bounced right back in like a kid playing jump rope who's eager to prove he has more ammo in his artillery... "This shit way too formal, y'all know I don't follow suit. Stacey Dash, most of these girls ain't got a clue. All of these hoes I made off records I produced. I might take all my exes and put'em all in a group. Hit my eses, I need the bootch. 'Bout to turn this function to Bonnaroo. Told her, 'Hop in, you coming too.' In the 305, bitches treat me like I'm Uncle Luke."
DON'T STOP, POP THAT PUSSY! *I recklessly fist bumped with no remorse or guilt for anyone in my general vicinity to the sample that I thought was originally from 'Pop That' by French Montana, but is actually from the 2 Live Crew single 'I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)*
Then the rest of the verse occurred where she asks where we going, and he says the moon. Then he asks who put this shit together, and he remembers he's the glue.
So, at this point, I was literally as close to a heart attack as I had ever been in my young life.
I think it's worth mentioning that I've maintained decent shape of my body for twenty years now, but Travis could have easily unintentionally(?) murdered me that night with the amount of adrenaline he was shooting directly into my sprinting heartbeat. I thank God every day that he didn't though, because then I would have gone to the afterlife thinking there was only two parts to "SICKO MODE" which there very much is not...
The beat then started to die down and fadeout. This fade was complimented by an echo of the Swae Lee and Big Hawk bridge. While this was occurring, I thought to myself, "Wow. That may be one of the best songs I've ever heard. Well done, Travis and 6 God."
Then, out of literally nowhere, THE BEAT FUCKING SWITCHED AGAIN!!!
Drake then repeated his initial "Astro" ad-lib, and was trailed by his infamous demand that Tay-Keith uses for all of his beats that fuck people up, "TAY-KEITH, FUCK THESE N****S UP!"
Then Drizzy, who must have felt that he hadn't gotten everything out of his system, reminded us that literally every woman on the face of planet Earth who has a cell phone, streaming service subscription or heart is in love with who he is. (And honestly, I don't know anybody who disagrees with that claim. Hell, I'm a young man and even I'm desperately in love with Drake.)
Then Drake hit us with a quick throwback, and paid homage to his Degrassi days by saying he used to bus it to the dance.
But then he starts bragging again (because he's Drake and he can brag as much as he wants to because of the fact that HE'S FUCKING DRAKE) that now he hits the FBO with duffle bags full of money in his hands. That's quite the come up Drake. I wondered how was he going to top that bar.
Drake replied to my rhetorical question by promoting the use of prescription drugs in moderation, only as an attempt to get a good night's rest on a long flight in the comfort of his very own private jet! "I DID HALF A XAN, 13 HOURS TILL I LAND."
Then I got what felt like a severe concussion from head banging harder than I knew I was capable of when Drizzy hit us with that, "Out like a light, ayyyye," spree that only he could sound cool saying.
Then, to put it in the simplest terms, Drake did all of these things really quickly: eludes to having sex with Kim Kardashian, announces the rumors of him signing with Adidas are false and that he is a Nike Lifer, tells whoever is married to Kim Kardashian that he lost his respect and that he's no longer a threat, brags about his jump shot (which is trash in real life), shouts out Sheck Wes and Devin Booker, gets dizzy from the amount of driving he does around Calabasas, and tells the world how he's trying to get rid of Kanye West's presence.
Then the Drake chorus came back in, and I was in complete awe of the fact that he had literally just delivered his best verse in years on an album that I would've literally died for at that moment.
Finally, to finish what Drake started, Travis came back in hotter than a 7 year old with ADHD who forgot to take his adderall before class.
He spat a mean amount of lyrics so quickly that he made my head spin like a cartoon, and concluded the best song of the year (it honestly wasn't even fucking close in my opinion) with the year's hardest bar, "PASS THIS TO MY DAUGHTER, IMMA SHOW HER WHAT IT TOOK. BABY MAMA COVER FORBES, GOT THESE OTHER BITCHES SHOOK."
The "YEAH" that follows that last lyric is filled to the brim with legitimate fulfillment, sincere satisfaction, incontestable love, and a big fat "FUCK YOU" to the rest of the rap game/music world who thinks they can equal the quality of his output.