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2018-In-Review: 8 Favorite Hip-Hop Albums

Playboi+Carti+released+Dielit+on+May+11%2C+2018.++%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29
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2018-In-Review: 8 Favorite Hip-Hop Albums

Playboi Carti released Dielit on May 11, 2018.  (Courtesy of Facebook)

Playboi Carti released Dielit on May 11, 2018. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Playboi Carti released Dielit on May 11, 2018. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Playboi Carti released Dielit on May 11, 2018. (Courtesy of Facebook)


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By Kieran Press-Reynolds

This year feels disappointing in comparison to 2017. Big artists from all across the hip-hop spectrum have dropped tapes, but there are no standout albums like DAMN. or Flower Boy. Still, we have witnessed trap’s takeover of rap and the charts, and with it, some subtle musical progressions. For 2018, I will rank my top eight records of the year:

  1. Northsbest (Lil Mosey)

Do not sleep on 16-year-old Lil Mosey. His debut studio album is bright and fun, textured with warm melodies and consonant synth flourishes that express a youthful naivety missing in much of today’s hip-hop.

Highlights: “Kamikaze,” “Fu s—t,” “Pull Up”.

  1. SR3MM (Rae Sremmurd)

(This considers only the first nine tracks denoted  SR3MM of the three-part collection.) The Sremm Gang has an ear for crazy beats and middler, somewhere between Migos and Travis Scott. SR3MM is a dizzying collection of leaned-out tracks that don’t tire after the first listen, thanks to the contrast between Swae Lee’s higher pitch and Slim Jxmmi’s gritty inflection.

Highlights: “Perplexing Pegasus,” “Buckets,” “T’d Up”.

  1. Not All Heroes Wear Capes (Metro Boomin)

Not All Heroes Wear Capes is less a traditional album and more a tour de force manifesto, a producer’s resume with sections titled, “Sampling,” “Transitions,” “Mixing,” et al. It is a parent-teacher’s night presentation on “Why I’m The Best Producer In The Game, Signed Metro Boomin” that upstages some of the best rappers in the game on songs where they are the only ones rapping.

Highlights: “Overdue,” “10 Freaky Girls,” “No More”.

  1. Culture II (Migos)

Triplets fly through the sky like silver spoons in a silky broth, navigating rainforests drenched in humid air and dangerous mountainscapes quaking with bass. Compared to its first edition, Culture II feels bloated by way of both width and height. The album is incredibly long, but each song is also thick, engorged by fantastic chains of atmospheric background rumblings, harmonized moan melodies and sequences of ad-libs that stack upon one another, constantly shifting and squeezing as each Migo hands off the baton and spits with the virtuosity that’s made fan-favorite since the beginning.

Highlights: “White Sand,” “MotorSport,” “BBO (Bad Bitches Only)”

  1. Isolation (Kali Uchis)

Much to my gatekeeping mom’s chagrin, I bought my vinyl copy of Isolation at Urban Outfitters this summer. When she began interrogating me about whether my stripping the independent vinyl-selling industry of its much-needed revenue was an act of premeditated ignorance, I could only respond with a stumbling, “Hey, I just saw it on the shelf, and like, I really like it, so, you know, I had to.” Let this confession be a testament to Kali Uchis’s magnificence.

Her debut studio album is fantastic, not just because she is a tremendous singer, but because the compositions she crafts are otherworldly, meshing funky R&B vibes, mellow hip-hop beats and a dream pop aesthetic to create something that begs to befriend you and take you away on a delicious vacation to some neo-nostalgic, lo-fi wonderland.

Highlights: “Just A Stranger,” “Your Teeth In My Neck,” “After The Storm”.

  1. Life’s A Trip (Trippie Redd)

If SoundCloud rap is hip-hop’s mutation of punk, then Trippie Redd is The Slits. Trilling with an inflection that sounds more like me in the shower than any singer I have ever heard, Trippie is clearly not Beyoncé. But the AutoTune on his voice is always sublime, making him appear cracked and creased at the seams yet still brilliantly mystical.

He is able to summon a sense of despair from the depths of his vocal chords that sounds beautifully scary, like the melodic shrieks of a bipolar clown who is half-professional emo and half-virtuoso rapper.

Life’s A Trip is Trippie’s opus thus far, combining the iconic cackles and croons we came to love on his first two mixtapes with legitimate studio production. The result is an experience that’s on par with the best trap has provided yet, a motley crew of cuts capturing enigmatic emotions and building upon sounds influenced by many disparate genres, yet linked into a cohesive collection by one narrator, Trippie.

Highlights: “Dark Knight Dummo,” “Uka Uka,” “Bang!”

  1. Astroworld (Travis Scott)

In a rap scene where AutoTune is king and “8D audio” is considered the greatest invention bar none, Travis Scott has epitomized the zeitgeist for years. He functions with the predaciousness of a hawk, his sounds never standing firm but encircling you, promising that your fears will be mitigated if you allow his words to animate like neon lights in your mind.

The album works like a rollercoaster, mixing the ambient hallucinations of the climb with the sudden heart rate-spiking thrills of the drop, underpinned by a sonic palette teeming with hyper-textured melodies, drugged-out synthesizers and ethereal start-stop pastiches of reverberatory murmurings. Even though I think Astroworld is only his third-best album (behind Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and Rodeo, respectively), there are moments of glory where this chimerical selling point is pushed to its psychedelic maximum, creating some of the best tracks he has ever put out.

Highlights: “5% Tint,” “Houstonfornication,” “Astrothunder”.

  1. Die Lit (Playboi Carti)

Lean cup in hand, Playboi Carti transcends. Disembodied vocalisations moonwalk over sparkly synths embossed with gloss, oozy—woozy refrains subvert our senses and ego becomes drugged-out omniscience.

Trap’s epochal progression towards psychedelia is executed most intoxicatingly by Carti, whose unintelligible exclamations and slurred colloquialisms already verge on the surreal without modulation. He invented a “scat trap” where voice is instrument and words are sound, pushing the concept of trap ad-libs to its most logical conclusion by turning verses into mosaics of ad-libs, wherein sentences flow like streams and comprehensibility is always a fleeting aspiration.

Die Lit’s fulcrum is minimal structures that feel maximal: skeletal beats suffused with evocative synth leads that work so effectively specifically because their simplicity doesn’t attack you, instead seducing you into a loopy, soporific state. The album is a tour through Carti’s dreamland, and definitely the most sublime front-to-back listen of 2018.

Highlights: “Lean 4 Real,” “Love Hurts,” “Choppa Won’t Miss”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2018-In-Review: 8 Favorite Hip-Hop Albums