Back for a third straight year, we at TheHipHopDemocrat once again despite being a mostly Hip-Hop based website, decided to include not only Hip-Hop, but a few of the other genres we cover a lot of, such as R&B and Soul, and even Jazz, as part of our latest best albums of the year list for last year (2018). Counting down from 10 to one, we cover a bunch of the variety of different artists and albums we covered throughout the year and came up with the following for our best of 2018 albums. A few honorable mentions were even thrown in as well. So without further ado here is TheHipHopDemocrat’s second Best Albums of the Year list.
10. Vic Spencer – Duffle Of Gems: Vic Spencer dropped three albums and an EP last year, so it should come as no surprise that one of those releases make the top 10 list. Just barely at number 10, this gemful masterpiece shows just how truly great of a year it was for Hip-Hop in 2018 and music in general that will be talked about for generations to come. Spencer’s second release of the year, which was released back in June, it’s filled with so many gems and a truly classic album. That crazily shows how much better he keeps getting better with each new release. Especially while most other emcees fall off, Vic shows he’s just getting more sharper and will continue to do so.
9. Bridget Kelly – Reality Bites: The very talented singer and songwriter, who was originally signed to Roc Nation before finally going independent went through many hurdles to finally release her debut album, Reality Bites. One of several artists who went through years of setbacks before finally releasing their debut album in 2018. This album showing that despite others denying their really being any soul and love left in music, there still is. The BK-bred singer using the many ups and downs, trials and tribulations, as well as bites of reality and vulnerability, not only in her love life, but in this fickle entertainment industry as inspiration for much of the album to show that the love and soul is still there. A lot of the bites of reality, both good and bad Bridget had to go through in order to bring: hope, happiness and joy to not only herself, but so many others who really need it at such a crazy time many are going through right now. Powerful and life changing music that’s really needed right now and if so many dope albums weren’t released last year, would have been even higher on the list.
8. Buddy – Harlan & Alondra: Yet another artist that had to wait a few years before releasing their album in 2018. Compton emcee and singer/songwriter, Buddy, made it well worth the wait. Proving on his debut album, Harlan & Alondra, that he’s more than just a rapper. Delivering such a soulfully timeless inspiring masterpiece that’s not only one of the best Hip-Hop albums, but across any genre of music in 2018. Buddy continues to show what great talent there’s in the L.A. area and proving why as I said in my interview his album could be on a lot of year-end lists of great albums once we get to the end of 2018. Sure enough it has been too and shown just as I said how you will hear a lot more about Buddy shining in Hip-Hop and beyond in beyond 2018.
7. Joell Ortiz & Apollo Brown – Mona Lisa: Very well-known and revered Detroit producer Apollo Brown has delivered some quite impressive collaboration albums with everyone from from Guilty Simpson to Ras Kass, Planet Asia, Skyzoo and Locksmith over the years. Some of the most revered emcees in all of Hip-Hop, but it’s on his latest collaborative album, Mona Lisa, with Brooklyn emcee, Joell Ortiz, that he delivers easily his most timeless piece of art to date. The marriage of Ortiz’s razor sharp lyrics and wordplay over Brown’s very soulful boom bap backdrops blending so seamlessly together throughout the 11-track effort.
6. Nipsey Hu$$le – Victory Lap: Like several others in 2018, Los Angeles emcee Nipsey Hu$$le was probably the most noteworthy name not only in Hip-Hop, but all of music to finally drop his highly-anticipated and long-awaited debut album. Which came in the form of, Victory Lap, after a nearly decade long wait, which was well worth it. Showing through his years of hustle and dedication that it’s very much a marathon and not a sprint that truly paid off in victory to deliver not only arguably one of the best Hip-Hop albums, but easily one of the best albums across all of music in 2018. Even proving why the Grammys finally got something right by recently surprisingly even nominating the album for Best Rap Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards.
5. Ghostface Killah – The Lost Tapes: Veteran emcee Ghostface Killah is easily not only the most consistent member of the Wu-Tang Clan when it comes to great solo albums, but arguably the best member in all of the group. So it should come as no surprise that on his 13th solo album, The Lost Tapes, it’s no different. As teaming up with producer, Big Ghost LTD., throughout the 13-track effort provides Ghost with that classic soulful Wu sound and such a great chemistry between the two that results in yet another great masterpiece album. Which results in a predominantly New York City sounding album that has a 90’s sound with a still taste of today’s freshness thanks to Ghostface’s killer personality. That makes this another great album to add to Ghostface Killah’s already stellar solo catalog and even further cement his place as one of the top emcees in the entire storied history of Hip-Hop. Not just within the Wu-Tang Clan.
4. Royce Da 5’9” – Book of Ryan: On his latest solo album, Book of Ryan, Royce Da 5’9”, delivers easily his most personal and introspective album to date. An album apropriately named after his actual government name of Ryan, it’s an audiobiographical look into his life as both an emcee and the actual person behind Royce Da 5’9”, Ryan Montgomery. One of the most introspective, cohesive, insightful, empowering and conceptually great albums you will ever hear. Royce delivers an album with many chapters that’s both sonically and lyrically a true masterpiece unlike any other. A marriage of great rhymes, beats and storytelling that plays out like a deeply insightful and immersive look into his past, present and future. Playing out like a true timeless movie-like big masterpiece we always envisioned from Royce, this is by far his best album to date and shows he’s not only one of the top lyricists, but one of the best emcees period right now in all of Hip-Hop. Delivering what’s not only easily the best Hip-Hop album of the year, but one of the best albums across all of music this year and in the past three to five years.
3. Kandace Springs – Indigo: Sophomore slumps ain’t a thing when you have a talent as great as Kandace Springs. A still somewhat emerging singer and pianist, as well as songwriter, Springs is one of those rare once in a lifetime talents who knows how to perfectly blend genres with Jazz, Soul, Blues, R&B and Pop. Which really shows on her very timeless sophomore album, Indigo. That takes cues from one of the few other artists with such talent and one of Springs own inspirations as an artist, Norah Jones own Blue Note Records debut album, Come Away With Me, for how organic her and her main producer, Karriem Riggins wanted this album to sound. A sound that really cements Kandace as one of the best voices of this generation and somebody who’s very great voice we will hear along with her great piano skills as well for several years and generations to come.
2. Jorja Smith – Lost & Found: For the second straight year a still rising great singer and songwriter from overseas makes it at number two. A once in a lifetime talent at that, Jorja Smith, has a soulfullness and honesty that’s well beyond her years. Which the 21-year-old Walsall, U.K. native shows on her soulfully honest debut album, Lost & Found. An album about love, self-discovery, hope and the vulnerability one goes through in their personal life to discover not only more about themselves personally as a human being, but also about themselves as an artist as they make that important transition from their teenage years to their early adulthood. Lost & Found at its core the emotionally vulnerable rollercoaster one goes through losing their selves while trying to hopelessly find love, romance and all of its possibilities, while navigating through life. In a way everyone can relate to. While it was robbed of any Grammy nominations like it should have been it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s not only one of the top R&B albums of the year, but quite possibly even one of the top albums of the last three to five years.
1.Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer: A true masterpiece that’s easily not only her best album to date, but her most experimental and not give a fvcks album of her career thus far, Janelle Monáe shows from the very opening and title track of her latest album, Dirty Computer, why it’s not only a great album, but a truly landmark piece of art that will be remembered as such for years and generations to come with its very sexually liberal and liberating freedom that’s the perfect celebration of queerness, pan-sexuality, female power and self-worth. The album just like it’s truly masterpiece accompanying emotion picture of the same name, shows how Monáe really is following in the footsteps of her late great mentor, Prince. The album truly capturing the past, present and future in much the same way the film did, but in musical form. This is an album that from the time it was released you knew it would be not only easily be remembered as the best album to drop, but one of the best albums to drop of the past several years. This the album that will not only get Monáe the long overdue Grammys, as well as several other accolades she already deserves, but hasn’t yet gotten too. But also really cement her place as an iconic figure in the history of music at already such a young age. Her late great mentor, friend and collaborator, Prince, is definitely looking down very proud.
Honorable mentions: Jacob Banks – Village: Impactful, powerful, heartbreaking, haunting, painful and wrenching. That’s how music feels when it really hits your soul and that’s exactly what rising singer/songwriter Jacob Banks did on his highly-anticipated debut album, Village, which was initially released nearly two months ago. An album where Banks truly gives one of those very powerfully impactful rawness of modern soul records that’s needed in music right now to help everyone get through such a truly trying time in the world right now. The impact of this album sure to touch many generations to come and just the start of what has the makings to be a truly impactul career for the very talented singer and songwriter.
SiR – November: There was several great debut albums to be released in 2018 and several critically-acclaimed ones from Westcoast Hip-Hop powerhouse label, Top Dawg Entertainment to be released during their short existence. While to kickoff 2018, singer and songwriter, SiR, became just the latest to do so with his soulfully introspective jazz-tinged timeless masterpiece of the ups and downs in the space odyssey of love. An album that at just barely over 30 minutes and with only 11 tracks, there’s not really much room for error. Which SiR shows like his TDE counterparts, he’s very capable of executing. As it’s definitely one of those albums you can just play straight through without skipping and ride out to at anytime. Which is quite ironic for an album titled after a Winter month and released during the Winter. This is definitely the first of what’s sure to be many great albums in a long career.
Adrian Daniel – FLAWD: Brooklyn-bred native and rising R&B star, Adrian Daniel towards the beginning of 2018 released his newest album, FLAWD, and while just like it’s name, the album finds him singing and talking about his own flaws he has throughout, the album itself is truly is flawless from beginning to end. Daniel releasing what’s sure to be one of the best albums you’ve heard all year and be on many top albums of the year lists by the end of the year. Sure enough here it is on at least one too. Even if only as an honorable mention.
Vic Spencer – Spencer For Higher: In a year where Chicago emcee Vic Spencer dropped three albums and an EP, it should come as no surprise that yet another of those releases under up making our final cut as an honorable mention with, Spencer For Higher. An album that Vic teamed up with producer, Sonnyjim, who provides really nice rhythms underneath the smooth corners of blaxploitation and jazz reefer-friendly soul for Vic’s ruff and gruff flow. This album brings a very nostalgic feel with the very vivid imagination and imagery that we have all come to know and love from Vic Spencer verses being ever-present throughout the album too. With its several gems and soulfully great nostalgic feel, Spencer For Higher, is such an amazing album that you gotta read the rest of the review here to get my full thoughts and review of it.
Philmore Greene – Chicago: A Third World City: On his debut album, Chicago: A Third World City, Chicago emcee Philmore Greene gives us that socially political and conscious rap that is needed not only in Hip-Hop, but music in general right now with the times we are going through in politics and foreign affairs in not only America, but the world as a whole. That classic boom-bap records filled with dope rhymes over dope beats that has that classic 90’s sound, but sounds fresh and updated. By far one of the best Hip-Hop albums to drop in all of 2018, but is it a classic? Find out after you read my full review of the album here, if you haven’t already.