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Muhammed Faiz's Best Albums of 2018


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2018 has been a year jam-packed with albums, with almost all of the premier artists in hip-hop and R&B dropping albums. They weren’t all amazing, but the cream of the crop has been something truly special.

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1. Denzel Curry - TABOO

Black metal meets SoundCloud rap in perfect unison. The way in which Curry balances the concepts of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ is done so masterfully and with such nuance that this short little piece here simply does not do it justice. Sonically, expect to be bombarded with high-energy, screamo-influenced hip-hop with sprinklings of a smoother sound. The personal plane of the album just as impressive as the political plane, the reflections on the music industry just as tactful as the reflections on society, and the music is incredibly unique to Curry: you will never hear anything like this ever again.

2. Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts

This album is proof that Kanye West’s genius has not faded away. He has not fallen into the pit of mediocrity that his previous few works have suggested he may be stuck in. Lyrically, this album conveys a lot using very little, leaving its impact to mainly be felt with the music itself, with Kid Cudi and Kanye West being mere pieces of the orchestra, so to speak. The grunge-inspired, psychedelic sound that Kids See Ghosts chase here provides the perfect soundtrack for Cudi and West to tackle their own mental health issues with some nuance. The album is short in length but effective in conveying emotion.

3. Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer

Futuristic funk pop has never felt so good. Monáe celebrates her sexuality with such overtness and freedom that one cannot help but be sucked into her world. The music is so pulsatingly positive, the energy in the hooks is so infectious and the lyrics about self-worth and being sexually liberated are so uplifting, that this album will mark a moment in time. It's an anthemic album reflective of the strides made by the queer community, and the broader LGBTQ+ community.

4. Jean Grae and Quelle Chris - Everything’s Fine

The darkest possible form of political satire set to jazz-fusion instrumentation. The album subtlety rips into the false happiness front (the ‘everything’s fine’ mentality) that people put on as a coping mechanism to deal with this crazy world that we live in. It is quite a feat for an album to exhibit such dark satire, and also be therapeutic at the same time. A complex album for sure, but one to really sit down and pick apart.  

5. Everything Is Recorded - Everything Is Recorded

North-West London-born producer Richard Russell delivers on this album as diverse a production palette as you’ll likely have heard this year. A glimpse at the features is enough to exhibit how diverse the album is: ranging from soulful R&B artists in Sampha, Syd and the dynamic duo of Ibeyi, to rap in the form of Giggs and electronic-afrobeat via Obongjaya. A broad spectrum of sound brought onto one, surprisingly cohesive, project by Russell.

6. Royce Da 5’9 - Book of Ryan

One thing that I always appreciate from an artist is introspection; a close examination of an artist’s mental space, or as it is the case with this album, of the artist’s upbringing. Never before has Royce delved so deep into his life, and he does so by evoking such raw emotion that songs like ‘Cocaine’ did bring tears to my eyes. The striking lyric “I’m glad my daddy chose me over cocaine” really tugged on the heartstrings.

7. Kali Uchis - Isolation

Isolation is R&B rising star Kali Uchis’ debut studio album. Labelling Colombian-American Uchis an R&B artist may be a disservice to her since this album showcases her ability to blend genres to suit her unique pop style. Utilising pop themes, R&B styles, aspects of funk, reggaeton influences and just a sprinkle of hip-hop, she creates this smooth, yet lively, album. 

8. Pusha T - Daytona

Pusha is up there with the most well-known coke rappers of all time, sitting nicely with Rick Ross, Raekwon and early Jay Z. Daytona is easily his best album. His flows are as tight as ever, his cadence as laid back yet aggressive as ever, the lyrical content the same as ever and the punchlines as witty as ever, but what sets this album apart is the production which is simply otherworldly. Kanye West produced every single song on this album and every single beat exhibits his chopped-up sample-flipping genius to its finest. Fire beats and even better bars creates an excellent hip-hop album.

9. Anderson .Paak - Oxnard

Coming off the experimental sounds of jazz, funk and soul-infused R&B on his last album Malibu, expectations for Oxnard were incredibly high, especially considering this was to be Paak’s first album under Dr. Dre’s label Aftermath. Some were left disappointed by the funk-rap dominance on this album, but not me. Oxnard is a masterpiece. Paak substitutes the diversity of genres in Malibu for the diversity of funk sub-genres in Oxnard making it feel cohesive, and a good step forward for Paak.

10. Jorja Smith - Lost and Found

Everything about this album screams throwback R&B. From the album cover straight out of the late 90s and the heartbroken lyrical themes to the jazzy R&B instrumentals, this album really does take you back which is a nice change of pace from the trap-heavy tendencies of modern R&B acts. What makes this album stand out, however, is when Smith shifts up the song concepts on tracks like ‘Blue Lights’ and ‘Lifeboats (Freestyle)’. She strays away from her normally pleasing softer vocals to something more assertive, flexing some character in her voice. A solid debut album for sure from the Walsall-born singer. 

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