Rap's Highs and Lows in 2018 | Liam McDougal
2018 was a pretty great year for rap. Every week felt like the big week of 2018 - whether it be from the viral explosion of a new song, the release of a long-awaited album, or the sudden rising up of a new artist with a unique sound. However, for every unexpected hit, there was a disappointment. In this blog, I’m going to list some of the best and worst moments for rap in 2018 in no particular order, from my opinion.
Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy
Like most artists with explosive singles, Cardi B was called a one hit wonder after the stunning success of “Bodak Yellow.” Invasion of Privacy was Cardi’s rebuttal, and a perfect showcase of her talent. Less than an hour in length, it’s stocked full of hits that never seem to get old, with features from names such as SZA, 21 Savage, and Migos. However, on most of the tracks, she proves that she is perfectly capable without any support. The album is a showcase of her versatility as an artist, and I think it’s only the start of what we’ll see from her. Some of my favorites on this include “I Do,” “I Like It,” and “Drip”.
Travis Scott, Astroworld
To the delight of Travis Scott fans across the world, Astroworld finally released this year. The nearly 2 year wait since his last solo release, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight were grueling, yet this album proves they were well worth it. Everything about the album is amazing - from Scott’s masterful use of autotune, to the punchy, well-sampled beats, to the catchy choruses. As a testament to this, the album reached number one on the Billboard 200 twice - once at its initial release, and again in December, almost four months after its release. The most prolific single on the album is indisputably “SICKO MODE,” which has reached meme status at this point. My favorites on the album include “No Bystanders,” “5% Tint,” “Yosemite,” and “Coffee Bean.”
Lil Baby & Gunna, Drip Harder
Lil Baby & Gunna were two artists who had explosive uprisings in 2018 - in 2017, I don’t think many people knew their names. Today, however, they’re both creating hit after hit, whether together or independently. Drip Harder is a showcase of how well they work together, taking full advantage of their distinct individual sounds. The album reminds me of 2014’s collaboration between Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug; the latter would later become a major influence on both Lil Baby and Gunna, taking them under his wings as his proteges. My favorites from the album include “Drip Too Hard,” and “Never Recover.”
Drake undoubtedly had a huge year. He had 12 songs get in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Scorpion was one of the largest albums of the year, especially in terms of streaming numbers. The promotion to the album was dark and mysterious, with haunting instrumentals from the Netflix movie Annihilation playing over dark scenes of Toronto, a dimly lit mansion, and Drake in the booth. I was expecting the album to fit, and even found myself excited for it. However, upon its release, I was disappointed. The album has undeniable hits - Nonstop, God’s Plan, In My Feelings - however, the rest just feels like filler to bump up the streams. That’s my main gripe with the album - it’s got 25 songs, yet only 5 or 6 of them are the type to really stick. The rest just feel like they’re put in there as filler. I think Drake should have taken a cue from someone like Kanye West, or Cardi B, and kept the album short and sweet. Some of my favorites include “Nonstop,” “Mob Ties,” and “I’m Upset.”
Migos, Culture II
Jeez. Culture II has to be the biggest let-down of 2018 for rap, in my opinion. I was terribly disappointed by this album, in part because of the expectations its predecessor, Culture, had set. However, it feels like Migos looked at everything Culture did right, and decided to do just the opposite for Culture II. The album is nearly two hours long, whereas Culture was more compact, at less than an hour. It’s technically split into 25 songs, although I’d argue that at some points it feels like they’re all starting to blend into one like the colors in an unsorted tub of Play-Doh. The album is partially saved by its features - verses from Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Drake, and 21 Savage help to pump an inch of life into the otherwise vacant album. The solo tracks from the Migos are just disappointing. They’ve seen so much success with their formula- their iconic triplet flows, their library of ad-libs, and their not-too-deep topics - that it seems like they’re afraid to deviate from it. The majority of the songs sound eerily alike, and none of them are all too inspiring. I hope that they can change it up a little in their next release, because this one was not too great. Highlights from this album include “Motorsport,” “BBO,” and “Narcos”.
I really wanted to love this album. I’m a fan of Nas, and an especially big fan of Kanye West - I think that the other projects he worked on this summer were amazing. This album just didn’t do it for me. It’s not that it’s too long, like Culture II and Scorpion; like the other West-produced albums this summer, it came in at around 20 minutes. It’s not for lack of technical ability from Nas or Kanye - both are legends in their respective fields and have built the monumental legacies they have for good reason. This album just felt like a true letdown. It was the first album we heard from Nas since 2012’s Life is Good. 6 years is a long time to wait for music from a legend such as Nas, and I feel like NASIR really just did not deliver. It felt like Nas’s heart and soul - which he used to pour into his music - were missing on this album. He still brought out the hefty flow and talent, but it just felt like the depth that Nas fans are used to was missing. My favorites from the album include “Cops Shot The Kid” and “everything”.