MC Till's Favorite Albums of 2018
What’s a “Hip-hop Golden Era?” Is there only one? A few? Several? How does one define it? Knowledgeable Hip-hoppers can and probably do debate this for hours on end just like any other Hip-hop topic. I suggest to you that a Hip-hop Golden Era is simply a period of time (be it a year or two or three or more) when really great Hip-hop music comes out. I believe we are living in such an era. It started toward the last part of 2016 when De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest released really great albums. It continued into 2017 with a slue of incredible releases and only picked up steam in 2018. Below I give you over 60 of my favorite releases from 2018. I share some thoughts on my top 10 (plus 3), throw just a few sentences for the next 15, and then group the remaining albums into a few categories.
If you have a minute, take a look. If you have two minutes, let me know what you think. What are your favorite albums of 2018? Do we share any favorites in common? Anything you really liked that I didn’t mention? Let’s talk!
1. Streams of Thought Vol 1 & 2 by Black Thought
I know they are two separate projects but if you add them together they make for my favorite album of the year. And I’m in charge of this list so I can do that! ha. Black Thought is magnificent on both volumes. Why wouldn’t he be? He has been a top-notch emcee from the early 90’s and has only gotten better over time. He is in my opinion the greatest emcee of all time. I said it. He has arguably the best catalogue of music with the roots (any genre). His wordplay is one of the best if not the best. He rocks with a live band and can also ride tracks with the best of them. His career has spawned almost three decades now. His influence continues to grow and grown and grow. And somehow he is on mainstream late-night TV five times a week but it doesn’t feel like he has sold out one bit. His volumes of thought this year are testimony to that. He is the greatest. I can’t wait for more. Maybe he’ll choose Alchemist or Madlib for the next Stream. We can only hope.
2. In Celebration of Us by Skyzoo
Top 2, 3, and 4 are pretty much a toss up for me. Aside from Black Thought though I think the album I came back to more than any other this year was this album from Skyzoo. He is quickly becoming my favorite emcee of the past decade and one of my favorites of all times. Last year his stream-only project “Peddler Themes” was my favorite of the year. If not for Black Thought, Skyzoo probably would have taken home that trophy two years in a row! What I love about In Celebration of Us is that it is 100% Skyzoo. His delivery is as good as ever and his beat selection is soulful to boom-bap. He stays in his lane and delivers yet another incredible album. I’ve said it over and over this year and I’ll say it again. Skyzoo has the best hip-hop catalogue of the past 10 years. His consistency is immaculate. Who has a better catalogue since 2008?
3. Jericho Jackson by Elzhi & Khrysis
I can’t front. At first some of the beats on this project were just okay to me. In an era where some producers are getting rid of the snares, Khrysis turns up the snare in place of high hats! There are a few joints on here that I think would have been ten times better if he had just added a few high hats. However, overall the beats are deadly and I love almost all of them. So, I’ll just live with the few that need additional hi hats. Elzhi, I can’t say a bad thing about this guy. If he put out as much material as Skyzoo he would easily be my favorite lyricist of all time. His ability to put words together and make them sound so good with almost any beat is unparalleled. Okay, Pharaoh Monche is better, but that’s it. Nobody is as good with words as Elzhi… (except Monche of course). Great album and I keep revisiting it again and again.
4. A Breukelen Story by Masta Ace & Marco Polo
So this album came out late in 2018 which is probably why it is fourth on my list. I have a feeling I’ll go back to this one more often than Jericho and In Celebration. Time will tell. Marco Polo comes correct on every single beat except one I don’t like. But, if I love 13 out of 14 beats then I’ll look over that one. Plus, the beats are a perfect sound bed for Masta Ace. He is not an aggressive lyricist like Elzhi or a rapidly smooth emcee like Skyzoo. Instead, he has a laid back style almost in the vein of Jay Z with the main difference being that Masta Ace picks consistently dope, underground Hip-hop beats. Jay Z on the other hand makes all kinds of crazy beat selections. More power to him though as his 4:44 album was one of my favorites from 2017. Okay, back to Masta Ace. Like Skyzoo, he has an incredible discography over the past 10 years. Shoot, really over the past darn near 30 years! He is one of the greatest Hip-hop artists of our time due in large part to his consistency after almost three decades. A Breukelen Story only adds to his impressive legacy.
5. Everything’s Fine by Jean Grae & Quelle Chris
Okay, so I love this album. I don’t go back and listen to it as much as some other albums on this list but when I do I thoroughly enjoy it. Jean Grae is one of my favorite emcees. Its just that I don’t always love her production. Not that its bad, but it just doesn't always engage me as much as other production. But, this time around I’m loving the production from Quelle Chris. It is raw, fun, funky, dope, ill, all that. The beats themselves are an adventure. Throw in Quelle and Grae rapping interesting lyrics throughout plus all the comedians that show up on this album and you have a recipe for something special. Although Everything is not fine, this album certainly is. (BAD PUN ALERT).
6. Weather or Not by Evidence
This album used to be in the top five and then Black Thought, Chris/Grae, and Masta Ace bumped it out. Sorry Evidence. Still, this is by far my favorite Evidence album and that’s saying a lot because I LOVED Cats and Dogs. However, Evidence stays as consistent as ever and his beat selection steps up if that was even possible. The beats on this album are incredible except, for the last beat. I’m not sure what he was thinking on that one. I love the song, but the beat seems a bit too scattered for the lyrical content. I’ll take an album of all dope songs except one any day (especially when the album has as many songs as this one). Now, if we can just get another Dilated Peoples album!
7. Behold a Dark Horse by Roc Marciano
Roc put out three albums this year and this is definitely my favorite. I’m still convinced that he locked himself in a grimy basement 10 years ago with nothing but a notepad, pen, and 100 hours of creepy, raw dope beats. Then, he wrote one long verse that never ends. Then, he revamped his rap career with Marcburg in 2010 and has been rapping that long verse on every album since! I promise his songs are all the same content-wise and yet I can’t get enough. He makes street, pimp talk sound heavenly. Doesn’t seem right but the music speaks for itself. He is another emcee with an impressive track record over the past decade. He put out three albums this year. Let’s see how many he releases in 2019. Hopefully at least three more!
8. Elephants on Acid by Cypress Hill
So I haven’t been a fan of Cypress Hill albums since the mid 90’s. But things change. Their album, Elephants on Acid, is spectacular. DJ Muggs holds down the production and good thing too as every beat on there is dope. Plus, he adds these eerie interlude sounds throughout the album. I was so inspired that I took all those interludes, sampled them and made a short beat tape called “Interludes on Acid.” (which you get as a member of Everybody's Hip-hop - plug, plug) Then there is the lyrical side. Sen Dog adds his consistent self while B-Real sounds as good as ever. Something lit a fire in him in 2018 because he sounds great! Dope album from a few living legends.
9. Book of Ryan by Royce Da 5’9”
What strikes me the most about this album is 5’9’s versatility. This guy can do it all seamlessly. He can challenge conventional wisdom and make me think. He can tell stories. He can just spit that raw spit. He can sing. He can move in and out of rhymes while he reminisces about his childhood. He has mastered it all and the production on this album is pretty consistent. Several of the beats are not my particular cup of tea. Still I like most of them and I think all of them (except one) are great quality even if not my style. Now, if he can release a few more consistent all around albums I’ll be ready to move him way up on the greatest of all time lists because to me the only thing he lacks is a consistent catalogue. What do you think?
10. August Greene
I went on a rollercoaster with this album. First, I didn’t even realize it came out so I was ecstatic the night I found out it was actually out! Then, I learn I can ONLY get it through amazon:( So, I get it. I HAVE IT! NEW COMMON ALBUM (Well, close to a common album). Then I listen to it all the way through and well I’m not sure what I think. I typically love common albums on arrival. But this one was different. It wasn’t technically a Common album, but a group album. A few joints jumped out at me right away, but only a few. hmmm, was this a rare Common project that I wasn’t going to really enjoy? Nope. It just took some time. After a few months of going back to this album again and again I realized how much I enjoyed almost every song! It is still growing on me too. If 2018 had a few more months in it, perhaps this album would bump up to 7 or 8!
11. Wide Berth by Tha God Fahim X Mach Hommy
This album is so raw to me. The beats sound distant as if they are falling over a cliff, but they aren’t going down alone. They grab you and force you to go along for the ride. Lyrically, I love Tha God Fahim. His energy reminds me of Malachi or Lil Dap from Group Home. Many people talk ill of these two emcees. I don’t. I think they bring a certain raw energy to the mic that is captivating. That’s Tha God Fahim. His delivery, his voice, brings in the listener. Once there, you can’t leave. I listened to this album non stop for a few weeks this year. Love it.
12. Masters of the Sun by Black Eyed Peas
I have not liked anything from the Black Eyed Pease since their sophomore album. Too pop for me. But, hey, do your thing right? Well, I guess they decided to come back to their roots with Masters of the Sun. This album has break beats running throughout just about every song. The production has a very smooth boom bap appeal with a hint of pop running through out. Come on, these are the Black Eyed Peas! Lyrically, they stay in their lane, but keep it pretty much no nonsense. Also, they go back to three emcees on this one as Fergie is absent. All around, a dope album reminiscent of early Black Eyed Peas.
12b. Trouble & a Pair of Dice by Nottz and NapsNdreds
Dang it! I had my year’s favorites all worked out and then Nottz and NapsNdreds has to go and release an incredibly dope album. First, Nottz is one of the most underrated producers in the history of producers. This guy makes drums sound like more than drums. They come alive. They live outside the traditional cadence of Hip-hop rhythms. And then there is NapsNdreds. Never heard of this emcee, but I’m quickly appreciating is skill. He is skilled, passionate, and confidently present. This album just came out in December so I’m not sure where it will eventually land in my favorites of the year, but the fact I can’t stop listening tells me it will creep into the top ten eventually.
13. Czarface X MF Doom
This group is incapable of producing a whack album. Period. They always come correct with the beats and the rhymes. 100% guaranteed.
14. Widow’s Son by Apathy
Dope beats. Dope Rhymes. Beats hit hard. Lyrically Apathy stays in the pocket with no nonsense.
15. Tortured Soul by Black Sheep
Dres ALWAYS sounds good. No exception here. Can we get a Black Sheep Reunion album?
16. Flintlock by Knowledge the Pirate
Take two-thirds Ka, mix in a third of Roc Marciano and you get Knowledge the Pirate. Dope debut!
17. Checkin’ Us by Sorg & Napoleon Maddox
This album features feel good, inspirational moments as well as thought provoking material. It is art that entertains and challenges.
18. The Prerequisite by Ill Conscious
Remember that sentence describing “Widow’s Son?” Apply that here. This album is dope all around.
19. First Brick by Rasheed Chappell
Put Kenny Dope and Rasheed Chappell together and I’m happy. I love Dope’s beats and I am a huge fan of Chappell’s lyrical skills, voice, and delivery.
20. Golden Buddha by Planet Asia
Speaking of voice, Planet Asia has one of my favorite voices of all time. He picked some great soulful production on Golden Buddha to give his voice the right support.
21. Opium by O.C. and EF Cuttin
Remember Apathy and Ill Con’s album descriptions? Apply here too. The legend never disappoints.
22. On Their Way by Dillon & Batsauce
Dillon is the man on the mic. Give him some great production like Batsauce does and he is one of my favorites. Great music.
23. The Actual Proof by Awon & Phoniks
Can’t front on these guys. They make nostalgic soulful, boom bap hip-hop just the way I like it.
24. Fever by Black Milk
Black Milk is easily one of the best producers on the mic and his maturity in both categories continues to impress me. Experimental, soulful, jazzy, funky: all apply.
25. The Lost Files by Ghostface Killah
This guy is like Czarface. He does not know how to make bad music. Album after album he has one of the most consistent catalogues in music. This album is pure Ghostface and friends doing their thing over soulful boombap production.
Dreams and Vibrations by Flex Mathews & Damu the Fudgmunk
A New Dawn by O.C.
Consumers Park by Chuck Strangers
Soulamente by Defari X Dirty Diggs
Elevators: Act I & II by Bishop Nehru
Oxnard by Anderson .Paak
Mona Lisa by Apollo Brown & Joel Ortiz
No question by Locksmith
Lost Track by Klaus Layer
Dennison Point by Funky DL
Higher Vibrations by Live Percenters
The Deli by Jazz Cat (instrumental album)
Hip-hop straight from the street
Tana Talk 3 by Benny the Butcher
Fetti Roma by Currensy & Freddie Gibbs, Alchemist
Trill Life Mathematiks by Nowaah the Flood
Daytona by Pusha T
Supreme Blientele by Westside Gunn
Kaos by Roc Marciano & DJ Muggs
Dia Del Asesinato by Soul Assassins
Frozen Angels by Meyhem Lauren
The Blakk Tape EP by Conway the Machine
No nonsense, boom-bap hip-hop
The Pain Collector by Vinnie Paz
Mansa Musa by Planet Asia
Marlowe by Solemn Brigham & L’Orange
A Room Therapy by Showbiz
Suede Cigarettes by Illa Ghee
Thieving as long as I’m breathing by Career Crooks
XL by Sadat X & El Da Sensei
Sorcery by Ill Conscious
Freedom by Patterns of Chaos
Not sure how to categorize, but dope
RPM by Rapper Big Pooh
Carved from Stone by Guilty Simpson
White Bronco by Action Bronson
Jamla is the Squad II
The Bad Seed by The Bad Seed & Nottz
Orpheus Vs Sirens by Ka
Dr. Octagon by Kool Keith
Echo Chamber by MC Paul Barman
A Vague Sense of Things by MC Till (me:)