2018: A Dynamic Year for Hip-hop Music

Screenshot 2018-12-08 08.53.27.png

The Good, Bad, and Ugly for Hip-hop Fans this Year.

Note: Lots of hyperlinks in this piece, so feel free to click away if you find yourself wondering what I’m talking about or want some more info on a certain drop.

Note 2.0: Here is a link to my Top 100 played songs playlist 

2018 might go down as one of the most eventful years for hip-hop in recent memory. From the beefs to legends reentering the game and the genre taking over the billboard charts, hip-hop is at a peak currently and is at the apex of mainstream popularity. Whether this is for better or worse is still up for discussion, but hip hop music and its stars have been in the spotlight for the majority of 2018. From Instagram famous face tattoo MCs to artists having large cultural impacts or giving back in huge ways, a hip-hop artist is always in the latest headlines. With a slew of new tunes coming out weekly and fresh releases for just about every style of listener, lets dive into the ups, downs, and bumps along the way of 2018.

Good

Big name drops

2018 would see some of the most hyped up releases from artists who are on the top of their game. The long awaited third studio album from Travis Scott Astroworld ended up dropping in august after being teased for what felt like an eternity. And it definitely did not disappoint. ASAP Rocky would also release a teased album in May, and while it might not be for everyone, TESTING definitely pleases listeners with its unique sounds and non-radio ballads. We would see Drake drop his 5th album, Scorpion, along with an A and B-side. At this point the only album left that had been almost an afterthought since its been rumored for so long is Tha Carter 5. Five years in the making, Lil Wayne would drop Tha Carter 5 and return to the upper echelon of rap. Just 2 weeks ago we received a Diplomats album (Diplomatic Ties), featuring 9 songs that sounded vintage and current all at the same time. Gucci Mane is dropping a project in December, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some industry giants had a surprise in store for us during the last month of the year.

Surprise drops

This year we gained lots of music that wasn’t necessarily advertised until the very last second. In the last week of May and the whole month of June, Kanye would produce albums for a slew of G.O.O.D Music artists, including him. Every Friday, we would be blessed with a 7-track album that usually ran about 20-25 minutes. The brevity of the projects played in their favor, and Pusha Ts Daytona is definitely in contention for AOTY among many. Many think the albums dropped around Drakes Album date of June 15, but we will get into that later. Along with these unexpected EPs, we received a joint Beyoncé and Jay Z album out of nowhere. Everything is Love especially excited listeners of streaming platforms, since Jay Z is not available on Spotify or Apple music. These are just a sampling of albums that came without any warning. Check new releases every Friday and it is guaranteed you’ll see something that comes as a surprise or had only a weeklong rollout.

New stars

While OGs had released a ton of new music in 2018, large figures in the rap game didn’t stop there. We saw the entrance of many new acts in 2018, most of which came from cosigns of larger artists. We can look to drake for putting on BlocBoy JB and Lil Baby. We can thank Young Thug for getting flows and cadences similar to him out of rising star Gunna. We also saw a rise of internet rap, specifically Soundcloud rap. Stars like XXXtentacion, Trippie Redd, Sheck Wes and Smokepurpp all came from a viral use of the music-sharing site. We saw crews who came together because of the Internet (YBN crew), and also artists who blew up thanks to their Instagram antics (6ix9ine). Like it or not, these guys are here to stay, and the internet as a whole has made it very easy to have your music heard.

Bad

Beef

This is a tough idea to dance around. While to a rap purist, beefs are apart of the game. And while I almost put this under the good, overall I think it can put a sour taste in the mouth prior to the altercations. While the Pusha T Drake mess was fun to watch, things just got a little too personal, with both rappers at fault. Another thing that didn’t sit well with most was drake claiming he could end King Push’s career with the track he had in the vault. Is there really a track in the vault? Few will ever know. This was corny, as Drake should of either dropped said track or just held the L for the rest of the year. Another form of beef that was frowned upon in 2018 was the social media beef that were often started for no reason. Majority of beefing in 2018 had no music or disses involved, and were just people talking trash on the gram and twitter. While this is still under the bad, I feel as though competitive sparing (that at first would seem to be beef but just a friendly competition) was inspired by the Pusha/Drake and MGK/Em disses. In November we saw Tory Lanez and Joyner Lucas go blow for blow. With 4 tracks and a pretty unanimous tie between the two, everyone enjoyed the MCs testing their flows and punch lines in the exchanges.

Sensory overload 

Having multiple albums to listen to every Thursday night at 9PM (west coast time) isn’t a bad thing, right? Overall you’d be a little silly to think this. The massive drops and large flux of music this year has been great for hip hop as a genre and has put on many artists. However, as a listener, it has almost started to become a tedious job. There are so many marque album drops a week that you are guaranteed to at least have 3 majorly anticipated drops to comb through. At first, it seemed like a blessing. Alas, it has turned into somewhat of a curse. If an album has more than 15 tracks it becomes more of a chore to listen to. One major drawback as well with all these drops is the longevity of some of the projects. We see some artist being shadowed by others (Mac Millers Swimming not getting the credit it deserved to due Astroworld being lined up on the same date). There are so many big name albums that we are always changing to a new soundtrack weekly. While personal favorites stick, people could be missing out on phenomenal albums due to listening to a release only once or twice and not really letting it age due to the anticipation of the project next week.

Ugly

Drug glorification/ Untimely deaths

Drug glorification isn’t anything new in the year 2018. However, this year certain drugs have risen to fame and continue to get shout outs in song lyrics steering people the wrong way. Xanax and lean have had a big year in 2018, even after taking the lives of some or spiraling the careers of others. While these will not disappear, you’d think people would maybe stop giving them the light they do in songs. It is nice to know in 2018 some artists are rallying against the movement. Sadly, in 2018 we saw 26 deaths in hip-hop, most notably XXXtentacion and Mac Miller (a longtime favorite of mine).

A Numbers Game

While we look at all the new releases of 2018 and multiple artists dropping more than project in the year, we can’t help but look at the labels and the numbers game that has really taken over the genre with the use of streaming. While getting all this music in one year is awesome and always having something fresh to listen to is a blessing, it can’t help but feel like there is a fine line of quality control being blurred. Personally, I don’t think you can really put out more than 2 albums in a year and think they are all equal bodies of work. We see artists take 2-3 years to put out one, and even then it still cannot live up to the hype. The music labels and musicians themselves are playing a numbers game. We find artists putting hits they might only be featured on to boost numbers, along with inflating the track list to help get to the top of the charts. We can look at a prime example of this in Scorpion. This album didn’t really sit well with me, because anything with a run time that long is hard to digest. On top of this, there seemed to be a lot of filler in between the tracks with substance. The Joe Budden Podcast touched on this in a recent episode, and brought up if it was cut down it could be the #1 album of the year. At first this is laughable, but if you take 12 or 13 out of the 2-disc album, you’d have a very strong body of work.

2018 has set up hip-hop for an interesting 2019. One must wonder if we are going to get projects shoved down our throat every week or it will go back to a less saturated genre just from the fact that anyone who is anyone has released a project this year. I believe people who typically take longer on albums and have a little more of an artistic approach (A$AP, Travis, Joey Badass, etc) will continue to space out projects, regardless of numbers or label tactics. However, a lot of the new talent I think is so accustomed to the workload and overproduction they will continue to put out project after project, giving their previous projects limited time to breath and really blossom. Whatever happens, plan to keep those ears open for the rest of the year as we await projects from 21 Savage, Gucci Mane, Offset, XXXtentacion, Ice Cube, Kodak Black, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Method Man, and many many more.

 

Bonus: Take a look at these lists detailing 2018 hip-hop hits/albums

Complex top 50 albums (not exclusively hip hop)

HotNewHipHop top 30 (take a look at the comments, not many agree with the standings)

Billboard Year end Top Hip-Hop/R&B (Purely based off of numbers)

Under the Influence (4 substances)

If you happened to read the initial post on this sight, you have a decent idea of how my last couple months have gone and what type of person I am tailored to in a professional setting. Lets back peddle a little. As a follow-up to the last piece, I think talking about how I’ve became the person you see on socials or in person can be attributed to the things you see daily and what you associate yourself with. Obviously there are things that are very concrete related to how I act and present myself (my family and upbringing). But in this digital age we live in, we can really get involved and learn things from people you may never have the chance to meet or see on the daily.

Open up Instagram and your feed at any given moment can be cluttered with all different sorts of things. From a meme to a sports highlight to a supermodels post, anything can pop up in no particular order (well, I guess the algorithm is a thing) and give you a sensory overload. This can be amplified if you have lots of diverse interest and also follow a large amount of people. My feed tends to go a little something like this: surf photos and clips, GQ posts, tattoos, memes, sports clips, skateboarding shots, the list goes on as you can tell. I follow a lot more people than companies, as I think you can take more out of this rather than buying into a company’s style and sense of direction. I would be blatantly lying if I denied using certain accounts for things from technique in surfing to picking out an outfit for Coachella. Whether it’s friends I don’t live near or celebrities, I draw influence from Instagram daily.

On top of all this, we have a whole universe of video content on YouTube we can also tap into. We find bite sized clips on the gram but some videos really can get a person of interest to open up, whether in the form of a day in the life, vlog, interview, or podcast. This is something no one should take for granted. Everyone on this earth has an attribute someone might find attractive, and listening to master of these certain traits can better help expand the mind. A great example of this is the HBO special The Shop. (Click the image to be taken to the episode featuring drake in full you have some time to kill, it also features the like of Victor Oladipo and Elena Delle Donne)

IMG_4244-2048x1365

Before the Internet, this would be the equivalent of sitting in on a conversation with Michael Jordan, The Beatles (I’m not saying drake is equivalent to them, but he did just break their record of having top 10 billboard songs), and a business mogul of equivalence to Maverick Carter (I can’t give a solid example on this one). There are also other top tier athletes and cultural icons that speak on the show, but Bron Bron and Drake alone scream excellence. Listen carefully and you might end up with a nice little take away.

No matter what how you chop it up, outside influence is ever apparent in the society we live in today. So much so one can be paid to be an “influencer”, as in just posting things relative to their image. This is an interesting entity to me, as most influencers are essentially flexing wealth, followers, or physical appearance. While many people have inspired me, direct influence is apparent in a handful of personalities I deeply enjoy. Here is a brief breakdown that I think reflects me as a person and gives a snapshot of genres I like to explore on the daily.

ASAP ROCKY

I write to hip-hop music. I drive to hip-hop music. I lift weights to hip-hop. I wait until 9pm every Thursday to see the new hip-hop releases. While music in general is a large part of my existence and I listen to all genres (except country), I would say 90% of the time hip-hop is blasting through my speakers. I could probably write a whole post on just my hip-hop artist preferences in general. However, if I had to boil it down to one artist I play the most, it would go to ASAP Rocky. It started in 2011 when I first heard “Peso.” Fast forward to 2018, ASAP dropped him long awaited album “TESTING” that would receive mixed reviews. This, tied into his ventures into fashion, is the reasoning why he has had influence on me. Rocky has been known to be a trendsetter and often swims against the grain, combining forward thinking with a keen sense of style. Rocky was one of the first to utilize his music presence to travel into other genres, and do so very successfully. ASAP Rocky showed you aren’t confined to borders of profession and how you can use following to help support outside endeavors.

KELLY SLATER

King Kelly. The greatest surfer to ever live no matter how you splice it. Kelly’s dominance has spanned over 20 years with close to no signs of slowing down. He also just happened to create the world’s most perfect artificial wave. All of this aside, one thing Kelly is crowned with and often overlooked is his extreme health regimens and diets. Kelly was one of the first action sports athletes to cross train and really bring the aspect of going to the gym to help perfect your craft. This has been apparent in popular sports since their beginning, but has been seen as taboo in the action sports world. However, when people finally starting connecting the dots between Kelly’s age and peak performances, people started jumping on the health train. While Kelly is only a surfer, it would be foolish to think snowboarders and skateboarders alike did not catch wind of his success and get inspired to get in the gym and get a stricter diet. In 2018, all action sports athletes of the highest-level cross train and pay attention to what they put into their body. All thanks to Kelly.

DYLAN REIDER

Dylan was a skateboarder by profession, and by far one of the most influential and stylish of the generation. His influence and overall respect from his peers is immeasurable. Dylan passed in the month of October back in 2016, but has lived on in skateboarding and will forever. Dylan channeled his style and outside passions in a similar sense to ASAP, branching out from skateboarding and modeling for companies such as DKNY. Funny enough, he would be in an ad campaign along side ASAP and also Cara Delevingne. Largely scrutinized for the way he dressed and also coming out with a signature shoe that resembled more of a dress shoe silhouette than a skate shoe, Dylan did not care what people had to say. His skating did the talking. Dylan knew he didn’t want to be defined just by skateboarding and broke boundaries none had really explored in the industry before. And his video parts are highly regarded as some of the best skateboarding in recent years. Dylan’s style on and off the skateboard has directly influenced many, including myself.

3c9b2ab1-650b-410a-9f5f-dd9b7fb0bd02

FRIENDS

Guilty by association is something I learned very early on in life. The people you hang out with directly influences your image and also curates you to act certain ways and mesh with your peers. All throughout my life I have had very diverse friends groups, and all of which have taught me important lessons. From my quiet upbringing back east to my current living situation in Southern California, passionate people achieving their best person always have surrounded me. This has always deeply inspired me both on a professional and moral standpoint to achieve my best person and never give up on a dream. From entrepreneurs to athletes and everything in between, let me use this moment to thank everyone that has spent time with me and rubbed off a little bit of themselves on me.

Outside influence is everywhere and ever more apparent the more the online world advances. We can get inside information at the click of the button in little to no time, and really has destroyed privacy in general, making your private world very public. Whether this is for better or worse, it is here to stay. You can either use it as an advantage or let it be a disadvantage to you. The world is in the palm of you hand (literally, just unlock your iPhone).