January isn’t everyone’s favourite month. Post-holiday blues, cold weather and a distinct lack of hip-hop releases being some of the reasons. However, looking ahead there are plenty of reasons to be positive in 2018. Here are 20 of them…
Top Ten Anticipated Albums of 2018
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana (Madlib Invazion)
Release Date: TBC
In 2014 the duo collaborated to release Piñata which became one of the most well-received releases in recent years. Freddie Gibbs is undeniably one of hip-hop’s very best and Madlib’s position as one of the greatest ever producers is undisputable. With both artists continuing to release high quality music there is no reason to suggest this album won’t also match the lofty heights of their debut.
- Black Milk - Fever (Mass Appeal Records / Computer Ugly)
Release Date: 23/02/18
Producer-rapper Black Milk has the rare ability to evolve his sound without compromising the quality of his music. Whether it’s chopped soul samples mixed with pounding drums or bold instrumentation and off-beat hi-hats fans will be intrigued to see what direction he goes next.
- eLZhi & Khrysis (are Jericho Jackson) – Title TBC (Jamla Records)
Release Date: TBC
eLZhi’s razor-sharp lyricism, conceptual imagery and dynamic flow have rightfully earned him the status as one of hip-hop’s finest emceeing talents. Khrysis has earned a similar reputation in the beat making world for his soulful yet gritty production. On paper this looks like the perfect collaboration.
- Payroll Giovanni & Cardo - Big Bossin’ Vol. 2 (Def Jam Recordings)
Release Date: 26/01/18
Although Payroll Giovanni is from Detroit and producer Cardo is currently based in Texas the duo joined forces in 2016 to release Big Bossin’ Vol. 1, an album which gave the illusion of coming straight out of the West Coast in everything from the production down to the artwork. Pulling the usual drug-dealing narratives into a palm-tree steeped California landscape was an inspired decision. The follow-up promises to be more of the same.
- Roc Marciano - Rosebudd’s Revenge 2: The Bitter Dose (Marci Enterprises LLC.)
Release Date: February
The Hempstead, NY rapper has carved himself a highly influential but niche sound that has served to make him one of the most popular independent rappers. Simple soul loops, sparse drums, effortless flows and dense, almost menacing lyricism is what fans can expect once again on the sequel to 2017’s Rosebudd’s Revenge.
- Evidence – Weather Or Not (Rhymesayers Entertainment, LLC.)
Release Date: 26/01/18
Evidence is a veteran of the game who has an expansive catalogue of impressive music both as an emcee and a producer. This latest release features production from The Alchemist, DJ Premier, Nottz, and DJ Babu amongst others and promises to further solidify his status as one of the best all-round artists that hip-hop has to offer.
- Skyzoo – In Celebration Of Us (First Generation Rich / EMPIRE)
Release Date: 02/02/18
Skyzoo has sometimes unfairly been branded as a generic NY rapper but really it couldn’t be further from the truth. His catalogue is extensive, far more diverse than he’s given credit for and incredibly slept-on. An articulate, thoughtful and insightful artist who possesses strong technical skills this album promises to be another slice of mature and inspired NY hip-hop.
- Prodigy - The Hegelian Dialectic (Part 2: The Book Of Heroine) (Infamous Records)
Release Date: TBC
Prodigy’s untimely passing last summer is still sinking in and playing Shook Ones and Quiet Storm nowadays seems to take on an even bigger significance. Prodigy’s 2017 album, Hegelian Dialectic (The Book Of Revelation), was released just months before he passed away but the good news is that there are recordings in the vault and he recorded the Hegelian Dialectic as a trilogy. Here’s hoping this album is released as Prodigy intended and does not receive the treatment of other posthumous hip-hop releases.
- Curren$y – Back At Burnies (Jet Life Recordings)
Release Date: 16/03/18
The New Orleans rapper has been unrelenting in his output of music over the last few years. His subject matter is fairly one-dimensional and his lazy delivery, while unmistakable and unique, rarely changes. However, Spitta always seems to sound fresh and his ability to pick beats that suit him perfectly is an overlooked trait. There won’t be any real surprises on this release but that’s all part of his infectious appeal.
- Planet Asia - The Golden Buddha (Brick Records LLC)
Release Date: 19/01/18
Planet Asia is another artist who has retained his prominence in the crowded West Coast underground scene with a shower of impressive releases over the years. He starts 2018 as he ended 2017 – with another album which promises to be densely lyrical and incisive. His status is solidified but each release brings hope that the full extent of his undeniable talent will finally be acknowledged.
Top Ten Slept-On Artists Worth Checking in 2018
Although he’s been releasing mixtapes for the best part of a decade Benny’s stock has risen significantly since his standout verse on Westside Gunn’s Flygod album in 2016. His lyrical assault continued in 2017 with numerous guest appearances and the impressive Butcher On Steroids mixtape. Spitting with an insightful clarity that will evoke nostalgia of mid-2000’s Lloyd Banks or Jadakiss, Benny’s steady ascension to hip-hop’s summit looks set to continue in 2018.
- Nolan The Ninja
The Detroit emcee/producer has been a constant presence in the US independent scene over recent years, steadily building a reputation for creating raw boom bap hip-hop. Although the independent scene is littered with artists trying to capture a similar sound unfortunately most lack the charisma or innovation that allows them to standout. However, Nolan doesn’t have these issues to contend with — his ferocious bars and dusty lo-fi beats are varied and engaging. By staying busy digging deep into the crates he is a dual threat who is able to create music which is reminiscent of the classic mid-90s sound we all know and love but appeals to a younger audience as well.
- Estee Nack
As one-third of Tragic Allies, who have been actively releasing music for over a decade, Estee Nack’s recent haul of impressive releases has elevated his status in the underground scene. The Massachusetts native brings an observant, socially conscious approach to his work. Energetic but thoughtful combined with a strong work ethic he is doing a great job of keeping that organic boom bap sound as a prominent feature of modern hip-hop.
- Al Divino
Al Divino’s gruff voice and dusty production are the perfect blend and his two releases in 2017, Dump Gawd: Divino Edition and Dump Gawd: Divino Edition 2, were a great follow-up from his collaborative project with Estee Nack. The simplicity and sparseness of his music creates a raw, almost sinister atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to that cold, wintertime East Coast rap.
- Mutant Academy
Based in Richmond, Virginia the Mutant Academy are a self-contained collective of artists who increased their following in 2017 with a few notable releases. Emcees Fly Anakin and Koncept Jack$on have been leading the line and the in-house producers paint the perfect backdrop with sample-driven beats. With eleven artists listed as official members we can expect to see plenty more of these guys in 2018.
This Washington D.C. native shot to prominence last year with the release of his debut album, The Red Room, and a flurry of EPs. His menacing delivery and ability to switch between slow-paced and high energy beats mean that his projects are an appealing listen and he manages to retain a raw grittiness throughout.
Although New Jersey’s Crimeapple may not score too highly on his choice of name he shines where it really counts. His music is comprised of a handful of EPs, a few loose tracks and guest appearances but what is evident is that he possesses a sharp delivery combined with vivid imagery and the ability to convert this into good music. An appearance on Statik Selektah’s album, 8, released at the very end of 2017 is a sign of how far he’s come already.
- Code Nine
Another member of the aforementioned Tragic Allies group, Code Nine has also branched out with solo projects releasing two in the last two years. His 2017 album, IX, featured excellent jazzy boom bap beats and raps that are delivered with a poignant punch. Anything Tragic Allies-related is worth keeping an eye on this year.
Mach-Hommy is a mystical sort of rapper who possesses almost MF DOOM-like qualities in terms of his cryptic raps and withdrawn public image. His raps are delivered in a slow, patient and almost coded fashion and he prefers simple and sparse over cluttered, high intensity production. He released several well-received projects in 2017 but became almost as famous for his pricing strategies (purchasing his catalogue would cost thousands). However, if you can hear his music it’s worth a listen as he’s a highly charismatic and unique artist who hasn’t failed to deliver anything other than good music so far.
#TheWinners are a New York-based crew comprised of the likes of SmooVth, Hus Kingpin, Rozewood and Rosati. SmooVth and Hus Kingpin, who together form the group Tha Connection, have been releasing music for over a decade and the roster as a whole is a well-established one who specialise in sample-heavy boom bap production and intricately crafted street narratives. They continue to release music at a relentless pace but remain pigeonholed to a small corner of the hip-hop community. With Hus set to release his much-anticipated Dreams Of Sade album perhaps 2018 may see them gain more acclaim…