The time has finally arrived to announce the top 20 mainstream hip-hop albums of 2018. This year has been especially eventful as almost every major hip-hop artist has dropped a new project.
While everyone has their own insight for what they feel like should be at the top, Respect My Region has ranked these projects based on a carefully selected blend of different elements. These include the overall sound, lyrics, production, and most importantly – cohesiveness of the entire project.
The Top 20 Mainstream Hip-Hop Albums Of 2018
20 . Nicki Minaj – Queen
Nicki Minaj had a huge year with the release of her album Queen. While her new album isn’t as cohesive compared to many albums on this list, her project made up for it in a big way with having a large set of hits, an all-star list of features, and an implementation of a variety of styles and sounds. Perhaps the most important factor to its selection was that it was a fun listen, as each track was really approachable and easy to vibe with.
19. Post Malone – Beerbongs & Bentleys
Post Malone also had a wildly successful year in 2018, most notably with his album titled Beerbongs & Bentleys. Fans of Post Malone value his creativity and unique style in his compositions, and that aspect of his music is especially strong in this latest album. Coupled with his talent for meaningful lyricism, Beerbongs & Bentleys is a solid album that helps establish Post’s spot in the mainstream hip-hop world.
18. Nas – Nasir
Nas’s album Nasir got pushed to the side too quickly, as its release was drowned out in the media theatrics of Kanye West. Despite the delayed rollout and talk around the multiple Kanye-produced projects back in June, Nasir is a beautifully executed and well thought-out project. Nas dove deep with his meaningful and raw outlook into life, most notably around his growth in his career. The project also features solid production from Kanye West, as the sampling and instrumental elements put Nasir solidly at the top of hip-hop albums this year.
17. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
While Cardi B had a ton of media hype with her breakout in 2017, she reached her true potential with the release of Invasion of Privacy in 2018. The strength of her new album lies in her hit singles and all-star features sprinkled throughout the project. The features include collaborations with Migos, Bad Bunny, 21 Savage, and more. Another aspect to Invasion of Privacy that pushed it into the top was her lyrics, as her over-the-top personality and upbeat character shined through the lyrics in each track.
16. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V
Lil Wayne undoubtedly had one of the most highly-anticipated projects of the entire year. After years of waiting due to legal battles with his record label, fans finally received the project Weezy has been talking about for years. The front half of the album is especially exemplary, with songs such as “Don’t Cry” and the hit single “Mona Lisa” featuring Kendrick Lamar. The only reason why Tha Carter V doesn’t rank higher is because of the length. The second half of the album grew dry with some “filler”-type tracks, and failed to keep up with the energy in the first half of the project.
15. The Carters – Everything Is Love
There is no star-studded duo bigger than Jay-Z and Beyonce, and their surprise album Everything Is Love took the world of hip-hop by storm. The album shares a comfortable balance between hip-hop and R&B, as both genres mesh effortlessly together. The flow of the project also works well, as there aren’t stark contrasts between songs as they flow like water through the tracklist. This effortless album is pure art, and although it may not push boundaries in terms of hip-hop innovation, it is a joy to listen to.
14. Drake – Scorpion
Drake elevated his artistry big time by dropping a double album with Scorpion. While his album fell a bit short on holding a cohesive theme on both the A and B side, some of 2018’s biggest hits can be heard on this project. Those hits include tracks such as “In My Feelings,” “Nice For What,” and “Final Fantasy.” Since 2015, Drake has dropped at least one project per year, so it will be interesting to see what moves he will make next year.
13. Brockhampton – Iridescence
After loosing their founding member Ameer Vann, questions arose from Brockhampton fans on how the hip-hop collective would recover and move forward. The group put any of the negative rumors about them to rest with their album Iridescence, which many see as the group’s “rebirth.” As many expected, Brockhampton took their experimental image and pushed it even further – as a result, they delivered a sound that is in a league of its own. Creative, innovative, and inspiring, Iridescence takes you on a ride like none other.
12. Various Artists – Black Panther Soundtrack
The Kendrick Lamar and TDE-curated soundtrack for Black Panther was one of the most fun releases of 2018. One of the most interesting aspects about the project was the enormous amount of exemplary artists featured on one album. Aside from hearing from nearly the entire TDE camp, additional features included Vince Staples, 2 Chainz, Swae Lee, and more. This huge collective effort in support of Black Panther is a fabulous example of a hit album that also functions as a fire soundtrack.
11. Migos – Culture II
In addition to Quavo and Takeoff dropping their own respective projects, Migos delivered both an impactful and memorable project in Culture II. Packed full of bangers and an all-star list of features, Culture II elevated their careers to an all new high, which in turn has elevated the individual success of each member.
10. Eminem – Kamikaze
While his previous album Revival flopped massively in 2017, Eminem returned to his original form with Kamikaze. His rapid delivery paired with calling out the entire world of hip-hop will leave marks for years, especially after teaming up with Dr. Dre for a majority of the tracks. The only reason why this album doesn’t rank higher is because some of the tracks on the back of Kamikaze did not fit the sonic landscape of the project. With that said, it still checks in to be one of the top albums of 2018.
9. Mac Miller – Swimming
The tragic passing of Mac Miller in addition to the legacy and art he’s left behind will always leave an imprint in the world of hip-hop and beyond. His album Swimming took his artistry and sound to a place that it has never gone before. The striking parallel between the topics he addresses and the connection it had in his personal life is startling. In his music he was always himself, instead of trying to be (or trying to sound like) someone else. His authenticity shines on each track of Swimming, and his legacy will be remembered fondly through his last release.
8. Royce Da 5’9″- Book of Ryan
If there were a list covering the most underrated albums of 2018, Royce Da 5’9″ would be right on top. His album Book of Ryan had a perfect arc in regards to a cohesive storyline, coupled with the incredible instrumentals heard throughout. On Book of Ryan, Royce dove deeper than he has in a long time, as the album follows his upbringing and childhood memories. As a result, the project is highly personal – and the way he opens up to his fans only magnifies the project as a whole.
7. 6LACK – East Atlanta Love Letter
While 6LACK has dropped nothing but fire since the beginning of his career, he’s leveled up his sound in a big way by covering topics that are important to him – all while maintaining a cohesive sound. His album East Atlanta Love Letter includes hits such as “Switch” and “Pretty Little Liar” featuring J. Cole. Overall, this project manages to bridge the gap between a personal project and a piece of art regarding the status of the hip-hop game.
6. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – Kids See Ghosts
Fans of both Kanye West and Kid Cudi have been asking for a collaborative project between the artists for years, and in 2018 they finally got it. Clocking in at only seven tracks long, KIDS SEE GHOSTS lives up to fans’ expectations with its creative beats and gorgeously-mixed vocals. If nothing else, KIDS SEE GHOSTS broke so many barriers in regards to the variety of sounds it utilizes, and the originality of the overall production style. This project elevated both Kanye and Cudi’s careers in an album that was nothing but pure artistry.
5. Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap
Nipsey Hussle came through big time with the release of his album titled Victory Lap. His hard hitting lyricism and conceptual execution pushed the project to be at the very top of the list. One of the most compelling topics about his release is that many didn’t expect him to have one of the top albums of the year, let alone an album that got the amount of streams that it did. It will be interesting to see how Nipsey Hussle continues with this push in his career into 2019.
4. Travis Scott – Astroworld
In the same vein of the album KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Travis Scott’s Astroworld was a much-needed release in the world of hip-hop in terms of its creativity and unique style. The most beautiful part about Astroworld was that even though it was regarded as far-fetched and experimental, the project resonated with fans both inside and outside of hip-hop. This is especially evident in the immense popularity of the hit track “SICKO MODE” – a song that’s undeniably one of the biggest hits of the year. Travis kept fans waiting for Astroworld for many years as he released other projects instead – but he proved that the wait was well worth it.
3. J. Cole – K.O.D
J. Cole’s album K.O.D. is probably one of the most overlooked mainstream projects of 2018. The production talent on this album is perhaps the best we’ve seen from J. Cole so far. Even through the instrumentals are rather simple in nature, J. Cole makes up for it behind the mic as he spits extensive, powerful verses, paired with his meaningful and impactful lyrics. While this project faded in popularity as the year went on, the decrease in popular interest doesn’t take away from the incredibly masterful execution that J. Cole achieved with K.O.D.
2. Jay Rock – Redemption
For many years, Jay Rock and TDE have struggled with Jay Rock’s appeal to mainstream audiences. Instead, he was easily overshadowed by the success of label-mates Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. With the release of his album Redemption, everything has changed. The album has everything that fans were looking for: diverse instrumentals, catchy hooks, in-depth lyrics, and all-star features. Jay Rock delivered on all fronts, and because of that, he had the biggest year of all the TDE artists dropping projects in 2018.
1. Pusha T – DAYTONA
Pusha T came through big time in 2018 with the release of his album DAYTONA. His album was the first of a string of Kanye West-produced releases back in the early summer of 2018. While the overall production and sampling is incredible, Pusha’s lyrics and delivery take the already successful elements of composition and bring them to another level.
Even though the album is only seven tracks long, it’s all that Pusha needs to deliver his message. His punchlines, grit, and creativity bring a refreshing energy to the hip-hop game. This is an album you must listen to several times over in order to fully understand its depth.
Pusha T doesn’t come to play, and his album is a punch-in-the-face hip-hop masterpiece that easily sticks the landing at the front of the list of best albums of 2018, with its competitors in its wake. You can’t help but get excited about what Pusha has in store for us next.
Did you enjoy a certain artist and album that wasn’t on our Top 20 Mainstream Hip-Hop Albums List? Let us know what your top picks of 2018 are in the comments below!