2018 was a huge year for the music business. Some of the biggest stars in the industry released hugely successful and critically acclaimed records. Additionally, many trends that had been crescendoing over the past few years finally reached peak relevance this past year.
So, let’s go back to the beginning of the year and see just exactly what we were getting into when the year began.
In January, album releases were as independent and experimental as politically-bitter and abstract-sounding rapper and producer JPEGMAFIA’s ‘Veteran,’ to as commercially-appealing as household-name trap-rappers Migos’s long-awaited ‘Culture 2.’ While the latter had a handful of singles that were largely successful (such as ‘Stir Fry’ and ‘Narcos’), the album was too jam-packed with filler tracks to be as memorable as its predecessor.
Following those releases, February saw legendary electronic due MGMT release one of their most talked about records since their breakout release (‘Oracular Spectacular’ of 2007), titled ‘Little Dark Age.’ The month also harbored the release of controversial rapper 6ix9ine’s (who is now in prison for more charges than he has colors in his hair) debut mixtape, ‘Day69.’ While this project was essentially just a collection of singles, it didn’t exactly promise to be anything else. Regardless of his run-ins with the law, 6ix9ine continues to bring in large numbers to this day.
Next, we had the release of XXXTentacion’s ‘?’ in March, which was both extremely popular and critically-panned, as well as an experimental jazz-rock album from Jack White, who was previously known for his work on The White Stripes before launching his solo career in 2012. The album was titled “Boarding House Reach,” and provided a psychedelic rollercoaster of distorted guitar licks and a myriad of strange sounds all blended together into beautiful madness.
In April, things really began heating up, especially for the hip-hop genre, with releases from three of the huge names in the business – Cardi B, J. Cole, and Post Malone. While Cole’s “KOD” did well, it was Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” and Austin Post’s “beerbongs n bentleys” that reached enormous success, both containing singles that had more than one billion streams on Spotify (“I Like It” for Cardi B and “rockstar” for Post). In May, we were given smooth and well-received soul and space rock albums “Good News” by Leon Bridges and “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” by Arctic Monkeys.
Kanye West began and ended his musical year with a bang in June, being involved with 4 highly critically-acclaimed albums in the month, 2 of which were projects of his own. At the end of May previous month, we saw West producing Pusha T’s masterpiece “Daytona” and appearing on one of the tracks, before seeing him releasing his own project “Ye” at the beginning of June, which was an introspective and spiritual look into Kanye’s disturbed psyche in the past few years, revealing issues of mental health with courageous audacity. The following week, he released a collaborative project with long-time friend and partner Kid Cudi titled “Kids See Ghosts.” This album was similar to Ye in its subject matter but was less about Kanye and Cudi specifically. While it was clearly inspired by their struggles, this album was more of a story of losing oneself and learning to accept one’s flaws, and the path one may follow in order to heal oneself.
July held my personal favorite release of the year, Denzel Curry’s “TA300.” This album is a beautiful monstrosity, the personification of anger and anxiety packed into an aggressive yet smooth collection of songs. Curry’s flows and lyrics are top-notch, and his ability to switch so seamlessly from voice to voice and personality to personality is reminiscent of some of Kendrick Lamar’s best work, who is currently regarded as one of the best rappers alive today. Additionally, the production on this album is impeccable. It doesn’t miss a beat – it perfectly crafts the feeling of dread and rage that Curry was going for, while still being appealing enough to general audiences.
August was possibly the most jam-packed music month of 2018. It saw releases for Mac Miller, Travis Scott, and YG, three more huge names in hip-hop, though Scott’s “ASTROWORLD” was by far the most successful of the three albums. Trippie Redd and Ariana Grande also had projects come out, with Grande’s “sweetener” doing huge numbers. Eminem also made a return after his previous project was panned hard by audiences and critics alike. September also saw some large releases, such as “iridescence,” the long-awaited return of boy band BROCKHAMPTON, and Lil Wayne’s highly-anticipated “The Carter V.”
The fourth quarter of the year slowed down a bit but didn’t entirely let up, with releases from jazz-rapper J.I.D and trap-crooner Kodak Black, to YouTube-anti-hero-turned melancholy popstar Joji and the charismatic and bubbly funk-inspired singer and rapper Anderson Paak. Overall the year was huge for the hip-hop genre, especially trap, but as the year went on, an increase in interest has been seen in more independent and out-of-left-field artists. As trends continue to simultaneously increase and swirl together with others, new portals to other musical dimensions will continue to open, and expansion will continue to be made as it always does. Another year for music done, and another year to look forward to.