This year found the world on the verge of many things. A third world war, a Tide pod epidemic and a second season of the Roseanne reboot. Instead, we got Flamin’ Hot Cheeto hospitalizations, grape surgeries and Ariana Grande’s failed engagement. During a time where you can’t rely on anything, WRBB will always be there for you. Here are our top picks for 2018.
10. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Genre R&B · Label Bad Boy Records · Released April 27, 2018
“Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer is a perfectly millennial album. Major swaying Prince-like synths and deep baselines coat the interior of the opening of the album, while unapologetic, sexy and sharp lyrics lead the production with a stark spotlight. In a dystopian, near post-apocalyptic narrative of sex, power, and computers, Monae interweaves heavy guitars with lyrics laden with the empowerment of women of all sexualities and color. Critics may critique Monae’s overt sexuality as ‘overdoing it,’ but this is exactly what Monae wants — to disrupt the current standard and expectations of sex rooted with patriarchal biases. The affiliation of sex with power comes to life in ‘Screwed’ (featuring Zoë Kravitz) and begins Monae’s brilliant political statement of the liberation of women. On ‘Django Jane,’ Monae commands the attention of listeners with couplets like ‘Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it / Y’all can’t ban it, made out like a bandit,’ with the production that will lead people of all backgrounds to the dancefloor. ‘Pynk’ is one of the most unapologetically tactile songs, from the lightness of Grimes’ vocals to the subtle and pressing synths in the background, to distract you from Monae’s watchful lyrics as she sings in the back ‘Pink is the truth you can’t hide / Pink like your tongue going round, baby.’ Altogether, Dirty Computer is one of the most important albums of 2018, as it will feed to the public normalized pansexuality and women’s sexuality with no preconceived boundaries or boxes.” – Carter Howe
9. Anderson .Paak – Oxnard
Genre R&B/Soul · Label Aftermath Entertainment · Released November 16, 2018
“Following up the success of his 2016 album Malibu, Anderson .Paak released funk heavy album Oxnard and he did not disappoint. With key features like Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and J. Cole, Oxnard brings a rap infused type funk that pays homage to his hometown of Oxnard, California. Even the politically packed song ‘6 Summers’ bubbles with life before transitioning into a silky-smooth rap verse and bouncy production. .Paak is able to demonstrate his singing ability while showing off his well-known drum and rap skills. It all seems to come effortlessly, making the album feel like sunshine in California. This album proves that Anderson .Paak is not here to mess around. In an interview with Complex, .Paak notes that this was his ‘dream album’ and the soul embedded within each song establishes how much this means to him. Oxnard is smothered in tenacious hard work and immaculate skill, earning him a spot on this list.” – Sarah Sherard
8. Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label Getting Out Our Dreams II/Def Jam · Released June 8, 2018
“When global stars join forces together to create something, expectations will understandably be at all-time highs. When Kanye West and Kid Cudi did this in June, releasing the album Kids See Ghosts under the same name, many were skeptical, with the album coming exactly one week after Kanye’s forgettable solo project Ye. However, Kids See Ghosts did not fail to deliver quality that matched the hype, packing in dense lyricism, heartfelt vocal performances, and near-perfect production, handled mainly by Kanye himself. This album, running at just under 25 minutes long, wastes no time taking the best of Kid Cudi, with signature vocals and humming on tracks such as ‘Reborn,’ and the best of Kanye West, with clever, witty lyricism on ‘4th Dimension’ and emotional cries on ‘Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2),’ and overloading one’s senses with beautiful performances and an undeniable, inspiring chemistry between the artists. With enjoyable cameos coming from long-time collaborators Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign, and Mos Def, Kids See Ghosts is an impactful assentation that sometimes, less is more. The two seasoned veterans behind this masterpiece sprawl their creative genius across seven tracks total, leaving listeners simultaneously satisfied while hungry for more.” – Kyle Rossini
7. Pusha T – DAYTONA
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label GOOD Music/Def Jam · Released May 25, 2018
“In an age where albums range from 90 minutes to three hours, there was perhaps nothing more refreshing than the incredible reception of Pusha T’s long awaited third studio album DAYTONA. Whereas other hip-hop artists (who will remain unnamed here) have thrived on a few singles while filling their rest of their projects with fluff and filler, King Push takes the opposite approach. Clocking in at just a mere seven tracks, DAYTONA is an air-tight masterpiece. Not only does every single song feel necessary and important, but they flow seamlessly and cinematically from start to finish. In a sense this project is almost one cohesive song with seven insane beat changes. Pusha T’s lyricism is as sharp as ever, in fact this might be the strongest it’s been since Clipse. And of course, Kanye West’s production and Pusha T’s lyrics go together like blunt wraps and bud. If this time last year you had been pondering over who was gonna make waves in 2018, Pusha T probably would not have come to mind. But DAYTONA reminded everyone in the game that Pusha T is a force to be reckoned with, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.” – Isaac Shur
6. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Genre Alternative · Label Domino Recordings · Released May 11, 2018
“Arctic Monkeys have seemed well off since 2013. After releasing a string of punk and softer rock albums, the gritty and dark qualities of AM permeated to a fanbase they hadn’t reached before, pushing them out of the indiesphere into arenas and festivals across the globe. With the newfound fame, frontman Alex Turner gained increasing exuberance in the limelight, flashing semi-raucous dance moves amongst unfavorable reception as too big for his shoes.
Now, Turner seems to be backtracking. After being gifted a used Steinway Vertegrand for his 30th birthday, Turner took a left turn, taking up residence on the Lunar Surface…Los Angeles—his home studio retrofitted to project a reality in which the world’s premier hotel and casino is housed on the Moon. Part heady concept album and part hyper-indulgent space odyssey, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino brings a blue-note tinge to the murky and layered experience Turner crafted over the course of two years. What started out as a solo venture turned quickly into a full fledged Monkeys release, bringing a slew of keyboards, monster truck front flips, and unpredictably addictive prose directly into focus. The sounds of album, esoteric and increasingly dense, sit just as comfortably in an interplanetary lounge as it would with the LA city lights far in the background. – Andrew Goldberg
5. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Genre Alternative · Label Dead Oceans · Released August 17, 2018
“Masterfully incorporating her background as a classical pianist with her distortion dominated past releases, Mitski’s 2018 release, Be the Cowboy, serves as her opus thus far. It’s a streamlined and concise album rife with epic vocal performances and tidal, almost orchestral composition through the short 32-minute run time. The intimate, vulnerable narratives on each track show off how tactful and brilliant Mitski’s songwriting is. Evoking the imagery of an old school gymnasium as a backdrop to romantic decay and the inevitability of aging on ‘Two Slow Dancer’ is painfully raw, but masterfully executed thematically. Somehow, the average run time of each track is 2:17, but the dense and relatable lyricism and immediately memorable hooks make each track stand on its own. The album’s centerpiece, ‘Nobody,’ is a disco flavored snapshot of the millennial experience, complete with intense loneliness and global warming concern. Be the Cowboy’s relevant lyrics, skillful melodies, and brilliant execution are precisely why it’s so high on our year end list.” – Chris Bach
4. Noname – Room 25
Genre Hip-Hop · Label Independent · Released September 14, 2018
“Noname’s Room 25 is an essential weapon for fighting anyone who chooses to pick a fight by bashing ‘your generation’s music’ at the family get together this winter break. Within the 11 tracks of her sophomore release, Noname carefully places stories from drunk nights at the club next to race issues in Chicago to create a storyline that is both expressive and informative. ‘Self’ starts out the album with two quick, witty verses covering politics, religion, and money that serve as a reminder for what you’re getting yourself into for the next 32 minutes. This transitions smoothly into ‘Blaxploitation’ where she talks about hypocritical people who claim to be supporting efforts like Black Lives Matter while simultaneously ‘eating Chick-Fil-A in the corner.’ This track grew popular enough to warrant a music video released on December 4th. ‘Ace’ pops up later on in the album and has garnered much attention as a hometown anthem. Noname trade verses with Saba between Smino’s chorus on this track which includes two of the seven various Chicago-native artists that are featured throughout the record. Soulful, driven, & passionate—I am certain that Noname’s sold out shows in Boston for her 2019 tour will be worth every penny.” – Andrew Szendrey
3. Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label Epic Records · Released August 3, 2018
“Following the release of 2015’s Rodeo, fans thought that Travis Scott had reached his peak. Little did they know that Astroworld was on its way. Following years of disappointing singles and collaborations (Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho), Scott demonstrated that he had actually spent his time off wisely. Astroworld is undoubtedly an album that has been meticulously worked on, highlighting Scott’s abilities as a curator. Clocking in at about an hour, the project manages to take listeners to another place, filled with dazzling sights and sounds. It’s one of those rare instances where reality lives up to all the hype.
2018 proved to be a huge year for Travis Scott. Along with the arrival of Astroworld came the birth of his daughter, a record breaking tour and his first number one single. So if you haven’t yet, make sure to take a trip down to hip hop’s best theme park. – Chris Triunfo
2. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence
Genre Hip-Hop · Label RCA Records · Released September 21, 2018
“To say 2018 was a tumultuous time for ‘America’s favorite boy band,’ BROCKHAMPTON, would be an understatement. Coming off strong from 2017 due to the commercial success of their SATURATION trilogy, the collective announced two (now indefinitely delayed) albums, Team Effort and Puppy. Before the dust could settle, the group announced they had signed with their first major music label, RCA Records. Not long after, the dozen-plus member group kicked out one of their most utilized members, Ameer Vann, due to abuse allegations in May from previous ex-girlfriends. Canceled tour dates and an unclear future for the group led some to believe the group was a flash in a pan.
Then they dropped iridescence.
This first installment in The Best Years Of Our Lives trilogy proves that BROCKHAMPTON can continue to produce that unique DIY hip-hop sound even after signing to a major label and utilizing professional equipment in the Abbey Road Studios. Interspersed between powerful performances from the usual front men of BROCKHAMPTON, tracks like ‘BERLIN’ and ‘DISTRICT’ rely heavily on those manipulated vocals that fans have come to associate with the group. The group even met and, in fact, surpassed expectations of the level of intensity that could be obtained since the dramatic exit of Ameer. On ‘J’OUVERT,’ Joba releases unequivocally the fiercest verse any BROCKHAMPTON project has ever seen. Nearly a full minute verse that touches on everything from Joba’s personal insecurities about his success to the impact of his drug use on his mental state, a topic frequently covered by the group.
While BROCKHAMPTON weathered their fair share of dramatic events in 2018, iridescence defies the odds and contains sonic appeal that rocketed the group to incredible success over the past year and a plethora of innovative sounds that cohesively make this one of the best albums of the year.” – Parker Brown
1. Mac Miller – Swimming
Genre Hip-Hop · Label Warner Brothers Records · Released August 3, 2018
“Mac Miller’s evolution from an indie rapper into an accomplished musician and producer was a story of pain and downfalls, yet constant growth and improvement. Just weeks before passing away from an accidental drug overdose, Mac Miller released his fifth album, Swimming, that confirmed the end of his once light and easy frat-rap lyricism. Instead, Mac Miller channeled his energy from his headline break-up with Ariana Grande and subsequent DUI’s into a brutally honest album that invites the listener into his darker thoughts of self-destruction.
Miller shone in crafting a holistic mood and theme throughout Swimming — the album is a wave where Miller struggles to keep his head above water. In the opening track, ‘Come Back to Earth,’ Miller dives into what his story and his album stands for: “I was drowning, but now I’m swimming / Through stressful waters to relief.” He references this struggle again in ‘Jet Fuel’ as the album uncovers the dark turns in Miller’s life: “Now my head underwater/ But I ain’t in the shower and I ain’t getting baptized.”
Swimming shined a light on Miller in his most vulnerable state. He proved that you truly can find your way out of darkness, even if it’s terrifying to take that first uncertain step. Rest in peace, Malcolm.” – Juliette Paige
WRBB’s WORST ALBUM OF 2018
Lil Xan – TOTAL XANARCHY
Genre Hip-Hop/Rap · Label Columbia Records · Released April 6, 2018
“Total Xanarchy starts out with a huge lie: ‘Xans don’t make me who I am.’ It’s the name of the album, it’s the topic of his breakout hit ‘Betrayed,’ it’s his f**kin name. Lil Xan could be enjoyable as a goofy caricature, but he’s just painfully boring and faux-sad. That’s why Total Xanarchy is the worst album of the year. There’s no humor, there’s no emotion; it just sounds like shutting your brain off completely. There’s no hype bangers, there’s just totally drab and vacant instrumentals over which Lil Xan’s voice gratingly creeks through songs so repetitive they put ‘Gucci Gang’ to shame. Most songs top out at around 15 words, because I doubt Xan can commit many more to memory for a song. And when he does manage to put together an actual lyric, it’s such profundities as ‘She said she gay but still into me’ and ‘They used to call me Diego, my favorite drink is Faygo.’ Lil Xan is just one of those acts that really makes you question how popular music has come to this point. Total Xanarchy is undoubtedly one of the worst albums of the year, and I can’t wait for it and ‘Betrayed’ to be forgotten so I never have to hear Lil Xan giggle ‘her pussy tastes like Skittles’ ever, ever again.” – Grant Foskett
Kali Uchis – isolation
Snail Mail – Lush
Beach House – 7