The 19 Best Rap and R&B Albums of 2018

BY JOHNATHAN FORBES AND ASIA RIDDICK

It’s been one heck of a year for music. From rap beefs to artist deaths, highs, and lows, losses and wins, but yet in still music proved to be our medicine despite this year’s emotional rollercoaster. And with just three days left in 2018, we all can say we made to the end of the finish line, an accomplishment in itself.

So here’s to our top 19 Rap and R&B albums of 2018. The albums that made this list are ones we connected with most. With that in mind, this by no means is the end all be all list, but rather a guide for what you should take a listen to before the year ends.

We’re happy to share with you the music that kept us afloat all year long and encourage you to do the same. Feel free to share your top album choices with us in the comments below! -Asia Riddick

19. Joey Purp - QUARTERTHING

Released on September 7, 2018

Released on September 7, 2018

Label: Joey Purp, LLC

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Joey Purp (birth name Joey Davis) is the captivating Chicago rapper part of the Save Money crew which includes artists like Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa. In a follow up to his 2016 mixtape, iiiDrops QUARTERTHING is Purp’s latest project and it’s electrifying, to say the least. Hailing features from artist like RZA, GZA, Queen Key, Ravyn Lenae and others QUARTERTHING carries the power to make you feel good and is definitely, the type of album you bump on the highest volume possible.

Purp’s power is in his robust voice and can be exhibited clearly on tracks like “Paint Thinner” and “Godbody.” His fireside chat diagnosis of society holds a darker viewpoint with nonchalant free verses that frame emotional instrumentation and analysis of his love for turmoil. -Johnathan Forbes

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18. Various Artists - Black Panther: The Album

Released on February 9, 2018

Released on February 9, 2018

Label: Interscope Records

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

At every level, Black Panther: The Album was a project that effortlessly peeled back each complex layer of love, endurance, and pain. Offering a vast range of genres, and voices from artists like Mozzy, Babes Wodumo, and Yugen Blakrok there’s a song on this album for everyone. -AR

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17. Mick Jenkins - Pieces of a Man

Released on October 26, 2018

Released on October 26, 2018

Label: Free Nation/Cinematic Music Group

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Chicago rapper, Mick Jenkins is nothing short of lyrically gifted, but are we really surprised? Chicago has yet to fail us with their talented roster of artists (i.e. Saba, Noname, Chance The Rapper and the list goes on). On his latest project Pieces of a Man, Jenkins zeroes in on the evil truths of this world and with a seamless production (from Kaytranada, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Black Milk to name a few) to match his exquisite lyricism this work, easily is a necessary and refreshing listen for hip-hop. -AR

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16. Mac Miller - Swimming

Released on August 3, 2018

Released on August 3, 2018

Label: Warner Bros. Records

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Malcolm McCormick, better known as Mac Miller, famous for tracks like “Donald Trump” and “Kool-Aid & Frozen Pizza” earlier this year gifted us with his fifth studio album Swimming. Exploring the quest to remain afloat, revisiting this album was particularly heavy as its almost impossible to dissociate this project from his death. Mac had so much to teach people, and although his earthly body is gone, his stories and teachings live on with us in his music. -Johnathan Forbes

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15. Kali Uchis - Isolation

Released on April 6, 2018

Released on April 6, 2018

Label: Virgin EMI Records

Genre: R&B/Soul

Sultry and dreamy, Isolation is an album with a whole lot of soul, and with Kali Uchis’ undeniably hypnotic sound you’re bound to fall in love with each new listen. Uchis takes listeners on a trip, providing a beautiful escape where they’re free to explore in a world of their own. -AR

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14. Kanye West & Kid Cudi - KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Released on June 8, 2018

Released on June 8, 2018

Label: G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam Recordings

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

We tap into the splintered minds of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, for their collaborative project KIDS SEE GHOSTS an album about brokenness that explores the mania that lies within. Outlining pain and recovery, both artists introspection amid the chaotic storyline coupled with Cudi’s trademarked hums offer a glimmer of hope for those still prisoners to their thoughts. -AR

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13. Noname - Room 25

Released on September 14, 2018

Released on September 14, 2018

Label: Noname

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Noname’s poetic flows on Room 25 officially killed any noise for those who questioned her rapping ability, we can not deny her, very dynamic way with words. She undeniably is a storyteller at heart and a darn good one! Leaving the door open for listeners to wander into her world, Room 25 is a gentle, meditative project that without a doubt deserves a listen. -AR

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12. SiR - November

Released on January 19, 2018

Released on January 19, 2018

Label: Top Dawg Entertainment

Genre: R&B/Soul

November, an album of love and loss, sultry and jazzy at its core take us on one heck of a ride. Guiding us through the thirty-three-minute experience is SiR’s AI autopilot friend K who helps him through the complexities and whirlwinds of love. With soaring vocals and mellow rhythms to match SiR intoxicates us with his piercing sound while he strings us along into his altered universe. -AR

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11. The Internet - Hive Mind

Released on July 20, 2018

Released on July 20, 2018

Label: Columbia Records

Genre: R&B/Soul

A breath of fresh air, Hive Mind makes for an ultra-enjoyable listening experience because let’s face it Syd’s vocals are killer. But, not only that The Internets growth as a band is undeniable and sonically makes for something almost too beautiful for words. Sheer perfection. -AR

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10. Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer

Released on September 27, 2018

Released on September 27, 2018

Label: Bad Boy Records

Genre: R&B/Soul

Uncompromising, fun and honest Dirty Computer could’ve been the soundtrack to the 1999 film But I’m a Cheerleader. Dirty Computer Janelle Monae’s third concept album, she shares with us her free-flowing sexuality. And with features from our favorites, Pharrell Williams on “I Got the Juice” and Zoë Kravitz on “Screwd” the fluidity and youthfulness exudes even more, making it an easy choice to place on our list. -Johnathan Forbes

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9. NAO - Saturn

Released on October 26, 2018

Released on October 26, 2018

Label: RCA Records

Genre: R&B/Soul

Two years since her debut album For All We Know NAO delivers yet another timeless project, Saturn. Regularly on replay, each song provokes nostalgia with open, free verses that seek to help us find our way. An album of self-discovery, NAO explores opportunities to reinvent herself as a twenty-something-year-old webbed in a world of confusion. With themes of love, change, and resilience Saturn allows listeners into a very personal and reflective season for the East London artist.

Throughout the album, we see her acceptance of the past, as she unapologetically reclaims who it is she is. From songs like “Orbit” and “Love Supreme” to “Another Lifetime” and “Make It Out Alive” this project is a documentation of how far she’s come. Definitely, an R&B vocalist to continue to keep on the radar. -Johnathan Forbes

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8. Masego - Lady Lady

Released on September 7, 2018

Released on September 7, 2018

Label: EQT Recordings

Genre: R&B/Soul

A man of many talents, Masego’s multi-dimensional ability as an artist to tell stories in such a captivating way is what makes him so unique. Dropping his most mature album to date Lady Lady was a dreamy masterful work of art and not just because sonically it was pure perfection. This album drips of admiration for feminine energy and on songs like “Silk,” “Just a Little,” and “Sugar Walls” show Masego’s ability to lure you into his world and keep you wanting more. -Johnathan Forbes

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7. 6LACK - East Atlanta Love Letter

Released on September 14, 2018

Released on September 14, 2018

Label: LVRN Records

Genre: R&B/Soul

Pain sometimes births the most beautiful art, and East Atlanta Love Letter birthed just that, something masterful. Transparent at first listen, 6LACK lays his heart on the table, and now a new dad explores fatherhood, heartbreak, and new found fame. Using pain as his propeller, East Atlanta Love Letter, though a tearjerker is an album where his agony was the fuel to essentially creating a great album. -AR

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6. Jay Rock - Redemption

Released on June 15, 2018

Released on June 15, 2018

Label: Top Dawg Entertainment/Interscope Records

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Eastside Johnny, better known as Jay Rock is back! After dropping his sophomore album 90059 three years ago, he returns in his prime with Redemption. Setting out for a huge win, much like track thirteen he left with just that. This project told a seamless story that was both dark and hopeful. Symbolic of his career thus far, the Watts-bred rapper has asserted his presence in Hip-Hop once again. -AR

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5. Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Fetti

Released on October 31, 2018

Released on October 31, 2018

Label: ESGN/Jet Life Recordings/ALC/EMPIRE

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

FETTI was a magical moment for underground rap. The collaborative project confirms there is, such a thing as collabs gone right. From the moment you press play, Curren$y, and Freddie Gibbs prove to be a powerful duo. The musical synergy between the two is undeniable and with production from The Alchemist hails as one of the best rap albums this year. -AR

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4. J.I.D - DiCaprio 2

Released on November 26, 2018

Released on November 26, 2018

Label: Dreamville Records/Interscope Records

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

East Atlanta lyricist, wordsmith and pun spinner J.I.D delivered an incredibly robust sophomore album this year. The Dreamville rapper known for his cinematic style in DiCaprio 2 explores his world and takes us along for the ride, creating a magical experience for listeners. This project was a beautiful escape, to say the least, an encapsulation of his range and versatility as an artist.

With a flow as masterful and artful as J.I.D’s, DiCaprio 2 exceeded all of my expectations. In a lane of his own, J.I.D’s playing for more than keeps. -AR

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3. Pusha T - DAYTONA

Released on May 25, 2018

Released on May 25, 2018

Label: Def Jam Recordings

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

“If You Know You Know” reigns as an anthem of sorts in Pusha T’s DAYTONA a seven-track album that packs a lot of punch. Its been three years since Pusha’s released anything and though, he was gone for a bit, his bars are just as potent as before. DAYTONA sets the bar high, solidifying who he is in the world of hip-hop. -AR

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2. J. Cole - KOD

Released on April 20, 2018

Released on April 20, 2018

Label: Dreamville Records/Interscope Records/Roc Nation

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

From lust, envy, and greed KOD examines addiction in a way that unpacks the many complex layers of what being an addict even means. Serving as the conscience of hip-hop, Cole with this project forces listeners to think about everything that’s presently wrong with the disoriented state of rap culture. -AR

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1. Saba - CARE FOR ME

Released on April 5, 2018

Released on April 5, 2018

Label: Saba Pivot, LLC

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

An exploration of loss Saba’s sophomore album artfully expresses grief, with pain that morbidly knaws at you. The mourning is felt in all ten tracks, starting with “BUSY / SIRENS,” and signing off with “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME.” A soul filled project the grief shared on CARE FOR ME was an act of a very raw and real emotional purification, with each word of Saba’s intricately woven story cutting deeper than anyone could’ve expected. -AR

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