Top 10 albums of 2018 in hip hop and R&B

Picking the top ten albums of 2018 was a particularly difficult task, even after focusing only on releases that fall under the very broad umbrellas of hip hop and R&B. From Drake to Beyoncé and Jay-Z to Kanye West to Eminem, nearly every major artist released an album this year. (We’re still waiting, Rihanna!) Luckily for me and this assignment at hand, not all of them were good. But here are the ten 2018 albums that were exceptional. 10. “Everything Is Love,” The Carters We always knew that Jay-Z and Beyoncé would eventually release a joint album — or at least we hoped they would — and after Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” where she aired Jay-Z’s infidelity and forgave him, it seemed like only a matter of time until a collaborative album would emerge. But as epic as “Everything Is Love” was from its conception, the music doesn’t rest on the hype brought by its creators. Jay-Z continues to push writing that is rooted in reflection and vulnerability; Beyoncé’s lush vocals are bolstered by a resilient strength. The album is hardly one note, too — it’s part couple’s therapy session, part anthem, and all-around iconic. 9. “Victory Lap,” Nipsey Hussle If you’re familiar with hip hop outside of the mainstream, then Nipsey Hussle has been on your radar for a long time. But for a wider audience — Grammy voters included — Nipsey’s “Victory Lap” was one hell of an introduction. Bringing his very specific neo-G-funk LA sound to the rest of the country — perhaps even the world — Nipsey expertly blends crisp, narrative-driven raps over a soundscape that is as inventive as it is Californian. The roster of featured artists on “Victory Lap,” illustrative of the album’s range, includes Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius and CeeLo Green. The Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album shocked the hip hop world — not because Nipsey Hussle’s not worthy, but because the Recording Academy finally noticed. 8. “Negro Swan,” Blood Orange British singer/songwriter/producer Dev Hynes delivered something extraordinary with his fourth studio album “Negro Swan,” which holds nothing back in the depths of its exploration of mental health for marginalized people. Hynes once described the album as “an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of color.” “Negro Swan” brings together an unlikely but powerful list of collaborators: a very vulnerable Puff Daddy, trans writer and activist Janet Mock, and Southern rap legend Project Pat. Demonstrating his ability not just to stretch genres and complicate neat binaries, but also pull unfiltered artistry from the album’s guest stars, Hynes finds his magic inside the in-between. 7. “Astroworld,” Travis Scott “Astroworld” was one of the most anticipated albums to drop this year for rap fans. Travis Scott’s fame and recognition is firmly rooted in his talent, both in making ambitious music and performing what’s widely considered to be the best live rap show. On “Astroworld,” an homage to his hometown Houston, he does not disappoint, delivering imaginative soundscapes […]