2017 was a never-ending flood of new music. From JAY-Z to Eminem to Drake to Kendrick Lamar to Big Sean (twice), not a single month went by without a major release from a major artist.
As 2017 crawls to a close, though, we can't help but look forward to a new year full of exciting releases. From heavy hitters to promising newcomers, 2018 carries with it the promise of delivering an impressive slate of new hip-hop albums.
Some of these albums will definitely arrive on our digital doorstep, while others are more wishful thinking, but all of them have us fiending for a first listen.
These are the 10 most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2018. The flood continues.
10. EarthGang — Mirror Land
Back in August, DJBooth published an interview with EarthGang, championing Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus as the duo destined to deliver the next great Atlanta rap album. Four months later, we continue to endorse this statement. In fact, the interview was published before the releases of Rags and Robots―the ATL duo's two superb 2017 EPs that were released to high praise. The two EPs offered fans a taste of what’s to come, a touch of their inventive sound and poetic magic, but Mirror Land―their full-length debut on Dreamville―is the project that will truly put their artistic latitude on full display. By the end of 2018, EarthGang will be considered one of the most imaginative and compelling acts in all of music. Mirror Land will reflect this sentiment.
9. Drake — TBA
“I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary,” Drake prophesied as his final statement before the vocal sample from Snoh Aalegra’s “Time” brought “Do Not Disturb” and More Life to a close. There’s an obsessiveness to Drake’s inability to unplug; he’s like Money Makin Mitch and music is the hustle he loves with a clinging devotion. Drake knows More Life wasn’t a commercial behemoth nor a cultural needle-mover, a fact that was likely reinforced watching Kendrick Lamar and JAY-Z succeed both commercially and culturally. As he said in “Do Not Disturb”: “My life is centered around competition and currency." If he is truly in the mindset of a competitor then his next album has the potential to be a project built upon the desire to be No. 1 and not another victory lap release lacking in heart and soul.
8. ScHoolboy Q — TBA
It’s disheartening to know that, despite delivering a great project, little commercial fanfare surrounded ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP. Critically acclaimed, yet missing the commercial success and lasting relevance it deserved. A still-underrated body of work in an age of too much happening too quickly. Instead of ranting and raving about the album being criminally underappreciated, Q simply returned to the studio and began work on the forthcoming, still-untitled follow-up. Back in September, the rapper uploaded an Instagram video of his return to the gym, which he said would only happen when his album was 90% complete. Based on his interview with Zane Lowe from earlier this year, Q’s subject matter will focus more on life after rap success―the father who is happy and providing for his daughter and those around him. One of hip-hop’s grooviest gangsters could be sitting on his most mature album yet, and we are ready for it.
7. Nas — NASIR
When DJ Khaled titled the sole Nas feature on Major Key “Nas Album Done,” it was perceived as an announcement of sorts, the first significant recognition of an album coming soon. Sadly, all we have in our possession 18 months later is yet another bloated DJ Khaled album. Nas' album reportedly being “done” was no different than all the reports of Detox “coming soon,” but still we wait and hope. We're going on six years since Life is Good, a long-winded hiatus for any artist. No matter how long he makes us wait, though, the anticipation for a new Nas album will always be high. Sustained excellence allows for prolonged patience. We believe that will be sometime in 2018, but truth be told, there’s no telling. Time is still Illmatic.
6. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
What comes after “Bodak Yellow"? It’s a question that Cardi B has yet to answer. She has focused more of her time on guest features than a follow-up single, an interesting approach but one that's making history. Most artists (and record labels) would attempt to ride this sudden wave of their success, yet Cardi has decided to pace the process. She’s taking her time to build an album, making sure the entire body of work is right. “Bodak Yellow” was the bulldozer that tore the industry’s back door from its hinges, but now that Cardi is here, in the center of a blinding spotlight, she’s moving cautiously. If this newfound pressure makes an album that shines brighter than the diamond on her ring finger, she’ll begin to solidify herself as a power player with lasting appeal and not just a flash-in-the-pan shooting star.
5. Chance The Rapper — TBA
Chance The Rapper is a superstar. When he crossed over, it wasn’t a dip into the mainstream, but a full-body plunge. When someone's popularity explodes to reach new heights, it begs the question: What exactly will his or her new music sound like? Acid Rap and Coloring Book both explore different themes, sounds, styles, and textures, experimenting with the conventional limits of hip-hop, jazz, and gospel music. As a student of Kanye West, we can guess that no two albums are intended to sound the same. Hopefully, Chance's newfound mass appeal won’t lead to an album that attempts to please everyone, an easy trap for any artist to fall into. Chance has the potential to once again shake up the industry, and his "debut album" could be a gamechanger—especially if it comes with a price tag.
4. A$AP Rocky — Testing
A$AP Rocky’s place in rap is hard to pinpoint. He’s famous, but that fame extends into his relationship with fashion. His fanbase has been growing since the days of “Purple Swag,” but he hasn’t released a solo single since 2015's “L$D,” and the only top-50 solo single of his career remains "Fuckin' Problems." Each of A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes compilations have had their notable highlights, but the impact has been minimal. What a new solo album allows is for Rocky to reinsert himself as a rap force. In his recent GQ interview, he spoke of experimenting with new sounds, which would be a change from the Cozy Tapes that leaned heavily on the trap aesthetic. If Rocky comes back with an improved soundscape and the results are well-received, the return of Rocky should be a triumphant one.
3. Pusha T — DAYTONA
2016 brought a glimmer of hope that Pusha T’s forthcoming album was reaching the release stage. He even released three singles: “Drug Dealers Anonymous” with Hov, "H.G.T.V.,” and "Circles" featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Desiigner. Even though he didn’t impact the charts, fans devoured the new music and pleaded for more. Pusha didn’t respond to these request, however, growing as quiet as Smokey in the presence of Big Worm. While no new music surfaced throughout 2017, what did was the news that Kanye West would be producing King Push from "top to bottom." Did you hear that? It's the sound of expectations rising. Pusha didn't need to compete with a clustered released calendar in 2017, but next year the field is wide open for him to truly step from the G.O.O.D. presidential chair and back into the artist's seat.
2. Anderson .Paak — TBA
2016 was the year of Anderson. Paak’s arrival. He sang, rapped, drummed, and captured our hearts with both his solo album Malibu and Yes Lawd!, the NxWorries collaboration entirely produced by Knxwledge. Anderson is an Aftermath signee, his placement on Dr. Dre’s Compton is what shot him into a completely new trajectory and the reason so many know of him now. Yet, Anderson hasn’t officially released anything under the Aftermath umbrella. This is intentional. When he comes out, he’s coming out big. His quietness throughout 2017 is likely due to touring—a world tour with Bruno Mars has certainly boosted his fanbase—but also preparing for a breakout year. If Anderson’s next album arrives in 2018—according to a source, "It's going to come out when it feels right."—nothing less than an album of the year contender will be acceptable. Always expect greatness from great artists.
1. Kanye West — ye
Kanye West has been quiet. No social media posts, no rants, no nothing. It’s strange to think of rap’s most outspoken genius contributing no commentary this year, especially after such a turbulent 2016. The quiet can be interpreted as a sign that he is calm, potentially in a place of peace. Rumors have continued to surface about music being made, that an album—most likely not named Turbo Grafx 16—is in the process of being perfected. My concern for Ye’s mental health trumps any desire for new music, but there’s therapy in creating, and if music has become an outlet for the outspoken to speak again, I'm all ears. The world waits with bated breath for Yeezus to rise again, hopefully, happier and healthier than when he departed.
By Yoh, aka Yohbe Bryohant, aka @Yoh31