25 Best Hip-Hop and R&B Albums of 2018 (So Far), Ranked

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We know it's only April. We also know that, through the first 102 days of the 2018 calendar year, an incredible number of full-length albums have been released for our listening enjoyment.

Just like last year, rather than waiting until this December to highlight all these remarkable bodies of work, we've decided to round up our favorites from December 27, 2017, through April 6, 2018.

Below you will find the 25 best hip-hop and R&B albums (so far) of 2018, ranked. Selections and positioning are based on a weighted voting system that combined the individual rankings of our editorial team. Please note that EPs were not considered for this list. We will be publishing a separate ranked list of the best 2018 EPs in the weeks to come.

Of course, we both expect and anticipate dissension among our readers, but that is precisely what makes music discourse so much fun.  

25. Towkio — WWW.

Towkio WWW. Best Albums 2018

Label: Republic Records / American Recordings 
Release Date: February 23, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "2 Da Moon," "Morning View," "Forever"
See Also: "Towkio Will Listen to His Debut Album WWW. From Outer Space Because He's "A Magician"

Towkio went to the moon, but before take-off, he made WWW., a winding debut album with veiled philosophical themes and infectious beats. Towkio hops on footwork beats, house-inspired tunes, classic and soulful Chicago cuts, and while his influences are many, his energy and sprightly delivery keep the album together. Across 13 tracks, he manages to make the heady inviting and vibrant. —Donna-Claire Chesman

24. Migos — Culture II

Migos Culture 2 Best Albums of 2018

Label: Quality Control Music / Motown Records / Capitol Records
Release Date: January 26, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "BBO (Bad Bitches Only)," "Stir Fry," "Made Men"
See Also: "Migos' Culture II Ad-Libs: A Statistical Odyssey"

Yes, it’s too long. Yes, there is filler. Yes, it comes off a bit like a ploy to maximize stream counts at the cost of end-to-end enjoyment. But Migos are still the most fun group in hip-hop, and Culture II still holds a jewel of an album within the bloated mass between its bookends, one that includes the spirited rush of “Bad Bitches Only,” the Pharrell-fueled bounce of “Stir Fry,” the seductive sax of “Too Playa,” and the warm perfection of “Made Men.” —Brendan Varan

23. CZARFACE & MF DOOM — Czarface Meets Metal Face 

Czarface Meets MF Doom Best Albums of 2018

Label: Silver Age
Release Date: March 30, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Forever People," "Phantoms," "Nautical Depth"

For years, rap fans have patiently awaited the metal-faced, Wallabee-footed brilliance of Ghostface Killah and MF DOOM’s long-promised collab album. Leave it to the Wu’s most underrated lyricist, Inspectah Deck, to beat Starks to the punch and churn out an entire album with DOOM alongside his CZARFACE partners in the church of boom bap, 7L and Esoteric. Packed with quirky comic book spirit, crate-digging production, and uncompromising raps between veteran MCs, Czarface Meets Metal Fingers is a 2018 underground head’s dream. —Brendan Varan

22. Black Milk — FEVER

Black Milk Fever Best Albums of 2018

Label: Mass Appeal Records / Computer Ugly
Release Date: February 23, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "But I Can Be," "True Lies," "Will Remain"
See Also: "Black Milk’s FEVER Takes Us Through The American Fever Dream"

Black Milk’s FEVER is a fever dream. The Detroit rapper-producer knows how to make the demented side of an acid trip play like a beautiful piece of music. Milk’s beats coil around his rhymes and delivery, his every breath supported by a kick or synth lead. As he delves into politics and the sickness of America, FEVER stands as a potent case study of the psyche of an oppressed man. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

21. Flatbush Zombies — Vacation In Hell

Flatbush Zombies Vacation In Hell Best Albums of 2018

Label: Glorious Dead Recordings
Release Date: April 6, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Leather Symphony," "U&I," "YouAreMySunshine"
See Also: "Before A Vacation In Hell: A Conversation with Flatbush Zombies"

The Flatbush Zombies’ brotherhood is on full display with their sophomore album. Vacation In Hell brings with it the sprawl and freedom of their mixtape days, while simultaneously remaining cohesive and polished. Tracks span from gruesome and gritty, to gutting and vexed. With a handful of near-ballads to top off the project, it’s the Zombies’ most varied and focused album to date.  —Donna-Claire Chesman 

20. ODIE — Analogue

ODIE Analouge Best Albums of 2018

Label: Unité Recordings / EMPIRE
Release Date: April 6, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "North Face," "Story," "Little Lies"
See Also: "Meet ODIE, the Toronto Singer Focused on Capturing His Most Vulnerable Moments"

ODIE is dedicated to his roots. On Analogue, the Toronto singer loses himself to his memories in the best way, delving into each scrap and line in his proverbial journal. The sunny production and blooming vocals nearly betray the depth of this record. As ODIE is a believer in the power of vulnerability, the album is riddled with pockets of experiences for fans to settle into and use as space explore their own lives. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

19. SOB X RBE — Gangin

SOB X RBE Gangin Best Albums of 2018

Label: SOB x RBE / EMPIRE
Release Date: February 23, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "On Me," Anti Social," "Y.H.U.N.G."
See Also: "Meet the 9 Potential Breakout Artists on Black Panther: The Album"

There’s an excitement coursing through the raps of the Bay Area’s own SOB X RBE. Their bars come out fast and strong just ahead of the beat like they’re both racing to the finish line. That infectious energy is the beating heart of their debut, Gangin, the sugary sheen on the outside of stories about close calls with gangs, police brutality, and crack babies. Yhung T.O, Slimmy B, Lul G, and DaBoii don’t slow down for anybody, and if you’re up to their speed, there’s humor and drama in this jam-packed Bay Area Olympic torch run. —Dylan Green 

18. Evidence — Weather or Not

Evidence Weather Or Not Best Albums of 2018

Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Release Date: January 26, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Throw It All Away," "Love Is a Funny Thing," "By My Side Too"
See Also: "Evidence's Weather or Not is a Heartfelt Torrential Downpour"

Evidence poured his heart into Weather or Not, an album that stands at the intersection of classic boom bap and Bay Area lilt. Ev’s trademark slow-flow and easy braggadocio bring the skittering and moody production to life. Whether Evidence is confronting life’s fragility through the lens of money or health scares, no stone hurled at him in the half-decade since his last full-length LP goes unturned. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

17. Rich Homie Quan — Rich As In Spirit

Rich Homie Quan Rich As In Spirit Best Albums of 2018

Label: Motown Records
Release Date: March 16, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "34," "Same Year," "Think About It"

The most endearing quality of Rich Homie Quan’s debut album, Rich As In Spirit, isn’t the mastery of melody or bombastic production that sizzles like an egg yolk on Crenshaw concrete, but the transparent honesty that spans across the album's 19 tracks. Quan’s truths aren’t troublesome, these aren’t confessions from an opium-eater, but vignettes of stories allowing listeners to see the clearest portrait of one of Atlanta’s most promising stars. Consider Rich As In Spirit the kind of Southern rap for your ears, for your trunk, and for your soul. —Yoh 

16. Everything Is Recorded — Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell

Everything Is Recorded Best Albums of 2018

Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: February 16, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Close But Not Quite," "Mountains of Gold," "Show Love"
See Also: "Richard Russell Braves Isolation and Mortality With Everything Is Recorded"

Co-founder of XL Recordings and famed record producer, Richard Russell had a brush with death prior to completing and releasing his opus, Everything Is Recorded. An album obsessed with loneliness and packed with phenomenal features—Sampha, Wiki, Giggs, Kamasi Washington, Infinite (Ghostface Killah’s son), Green Gartside, Ibeyi, Syd, etc.—Everything Is Recorded is Russell’s personal reckoning made for the mainstage. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

15. Jericho Jackson (Elzhi x Khrysis) — Khrysis & Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson

Jerico Jackson Best Albums of 2018

Label: Jamla Records
Release Date: February 23, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Overthinking," "Self Made," "To Do List"

Elzhi raps the way most people wish they could just talk: smooth and effortless, with mind-bending wordplay and clever concepts broken down to their simplest forms. 2016’s Lead Poison was often held back by a lack of sonic cohesion, but this year’s team up with Jamla Records beatsmith Khrysis is a match made in Detroit. Lush loops cushion stories about teenage life in the streets (“Seventeen,” “Cuffin’ Season”), paranoia and isolation (“F.R.I.E.N.D.S.”) and straight bar fests (“Breguets”). Elzhi’s been one of the best rappers alive for a minute, but Jericho Jackson is proof that Khrysis has been his perfect foil this whole time. —Dylan Green

14. Jean Grae & Quelle Chris — Everything’s Fine

Jean Grae Quelle Chris Everything's Fine Best Albums 2018

Label: Mello Music Group
Release Date: March 30, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "My Contribution to This Scam," "Ohsh," "House Call"

Nothing is actually fine, but Jean Grae and Quelle Chris know you know that, which is why their collaborative album, Everything’s Fine, is as sardonic as it is immaculately executed. Grae’s supreme technical skill and storytelling anchor Chris’ abstract and wonderous delivery and production. Together, they make a record that’s as biting as it is improvisational, that plays like a long look in a dirty mirror. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

13. Kali Uchis — Isolation

Kali Uchis Isolation Best Albums of 2018

Label: A Rinse / Virgin EMI Records
Release Date: April 6, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Just a Stranger," "Flight 22," "After the Storm"

After stealing hearts with her 2015 EP, Por Vida, and a stunning feature on Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy (“See You Again”), Kali Uchis finally delivers her proper debut. Isolation is a silky and sinuous affair, made for muggy New York mornings, or for those who love getting caught in sunshowers. Her vocals are astral and enchanting, winding up the swaths of soulful production. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

12. JPEGMAFIA — Veteran

JPEGMAFIA Veteran Best Albums of 2018

Label: Deathbomb Arc
Release Date: January 19, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "1539 N. Calvert," "Baby I'm Bleeding," "I Cannot F*****g Wait Until Morrissey Dies"
See Also: "JPEGMAFIA Has Only One Goal in Music: "Pay My Bills""

The name JPEGMAFIA says nearly everything you need to know about his music: a swarm of sounds both digital and analog, he’s the grit and gravel in the code of the system. He’s as ready to storm Donald Trump’s White House as he is to croon about “Thug Tears” over Mortal Kombat samples. Veteran is a declaration of war against all kinds of complacency, and Peggy—on both the bars and the beats—is more than eager to lead the charge straight for your grill. —Dylan Green

11. Drakeo The Ruler — Cold Devil

Drakeo The Ruler Cold Devil Best Albums of 2018

Label: Stinc Team
Release Date: December 26, 2017
3 Standout Selections: "Big Banc Uchies," "Flu Flamming," "Neiman & Marcus Don't Know You"

No one else sounds like Drakeo. The Los Angeles rapper—currently incarcerated and facing life in jail on questionable first-degree murder charges—is a singular talent, combining a cold, disaffected flow with an extensive vocabulary of inventive street slang and utter disregard for traditional rapping guidelines and structures. Cold Devil, released in the eleventh hour of 2017, is as much a study in deciphering the rapper’s language as it is a gripping descent into Drakeo’s deviant version of L.A., one where flu flamming is a requisite occurrence and Neiman and Marcus don’t even know you.—Brendan Varan

10. Nipsey Hussle — Victory Lap

Nipsey Hussle Victory Lap Best Albums of 2018

Label: All Money In No Money Out / Atlantic
Release Date: February 16, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Blue Laces 2," "Status Symbol 3," "Double Up"
See Also: "Nipsey Hussle Claims JAY-Z Clearing "Hard Knock Life" Sample in 1998 Included Future Clearance for All Rappers"

The late, great A$AP Yams once wrote: "Don’t judge a rap by its lyricism or any of that, judge it by how much game you getting from it.” Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap is a treasure trove of game that speaks directly to the ambitious hustler within all listeners. The long-awaited major label debut has the motivational spirit of a Ted Talk, is inspiring as the autobiography of Puffy Combs, and is filled with pristine production that will make you believe Rick Ross was the A&R. Victory Lap is music that encourages the endless possibilities available to the hungry, resourceful, and innovative. Yams would approve. —Yoh 

9. Roc Marciano — RR2: The Bitter Dose

Roc Marciano RR2 Best Albums of 2018

Label: Marci Enterprises
Release Date: March 9, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Bohemian Grove," "Corniche," "Happy Endings"
See Also: "Roc Marciano's Anti-Streaming Release Strategy Is Paying Off"

Roc Marciano is the living embodiment of a jewel-encrusted pinky ring; slick talk oozes out like yolk from a quail egg atop wagyu ribeye. The bitter dose to last year’s Rosebudd’s Revenge is a doubling down on the Long Island wordsmith’s unflinching blend of silky pimp talk and soulful loops, one that sounds as at home in art houses as it does climbing through the grime of subway station steps. —Brendan Varan

8. Rejjie Snow — Dear Annie

Rejjie Snow Dear Annie Best Albums of 2018

Label: 300 Entertainment
Release Date: February 16, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Spaceships" Egyptian Luvr," "Charlie Brown"
See Also: ""Charlie Brown" Shows Rejjie Snow Is Finally Seizing His Moment"

From the hazy lo-fi of “Oh No!” to the sultry Kaytrandada groove of “Egyptian Luvr,” to the shimmering synth-pop of “Charlie Brown,” the wonderful world of Dear Annie is one that showcases the broad spectrum of Rejjie Snow’s influences and indulgences. The Dublin native mostly remains the laid-back, deadpan anchor throughout his official debut, keeping the gravity intact whether the mood calls for sunny springtime days or late-night escapades. —Brendan Varan

7. Sango — In the Comfort Of

Sango In the Comfort Of Best Albums of 2018

Label: Last Gang Records Inc.
Release Date: March 16, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Khlorine," "Sweet Holy Honey," "Implications"
See Also: "Sango Soundtracks the Pursuit of Wholeness on Sophomore Album In the Comfort Of"

In the Comfort Of is a sonic meditation, a journey to wholeness that Sango crafts across 17 tracks. In the battle for emotional security, Sango’s production moves between the tender and textured, to the cinematic and becoming, proving that you need to be uncomfortable before you can truly find yourself. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

6. SiR — November

SiR November Best Albums of 2018

Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Release Date: January 19, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Something Foreign," "Something New," "Summer in November"
See Also: "SiR Just Wants to Sing for His Fans"

Good morning, SiR.” The greeting works as not only as the beginning to a 50-trillion-kilometer journey through space but as the opening to our official full-length introduction to TDE’s Inglewood crooner. Loosely built around an interstellar concept, November is a record about love and all its complications, tied together by SiR’s golden voice, laid-back California persona, and production that dips its toes into a smoked-out pool of R&B, soul, and hip-hop. —Brendan Varan

5. Maxo Kream — Punken

Maxo Kream Punken Best Albums of 2018

Label: TSO Music Group / Kream Clicc
Release Date: January 12, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Work," "ATW," "5200"
See Also: "Maxo Kream's Punken Is Authentic Trap Music at Its Finest"

A good beat can give groove to even the darkest stories. On his debut studio album, Punken, Maxo Kream puts this theory to the test within its first few bars: “Used to pack the stashes in the mattress of the sofa / Momma kept complaining ‘bout the marijuana odor,” he says over the skittering synths of album opener “Work.” There’s an authenticity to Kream’s flavor of trap, complete with hard-earned lessons and vivid imagery over airy, booming beats that fire from the hip and refuse to ask questions. There are scars to pore over here, but Punken is the battle armor Kream wears into the trap terror dome. —Dylan Green 

4. Various Artists — Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired By

Black Panther The Album Best Albums of 2018

Label: Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope Records
Release Date: February 9, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "The Ways," "Paramedic!" "King's Dead"
See Also: "Black Panther The Album 1 Listen Album Review"

It’s great enough that Marvel’s Black Panther will go down as one of the biggest blockbuster films of all-time, but having a killer soundtrack doesn’t hurt, either. Curated by Kendrick Lamar and director Ryan Coogler, the music (from and inspired by the film) throbs with a passion and variety befitting of Wakanda. Poppy dazzlers like Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars” and Jorja Smith’s “I Am” sit next to mile-a-minute bangers like Vince Staples and Yungen Blakrok’s “Opps” and SOB X RBE’s steamroller “Paramedic!” Black Panther The Album is less a companion piece than it is the heart and soul of Wakanda run through TDE’s hit-making machine. —Dylan Green 

3. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy

Cardi B Invasion of Privacy Best Albums of 2018

Label: Atlantic
Release Date: April 6, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "Bodak Yellow," "I Like It," "I Do"
See Also: "Cardi B Invasion of Privacy 1 Listen Album Review"

Cardi B delivers an expectation-stomping debut. Packed with bangers and ballads alike, Cardi took her relatability, unique cadence, and Bronx swagger, to new heights on Invasion of Privacy, unpacking her emotions while creating sticky club anthems. Debuts may come and go, but this record proves Cardi B is a hip-hop mainstay. —Donna-Claire Chesman 

2. Saba — CARE FOR ME

Saba CARE FOR ME Best Albums of 2018

Label: Saba Pivot, LLC
Release Date: April 5, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "FIGHTER," "GREY," "PROM/KING"
See Also: "Saba Battles Mortality on Sophomore Album Care For Me—His Finest Work to Date"

Saba confronts mortality on CARE FOR ME through the lens of the tragic murder of his cousin, Walter Long Jr. Fighting through shades of jazzy, grey production, the Chicago native comes to terms with death permeating life and his lack of invincibility. Heart-wrenching, the music is his most potent and leveling to date. —Donna-Claire Chesman

1. Phonte — No News Is Good News

Phonte No News Is Good News Best Albums of 2018

Label: The Foreign Exchange Music
Release Date: March 2, 2018
3 Standout Selections: "So Help Me God," "Expensive Genes," "Cry No More"
See Also: "Sadness & Reflection: A Soul-Baring Conversation with Phonte"

No News Is Good News, Phonte’s excellent sophomore album, carries the thrill of encountering a wise teacher who provokes thought, doesn’t stray from harsh sincerity, and will be the cause of hearty laughter throughout the classroom. Due to the mature, thoughtful profundity within its short, 33-minute runtime, the album shouldn’t just be heard and discarded, but confronted, engaged, and allowed to loom in thoughts long after the final note is played. Without cheating on Beyoncé or acquiring loops from No I.D., Phonte ended his long hiatus from hip-hop by delivering his 4:44 of 2018. —Yoh

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