Say what you like, 2018 has been a marked year for music. While critique is very serious business, we are also human and what we like is all the more special than the critical appraisal of an album. For the next month, every day, you will find our staff picks for our favorite facets of music from best features to worst songs and everything in-between, based solely on what strikes us as diehard music fans first, and critics second. It's been an incredible year for hip-hop.
These are our most anticipated albums of 2019.
Chance the Rapper
I think we, as a culture, may have turned on Chance the Rapper a little too early. Granted, he can come across as a bit righteous sometimes, and I understand why certain people may find this annoying, but somewhat lost in all this undue backlash has been the fact that he’s an incredibly talented artist. Of course, this is partially his fault for issuing very few compelling musical reminders since the release of 2016’s Coloring Book, but I‘d argue that a lot of this is on us for falling victim to our shortened attention spans and our narrowed windows of memory. Acid Rap is arguably one of the best five best projects of the decade, and although I know he’s a completely different artist at this point, it has earned him enough goodwill in my book to overlook a few public gaffes and underwhelming singles. Admittedly, I haven’t been blown away by any of the six songs he’s released this year, but knowing the heights Chance is capable of reaching, these minor disappointments have yet to diminish my excitement for the prospect of a new album in 2019. —Hershal Pandya
Chance the Rapper & Kanye West — Good Ass Job
Back in September, Kanye West joined Chance the Rapper onstage at the latter’s Open Mike event in Chicago to announce that the pair were working on a joint album, entitled Good Ass Job. After hearing how Chance transformed “Waves” and “Famous” from The Life of Pablo, and based on the chemistry the two demonstrated on the Coloring Book track “All We Got,” my expectations for a full collaborative project are justifiably high. In other words, the combination of Chance’s religious bars over soulful production from Ye sounds like a dream. Considering West’s history of failing to deliver on album promises (see: Yandhi, So Help Me God, and the original Good Ass Job), the highly-anticipated Good Ass Job might wind up requiring a long ass wait. —Stephen Barston
Asking for more music after the overabundance of releases this year feels like hitting the lottery and then buying Mega Millions tickets in bulk. But if I had to pick one, I’m looking forward to Childish Gambino’s next album—his first since signing a joint deal with RCA. What has been positioned as his "final album" was rumored to be coming out this year, and we did get some memorable singles, but no project has surfaced at the time of this writing. Hopefully, his absence is a sign of preparation for a grand, first-quarter 2019 goodbye. —Yoh
EarthGang — Mirrorland
Although it was a quiet year for the Dreamville-signed Atlanta duo, EarthGang’s upcoming album Mirrorland feels primed and ready to be their breakout moment. With two of the most talented emcees around in Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, EarthGang possesses an otherworldly lyricism and ear for enthralling production that the rap world needs to hear. With the support of Dreamville backing them, I’d put substantial money on the pair delivering what we’ve all been clamoring for to this point. —Matt Wilhite
Frank Ocean’s Blonde Follow-Up
Like every Frank Ocean super fan, I spent 2018 holding onto the same 14 words: “If you liked two thousand and seventeen then you’ll love two thousand and eighteen.” Hardly confirmation of a new album, was it? But obviously, we all let ourselves get carried away with the idea of escaping into another Frank Ocean masterpiece regardless (I mean, we had to rely on something to get us through this year). He got our hopes up a few times: there was the release of “Moon River” in February, cameos on A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott’s summer albums, the surprise return of blonded RADIO for November’s Midterm Elections, making his private Instagram account public (which revealed an early version of “Provider” with trap drums, so it wasn’t a complete loss). But alas, 2018 came and went without a new Frank Ocean album. That won’t stop me from blindly holding onto hope all two thousand and nineteen. See you there. —Andy James
Since releasing 99.9%, his formal debut for XL Recordings and one of the best albums of 2016, Montreal's reclusive production virtuoso has blessed a wide variety of artists with his Midas touch. Yet, until the release of a new EP just a few weeks back, KAYTRANADA's solo output had been reserved to just a number of remixes, edits, and loose demos. With new music—featuring Ty Dolla $ign, no less—to close out 2018, the prospect of a sophomore release in 2019 is looking brighter, as is the prospect of me losing countless hours absorbed in Kaytra's singular blend of electronic, hip-hop, R&B, funk, house, soul, and first-class contact list. I'm ready for another ride on the bus. —Brendan Varan
Kendrick Lamar is always the answer to this question. Always. Sure, he executive-produced Black Panther The Album—which earned eight GRAMMY nominations and is only the second soundtrack to be nominated for Album of The Year in the 21st century—but as much as that was a Kendrick-featuring and influenced body of work, it wasn't a Kendrick solo album. Considering no rapper in hip-hop history has opened their career with four consecutive albums as impressive as Section.80, good kid, m.A.A.d city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and DAMN., it isn't hyperbolic to say that Kendrick's next offering, should it match up in quality and legacy to its predecessors, could solidify his candidacy as the greatest of all time. —Z
Although there are many albums I am expecting will surpass 2018’s offerings by legacy acts, I am most looking forward to ScHoolboy Q’s next project. 2016’s Blank Face LP remains on regular rotation for me, an album that never got the flowers it deserved. After the passing of his close friend Mac Miller, I am expecting the artist to return with a weighty project that will perhaps be his best work to date. —Ben Taylor
The last few months of 2018 have been a veritable free-for-all of album releases, but the one I was looking forward to the most didn’t materialize. The follow-up to ScHoolboy Q's 2016’s GRAMMY-nominated Blank Face LP is reportedly done and being held because of the death of friend and collaborator Mac Miller, which is more than understandable. I’m sure there are changes to be made and the never-ending process of mourning over losing a close friend needs to be tended to properly. But I’m very ready to go back out on a drive with Quincey whenever he’s ready to be out and about again. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green
Smino, Noname & Saba
So far the only news of this collaboration has come via a post on Smino’s Instagram story, but if it happens it would undoubtedly be one of the brightest projects of 2019. The trio of Smino, Noname and Saba rarely disappoint on their own or when they combine forces on a track, so I’m reeling thinking of what they could cook up if they linked for an entire album. After all, Noname said it best: “Smino Grigio, Noname, and Saba the best rappers, and radio niggas sound like they wearing adult diapers.” All facts, and not one opinion. —Kenan Draughorne
Though there is no confirmation that SZA plans to release a new album in 2019, the two-year TDE cycle we've been trained on lets me dream wistfully of the day that Solana drops yet another album that sounds like it was written specifically for me. Her voice is immaculate, her writing is tender and effective and knowing, and her topics strike at the exposed nerves of my anxious thoughts and lovingly coo them back to normal. SZA is a generational talent who has it in her to make an album of the decade. I'll be waiting. —Donna-Claire Chesman
Correction: In a previous version of this article, DJBooth reported that 'Black Panther: The Album' was only the second soundtrack to be nominated for a GRAMMY for Album of the Year. 'Black Panther: The Album' is the second soundtrack to be nominated for such an award in the 21st century, not ever.