Most Disappointing Rap Albums of 2018 (Staff Picks)

From 'Scorpion' to 'ye' and everything in between, these were the most disappointing albums of the year.
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Best of 2018: Biggest Disappointment (Album)

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 biggest letdowns of 2018.

Kanye West — ye

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If it were possible to set politics aside from Kanye West in 2018, ye would still be the most disappointing album of the year. Where previous Kanye albums innovated and paved the way for music to come, ye is caught trying to keep up with the sounds of now and mostly comes across half-hearted. Although wisely rewritten a month before its release after the backlash to his harmful slavery comments, Kanye broke his own rule to never edit oneself and gave audiences what plays like a draft from the cutting room floor. Maybe that’s where the project should have stayed. —Ben Taylor

It isn’t that ye as an album is just bad (which it is), or whether Kanye was mentally healthy enough to make another album (which he likely wasn’t). The disappointment in ye is that almost every second of it feels diluted and poorly conceived. It’s an album full of nothing burgers for lyrics, concepts that fail to reach their end before being replaced by even less profound material, and the sinking notion that an artist most of us have been calling a genius for over a decade may have sacrificed his entire well-being and the good graces of his fans just to meet a deadline. Oh yeah, and he started wearing a motherfucking MAGA hat, too. —Matt Wilhite

Drake — Scorpion

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Between its bloated 25 tracks and its promotion on every single one of Spotify’s curated playlists (including those that didn’t actually have any Drake on them), Scorpionfrom the get-go—seemed like a contrived marketing ploy. Add in Drake’s most unexciting, run-of-the-mill output ever, and an annoying, seemingly immortal viral challenge and Scorpion becomes that much more of a disappointment. Drake, at the peak of his popularity, had the chance to bless us with a project that would inevitably shatter streaming records, and for good reason. Instead, he gave us, as Yoh so astutely put it, an album that just didn’t stick. —Stephen Barston 

Anderson .Paak — Oxnard

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There were far worse albums than Anderson .Paak’s major-label debut OxnardBawskee has nothing to worry about—but I never expected an artist as animated and passionate as Anderson .Paak could be so boring. Despite a handful of good songs ("Cheers" with Q-Tip, "Anywhere" with Snoop Dogg and The Last Artful, Dodgr, the back half of "6 Summers"), this sterile album barely passes muster as Apple commercial music. Bring on NxWorries 2! —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

Man, what was going through Andy's head when he made this one? The textures aren't fitting for his vocal delivery, which teeters on bored for half the record. He attempts to make funk, or Dr. Dre attempts to make Andy make funk, but that also sounds bored and unattached. I wasn't waiting for a sequel to any of .Paak's previous works. That's reductive. I wanted to see him grow, but Oxnard is a step back and to the left: worse and uninspired. Anderson .Paak has so much more in him, which is the biggest offense of all. —Donna-Claire Chesman

If every rap album from 2018 was a type of beverage, Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard would be LaCroix. Like LaCroix, Oxnard carries just enough essence of a flavor I really enjoy to cause me to crave something more full-bodied, but then it fails spectacularly to deliver on the promise it hints at. It is neither as thirst-quenching as an uncarbonated beverage, nor is it as indulgent as real soda. It is simply suspended infuriatingly between the two. Oxnard, like LaCroix, isn’t bad per se, but after the anticipation .Paak built in the wait that followed the release of Yes Lawd!, it was hard not to be more than a little let down by an unfocused collection of songs. —Hershal Pandya

You know an album is disappointing when what is arguably its best song is only good across its second half. —Brendan Varan

Disappointment is only possible when expectations are sky high, and no album release had greater expectations and caused more disappointment in 2018 than Anderson .Paak's Oxnard. In a vacuum, Oxnard isn't a "bad" album. But music isn't consumed or enjoyed in a vacuum. We cannot simply un-hear the entirety of an artist's catalog before pressing play on their next offering, and with that in mind, there is no way you could have ingested and lived with Malibu and NxWorries' Yes Lawd! and then walked away from Oxnard feeling anything but let down. —Z

BlocBoy JB — Simi

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This year, I’ve heard more noise about BlocBoy JB’s signature dance being stolen and co-opted by Fortnite than anyone caring about either his Simi mixtape or whatever he’s planning to release next. That’s not to say more people should be talking about the mixtape, as it was easily one of the most forgettable projects in a moment where he needed validation the most. It’s a shame he appears to have lost all the momentum from the seismic wave caused by “Look Alive,” but after seeing how often DJs would cut the song early after Drake’s part was finished, it probably should have been expected. —Kenan Draughorne

Nas — NASIR

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Some dreams stay dreams, some dreams come true, to quote Nas and Kanye West’s Hip Hop Is Dead collaboration. Unfortunately, NASIR was better off as a dream. Despite brief highlights like the Slick Rick-sampling ‘80s throwback “Cops Shot the Kid” and the ’90s Mafioso rap revival “Adam and Eve,” Mr. Jones’ Mr. West-produced album failed to recapture the flashes of chemistry they’ve shown in the past. In fact, Kanye’s production—expansive and theatrical in principle but jarring and disjointed in execution—suggests that he’s never actually listened to a Nas album in full. The blame doesn’t rest squarely on Kanye’s shoulders, though; at times, God’s Son’s book of rhymes borders on the baffling (“Edgar Hoover was black,” “Willie Lynch is a myth,” and “Fox News was started by a black dude” sound like conspiracy theories MAGA Ye might blurt out. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in those Wyoming studio sessions). Even if it didn’t carry the expectations of a Kanye West production, NASIR would still go down as a peculiar and disappointing Nas album. —Andy James

Quavo — QUAVO HUNCHO

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During the industry’s initial phase of Migomania, which preceded the release of “Bad and Boujee,” Quavo outsourced a number of melodic hooks and charismatic features building a solid rapport outside the budding trio. There was a glimmer of star power that could potentially maintain the group’s illumination as a solo act. With the release of QUAVO HUNCHO, Quavo’s debut solo album, all the excitement he accumulated for the project burst like a balloon caressed by Freddy Kruger. The overlong offering was proof the Migos belong together, and also confirmed how wrong I was to believe Quavo could stand alone. May the family never break up. —Yoh

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