Best EPs of 2018 (Staff Picks)

From Valee's G.O.O.D. Music grand opening to Meek Mill's post-prison return, our entire staff shares their picks for the best EP of 2018.
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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 favorite EPs of 2018.

Crush — Ravyn Lenae

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I have a crush on Ravyn Lenae. I told you as much when this EP dropped, and since February this project has stayed in my daily rotation. I really, really have a crush on everything Ravyn is doing here, from her staircase vocals to her timid writing on a love taking hold of her. She's smart with her pen and even smarter with her delivery. When I hear her, I think of Cecile McLorin Salvant, and that woman has more than one GRAMMY to her name. The stunning blend of jazz vocals and neo-soul, with Steve Lacy at the production helm, makes Crush an impeccable body of work in an era where everything counts as neo-soul and R&B. Ravyn is lithe and vulnerable from song to song. Nearly a year later, I still glean new emotions and standout moments from a project that comes in at 20 minutes in length. —Donna-Claire Chesman

2018 will go down as a definitive year in redefining the length of the album. With shorter attention spans from audiences competing with the streaming game making it easier to cash in on longer albums, some artists (see: G.O.O.D. Music) made albums nearly EP-length, while others (see: Drake, Migos, etc.) made albums with far too many tracks to make cohesive bodies of work. But it was an artist like Ravyn Lenae who made me reconsider a short project as a full body of work. At only five songs and just over 16 minutes, the Steve Lacy-produced Crush was on constant repeat, beating out many full-length albums on my year-end list and making lead track “Sticky” the perfect adjective for this wonderful body of work. Ravyn Lenae has my ears no matter the length of her future projects. —Ben Taylor

Don’t Forget About Me, Demos — Dominic Fike

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The story behind Dominic Fike’s rise from relative anonymity is an intriguing one: the Naples, Florida singer sparked a multi-label bidding war before eventually signing to Columbia Records, all without ever having released a song. Shortly after inking his deal, he released Don’t Forget About Me, Demos, a genre-bending six-track EP that wound up receiving social media co-signs from the likes of Kevin Abstract, Khalid, and Kourtney Kardashian. The bubbly pop-rap ballad “3 Nights” and the somber, introspective “King of Everything” are standouts, but throughout the project, Fike demonstrates his versatility and innate ability to craft a hit. His prominent promotion on Spotify’s curated playlists and features with Rolling Stone and Noisey serve as further testament to his bright future. —Stephen Barston

GOOD Job, You Found Me — Valee

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With GOOD Job, You Found Me, Valee didn’t just live up to the expectations that come along with a Pusha cosign and a G.O.O.D. Music record deal. In just 14 minutes, the Chicago purveyor of premium lip balm stamped his arrival as the label’s most promising talent. Unspooling some of the year’s finest luxury raps with the nonchalance of Tony Stark (high like a John Wall oop, of course), You Found Me is a six-track sprint through drugs, designer clothes, and truly indelible flows over eerie trap production sourced straight from the Upside Down. It’s been spawning copycats since March. —Brendan Varan

It’s Complicated — Wale

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Wale has always been an artist who created and completed full-length projects. Instead of delivering another album this year, the poetic rap star thought smaller, releasing three EPs. Luckily, operating within the EP medium didn’t mean sacrificing potency. Of the three EPs, It’s Complicated stood out for being succinct, yet fulfilling. Wale's ability to muse on women, love, and companionship from a mature perspective is why his penmanship is still refreshing all these years later. —Yoh

Legends of the Summer — Meek Mill

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Caught between the laidback confidence of Valee’s GOOD Job, You Found Me, the melancholy silliness of Tobi Lou’s tobi lou and the Loop and the sizzling chemistry of Homeboy Sandman & Edan’s Humble Pi, this was a tough call. But Meek Mill charged through with something even leaner. He could’ve rested on his laurels after being released from prison after multiple lengthy court battles, but he somehow felt energized enough to put together Legends of the Summer, a sleek sampler of his growing skills as an artist and politically minded figure. The street banger (“Milledelphia”), the love song (“Dangerous”), the club song (“1AM”), and the conscious song (“Stay Woke”), all airtight and ready to rock. After a year of setback, Legends of the Summer was his warning shot. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

RVLTN Chapter 1: The Divided States of AmeriKKKa — Bobby Sessions

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There wasn’t a 2018 project as brash, relentless, or committed to discomforting audiences as much as Bobby Sessions’ back-to-back EPs, both released on Def Jam. RVLTN Chapter 1 is a dense, often audacious, and immaculate examination of the current state of race relations in America, with the Dallas-born Sessions wielding the sword of political rap with as much swagger and command as one could ever expect. The RVLTN series as a whole has a lot left to explore, but Sessions’ beginning punches you in the mouth repeatedly, until you finally shut up and start listening to what he has to say. —Matt Wilhite

TwoFr — Kalan.Frfr

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On TwoFr, Kalan.Frfr proves he just might be the best hitmaker among the rising wave of talents from Los Angeles. With a melodic flow and a snapping, distinctive delivery, Kalan adds a kaleidoscope of colors to every track, over dynamic West Coast production that’s just as vibrant. Standout songs like “Right With It” and “Thugga Baby” get even better with every repeated listen, while the carefree warmth on “Star” will have you feeling like it’s summertime no matter how gloomy the skies may be. —Kenan Draughorne

tobi lou and the Juice — Tobi Lou

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I got familiar with Tobi Lou thanks to his collaborations with Michael Christmas (“Not the Only One”) and Smino (“Troop”), and like those two rappers, Tobi is a funny, charismatic, and relatable character who isn’t afraid to embrace his emotions or eccentricities. tobi lou and the Juice, the third release in his series of tobi lou and… EPs, blends joy, sadness, nostalgia, hope, and humor (“Alexa, tell these n*ggas to get off of my dick”) over bouncy, bass-heavy beats that give his lispy flows and cartoonish melodies a muscular backbone (he’s a “buff baby,” after all). tobi lou and the Juice is a sugary cocktail of youthful exuberance and 20-something sorrow. Also, you really need to watch his “Billy” video. —Andy James

The not-too-distant spiritual cousin of Smino, Tobi Lou flexes his singing and rapping all over tobi lou and the Juice, his third impressive EP of the year. Marked by colorful production and Tobi’s trademark wordplay, the EP succeeds primarily because of Tobi’s incredible flair for sneaking heady themes into songs that are otherwise packaged as catchy, upbeat, and fun. Consisting of seven songs, this EP is the longest body of work Tobi has put out in his short career thus far, so perhaps it’s a positive that I’m still craving more, looking ahead in anticipation of his debut album, slated to be executive produced by No I.D. —Hershal Pandya

Volume 1 — Pink Sweat$

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Considering I already gave Pink Sweat$ the nod for best 2018 debut, a debut that is a six-track EP that runs 14 minutes and 33 seconds in length, there was really no other choice here. From the expert songwriting to his tender vocals, to those damn pink shorts on the project's cover, Volume 1 is everything we want from an EP and more. It showcases the Philly native's talents, it contains no filler, it serves as a bridge to a full-length project, and it can be enjoyed on repeat. —Z

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