14 Albums from 2018 We’re Still Playing in 2019

What albums stood the test of time?
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14 Albums from 2018 We’re Still Playing in 2019

Making enduring music is a feat for any artist. Some music lasts a summer; some music lasts a generation. With 2019 more than half over, we thought it would be fun to ask our staff to pick the three albums from 2018 that they've kept spinning in 2019. 

These are the 2018 albums that struck our hearts and our ears in the same turn. And, yes, we know we forgot your favorite album, and this article is trash. That's why we wrote it!

777, by KEY! & Kenny Beats

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Even in the throes of heartbreak, KEY! knows what it means to have fun. He and producer Kenny Beats managed to bottle a summer vacation with their electric collaboration album 777KEY!’s ear for melody and proto-Sad Boi raps and Kenny’s kitchen-sink production style have continually fueled the pep in my step for the last 15 months. –Dylan CineMasai Green 

Con Todo El Mundo, by Khruangbin

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Khruangbin’s songs don’t have words, which is a good thing, because I don’t have the words to describe the ethereal feeling I get from listening to their music. On Con Todo El Mundo, the Houston-based trio can do no wrong. Their signature brand of Thai funk never gets old no matter how often it’s on repeat. At the time of this writing, August 10 is less than two weeks away; on that day, I’d be stunned if anything other than “August 10” is playing from my speakers. –Kenan Draughorne

DiCaprio 2, by JID

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With his debut project, 2017’s The Never Story, JID explained why he was a man of nothing. The follow-up, last year’s DiCaprio 2, has the Atlanta mastermind pondering his accelerating career on the road to rap dreams. The beauty of JID isn’t his technical prowess, but his worldview. As a son of East Atlanta, when he raps, “We a long way from Decatur” on the soulful deep-cut “Off Da Zoinkys,” you feel him with every bone in your body. DiCaprio 2 is the thrill of hearing 14 animated stories told by a natural conversationalist. The stories have yet to get old. –Yoh

DiCaprio 2 is the story of a prodigy coming into his own; a diverse soundscape dominated by the Dreamville star’s infectious rhymes and A1 production. The East Atlanta Playboy garnered Kendrick comparisons after The Never Story, but those were unfair; he’s not the same generational storyteller. My preferred comparison is pre-mainstream fame Weezy, with his rapid, Area 51-level flow and an ability to control the pace like a point guard on the open floor. JID can transition athletically from earth-shaking bangers like "151 Rum" to the Ansel Elgort-cosigned requiem for stability "Off Da Zoinkys" without missing a single beat. Still impressive. –Zachary Miller

Harlan & Alondra, by Buddy

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Buddy was the consensus MVP of the Revenge of the Dreamers III recording sessions, and perusing his debut album makes it easy to see why. His energy is contagious, but he brings wisdom beyond his years. Harlan & Alondra is the aspirational come-up story of 2018; a top-down, bass-up tour of Buddy’s summertime L.A., replete with tales of the previous mischief and boasts of future success. More than anything, Buddy makes you invested, makes you believe—in him, in Compton, in the fun you’re having in the present and the greater things yet to come. –Zachary Miller

Honeybloom, by Choker

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When I reviewed this album last August, I wrote: "[its] density offers a unique opportunity to sink your teeth in and let it unravel slowly." Fortunately, for my sake, this prophecy ultimately proved correct. Choker builds nearly every song on Honeybloom around at least three separately contagious hooks, which are structured to feel novel, even as you listen to it dozens of time over. –Hershal Pandya

Lady Lady, by Masego

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I chose Lady Lady as my favorite non-rap album of 2018, and nearly one year later, I have only grown more confident in my selection. “Queen Tings” has become my favorite song on the project, as its gentle riffs and rhythms provide a soothing reprieve from the summer heat. Still, the entire album is so dazzling that I wouldn’t be surprised if a different song is my new anthem by the end of 2019. –Kenan Draughorne

Neva Looking Back, by DaBoii

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The lone rap album on my list belongs to DaBoii, with his stellar solo project Neva Lookin Back. His grizzled vocals shine in an individual setting, packing charisma into every song to make each bar land with authority. Funky basslines and colorful synths supply plenty of energy. Even without his SOBxRBE companions, DaBoii is just as capable of carrying a project himself. –Kenan Draughorne

NOIR, by Smino

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Regarding NOIR, there’s no point in over-intellectualizing it; Smino is a delight. His cadence is so charming, and his presence is so warm that, if it came down to it, I’d listen to Smino read technical instruction manuals for products I don’t own. That he chooses to deliver albums like NOIR instead, packed with infectious crooning and absurd rhyme schemes, is a welcome upgrade, but not even necessarily a requisite one. –Hershal Pandya

Smino, the prodigal son of St. Louis, is one-of-one; a dexterous rapper and underrated fantastic singer with an ear for the waviest production you’ll hear in contemporary hip-hop. NOIR feels like a drunken ride through Smino’s hometown—the most fun night of your life with the freshest tour guide you’ve ever met. Neo-soul influences infiltrate every corner of NOIR, but he keeps you on your toes, interpolating sung hooks over springy, Dr. Seuss-off-the-Henny bars. Smino sounds like blunt smoke and the best nights with the homies. Always comfortable, never dull. –Zachary Miller

Paraffin, by Armand Hammer

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billy woods and Elucid are a tag team in the truest sense. Their work has the polish of a duo, but their respective visions blend to create a seamless, singular experience. Paraffin—their latest collaboration as the group Armand Hammer—is both bleak and beautiful, hilarious and pissed-off in equal measure. The events of 2019 have had me contemplating the end of the world; Paraffin is its soundtrack. –Dylan CineMasai Green

Room 25, by Noname

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Noname’s pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism. This blurb could end there. For the sake of playing the game, though, Fatimah came into her own on this album. I listen to Room 25 weekly for its emotive and sonic range. The live instruments are warm and lively; the writing is inviting and bare. Room 25 is the story of a woman appraising her womanhood in contrast to the woman society tells her to be. Noname deconstructs so much, but with such an attractive wit, it’s impossible to stop learning from and adoring this album. –Donna-Claire Chesman

Some Rap Songs, by Earl Sweatshirt

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Throughout his third studio album, aptly titled Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt has the unhurried patience of a Buddhist monk and the abstract perspective of a wise philosopher. Lyrically, the former wunderkind of technical rap is uncharismatically loose. He replaces traditional song structures with shortwinded streams-of-consciousness. Despite his unconventional approach, there’s an alluring clarity within his every line. Some Rap Songs is a rapper in a state of meditation rather than vying for GRAMMYs and G.O.A.T. nods; it’s music that doesn’t take itself or the prodigy auteur too seriously while respecting the art form. It’s a perfect batch of rap songs that I revisit weekly. –Yoh

There’s concise, and then there’s Some Rap Songs. It only takes Earl Sweatshirt 24 minutes to undergo a sun-bleached trip through grief and brotherhood that demands repeat visits. It still blows my mind that a major-label released An album with beats this disorienting and vocals this muddy. Some Rap Songs is the only album I listened to for the first three months of 2019. –Dylan CineMasai Green

Swimming, by Mac Miller

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Yeah, duh. Surprise that Year of Mac girl is still listening to Swimming, but how could I not when Swimming is Mac’s most mature, most resolved, and most beautifully arranged album to date. The music is arresting, honest, and enveloping. The music is cutting. The music is damn near perfection. Every corner of Swimming glistens with the polish of an artist who knew the power of his voice. Swimming is a daily listen. A no-skips, no-frills feat on Mac’s part that leaves me with a new lesson each time I press play. –Donna-Claire Chesman

Swimming is an incredible album. The honesty, the struggle, and the self-reflectiveness that radiates from Mac’s magnum opus is breathtaking. Each song contains redeemable qualities that can help make life a little brighter when the days seem dark. Swimming is too important to let go; it’s an album rooted in humanity, and it will forever hold its place in my rotation. –Kevin Morency

I could imagine someone making the case that Swimmings lasting appeal stems from the tragic fate that befell its creator, but I’d argue this assessment is reductive beyond reason. The album is a compositional triumph, rich with gorgeous layers of instrumentation, dynamic vocal performances, and intensely cathartic lyrics that inspired the most personal article I’ve ever written. I’m confident this album would have stayed in my rotation regardless of the circumstances. –Hershal Pandya

Victory Lap, by Nipsey Hussle

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Nipsey Hussle was patient, a man of strategy and calculation. The late Los Angeles icon waited until the time and terms were right to make sure his long-awaited debut album, Victory Lap, was more than an album title. Over production too pristine for any rapper not named Rick Ross, Nipsey pours out a lifetime of pride and inspiration. Each song is a message of hustle and motivation. Each revisit feels like I’m being uplifted and pushed to snatch stars out of the sky. His first may have been his last, but Nipsey Hussle was ready to stand the test time with Victory Lap. –Yoh

X 100PRE, by Bad Bunny

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My father loves Bad Bunny. I love my father. Through the transitive property, I love Bad Bunny. But really, I would love Bad Bunny either way. X 100PRE is the Latinx trap album of all our lives. The record ranges from heavy bangers to ’80s inspired cuts, to pop-punk ballads. X 100PRE showcases Bad Bunny as a lover of music. Every time I visit my girlfriend in Philly, someone on her block is blasting the album out of their car and down the street. Though he released X 100PRE in the dead of winter, it’s a Bad Bunny summer in the city, actual proof that this album stands the test of time. –Donna-Claire Chesman

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