Best Artists of 2018
Evan Dale // Mitch Dumler // Kellen Fredrickson // Eric Laufer // Dec 31, 2018
2018 was another expectedly amazing year for music. Established stars and newcomers alike showed up to make sure the calendar was brimming with innovative and influential releases from the world over. But of all the artists to put out great music, these were the best to do it in 2018...
British soulstress and the sole queen of the year, Mahalia was absolutely everywhere in 2018. A knack for connecting emotionally on each and every track, a youthful, positive, natural energy, and first and foremost, a striking, one-of-a-kind voice coupled with a steady stream of feature, single, video, and project releases to mark the year undeniably hers. As R&B, hip-hop, and neo-soul move forward as the most powerful musical movements of the times, they find themselves centered around the creativity of the UK. And the UK follows in the footsteps of their spiritual and artistic leader, Mahalia.
Read why Mahalia is our Best Artist of 2018:
Malahia's 2018 by us:
When Bubblin’ ,its video, and its subsequent remix featuring a retro verse from Busta Rhymes sparked the early half of the year with its much-needed dose of Anderson .Paak, the world took notice. Excited and in equal measure standoffish, .Paak’s exploding fan base questioned what his heavily anticipated 2018 album would come to hold. And in true Anderson .Paak fashion, it was completely unexpected. The transcendental multi-instrumentalist, producer, rapper, and singer delivered a vibrant, funk, jazz, and soul inspired album that shook the very definition of hip-hop. As one of the fastest growing artists in music, Anderson .Paak delivered again in 2018.
Anderson .Paak's 2018 by us:
Rae Sremmurd was everywhere in 2018. But in no place did they do more than with their own album, SR3MM. To be honest, calling it an album is unfairly short sided. Built of three discs, SR3MM is a super project that would be enough to fill most artist’s career catalogues. But for Rae Sremmurd as the spiritual leaders of the young melodic hip-hop movement, the album also came accompanied by a smattering of singles, videos, and guest appearances across hip-hop. A defining year to say the least.
There may not be a more wide-ranging creative multi-dimensionalist than British-Ghanaian musician-designer-videographer, Kojey Radical. The impossibly young, increasingly successful artistic mogul went wild with the musical side of his passions in 2018 with a vibrant collection of features, singles, and video releases that never once fell short in inspiring thought. Driven by socio-political and personal penmanship, statements made left and right by Kojey left their mark on his music. And his music, driven secondly by fervent experimentation and afro-influenced direction left their mark on the world, scoring a spot in the coveted FIFA soundtrack and making some serious moves throughout the year.
Kojey Radical's 2018 by us:
As one of the less expected names on our list of best artists, South London jazz vocalist Poppy Ajudha had one of the more explosive 2018’s in all of music. The young singer and songwriter began the year with the release of her debut project, FEMME and followed it up with a live cut. From there, a pair of single releases and a sophomore EP also graced the scene. Beyond her personal work, a feature on Tom Misch’s acclaimed album, Geography granted her more widespread and deserved notoriety. Oving forward into 2019, Poppy Ajudha is bringing with her a more global admiration for modern takes on classic stylings.
Poppy Ajudha's 2018 by us:
No one did it bigger in 2018 than Travis Scott. With presumably every human being on the planet being exposed to his music in one way or another, the young Houston hero cemented his position as one of hip-hop history’s greats. Personal life aside, Travis Scott was driven by the release of his many-years-in-the-making super-album, Astroworld which topped charts on every continent. Coupling the fervent success of Astroworld with a tour highlighting the same absurdist whimsy, Travis Scott continues his global introduction at the top-teir of the music industry.
Our Thoughts on Astroworld:
Jazz Cartier plowed through 2018 at a pace and with an energy only matched by his tour-mate SAINt JHN. The high-energy and impossibly addicting direction of his deliverables streamed like a thesis on the melodic and turnt up spectrum of modern hip-hop music. Right Now, Godflower, and Which One paved the way for Jazz Cartier to finally construct the heavily-anticipated, years-in-the-making album, FLEUREVER. The result was the kind of project the hip-hop community had always expected from the young Torontonian. With one of the more prolific, high-energy, and innovative 2018’s in music, Jazz Cartier has revived his position as one of the most promising young artists in music.
Jazz Cartier's 2018 by us:
No one put together a more well-rounded, strong, and explosively gifted album in 2018 than Chicago’s Noname. Room 25 was the most lyrically-driven hip-hop album in years, and it came at the hands of an artist who, much like her fellow Chicago conscious rappers, propelled her music forward with notions of social and political statements. Where traditional ideologies on hip-hop have wavered in recent years and with recent movements, Noname took it back to its roots, built on the pillars of raw lyricism and intensive flow. And she did it all without pushing away modernity, and instead embraced it.
Noname's 2018 by us:
2018 was a year of heavily anticipated albums coming to fruition on the global scale and living up to every bit of their expectation, and seemingly in every case, exceeding it. One of the most successful project unveilings that keeps coming to life with a further exploration of its thematics through hyper-creative music videos was ASAP Rocky’s Testing. The album, years in the making, very much lives up to its name. Highlighted by brash experimentation and living in the space of futuristically in-touch hip-hop grey areas, Testing is in every way that it is a bold and ingenious project, a classic hip-hop album.
Our Thoughts on Testing:
Smino continues to be one of the most underrated rappers, if not one of the most underrated artists in all of music. Splitting his time and energy between St. Louis and Chicago – between the traditions of southern hip-hop and the conscious experimentation of the Midwest’s reemerging capital, Smino is doing absolutely everything to make his presence felt. As if the innumerable features he blessed his collaborators with wasn’t enough, Smino also released an expectedly innovative followup album to his acclaimed 2017 blckswn. Noir – every bit as bold and defining – helped to cement Smino’s place atop hip-hop’s elite and undefinable champions.
Smino's 2018 by us: