Best Projects of 2018

 Evan Dale // Mitch Dumler // Kellen Fredrickson // Eric Laufer // Dec 29, 2018 

2018 was a phenomenal year for album and EP releases. It seemed like every day, another innovative project came our way by an established star. But in greater measure, inventive efforts blessed us from new-comers far and wide.  Now, we take a step back and reflect on our favorites from 2018. These are the best projects of the year...

Noname | Room 25

No matter your stance on hip-hop, no matter your opinions on its existing state, this album is a work of undeniable art. Noname has long established herself a lyrical force, known for her spoken word approach and irreplaceable knack for poetics, but Room 25 took everything she so craftily delivers and turned it up a notch. As a pure hip-hop album, its lyrical and productive synapses are genius. Further, as an inventive and influential rap album, it went unparalleled in 2018. Fans of old and new, fans of lyricism and melody find plenty to love. With Room 25, Noname made her case as the most talented rapper alive.

Our Original Reaction to Room 25:
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Why is Room 25 our Top Project of 2018? Read Below:
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SiR | November

There wasn’t a better pure R&B album to come out this year. That being said, pure is a loose term these days when vocalists also daylight as producers and rappers. Through his incredibly wide-ranging effort, the TDE signee did not disappoint, drafting an epic project as efficient as a storyline as it is a classic album, and for that, it was on repeat all year and finds itself now a staple of the burgeoning R&B futurist effort. SiR himself has since continued to make quiet waves, featuring across a swatch of other projects, but at this point in his young career, his work is always highlighted by November

Our Original Reaction to November:
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SAINt JHN | Collection One

The debut project by the rapper we named the Best New Artist of 2018, SAINt JHN's Collection One is everything we love about the young generation of experimental hip-hop artists. A balance between ignorant, high-energy hip-hop and vulnerable, relatable, emotionally-evoking storytelling, the album has it all. Coming in as a project far more wide-ranging than anyone was anticipating, the surprising work displays in equal measure SAINt JHN's knack for rapping and turning up as it does his vocalism and heartfelt emotion. It's a little difficult to believe that Collection One was only his debut. Be ready for more.

Our Original Reaction to Collection One:
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Jay Prince | CHERISH

This has to be one of the most underrated EP's to come out in 2018. As a part of London's exploding creative crew that also includes Mahalia and Kojey Radical, Jay Prince has been around for a little while, but this project is his crowning achievement. It's an absolutely lyrically-dominant performance that doesn't miss a step in it's anthemic chorus. Brimming with clubby jams like In the Morning and GLAM and coupled with emotional anthems like With U and Love Is, CHERISH is a thesis on Jay Prince's range and London's existence as a capital for the creatively experimental and boldly innovative.

Our Original Reaction to CHERISH:
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ASAP Rocky | Testing

It's never an easy task to create an album that lives up to years and years of expectational buildup, but ASAP Rocky, even in the face of great adversity, delivered. Testing lived up to its name as an experimentally bold project - a playground where Rocky was able to flex his musical risk-taking. But, it was also a really good hip-hop album, not losing a step in its ability to deliver the bangers and punch lines that we've come to expect from the Harlem multi-dimensionalist. In its wake, Testing has come to earn a growing amount of praise for its influence, while Rocky continues to build its story with a collection of music videos. 

Our Original Reaction to Testing:
The Internet | Hive Mind

When it comes to bold, unique projects, no one paralleled what The Internet was able to do with their anticipated 2018 album, Hive Mind. Even amongst the backdrop of nearly every member of the band embarking on successful solo careers, the group was able to come together and bring their wide range of influences to the table for a retro-nuanced work of genius whose inspiration stretches from Motown and Funk to alt-rock and modern R&B. The result is hands down one of the best and most musically-intact and respectable works of 2018, leaving nothing to be desired but more from each member.

Our Original Reaction to Hive Mind:
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Travis Scott | Astroworld

Hate him or love him - hate the new wave, melodic pop art take on hip-hop or love it - there is no denying that Travis Scott's Astroworld which was years in the making, is one of the most influential and creative projects to come out in the last decade. Not only did it surpass expectation while becoming one of the world's most popular album's of the year, it also delivered with it a tour that was able to capture its bizarre whimsy and carnival atmosphere. Scott is one of the great creative minds of our time and at this point in his still young career, Astroworld is his genius thesis.

Our Original Reaction to Astroworld:
Innanet James | Keep It Clean

Innanet James is one of the great underrated rappers in the modern scene. Though he's been around for a little while, the release of Keep It Clean is really his best work to date. Boiling over with some of the best lyricism we heard this year, the project finds its truest strength in his unique vocal approach and positivist approach to hip-hop in general. As if that wasn't all enough, the features he was able to bring into the project - Rexx Life Raj and Pusha T - do a great job of rounding it out. There isn't a misstep throughout its runtime, and it's definitely one of the easiest-listening works of the year. 

Our Original Reaction to Keep It Clean:
JMSN | Velvet

JMSN has always been one of the more talented, underrates performers in R&B and neo-soul, but with Velvet, he established himself also a force of funk, Motown revival, and classic soul. The project isn't of this era, or maybe of any era for that matter. Instead, it's a timeless work of funk-nuanced, Motown-influenced, net-soul R&B perfectionism that is smoother than its appropriate namesake. One of the most refreshing works of art that we heard this year, or anytime in the past ten years for that matter, Velvet is the kind if individualistic inventionism that all artists strive to create in their lifetime.

Our Original Reaction to Velvet:
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Anderson .Paak | Oxnard

When it comes to highly-anticipated projects, Anderson .Paak's Oxnard comes up short only to ASAP Rocky's Testing and Travis Scott's Astroworld. The result, much like Testing and Astroworld, is one of incredibly successful experimentalism and innovative creativity that will come to define the continuously ballooning modern funk and neo-soul scenes. Expectedly, Oxnard came to sound a lot different than anything else .Paak had ever released, but in that wide-ranging ability comes .Paak's true existence as one of the most talented, bold artists of his generation. 

Our Original Reaction to Oxnard:
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