2018 in Projects (So Far...)

Halfway through the year, it's easy to tell that 2018 has so far been and will continue to be an incredible year for music. A barrage of releases has dotted the landscape, giving way for a tremendous amount of innovation and sonic experimentation the likes of which are so defining that few epoch's in music history have ever paralleled it. A continuance of the stylistic transcendence that we saw taking form last year has further unrooted the archaic foundations of traditional genre, while artists are constantly being recognized and respected more for their individuality and creative risk-taking. From a steady stream of projects from music's elite to a new wave of creators taking never-before-heard directions with their musicality, these are the 25 projects most innovative, influential, and defining of 2018 so far...

January 12, Crayon, Post Blue

Through soft, jazzy guitar chords, smooth, subtle production, and a vast dotting of impressive vocal features and samplings, Crayon tells an auditory tale that warms our minds and collects our thoughts neatly, leaving us with only one conviction: Post Blue dictates the direction that we hope electronic music pushes towards in 2018 – a direction that exists in the creative grey areas between genre, filled with the unique sounds and individualism of pure, talented artists.

January 16, SiR, November

November is not to be taken lightly. It’s the kind of creative display we expected from SiR and does nothing but surpass all expectations, exhibiting the buttery vocals that make him a star in R&B and the unique delivery that make him something else entirely. A listener would be hard-pressed to find an artist with a more enlightened combination of vocal and lyrical skill, and thanks to his youth and the talent surrounding him at TDE, it’s only the beginning.

January 19, Rejjie Snow, Dear Annie

It’s been half a decade since Rejjie Snow first graced hip-hop with his ominous, darkly mysterious, somewhat gothic presence. I’m not going to type out some long-winded explanation of the album. I’m not going to dissect it. I’m not going to tell you what to make of it or to think of it. I’m simply going to leave it here and let the mastery of a debut project five years in the making let you construct your own conclusions.

February 21, Cautious Clay, Blood Type EP

What’s most impressive is Clay’s ability to build a project around three acclaimed singles that instead of highlighting and exhibiting them, includes them as equals into a cohesive and strong body of work. Blood Type is of a rare quality that allots for select tracks to be listened to individually or for the project’s entirety to be celebrated as a whole, while refusing to lose ground qualitatively in either scenario.

February 23, JD. Reid, Tree

Tree is a 15-song stew mixed of a long and impressive list of features across the British hip-hop, grime, and R&B multiverse and brought together with the silky-smooth broth of Reid’s production genius. It’s a tremendous achievement that not only exhibits the unparalleled talent of the current UK scene, but does so in a way that doesn’t take away from the cohesion and creative direction of the album as a whole.

February 23, Poppy Ajudha,

FEMME

It only comes in at 16 minutes, but Poppy Ajudha’s debut EP is one of the most powerful projects in quite some time. The jazzy South London vocalist has been making waves of late, and for good reason. In a world where R&B, soul, pure instrumentalism, and jazz seem to be gaining constant favor on global tastes, an artist who exists as something of a beautiful mosaic of all those styles, is sure to blossom.

March 1, The Philharmonik,

The Philharmonik

Something about his vast range of styling is simultaneously so cohesive. From top to bottom, The Philharmonik’s debut is a work of creative genius on par in quality and importance with albums like Black Messiah and Malibu. And in due time, by due process, the Philharmonik is due to find himself seated amongst his fellow multidimensional gods in the flourishing global scene of unbound and indefinable music. 

March 16, Sango, In The

Comfort Of

Though the album is certainly Sango's, its greatest strength, like most of the work throughout his career, is that it isn't his alone. It's not to say that Sango himself isn't an unbelievable artist worthy of his fame and following, but his uncanny knack for connecting with smorgasbord of artists that so frequently feature his music is what makes him an incomparable force, and what make In The Comfort Of his keystone project.

March 30, The Weeknd, My

Dear Melancholy,

A not-so-young-anymore Abel seems to have found his old groove with the emotionally downtrodden and hyper-suggestive six-track EP. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia that comes with it, not just for lovers past and blurry memories of one-night stands, but for the R&B artist who, through his struggles with the limelight and a plethora of forces pulling him in all directions, had previously lost touch with himself.

March 30, Gracy Hopkins, For Everyone Around Rage

The most dynamic and artistically-influenced record in recent memory has come from a source often attributed with creativity but rarely labelled a hallmark of the modern hip-hop scene. With a view of the Seine outside his studio, Gracy Hopkins – an enigma, a dynamo of musical talent and creative courage – has released his sophomore project, For Everyone Around Rage – which acronymed (FEAR) is a creative allusion to his obsessive exploration of phobias.

March 31, SAINt JHN, 

Collection One

Collection One feels like an album made by a collaborative quartet of top-tier hip-hop veterans spread across the spectrum. The fact that one man is largely responsible makes it an early front runner for album of the year, and makes SAINt JHN perhaps the most important emerging name in music. We’re on record as saying before that the future of hip-hop may very well lie in SAINt JHN’s hands

April 6, ODIE, ANALOGUE

A son of Nigerian immigrants with roots in Toronto and an adolescence spent in the Bay Area, it’s a blanket understatement to say that his influences are many. But a blanket statement is really the only kind that can be made to describe someone whose range is as wide as ODIE. Growing up in a household soundtracked by Sunny Ade, a youthful foundation in a city that now dominates the hip-hop and R&B charts, and a coming-of-own in the creative sphere of San Francisco all blend their own roles into ODIE’s larger picture.

April 20, J. Cole, KOD

There is no reason to dress it up. You know J. Cole. You know his style, his virtues, his blatantly abrasive views on hip-hop, and quite honestly, his opinions on all of modern culture that have been built up around its central pull. He is a traditionalist, a lyricist – a poet in fact, and a classicist. And KOD is, by every definition, a classic the likes of which only come from the most profoundly influential songwriters in all of music.

April 23, Raury, The Woods

Freeing himself and subsequently his music from the restrictive governing bars of his record deal, the 21-year-old leader of the artistically youthful wave with an old soul and an deep canon, deepened it with a mass celebratory release of 22 new singles. This is unprecedented, shocking, and bold, and so very Raury. It is a slap in the face of music industry traditionalism; a warm embrace of his audience ; the strike of a match that may very well lead to a further undermining of archaic industry standards.

April 27, Tobi Lou, Tobi Lou and the Loop

The entirety of the project boasts a feeling of continuity that’s especially strong in a world defined more by short tracks and an ADHD bunny shuffling of styles and approaches. But its refreshing identity goes deeper than that. Its sound – Tobi Lou’s sound – is a much-welcomed antidote to the increasingly negative, grimy, and low-fidelity spectrum of hip-hop’s current mainstream focus.

May 2, Kid Fiction, Kid Fiction

A deep and harmonizing transcendence of influences and experimentation have brought Kid Fiction to where he is today - amidst the long-awaited release of his self-titled, debut EP - and more than anything amidst a phase change. He has been writing and performing under his current moniker for 9 years, and producing music for 17, but this project is the first that bears his name. It doesn't disappoint. Instead, it breaths of his unique, texturally rich approach that's changing electronic music.

May 18, KYLE, Light of Mine

There is nothing forced in KYLE's music which seems to be simply a living representation of him as an individual. Easy-going. Hard-working. Trying to find his way. Struggling with his love life. Confident in himself. Bubbly. Positive. Open. At the end of the day spent listening to Light of Mine, its hard not to find yourself being a more approachable, content, and loving individual than you were the day before. Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how powerful something like that can be.

May 25, Jay Prince, CHERISH

CHERISH, an EP blessed with an album’s length and an epic’s sense of storytelling ability makes good use of the four songs released in its lead up. But in no way, shape, or form do the additions of the subsequent five cheapen or water down the strength of the final product. From start to finish, from track one through track nine, it is simply great. CHERISH is an achievement the likes of which seem to be becoming increasingly more common in London, and increasingly less so everywhere else in the world. 

May 25, Pusha T - DAYTONA

One of Pusha T’s most redeeming traits is his academic level of lyricism that always seems to seamlessly blend into an extremely digestible take on classic hip-hop entirely his own. Whether it’s his long-storied run as a predominant lyricist dating back to Clipse, the sheer amount of collaborative efforts his career has boasted with th most prolific writers, or simply that he is at his deepest self-delineation, a poet, there has never been any question about his place amongst the most talented of writers in music.

May 25, A$AP Rocky - Testing

Testing is here not only to change hip-hop’s course as each of Rocky’s previous projects have; it is here to change its entire sonic landscape. At the end of the day, what may be most impressive is not necessarily that A$AP is so violently searching to unearth hip-hop’s future sounds, but that he is seemingly carrying with him the rest of the game on his shoulders. Testing is essentially a group project thanks to the vast variety of features that lend their unique style to Rocky’s thorough retro-futuristic vision.

June 8, Kid Cudi & Kanye West, KIDS SEE GHOSTS

KIDS SEE GHOSTS is an angst-ridden display of vibrant Kid Cudi creativity and violent Kanye production. It is, by any measure, the best Cudi project in more than a half-decade, the most-well-rounded production in Kanye’s canon since Yeezus, and the emergent spotlight construct to come out of the Wyoming days era. It’s hard to put into words just how much a Kid Cudi project of this caliber will come to mean.

June 15, Alxndr London, 2023

“Welcome to my universe” bleeds the superhuman falsetto of Alxndr London in his most apt of greetings to 2023, a project whose futurist title is perhaps not set far enough into a distant timeline to do justice to his musicality’s slitting of conventionalism’s wrists. If the album’s titling is in fact a mistake born of London’s humble nature, it is the sole error revolving around the project’s entirety. The rest is bold innovation, imperfect perfection. 

June 23, Home Away, 

Somewhere in Between

Truly bending the term indie to its furthest push, Moreshead again finds himself composing a seemingly collaborative construct as an independent. Yet, if there’s one thing to speak on through the duration of Home Away’s debut project, it’s that nothing – nothing – is lost in its soloist exploits. The project is genuine enlightenment and musical enjoyment in soft indie and mellow pop’s grandiose stages of honesty and everyday listenability.

June 29, Drake, Scorpion

It would be hard to listen to the entirety of Scorpion and not in some sense or another come to the conclusion that it is a great project. Its length – certainly a risk amongst the recent movement to release shorter and shorter hip-hop projects – allows Drake to explore the wide range of his entire career and do so seamlessly. At times, the vast differences between his collection of approaches leaves the album lacking a certain congruency, but honestly, that’s the biggest fault to find with the album.

June 29, Kelechi, Spring Breakup

At an epoch in hip-hop history where the artists who boast the most thorough and widespread ranges of talent and ability are quickly taking over not just the confines of the genre, but all of music, Kelechi, by way of Woke Up To Winter and now with Spring Breakup is primed for a successful rise through the lustful hearts of the industry. Uniqueness, after all, is what we need more of, and Kelechi is nothing if not an intriguingly independent force.