2017 was a magical year for new music, but now that it’s officially in the past, let’s look towards the future and discuss the 25 projects we need in 2018. Some artists have kept us waiting for too long, some are in need of a new album to rejuvenate their careers and regain their grasp on the music scene, and some are promising up-and-comers only one great album from being the next big thing.
J Cole has never left his fan base albumless for a span of more than two years. Since the time he released his debut single Lights Please and freshman tape The Warmup in 2009, he has continued to consistently deliver acclaimed work. But since his 2016 album, 4 Your Eyes Only, he has been uncharacteristically quiet aside from a lone single named High For Hours. This leaves us hoping he’s not just still lying around somewhere high as shit, because truthfully Cole’s music is good for the world, and we would love a taste his progressive lyricism in 2018.
Mick Jenkins has always been one of the most interesting names in music. Though lyrically superior to nearly all other hip-hop artists, the Chicago rapper has never received the recognition he really deserves. His last album, The Healing Component, displayed his knack for lyricism, storytelling, and experimentation – a trait that has kept him out of the mainstream radar. But his next album, which hopefully comes in 2018 and in the predominantly experimental setting currently dominating hip-hop, might be just what he needs to make a bigger splash.
The Australian lord of experimental music formerly known as Chet Faker has had an interesting couple years. Changing his name to, well… his real name after experiencing a creative rebirth at first didn’t seem to be any sort of big deal. But now almost two years since the unveiling of Nick Murphy FKA Chet Faker, we’re still waiting for an album that shows us exactly what all of this means. The 2017 release of his new name’s first EP, Missing Link alongside more recent single, Medication, proved that he’s still got it, but an album would do wonders to ease all of our tensions and give us something to groove to until he changes his name again.
EARTHGANG dropped not just one, but two of the most intriguing projects of 2017 with twin EP’s Rags and Robots. They completely exploded onto the scene and have provided the hip-hop world with a much-needed alternative look into Atlanta’s music scene – one that is deeper, more lyrically bound, and far, far more unique. Fitting of this description, EARTHGANG alongside friend and collaborator, J.I.D., all signed with J Cole’s Dreamville Records, and are yet to release their debut full-length under its banner. Be on the lookout because when they do release the project, titled Mirror Land, they are primed to become one of the biggest acts not just in hip-hop, but in all of music.
There is no artist whose prospective album I am personally looking forward to more than Anderson .Paak. His last album, Malibu, brought him into the limelight where he belongs and his next album, which should come in 2018, will be the album the cements him as one of the best artists alive in any genre. He has proven his talent across the vast array of styles that he represents, has been constantly gaining notoriety from all sides of the music spectrum, and is sitting right he needs to be. The release of another album with the unmatched quality that he always brings very well might be the best project released in 2018.
When Villain Park released their impressive debut EP, Same Ol Shit, in 2015, it was as if a portal had opened and transported us to Long Beach in 1997. The old school vibes from the group of four youngsters was definitely a breath of fresh air, but since, we have been left gasping for more. The hip-hop world would benefit from the release of their debut album that would surely be filled with the production and lyricism expected not just from their previous work, but from their signing with Dom Kennedy’s OPM label – probably the most classically sounding West Coast label pumping out hits today.
Since we’re on the subject, I need some new Dom Kennedy in my life. I know Dom’s a busy man and that he puts out music more consistently than most, but I’m talking a classic album. Although 2017 left us with plenty of work from his Hal-A-Mil collaborative with Hit-Boy, it was one of those rare years where we weren’t blessed with the classic California sunshine project that we’ve come to expect and that acts as the perfect summertime playlist. Hopefully this year will be different.
Noname is truthfully one of the most talented wordsmiths alive today. Her poetic, spoken word approach is completely unique and impossible to replicate, and her debut album, Telefone, was one of the most refreshing projects in hip-hop in 2016. Amongst the rather polluted backdrop of other hip-hop music, artists like Noname and friend and collaborator Chance the Rapper, are uniquely positive, approachable, and borderline angelic. A 2018 solo project from Noname would not only be once again refreshing, but would provide her the chance to build upon her previous work, expand her influence, and spread her positivity to a world in desperate need.
In all honesty, I never thought Glass Animals could follow up their 2014 masterpiece, Zaba with an equally strong and unique project, but they more than proved me wrong with their 2016 sophomore album, How to be a Human Being. The bubbly, experimental album mixed indie, pop, electrnoic, and hip-hop elements and resulted in a one-of-a-kind project that was even creatively removed from their prior sound. The gap between the band’s first two projects was two years, so we’re hoping that 2018 will bring another Glass Animals album with another unique sound.
It’s no secret that we’re waiting for Astroworld. Scott has been discussing the project since before the release of his 2016 album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and with the unparalleled ascent to stardom that he has seen in the year and a half since, there is no better time for a new album than 2018. Since the release of his latest album the Houston artist has also released several singles including Butterfly Effect and 4 AM, alongside a relatively disappointing joint album with Migos rapper, Quavo. Astroworld may prove to be the most anticipated album in 2018.
It’s hard to believe that with the success Monte Booker has found from the very beginning of his career as a producer, songwriter, and vocalist that he has never released more than a four-song EP. His 2016 explosion, part in thanks to exposure through friend and collaborator Smino, left the young Chicago artist primed to become one of the next big producers in hip-hop, electronic, and R&B in 2017, but he still needs to release more music if he wants to reach the next step. Be on the lookout for a project this year.
Bear with me. Scandinavia has far too large an influence on the modern music scene to go unrepresented in this list, and Danish electro-pop star, Kill J, has gone far too long without giving us a proper album. A haunting falsetto, powerful lyrics, and a bizarre persona gives Kill J just what we look for in a modern electronic vocalist. She has been steadily releasing singles for years, but is yet to transfer her energy into putting together a full-length project. Doing so would provide her the further notice she deserves and open her up as a possible collaboration for an artist willing to take a risk on her unique talent.
Since he first appeared on the scene in 2011 with LIVELOVEA$AP, Rocky’s name has been included as a leader in hip-hop, but he hasn’t done anything to properly back up that claim in a while. It seems as though Pretty Flacko has been quietly meditating his next move. His hasn’t released a solo single since L$D in 2015– the final release leading up to his most recent album AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP. There have been talks of a new, experimental album in the works, and if he wants to reclaim his seat in hip-hop’s first class, he’ll need it out this year, and he’ll need it to blow away the expectations.
In 2015, Alina Baraz and Galamatias released one of the strongest debut EP’s in history. Its smooth blend of Galamatias’ electronic production and Alina Baraz’s sultry vocals transported its listeners to some sort of futuristic desert island dream world and we’ve all been wanting a ticket back since. Unfortunately, aside from the rare single, Alina Baraz and her dreamy voice have gone quite quiet. In 2017, she released two singles, Buzzin and Lavender and Velvet. Both were the excellent tracks that we expected and in combination with her feature on Khalid’s hit single, Electric, have given us hope that there is more tropical R&B around the corner in 2018.
It seems that an entirely new class of R&B artists proved their worth in 2017. SiR, DVSN, Daniel Caesar, Brent Faiyaz, just to name a few, released critically acclaimed albums that have changed R&B for the better. So how will the previously uncontested kings like Frank Ocean and the Weeknd respond? I’m not going to hold my breath for another Frank Ocean project anytime this decade, so that leaves us with the Weeknd. His last release, Starboy, shot him into even further fame than before, but the notion of a wider audience might demand that makes his next album more approachable. Either way, it’s in the Weeknd’s best interests to release an album in 2018 and attempt to defend his crown.
Four singles in 2017 have given us reason to believe that bubbly Canadian R&B trio turned duo, DiRTY RADiO is going to release a bigger project in 2018. The group seems to have regrouped, touched up their sound, and caught their stride in recent months, delivering some of their best work yet. At this point, more than five years removed from their last album Cassette, in 2012, they have essentially just restarted altogether but find themselves doing so in a climate more open than ever before to R&B and electronic music which is right up their alley. They should take advantage.
K. Forest is one of those artists that is able to transcend a plethora of genres, choose bits and pieces from each of them, and melt them together into his own unique sound somewhere between reggae dancehall and Atlanta trap rap. The Canadian artist is one of the more unique artists on our radar and displayed his individuality as he bombarded his audience with nine very different sounding singles in 2017. Ranging from soft R&B to aggressive, low-fi hip-hop, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that K. Forest is bringing to the table. Whatever it is, we like it and we’re excited to see a full, more cohesive project in 2018.
The future of hip-hop may very well lie in SAINt JHN’s hands. The New York-based artist has amassed a huge following over the past two years and everyday it seems that hip-hop in general shifts further towards his direction. His style is hard to define. He’s certainly part of the new-age reggae-inspired, low-fi hip-hop movement but he does so in a way that just seems more genuine than others. Like a villain that an audience can’t help but sympathize with, the darkness suits SAINt JHN. His prowess to lay down a banger is like nothing we’ve heard before, but something we hope to hear a lot more of in 2018 with the release of his debut album. Crossing our fingers.
Flatbush Zombies is one of those groups with the intensity and creativity necessary for a cult following to grow and to thrive. Unfortunately in hip-hop, those cult followings are maintained with a steady release of music and Flatbush has failed there. When Palm Trees brought them a global audience in 2013, the music world was not subsequently blessed with a smattering of projects, but instead with relative silence until 2016. 3001: A Laced Odyssey succeeded in delivering us to the twisted, dark, trippy world that Flatbush Zombies seems to exist in, but if they want to continue their climb, they need to put together another new project as soon as possible.
Isaiah Rashad released his first album under the TDE masthead in 2016 and was instantly catapulted into widespread success. With artists like Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and Schoolboy Q available as co-signees, collaborators, and friends, it’s not hard to imagine that his next album, which will likely be an even more TDE-influenced work, pushing him to the next level. We’re hoping that even though TDE likes to take their time with their big name releases, that Isaiah Rashad’s will bless us in 2018.
Night Lovell’s music sounds something out of the underworld. It’s dark, mysterious, grimy, and yet, tantalizingly addicting. He doesn’t sound quite like anyone else out there right now and with each release, seems to separate further from the rest of the hip-hop scene – in a good way. He has the sound that a lot of low-fi, grungy rappers are going for these days, but no one seems to pull it off except for him. His last album, Red Teenage Melody, came in 2016 and can very well be looked at as the dark-matter version of Khalid’s bubbly American Teen. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to Night Lovell’s 2018 album to help us deal with all the bullshit we’re bound to come across.
Saba made a splash when he released his debut album Bucket List Project, in 2016, and although he didn’t follow up with another album in 2017, he released a smattering of music giving us hope that another full-length project is on the way soon. Saba’s wide range of influences provides him a unique sound certainly born of electronic production and jazzy flow. He seems to have matured further with every single release and is ready to step back into the limelight in 2018 as one of the young hip-hop community’s spiritual leaders.
The world was primed for a Pusha T takeover in 2015 when he released Darkest Before The Dawn: The Prelude, but the altogether lackluster final product left us wanting more that we knew the president of G.O.O.D Music could deliver. Unfortunately, other than a sparse trio of singles in 2016 and obscure news in 2017 that Kanye West would be in charge 100% of the production for Pusha’s next album, he has completely disappeared. Perhaps the long hiatus not just from Pusha T, but also from Kanye, means that big things are simply in the works, and for Pusha T’s sake in particular, we certainly hope so.
Cautious Clay is the living definition of doing more with less. The young New York-based singer and songwriter released two singles in 2017, tripling his canon, and becoming a household name overnight. Well, maybe ‘a household name’ is a bit dramatic, but it might truly be the case when he releases his debut EP Bloodtype set to be released in early 2018. His powerful delivery, humble lyrics, and positive overall sound are appealing to a wide audience and also provide him the chops necessary to collaborate with other artists. If all goes to plan and he releases Bloodtype soon, prospective collaborators will be lining up at his door.
Last February, electronic behemoths Guy and Howard Lawrence, better known by their duo’s moniker, Disclosure, announced they would be taking the year off for a much needed and much deserved rest. After seven years of dominance on the electronic circuit, it’s only fair and probably healthy for them to do so. But if we know anything about Disclosure, they probably have new music in the making and are itching to get back to their craft. For the sake of electronic music and for the sake of 2018, we certainly hope a new project will be on the way soon.
Check out our playlist including our favorite song from all the artists mentioned in the article.