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THE BEST OF 2018 PART 2: THE YEAR IN HIP HOP

Far too much good stuff this year for it to just be a top 30, so here's my top 50 singles/EPs/albums in hip hop this year. If there's quote-marks they'll be from reviews I wrote in DJ Magazine or Wire Magazine. Thanks as ever to the bloggers & sites that keep this old knacker vaguely in the loop especially Ginger Slim and Suspect Packages.

BTW - heard a lot from friends this year that they feel totally out of touch with hip hop in 2018 and want to know what's good. Rather than castigate their laziness I would just say - check out the top 20 here and you WILL find something that will reconnect you with hip hop. Then push on into the other stuff. And stay in touch using Ginger Slim & Suspect Packages and my hip hop page in DJ Mag and this blog and follow whatever you dig on Twitter for an endless feed of new heat.

What decided the order by the way was simply that I tried to be honest about the things that I genuinely returned to over and over again. The higher up the list, the more I've needed to hear it this year, but it's been an AMAZING year, every single one of these 50 I'd call essential.

As ever, anything I missed, or stuff you want to point me towards should be put in the comments, cheers m'dears x

To read my 2018 metal list click here
To read my 2018 bass-music list click here


50. LEE SCOTT X JAZZ T 
Ceiling/Urn Money 
(Boot Records)
". . . a feeling of finesse here that’s new for Boot, although don’t worry nothing sounds clean exactly - Scott cocks a lyrical leg and squeezes out some great stream-of-consciousness agit-pop sermonising throughout, JT keeps everything punching hard but without that customary build-up of filthy-fuzziness you might expect. Superb from all involved, and something new from everyone too. Essential."

49. 700 BLISS 
Spa 700 EP 
(Halcyon Veil) 
". . .  the mix of Haram's Arabic-inflected beats and Moor's stunning Afro-futurist-feminist rhymes provides perhaps one of the most necessary and needed records of the year thus far. 'Ring The Alarm' is the kicking pivot here, a banger that makes lines like "That anti-black’s programmed in your head/Now you wanna steal my culture/Already killed my father/Now you wanna stop my bread" hit even harder. Magnificent."

48. ROZEWOOD 
ゴーストマン [Ghxst​/​Man]
(Bandcamp) 
". . . SICK in every sense, woozy, wasted, both ferocious and frail, in need of an urgent quaalude or simply a full blood-transfusion. This is hip hop that feels doubtful in every way, unsure whether its fever is real or imagined, uneasy about its purgatory state between substance and spirit, which side of life or death it finds itself in. Stunning."

47. MIKE
Black Soap
(Lex Records) 
". . .  unerringly odd, mixing lo-fi crepuscular loops and grainy dub with beats almost determined to deflect your expectations. Sometimes this music gets goddamned aquatic it's so diffuse and gaseous, but you're always firmly in Mike's stream-of-realisation, living his life, thinking his thoughts. This is what hip-hop can do. Seek this out."


46. MILO 
Budding Ornithologists Are Weary Of Tired Analogies
(Ruby Yacht) 
". . .  in an era where ‘coalesced’, ‘coherent’ records seem almost engineered to hit SEO metrics ‘budding . . . ‘ is gloriously slippery and utterly resistant to commodification. Fantastically rare to hear a record simultaneously so seemingly careless and yet so massively enjoyable because of that relaxed confidence."
45. FOREIGN BEGGARS 
22 Karma
(Par Excellence) 
"The welcome return of these loons, and what's so gratifying is that after a few years of spreading themselves a little thin across the global electronica circuit they're back on fire, back being fierce, and back fundamentally pulling from the best of bass music but never diluting either their sources or their own steely sense of their own fragmented identity. Play loud and feel the sheer dread. Superb."


44. REJJIE SNOW 
Dear Annie 
(300 Entertainment) 
"Crucially, for an album by a 23 year old ‘Dear Annie’ comes across with no point to prove, no egotist grandstanding - throughout there’s no sense of distance between you and Snow, rather it feels like he’s holding your hand, taking you both externally down his streets and his world, and internally through the tangled tendrils of his own psyche. You remain a willing passenger because the sounds Snow couches his visions in are just so damn addictive. One of the most delicious debuts of the year already . . . "


43. APOLLO BROWN & JOEL ORTIZZ
Mona Lisa 
(Mello Music Group)
"Apollo's best of the year, dated as fuck but who cares when the music and the rhymes are this honest, this scintillating, this committed. Excellent." 


42. DABRYE 
Three/Three 
(Ghostly International) 

". . . If anything, the current hip hop audiences’ familiarity with rap that blends in bass-music and electronic textures makes ‘Three/Three’ a record that completes Dabrye’s vision just as it re-emerges into a world that has finally caught up with him."


41. KUARTZ 
Kuartz FM
(Village Live Records) 
"In a year thick with great instrumental hip hop releases Kuartz shone through with the sheer zest and joy of his music - there's little that's downered here, and plenty that takes old-tricks (sped up vocal tweaks, stop-start neck-snapping beats) and reinjects them with joie de vivre" 


40. PRIMO JAB
The Book Of Jab 
(Primo JAB X godBLESSbeatz)
"Superbly woozy, ruff as fuck, potentially blasphemous, dank as hell's latrines. Can't recommend it highly enough."

39. RAY VENDETTA
The Master Chambers LP 
(Prestigious Recordings) 
"A moment please to stand up and salute Triple Darkness/New Guardz legend Ray Vendetta. whose stunning 'Sins Of The Son' album with Giallo Point was one of the latest-breaking masterpieces of 2017, and whose new 'Master Chambers' is just as commanding of your attention. All hail." 

38. AVER 
Dressed For CCTV 
(Village Live) 
"Aver's stunning 'Die Berlin Dateien' 2017 set was the first thing to hip me to exactly how awesome Village Live records are, so I'm cock-a-hoop to hear he's back with a new full-length . . . .sharpness and intrigue throughout, and I just love the untrammelled, zero-fucks-given hooligan freedom of this: rampaging beats, lunging bass and dread-filled loops"


37.  BISHOP NEHRU 
Elevators Act I & II 
(Nehruvia) 
". . . .like Cozz's 'Effected', a miraculous balance between sounding cutting edge and yet unconcerned with the clichés currently boring mainstream rap to death. Whether the world notices how great Elevators is shouldn’t dissuade you from investigating it immediately. Not the state-of-the-art, but the state the art could be in if it tried harder."


36. CHAIRMAN MAF
Ginger 
(Gorilla Finger) 
"There's something about the way Maf puts his grooves together, the poise and space of them, his clear grounding in dub, that puts him right up there for me with Kuartz, Aver, Remulak and Calvin Valentine as one of thee best creators of instrumental hip-hop out there."



35. ANKLEJOHN 
Van Ghost 
(Gourmet Deluxxxe) 
"Ank is a DC-based MC with a murderously ruff-assed voice who seems to consistently find some of the most bracingly strange backdrops this side of the Griselda crew. Hoovering up his back catalogue right now, 'cause he's awesome. Seek him out."
 

34. JAM BAXTER 
Touching Scenes
(High Focus Recordings) 
"Baxter steps-up his already startling lyrical game for this, his masterpiece, aided by diamond-tight production and a general feel of darkness and demise that rings so true right now. Get yourself disturbed soon as"
 
33. CAMOFLAGE MONK X SAUCE HEIST 
Sauce Monk EP 
(Loretta Records) 
"Sauce Heist were responsible for one of 2017's DANKEST hip hop records with their stunning 'Waza' EP - this EP saw them hook up with Camoflage Monk's bruised blistered beats to give us one of 2018's rawest ruckuses. Ace."
 

32. EL CAMINO 
El Camino EP 
(El Camino) 
"More of that addictive Buffalo NYC hebraphrenia courtesy of Elcamino (who also gave us the splendid full-length 'Walking On Water' set this year). For fans of Conway/Gunn/Griselda (and if you're not EXPLAIN YOURSELF) this was equally essential." 
 
31. DA FLYY HOOLIGAN
Roman Abramovich 

(Gourmet Deluxxx) 


"Back in 2017 I said that DFH's 'SCUM — Supreme Cut Untouched Magnificence' "may well prove useful in the apocalyptic shitfest that 2017 is surely going to be" and so it proved - this year the stunning 'Roman Abramovich EP' provided similar relief and reflection - music as twisted as our times with rhymes to match. Superb."



30. V-DON
Bone Collector 
(F*ck R*p)
"Deathly, pitch-black. Utterly delightful . . . what you hear in V-Don’s work is an almost cartoonish exaggeration of hip hop music’s griminess and gloom for a new, perhaps even more doomed age. Throughout this groggy, appalled, wasted music guests like Westside Gunn. Crime Apple, Willie The Kid, Retch keep things lyrically right on the street, and keep you right there with them as the shadows lengthen, the skies darken and the tension mounts. Incredibly evocative music." 



29. MARLOWE 
Marlowe 
(Mello Music Group) 
"Marlowe are maverick producer L'Orange hooking up with MC Solemn Brigham, a hook up between startling production and animated aggravated rhyming that works superbly well. Check it immediately."
 


28. AL DIVINO X SAUCE HEIST
Bengal Bone Marrow
(No Label) 
"Gawd-bless Massachusetts psychonaut Al Divino for blessing us with several great LPs in collaboration with Estee Nack this year, though for me, 'Bengal Bone Marrow' is his best of 2018 — hooking up with the fantastic Sauce Heist and a whole host of renegade reprobates, including Ankhlejohn and the remarkable Crimeapple, to deliver a woozy suite of wrecked beats and frantic flows. So engrossing you might end up with your head stuck. Essential."
 

27. DIRTY DIKE
Acrylic Snail
( High Focus Recordings) 
"Chemo popping up on the mix so you know to expect musical intrigue, and my god, here be delicious new warped wefts of his sonic magic. Utterly hypnotically absorbing to the point where Dike's intriguing vocals demand several rewinds, simply to give your brain the space to focus. The best from High Focus this year."


27. HOCK TU DOWN 
Hock Tu 3
(Blah!) 
""HTD are Lee Scott and Reklews, which should already tip you the wink as to what kind of lunacy is going on here. OR SO YOU THINK — genuinely haven't heard anything quite like this from either of them before. The poise and balance, the steady refusal to surge or depart from HT3's intensely strange sound world, is entirely unique. . .  Indian-classical-drone textures . . .  crisp cinematic beats. . .  spooked Theremin - the rhymes demand listening to from beginning to end to get the full narrative impact. Superb"


26. SKYZOO 
In Celebration Of Us 
(First Generation Rich/Empire) 
". . . has he ever made a duff album? Nope, and he's not about to start now. There's lines here that stop you in your tracks and tracks here that stop your heart. Just listen."



25. CONWAY X SONNYJIM
Death By Misadventure EP 
(Daupe) 
"As you'd imagine from these two dissident talents, this is a compelling stroll from grimy streets to lurid clubs through velvet ropes to darkened dissolution: highlights such as 'Kevlar Tux' and 'Belugas' somehow manage to sound both brutally minimal but also populated with only those details (there's some fantastic nigh-on Turkish psyche vibes laced throughout this record) guaranteed to unhinge the listener, guaranteed to make Conway and Roc Marc's narratives sting with just that little bit of extra poison. Utterly superb."



24. HU$ KINGPIN 
The Wavo EP 
(Bandcamp)
". . .  the music does that unsettling thing of being a bit TOO MUCH for the rap narrative to take hold; rather, you find yourself endlessly rewinding because it's so impossible to disentangle the seething, viscous sounds here from the subjects of the murderous rhymes. Will take a few months to truly sink in. Get it down your neck soon as."



23. CALVIN VALENTINE 
Plush Seats 
(Mello Music Group)
"Killer beats, great cuts, gorgeously warped soul textures and a sheer joy in the impact of hip-hop sonics that's irresistible and infectious. This is like the twisted ideas of an Ivy Lab or Gantz given a big phat dose of Valium and told to chill the fuck out. Clear a space, you'll want to sleep when you fall over from dancing."


22. DJ MUGGS, MEYHEM LAUREN
 Fallen Angels
(Soul Assassins) 
"Glad to see Muggs & Lauren follow up 2017’s excellent ‘Gems From The Equinox’ with a new suite of gritty wonder - what comes across palpably from the 8-tracks here (see? Hip hop in 2018 is ALL about the 8-tracker) is how the newest underground spitters, who presumably took their own influence from the early work of Muggs,  are now feeding back that influence to these returning veterans. There’s a twisted hardcore psycheness to ‘Frozen Angels’ (particularly on the stunning Daringer-worthy  ‘Staircase Money’) that almost hints at Griselda/Conway levels of dissident brilliance. Superb."


21. FLY ANAKIN & OHBLV 
Science Project
(Mutant Academy) 
"Not QUITE the hip-hop remake of Eddie Kendricks' 'My People Hold On' that we've all been waiting for (c'mon I can't be the ONLY one?), but DAMN CLOSE, and as such, utterly fantastic. Producer Ras G unleashes a pre-griot Pangaea rumble of haunted drums so ancient they carry their own bass frequency, buzzing insect noises and shrieks, rhymes from the absolute top of this Richmond VA don's dome and a cumulative effect as jarringly ancient-futurist as Jeru's 'Come Clean' or Pusha T's 'Numbers On The Board'. Get crushed immediately."



20. THE ALCHEMIST 
Lunch Meat EP 
(ALC Records)
". . .  a stronger sense of purpose and attitude than anything the Alchemist has done since 'Israeli Salad'. He's clearly thrilled by the new breed of MCs currently making US hip-hop so exciting, and that thrill and focus makes every track here (particularly 'Massacre') radiate with venom and verve. Utterly unmissable."


19. CULT OF THE DAMNED 
Part Deux: Brick Pelican Posse Crew Gang Syndicate
(Blah! Records) 

"You see, the further you sink into the Blah world, into its fetid depths of mental decay and chemical derangement, the more you think everyone is feeling this stuff on a daily basis. 'Part Deux: Brick Pelican Posse Crew Gang Syndicate' album is so good it should be contraband. Comparisons could only distract you. Seek this music out and drown in it. The absolute STATE of it. The art. "


18. CRIMEAPPLE X BIG GHOST 
Aguardiente 
(Gourmet Deluxxx) 
"Aural crack to throw on the flames emerging from the top of your skull. Watch the colours. Groggy, almost anti-musical, drowning in its own loops and samples, this is like hip-hop played through a PA with over-sensitive over-head mics picking up every refracted crash and detail. The kind of hip-hop a black, young Flaming Lips would've made. Make sure you seek out any CRIMEAPPLE you can find, he's onto something major."



17. PHONTE 
No News Is Good News
(The Foreign Exchange Music)
". . .  fantastic - beatmakers like Marco Polo and Nottz keep things hitting hard throughout and Phonte crucially rests on no laurels, bringing a devastatingly mature view of mortality and a hugely touching vulnerability  to bear on tracks like ‘Expensive Genes’ and ‘Cry No More’. This old fart would’ve dug a 9th Wonder joint here and there but I’m nitpicking - this is a grown up rap album by a grown up rapper that still manages to be utterly thrilling. One of 2018’s finest thus far."



16. B-MOVIE MILLIONAIRES
Attack Of The 50,000Ft Sweg Lawds From Outer Space 
(Blah! Records) 
"Given the cast you can imagine what a weird, wracked, disturbing set this is and it doesn't disappoint. . . the loops and rhymes that creep out and skitter over the steady undertow are pure unhinged mind-lint/gospel from the depths of the Blah universe. Beyond essential. Should be somehow integrated into the national water-supply. "



15. MC PAUL BARMAN 
(((echo chamber))) 
(Mello Music Group) 

"\Where there’s often a danger of datedness with old rappers coming back to the fray ‘(((echo chamber)))’ finds a perfect home on MMG and sounds as fresh as the bangers from Denmark Vessey, Quelle Chris & Jean Grae they’ve already given us in 2018. Where in the past Barman could be in danger of simply being a brilliant parody of rap posturing, he’s really found his own vividly provocative, political and poetic voice on this LP.  He’s never sounded as focussed, as funny, as committed. Essential."



14. CAVALIER
Private Stock 
(Sav Cav Music)
"Wonderfully isolated from everything else. Absolutely about nothing other than being alive and being black right now, but as much - both musically and lyrically - about the dreamy, familiar unreality of this living madness as it's more razor sharp edges. Superb."


13. BLACK MILK 
Fever
(Mass Appeal) 
"Alongside those astonishing Black Thought EPs this is the most stunning mix of live-instrumentation, hip hop, gospel-radiance and sheer avant-funk oddity you'll hear all year. His best yet and that makes it fucking awesome." 




12. SMOOVTH & GIALLO POINT
Medellin II 
(Fxck Rxp) 
"It's been fascinating the way that underground hip hop has rediscovered its true cinematic sense of fantasy and analogy this year - without a doubt most rappers don't lead the life of a multi-billionairre cocaine smuggler but the way this suite of brilliance finds a way to make all that yayo and all that blood somehow relevant to contemporary black experience is sublime. An artful yet absolutely corner-borne masterpiece. "
 

11. PUSHA T
Daytona EP 
(Def Jam) 
"Daytona' is a delight throughout, West hitting the kind of pleasure centres Alchemist and Black Milk are hitting, but also giving things a sheen of instantaneous addictiveness, like M&Ms in a crack-cocained shell. Pusha seemingly CAN'T sound anything other than imperiously great these days. Absolutely essential."

10. ROC MARCIANO 
RR2: The Bitter Dose 
(Marci Enterprises)
"Roc Marc might have been (like The God Fahim) a little TOO profligate this year but this remains a raw, compelling slice of his fractured fuckery. The astonishing Peter Hammill-sampling track 'The Sauce' is probably my track of the year full stop from any genre. Essential grimness."



9. BLACK JOSH 
Yung Sweg Lawd 
(Blah! Records) 
 ""I don't go to sleep, I just pass out... I don't dream anymore, it's just black-outs". Goddamnit, Manc MC Black Josh's new full-length set 'Yung Sweg Lawd' is a freakin' MASTERPIECE — the production is handled by fellow Levelz headz Biome & Metrodome, as well as Reklews and Pitch 92 among others - ever compelling rhymes from BJ, walking that perfect tight-rope 'tween scally hooliganism and molten philosophical despair. Ruffneck brilliance as ever from Blah!"



8. PAN AMSTERDAM 
The Pocket Watch 
(Def Presse) 
"Surreal, absurd, abstract, shot through with an ee.cummings sense of the vivid and vibrant and a LeGuin-style cosmic abstruseness. Like Son Of Sam, there’s also a live feel to Thatmanmonkz’ production, cemented by the juicy horn-licks and bubbling throughout is Pan Am’s deadpan, arresting delivery. Iggy Pop’s a big fan. Iggy knows."

7. SONNYJIM X VIC SPENCER
Spencer For Hire
(Daupe)
". . .  a unique level of both refinement and sleaze, a low-down and gritty yet gorgeously lush new meld that feels entirely incomparable. Perma-stoned, hysterically funny at times, and SJ's beats throughout are an absolute riot of invention. Absolutely the state-of-the-art when it comes to off-the-wall leftfield rap music in 2018. Utterly essential" 

6. BISK 
Saucemoney 
(No Label) 
"A horizontal joy, fantastic production as ever from Morriarchi, Lee Scott and Sam Zircon that really suits Bisk's wretched/transcendent vibe — the best bits here are where, curiously, the usual mournful vibe from Bisk is dissipated in sudden moments of lucidity and clarity and something even approaching pride. Stupendous stuff from one of the UK's greatest hidden talents. He made loads this year, all of it stupendous. Get on all of it." 


5. WESTSIDE GUNN
Supreme Blientele 
(Daupe) 
"Holy fuck — WG's new 'Supreme Blientele' set is such a riot, I'm struggling to get to the bottom of it. Utterly transfixing and will take years to digest properly. In a short, hella prolific career, this be a highlight"



4. MADISON WASHINGTON 
Facts 
(Def Presse) 
"What a glorious, hysterical, fun, funky, fantastic record this is - you find yourself laughing but also holding your hand over your mouth in gasping shock at the sudden lucidity. Let this keep you warm all winter. As good as the Coup, seriously." 



3. EDAN & HOMEBOY SANDMAN 
Humble Pi(Stones Throw) 

". . .  so fantastic to hear Edan back and putting together typically dazzling confections of psyche, funk and sheer wigged-out oddity . . . . 'Humble Pi', is a brain-jangling delight throughout. " 
 
2. EVIDENCE 
Weather Or Not 
(Rhymesayers Entertainment)
"Evidence's return with 'Weather Or Not' had absolutely no right to be as compelling as it was but he managed to create an album that's brilliantly cohesive, presenting his own fractured forlorn take on himself and his surroundings with a real sense of album-length narrative (so rare in this age of 'just pack a load of tracks together = an album'), his flow a little less frenetic than it has been in the past, every line adding to a steadily building statement of intent that's utterly engrossing throughout. Superb production from a welter of trustworthy names (Alchemist, Premo etc) seals a startling deal. Magnificent"


1. JEAN GRAE & QUELLE CHRIS 
Everything's Fine 

(Mello Music Group) 
". . . a big bounteous laugh-riot of an album. The guests (Denmark Vessey, Nick Offerman - yes THAT Nick Offerman -  and Your Old Droog among others) are perfectly judged and the deeper message of the album, that relaxation and repose in 2018 are luxuries that those on the frontline can’t afford, is delivered with extra heft and power thanks to the lightness of touch and the sardonic style hip hop’s coolest couple demonstrate throughout. A stone-cold top-to-bottom masterpiece." 

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