Before we go full speed in anticipation of Drake’s Scorpion and what exactly Kanye has to offer musically this June, let’s reflect on April’s hip-hop releases. April was a solid month of music with sounds for everyone. The two big fish were J. Cole’s surprise KOD and Cardi B’s Invasion Of Privacy debut. Both artists delivered polarizing albums that surely satisfied their core fanbases but may have raised a couple questions for their lesser devotees.
This month there were some releases from young veterans, some strong debut projects, and a too-short EP from Young Thug. Besides the top sellers though, perhaps the noteworthy project is a New York hip-hop album that should quell that “old school—new school” debate and serve as a new sonic blueprint for every upcoming artist. And no, it’s not Cardi’s. Check out that album and the 9 other best projects of April (in NO order):
J Cole, KOD
There are mixed feelings about young Jermaine’s fifth studio effort — that popped up on us out of nowhere — but what’s undeniable is that the world was tuned in. Cole broke Drake’s 24-hour streaming record on Apple Music and Spotify’s opening day record for streams. He sold 390K first week. All this with no big single — and yes, say it with me: no rap features. It’s yet another reminder that you can indeed do numbers with substance.
Cole accrued a boatload of attention with the bulk of his album highlighting America’s very real drug epidemic through the lens of hip-hop. He assumed the role of an upcoming rhymer dealing with the pressures of fame, trauma, and the exposure to seemingly limitless resources. Cole’s execution was shaky on certain tracks, but he did his part to initiate a legitimate dialogue. And there are still standout tracks like “KOD” and “Kevin’s Heart,” where he examines his own philandering.
Cole was probably better off keeping the album’s focus on his own life, but he apparently felt he had some different things to say over a soundscape that alternates from trap to his trademark jazz-influenced hip-hop. He probably won’t win over many so-called mumble rappers or gain hoards of new fans into his infamous tribe, but that’s just fine when so many of his existing supporters appreciated his solid effort.
Cardi B, Invasion Of Privacy
Cardi B has been steadily ascending as one of the hottest artists in the game.“Bodak Yellow” was a ubiquitous banger, and she made more Billboard history in the fourth quarter of 2017, a time where the industry is usually in a lull. Cardi was anything but idle the past 12 months, constantly stirring anticipation for her debut album. The singles were fire, but would the album deliver? It turns out Invasion Of Privacy did, for the most part.
The bangers we’ve already heard are on there, but we also got “Best Life” — with the surprise Chance feature and J. Balvin and Bad Bunny on “I Like It,” the Pete Rodriguez-sampling song that sounds tailor-made to be blaring out of speakers on a warm summer night. When it comes to uptempo party starters, Cardi’s rambunctious mic presence and free-spirited personality help her shine throughout the trap-heavy project. But as Aaron Williams noted, some of the more reflective junctures of the project needed more personal touch from an artist who’s prone to go live from her bed and spill her guts any time of day or night — especially given the title.