We’re just about wrapped on one of the longest years in hip-hop history. What made it feel that way? Well, let’s see: Seemingly every major hip-hop star released a project this year — with the exception, strangely, of Big Sean — and some even released multiple projects. Every week brought what felt like dozens of debuts, sequels, follow-ups, double LPs, and surprise projects, which made it practically impossible for most folks to keep up. Fortunately, we’ve got a whole list of the Best Rap Albums of 2018 to go along with our list of Best Albums Of 2018, where you’ll find a majority of the top-notch projects that you may have missed or want to revisit.
And while there’s only so much space on each numbered list to cram in every meaningful or enjoyable joint from over the course of the past year, luckily, there’s a loophole. One of the reasons there were so many hip-hop projects to choose from is because in 2018, the Extended Play record made a huge comeback. Rather than rushing out full-length projects, both up-and-comers and established vets used the shorter, easier-to-digest releases to build buzz, whet fans’ appetites, or indulge creative urges without the added stress of competing in an already-crowded marketplace. There are a lot of good releases that got left off this list, too. For instance, Earthgang’s Royalty, Young Thug’s On The Run, Domo Genesis’ Facade Records, Rexx Life Raj’s California Poppy, and Tobi Lou’s Tobi Lou And The Loop are all worthy runners up and deserve the 15 or so minutes it takes to breeze through them.
Below, however, are the standouts, the cream of the crop. The rules are simple: The records in question must be seven or fewer tracks, with two exceptions in The Marina, which flies through its eight tracks at just 23 minutes and Whack World, whose 15 tracks clock in at a tidy 15 minutes. GOOD Music’s albums from over the summer don’t count, because the debate over whether they count as EPs or full-lengths still hasn’t settled (and Daytona landed on the Best Albums list, which should pretty much disqualify all the others on this one, right?). Rules aside, all of these projects are worth checking out and definitely showcase the promise of their principal artists. We can’t wait for their full-length projects, but for now, these appetizers do a great job of setting up next year’s main courses.