music 2018


I’m sure we complained about how saturated we are with music every year going back decades. But what feels New is how contentious and volatile history can now seem, via the discursive transparency of social media.

The generalist critic has never felt more irrelevant, less in tune with what’s happening. Feels like former ‘generalist’ critics have retreated from even being aware of what’s happening, never mind incorporating that context for their readers. Instead, they celebrate the marginal and ideologically righteous (unless/until it turns out the artist isn’t all that righteous). I get the impulse, and often find myself reaching for work that’s obscure but interesting.

In another part of the critical internet, millions of YouTube views generated across the genre give any critic an imprimatur of tapping at the zeitgeist. This underlines a redundancy of critics-as-documentarians (*transcribes track titles with high YouTube counts for the record*) and suggests an increasing urgency for critics to carve out distinct political-aesthetic POVs. (And, for music journalists, the urgency to have a unique ‘beat.’) If your list is just a succession of popular rap songs (“x has more views than y”), what are you really contributing?

The critical base, then, feels polarized–playing it safe aesthetically by celebrating any type of regional rapper w buzz you think could end up w a mythic backstory, or playing it safe politically & completely ignoring the contradictory, complicated, problematic fandoms of rap’s audiences altogether. Music has always been for me (and I think for most people) a majorly social art form, and ignoring the context (or dismissing it as ‘buzz’ or ‘hype’) is a mistake; at the same time, being unable to stand up to the crowd & represent something true about your own experience (‘taste’ but also principles) is equally irresponsible. Interesting coverage exists, i think, inside this tension.

(The industry itself is even worse, of course; as rap takes up more & more of the streaming revenue, yet rarely has access to the pop charts…others have written about this more eloquently than I.)

For me, the most interesting music this year beneath the radar came from places like Memphis, Detroit, and Florida. Chicago had a strong year on the media-friendly side of things, although even then it seemed to come up short on year-end lists and the like, now that those sites seem more swamped by content than in previous years. (It’s a weird time when Saba gets Best New Music but doesn’t make Pitchfork’s best of the year, or made-for-TinyDesk act The Internet doesn’t make NPR’s.)

But I’m criticizing a game I’m no longer playing–outside of a stray Greedo interview & this Chief Keef piece, I haven’t published anything this year, my first major break from doing full time music writing since ~2011, and first break doing regular music writing since… 2005? idk. Career-wise, I’ve started doing consulting work behind the scenes, and as soon as you cross that bridge there are, obviously, conflicts with serious critical work. I’m sure most people who bothered clicking this link know I’m sincere (or stubborn) about my tastes, & not particularly interested in brainwashing people into liking something that’s Actually Bad, but in the event you stumble across the list & don’t know me already, I’m disclosing this to be transparent.

The last thing I’d want, though, is for someone to conflate my career choices with a disparagement of criticism as a medium. I certainly don’t think the art is any less useful or important than when I started doing it. (Can you even quit criticism? Once you start thinking that way it’s impossible to stop.) I love music criticism and always will and believe it’s more important than ever, that you need people who are incentivized to push at cross purposes with the profit motive & give you what’s real from an informed, thoughtful, POV that is wholly their own.

Best Albums 2018

Mr. Fingers Cerebral Hemispheres
Trouble Edgewood
Doja Cat Amala
Chief Keef Back from the Dead 3
The 1975 A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
Yves Tumor Safe in the Hands of Love
ZMoney Chiraq Mogul
Sun El Musician Africa to the World
Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour
Lil Durk STTS3
Hailu Mergia Lala Belu
Sheck Wes Mudboy
Syclops Pink Eye
Roy Kinsie Blackie
Chris Crack Being Woke Ain’t Fun
Saba Care for Me
Skee Mask Compro
Don Toliver Donny Womack
Rico Nasty Nasty
Trippie Redd A Love Letter To You 3

Some songs not from 2018

Adriano Schiavo “Goodbye”
Maurice Fulton presents Jacky Sangster “You Give Me Good Feeling”
Poppie from TW feat. Chunky “Bankrolls”
Jose Gonzalez “Far Away”
Chris Rae “Thinking of You”
Kashif “Bed You Down”
Karen Ramirez “Looking For Love”
Brian Harden “Is it All from my Baby”
Ivy “This is the Day”
AMR Dee Huncho “Not My Brother”

51 songs from 2018


50. Nesta “Melody”
49. Bandland Zz “By Myself”
48. King Von “Crazy Story”
47. PG Ra “Show My Ass”
46. CalBoy “Envy Me”
45. Big Boogie “Got Me Fucked Up”
44. Black tha Don & Asa2Times “Bizerk”
43. Swervoo “I Want a Dirtbike”
42. Solo the Dweeb “Bussin”
41. The Internet “Roll (Burbank Funk)”


40. Jax Jones & Years&Years “Play”
39. Trinidadian Deep “Dear Owen”
38. Lil Peep “Life is Beautiful” (2018 version)
37. Husalah “Nyeusi”
36. NBA YoungBoy “Drawing Symbols”
35. FBG Duck “Slide”
34. Kacey Musgraves “Lonely Weekend”
33. Khalid feat. Ty Dolla $ign and 6lack “OTW”
32. CupcakKe – Crayons
31. Doja Cat “Roll With Us”
30. Playboi Carti “Mileage”


29. Mick Jenkins “Understood”
28. Don Toliver “Around”
27. Xxxtentacion “Sad!”
26. Ozuna & Ele A El Dominio “Balenciaga”
25. Kane Brown “Weekend”
24. Tokyo Jetz “No Problem”
23. Travis Scott “Stop Trying to Be God”
22. The 1975 “Give Yourself a Try”
21. Blueface “Deadlocs”
20. Juice WRLD “Lean Wit Me”


19. Rico Nasty “Trust Issues”
18. Sango feat. Smino “Khlorine”
17. Rod Wave “Heart 4 Sale”
16. TisaKorean “Dip”
15. Chance the Rapper “I Might Need Security”
14. Prince Kaybee ft Busiswa & TNS “Banomoya”
13. Dominic Fike “King of Everything”
12. Chief Keef “Black Proud”
11. Valee “VLone”


10. El Hitta “Aww Yea”
9. Kanye West & Lil Pump ft. Adele Givens “I Love It”
8. Hailu Mergia “Yefikir Engurguro”
7. Peggy Gou “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)”
6. Mozzy “In My Prayers” (original/YouTube beat)
5. Calvin Harris & Sam Smith “Promises”
4. Sun-EL Musician “Sonini”
3. Rich the Kid “Plug Walk”
2. Saint Jhn “I Heard You Got Too Litt Last Night”
1. Sada Baby & Drego “Bloxk Party”

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