This year was an amazing ass year for Rap. There were so many raw ass albums that dropped this year. So many dope albums, that half of this list is dedicated to Chicago because we contributed to it being a raw ass year. Just for clarification, these albums aren't ranked but just a collection of albums that stuck out this year for me personally. Let's get started with the Top 5 Albums to come out of Chicago.
Femdot - Delacreme 2
Femdot is one of the most skilled dudes I know when it comes to this rapping shit. Delecreme 2 fell nothing short of amazing. Coming straight off a graduation from DePaul University, Fem blessed us with a personal touched 13-track debut album. A decent balance of bounce, raps, and vibes, this album really gave you everything. Personally, I see a challenge within artist to make something people love, but still have substance. The one thing I admire about this album is the "Chicago-feel" factor that echoes from intro to outro. Some artist focus too much on either making a hit or making sure every line is a bar. This album gave both of those a great run for their money on top of it feeling genuine. Weaving through multiple topics and scenarios, it felt good to hear a sonic balance between context and vibe. From police brutality, to the karma of hitting stains and becoming a stain, love, and everything in between. This is definitely a front to back album.
Queen Key - EMP
"Queen Shit Bitch"! Queen Key quickly became one of my favorite rappers this year. I read a tweet that said "Queen Key and Rico Nasty make cocky bitch music" and I couldn't agree more. At that moment, I felt like I finally found a genre to describe what the hell I was listening to. EMP [Eat My Pussy] was undoubtably the most fun album I heard this year. The thing that attracts me to Key is the fact she doesn't give a single fuck. She said WHAT THE FUCK she said. She knows what she wants and is unapologetically bold about what she does. Usually in pretty much any industry, women are told to be a certain type of way and how they should be molded to fit societies view, and I really just love how she said "fuck all of that shit" and continues to do her. There's a silent double standard that exists and to be completely honest, it's bullshit. With songs proclaiming "niggas cant spend the night", questioning whether or not she's wrong for being honest with another woman about how she wants to fuck their man, and array of other things, is beautiful. Only 7 songs strapped, this album slaps something nasty. It's exciting to see her have as much fun as she's having and I really can't wait to see what she does for the next year.
Valee - GOOD Job, You Found Me
If you had to give someone Rookie of the Year, it damn near has to go to Valee. This man literally took over 2018. One of the most notable rappers from Chicago this year. From signing to Kanye's G.O.O.D Music label, to inspiring a wave of rappers cadences and flows, Valee worked his ass off this year. GOOD Job, You Found Me, was an outstanding project. The one thing I learned from this project was how smart Valee really is. The cadence he chose to rap with on most of his songs is refreshing when most shit you hear everyday goes "uh" "yeah" and "what". Its also worth mentioning how short his songs are. Seeing as though everybody has an attention span of a squirrel, the idea of having short songs (especially when they raw as hell) automatically creates a replay value in each song. Most people turned their noses up at the first couple listens because it was something new and original. But that's what pioneers do. 2018 was the year of Valee, 2019 can only bring greater things.
Saba - Care For Me
Saba, the golden child from the city. There's a quote I'm too lazy to look up, but it says something about how pain usually creates the best art. Understanding that Saba made a great body of work out of grievance is bittersweet. PIVOT Gang lost a dear close homie, John Walt aka dinnerwithjohn, around February 2017. This is what the media usually just focuses on when it comes to our city. What they don't highlight is how the pain we deal with goes into our craft for the masses to relate and enjoy. The one album I can say this year that I've consistently seen people connect to would be Saba's Care For Me. For most of us growing up in the city, we all can connect to a loved one being killed by violence. The beauty in this struggle was Saba's courage and bravery to put all of those emotions on wax for the rest of the world to hear. Listening to a constant battle of not only within one's self, but a battle within a love for your city and faith. I truly appreciated this album through the pain, reflection, and breakthrough. #LongLiveJohnWalt #JohnWaltForever
Smino - Noir
Now, a lot of people would probably argue that Smino isn't from Chicago. That may be somewhat true, but about two months ago the Chicago Delegation traded R. Kelly to St. Louis for Smino. Wompski. Smino damn near a outwest nigga if we can really keep shit a stack. NOIR was one of the last albums dropped this year. If there had to be a word/phrase to describe it, it would probably be "a vibe". One thing I appreciate heavily about Smino is the fact that you could almost classify him as a "southern" rapper. With that being said, there's a "twang" in his speech that allows him, like many other rap niggas from the south, to bend words and syllables to get the raps off. A distinct voice and water-type flow, NOIR is another one of those albums you could play straight through. It's very playful but at the same time very retrospective. Smino reminds me of the cool uncle at the cookouts. So it's not a surprise when you hear certain songs you get that feeling of being around your close friends or family chilling. If Rap, Jazz, Blues, and Nelly had a child it would be a spitting image of Smino. The way this nigga euro-step around the beat is always fun to hear.
Rico Nasty - Nasty
How people haven't fallen in love with Rico yet, I have no clue. Can we take a moment and appreciate the fact shorty baby hairs on the cover art spell out "Nasty". A Legend. Last year was my first introduction to Rico Nasty during the Sugar Trap tour show in Chicago at Reggie's. Seeing first hand how live the show was made me a fan. Ever since then, I've been anticipating new music or a full project. This summer, we all were blessed. The Queen of Rage and First Lady of Mosh Pits dropped 14 tracks of crack. Rico is also a carefree, unapologetic black girl who raps her ass off while talking her shit! This whole album sounded like what Rico look like (if that makes sense). The music on this project was super fun, colorful, playful, cocky, and t'd as fuck. If you really need a boost in your morning, I definitely recommend starting your day off with this album. Shit like "Trust Issues" will have you feeling like cant nobody touch you, and if they do they losing a finger. A song like "Ice Cream" is raw asl to me because who THE FUCK is sampling the ice cream truck and making that shit bang?! Drake has 40, Blocboy JB has Tay Keith, and Rico has Kenny. Another song like "Countin' Up" grabs my attention because when was the last time we had a artist like Rico to talk her type of shit on beats like that? My guess is Missy Elliot but music is art and art is subjective. The fun-filled project is a great way for someone who hasn't heard Rico before to get the best impression. From the sing-songy tracks to the all out rage tracks this album was a masterpiece.
Jay Rock - Redemption
East Side Johnny. I can tell you straight up, I was not a fan of Jay Rock before this album. The only thing I heard prior to this album was Vice City and that's obviously not a full perspective as to who Jay Rock really is. Man, for most of this year I had this album up there as top 3. I don't know if I can still say that, but nonetheless, this album was solid. Everything that had anything to do with this album was absolutely raw as shit. From marketing, tour, music videos, etc., everything was a big ass yes. When I first heard "WIN", I was instantly curious. I have a great deal of appreciation for artists who step outside of their box and try new shit. I don't know if this makes sense or not, but this album sounded nothing like Jay Rock and everything like Jay Rock. Doing the background check on what inspired this album and the stories behind it made me listen to it even more. Earlier this year, one of the singles for this album, "King's Dead", appeared on the Black Panther album. To hear Jay Rock (someone I don't voluntarily listen to all the time), Kendrick (someone I consciously choose to listen to all the time), and Future (someone who I don't choose to listen to but have to because I'm a DJ) all on one song added a different perspective for me to receive this album fully. The conversation had between Future and Rock about using your voice as a tool, not just to rap, but to add to the sonics of the song, amazed the shit out of me. Here I am forgetting that Future damn near brung back Autotune after we got tired of T-Pain and Lil Wayne using it all the time. The story of a champion and the story of someone accepting their time in the spotlight was a beautiful story to hear.
J. Cole - KOD
Lets. Fucking. Talk About It! KOD didn't receive any Grammy nominations and I feel some type of way. My music relationship with Cole is bumpy. Just so you're caught up: that debut jaunt was average as hell coming behind Friday Night Lights but it was decent for a album. Born Sinner was one of my favorite Cole album, damn near still is. 2014 Forest Hills was cool but it just sounded like mixtape Cole, which I don't have a problem with but most of those songs sounded dated. I understand at that point Cole stopped giving a fuck about people's opinions and just started rapping. 4 Your Eyez Only, literally only got one listen outta me and i was upset cause at this point, bro ass didn't really give a fuck in my eyes. I was a huge fan of how Cole use to body niggas on some bars shit and still give us the personal shit we could relate to. When that shit stopped I damn near stopped listening to dude ass. Cool now we all caught up. KOD brought me back to the Cole I use to love listening to. What made this album that great for me, was the satire and irony in the whole album. Cole took trap beats and put his own spin on it without it sounding corny or doing some shit he know he not suppose to be doing. The substance matched the production and everything within. From ATM, to KOD, to Kevin's Heart, to Photograph, it was like Michael Jordan coming back after leaving the Bulls. Like he not the same how he use to be, but he still got that fire in him that made us love him. Along with being the most sold album this year (physically) I feel like Cole got snubbed but knowing Cole, he don't even give a fuck. More. Irony. Yay.
Travis Scott - Astroworld
Ladies and Gentlemen, Travis FUCKING Scott. Travis Scott has always had my attention as a producer but this album can damn near have the top spot of the year. If I REALLY HAD TO rank some shit, Astroworld probably taking the top spot. We not giving it to Drake cause it's Drake and he's the rap game favorite child (we not forgiving him for that song with Michael Jackson until he apologize g), we not giving it to XXX or Mac because people love to make rappers legends after they die, we not giving it to your favorite soundcloud rapper with the bogus ass cover art and recorded his shit in the closet cause that's your homie and you not bold enough to tell him to find another passion, we gone give it to Travis. The amount of composition that went into this album is impeccable. Travis really is one of the most artistic ass niggas in this rap shit right now. The complexities within this album from cover art, to production, to features, everything damn near perfect. Sicko Mode prolly has the best beat-switch-up of this year. Travis knew what the fuck he was doing putting Drake on that song. Let's talk about "Stop Trying To Be God" and having Cudi with Stevie Wonder at the SAME DAMN TIME?! Did you really peep the guitars in Yosemite to accessorize the flow Gunna was about to put on that song. (It's the little things g.) No Bystanders real close to being in the top 5 songs of this year to cause a floor to cave in. I already know how most people probably won't feel the same way about this, but Travis is one of the most hardest working artists and it's showing in his craft. Like I said, I wouldn't be surprised if he get Album of the Year on any list.
Mac Miller - Swimming
Mac Miller. This shit tough. I wouldn't say this album was album of the year. The reason I wouldn't say that is because this album isn't a competitive sport album. What I mean by that is, most of the albums on this list or that has dropped this year in general are albums used to show people who you are and win them over. This is a different level of personal. I can say the last couple Mac Miller albums excluding "The Devine Femininity", made me a fan. I really thought Mac was just a boom bap rapper from off the couple songs I heard from like freshman year in high school. To hear the evolution of him not only as a rapper but as an artist and musician is bittersweet. It's bittersweet because the man wasn't even at his peak yet. Unfortunately, Mac Miller died around the beginning of September and this last album is all we have as of right now. Its a very somber album with feels of both self-preservation and self-destruction. It gave me the feeling of how you should have patience with yourself because healing is a process and it's not all the time a smooth one. Very poetic and eerie now that the future has played out the events leading up to now. Even the music video for Self Care is damn near triggering. I love to hear the different instruments through out the album to really separate Mac from just being a rapper. Especially because these last couple albums he was singing more and finding comfort in it. There's little hints of funk sprinkled here and there. If we really keeping it a stack, Mac Miller definitely was the best white rapper rap has ever seen.
If you really read all of this, I appreciate you. Give yourself a pat on the back and go get yourself your favorite something to sip on.