2018 was a big year for hip hop. There were many notable releases, both surprise (BROCKHAMPTON’s Iridescence, Nas’ NASIR, Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s collaboration on KIDS SEE GHOSTS) and long-awaited (Anderson .Paak’s OXNARD, Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E), while we were also introduced to some names who stand to fully take flight in the new year (Ella Mai, Ravyn Lenae). That said, here’s three massive moments, in particular, that had us all talking.
Off the back of the hugely personal Lemonade and 4:44 albums from Beyoncé and Jay-Z respectively, the artists came together under their joint project The Carters this year to release the final entry in this seemingly defined trilogy of albums. Titled EVERYTHING IS LOVE, the album takes a look at the couple’s journey to the top, navigating infidelity, racism, classism, and their own personal internal struggles surrounding wealth and fame, and proved to be the cherry on top for America’s other First Couple. The album featured writing credits from Pharrell, Ty Dolla $ign and Migos, while also showing off Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s dynamic back and forth on record. The former spits rhymes ferociously while the latter knows when to fall back and let his lady shine; he isn’t overshadowed by any means though, with Jay still proving his influence and dominance as one of the best rappers in the game. Preceding the duo’s massive On The Run II tour that has been taking them around the world in the second half of 2018, EVERYTHING IS LOVE mightn’t have been released with as much gusto as Beyoncé’s surprise Lemonade drop, but it definitely proved the point that they’re a couple dominating both hip hop and pop realms with ease.
The first piece of new music from Childish Gambino since 2016’s Awaken, My Love! came in the form of the charged single, ‘This Is America’. Disjointed, angry, and ready to blow, the music driving the single had Gambino rapping in a different light to what fans had been used to. Gone were the Parliament influences on Awaken, My Love!, here was a frenetic side of his style that had fans flocking to the internet in droves to find more new music. Contrasting its release, the Summer Pack EP followed in July, with the rapper serving up a lighter dose of music which included catchy jams such as ‘Feels Like Summer’ and ‘Summertime Magic’ harking back to the Kauai/STN MTN era of 2014. While Australian fans missed out on their leg of the tour this month, New Zealanders were given a little insight into the all-encompassing Childish Gambino experience, with his PHAROS festival event going ahead as planned, despite a continuing foot injury leading him to cancel many other shows on his tour since. In addition, the ‘This Is America’ video sits at over 447 million views. A graphic and sharp in message and presentation, the video brought the rapper barrelling back into full view upon its release, prompting think pieces, unsightly parodies and a wider conversation on how music has proven to be a massive platform for commentary on today’s current political and social climate.
It was a big, big year for Yeezy. Following very public breakdowns and recoveries, Kanye West got back to business and man, did he get busy. The release of five West-produced albums over five weeks this year had fans in a tizz. Not only did we see the return of Kanye and Kid Cudi with the epic KIDS SEE GHOSTS project, but one of the best albums of the year came to light with Pusha T’s Daytona. A shining example of West’s gift as a producer, the releases were diverse in nature and shone the light on G.O.O.D Music’s range of talent. From Teyana Taylor to Nas and even Kanye himself with the ye album, the roll out blessed hip hop and R&B fans with plenty of material to sink their teeth into this year.
Another Kanye album in YANDHI has been teased since September, with many speculating it to be a companion piece to YEEZUS, but as of now, the album still has yet to see the light of day. Here’s hoping Kanye delivers in 2019 – we’ll be waiting.