The Cavalier’s Top 9 Albums of 2018


Alex Eastland

Like many artists featured on this list, freshman Andrew Mahaffey has found success with little to no formal music training. This new wave/genre of music, known as SoundCloud rap, has grown in popularity both on an international and local stage. Denzel Curry (TA1300) and Ski Mask The Slump God (Beware The Book of Eli) have found critical and commercial success in this genre.

Alex Eastland, Staff Writer

As September comes to an end, we find ourselves exactly ¾ of the way through 2018. With just a few months left, it seems like a good time to reflect on the music of this year. The year definitely had its low points, as Lil Xan continued to make music, but there have been plenty of amazing albums released in the past 9 months. So, without further adieu, here is The Cavalier’s Top 9 Albums of 2018:


  1. Kids See Ghosts
    • One of the 5 albums released by Kanye during his “Wyoming” sessions, Kids See Ghosts is a collaborative effort with Kid Cudi. Though just 7 songs, the album is an instant classic. The album fuses elements of experimental hip-hop, neo-psychedelia, traditional rap, and even grunge, sampling everything from an early 20th-century Jazz Christmas song to a Kurt Cobain guitar riff. The production on Kids See Ghosts is so meticulous and contains some of the  best beats of the year in “4th Dimension” and the title track “Kids See Ghosts”. The features from Pusha T and Yasiin Bey gives the album a lot of depth and versatility, as Pusha’s hard-hitting verses on “Feel The Love” perfectly contrast the Kid Cudi’s melodies and Bey’s catchy hook on “Kids See Ghosts” is one of the high points of the album. “4th Dimension” shows flashes of early 2000s Ye, as West’s flow and production are reminiscent of tracks on The College Dropout. Lyrically, West and Cudi delve into the mental issues that both have dealt with. The track “Reborn” brings amazing levels of lyricism, as Cudi and Ye explore their respective mental breakdowns and recoveries over a beautiful Plain Pat-produced beat. The forlorn singing from Cudi make the track, and the theme of beginning anew is felt throughout one of Kanye’s best verses ever. Overall, Kanye and Cudi bring out the very best of each other. Kanye’s return to form after the somewhat disappointing “Ye” released just one week prior is one of the strongest albums of the decade and is undoubtedly this year’s album of the year.
    • Until earlier this year, Chicago rapper Saba was best known for his features on Chance The Rapper’s 2016 project “Coloring Book”, but on “CARE FOR ME”, Saba establishes himself as one of rap’s brightest young stars. “CARE FOR ME” is an album rooted deep in grief, created while coping with the death of Saba’s cousin, Walt. The beautiful, piano-centric beats serve as a backdrop for the story-telling bars delivered by the 24-year old rapper, as he discusses his frustration with the world around him, struggling to cope with Walt’s death. The album reaches a climax on “PROM/KING”, where Saba discusses the relationship he had with his mentor and cousin, before detailing the events of Walt’s death. The track is truly heartbreaking and offers a deep insight into the vulnerable mind of Saba. That is, in essence, what this album is: a beautiful, deep look into the distressed, vulnerable mind of an artist struggling with the death of his mentor. The album packs a punch and serves as a breakout album for the young Chicagoan.
  2. Daytona
    • The first album released by Kanye And Co. during what was known as G.O.O.D. Music’s “Surgical Summer”, Daytona is Pusha T at his peak. Kanye’s production on this album is some of his best work. Running at just over 20 minutes, the album is brief, but compact. Packing a punch with every line, King Push is at his peak lyrically. He comes across as raw, with every bar resonating. The beats and lyrics are slightly tinged with hostility, but the record remains smooth throughout each song. There is not a single line that feels meaningless or wasted. Daytona is the sonic embodiment of a tiny house featured on HGTV―a brief, but efficient record that lands every punch it throws.
  3. Astroworld
    • ASTROWORLD was easily the most hyped project to release this year. Houston rapper Travis Scott has teased this album since 2016. When it first released, I was a little cautious. Scott’s 2015 debut album Rodeo remains one of my favorite trap albums of the decade, but his 2016 follow-up Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was somewhat disappointing. I honestly didn’t think this album could possibly live up to its hype. I was so wrong. ASTROWORLD is strong from start to finish. Filled with bangers, Travis Scott raps over some of the best trap beats of the year and is able to create a psychedelic, haunting vibe. The features on this album are amazing. The credits on the record are filled with a variety of artists from a variety of genres, ranging from new-wave rap stars like Juice WRLD and Sheck Wes to indie-singer/songwriter James Blake. What the album lacks lyrically, it make up for in production. There’s not a single bad track, which is surprising for an album with a 58 minute running time. The aesthetic of ASTROWORLD alone is enough to be considered Scott’s best work, but the production is what sets this album apart from anything else put out in the trap genre.
  4. Virtue
    • Former The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas formed The Voidz in 2013, and released their debut album Tyranny in 2014. The album is sloppy and chaotic and was a departure from Casablancas impressive work for The Strokes. Their 2018 follow-up, however, is a vast improvement on Tyranny. On Virtue, Casablancas creates a sultry, psychedelic mood that is felt throughout the nearly 60 minute record. The album feels slightly nostalgic and is colored in melancholy. Incorporating elements from new wave and indie rock, Virtue is controlled chaos, opposed to the mess that was Tyranny. The disillusioned, neo-psychedelic, garage rock sound of Casablancas plays to all his strengths and contributes to one of the legendary front-man’s strongest records of his career.
  5. TA1300
    • Denzel Curry burst onto the scene in 2016 as one of the biggest stars on the Florida SoundCloud scene. 2 years later, SoundCloud rap feels played out, so when Curry announced this album, I had doubts. However, this album is amazing. The beats are heavy and raw, and create a harsh, hostile mood felt throughout the album. Thematically, Curry covers topics such as the “evil” in the rap industry, politics, paranoia, suicide, and depression, such as on “Clout Cobain”, where the 23-year old criticizes record labels and discusses suicidal tendencies all in the same breath. The culmination of Denzel’s jarring lyrics and the heavy-hitting FnZ-produced beats sets him apart from every other SoundCloud rapper and is one of the best rap records of 2018.
  6. Iridescence
    • Released just this morning, Iridescence is already one of the year’s strongest releases. Rap/Hip-Hop collective BROCKHAMPTON achieved national fame after the release of their SATURATION trilogy. With 14 members, BROCKHAMPTON was able to create several different sounds throughout the trilogy, ranging from 20-year old Ameer Vann’s aggressive, intense bars to the indie rock crooning of Irish singer/songwriter Bearface. Ameer, however, was forced out of the group after domestic violence allegations surfaced. It was imagined that the group’s versatility would take a significant hit, and that they would rely on their calm, chill, R&B/indie sound featured on several songs on SATURATION III. This, however, was the opposite of the truth. On Iridescence, the group goes in a completely different direction. The harsh, aggressive sound that Ameer contributed was delivered by members JOBA and Merlyn Wood. The album’s in-your-face tone, however, didn’t stop the lyricism from Matt Champion and Dom McLennon. But, above all, leader Kevin Abstract hooks remained the high point of this album. After the events following SATURATION, BROCKHAMPTON was forced to do something new, and they did….so well.
  7. Hive Mind
    • The Internet’s debut album, Ego Death, marked a great start for the R&B collective led by former Odd Future member Syd Tha Kyd. Hive Mind is a great continuation of The Internet’s established mix of R&B, funk, rap, pop, and jazz. Vocally, Syd is at the best she’s ever been. The album feels smooth from front to back. The beats are sharp and are able to create an amazing R&B-jazz backdrop for the vocals of Syd and singer/songwriter Steve Lacy. Whenever there is an album from a rap/R&B collective, there’s always a sense of certain members contributing more to the overall sound and aesthetic than others. On Hive Mind, though Syd and Lacy do seem to take the lead, Matt Martians and Patrick Paige bring a lot to the sound of the record. In an R&B world dominated by Drake and The Weekend, Hive Mind brings something new and refreshing, and is undeniably one of the best R&B records of the year.
  8. Beware The Book of Eli
    • On his 2nd mixtape, Ski Mask The Slump God creates a world of surrealness and psychedelia, as he delivers his signature, unorthodox flows. The lyrics in the album are tinged with Ski’s signature sense of humour. Throughout the album, Slump God sounds like a demon, wearing $1,000 Rolexes, emerging from a purple haze. Lyrically, the album isn’t anything profound, but that’s what makes it so great. This is a fun album, with insane flow and above-average production. Though the album has a few chaotic off-moments, it is one of the most unique releases of the year, and establishes Ski as one of the best rappers to come from the Florida Soundcloud scene.