It’s hard to believe that nearly two months have already gone by this year. Still, seeing a “3” at the front of every dateline feels fresh, like we still have a chance to get our feet under ourselves to brace for every curveball 2018 will be throwing our way.
At first I wasn’t sure just how many specific artists I was looking forward to hearing from this year and I’ve always felt those types of annual lists to be insignificant, just because you never know what’s really going to come out. However, after doing some thinking, I realized there is quite a few releases I would be overly excited for or at least intrigued to hear. Here is a short list of the music I am most anticipating this year.
Father John Misty
Every year I seem to spend more and more energy listening to new artists, but even then, there is always at least one artist or album that makes me stop and forget that other music exists. Right now that guy is Father John Misty. Out of all my top albums from last year, Pure Comedy is the one I am still playing obsessively, and now I’m not sure if that’s even my favorite project of his. He’s stated on numerous occasions to expect a new album in 2018 and given that he just dropped an awesome single last month, things are looking good for Mr. Tillman.
In just a few short years, Anderson .Paak has gone from an underground dreamer to Dr. Dre protege to borderline superstar. He owned 2016 with a pair of phenomenal albums, one being his sophomore breakout, Malibu, the other his throwback soul collab with Knxwledge Yes Lawd!. Last year, he continued to exert dominance over the worlds of hip-hop and R&B, earning big bill tour dates and countless guest spots on big name records. Paak is as talented as they come and I’m counting on his next effort to be another masterful fusion of multiple styles. Hopefully his new single is just a taste.
At 23, Denzel Curry remains one of the most underrated rappers in the game. Though still extremely young, the Florida product has been wreaking havoc on his contemporaries since 2013’s Nostalgic 64. Sporting one of the most aggressive flows in all of hip-hop, I’m expecting big things from Denzel in 2018. He recently announced that his new project was officially turned in for mixing and mastering. My forecast: rap album of the year contender.
If it wasn’t for Childish Gambino’s last album, the Grammy-nominated Awaken, My Love!, I would hardly consider placing him on a list like this. The quality of his last record, however, makes Donald Glover’s next musical move a must-watch. Awaken, My Love! represented a big change of pace – a soul-tinged fusion of rock, funk and other throwback styles of black music – which I found significantly more interesting than anything he has done as a rapper. All eyes are on Gambino as he prepares to release his next project, but he seems more in control than ever of his artistic fate.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Gibbs and Madlib’s 2014 gangsta-jazz-rap manifesto Piñata still holds up as one of the best rap albums of the decade and Gibbs maintains one of the sharpest flows in rap, so what reason is there to believe their new record won’t be great? Madlib’s underground legacy needs no introduction, and even though he may not be in his absolute prime, he’s fully capable of delivering another full length album’s worth of fantastic instrumentals for Freddie to murder with his stone cold delivery. I’m not counting on Bandana to surpass Piñata, but the high expectations make this my most anticipated rap collaboration this year.
A late addition to this list, new Beach House will always steal my attention and raise my excitement to extreme levels. The iconic dream-pop duo recently announced their new record will arrive in the first half of May and thus far, the teaser singles have me pretty excited. At this point, the band has so many great albums, I wouldn’t be overly disappointed if it came out mediocre. If they turn in three or four great tracks I will be pretty satisfied, but the potential that lies in a brand new Beach House album is surely enticing.
Black Thought & 9th Wonder
Old heads lost their mind when news came out that a Black Thought and 9th Wonder project was in the works. If this EP actually comes to fruition, it would be pretty exciting considering Black Thought, who has spent the entirety of his career rapping over dozens of great Roots albums, has never released a true solo project. There’s no doubt he can still spit, plus 9th Wonder is still producing great beats these days, including “DUCKWORTH.” off Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and a large portion of Rapsody’s last album. Two rap veterans of this caliber joining forces for new music is something I won’t ever get tired of.
Is it realistic to expect more new music from Frank? At this point, I truly believe that his days of living in extreme undercover are behind him or at least on pause. His label troubles are over and he is completely independent of any external authority, which makes me feel that his next full length might be closer than many people think. Hoping for a full album may just be wishful thinking, especially because Blonde was so special, but the solid string of singles Frank dropped throughout last year are enough reason to be optimistic. I think we get a tease of a follow up before year’s end.
Black Star & Madlib
According to Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who released their only album as the duo Black Star in 1998 – widely regarded as a classic – the hip-hop legends have something brewing for 2018. As said by Mos, production for the new record is being handled by Madlib, an idea so amazing it could only exist in a dream. Perhaps not, as Black Star has made a recent number of concert appearances together. I’m not confident this collaboration will see the light of day, but I am confident it will be up to par if it does exist. To release something completely lackluster seems like a longshot; these guys are simply far too skilled. Even an EP would be bound to capture at least a bit of their magic.
I’m not entirely expecting Danny Brown’s next album to come out this year, but the recent conversations about his next project are enough for him to earn a spot on my official list. Though it may have seemed impossible, he exceeded expectations with 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, an album that destroyed any and all creative boundaries for weirdo rap. I’m not sure how much wilder Danny can get, but he is as good of an album artist as anyone else out today, not only in rap but in all of music, so I have little reason to doubt his next body of work will be another bold statement.