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New American Songbook

Best Hip Hop Of 2018 | NAS

Scrolling through the end of year “best of” lists is a great reminder of how much music I don’t listen to--the lists could just as easily be titled “music you missed”. It’s easy to become insecure-- the absence of familiar names on the list could indicate your once cool and edgy tastes becoming irrelevant. Worse, unfamiliarity with the current fashion in music could be a symptom of ossifying preferences: not just becoming out of touch, but becoming set in ways.

A web search for “best hip hop 2018” returns a gajillion results, but what it will never answer is the first question: “says who?” Hip hop has always been an art that is simultaneously high- and low-brow, global and hyperlocal, punk and establishment, and, as such, comparisons should always be contextualized, certainties are always subjective and rankings rarely reflect reality.

This is all to say that hip hop is vast, and the search for the best of it is unending and ultimately futile. A list of all the albums merely released in 2018 is probably the closest we’ll get to an actual “best of”. There are plenty of familiar elders-- Masta Ace, Black Thought and Nas are still producing work-- and the newer names are a map that we’ll follow into 2019, as far as we can go. What’s missing from even this comprehensive list is what’s always missing from lists: the neighborhood block parties, the afterhours ciphers, the graffiti jam sessions, the internet chatroom battles: those secret communities that provide the grist that makes the music what it is in the first place. In other words, you know, hip hop.