62 of the Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2018 (So Far)
Summer 2018 is approaching its end, and while the most dominant names in hip-hop have continued putting in work this year, several newcomers have left their mark with songs that have helped define the last several months. First, though, let’s take a look at rap vets.
In what feels like a yearly routine, Drake has once again dominated streaming platforms as he’s released a series of inventive singles and visual accompaniments on his way to collecting big wins. Tracks like "God's Plan" and “In My Feelings” have spent a time holding down the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, a placement that’s pretty much the 6ix God’s second home.
Others holding it down for more-established hip-hop artists include Migos, Post Malone, Nicki Minaj and Childish Gambino. At the top of the year, Quavo, Offset and Takeoff served up their Culture II album, a project that features singles like their Drizzy-assisted “Walk It Talk It” and their Pharrell-produced “Stir Fry.” With their patented triple-time flows and infectious production, both tracks became ubiquitous, adding to Migos’ collection of hits.
Post Malone has been a monster all year, with his Beerbongs and Bentleys LP debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. His Ty Dolla $ign-assisted single "Psycho" also landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
For his part, Gambino delivered one of the most thought-provoking tracks of the year with "This Is America," a tribal, drum-infused experimental trap song that explores numbness and Black pain with clever juxtapositions of celebration and looming tragedy via it's much-discussed music video. It’s no wonder the track quickly landed at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Trumpeting her return to rap game dominance, Nicki Minaj also pulled up with a couple emphatic tunes this year, with both being included on her Queen album. “Chun-Li” led the way; the Street Fighter-referencing cut showcases Nicki’s nearly peerless rhyme skill. “Barbie Dreams” arrived with the album—the hilarious Biggie nod saw the Queens rapper name-dropping the likes of Drake, Meek Mill, 50 Cent, 6ix9ine, DJ Khaled and many more. Nicki is back like she never left. Other artists are back for the first time.
Toward the beginning of the year, artists like XXXTentacion and Juice Wrld—with their genre-fusing tendencies and a natural talent for songwriting—established themselves as hip-hop’s next superstars. For XXX, the release of his emo-pop ? single “Sad!” was the one. Debuting at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, the track eventually made its way to No. 1. One day after his tragic shooting death this past June, XXXTentacion’s “Sad!” broke a single-day Spotify streaming record, jumping past Taylor Swift's record on its way to accomplishing the feat.
Juice Wrld's rap game ascent was powered by "Lucid Dreams," an emotional, Sting-sampling tune that eventually ended up landing a top spot in the Hot 100. With a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, it feels safe to say this guy will become a mainstay on streaming charts, televised performances and lists like this one.
Adding to the success of newer artists have been folks like Valee and 6ix9ine, as well as folks like Lil Pump, BlocBoy JB, Lil Baby, Gunna, Smokepurpp, Wifisfuneral and YBN Nahmir. All have landed on XXL's list of the 62 best hip-hop songs of 2018 so far. Check them out below.