Written by LaZedrick Blackshire | @blusatire
2018 might have been one of the greatest years in music in a long time. I haven’t been this excited about the music game since the end of 2013-2016. Those dates are when the mixtape era started to die down and people started putting that same energy into their albums. 2018 had so much quality music that I can’t even tell you my favorite albums. With that, I was surprised many times by some of the albums that were released. Some were better than I expected them to be, some came out of nowhere, and some just showed improvement that many could not see coming. Here are my top 5 surprise albums.
Reason – There You Have It
While this originally debuted in 2017, The TDE artist re-released the album in September of 2018. What surprised me most about this album was how could I have slept on this the first time it was released. Then I realized that I heard him earlier on the Black Panther Soundtrack. This album is as soulful as it is gritty. As street as it is enlightening. TDE hasn’t missed yet with recruiting new talent. Reason showed lyricism, flow, and grit while speaking on the struggle and making it, making him relatable from the start. If you like TDE, Nipsey, Nas, and The Game, then this album is for you.
Summer Walker – Last Days of Summer
Summer Walker should not be a surprise to anyone at this point of the year. When I first heard CPR early in the year, I was instantly captivated by the strong voice and lyrics. What surprised me was how fast she caught a buzz and found success. Others (m were looking for her music after hearing CPR and sessions 32 and could find nothing. Even her Instagram is bare and on iTunes, no song predates 2018. She literally came out this year and ain’t missed a beat. This was due to her lack of interest of being famous and more so using her music to keep her mental health in check. Last Days of Summer Picks up and impresses. She seems to like the short and sweet approach. Many of her songs have a poetic vibe and every instrumental compliment her melodic voice. She has range and talent and even nice on the guitar. If you like Erykah Badu, SZA, 6lack, and Amy Winehouse this album is for you.
Dear Silas –The Last Cherry Blossom
Dear Silas is a prime example of working hard and remaining yourself paying off. I’ve been a fan since his college mixtape days. The Jackson, Mississippi native has always been creative and not a shame to use his nerd in his music. The surprise for me was how Silas caught a buzz eventually leading to him signing a major record deal. Skrr Skrr off “The Last Cherry Blossom” Is his biggest hit and caught many peoples attention due to the “Dexter Meme”. While the meme was popular, it was when his song was added to it and the melodic sound brought many people to wonder who the artist was. This album mixes nerd culture, hip-hop, and instruments capturing the attention of many. From a street fighter sample to Janet Jacksons “ I get so Lonely” letting us know that he’s about to shoot his shot. Between all the Naruto references as well as adding his talent for playing the trumpet on the track, this album blends pop culture and hip-hop perfectly and if you looking for something fresh and new yet still feeling familiar this album is for you.
Njomza first caught my ear on the late Mac Miller’s Devine Feminine album track Planet God Damn. When I first heard her sing, her soulful and powerful voice caught my attention and when I looked her up, finding out she was German but raised in Chicago also caught me off guard. She worked closely with Mac Miller at her start and I was looking forward to her music. Her 2017 EP, “Sad For you” while not bad disappointed me, because it was very pop, electric. So I was thoroughly surprised when she was signed to Motown and released “Vacation” her first work under the label. The soul R&B vibes return with a psychedelic vibe and great songwriting. Some EDM and House influences can be heard but do not sound out of place and just as good as the bass-heavy ballads. Lonely Nights is the highlight for me. If you like Pop vibes, with R&B and house vibes as well as psychedelic soul music, this album is for you.
21 Savage- I am > I was
The fact that 21 Savage is on a list of mine is a surprise in itself. When I thought that I had heard all of the good albums this year. 21 Savage dropped an album full of surprises. If you know me, you know I was never a 21 Savage fan, especially after that XXL Freshman freestyle. But this year, he has caught my interest on features and a Mortal Kombat trailer. 21 Savage’s album was actually good and came with many surprises. I was surprised that 21 had a lot of substance behind his bars. I was surprised that I bobbed my head all the way through. I loved that the features were not listed so when you listen for the first time, you a surprised about who on the song. The first appearance was a surprise in J. Cole, who once again kills a feature. My favorite surprise feature was Childish Gambino, the one from 2013 that used to rap his ass off. It was the collab I never thought I needed. 21 shows his growth as a rapper, while still maintaining his signature style.