Is it too early to start thinking about the second half of 2018? The hip-hop public has been inundated with releases from seemingly every big name in the game: The Carters, Drake, Nas, Kanye (and Kid Cudi), J. Cole, and Migos have all already released projects this year. Even Kendrick Lamar had his fingerprints on the curation of the Black Panther soundtrack.
After so many prominent artists dropped in the first two quarters, it’s worth wondering if any of them will double-up and try to emulate DMX’s feat of two Billboard No. 1 hip-hop albums in one year. If you’re not one for speculation, this may not be the piece for you, but otherwise, take a look below. (Prolific artists like Currensy and Young Thug are going to be left out of the discussion because quarterly releases from them feel like a foregone conclusion, much less bi-annual releases.)
Gangsta Gibbs just went predominantly trap on his Freddie album, but he knows there’s a segment of his fanbase eagerly anticipating Bandana, the follow-up to he and producer Madlib’s classic Piñata album. He says the album is done but recently told Rap Radar that “I don’t gotta put it out yet. I’m straight, I’m good. I could put it out when it’s time to put it out, but that’s the beauty of this.” Hopefully, Gibbs will find a date in 2018 as the right time to drop it. He says Bandana could be his last album, which may explain his reticence to release it.
Will Migos try to bookend 2018 with albums? January’s big release was Culture II, a followup to Migo’ star-making Culture project which didn’t quite have the same reception as the original. Perhaps the prolific trio will want to redeem that perceived misstep with another project before the year is out. There’s not much smoke here, but the Migos are known for creating like crazy. You never know.
LA rapper 03 Greedo released his God Level album to coincide with his departure to prison on a 20-year sentence on drugs and gun charges in Texas. The 27-track project shows what the hip-hop game will miss without the outspoken rapper’s daily presence — but he’ll still be remembered by the hoards of music he has in the stash. As of May, he had recorded 13 of the 30 albums he aimed to record to before starting his bid. It’s likely that he and his team may drop another bittersweet release before the year is out.
In rap’s sad cycle, it seems as one artist goes in, another comes out as Kodak Black will reportedly be home next month. The controversial Florida rapper, already awaiting trial on rape charges, saw his one-year parole violation sentence for guns and drugs charges shortened. Kodak will be free while awaiting the sexual assault trial and may vie to hit the ground running with new music to follow-up his Heart Break Kodak R&B album, which was released in February.
Gifted rapper/producer Milo started the music year off right with his sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face album, which was literally released on January 1. While the intellectual lyricist recently announced that he and fellow independent maven Elucid have formed the musical “co-op” Nostrum Grocers, it seems more likely than not that we could also see another solo work from the Ruby Yacht captain in the next fives months. sovereign nose came just five months after who told you to think ? ? ! ! ? ! ? ! ? !, a long-awaited album. He’s shown us that with him it’s not about conventional marketing, it’s just about the music.
Kid Cudi and Kanye’s Kids See Ghosts album was one of the highlights of GOOD music’s June music spree, as the two endearingly transparent artists collaborated on the mental health treatise everyone knew they were capable of. Apparently, there’s more where that came from. Kid Cudi recently told Billboard that “the plan is to do more Kids See Ghosts albums.” Cudi says he’s feeling ‘the best” he’s ever felt, so getting in the studio shouldn’t be an issue. Kanye has also said he’s in a prolific mood, so who knows? Maybe the duo will offer that New Year’s Eve surprise that we missed out on last year.
Nas said “album done” in 2015, and a whole three years later finally dropped Nasir — which wasn’t even the project he was referring to back then. Nas collaborated with Kanye in Wyoming and created one of the seven-track offerings that made Kanye’s GOOD June, but he has another solo project in the tank according to hip-hop manager Wayno, who says he has heard two “dope” songs. Will he release it before the year is out? It seems likely, as Nasir was a bit too short to placate fans waiting since 2012’s Life Is Good, and his lyrically-dense brand of hip-hop is just right for the winter.
Jay-Z (& Zaytoven)
Jay-Z used to be good for an album a year — but that was in another life for the Tidal CEO, entertainment mogul, and family man. There were two four year gaps between the release of Blueprint 3, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and 4:44. A year after 4:44 though, he’s released Everything Is Love with Beyonce, and it feels like he’s right back in the mix of active artists. Legendary Atlanta producer Zaytoven posted an ominous photo of him in the studio with Jay in November of 2016, where he recalls Jay asked him for “them beats with them strings and pianos in it.”
Zaytoven is known for providing just that for Gucci Mane but he’s been branching out of late, most recently with a solo album and a collaboration project with Lecrae. It would be divine for Zaytoven to follow up Trap Holizay and Let The Trap Say Amen with a holiday-timed project featuring the man who calls himself “Hov.” When Zaytoven spoke to Rap-Up in late April of 2018, he called it a “top secret” project, but assured us “there’s something in the works.” We’ll be waiting.
Kanye told The New York Times in late June that he was eager to release “52 records in 52 weeks,” but as we’ve learned over the past four months, Kanye still tends to say things without thinking them through. That said, way before Ye — and the 2017 mental health crisis that engendered his prolonged absence from the game — Kanye was working on an album called Turbo Grafx 16 that he tweeted was “just on some nerd vibes.” The project was inspired by video game themes — and apparently had Pete Rock, Tyler, The Creator, Migos, Lil Yachty, Big Sean, and Vic Mensa in on the creative process.
It’s worth noting that video game music is what inspired Kanye to first make beats as a kid, so he could still have a desire to see that project through. In December of 2016, iconic producer Rock posted clips from his collaborative sessions with Kanye in which a tracklist appeared to be visible. Will any of those songs be on Kanye’s next project? Could he release Turbo Grafx 16 later this year and tour with it? Like everything else with Kanye lately, it’s all up in the air — but something to speculate on nonetheless.
Drake is currently going so hard with Scorpion that a follow-up may be the furthest thing from his mind, but it’s worth noting that a “well-placed” source told Variety reporter and industry insider Shirley Halperin, that Drake already has another project done. Scorpion was not only a chance to put up big streaming metrics, the double album got him out of his Universal contract. The source noted that “when Drake signs his next deal, he’ll have another release ready to drop to accompany the news.”
In what has already been a cinematic year of highs and lows for Drake, consider this scenario: After finishing his North America-spanning tour with Migos, he uses the final Atlanta date to officially announce a massive new deal — and a new music project right in time for the amorous winter months also known as “cuffin’ season.” It would certainly be a good way to figuratively wipe off whatever lingering stains the Pusha T debacle left, and set a strong tone heading into 2019.
It’s also worth noting that after Drake’s recent Fire In The Booth freestyle, he told BBC 1 DJ Charlie Sloth that he would be back “in January or February” of 2019. Will he be promoting new music then as well?