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The 10 Most Anticipated Hip-Hop Acts of 2018

on January 09, 2018, 12:00am
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In an ever-changing musical climate, it’s hard to tell what the successes of last year bode for 2018. Still, the demand for new music remains high. But even among all of the albums that fans are waiting for with bated breath, there are some that are more anticipated than others. To help you parse through the crowded field of artists set to make noise in the new year, we’ve listed a mix of universally beloved superstars, venerated veterans, and underground acts on course to become mainstream darlings. These are the most anticipated hip-hop acts of 2018.

–Greg Whitt
Contributing Writer

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10. Money Man

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Believe the Hype: If you paid close attention to Atlanta’s trap sound beyond whatever crossed over to radio or RapCaviar, you may have stumbled onto Money Man and his musically eventful 2017. Riding the modest wins of 2016’s Black Circle 2 tape with a fresh Birdman co-sign to his credit, the rapper delivered plenty of heat last year with the 24 Hours and Secret Society mixtapes. He spent more than 30 weeks on Pandora’s Trendsetters chart, an early indication of his growing popularity. Now part of the YMCMB group, he represents a new generation for the label that broke Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne. –Gary Suarez

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09. Dreezy

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Believe the Hype: One of hip-hop’s most underrated major label artists, this Chicagoan deserved to get huge after 2016’s Jeremih-infused hit single “Body”. The corresponding No Hard Feelings full-length still kept delivering straight into 2017, with the hooky “Wasted” garnering considerable play at radio. In recent months, Dreezy’s been laying the groundwork for her as-yet-untitled next album, dropping solid singles with 6LACK, Kodak Black, and PNB Rock that capitalize on her natural appeal to both rap and R&B audiences. Given her demonstrated talent on the mic and apparent commercial savvy, another big single seems very close at hand. –Gary Suarez

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08. Yung Bleu

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Believe the Hype: Boosie Badazz fans who made it deep into the second half of last year’s 90-minute BooPac were rewarded by two of the project’s best tracks, “Let Me Know” and “Semi on Me”. Featured on both cuts, Alabama’s Yung Bleu brings to the table the same sort of sung-rap style we’ve seen successfully employed lately by YFN Lucci and YoungBoy Never Broke Again. His own “Miss It” proved a minor breakthrough, helping to earn him a presence on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart. Pair that with the high quality of his Investments 4 mixtape, and 2018 seems very promising for him. –Gary Suarez

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07. Travis Scott

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Believe the Hype: With the long-buzzed-about collaborative Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho mixtape with Quavo now officially behind him, the erstwhile Yeezy protege still has fans clamoring for AstroWorld. Though Travis Scott started teasing this album back in 2016, we’ve only heard one song that definitely features on the Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight follow-up. RIAA platinum certified mere months after release last May, the ethereal ballad “Butterfly Effect” captures everything people love about his narcotized trap melodies. Even while peppering the market with features to tide listeners over, Scott needs to go big with AstroWorld to make it worth the wait. –Gary Suarez

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06. Bad Bunny

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Believe the Hype: Latin trap’s ascendancy in 2017 boasted many contenders but one clear front-runner. One of the Spanish language scene’s most prodigious artists, this Puerto Rican rapper held memorable lead and feature slots on a variety of tracks, from the moody “Soy Peor” to poppier offerings like “Sensualidad” with J Balvin. Offset may have named his first solo hit after Ric Flair, but Bad Bunny got the wrestling legend in the actual music video for “Chambea”. 2018 should see the release of his full-length debut, and given recent tracks with the likes of Nicki Minaj and 21 Savage, the crossover potential is huge. –Gary Suarez

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05. Nipsey Hussle

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Believe the Hype: Nipsey Hussle wrapped up 2017 with one of the hardest singles of the year with his Victory Lap opening salvo “Rap Niggas”. Now, after inking a partnership with Atlantic Records and announcing an NBA All-Star Weekend — which just happens to be in Nip’s hometown of Los Angeles this year — release date for his major-label debut, 2018 is an opportunity for Nipsey Hussle to level up. After an unsuccessful partnership with Epic Records earlier in his career, Nipsey has been grinding on the underground for years. The hard work paid off, and he’s built up a rabid and faithful fan base who are proud to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for his music. This year, his fans’ loyalty pays off. –Greg Whitt

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04. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

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Believe the Hype: Freddie Gibbs made a triumphant return last year after a harrowing 2016 that included sexual assault charges and jail time in Austria. After being exonerated and acquitted of those charges, Gangsta Gibbs released some of the best work of his career in the short but potent EP You Only Live 2wice. But an eight-song EP does not a comeback make, so 2018 will be a big year for the Gary, IN, native. Most listeners expect his next full-length album to be the sequel to his 2014 Madlib collaboration, Piñata. But even if the Piñata sequel isn’t next on his release schedule, expect Freddie Gibbs to make his presence felt in a big way this year. –Greg Whitt

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03. PRhyme

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Believe the Hype: The first go-around with Royce 5’9” & DJ Premier melted our respective faces with a triumph of beats and rhymes powered by Adrian Younge samples and features from big names like Common, Jay Electronica, and ScHoolboy Q. In 2018, Antman Wonder takes over the reigns as the sample source for DJ Premier’s precision chops, and based on last year’s Bar Exam 4, we can expect Royce 5’9” to be in rare form as well. The guest list? Not unlike the first album, that is still a closely held secret that we don’t expect to learn until just before the album’s release, which only adds to the level of anticipation for the 2018 sequel. –Greg Whitt

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02. Cardi B

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Believe the Hype: Cardi B won 2017 in a landslide. With three top 10 hits — including the biggest song of the year, a gigantic engagement ring on her finger, and seemingly the whole world rooting for her to succeed — the “Bodak Yellow” Bronxite just needs a successful debut album to keep the momentum going. While very few details are available about her highly anticipated debut so far, the pressure is on for Cardi to strike while the iron is scalding hot. So many artists have gone from industry darling to afterthought overnight. Cardi B’s 2018 debut may mean the difference between great year and great career. –Greg Whitt

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01. Drake

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Believe the Hype: On “Do Not Disturb”, the closer to Drake’s 2017 playlist, More Life, the Toronto rapper shared that he would “be back in 2018 to give [us] the summary.” He spent a year announcing his 2016 album, Views, in seemingly every verse preceding that album’s release and delivered on schedule. There’s no reason to expect that he won’t do the same this year. With big wins for on-again/off-again rivals Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z in 2017, and lukewarm critical responses to his last two releases, Drake comes into 2018 with a lot to prove, even as he continues to destroy streaming records. –Greg Whitt

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