There’s something special about two artists coming together to release heat that attracts people to collaborative albums. More than 20 such notable hip-hop projects were released in 2017, with each one offering a look into the unique combination of skill and art behind such team-ups.
In 2018, however, there were only a handful of high-profile collaborative albums that dropped. But each one still left a mark on the genre — sometimes for the content, but just as often for the hype surrounding the effort.
We witnessed hip-hop’s favorite couple prove true love trumps all, a student surpassing the teacher, two out-of-this-world personalities take their listeners to a world on narcotics, and much, much more. There was a bit of everything within this short list of releases, and fans couldn’t get enough of their craftsmanship and the organic chemistry that these artists have with each other.
As we say good bye to 2018, Billboard ranks the eight best collaborative hip-hop albums of the year.
8. Ty Dolla $ign & Jeremih, MihTy
This joint project between R&B crooners Ty Dolla $ign and Jeremih has been a long time coming, but fans got their wish this past October when MihTy finally dropped. There was a lot of hype surrounding this project given both artists’ track records, and they definitely delivered. Both artists are known for their smooth voices and soulful, lusty brand of R&B and it’s apparent on their joint album that their pairing was made to be. The varying vocal tones coupled with Hitmaka’s ear for nostalgic R&B samples from the likes of Dru Hill and Mary J. Blige made this album a joyful listen.
7. Czarface and MF Doom, Czarface Meets Metal Face
When MF Doom teamed up with Czarface — the supergroup consisting of Inspectah Deck, Esoteric and producer 7L — hip-hop purists raved at the nostalgic hip-hop vibes. Backed by 7L’s gritty boom bap-era production, Inspectah Deck, Esoteric, and MF Doom all graced the mic with their lyrical prowess. Each rapper flows through the booming drum samples while flexing their animated references to superheroes and villains. Czarface Meets Metal Face takes listeners into a comic book world filled with lasers and panel-to-panel action.
It’s also a return to form for Doom, who’s had something of a rough decade personally and professionally. With this team-up, Czarface brings out a vibe in Doom that fans have been waiting to hear for a long time.
6. 03 Greedo & Nef the Pharoah, Porter 2 Grape
Before beginning a 20-year prison sentence on drug and weapons charges, 03 Greedo hit the studio and churned out a number of solo and collaborative projects to hold fans over till his release. One of the projects that saw the light of day was this collaborative EP with Nef the Pharaoh. The five-track EP pairs the California natives, showcasing their individual strengths and highlighting their rapport. In this Bay Area-L.A. connection, Porter 2 Grape is an example of the emerging talent coming out of the West Coast.
In the span of 16 minutes the duo trade bars about their riches (“Ball Out”), the fickle women in their lives (“Choosy”) and more. It’s a fun album with its compelling production and colorful verses and the two know exactly what’s needed of them on this short project. What’s even more impressive is how 03 Greedo churned out a project of this quality in a short amount of time.
5. Future & Juice WRLD, Future & Juice WRLD Present…WRLD ON DRUGS
When Future teamed up with Drake for their collaborative album What a Time to Be Alive, the rapper took control of the steering wheel over the 11-track project. But for his 2018 joint album with emerging rapper Juice WRLD, Future Hendrix took a backseat to his ascendant collaborator’s impressive showing out.
Future & Juice WRLD Present…WRLD ON DRUGS combined Future’s brand of trap music with Juice WRLD’s emo raps. The two artists were arguably the most unlikely pairing on this list, but it barely showed on the project: Future is in his usual Pluto mind state with his drug-laced lyrics, while Juice WRLD steals the show by stepping away from the self-pitying vibes he rapped with on Goodbye & Good Riddance and taking on a more boastful persona. Album standouts include “Astronauts,” “Red Bentley,” and “Realer N Realer.”
4. Dave East & Styles P, Beloved
One of the most beloved elements of New York hip-hop is the street rap that gave birth to a long list of revered lyricists through the decades. Dave East and Styles P are two New York MCs keeping the form alive and well through their music. Styles is a part of a golden age of New York rappers who raised the bar for lyricism throughout hip-hop around the turn of the century, while East is a student of that generation. On their first collaborative project, the two lyricists are bridging the gap between these two different eras.
Beloved is a rap purists dream come true. The two lyrical heavyweights lay waste to the microphone as they dish out bars with vicious precision. They compare their hoods to Walmart on “We Got Everything” while flexing in honor of their friends locked away in prison on “For All My N—as.” Evocative tales of the hood, old and new, are spread throughout the 13 tracks. For Styles, the collab was an opportunity for him to run with the young guns and see if his skills have a place amongst the new generation. For Dave, Beloved was a chance to prove his skills against one of the renowned elders in hip-hop and he did an excellent job doing so.
3.) KIDS SEE GHOSTS — KIDS SEE GHOSTS
We’ve waited 10 long years for Kanye West and Kid Cudi to join forces for a full-length studio project. It’s no question that Kanye was heavily influenced by Cudi on his seminal 808’s & Heartbreaks a decade ago, and we can all agree Cudi would not be where he is today without Kanye’s co-sign back in 2008. The two have had an interesting relationship filled with ups and downs over the years but one thing has always been certain between them — their ability to make quality music together.
Under the collective moniker KIDS SEE GHOSTS, West and Cudi teamed up to offer listeners a euphoric trip into their eclectic minds. In 23 minutes, the duo touched on rap, rock, and neo-psychedelia to create a cohesive album that delved into their respective current mindstates after their very public struggles with mental health issues. Listeners were taken into a wild world of sex, alligators, and Ric Flair references on “4th Dimension,” while hearing the duo let go of opinions and criticisms on “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2).” As they say on the fifth track “Reborn,” West and Cudi are on a path of rebirth. The return to form is proof of West and Cudi’s mystical bond, always bringing out the best in one another.
2. Lil Baby & Gunna, Drip Harder
Take two of the hottest rappers out the South, put them in a studio to combine their strengths on the mic and you have one of the best duo albums of the year. Lil Baby and Gunna did what Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan couldn’t quite manage when they joined forces in 2014: At the time, Thugga and Quan were the new faces in Atlanta poised to lead the new generation of Cash Money Records after the stellar Rich Gang Tha Tour Part 1 mixtape, but a beef between the two put a stop to anything Rich Gang-related. With Drip Harder, Lil Baby and Gunna reimagined that special time for Atlanta hip-hop, both establishing themselves as stars in the process.
Drip Harder is an excellent display of chemistry and competition between the two young ATL rappers. Right from the start, the twosome waste no time laying their slick, syrupy flows over mesmerizing trap beats from Turbo, Tay Keith, Wheezy and more of the year’s hottest producers. Like a tag team dominating their opponents in a wrestling ring, Lil Baby and Gunna rarely missed a step as they showed their pairing is deeper than a collaboration — they’re like brothers. Both men know each other’s movements as they weaved through each of their verses with ease.
The album is luxurious rap at its finest, with references to Balenciaga and Patek Philippe, as well as YSL and VVS diamonds. Rappers talking about their riches is nothing new, but Lil Baby and Gunna did it with a competitive flair that kept the raps fresh. If Gunna rides around Atlanta in multiple Bentleys, Lil Baby stunts in 4×4 Mercedes Benz trucks so big no garage can take them in.
1. The Carters, Everything Is Love
Everything Is Love is the culmination of two years of revelations, sorrow, apologies, and growth between hip-hop’s favorite power couple. The Carters left the door wide open on their very private life when Lemonade shed light on JAY-Z’s alleged infidelity and the emotions Beyoncé endured because of it. JAY issued his apology on his album 4:44, while discussing a number of other topics including his family life, his relationships and role as a father. To close the narrative they started telling in 2016, the Carters rattled an unsuspecting music world with their first joint project, Everything Is Love.
The album is a moment of reconciliation that celebrates black love, black pride and black excellence. Over an eclectic backdrop of sounds from Boi-1da, Cool & Dre, Illmind, Pharrell and more, the couple left no stone unturned as they put their marital bliss on display. They told their origin story on the head-knocker “713,” relished newfound love throughout all the traumatic drama on “LOVEHAPPY” and their preference for lovemaking on the beach on “SUMMER.” There was no question JAY would deliver on the rap front, but no one expected Bey to steal the show with her rhyming on several of the tracks.
As it was used throughout their “On The Run II” tour, the phrase “This is real love” is alive and well on Everything Is Love.