2018 In Review: Day 6 – Rap And Hip-hop

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2018 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

The renaissance of Korean hip-hop continued in 2018, with the new faces of High School Rapper making their debuts and yet another season of Show Me The Money generating the headlines. Stylistically, the top end of our 2018 picks are perhaps a little more slanted towards the old-school approaches of Illinit, Mild Beats and even Hunger Noma; but the albums side of the Honorable Mentions section are filled with some of the best that the new blood had to offer this year.

Two hip-hop pieces are omitted from this post, because they were named to the overall categories on Day 2 and 3: that’s XXX – Language (Album of the Year) and Mommy Son – Shonen Jump (runner-up Song of the Year).


  • The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • This year, we’re providing Spotify playlists of music featured in these lists (provided that Spotify carries the music). The 2018 Rap and Hip-hop playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Rap and Hip-hop Album 2018

Bassagong – Tang-A

Maybe it was the lush arrangements, filled with live sessions and bluesy tones; maybe it was Bassagong’s laid-back delivery, casually combining breakneck rushes with soulful hooks; maybe it was his lyricism, no-frills dry with honest boasts and easy cheer. For all these reasons and more, there was unique, irreplaceable warmth and humanity to Tang-A. Listening to it felt intimate, like catching up with an old friend. It’s not all vintage charm, as the album had technical achievements to show too: Bassagong’s carefully constructed verses are worth breaking down, and some of these beats are maybe the countriest rap beats of all time (see “Grae Grae”) but they work more seamlessly than imagined. The album really solidified Legit Goons’ place on the map, and rightfully should be considered a candidate for a modern classic.

Runner-up Rap and Hip-hop Album 2018

Justhis & Paloalto – 4 the Youth

Two of the scene’s most influential names today getting together to produce a full-length album and then some. It was a recipe for success, and 4 the Youth lived up to expectations by being a sumptuous 22-track monster spanning almost every subgenre in vogue today. It was made possible by the two emcees’ versatility – Paloalto shows off how he’s been around for so long even as trends have changed, and Justhis proves himself a natural – and smart casting of numerous producing and performing talents to fill in the gaps. To contain all this, the album constantly expanded its scope throughout its runtime (G2’s entrance in “Wayne” and the narration of “Seoul Romance” are just two moments where sound and message took unexpected turns). One of those albums that we’ll be looking back to down the road, remembering what hip-hop was like in 2018.

The Next-Best Ten

Chamane – 22

Drunken Tiger – Drunken Tiger X: Rebirth of Tiger JK (read our review)

Hunger Noma – Weird Tales

Hwaji – WASD

Illinit – Cosmos

Kid Milli – AI, the Playlist

Mild Beats – Secondhand Smoking

Nuol – Finder

Simon Dominic – Darkroom: Roommates Only

Woo Won-jae – af


Best Rap and Hip-hop Song 2018

Drunken Tiger – Yet

In the final album to bear the DT name, Tiger JK returned to roots and packed the first half with hard-hitting boom-bap. “Yet” was the best of the bunch, faithful to the Wu-Tang-tinged works of the noughties yet also innovatively bringing that style into 2018. Loptimist’s intricate beat holds incredible tension and release, powered by strings and even taepyungso, to bear atop the thumping drums. JK’s furious verses are vulnerable but also intrepid, imparting the spirit of the seasoned twenty-year emcee who refuses to go quietly into the good night. It’s wave after wave of catharsis for any old-school listener, a worthwhile legacy to the DT legends of old.

Runner-up Rap and Hip-hop Song 2018

XXX – S_it

In naming Language our Album of the Year, we noted the sense that anything could happen next in that album. Other than perhaps “Ganju Gok”, “S_it” was the best example of that. In a jam-packed but all-too-short five minutes, XXX laid out a multi-part manifesto against what they see as creatively deprived musicianship, with FRNK adding to and switching up the beat several times and Kim Ximya pacing his attacks to match. The first ninety seconds – where Ximya effortlessly rides a curtly bouncing staccato – are enjoyable, but the show really starts when that beat gives way to a buzzing bass that defines the more menacing variation that follows. By the time the beat dies out entirely, leaving only some knife clangs and Ximya’s echoing voice loops that vow to “kill y’all now”, the track has your full attention: holding it in suspense, indifferent to its own achievement, showing how it’s supposed to be done.

The Next-Best Ten

Bassagong – 탕아 (Tang-A) (Feat. J-Tong)

Chamane – Shine (Feat. X.Q, The Quiett)

DJ Wegun – Venom (Feat. Nafla)

DPR Live – Martini Blue

Giriboy – northbutsouth (Prod. Lnb) (Feat. Kid Milli)

Gong Haim – 95 Kid

Justhis & Paloalto – 4 the Youth (Feat. OLNL, Yeseo, Ku One-chan, Cherry Coke, Minje)

Mild Beats – 이야기 (Story) (Feat. Nucksal, Deepflow)

OLNL – 코끼리코 (Kokiriko)

The Quiett – Flex Forever (Feat. Changmo)

Honorable Mentions


Bully Da Ba$tard – Bipolar In Ma Neck
Changmo – 닿는 순간 (Dnsg)
DSEL X Khundi Panda – 농 (Nong)
Fana – Fanabyss
Giriboy – 졸업식 (Graduation)
Gong Haim – OK, The Era of Independent Films
Han Yo-han – 기타 멘 무사시 2 (Musashi II)
Jaedal – Period
Jjangyou – Koki7
Jvcki Wai – Neo EvE
Noel – Doubleonoel
Odee X Viann – Open Monday
OLNL – 전체이용가 (All Available)
Owen Ovadoz – Changes
Paloalto – Summer Grooves
Pe2ny – Hommage
Reddy – Telescope
Simba Zawadi – Names
Superbee – Rap Legend
The Quiett – Glow Forever
Sleeq – Life Minus F Is Lie
Spray – Mindspray
Villain – Bank Robber
Vinxen – 제련해도 (Smelting)
Young Jay – The Boy
YunB – S.O.S.


Asol – I’m 100
Basick – SM58 (Feat. Justhis)
Bassagong – 부재중 (Missed Call) (Feat. Jayho, Ahn Shin-ae)
Bassagong – 축하해 (HBD)
B-Free – MacGyver (Feat. Cokejazz)
Cheetah – I’ll Be There
Code Kunst – 비네 (Rain Bird) (Feat. Tablo, Colde)
Dok2 – 1llogic (Feat. Chancellor)
Don Mills – 낙원상가 (Nakwon Stores) (Feat. Car, the Garden)
Drunken Tiger – 끄덕이는 노래 (Mantra)
Gary – 태양 (Feat. Chancellor)
Giriboy – 빈집 (EmptyHouse) (Feat. Thama) (Prod. dnss)
Huckleberry P – Wave (Feat. Stella Jang, Bassagong)
Hwaji – WASD
Ignito – Tipping Point
Illinit – Cosmos
Jay Park, Simon Dominic, Loco, Gray – 뒤집어버려 (Upside Down)
Just Music – 구 (Sphere)
Kid Milli, Jvcki Wai, Swings – Hyperreal
Moldy – Mixed Zone
Nafla – B.I.G.
Nafla & Loopy – Rough World
No:el – 00 (Double O)
Olltii – Cypherpath (Feat. Huckleberry P, H2adin)
Ovan – 취한 밤 (Confusion) (Feat. Jinsil of Mad Soul Child)
Qim Isle – 슈슈슈 (ShuShuShu)
QM – ?uestion Mark
Reddy – Peach (Feat. Suran)
Reddy – 적셔 (Thanksgiving) (Feat. Paloalto, Huckleberry P)
Reddy & Year of the Ox – No More Parties
Sik-K – 그래 그냥 내게 바로 (Skip and Kiss) (Prod. GroovyRoom)
Simon Dominic – Demolition Man (Feat. Kim Jong-seo)
Simon Dominic & Pharaohe Monch – 왈 (Simon Says)
Sleeq – AIQ
Swings – Keep Going (Feat. BewhY, Nafla, Zico) (Feat. IOAH)
Swings – 매일 (Everyday) (Feat. Verbal Jint)
Villain – 마니또 (Manitto)
Vinxen – Sinking Down With U
Vinxen – 유재석 (Yoo Jae Suk)
Way Ched – RnB Ting (Feat. Sik-K)
Woodie Gochild – Muse (Feat. Jay Park, Sik-K)
XXX – 18거 1517 (18G 1517)
XXX – 간주곡 (Ganju Gok)
XXX – 수작 (Sujak)
Young B – Polo
Zion.T – 말라깽이 (Malla Gang) (Feat. E Sens)

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review