Capital XTRA's 20 Best Albums of 2018

3 December 2018, 19:50 | Updated: 4 December 2018, 10:44

Ready to rewind? It's time to count down the biggest and best album releases of 2018. #CapitalXTRAsAOTY

It's time to reflect on another epic twelves months of music - because 2018 certainly didn't disappoint.

While seasoned artists like Drake ('Scorpion') and J. Cole ('KOD') served up killer additions to their growing discography, we also saw trailblazing newcomers like Cardi B ('Invasion of Privacy') and Jorja Smith ('Lost & Found') giving them a serious run for their money.

And, as we do every year, Capital XTRA have finalised our definitive annual ranking of the best albums that have dropped. Sp, wanna see if your favourite record made the cut?

Check out Capital XTRA's Best Albums of 2018 below. Have your say - whether you agree or disagree - with the hashtag #CapitalXTRAsAOTY. Let's go.

  1. 20. Bugzy Malone - 'B. Inspired'

    Bugzy Malone - 'B. Inspired'
    Bugzy Malone - 'B. Inspired'. Picture: B. Somebody

    Throughout his career, Bugzy Malone has strived to put Manny on the map and with his debut studio album ‘B. Inspired’, the Manchester-born star certainly achieves that goal. Bugzy has always been a great story teller and his autobiographical tales (‘Ordinary People’, ‘Street Life’) combined with his unrelenting trademark flow (‘Warning’, ‘Come Through, ‘Done His Dance’) make for a truly engrossing listen. Including features from chart heavyweights such as Rag’n’Bone Man, Maverick Sabre and Not3s, ‘B. Inspired’ avoids the pitfalls of what some may attribute with a commercial crossover for a Grime MC and maintains the gritty honesty we’ve come to expect from Bugzy. - Matt Tarr

  2. 19. Juice WRLD - 'Goodbye & Good Riddance'

    Juice WRLD - 'Goodbye & Good Riddance'
    Juice WRLD - 'Goodbye & Good Riddance'. Picture: Interscope

    It’s no secret that Chicago rapper Juice WRLD’s breakout single ‘Lucid Dreams’ was one of the biggest songs of 2018, but a listen to the album it features on reveals that he’s no one hit wonder. ‘Goodbye & Good Riddance’ showcases Juice WRLD’s unique style perfectly, highlighting his melodic rap tones and exploring themes including Juice WRLD’s much-publicised drug use (‘Wasted’, ‘I’m Still’) to tales of lost love (‘Candles’). It’s an engaging listen from start to finish and sees Juice WRLD make a strong first mark on the rap game. - Matt Tarr

  3. 18. Nicki Minaj - 'Queen'

    Nicki Minaj - 'Queen'
    Nicki Minaj - 'Queen'. Picture: Young Money

    Nicki Minaj attempted to make a profound statement with her album ‘Queen’ and delivered a handful of strong singles. However the entire body of work wasn’t as impactful as some of her peers - Chris Wosu

  4. 17. Pusha T - 'Daytona'

    Pusha T - 'Daytona'
    Pusha T - 'Daytona'. Picture: GOOD Music

    The first album to be released from Kanye West’s Wyoming recording sessions featured Pusha T at his finest. The G.O.O.D. Music President showed why he is not to be underestimated over a number of chopped-up samples and minimalist beats. - Chris Wosu

  5. 16. Jorja Smith - ‘Lost & Found’

    Jorja Smith - 'Lost & Found'
    Jorja Smith - 'Lost & Found'. Picture: FAMM

    Homegrown darling Jorja Smith has had an incredible year. Her debut album 'Lost & Found' has been long in the making, with her breakout hit 'Blue Lights' garnering traction back at the beginning of 2016. Fast-forward almost three years, and the British songbird has picked up a Brits Critics Choice award and co-signs from the likes of Drake, Stormzy, Snoop Dogg and more. 'Lost & Found' is an stellar debut record, and it's clear that this is only the beginning for Jorja. - Cat Warner

  6. 15. Nines - ‘Crop Circle’

    Nines - 'Crop Circle'
    Nines - 'Crop Circle'. Picture: XL Recordings

    The second studio album from Nines, ‘Crop Circle’ was yet another brilliant offering from the rapper and it cemented his status as one of the most respected stars of the UK scene. Lead single ‘I See You Shining’ hit the top 40 upon its release, whilst fellow album tracks ‘Rubber Bands’ and ‘Oh My’ also charted well. ‘Crop Circle’ welcomed features from the likes of Ray BLK, Skrapz and Dave, whilst Nines’ authentically reflective rap style flows over the eclectic beat selection with real skill, marking the album as a real career highlight for the London star. - Matt Tarr

  7. 14. Kids See Ghosts - ‘Kids See Ghosts'

    Kids See Ghosts - 'Kids See Ghosts'
    Kids See Ghosts - 'Kids See Ghosts'. Picture: GOOD Music

    Kanye West and Kid Cudi gave into the wishes of their fans and formed supergroup Kids See Ghosts. Their anticipated self-titled album delivered an intriguing mix of soul and experimental Hip-Hop. - Chris Wosu

  8. 13. Eminem - 'Kamikaze'

    Eminem - 'Kamikaze'
    Eminem - 'Kamikaze'. Picture: Shady Records

    When Eminem dropped ‘Kamikaze’ out of nowhere back at the end of August, the Hip Hop world came to a halt so everyone could take in what one of the most iconic rap voices of all time was saying. Openly admitting this album was a response to all the critics of his 2017 record ‘Revival’, Eminem really didn’t hold back and made his feelings clear on everything from his very public distaste for mumble rap (‘Not Alike’), to his thoughts on the U.S Government (‘The Ringer’). Em even found time to address his strained relationship with D12 (‘Stepping Stone’) and rap fans will surely agree that ‘Kamikaze’ is Marshall Mathers back to his best. - Matt Tarr

  9. 12. Mac Miller - 'Swimming'

    Mac Miller - 'Swimming'
    Mac Miller - 'Swimming'. Picture: Warner Bros. Records

    Released just one month prior to his tragic passing, 'Swimming' marks the final album in Mac Miller's discography. Where once the Pittsburgh rapper epitomised the light-hearted nature of frat-rap, 'Swimming' sees Miller abandon this in favour of a darker, scar-baring project that is made all the more poignant following his death. Tracks like 'What's The Use?' channel a funk-influenced sound that we heard on his previous album, 'The Divine Feminine', while the album's closing track '2009' brings us firmly back down to the ground. Rest easy, Mac. Your magic will live on forever. - Cat Warner

  10. 11. Ghetts - 'Ghetto Gospel'

    Ghetts - 'Ghetto Gospel'
    Ghetts - 'Ghetto Gospel'. Picture: GIIG

    Back in 2007, Ghetts released iconic mixtape ‘Ghetto Gospel’ and 11 years later he decided to revisit the release with a 17 track album that more than lived up to fans’ high expectations of the East London MC. ‘Pick Up The Phone’ featuring President T and the Chip-featuring ‘Shellington Crescent’ may be fan-favourites, but the lyrical quality of the culture-defining ‘London’ and honest story-telling of ‘Jess Song’ can’t be overlooked as standout tracks. Ghetts will always be regarded as one of the UK’s greatest ever MCs and ‘Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament’ will only enforce that well-deserved reputation. - Matt Tarr

  11. 10. Ella Mai - 'Ella Mai'

    Ella Mai - 'Ella Mai'
    Ella Mai - 'Ella Mai'. Picture: 10 Summers

    Ella Mai followed up on the success of her breakout single ‘Boo’d Up’ with an impressive debut album. The 16-track project, featuring Chris Brown, John Legend and more, cemented the UK singer as one of the biggest R&B singers in the world. - Chris Wosu

  12. 9. 6LACK - 'East Atlanta Love Letter'

    6LACK - 'East Atlanta Love Letter'
    6LACK - 'East Atlanta Love Letter'. Picture: LoveRenaissance

    6LACK dropped an R&B treat with his second studio deck of tracks. The Maryland native poured his heart out over a finely-tuned selection of sultry, stripped back beats, his wavering vocals sitting perfectly atop. The album's title track, featuring Future, is a highlight, while other contenders include the J. Cole-assisted 'Pretty Little Fears', and singles 'Switch' and 'Nonchalant'. - Cat Warner

  13. 8. XXXTentacion - '?'

    XXXTentacion - '?'
    XXXTentacion - '?'. Picture: Bad Vibes Forever

    ‘?’ was the second studio album from late rapper XXXTentacion and marked his highest charting release before he was murdered just months later. Hitting the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart, ‘?’ is an emotional rollercoaster that sees XXX flit between pouring his heart out on melodic vocal tracks such as ‘changes’, to attacking traditional Hip Hop beats and proving his incredible rap ability on tracks such as the Joey Bada$$-featuring ‘infinity (888)’. It’s an honest record that balances strong sing-a-long singles (‘Moonlight’, ‘SAD!’, ‘going down!’) with more experimental acoustic and abrasive shouted segments (‘Pain = BESTFRIEND’, ‘Floor 555’). ‘?’ is an immersive listening experience every time and will undoubtedly go down as XXXTentacion’s best work. - Matt Tarr

  14. 7. Anderson .Paak – ‘Oxnard’

    Anderson .Paak - 'Oxnard'
    Anderson .Paak - 'Oxnard'. Picture: Aftermath

    Funky, gritty and irresistibly smooth - it can only be Anderson .Paak. The California native pulled out all the stops for his hometown-dedicated third studio album, with contributions from Dr. Dre ('Mansa Musa'), J. Cole ('Trippy') and, of course, Kendrick Lamar ('Tints'). Bringing old-school sounds into the present day, his trademark groove emanates across the entire project, and it gets better with every listen. - Cat Warner

  15. 6. Migos – ‘Culture II’

    Migos - 'Culture II'
    Migos - 'Culture II'. Picture: Quality Control

    'Culture' was a defining moment for Migos, but that didn't stop 'Culture II' from making its own impact. With assists from Drake ('Walk It Talk It'), Nicki Minaj and Cardi B ('Motorsport'), the record propelled the Atlanta trap trio further into superstardom. It marked their second number one album, and is full to the brim of memorable bops and iconic ad-libs. Hats off, Migos. - Cat Warner

  16. 5. J. Cole – ‘KOD’

    J. Cole - 'KOD'
    J. Cole - 'KOD'. Picture: Dreamville

    Notoriously elusive rapper J. Cole surprised fans with the release of his album ‘KOD’. The chart-topping LP broke streaming records when it dropped and sent a clear message to a new generation of “mumble rappers” about the dangers of addiction. - Chris Wosu

  17. 4. Post Malone - 'Beerbongs & Bentleys'

    Post Malone - 'Beerbongs & Bentleys'
    Post Malone - 'Beerbongs & Bentleys'. Picture: Republic

    With his sophomore offering, Post Malone delivered a star-studded collections of tracks through his unmistakeable, genre-blending sound. Featuring the likes of YG, Swae Lee, 21 Savage and Ty Dolla $ign, 'Beerbongs & Bentleys' immediately broke streaming records and debuted at number one on the charts, firmly cementing the 'rockstar' rapper at the top of his game. - Cat Warner

  18. 3. Travis Scott – ‘ASTROWORLD’

    Travis Scott - 'ASTROWORLD'
    Travis Scott - 'ASTROWORLD'. Picture: Cactus Jack

    Travis Scott’s third studio album was one of the most anticipated projects of 2018 and it definitely lived up to the hype. Boasting one of the biggest Hip-Hop songs of the year (‘Sicko Mode’), the LP was filled with lots of memorable moments and is the Atlanta rapper’s best album to date. - Chris Wosu

  19. 2. Drake – ‘Scorpion'

    Drake - 'Scorpion'
    Drake - 'Scorpion'. Picture: Young Money

    Following on from the success of 'More Life' (which, as Drizzy specified, was a playlist project), his latest album was hotly anticipated - and it was well worth the hype. The 25-track, double disc record covered all the bases, with club bangers ('In My Feelings', 'Nice For What', 'God's Plan') slotting perfectly alongside introspective ballads ('Jaded', 'Summer Games', 'Don't Matter To Me'.) This is the OVO-hitmaker at his finest. - Cat Warner

  20. 1. Cardi B - 'Invasion Of Privacy'

    Cardi B - 'Invasion Of Privacy'
    Cardi B - 'Invasion Of Privacy'. Picture: Atlantic

    Cardi B was under lots of pressure to deliver a huge debut album, following the success of ‘Bodak Yellow’. Despite her rapid rise to fame, the New York rapper released a concise LP that was sprinkled with enormous hits and deservedly tops our list for 2018. - Chris Wosu

Honourable mentions

Yxng Bane - 'HBK

Lil Wayne - 'Tha Carter V'

Meek Mill - 'Championships'

Black Panther Soundtrack

One Acen - 'SexyOddRose'

NAO - 'Saturn'

WSTRN - 'DOU3LE 3AK'

D Double E - 'Jackuum'

Tekashi 6ix9ine - 'DUMMY BOY'