While all types of music share the beautiful ability to bridge the gaps between people, let’s not fool ourselves and act like the music industry works the same across the board.
For instance, while most of the bands and pop stars who made waves in 2018 will now venture out on exhaustive tours, go on hiatus, or do anything for two or three years except consider putting out another album, many of the same names in hip-hop and R&B who commanded headlines, turned heads, and dropped dope records, collabs, and singles last year will be back in 2019. And as long as everyone is on their meds (seriously, take care of yourselves), we’re 100% down with that.
In 2019, greats will get a chance to re-establish their greatness, underground talents will attempt to conquer the mainstream, and unique artists will continue to push hip-hop in new and thrilling places. Call it a repeat. Call it a rerun if you want, but it’s the best show on in 2019, and we ain’t flippin’ the channel.
Cardi B – TBD
Why We’re Excited: If Kendrick Lamar quietly proved in 2018 that he’s still the king, Cardi B struck a royal balance by ascending to her queenly throne with as much pomp and fanfare as possible. Cardi took over Coachella, stole the show on SNL with her classy baby bump reveal, sent an album’s worth of singles straight up the charts, and finally answered Austin Powers’ longstanding question: “Really, who throws a shoe?” Let’s face it: since “Bodak Yellow” hit the charts in mid-2017, Cardi B has run the rap game like cardio. Now, fresh off the presses (or day-old at worst), Cardi B has announced that her Invasion of Privacy follow-up will creep into fans’ hands in 2019. While most new mothers and reigning hip-hop royalty might consider stepping out of the spotlight for a time, Cardi has proven she’s got the swagger, flow, and “okuuuuuurts” to not wear out her welcome anytime soon. –Matt Melis
Childish Gambino – TBD
Why We’re Excited: Now that he’s no longer making the Kessel Run alongside Han Solo, or nursing a broken foot, Donald Glover should have little to no distractions when it comes to music for 2019. Of course, we say that as if he didn’t deliver one of the best songs last year in “This is America”, even while juggling the aforementioned projects, so can you imagine what he’ll do with even more time? Something substantial, no doubt, and the stars are beginning to align. Already, Glover’s booked to headline Coachella, which has become the de facto billboard to promote a new album, and he even has appropriate material for the time of year with “Feels Like Summer” and “Summertime Magic”. Couple all of this with his forthcoming appearance in Jon Favreau’s The Lion King and we’re looking at a Summer of Gambino. Hopefully, it’s not his last. –Michael Roffman
EarthGang – Mirrorland
Why We’re Excited: “Don’t believe the hype” might be one of hip-hop’s Ten Commandments, but sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Everything about EARTHGANG — the oddball hip-hop duo from Atlanta featuring Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot — suggests that they’ve got plenty to back up any buzz they’re getting. Hell, it’s why we made them our Artist of the Month last February. In 2018, not only did the pair brilliantly cap off their Rags, Robots, and Royalty EP trilogy, but they also dropped the first single from the upcoming Mirrorland, a freaky slow jam called “Stuck” that teases how these wonderful weirdos might just manage to squeeze into our solar system in 2019. –Matt Melis
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
Why We’re Excited: One of the only positives of last year’s Venom — other than seeing Tom Hardy trump a garbage movie — was hearing new music by Run the Jewels. After all, it’s been two years since the surprise Christmas release of RTJ3, and so much has changed in the interim, which makes their forthcoming sequel all the more exciting. “I’ve been collecting beats and we’re just going to kind of try and make the grimiest, rawest record we possibly can,” El-P told Beats 1 in October. Though, as Killer Mike countered, “We always really were just about making nasty rap records, man,” contending, “We never were the type of people who were looking to make records that were addressing specific political situations. If it happens, it happens, and it does on occasion, but we’re not Public Enemy. What we’re trying to do is be two guys in a friendship from different places having the time of their lives and making something that everybody can make the scrunchy face to when they hear.” Hey, that works, too. –Michael Roffman
ScHoolboy Q – TBD
Why We’re Excited: Everyone needs time to grieve, even Schoolboy Q. If you recall, the Compton rapper had intended to release the follow-up to 2016’s Blank Face LP by the end of 2018. However, those plans changed when he announced to his fans at Chicago’s House of Vans back in September that he would delay the album following the tragic death of his friend and collaborator, Mac Miller. “I’ma go back, and I’ma figure out when I’ma put this fucking album out, because y’all are going to get this album,” he insisted. “I promise that. I’m just not ready to walk into the radio station and the first thing they ask me is ‘So Mac Miller…’ I’m not ready to deal with those questions. I’m not ready to put nothing out right now. I’m sorry.” Considering the album was reportedly “90%-95%” completed back in August, it really comes down to when he’s ready to let it go. –Michael Roffman
SABA, Noname, and Smino – TBD
Why We’re Excited: The only intelligent response is, why wouldn’t we be excited? For our money, Chicago emcees SABA and Noname dropped two of the best hip-hop albums of 2018, Care for Me and Room 25, respectively, and Smino wasn’t far behind them with eclectic singles “L.M.F.” and “KLINK” off his accomplished second full-length. However, before we get too excited, we have to acknowledge that the trio have only hinted strongly at this collaboration so far on social media. Nothing has been 100% confirmed. But as The Beach Boys said, wouldn’t it be nice? Imagine mixing SABA’s storytelling with Noname’s jazzy flow and Smino’s wildcard flavor, and you have a trio that have the chance to change what the future of hip-hop sounds like. If that doesn’t excite you, nothing will. –Matt Melis
Solange – TBD
Why We’re Excited: Sibling rivalries don’t make much sense as you get older, especially when you count Queen Bey herself as Big Sis. But if there is one kid sister out there who could hold her own in the type of world where music critics just can’t help comparing siblings, it would be Solange. Her 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, earned her just that, especially the utterly gorgeous and relatable single “Cranes in the Sky”. Solange made her believers wait eight years for that full-length. And, quite frankly, after a record as unique and promising as A Seat at the Table, we couldn’t wait that long again. Luckily, we don’t have to. –Matt Melis
SZA – TBD
Why We’re Excited: By the time Spring hits, SZA may have both a Golden Globe and an Oscar sitting on her shelf, that is if either the Hollywood Foreign Press or the Academy deem “All the Stars” worthy for Best Original Song. (They have competition.) Still, that shouldn’t stop her from maintaining her day job afloat, and while there’s been no official announcement, the singer has been teasing her highly anticipated followup to 2017’s CTRL. In September, she responded to one disbelieving fan by tweeting, “…A’s already done,” casually confirming a possible title. In October, she spoke at length to New York’s 105.1’s Powerhouse, saying: “I want it to be 100 percent honest to whoever I am in this moment because that is the only way it will work. But I just personally think now it’s just about getting to the root of who I am. But faster, clearer, more concisely. Like just learning the understanding of self.” And, just last month, she teased clips in a since-deleted Instagram post. Simply put, something’s coming. –Michael Roffman
The Weeknd – Chapter 6
Why We’re Excited: Last year was a slow season for Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd. After popping up on Black Panther: The Album in February and dropping his My Dear Melancholy EP in March — both of which warranted him two Platinum-certified, Billboard-charting singles in “Pray for Me” with Kendrick Lamar; and “Call Out My Name” — the award-winning crooner kept things relatively low key with minimal buzz. In November, however, Tesfaye told his fans at a Toronto gig, “I haven’t been this inspired in years and I want you guys to be the first to know I’m working on my new album right now.” So far, we know very little with regards to features and its sound, but we do know that it’s titled Chapter 6 and that it won’t be another EP. As he later teased on Twitter, “some chapters are smaller than others. not this next one though…” Ooh, cryptic! –Michael Roffman
Kanye West – Yandhi
Why We’re Excited: It’s hard to believe that in a year when Kanye West produced five albums — two of which he starred on and all but one he appeared on — in just under a month that our focus would be on everything but his music. But Kanye tweeting at odd hours and wandering, sadly and quite literally, in front of television cameras speaking incoherently like a person off his meds stole the show. He’s since done some public relations tidying up, and we can only hope that the artist capable of helming an album like DAYTONA and delivering a song like “Ghost Town” will leave the little, red hat and superhero cape at home and go back to being an undeniable “genius” in the recording studio. –Matt Melis