This year proved to be a prolific one for Boston hip-hop. Not only did emcees give their all in terms of ornate lyricism and aptly-executed verses, their originality simply remained unmatched. Thematically speaking, artists worked to push their creative boundaries and discuss not only where they've been, but where they plan on going. More established local rappers who keep reinventing the wheel released material that satisfied their musical curiosity while paving the way for newer artists to find their footing. Their ambitious nature was inspirational and made for some of 2018's most unforgettable and innovative projects. Here are seven of my favorite records from this year.
ChildHood Love Stories, 'CHLS'
This collaborative effort between legendary rapper Moe Pope and producer Lightfoot capitalizes on the duo's undeniable chemistry and minimalist charm. "CHLS" fuses Pope's adrenalized rhymes with Lightfoot's incredible musical vision — resulting in an album that balances compelling lyricism with emotional rawness. From the intoxicating magic of "Poison" to the celebratory nature of "Black Dragon," "CHLS" is a testament to Pope's fearlessness as he plunges into his fears and anxieties on one of his most vulnerable projects to date. It encapsulates a rich nostalgia that leaves fans deeply nestled in not a quick listen, but a transformative experience.
Dutch Rebelle, 'Bang Bang'
The undisputed queen of Boston hip-hop continues to reign supreme on her sophomore album "Bang Bang." Rebelle, a provocative and passionate artist, is known for formalist bars that showcase precision when it comes to combining cutting word play with rambunctious wit. "Bang Bang" displays the rapper's vast palate of influences. From the Caribbean tinged "Elembo" to the trap fixings of "Fitted Down," her ingenuity shines through brilliantly as she satiates her creative desires while remaining true to her craft. The album is a lyrical rumination of an artist whose perfectionism works in her favor every time.
Suriel, 'Blank Slate'
"Blank Slate," the debut EP from Lynn native Suriel, serves as the rapper's victory lap after being constantly deemed as the underdog. His heart and determination take center stage as Suriel makes his ambitions known on tracks like "Rockland St." and "Motive." "Blank Slate," however, is not just about overcoming adversity but embracing the lessons along the way. He doles out slivers of vulnerability and arcane notions of romance on "Slp" but it doesn't last long. He rounds out the record with "Double Dare," a song that makes his imminent success sound like it's being contested. Luckily for the listener, Suriel is always up for a challenge.
BIA, 'Nice Girls Finish Last: Cuidado'
The eternally slick-talking BIA is as bold and arresting as she's always been on "Nice Girls Finish Last: Cuidado." The EP if full of bulbous, synth-driven beats that sway and churn in the same way that her flow does. BIA makes young-adult disenchantment sound almost enviable as she dishes out eloquent complaints on "Hollywood"; the swirling realness of "YAKWTFGO" underscores BIA's penchant for huge choruses. Her charisma, depth and sheer talent is what catapulted the rapper into a league of her own; more projects like "Nice Girls" will help keep her there.
Justin Clancy, 'The Color Blue'
The transparency that Justin Clancy presents on "The Color Blue" is both harrowing and admirable. He has always been open about battling his personal demons and continues to use his music as a way to address it. The title track conjures up an unsettling emotional dissonance. Songs like "TV Dinner" and "Work In Progress" reveal the starkness of Clancy's past while also prophesying his future. In his voice, you can hear the weariness that comes from years of leveling trouble with triumph. On "The Color Blue," Clancy savors the highs and lows that permeate his story while encouraging others to do the same.
Malia the Model, 'Made U Look'
With bars as impressive as her beauty, the debut EP from Malia the Model "Made U Look" relishes in its duality of being powerfully modern and refreshingly familiar. Her voice is distinct and full of classic hip-hop bravado; her songs are saturated with anecdotes of hustle and hard work. "Check" illustrates Malia's propensity for keeping her eyes on the prize while "Kate MoSS" is an ode to her pretty-girl gang that have supported her since the beginning. The throwback feel of "Owe Me" juxtaposes nicely against the contemporary closing track "PSA." "Made U Look" inundates skeptics with Malia's undeniable talent — which is how great artists are formed.
Statik Selektah & Termanology, 'Still 1982'
Hometown heroes Statik Selektah and Termanology reunite for another classic collaboration with "Still 1982." From beginning to end, each track on the album sublimely nods to the dynamic beginnings of hip-hop and what it meant to its listeners. Termanology takes a critical stance on the current state of the genre with the Rakim-sampled "Just Can't Let Go." The streetwise grittiness of "30 Shots" and "F--- Ya Lyfestyle" display the cultivated creative vision that Statik Selektah has managed to perfect over his lengthy career. Termanology, with his wide range of lyrical talent, does nothing but compliment Statik's unprecedented amount of skill and care when it comes to his production — a combination that could easily redefine rap as we know it.