2017 delivered some outstanding releases from the country’s most dominant genre, but 2018 could prove just as, if not more, exciting thanks to highly-anticipated drops from music’s biggest names.
The lineup of new releases is staggering. Powerful vocalists like Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake, and The Weeknd are all slated to release anxiously-awaited albums for their hungry fan bases.
Meanwhile, rappers like Kanye West, Nas, Drake, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, and ScHoolboy Q are unpacking new material, as well. Plus, 2018 could prove to be another huge year for women in hip-hop with projects from Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Remy Ma on the way.
How will they top their past work? Can they elevate to even greater heights? From Queen Bey to Bartier Cardi, here are 15 of the year’s most anticipated albums.
Following the 2016 release of Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande has become an even more courageous and generous one. She responded to last year’s Manchester tragedy with a giving spirit and seemingly, a renewed focus. “I’m going to be in the studio because I love it, and I want to create,” she revealed in September. “I started an album already a year ago, over a year ago, but I want to keep creating, and it’s not done yet. So I’m going to take my sweet ass time, so I’ll be rested and ready to go again as soon as possible.” After teasing new vocals, it looks like the wait is nearly over.
The jiggy rapper with the gold links is back. Two-and-a-half years after At.Long.Last.A$AP, A$AP Rocky is set to release his third major label album. Fortunately for those who’ve been awaiting Flacko’s solo revival (A$AP Mob dropped Cozy Tapes, Vol. 2: Too Cozy in August), the Harlemite has been “testing” new material of late. Last year, he promised “new swag” and an evolution from his past projects, so it looks like Jodye is ready to deliver.
Since releasing LEMONADE and going on the massively successful “Formation World Tour,” Beyoncé has been busy with a growing family. Now that she’s given birth to twins Sir and Rumi and JAY-Z has unleashed 4:44, it could be the perfect time for another Queen Bey album. Plus, she will be headlining Coachella in April, so new music seems all the more likely. If ‘Yoncé opts out of a solo project, she and Hov could very well revive their long-rumored joint album. Whether alone or with her other half, Bey could easily have another crown in her already regal discography by year’s end.
Who works as hard as Cardi B? It’s been a historic year for the former reality television star, who became the second female MC ever to top the Hot 100 with an unaccompanied single thanks to “Bodak Yellow.” She’s also the first unassisted female MC to top the chart for three straight weeks or better. Now, after two mixtapes in the Gangsta Bitch Music series, the Bronx bombshell is ready to release her debut album featuring her 4x platinum hit and the 21 Savage-assisted “Bartier Cardi.” The question now is, can she continue the streak with even more chart smashes? With six songs currently in the Hot 100, all signs point to yes.
Last year, Drake delivered the More Life “playlist” as an appetizer for a full-length album to come. This year, the 6 God is likely to deliver on that promise with a new studio album that he’s been crafting in Toronto. Although he’s been occupied with film and television projects, he’s also said that new music is on the way and snippets have been dropping left and right. “I’m always working for you,” he said in November. “I’m never sitting around wasting time. I got shit coming. Don’t worry.” Sounds like Drake season is near.
Justin Timberlake – Man of the Woods
Five years since the double dose of 2013’s The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake heads to the forest for his fifth studio album, Man of the Woods, due Feb. 2. Instead of trees, he will be surrounded by fellow stars like Alicia Keys, Chris Stapleton, Timbaland, and Pharrell Williams, as he embarks on a new phase of an already iconic pop career. How will this one differ from past projects? By focusing inward more than ever. “This album is really inspired by my son, my wife, my family, but more so than any other album I’ve ever written, where I’m from,” he said. “It’s personal.” The Timbaland and Danja-produced single “Filthy” is just a taste of what fans can expect when he headlines the Super Bowl LII Halftime Show next month.
After unleashing 2016’s The Life of Pablo, the life of Kanye West has been a whirlwind of onstage rants, fashion frenzies, and even concerning hospitalization. Since emerging from the health-mandated hiatus, Mr. West has reportedly refocused on his family (with a third child on the way) and his music. There is speculation of G.O.O.D. Music’s long-awaited Cruel Winter compilation and a Kid Cudi joint project, but it’s ‘Ye’s eighth solo album that is his most anticipated for 2018, because it could feature answers to some burning questions. How will Yeezus reinvent his sound? How will the reported breakdown inspire his work? How can he improve upon one of rap’s most celebrated discographies? Those answers could be coming soon in The Life of Pablo follow-up.
Migos – Culture II
After catapulting to No. 1 with Culture, Migos is ready for more. They’ve collaborated with Katy Perry, released solo guest offerings, and contributed smashes for Quality Control’s new compilation. Now the group is planning to unleash Culture II. Recently, Offset called it a “masterpiece,” while Quavo said it will shift the Culture once again. “We’re creating a whole new sound,” he said. “Hip-hop has changed in a big way so you could mark this down as we changing.” If the first two singles, “MotorSport” featuring Nicki Minaj and Cardi B and “Stir Fry,” are any indication, expect the trio to keep on cookin’.
Back in 2016, Nas told fans that his album was complete on DJ Khaled’s “Nas Album Done.” Nearly two years later, Esco continues tinkering with the project and it still hasn’t seen the light of day. With additional time to work on the project and a high-profile split from Nicki Minaj, the LP’s garnered even greater attention and anticipation. It’s been six years since Life Is Good, but maybe this is the year that Nas’ 12th album may actually be done.
Can the queen conquer once again? It’s been more than three years since Nicki Minaj has graced her kingdom with a new album. Now, the Young Money star is getting ready to deliver her fourth LP and it should be filled with revelations. From her Meek Mill split to her Drake reconciliation, from her Remy Ma feud to her Nas breakup, Roman has plenty of topics to rhyme about. After becoming the woman with the most Hot 100 entries of all time, she’s also poised to deliver another set of high-impact bangers. Recently, she’s been on a serious remix streak with A$AP Ferg’s “Plain Jane,” Lil Uzi Vert’s “The Way Life Goes,” and Farruko’s “Krippy Kush,” proving that her Midas touch is still there.
Remy Ma – 7 Winters & 6 Summers
A lot has changed since Remy Ma supplied her debut album There’s Something About Remy in 2006. While she was rising the hip-hop ranks with bangers like “Lean Back,” the Terror Squad rapper with a Big Pun co-sign went to prison for seven winters and six summers. Since her return, she’s become an even bigger star thanks to Plata o Plomo, her joint album with mentor Fat Joe, which spawned “All the Way Up” and its massive success. Following a blazing feud with Nicki Minaj, all eyes are back on Remy to share her story with 7 Winters & 6 Summers, which promises collaborations with Chris Brown, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Lil’ Kim (“Wake Me Up”). Now with new management (Vincent Herbert) and a new deal (Columbia), Remy is reloaded for 2018.
ScHoolboy Q has been teasing his third major label album since the start of 2017. Back in February, he promised that it would showcase a “different side” of his personality. In September, he claimed that the follow-up to last year’s Blank Face LP was “90 percent done.” Additionally, Groovy Tony will have a hand in the anxiously-awaited Black Panther soundtrack that Kendrick and TDE are curating. Could this boost Q’s career to even greater heights? The prospects look promising.
TDE – Black Panther: The Album
What happens when one of hip-hop’s most powerful labels, Top Dawg Entertainment, teams up with the cinema titans at Disney and the comic book giants at Marvel? Listeners are about to find out with the highly-anticipated release of Black Panther: The Album, a soundtrack for Black Panther that is being curated and produced by Kendrick Lamar, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, and TDE. So far, the project has yielded Kung Fu Kenny and SZA’s “All the Stars,” Jay Rock’s Kendrick and Future collaboration “King’s Dead,” and a Vince Staples collaboration. All of that only fuels expectations for what could be Hollywood’s biggest soundtrack of the year.
Travis Scott – AstroWorld
Pop it, let it bang. It’s been more than a year since Travis Scott released his sophomore album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, but it’s actually been longer since La Flame first announcedAstroWorld. Inspired by a now-defunct Six Flags theme park in Houston, the project is set to carry on the Texas rapper’s Auto-Tuned streak of success. Back in March, he claimed it could be his best work yet. Following his platinum hit “Butterfly Effect” and Quavo joint project Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, the father-to-be is ready to take his career to the next level. “I worked so hard on Rodeo and Birds,” he told Billboard. “It might not have been recognized by the masses, but my fans always went hard. This year I’m on a mission to be heard.”
Much like Beyoncé, The Weeknd is gearing up for a major headlining gig at Coachella and being two years removed from Starboy, it’s logical to assume that Abel Tesfaye has new music in the wings. Coming off a sold-out world tour and two high-profile breakups, the PUMA ambassador should have plenty to sing about. Can the “Starboy” reinvent himself once again? All bets are on XO.