#5E Top 10: EP's of 2018
LADIES & GENTLEMEN! It's that time of Year once again! The 5th Element End Of Year lists! I have said it before and I'll say it again, I love lists, especially lists to round up the Year. Everybody has their own criteria, nobody's lists is the same and that's the way it should be.
It's also a good place to begin if you've been slacking on all the good music that has dropped this year! I get it, it's hard to keep abreast of everything all the time, especially as it pertains to the subject of this list. There's always a project missed, and the EP is always slept on. Some artists' careers lift off the ground thanks to an EP, so it's always worth looking out for EP's.
These are my Top 10 EP's of 2018. Before we begin, two things to note:
This is NOT ranked and is in no particular order. It's hard enough ranking albums! EP's are a whole different beast and I'd have sleepless nights trying to rank these.
If you read my article on Kanye West's "Wyoming Sessions" in the Summer, you will know that I don't class the project's that came out of them "Albums", so don't be alarmed when you see them here and not on my Album list. I know they're classed as Albums everywhere else, but it's just how I feel about them.
So. With that cleared up, let us begin! And since I mentioned the "Wyoming Sessions", we might as well start there!
Pusha-T - DAYTONA
This project will most likely be a constant member of people's Top 5 projects of the year, and rightly so! Apart from Kanye using a verse to talk about himself, everything Pusha touches on this turns to gold on this.
From the first track "If You Know You Know", to the final track "Infrared" that began the Pusha/Drake beef. The beats are dark and grimey with samples that briefly take you out of it, but Pusha then pulls you back in the dark. (Peep "Come Back Baby" & "Santeria")
This project inadvertently became the source for the most fun story in the Hip-Hop this year. Obviously that's just icing on the cake but on it's own, the project itself holds it's own as a short but sweet novella of lyrics that make you go "YEAURGH".
Favourite Track: If You Know You Know
Black Thought x 9th Wonder & The Soul Council - Streams of Thought Vol.1
FINALLY! We finally got a chance for Black Thought to just spit bars on a full non-Roots project. No disrespect to The Roots, we all know that they're one of the best groups in music. Their discography is classic after classic. But I think we can all agree that Thought, as a pure rapper, has had to fit into The Roots' mould. We've never seen him just given a collection of beats and told, "Go in".
Until now. 9th Wonder and his Jamla beat collective "The Soul Council" gave Thought the targets and he machine gunned every track.
But it's not just Thought that delivers, after the first two tracks, Rapsody, Styles P & KIRBY come in and add their own heat to the EP. It's been a long wait for a solo Thought project, but BOY was it worth it.
Favourite Track: Making A Murderer
KIDS SEE GHOSTS
Kanye fans, Cudi fans and everybody in between have been wanting a project with these two just doing their thing. You know when you imagine a collab between two people and it comes out exactly how you thought it would? This is that.
All the Cudi "Hmm" to soothe your soul, (especially on "Reborn" & "Cudi Montage") all the Kanye & "Kanye-isms" you could possibly want, sprinkled with some decent features from the likes of Pusha T, Ty Dolla Sign & Yasiin Bey. The beats are unpredictable. Seriously, none are similar in any way.
You can really tell that Kanye put the most effort into this one from a beat perspective compared to the other he produced this year. But in my mind, Cudi really makes this what it is. As much as people want to talk about Kanye's side, Cudi comes through with some clean bars and a cadence that is unique to only Cudi.
Favourite Track: Fire
RAYLO - So Gone
We go to one of our newest Friends of 5E, the London quartet RAYLO. I personally was waiting a while for this one after getting constant IG posts of these guys on film-esque posters. And this EP delivers on the film-esque feel. Especially the title track which sounds like it's introducing a Black & White Heist/Getaway film set in 00's Hackney.
The rest of the EP expresses all sides of the quartets' individual tastes. The EP doesn't really have a genre. Sure, there's some rapping, there's some vocals, but the whole vibe of the project and the beats behind are more like movie soundtracks than actual genre music. I'm not sure that previous sentence makes sense, but I consider that ambiguous nature a good thing. These guys really are formless. And that gives me a thirst for more.
Favourite Track: Remember Me
Dizzee Rascal - Don't Gas Me
Dizzee is on a hot streak people! A Top 10 worthy album last year and now one of the most fun projects to listen to this year!
Seriously, this is such fun to listen to. Starting with the title track that is perfect for bopping to with the squad in a car. "Money Right", with a great feature by Skepta is a real tasty back and forth between the two legends of the game.
Speaking of features, the features on this are ABSURDLY good. Especially on "Spin Ya" with P Money & C-Cane. Those two bring their best along with Dizzee. British bars at it's best. The whole project is just great. Flex bars, boss UK Rap/Grime bars, a couple of punchlines that will make you laugh, the cover may look like an obscure meme, but this is a boss EP. Don't sleep.
Favourite Track: Spin Ya
DEACON - Cotton Wolf
Another pick for a Friend of 5E. DEACON comes with a four-track EP that takes us on quite a journey. With the whole project built around the voice of African American Ex-Slave Laura Smalley, the EP begins with deep & dark lyrics of "No Evil" & "Freedom" that harks to all subjects of black pain. From Slavery to now. They're tracks that are worth several listens to truly capture the messages.
His tone fits perfectly with every track, especially "Front Of The Bus" that contains this slow beat tempo rise that just catch you off guard at first listen. It's exhilarating trying to keep up with the speed change. His last track "Negritude" brings the EP. Flipping the children's song "Ring A Roses". It's very charismatic and cartoonish but the don't let it trip you up, the lyrics are still keeping it real. Better listen close.
Favourite Track: Front Of The Bus
H.E.R - I Used To Know Her - Part 2
Man, this woman can't miss. Seriously. I haven't listened to a H.E.R track that I didn't like. This EP contains some of her best work yet.
Something I have noticed this year from H.E.R is that she's already evolved her sound. The "H.E.R" EP's that kick-started her career had a deep & slow contemporary sound to it. With this EP in question (And Part 1 preceding it.) she has switched it up. The instrumentation is leaning more towards an acoustic sound.
But even with the subtle change in sonics, her lyrics are still poetic, still full of heart and gives the illusion that she really is an open book. The vulnerability is evident as always, but its her subject matter of faith that adds another part of her life we haven't yet explored.
Favourite Track: Lord Is Coming
Katori Walker - 1 Minute Of Your Time
This is one of the more fascinating projects I have listened to this year. How is it possible to do a five minute EP, consisting of five songs, telling five unique stories, all clocking in at a minute each?
It's a worthy question, but Katori Walker has answered. And answered emphatically. I'm not joking by the way. They are all only a minute long but the wordplay by Walker is at such a high level, he does everything in five minutes. It would take some rappers half an hour to have as much substance.
He talks from five unique perspectives. A black man that just died. a young man who prefers the hood life than going to school, a stressed woman who visits her baby daddy in jail, a person asking for forgiveness and himself, talking about his ethics. You really have to hear it to believe it.
Favourite Track: Act 3
Otis Mensah - Mums House Philosopher
I caught this artist and the project in question out of pure luck. You know them moments where you just see something that piques your interest and feel if you don't pay attention now you'll forget it? Well, this is one of those. And I did pay it attention immediately.
Sheffield-based Rapper/Spoken Word Poet Otis Mensah comes through with this unique six-track EP. The beats are calm, it's one of the more easy listens this year. His delivery is very special. It's a genuine 50/50 hybrid of rapping and Spoken Word. If you don't listen to Spoken Word that is fine, maybe better if you don't. It will make your experience of this much more special. It will give you a shock to the system from a delivery standpoint but won't be so "out there" that it'll put you off. And even if it does, the smooth Hip-Hop beats alone (Including an amazing flip of Dr Dre's "Xxplosive") will keep you interested.
Favourite Track: Outside The Cave
Ian Kelly - CHAMPIAN
The newest member of Jamla Records comes in right on time! Right as I begin to compile my final list of EP's, Oakland Ex-Pat Ian Kelly delivers a smooth debut. Even though he has relocated to North Carolina, this EP is firmly West Coast. His tone is firmly Oakland and the beats compliment him just as the beats should do.
The lyrics are filled with West Coast lingo, so don't be discouraged if you don't understand the references. Regardless of that fact, he shows to be a very good storyteller (Peep "Story Tellin") and his ability to paint a picture with words is already at a very high level.
Words to the beats accompanying him. They're so clean, the samples are beautiful, especially on tracks like "Deja Vu" & "Do Something".
Favourite Track: Deja Vu
Black Thought - Streams Of Thought Vol.2
H.E.R. - I Used To Know Her: The Prelude
JONES - London EP
JONES - New York EP
Lava La Rue - Letra
Melvillous - No Choice
To see the other 2018 End of Year Lists, check below.