It’s safe to say Los Angeles had an incredible 2018. Artists in the city are hungrier than ever as the wins are starting to roll in, and as a result we’ve been blessed with treasure troves of new music at every turn. Whether they were high-energy cuts for the function, or breezier sounds perfect for California sunshine, there was always something out there for you to sink your teeth into, and now co-signs from artists like Drake and Meek Mill are putting even more eyes on the city heading into 2019.
That being said, it’s time to look back on the past 12 months and separate the best from the best, and acknowledge the artists, songs and projects that made it such a note worthy year. Without further ado, here are our top ten songs of 2018.
10. HeyDeon – “Worry”
HeyDeon’s “Long Story Short” is an incredible listen-through and one of the most replayable projects that came out of LA this year. To me, the star song was one of the few on which he had a feature in “Worry,” and it was executed perfectly. I haven’t heard How Dreadful anywhere else, but after this initial greeting, I need to hear more. Her voice is beautiful and complements Deon so well, that it is impossible not to put this song on the list. It’s the type of track that I could put on for anyone and everyone, and know that they’ll find pleasure in it.
The melodic mix of the two voices on the song makes it worthy of much more recognition than it is getting. Underlying minor chords mirror the vocals as well, making the entire song a dynamic compound that gets better with each listen. –Steve Warren and Noah A
9. Shoreline Mafia – “Movin’ Work”
2018 was filled with lots of great music throughout the year. A personal favorite was “Movin’ Work” by Shoreline Mafia, which was featured on their recent OTXmas album. Rob Vicious’ kicks things off with a smooth verse over the menacing beat, while the song rolls along excellently to make it a standout on their latest release. Whether it was touring, new solo albums, or videos, Shoreline was everywhere in 2018, and “Movin’ Work” showcases why they’ve been so successful. – Rich Lopez
8. 03 Greedo – “Floating”
This is the ultimate summertime banger. The beat— produced by 03 himself— along with the lyrics make for the catchy hood block party anthem. It’s too bad we won’t see a music video for “Floating,” but it’s just beautifully funky and has that feel good ghetto fabulous vibe. – Dylan Fleming
7. 1Take Jay – “Arco”
Underground hip hop in LA has had a year to remember, with artists like Blueface and Shoreline Mafia signing major label deals while others like Rucci, AzChike, and 1TakeJay positioning themselves next in line. Jay especially has been on fire, and lately there hasn’t been a party worth attending that you don’t hear “Wait, hol up!” So it’s only right that “Arco” is one of the songs of the year, not to mention that it’s a fucking banger. – Chase Meë
6. Rucci – “Light it Up”
Most of the songs on this list made their impact in cars and parking lots around the city, but “Light It Up” made its presence most felt at live shows. That’s why it’s on here. Whether it was at a headlining show of his own, or opening for the likes of Shoreline Mafia & SOBxRBE, Rucci always made sure things reached inferno levels of heat when this Mike Almighty produced anthem was dropped. With an uncountable number of phone lights in the air, Inglewood’s top dog seems to be in his element. The chemistry Rucci and AzChike display here is second to none – simply put, it’s two of the city’s best showing why they deserve their spot. “Light It Up” is one of many bright spots in a 2018 campaign that was filled with success, but it’s likely just the spark as they look to have an even bigger 2019. – Sebastian Juarez
5. Saviii 3rd – “Another Day”
“Another Day” cemented Saviii’s rank as a powerhouse in LA County. At this point it’s a cliche to compare artists to Tupac when speaking to their talent level, but with Saviii, the comparison illustrates what he does so effectively: He speaks to you in a way that treats you like someone capable of higher understanding, he doesn’t speak down. He’s a gang banging prophet, with a mysticism that’s still grounded. He can speak real issues and relate, while still guiding you to higher ground.
With Saviii, the streets are a place of magic where spirits amass and tell supernatural stories. This song contains deep paranoia that’s characteristic of living in active area: the fear that their whole way of life could come down in an instant if people turn on each other. There’s a soldier mentality to living the way he does, on the altruistic defense of his people and their way of life.
On “Another Day” and more, he delivers his bars with a singular confidence and poise that’s unmatched, while his stamina on a track is truly relentless. Saviii may be easy to listen to in terms of sonics, but it’s worth it to spend more time hearing and digesting what he has to say. – Moises Valencia
4. 03 Greedo – “Wake Me Up In Traffic” – Drakeo the Ruler and Shoreline Mafia
“Wake Me Up in Traffic” ranks high on our list for several reasons. First off, the producer BeatBoy, who cultivated a lot of his sound alongside longtime collaborator RonRon and the rest of HitMob, created what has been come to be called “Traffic Music.” The deep hums and hypnotic drones mimic the quiet roar of Los Angeles—an amalgam of the cars, the people, sirens, and helicopters in the distance. Los Angeles can be confusing and dark, but it’s still a city that sucks you in nonetheless. We’re the city without a past, the city of lost angels, the city where we G-Slide and ride around.
This song exemplifies this singular culture. The crashing drums with a wall of synths create a sparkly and dense atmospheric texture. We get three unique styles from these signature artists: Greedo the Crooner, Drakeo the Cold Devil, and the resident trappers known as Shoreline Mafia. Greedo has one of the most emotive voices of our generation, while Drakeo’s drowsy and “off-beat” style set the tone for LA flows ever since he started booming back in 2016. Shoreline has the ability to speak both to the streets and to the SoundCloud generation, while continuing to sound like only themselves. 2018 has been one of the biggest years for LA hip-hop in years, and we have DrummerStincMafia & R Baron to thank for much of it. They put so much into their music, while Greedo and most of the Stinc Team are still paying the price. It’s still free Greedo, free The Ruler, and free the Stinc Team in 2019. – Moises Valencia
3. Roddy Ricch – “Die Young”
Roddy Ricch might have had the most explosive year of any on our list, with this song helping propel him to wider recognition outside of the city. After the death of young stars like XXXtentacion, Mac Miller, Avicii and others, “Die Young” is even more powerful due to it’s timing, as well as the overseas backstory. Earlier this year, two London Drill rappers, Incognito and Splash Addict, were brutally murdered shortly after posting themselves listening to “Die Young” on their snapchats. The eerie, tragic coincidence sparked a cult migration to this track, while adding yet another layer to the already emotional song.
Roddy Ricch talks about how he’d rather be arrested than die using the illustrative line “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” His unique ability to express the cold and turbulent nature of growing up in the “jungle” has brought him to the forefront of hip-hop’s new wave, while an enthusiastic Meek Mill cosign certainly didn’t hurt either. – Moises Valencia
2. Kalan.Frfr – “Right Wit It” ft. Chris O’Bannon and G Perico
“Right Wit It” has the kind of effortless groove that never gets old after a 1000 replays, with a faultless West Coast vibe that could make even the grumpiest Uber driver proud to be from LA. Kalan’s verse transitions seamlessly into Chris O’bannon’s, while G Perico adds upbeat, bouncing dynamics to keep the soundscape interesting even in it’s laidback state.
Kalan might have the most colorful, engaging vocals out of anyone in the city, with his crisp, instantly recognizable delivery always setting the tone as soon as he enters the song. With crossover appeal and the ability to elevate even any beat to it’s utmost potential, Kalan is undeniably an artist who we’re expecting big things from in 2019. – Kenan Draughorne
1. Blueface – “Thotiana”
“Thotiana” spread like wildfire this year. It came out a month after Blueface’s first hit “Deadlocs,” but it took a while for it to become the song synonymous with LA’s fastest rising artist. We’re not sure if it’s the underproduced mix, or the massive bass that Scumbeatz lays down on this one, but “Thotiana” feels as dirty and grimey as its lyrics. The energy this song incites is comparable to YG’s Just Re’d Up days, with tons of sweaty teenagers cramming themselves into equally sweaty warehouses to give their best Blueface impression all year long. Blueface had the biggest come up of the year, and this song made it happen. Buss down, Thotiana. – Sebastian Juarez