12 Lyrics That Tell the Story of Music in 2018


From feuds to tendencies and every part in between

In 2018, a number of the business’s most interesting wordsmiths discovered success with protest songs, LGBTQ anthems and meme-generating bangers. They commented on the information cycle or dissected their very own portrayals within the media. They criticized the music business’s greatest establishments and wrestled with what to do with its most infamous newcomers. They boasted about their success and bared their souls with lyrics about private demons. One taught us about love, persistence and ache…and one taught us about no matter poopy-di scoop is. Below, Billboard highlights the lyrics that inform the story of music in 2018, from feuds to tendencies and every part in between.

Janelle Monáe, “Make Me Feel” (February)

“Baby, don’t make me spell it out for you/ All of the sentiments that I've bought for you/ Can't be defined, however I can attempt for you”

Just 12 hours into 2018, Hayley Kiyoko dubbed the brand new yr “#20GAYTEEN,” tweeting, “It’s our yr, it’s our time.” She was referencing to a slate of initiatives from LGBTQ artists that introduced queer visibility within the mainstream to new heights, however there have been some highlights she couldn’t have predicted: A day earlier than the discharge of her extensively acclaimed Dirty Computer LP, Janelle Monáe got here out as pansexual — one thing she appeared to trace at in songs like “Make Me Feel” and “Q.U.E.E.N.” — in a Rolling Stone cover story that instantly set off a spike in searches in regards to the time period. There had been different coming-out tales. There had been different nice songs and albums by LGBTQ musicians. And, sure, there have been some powerful conversations — just like the criticism and defenses of Rita Ora’s “Girls” — that confirmed simply how a lot of a voice queer artists have in widespread tradition. Good information: According to Kiyoko, #20GAYTEEN really by no means ends.

Cardi B, “I Do” (April)

“They mentioned by now that I'll be completed, exhausting to inform (I can inform)/ My little 15 minutes lasting lengthy as hell, huh?”

2018 was Cardi’s yr: She dropped one of many yr’s finest albums, set data with hits like “I Like It” and “Girls Like You,” grew to become a mom and likewise utterly enamored the web. Since debuting on the Hot 100 with “Bodak Yellow” in 2017, the Bronx native has tallied 23 entries on the chart, with six of these peaking at No. 6 or larger. The former stripper, Instagram persona and Love & Hip-Hop star is aware of that her unconventional profession path led many to jot down her off. But in 2018, she’s considered one of many viral successes who’ve grow to be unlikely artists in their very own proper: The “Cash Me Ousside” lady from Dr. Phil now goes by Bhad Bhabie and dropped a mixtape in September referred to as 15, which spawned two Hot 100 hits and options collaborations with Ty Dolla $ign and Lil Yachty. Mason Ramsey — a.ok.a. Yodel Boy — additionally crooned his approach from Walmart into Justin Bieber’s coronary heart and a contract with Atlantic Records. Ready to really feel previous but? Even The Backpack Kid is making music now.

Nicki Minai, “Chun-Li” (April)

“They want rappers like me/ So they’ll get on their fucking keyboards they usually could make me the dangerous man, Chun-Li”

In 2018, Nicki Minaj’s music was typically overshadowed by unflattering headlines: a messy rollout for her album Queen; her qualms with Travis Scott, who bested her for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200; her endorsement of her “FEFE” collaborator 6ix9ine, who in 2015 pled responsible to make use of of a minor in a sexual efficiency (and has since had different authorized woes); and naturally, the brewing stress between her and Cardi B that reached a boiling level at a Harper’s Bazaar social gathering. Whenever Minaj addressed the day’s drama on her Queen Radio gigs, her feedback typically solely fueled the flames. But as Minaj’s lyrics on “Chun-Li” counsel, she noticed this public vilification coming — and she or he actually wasn’t the one artist in 2018 who noticed the general public narrative round her bitter, from Kanye West to Grimes.

J. Cole, “1985” (April)

"I'll be round ceaselessly 'trigger my abilities is tip-top/ To any newbie n***** that wanna get rocked/ Just keep in mind what I informed you when your shit flop/ In 5 years you gon' be on Love & Hip-Hop"

J. Cole usually ends his albums with a bang, saving his strongest and most thought-provoking messages for the grand finale (see: “four Your Eyez Only,” “Note to Self,” “Born Sinner”). The rapper’s newest album, KOD, continues that custom, with the latest Billboard cowl star taking intention on the rising technology of rappers on “1985.” Cole and Lil Pump — presumed by many to be the goal of the previous’s tsk-tsking — would later hash out their variations in an hour-long interview, however the monitor introduced the generational stress between “old style” hip-hop stars and the SoundCloud-rap vanguard to the forefront. Other veterans adopted his lead in 2018: On Meek Mill’s Championships LP, Rick Ross spends 4 bars going straight after 6ix9ine, whereas Eminem takes intention at Lil Yachty on Kamikaze (to say nothing of his feud with Machine Gun Kelly this yr). In latest years, even Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg have been important of the style’s latest stars, who haven’t precisely been reverent in return. Before his dying this yr, XXXTentacion mentioned he was better than Tupac, whereas Lil Xan referred to as 2pac “boring” in 2018. Don’t anticipate the strain to revolve itself anytime quickly.

Kanye West, “Lift Yourself” (April)

“Poopy-di scoop/ Scoop-diddy-whoop/ Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop/ Poop-di-scoopty/ Scoopty-whoop”

Kanye West had an fascinating yr. The 41-year-old family identify quarterbacked a rollout of 5 albums from his G.O.O.D. Music label over the span of a month, serving as producer on all and starring rapper on two. But he additionally ventured deeper into politics than many, a lot of his followers and well-known pals cared for, making highly-publicized journeys to the White House and firing off pro-Trump tweets. At occasions he’s appeared extraordinarily self-aware about his personal repute: “If you ain’t driving whereas black do they cease you/ Will MAGA hats let me slide like a drive-through?” he rapped on Pusha-T’s “What Would Meek Do?” earlier this yr. At others, he’d be his normal, unpredictable self — like when he took on the function of inventive director function of the first-ever Pornhub Awards. Was he for actual? Was he joking? Is he trolling us all? It’s been near-impossible to place a finger on West in 2018, and nothing captures that uncertainty like April’s “Lift Yourself,” whose nonsensical, semi-scatalogical lyrics prompted the identical response that so a lot of his different antics did this yr: Huh?

Childish Gambino, “This Is America” (May)

“This is America/ Don't catch you slippin' now/ Look how I'm livin' now/ Police be trippin' now/ Yeah, that is America/ Guns in my space”

Pop music in 2018 bought topical with May’s “This Is America,” — a contemporary protest tune that addressed gun violence and police brutality in opposition to black folks. Childish Gambino debuted the tune on Saturday Night Live and concurrently shared the monitor’s music video on-line, setting the web ablaze — and grabbing an unlikely debut slot atop the Hot 100. “This Is America” is just one of 12 songs to high the Hot 100 this yr, and its lyrical content material actually separates it from the pack. “Gambino's dealing with of those themes has confirmed understandably controversial,” Billboard’s Andrew Unterberger wrote after its chart debut, “however on the very least, it's simple that he's sparking dialog about them — which, with Kendrick Lamar's ‘Humble.’ standing as maybe the lone controversial exception, is greater than might be mentioned for any of the opposite Hot 100 No. 1s of the Donald Trump period.”

Pusha-T, “The Story of Adidon” (May)

"A child's concerned, it's deeper than rap/ We talkin' character, let me maintain with the information/ You are hiding a baby, let that boy come dwelling/ Deadbeat mothafucka playin' border patrol"

Rap beefs virtually drove the story of hip-hop in 2018, from Nicki vs. Cardi to Eminem vs. MGK. But the largest struggle of all was unquestionably between Pusha-T and Drake. After the previous appeared to take pictures on the latter on his critically-acclaimed Daytona LP, Drake responded in type with “Duppy Freestyle,” which put each King Push and Kanye West in his crosshairs. Then, just a few days later, Push got here again with the vicious “The Story of Adidon,” which dug up an previous picture of Drake in blackface for the monitor paintings, broke the information about him being father and allegedly ruined a forthcoming campaign between him and Adidas. Though the meat sorta, kinda ended there, for a second Drake’s standing as an untouchable A-lister appeared up within the air. He rebounded, after all, with the summer time smash of “In My Feelings,” but it surely’s exhausting to think about the general public will neglect such a scathing, legacy-blighting lyric like “You are hiding a baby, let that boy come dwelling” anytime quickly. Yugh.


”Tell the Grammys fuck that Zero-for-Eight shit/ Have you ever seen the gang goin' apeshit?”

In 2017, when the Recording Academy unveiled the nominees for the 60th annual Grammy Awards, it appeared just like the ceremony would lastly be giving hip-hop artists their due, with a number of nominations for Jay-Z’s four:44 and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. That ended up not taking place: Jay-Z left empty-handed regardless of his eight nods, which impressed this diss to the Recording Academy on June’s shock Everything Is Love LP. (The proven fact that Beyoncé’s Lemonade misplaced out to Adele’s 25 for album of the yr the earlier yr — regardless of Adele’s personal shock — in all probability didn’t assist issues.) And although he bought the final giggle, the talk over the Grammys’ relevance has continued to be level of dialog in 2018, with the Recording Academy launching a range and inclusion task-force to determine obstacles for ladies and different underrepresented teams within the business, in addition to December’s new batch of nominees for 2019 which might be giving many a purpose to be optimistic.

Demi Lovato, “Sober” (June)

“Call me when it’s over trigger I’m dying inside/ Wake me when the shakes are gone and the chilly sweats disappear/ Call me when it’s over and myself has reappeared”

This yr provided an abundance of uncooked, candid lyricism from big-name artists expressing their struggles, from these with substance abuse to psychological well being. On this yr’s “In My Blood,” Shawn Mendes opened up about his struggles with anxiousness in hopes of decreasing the stigma, telling Billboard in an interview, “It’s sort of about one thing that I feel everyone goes via, and it’s one thing that I feel folks don’t discuss typically, particularly in music.” Other songs, like Demi Lovato’s “Sober,” launched a month earlier than an overdose, highlighted simply how far the business nonetheless has to go in relation to offering correct help to these in want. One of probably the most heart-wrenching entries got here from Mac Miller, who rapped about “havin’ demons that’s as large as my home” on the tune “2009,” from this yr’s Swimming LP, launched only a month earlier than he died of an unintentional overdose.

Chance the Rapper, “I Might Need Security” (July)

“I donate to the colleges subsequent, they name me a deadbeat daddy/ The Sun-Times gettin’ that Rauner enterprise/ I bought a hit-list so lengthy I don’t know the best way to end/ I purchased the Chicagoist simply to run you racist bitches out of enterprise”

Chance the Rapper bragged about shopping for Chicagoist in “I Might Need Security” — one of many 4 shock singles he dropped July 19 — however he additionally placed on blast different publications he felt lined him unfairly. The implication? If you don’t just like the media channels obtainable to you, simply take management of your personal. The problem wasn’t fully new for Chance, who reportedly threatened to cut ties with MTV over a mildly damaging live performance overview on MTV News that the positioning finally took down. And whereas social media has lengthy provided celebrities an opportunity to bypass conventional media retailers, Chance’s acquisition was one of some cases of musicians in 2018 making an attempt to exert notable control over their depictions in the media: Nicki Minaj despatched her fanbase after a blogger who wrote important tweets about her and mainly auditioned for a second profession as a radio persona along with her Queen Radio broadcasts, throughout which she typically commented on the headlines about her, whereas Beyoncé skipped a conventional interview for her Vogue cowl story, for which she additionally chosen the photographer and reportedly had “unprecedented control.”

Vic Mensa, 2018 BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher (October)

“Your favourite rapper’s a home abuser, ay/ Name a single Vic Mensa tune, [censored] everyone knows you gained’t reside that lengthy/ I don’t respect [censored] posthumously”

Vic Mensa dove headfirst into one of many thorniest debates of the yr on this BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher, calling out the troubling histories of artists just like the late XXXTentacion — who admitted to abusing his ex-girlfriend in a secret recording that surfaced posthumously this fall — and the way the general public ought to deal with their legacy and recognition. Since his dying in June, XXXTentacion has been a mainstay on the charts, with this month’s Skins LP lately hitting the highest of the Billboard 200. But he was hardly the one artist to drive that dialog about problematic artists, from 6ix9ine (see: his aforementioned authorized troubles) to R. Kelly, who was (together with XXXTentacion) briefly the goal of Spotify’s “hate content material and hateful conduct” because of long-standing accusations in opposition to him (which Kelly has denied). Despite these case research, nonetheless, the query of the best way to be an moral listener in a musical panorama the place alleged misconduct seemingly lurks round each nook continues to be as sophisticated as ever.

Ariana Grande, “thank u, subsequent” (November)

“One taught me love, one taught me persistence/ And one taught me ache, now I’m so superb”

From the second Ariana Grande shocked her followers with “thank u, subsequent,” the tune took on a lifetime of its personal. Not solely did the monitor break data with its well-hyped, event-level music video, it additionally impressed numerous memes — particularly with this line from the pre-chorus — to the tune of thousands and thousands of tweets. The tune, and the response to it, was the cherry on high to a yr of considerable musical memes, from Drake and Cardi B to all issues A Star Is Born, that made the “Harlem Shake” period appear to be the web’s darkish ages. And every part about “thank u, subsequent,” from its fast, unstructured rollout to Grande’s clear web fluency and catchphrase-worthy lyrics, exhibits why she’s capable of thrive as a pop star in a fast-moving hip-hop economic system.