Getty Images / Coachella / Larry Busacca

As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.

Although hip-hop recently replaced rock as the most popular genre of music in America, it wasn’t so long ago that many high ranking figures condemned rap as “Pornographic filth,” fighting to censor such “vile, ugly, low, abusive and rough music.” Fortunately, much has changed in the decades that have passed since, and as of 2018, the hip-hop industry has never been stronger, finally winning the respect that such incredible chart success should have brought all along.

Last year, JAY-Z made a huge stride forward in this regard when he was honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It was a long time coming, but this achievement marked the first time that rap was finally recognized by the Songhall as a lyrical art form. It’s just a shame that they bypassed all of the legendary lyricists who came before JAY.

In the search for legitimacy, Hova’s big win was perhaps rap’s biggest accomplishment up to that point, something which he himself acknowledged shortly afterward on social media.

From the streets to the White House, hip-hop has made huge strides forward in the past decade, but even JAY-Z’s recognition in the Songwriters Hall of Fame paled in comparison to what happened in 2018.

Poetic Justice

After losing the Grammy Award for album of the year to Bruno Mars back in January, Kendrick Lamar took home an even more prestigious honor just a few months later, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his work on DAMN. Any doubts that hip-hop would never amount to more than just a fad were well and truly obliterated.

Getty Images / NARAS / Kevin Mazur

While JAY-Z’s achievement proved that hip-hop artists deserve the same respect as their peers, Kendrick went one step further, receiving an honor that no artist outside of jazz and classical music had even won before. Suddenly, hip-hop was no longer just a contender. It had become the genre to beat, defying the odds to break new ground as an art form that demands respect and can no longer be marginalized.

Speaking to the The New York Times, prize administrator Dana Canedy claimed that “The time was right” for this historic win, and while there’s certainly a case to be made for earlier hip-hop classics to also receive similar levels of recognition, there’s a lot of truth in those words too. After all, Kendrick Lamar isn’t the only one who’s pushed hip-hop to whole new realms of credibility this year.

Representing Da Real World

Rap music still has a problem with misogyny, but 2018 proved to be a turning point for the representation of women in hip-hop. Alongside critically acclaimed releases from female rappers like cupcakKe and Noname, Cardi B changed the game completely in 2018 by smashing records even faster than she spat bars on Invasion of Privacy. A comprehensive list of all her accomplishments this year deserves an article of their very own, but what’s perhaps most impressive about the New York star is how she became the first female rapper to ever score two number one singles on the Billboard charts.

Getty Images / iHeartMedia / Kevin Mazur

One of the legends who paved the way for artists like Cardi B also received her dues this year in the most supa dupa fly way possible. That’s right; After the nominations for the 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame were announced, Missy Elliott became the first female rapper to ever be considered for such an honor, and if she does end up being accepted next year, then she’ll join recent inductees JAY-Z and Jermaine Dupri in what’s becoming an increasingly hip-hop friendly field of recognition.

Alongside Kendrick Lamar and JAY-Z, male hip-hop stars have also dominated this year like never before, breaking records that once seemed untouchable. In 2018, 12 Drake songs charted in the top 10, beating the previous record held by the Beatles, and in the UK, Eminem’s Kamikaze album has become his ninth number one in a row, decimating the 36-year-old chart record previously held jointly by ABBA and Led Zeppelin.

Of course, streaming and other developments in the music industry are responsible for these achievements in part, but still, it once seemed unimaginable that “pornographic filth” like this would ever reach such highs and yet now, in 2018, it’s become a common occurrence.

Too Young

Things aren’t all perfect though. As recently as 2016, N.W.A. faced controversy when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even though they were the fifth hip-hop act to do so. Following earlier comments about “looking forward to the death of rap,” KISS singer Gene Simmons openly claimed that hip-hop stars shouldn’t be inducted, overlooking the fact that R&B singers like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke – who paved the way for hip-hop – were among the first to be given this prestigious honor back in 1986.

Highsnobiety / Bryan Chong

There’s also dissension within hip-hop, too. In 2018, Post Malone broke a huge record set by Michael Jackson, but just last year, he also drew controversy for an interview where he said that “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop.” Whether these comments were misconstrued or not, they certainly imply that the young star has a limited view of what hip-hop can achieve. This has been echoed by a number of rising stars who have recently gone out of their way to denounce the legends who came before them.

Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize win and all of the other aforementioned achievements certainly suggest that we might be in the ‘Golden age of hip-hop’ right now, but how will rap continue to move forward if the chart-topping artists of today don’t respect the building blocks of the genre?

Rap music has long fought against the oppression of mainstream white culture, but now that hip-hop has finally started winning the respect that it deserves from the charts and award bodies alike, it’s an internal conflict that could prove problematic still. Let’s just hope that 2019 brings more acclaim and respect to the hip-hop artists who deserve it, moving rap away from the uphill struggle that once defined the genre as a whole.

Stay tuned for more of year end content. In the meantime, see why we named cupcakKe the most important rapper of 2018 here.

Words by David Opie
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