2018 was undoubtedly a strong year for hip-hop music. The genre continued its global takeover of the pop scene, featuring some career-defining moments from Drake, Travis Scott, Post Malone, Lil Baby and J. Cole, just to name a few. However, even with all the great rap music we've enjoyed during the past (almost) twelve months, there are still some big names who flew under the radar.

Despite some features verses and singles scattered here and there, emcees like 21 Savage, Chris Brown, Lil Uzi Vert, 2 Chainz and more had a relatively quiet year. That’s not to say that they and others won’t deliver some new bars in 2019 (in some cases, drop dates for those records have already been announced) but, in the spirit of end-of-year list season, let’s take a closer look at some rappers who are due for a return to the spotlight as we roll into the new year.


Chris Brown

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If Breezy had little to nothing left in the tank song-wise after 2017, I can’t say that I blame him.

Heartbreak on a Full Moon, his 45-track opus, capped off an eventful run that kept Brown’s name in the headlines, for better and for worse. 2018 was more of the same, with tabloid fodder that included refusal to submit drug tests, a cavalcade of legal issues punctuated by a lawsuit from his costume designer and even shooting his shot at Cardi B (sort of). Lots of brand recognition for the singer, but no new music.

That looks like it’s set to change in 2019 though. Brown’s supposedly releasing new music after the holidays are done, with a potential Trey Songz collaboration seemingly in the oven as well. His last double LP may have led to some Breezy oversaturation and listener fatigue, but there’s no doubt that his fans are ready and waiting for some new material to come their way.


2 Chainz

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Pretty Girls Like Trap Music was one of 2017’s standout albums and its formerly wheelchair-bound star, 2 Chainz, came into his own as one of the South’s singular talents. Strangely, the rapper has been rather silent on the solo music front in 2018.

Despite some high-profile collabs with Drake, Lil Pump and others, 2 Chainz fans are definitely craving a new studio effort from the veteran emcee. His recent EP, Hot Wings Are A Girl’s Best Friend, definitely helped whet the hip-hop community’s collective appetite, however it only makes us wonder what Chainz has in store for us next.

On our wish list for 2019? That he finally gets in the studio with Hov and lays down what would be one of the year’s biggest team-ups.


Lil Uzi Vert

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In the post-Soundcloud era of rap’s punk phase, Lil Uzi Vert is one of the genre’s hottest young stars. While his solo output went dormant in 2018, the good news is that his fans won’t have to wait much longer for him to drop some new material.

Fresh off his appearance on the recent Cassius Jay single “Big Racks,” Uzi looks primed to re-enter the hip-hop conversation in a big way in 2019. His forthcoming album, Eternal Atake, is reportedly complete and awaiting a hard release date and promo push. However, if Luv is Rage 2 taught us anything, it’s that the Philly native likes to take his time with his records.

Helping to ramp up anticipation for the new Lil Uzi LP is TM88, who revealed that he indeed has another collab with the rapper coming on Eternal Atake.


Danny Brown

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If you wondered where Danny Brown was at in 2018, you probably weren’t the only one.

The Detroit-born emcee certainly shrouded himself in mystery this year. His long-rumored Persona 5 project still hasn’t seen the light of day and, although he claimed to be aiming for an early-2019 release date at the end of August, it’s anybody’s guess as to when he’ll bless us with some new tracks.

In the meantime, Brown finally released his documentary Live At the Majestic this November, a film that Apple Music had shelved for reasons still unclear to the general public. One thing’s for sure: Danny Brown’s presence on the hip-hop scene is sorely missed. We need that new album ASAP.


Lloyd Banks

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It would be an understatement to say that things are pretty quiet on the Lloyd Banks front.

How quiet? Well, the veteran rapper appeared to tease his retirement from the music biz altogether. While he later took to social media and admitted he was trolling (along with giving the industry’s media outlets an earful for artificially blowing up the story), the hip-hop world would be a better place with a new Banks joint sometime in the near future.

It’s also different with Lloyd than with other elder statesmen in the genre. He’s never prioritized reshaping his sound or image to abide by the musical trends or tastes of any given moment, which makes any new projects from him a welcome addition to the culture’s larger conversation. Real heads all get excited when the prospect of new Lloyd Banks music is more than just a pipe dream. For now, it'll be on our wishlist for 2019.


Joey Bada$$

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Though Joey has been prolific on the singles front, with releases like “Still New York” and “Pretty Boys” garnering some attention this year, 2018 was devoid of a cohesive long-form effort from one of rap’s most impressive emerging talents.

The smooth-yet-gritty stylings of 2017’s All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ positioned the Brooklyn native as a talent to watch and, judging by the smoke coming from his social media accounts, there’s likely to be some fire bars on the way very soon.

Back in October, he revealed that he’s got two projects in the works, including a Pro Era album that, in his words, sounds “incredible.” There’s no telling what exactly his contributions will be on that LP, nor what his next solo release will sound like, but one thing’s for sure: Joey Bada$$ is primed to take that next step to superstardom in 2019.


The Game

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One of the true OGs who helped re-ignite the West Coast sound as a commercially viable property more than a decade ago, The Game is another name who was absent from our call sheet in 2018.

That doesn’t mean his name was absent from the headlines though. In the fall, he blasted young rappers for faking the gangsta lifestyle. “Why fake it?” he said. “Then you end up to the next n****s who do real gangsta sh*t and don’t want to be in there […] I don’t know one gangsta who wants to be in jail.”

With his last full-length studio release coming all the way back in 2016 with 1992, the coming year might be time for The Game to show the next generations of rappers what’s up and come through with another solid outing.


Big Sean

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Following his rumored messy breakup with R&B songstress Jhene Aiko, Big Sean is another emcee who looks ready to drop some new material.

The reignition of his social media presence seems to confirm this, at least for the time being. His return to Instagram was met with much scrutiny, especially after he posted a photo with a caption that simply read “back soon.” No one’s sure exactly what’s on the way from the Motor City native, but if it’s anything like 2016’s I Decided, hip-hop fans are in for some quality.


Rick Ross

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Rick Ross hasn’t dropped new music in a minute and, based on how busy his schedule is now, things may stay status quo for a while.

After welcoming a son earlier this year (also, you know you’re a straight-up boss when you name your child Billion, just saying), the rapper continues to rake in paydays for his non-music-related commitments. His most recent endeavor: inking a deal to join the cast for the second season of Irv Gotti’s BET series Tales.

Don’t forget: Rozay spent a good chunk of 2018 recovering from a bad bout of pneumonia that kept him hospitalized for an extended period. Between that, his newfound daddy duties and ongoing battles with baby mama Tia Kemp over his other family-related commitments, it seems like there’s enough keeping the icon busy these days.


PARTYNEXTDOOR

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The OVO disciple, once one of the hottest names in R&B, has fallen off the map somewhat in recent months.

Though 2017’s Seven Days featured some strong support and production work, it divided many critics and fans, leaving PND’s place in the larger music conversation unclear. There’s no doubt that Drake is a fan of his fellow Canadian, going so far as to make PND’s music a permanent fixture at his Miami abode, but that far from guarantees any new music from his fellow countryman.

Stranger still is the fact that TM88 may be sitting on a PartyNextDoor project, although it’s anyone’s guess as to how finished that release is or whether it will ever see the light of day.


Schoolboy Q

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Most recently heard on 21 Savage's i am > i was album, the Creed II soundtrack, as well as the Too $hort-led group effort “Don’t Shoot,” Schoolboy Q is yet another rap mainstay who has been all too silent on the solo project front in 2018.

That doesn’t mean Schooly has been absent from the public eye, however. He was part of the star-studded Mac Miller tribute concert, an unforgettable event where he performed alongside all-star talent like Travis Scott, SZA and more. Q also sent his fans love by performing a free live show in Chicago this past September.

Despite a Twitter bio proclaiming “NEW ALBUM COMING SOON,” there’s no buzz of anything imminent on the horizon for the TDE rapper. Let’s hope that 2019 brings us some fresh bars from Schoolboy Q.


Ab-Soul

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Speaking of the Top Dawg alumnus, Ab-Soul is another artist who was mostly off the release radar in 2018. With the memories of 2016’s scorching Do What Thou Wilt still burned in some fans’ memories (including mine), the new year couldn’t be a more perfect time for some new material from one of hip-hop’s most mercurial talents.

Though he managed to score a guest spot on the Black Panther soundtrack, Ab-Soul and the rest of the TDE crew have been vague as to Soulo’s whereabouts. There were hints at some ongoing studio sessions but that hasn’t necessarily set the possibility of an LP drop in 2019 in stone. Fingers crossed.


Run the Jewels

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Let’s end things off with one of the most underrated duos in hip-hop right now: Run the Jewels. With a hard-charging sound and an abundance of charisma, we can't be the only ones who are actively waiting for RTJ 4.

The anticipation for the group’s upcoming studio release kicked into high gear recently after El-P confirmed that he and Killer Mike would be dropping the project in 2019. With their lone 2018 single, “Let’s Go,” giving fans a welcome return to their grimy-yet-polished roots, it’s only a matter of time before we’re blessed with what will surely be an intriguing and potentially mesmerizing album.


Who are you most excited to hear new music from in 2019? Let us know in the comments.