No more than five years ago, R&B was suffering an identity crisis. The emergence of Hip-Pop and R&Bass hybrid genres were responsible for a number of radio-friendly club bangers composed by mainstream artists, but any sign of emotive products was severely lacking. Then as the beloved wave of “SoundCloud Rap” began to make its ascent, so did a quietly forming generation of torchbearers for Hip-Hop’s sister genre. Coming through with a fearless sense of vulnerability, a trend in tandem with social media’s increasing perversion, all signs pointed toward a renaissance, and its presence has only grown, reaching its highest point to date this year.

The Kehlanis, SZAs, and Daniel Caesars of the world are something of household names now. The latest surge of contemporary R&B and Soul music has offered up a multitude of noteworthy talent that no longer need to cater to industry gatekeepers in order to make their way to our speakers. While there is no set rulebook on what constitutes a great R&B album, the artists on this list represent those who have relied on the affectional pillars that hold up the very idea of Rhythm & Blues. You’ll find that all of these projects effectively cover the scope of being human: the highs and the lows, self-love and self-destruction, romance and heartbreak.

This list is comprised both of artists who made their way through the aforementioned renaissance and other mainstays who have long proven their dedication to soulful and impassioned outputs. Naturally, this is not definitive. However, it is crafted as a comprehensive look at the artists whose projects were particularly noteworthy in 2018.

ICYMI, our Hottest Albums list, which centers on hip-hop releases, can be found here.

For all year-end content, you can search the HOTNEW18 hashtag.