When this time of year rolls around, it is bittersweet. 2018 was full of ups and downs for my ears. So many amazing popular artists dropped that it became a burden to maintain. Yet I was all for it. Name after name, week after week, last year was brimming with talking points. Beefs, surprise drops, and long-awaited follow-ups made 2018 one to remember. Below are my picks for the best of the best among the hip-hop, R&B, pop and electronic genres. They are my four loves and I want to share them with everyone who is willing. This year’s top nod recipients are as follows (includes features):

Travis Scott – 7

Kanye West (incl. KIDS SEE GHOSTS) – 7

Drake – 6

Ariana Grande – 6

Nicki Minaj / Playboi Carti / SOPHIE – 5

If this is your first time tuning in for the Kammy Awards, allow me to shed some light on a few categories. Song of 2018 is given to the song that best represents the year 2018. Album of 2018 goes to the best overall album released in 2018. Most Ignorant Song is not meant to throw shade. It’s simply a fun category to compile the year’s most obnoxious and/or hilarious tracks. Posse Cuts are tracks with at least four rappers. Also, the collaboration categories focus on how well the artists work together rather than just how dope the song is. Everything else should be self-explanatory. Here I attempt to reward musical quality and artistic integrity across these four genres. If you’d like to see all of the nominees before diving in, click here.

As always, Thank You for sharing your time with us at TFC. We truly appreciate every eye that graces our page, even if it’s only for a moment. These 25 selections have kept me up at night, but I love this more than anything. Once again, shout out to Jad Elias for all the help. Enjoy..

 

Best Electronic/Experimental Album
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‘2012-2017’ by Against All Logic

Hearing this album for the first time was like nothing else. I had zero expectations. Zero information, zero insight. Producer Nicolas Jaar took me to a place my ear drums had never been before. A thrill ride from start to finish, 2012-2017 is the epitome of musical craftsmanship. No lyrics necessary. This album fuses random vocal snippets with colorful house and electronic soundscapes to create a sonic thinkpiece for the ages. Standout track “Some Kind of Game” received a Best Producer/DJ Track nomination while the album is also up for our most prestigious Kammy award. Without question, this six-year project was the most unique listen I had in all of 2018. During extended playthroughs, the album varies and fluctuates throughout, keeping redundancy to a minimum. I cannot express to you how much I appreciate that.

Facebook voter(s): Matt Mementowski
Best Producer/DJ Track
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“Love Can Be So Hard” by Disclosure

This one was tough. The aforementioned “Some Kind of Game” came close to winning. To be honest, both that and this winner give me similar feelings inside when I listen to them. Ultimately, though, I went with Disclosure because dammit, love can be hard sometimes. That is, if you do it right. The UK production duo have found the antidote to a disgruntled heart: dancing, dancing, and more dancing. If you can stand still for this entire track you officially have no soul. Shimmery colors and endless vogue gyrations are what enter my mind when I hear this song. It makes me want to take a nightclub Eurotrip and sneak my way to the aux cord before getting kicked out each night for dressing grossly American. Negative Nancies beware, “Love Can Be So Hard” just might yank that stick right out of your ass.

Facebook voter(s): Ben Mirka
Beat of the Year
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“Mo Bamba” by 16yrold & Take a Daytrip

2018 was a wild one. With the emergence of Tay Keith, the return of Kanye as a producer, and Swizz Beatz throwing it back like it’s ’07 all over again, there was no shortage of great beats that got everyone to stop in their tracks. To me, no beat had me shook more than “Mo Bamba” by 16yrold and Take a Daytrip. The simplicity behind the instrumental and its nursery rhyme build-up was irresistible for the majority of 2018. It hyped up cars, parties, arenas and stadiums all around the globe. Sheck couldn’t even contain himself as the infamous line “Oh! F**K! SHIT! BI**H!” was a genuine reaction to the beat freezing as he was recording. Every nominee was deserving in their own right. Yet something about “Mo Bamba” blew up, and still gets any group going, no matter the crowd. – Jad Elias

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Posse Cut of the Year
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“Plug Walk (Remix)” by Rich the Kid f/ Gucci Mane, YG & 2 Chainz

“Got chips like a casino / Had to try angles like Dorito / I’m the godfather nigga, Don Vito / This cheese not yours nigga, jalapeno”! I mean, there’s not much else I need to say, but I’ll keep going for the sport. Combining OGs like Gucci Mane, YG and 2 Chainz on top of this alien-esque banger was bound to turn heads. Rich the Kid found his first smash record with this one. “New Freezer” is dope as well. However, with Kendrick recycling his “Big Shot” verse, “Plug Walk” is the one that really stuck with me. Here Rich proves he has a keen ear, and understands exactly what will work for his sound. This remix was like adding whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top of an already killer track. Not bad for your first go-around, kid.

Facebook voter(s): Rolland Vaughn; Matt Mementowski; Nathan Casper
Verse of the Year

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Black Thought – “How to Hold a Choppa” [img via First Person Arts / PhillyVoice]

“Dark room with the cloak draped over the mic
Colloquium light, the smoke from the opium pipe
Silk road is a code so the only advice
To bring truth to the light, play this only at night
If it’s over your life, it’s not only a fight
My homie called it a plight and my homie was right
How to speak truth to power is refuse to cower and teach youth
The hour of reckonin’ is upon us, there’s enemies among us
Essentially in more than recent memory, they hung us
Public assembly to watch death become us
Better believe it but if not, check the numbers
Gramps told my father they sold his papa for gold and copper
Even though he was the strongest cropper

Now am I wrong if I teach my son to properly hold a choppa

And how to bring down a helicopter?
What’s the concept? The industrial prison complex
For niggas in the projects with they eyes shut
That still walk around blind to the conquest
That haven’t really realized what’s the time yet
No due process, the price is no object
When sentences match the crime, they do not yet
It’s been a war on the heavily melanated
For your own security, you better be educated, listen”

Facebook voter(s): Enrico Meza-Cuadra
Best New Artist

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SOPHIE [img via BBC]

Scottish-born and London-based electronic music producer SOPHIE made serious waves in 2018. For years she flew mostly under the radar, writing and producing for other artists as part of the collective PC Music. However, last year marked her time to step into the spotlight. And boy did she do the damn thing. Her dazzling debut bends traditional pop ideals to her will. The result is a cutting-edge, industrial postmodern commentary on how it feels to be a 21st century woman. If you want to take a peek into the future of pop music, look no further than SOPHIE’s OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES. She receives five Kammy nominations overall, including Beat of the YearBest Electronic/Experimental Album, and Best Debut Album.

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Best Vocal Collaboration
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“Pearly Gates” by U.S. Girls f/ James Baley

Wow. This album hit me out of nowhere. This track in particular harnesses the digital bop of late-90’s pop while adding some much needed modern breadth. Meghan Remy’s voice feels like watching cream being poured into a steaming cup o’ Joe (in slow motion, of course). I don’t drink coffee myself yet something about that image is just so satisfying. The same can be said about Remy’s performance. When James Baley comes in on the hook, this song rockets to another level. DJ scratches, ascending keys, and subtle percussion create a near-perfect concoction worthy of endless repeat listens. Meghan’s album “In a Poem Unlimited” is the most slept-on album of 2018. Pop fans, do yourself a favor and peep this pretty lil’ project. U.S. Girls receives three Kammy nods, including Best Pop Album and Best Pop Song.

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Best Rap Collaboration
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“Shoota” by Playboi Carti f/ Lil Uzi Vert

Say what you will about their lyrics, but these two have a chemistry unlike any other duo in the game. Matched with a vibrant yet minimal instrumental, these foreign whip flexers shine brighter than ever before. They teased their potential on Carti’s debut mixtape. “wokeuplikethis” gets play to this day from me. Although the tape as a whole left a lot on the table, his debut album Die Lit proved me wrong in so many ways. I initially gave it a score of 3.7, however, over the course of the year, it jumped all the way up to a 7.1. The vibe of the album is infectious to say the least, and I truly believe Playboi Carti struck gold here. He is single-handedly pushing hip-hop into the next decade. I, for one, am here for it. Carti receives five Kammy nominations, including Best Hip-hop/Rap Album and Catchiest Song.

Facebook voter(s): Peter Fraaza
Best Debut Album
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‘Isolation’ by Kali Uchis

Man, I love, love, LOVE this album. Kali is one hot tamale, but this diva has a million more things to offer than stoic good looks. As a debut album, Isolation hits all the markers, and then some. Killer singles, sturdy hooks, and attention to detail make this LP a force to be reckoned with. It was the first physical album I purchased in 2018. I simply had to have it. The songs here are just too good not to share. Whether solo or alongside competent guests, Uchis proves she has the self-awareness and artistic vision to survive in this industry for decades to come. She has quickly catapulted to the top tier of my personal favorite artists. Nevertheless, do not confuse my love for her as complete bias. This album is smooth, sexy, and ethereal. She crafted her debut with the utmost care. And for that, Kali, I thank you.

Facebook voter(s): Cameron Quarles; Ben Mirka; Matt Mementowski
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
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“Fire” by KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Despite his many antics, Kanye West knows how to make an album. Furthermore, he does not miss when he links up with Cleveland, Ohio’s own Kid Cudi. Following a brief rift in their creative relationship, these two trend setters finally joined forces for an epic musical experiment. Their super duo KIDS SEE GHOSTS delivered a self-titled feat that sounds something like a co-op video game campaign. Burrowing through the deepest caverns of their minds, these emcees uncover their darkest concerns and most dire desires. “Fire” is a culmination ten years in the making, highlighted by a Kurt Cobain riff. “On this road I find / These scars I left behind / Heaven lift me up / Heaven lift me up” are some of the most powerful lyrics of Cudi’s career. This has become my go-to smoke song. It makes me feel invincible. I hope it does something similar for you too.

Facebook voter(s): Cameron Quarles; Gregory Tyler; Jad ‘Broski’ Klias
Most Improved Artist

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Ariana Grande [img via Tom Munro / Time Magazine]

In 2018 I watched a promising teen idol blossom into an authentic pop artist. Even though I have loved Ariana Grande songs in the past, her albums were another story. Mostly they were bloated, focus-grouped efforts yielding minimal hit songs. Conversely, her latest record Sweetener made me smile. I’ve always been a fan, but now I can finally praise her art for its substance and consistency. Teaming up with hitmaker Pharrell Williams proved an excellent creative decision. Max Martin and other top pop gurus came together to create one of the decade’s most delightful and forward-thinking top-40 records. Ms. Grande receives six Kammy nominations, including Song of 2018Best Pop Album, and Vocal Performance of the Year.

Facebook voter(s): Matt Mementowski
Vocal Performance of the Year
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“Call Out My Name” by The Weeknd

Call out my naaaaaaaame! I can’t tell you how many times I yelled this to no one in 2018. The pain in Abel’s vocals is clear. He misses his Bella and refused to go another second without her. As corny as it is, I care about their relationship. I don’t know why, so don’t bother asking. His EP My Dear Melancholy, was a ballsy effort to get his girl back, and this track was its centerpiece. Despite me wishing he didn’t kick off the project with it, I love this song. It speaks to a specific type of passion that most of us have felt some time in our pasts. We all make mistakes. Yet we all cannot sing like this to the one we miss the most. Lucky for Abel, he can and he did, getting his lady back in the process. Kudos, my friend. Here’s to many more years of happiness!!

Facebook voter(s): Rolland Vaughn; Cameron Quarles; Alex Aniton; Alex White; Ben Mirka; Morgan Marie Smith; Thomas Liu; Luke Dunigan
Best R&B/Soul Song
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“Rank & File” by Moses Sumney

It is rare to hear an R&B artist come forth in their music to send a distinct political message. Here Moses Sumney poses an important question. Back in 2014 he attended a protest following the Mike Brown shooting. The jury’s verdict ruled in favor of the offending officer. Sumney says he will never attend another protest. Rather he chose to make this powerful song. “Rank & File” addresses the police state in this country and how it seems to target minorities without punishment. Personally, I know plenty of good cops. Cops that would take a bullet for someone in need instead of giving one. We cannot generalize this group of human beings. However, that does not erase the fact that minorities are much more likely to receive harassment from officers. Of course, this is a sensitive subject. And I’m not here to choose sides. But how many more young people have to die before change comes? I wish I had the answer.

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Best Pop Song
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“We Appreciate Power” by Grimes f/ HANA

What can I say about this song other than it is truly an experience. Five-and-a-half minutes of supersonic, kick-ass, cyberpunk pop music. From start to finish Grimes and HANA put on a performance art show without any visuals in sight. The metallic, murky portrait they paint is of a somewhat distant future. Artificial intelligence has taken over, and the rebels who survived are slowly but surely submitting to our computer overlords. Sure, Grimes may be a bit of a spaz and a lot to handle in the studio. However, if this is the type of quality that will continue to result from those sessions, then I suggest her collaborators buckle up for the ride because Grimes is on a masterful, meteoric mission to prove… well, I don’t know. But whatever her goal is, it sounds like the most polished pop music since JT’s FutureSex / LoveSounds. 2019 should be fun.

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Best Hip-hop/Rap Song
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“If You Know You Know” by Pusha T

There are so many great hip-hop tracks in this category. And even more that I had to cut from the list. Among them, though, is a sonic crown fit for a king. King Push, that is. The Virginia trap lord sent a hurricane into the rap game this summer with his brief but innovative DAYTONA album. Produced almost entirely by label head Kanye West, Push’s latest effort received universal acclaim from both fans and critics. The opening track “If You Know You Know” is the one rap song you need to hear if you haven’t already. The statement it makes is one of simplicity and experience. Push doesn’t have time to fill you in on all of his accomplishments. If you don’t know who he is and the type of quality he delivers with each release, then you simply missed out. Don’t blink, boy.

Facebook voter(s): Troop Stamper; Matt Mementowski; Jamil Olomi; Jeffrey Johnson; Peter Fraaza; Nick Cannell; Gregory Cunningham; Cameron Quarles; Rolland Vaughn
Sex Song of the Year
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“God is a woman” by Ariana Grande

“It lingers when we’re done / You’ll believe God is a woman.” Well, Ariana, I believe it! When this first dropped, so did my jaw. This grand, intimate vocal showcase is Grande’s most mature release to date. “God is a woman” pushes suggestive sensuality to its limits. What results is an almost aquatic tug-of-war between two lovers in the aftermath of physical bliss. This is what a great sex song is supposed to sound like. Not just a cheap thrill of a track, but a fully-realized and layered sonic endeavor. “God is a woman,” in addition to a handful of other solid singles, paved the way for Ariana Grande to become the artist I always knew she was. What else can I say about her 2018 that hasn’t already been said?

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Love Song of the Year
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“Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves

I don’t review country-pop albums very often, so this may come as a surprise. But y’know what? I really dig this song. It’s sweet, succulent at times, with just the right amount of twang.  Although her album mostly underwhelmed me, “Butterflies” stuck out like mismatched shoes. Her airy vocals caress the ears. She truly made me feel the weight lifting from her shoulders. “Now you’re lifting me up / Instead of holding me down / Stealing my heart / Instead of stealing my crown.” It’s a simple, home-grown kind of love song for which I am a sucker. Makes me feel all warm and gooey on the inside. Reminds me of a fire ass chocolate-chip cookie. Had one the other day. Should’ve warmed it up in the microwave… Damn.

Facebook voter(s): Peter Fraaza
Banger of the Year
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“Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes

Was this category even in question? Without a doubt “I GOT HOEEEEEES” were the three words that got any function lit in an instant. All around the world, Sheck Wes’s name left an impression. His album wasn’t half-bad either, which was a shocker, though I don’t know if I can forgive Pitchfork for their 8.2 review score. That is neither here nor there. Anyway, “Mo Bamba” will go down in hip-hop history as possibly the most hype song to ever exist. It’s a blessing to be a part of something as epic as that, to me. No matter how many times I hear it this track removes any and all sadness, boredom, or silence from my body. Luckily, I stay away from radio and basic streaming playlists. So, this banger is still fresh for me. But for many others, I understand how much people butchered this. At least Sheck Wes has so many flows.

Facebook voter(s): Cameron Quarles; Jeffrey Johnson; Jad ‘Broski’ Klias; Jamil Olomi
Most Ignorant Song
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“I Love It” by Kanye West & Lil Pump

Sigh… Why this beat gotta go so hard, though? When this shit came out, it pissed me off. Anyone who knows me knows how big of a Ye fan I am. 2018 was a perplexing year in that regard to say the least. West’s wild antics and appearances hit an all-time high. And, for a brief amount of time, I wanted nothing to do with Yeezy. His string of albums left me ultimately unsatisfied. Except for KIDS SEE GHOSTS – that one is great from beginning to end. The Trump endorsements and impromptu rants made me roll my eyes. And then there is this song. “You’re such a fuckin’ ho, I love it” is a line that would have probably worked for Ye in 2006. Currently, however, it simply feels like an agenda-driven joke of a track. Kanye hosted the official PornHub Awards last year. Not surprising per se, but still disappointing. Nevertheless, this song hit #1 alongside one of the next generation’s biggest  icons.

Facebook voter(s): Chanel Heavener; Devin J Fuqua Sr.; Jad ‘Broski’ Klias; Thomas Liu; Troop Stamper; Enrico Meza-Cuadra; Jamil Olomi; Ben Mirka; Peter Fraaza; Alex Aniton; Nick Cannell; Gregory Tyler; Cameron Quarles; Rolland Vaughn
Best R&B/Soul Album
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‘Negro Swan’ by Blood Orange

This record touched me right from the start. Negro Swan from Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange is a storyboard of outcast tales and harmonic humanity. Mixing elements of pop, jazz, soul, and hip-hop Hynes created a diamond-in-the-rough for rhythm and blues in the streaming era. He uses the pain from his youth, as well as the uncertainty and freedom, to craft a collection of tracks that is equal parts liberating and endearing. Standouts such as “Saint,” “Hope” and “Charcoal Baby” solidified Blood Orange as one of the top creators in the industry today. He paid his dues and now, with this elegant effort, earned his place in the limelight. Please, please, please give this album a full, attentive listen.

Facebook voter(s): Joey Eugene; Alex Aniton; Peter Fraaza; Enrico Meza-Cuadra; Jad ‘Broski’ Klias; Chanel Heavener
Best Pop Album
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‘Little Dark Age’ by MGMT

I almost picked Dirty Computer here. Janelle is certainly deserving. However, I felt as though her record tends to come and go. The more I listened to it, the less I wanted to keep listening to it. Maybe I’m missing that fun, bubbly side of myself. Or maybe it’s simply not the best pop album to drop in 2018. Enter MGMT, the Connecticut electro pop duo who changed music forever with their song “Electric Feel.” That was almost 13 years ago. Where did the time go? Nowadays, this dynamic duo have returned to prominence with the release of their socially aware LP Little Dark Age. As I listened through time and time again, this record shed more and more layers. Punchy lyricism, infectious hooks, and well-crafted soundscapes make Little Dark Age both accessible and cerebral. Throwback style synth-pop tunes nested inside my brain. 13 years later, and this title track, “Me & Michael” and “Time Spent Looking at My Phone” are some of their best songs to date.

Facebook voter(s): Morgan Marie Smith; Luke Dunigan
Best Hip-hop/Rap Album
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‘Room 25’ by Noname

The fut — Scratch that. The present is female. In a genre full of trappers, flexers, and wannabe gangsters, Chicago native Noname chose her own path. Following her impressive mixtape Telefone, fans wanted more of the same. Her style was so brief and delicate that it almost came off shy or inconspicuous. Room 25 is another tip-toey, flowery-yet-fantastic project, but with more umph. Chi-town produces so much hip-hop talent that it’s hard to keep up sometimes. However, Noname still managed to leave a lasting imprint due to her lush organic instrumentation and self-aware lyrics. As an independent artist, she strays away from trendsetting singles. But as a whole, Room 25 supplies the feminine touch hip-hop so desperately needs.

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Catchiest Song
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“SAD!” by XXXTentacion

Whether you liked him or not, X was a promising young star. His albums are anomalies. His lyrics are suspect at times. But what is not up for debate is his knack for writing catchy material. Personally, I hate the messaging behind “SAD!”In a way, it makes me sick to my stomach. Threatening suicide to keep your lover from leaving is a coward move. I want to make that very clear. You got that? Okay, cool. This song, however, is infectious through and through. “I’m sad I know, yeah / I’m sad I know, yeah” fell asleep, had babies, and decomposed in the creases of my brain for months. Listening to his ? album will always be bittersweet. I hope X feels all the love his music created from now until forever. May he rest in peace.

Facebook voter(s): Thomas Liu; Luke Dunigan; Kendra King; Troop Stamper
Song of 2018
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“SICKO MODE” by Travis Scott f/ Drake & Swae Lee

The opening keys of Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE” resound farther than the eye can see. While it may not be as hype as “Mo Bamba,” few tracks permeated American culture quite like this grandiose feat. Even though I still hate Drake’s verse, hearing his voice on the song’s intro for the first time had me giddier than a hobo with a winning lottery ticket. It’s strange, my love-hate relationship with Aubrey. His contributions here suffice nonetheless. Swae Lee adds a nice little background touch, but Travis remains king of the hill. After the first beat switch, Scott’s delivery is uncanny. His energy is virtually flawless from start to finish. “SICKO MODE” has a certain mystique behind it that helps it function well in just about any scenario. This song best represents the year 2018 to me. It is unmistakable anytime its needle drops.

Facebook voter(s): N/A
Album of 2018
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‘El Mal Querer’ by Rosalía

Language barrier my ass. It doesn’t matter if you speak English, Spanish, Finnish, or Swahili. This album is so damn good. Experimental flamenco pop isn’t a term you’ll hear very often. Yet that is exactly what makes Rosalía’s album El Mal Querer such an accomplishment. Kammy-nominated track “De Aquí No Sales” takes experimentation to new heights. Flamenco hand claps follow jarring tire peels and engine revs to mirror a toxic and abusive relationship. It translates to something like “From Here You Cannot Leave.” Lead single “Malamente” is a cool, breezy effort that kicks off the LP in style. And “Di Mi Nombre” is an infectious, erotic ballad. All together, El Mal Querer will mark the end of sleeping on foreign language albums. You may be behind on this beautiful piece of art, but fear not. This is why I’m here.

Facebook voter(s): Peter Fraaza
The End

And there you have it! These are my 2018 KAMMY Award winners. Once more, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read. It’s good for you. And I especially appreciate you stopping by to read my ramblings. Despite the daunting amount of music available now, I hope to have inspired you to go out and give these songs and albums a chance. As usual, I have a few regrets. Artists such as CupcaKKe, Charli XCX, and Rico Nasty received snubs all around this year. Additionally, I would like to take a moment to celebrate the life of one of my favorite artists to ever grace the microphone.

Malcolm James McCormick — January 19, 1992 – September 7, 2018

Mac Miller will never be forgotten. Although I did not nominate or recognize his 2018 music in my awards, I do have love for his latest album Swimming. It was not his best work, in my opinion, but tracks like “2009,” “Jet Fuel,” and “Come Back to Earth” continue to induce tears. His Faces mixtape helped mold me into the person I am today. For that, I am beyond thankful. Mac Miller: You inspired young kids all around the world to be exactly who they wanted to be. You never let a record company get in the way of your creative expression. I believe that to be the most underrated aspect of your artistry. Knowing when to say No is just as, if not more, important than knowing when to say Yes. Your influence will live on for generations to come. Rest In Peace, my dear friend. We love you, and always have.

My heart also goes out to the other musicians we lost in 2018 and their families: Aretha Franklin; XXXTentacion; Lil Peep; Jimmy Wopo; Avicii; Craig Mack; Fredo Santana; and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Peace to all of you beautiful people out there. TFC wishes you nothing but the best in 2019. Until next time…