8. Playboi Carti, 'Playboi Carti'
Perhaps the most improbable achievement of the most unexpectedly great rap project of the year is that even old heads who moaned about "mumble rappers" seemed to like it. Yes, that was Jay-Z in the video for Playboi Carti's "Magnolia," his brief non-vocal cameo serving as a cosign for Carti and producer Pi'erre Bourne's rhythmic masterwork. The Atlanta rapper's debut mixtape (since re-released by Interscope) offers more gems ("Other Shit," "Wokeuplikethis") that underline his talent for turning trap chants and vocal cues into post-millennial funk. The record has an ephemeral quality – Carti rarely sounds like he's grasping for words that match or fit a theme, which is an essential part of the improvisational magic. "This is not pop, this some rock, aye," he says on "Half & Half," repeating the phrase three times. Then, "Came in that bitch with the Glock, yeah," repeating that three times. Who knows why it sounds brilliant? M.R.