Earlier this month, the singer Jacquees declared himself the “King of R&B” for his generation, eliciting a string of dismissive reactions from luminaries like P. Diddy and Keith Sweat. The debate was silly: Just three years ago, people were declaring R&B dead, and there is no pure singer right now putting up hits consistently enough for royalty status. But the reaction to the debate was important: People cared, a lot, about R&B, in a way they hadn’t for a long time.
If this year’s R&B field didn’t have a runaway champion, the genre still scored plenty of small victories, signs that R&B seemed to be finally figuring out many things that rap learned a long time ago. Hip-hop was initially forced to become popular outside of mainstream channels; H.E.R. has achieved over a billion streams without a ubiquitous radio hit. Rappers routinely record collaboration albums that help them reach new fans; Ty Dolla $ign and Jeremih whipped up some joint debauchery. Swagger has always been essential to rap; Jacquees has plenty.
As a result, the genre appears to be regaining some of its clout. It’s notable that Queen Naija, a YouTube star, decided to make R&B this year, since most social-media -personalities-turned-musicians try their hand at hip-hop. And it’s also notable that R&B launched two albums and a single from a third artist into the major general categories for the 2019 Grammys. These are good signs heading into next year. But before we get there, here are Rolling Stone‘s top 10 R&B albums of 2018.