Terrence Sage (@SageTerrence)
1. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
2. PRETTY GIRLS LIKE TRAP MUSIC – 2 Chainz
3. AT WHAT COST – GoldLink
4. BIG FISH THEORY – Vince Staples
5. SATURATION 2 – Brockhampton
6. ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADASS – Joey Bada$$
7. 7 DAYS – Krept & Konan
8. CTRL – SZA
9. THE NEVER STORY – J.I.D
10. 4 EVA IS A MIGHTY LONG TIME – Big Krit
This year sucked but we had music to fall back on, so that counts for something right? 2017 was
filled with solid projects across the board and allowed me to get outside of my comfort zone
thanks to the projects I’m listing and beyond that. Whether you played DAMN backwards or
forwards Kendrick Lamar delivered on another solid project with visuals steadily dropping as
the year went on with all of them touching on their respective subjects profoundly. 2 Chainz,
Big Krit, and J.I.D all receptively put on for the South this year in major ways across the board.
2 Chainz made us all understand Pretty Girls Like Trap Music and with his pink trap house we
got an album that goes all around Atlanta with an energy that only Chainz can call upon. Big
Krit’s album 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time was indeed a long time coming but both volumes to
the project let it be known that Krit had a lot left to say. I was actually very late to the J.I.D hype
train but better late than never because his debut The Never Story was one of the most
promising and best debuts of the year. The rest of my entries for Albums of the Year got creative
and personal as far as the artists go, Vince Staples with Big Fish Theory challenged listeners
with his distinct take and beat that paid off well in my opinion. Saturation 2 from the Boy Band
Brockhampton was the greatest part in their trilogy of albums and with At What Cost people FINALLY started paying attention to GoldLink!
Ashley Clayton (@onlyashleecee)
1. 4:44 – Jay-Z
2. Trip – Jhene Aiko
3. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar
4. SweetSexySavage – Kehlani
5. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music -2 Chainz
6. At What Cost – Goldlink
7. 4eva is a Mighty Long Time -Big Krit
8. Queen Elizabitch – CupcakKe
9. Ctrl – SZA
10. Captain California -Murs
More Life – Drake
Flower Boy- Tyler The Creator
Rap Album Two – Jonwayne
Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom
Let’s call 2017 what it was. The year for women in music. Yes, men were making bangers but women were the true game changers here. Not only were we given an amazing gem of a track in Bodak Yellow by Cardi B but there were amazing albums released by quite a few talented women. Cupcakke gave us Queen Elizabitch this year an album that was as sexually explicit as it was feminist. Kehlani and Jhene Aiko both gave us albums that allowed us to walk through their hurt and experience recovery from heartbreaks. Jhene’s album in particular came out when no one expected but is definitely worth every bit of attention it garnered. Furthermore, SZA gave us some of the most popular R&B tracks of the year off of her debut album Ctrl like Doves in the Wind and The Weekend.
While women were the big hitters in music last year men were still making waves with music just as emotionally stimulating and vulnerable. Jay-Z gave us the gift of 4:44 an album that allowed us to see a more emotionally mature and grown man. He allowed us to see more Shawn Carter and less Jigga. Then we have Murs and Goldlink who both released albums that I honestly didn’t expect to love but have now been played more times in my household than anything else. We definitely can’t forget about Kendrick Lamar with his critically acclaimed album DAMN. Once again K.Dot showed us why he is one of the greatest storytellers of our generation.
Hip hop in 2017 reminded us that through every dark hour there is a bit of light. Each album on my list gives an insight into the artists mind and allowed us a deeper look at who they are. As we proceed with 2018 I’m hoping that artists continue this trend of letting us into who they are and not just club bangers. Turning up is great but providing mentally stimulating music is even better.
Jake Milgate (@milfence)
1. 4:44 – JAY-Z
2. IWASVERYBAD – IDK
3. ROME – Armand Hammer
4. Rap Album Two – Jonwayne
5. Atychiphobia: The Higher High – Gracy Hopkins
6. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
7. 4eva is a Mighty Long Time – Big K.R.I.T.
8. Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! – Milo
9. Rosebudd’s Revenge – Roc Marciano
10. or more: the anxious – Mick Jenkins
Overall, this was another excellent year for hip-hop. Making my list was insanely difficult. But, somehow, I managed to trim down the insane amount of music I listened to into 10 projects. Mick Jenkins showed flashes of his vintage self and manifested it into a very eerie and moving EP/mixtape. Roc Marciano continues to provide his unique low-key, yet lavish, rhymes over relaxed pimptastic production. Milo is so goddamn poetic I could literally just listen to his voice on repeat. Fortunately there was so gorgeous production to go along with his words. Big K.R.I.T. dropped his greatest album yet. Period. Kendrick Lamar continues to surprise and bewilder me…and even with a trendier sounding album, he still absolutely kills it and provides his own unique take on it. Gracy Hopkins was the biggest surprise for me this year. Never heard of him prior to this album. This French-Canadian rapper provides unique insight into his personal self through 7 tracks all named after phobias. Very creative, and very focused. Excellent. Rap Album Two was easily the most emotional album I listened to this year. Absolutely heart-wrenching…a lot of the tracks hit home for me. He’s just as talented an MC as he is a producer. ROME is a dark, apocalyptic take on the current state of our society…and it absolutely floored me. ELUCID and Billy Woods are sharp-tongued as ever, and provide excellent, well-crafted lyrics over some very diabolical beats. IDK just keeps improving and improving every year and it’s been a thrill watching him rise to the top. This is his best work yet, lyrically and sonically. All types of sounds on this. Everyone can enjoy at least one track on here. Finally we have 4:44 by JAY-Z. I thoroughly enjoyed and replayed this album more than any hip-hop project this year…and this is coming from a guy who’s never been fond of JAY-Z. No I.D. knocked it out of the f*cking park with the production on this. But what was even more impressive was JAY-Z himself. He was much more personal than usual, and lyrically sharper than he’s been in years. He and No I.D. meshed perfectly and made a masterpiece.
I.S Jones (@isjonespoetry)
1. CTRL – SZA
2. Saturation II: Brockhampton
3. PALOMA BEACH: KOTA the friend
4. TEEN NIGHT AT THE EMPIRE: Latasha Alcindor
5. At what cost: GoldLink
6. scumfuck flower boy: Tyler, The Creator
7. Intimacy: Floreyyyyy
8. Pretty Girls Like Trap – 2 Chainz
9. DAMN: Kendrick Lamar
10. Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
Tyler, The Creator has been banned from two different countries for his lyrics inciting violence. Feminist groups have mobilized against him, and yet I loved this album. Scum Fuck Flower boy is tender, sincere, and even a bit apologetic. It doesn’t negate the violence he’s incited between his fan base, but for a moment his actions are granted clarity. He incites violence because of his internal struggle with missed connections and unrequited love. He built a career on homophobic lyrics, perhaps, because he’s been trying to come out for years no one will believe in. This stunning, honest rebirth into Tyler’s interior landscape.
The soundtrack to my sordid love life, moments of doubt, insecurity, nostalgia, the audacity of youth is complemented with lonely electric riffs, synth beats, melancholic cymbals (in Drew Barrymore), SZA’s brilliant collection of sounds translates the story of a girl coming into her own, owning her sexual autonomy, remarking on how convoluted dating has become in the era of social media (a nod to the cover of broken electronics SZA sits in the foreground of).
My brother brought Brockampton into my life just when Saturation I dropped. After that I was hooked and tickled by their presentation: a collective of artists, which seemed to be pushing against toxic masculinity by just being themselves. How one’s music comes into the spotlight sets the tone for the rest of their career, and the All-American Boy Band from L.A. is it. Brockhampton’s confidence, irreverence, hyper beats, complimented with audacious lyrics (Why you always rap about bein’ gay? / ‘Cause not enough niggas rappin’ be gay). As a queer women, it felt good to see Kevin Abstract become accepted so quickly in a space that is dominated by the hetero-male narrative. Long life Brockhampton
Not-so-newcomer to the rap game KOTA the Friend returns from “Palm Tree Liquor” with his sophomore album “Paloma Beach”. The Brooklyn-based, California-hearted rapper made me nostalgic for those long drives down the 405. KOTA effortlessly creates a dreamy landscape against the backdrop of isolation, depression, reflection on his career thus far. What I love about KOTA the Friend is his fans and how dedicated to seeing him succeed. I hope for a long and fruitful career for this rising star.
In 2017, it was hard to have a conversation about emerging women rappers without talking about Latasha Alcindor or L.A. There is a self-assurance in effortless ability to bob and weave between whole genres of music between the tracks. Sampling darling hits like “Flava In Ya Ear”, “Heads High” and other party classics, L.A.’s lyrical dexterity is simply unmatched. Sometimes I get discouraged that as time progresses the door for women to succeed in hip-hop is getting narrow every year, but miracles in the making happen. A hard-worker such as herself is the future of this genre. Don’t sleep or you’ll miss her. She’s a comet and we should be lucky to catch her on her flight.
I think I may speak for some when I said I didn’t expect an album of this caliber from a rapper who once named himself Tity Boi. “Pretty Girls Like Trap” is a culmination of 2 Chainz’s patience and learning. From casual club bangers, music suited for yacht and velvet-roped off lounges, 2 Chainz finally grew into a rapper even non-believers want to root for. I never thought I would care about a 2 Chainz album much less have it on repeat impressed by his growth.
Undoubtedly, GoldLink is a child of the game. Originating from D.C., a region not exactly known for its impact on hip hop, the rapper doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but created his own. “Future bounce” as the emerging rapper has coined it, is like “redefining music”. Staying true to his D.C. roots of go-go music and funk, I enjoyed “At What Cost” because every track was rich and firm in its delivery. “Crew” has become my theme song if I owned a red fur coat. I’m so delighted to welcome this new rapper to the fold.
While I’m not the first person to dub the name “Sunshine Rap”, I think it’s important that joy for the sake of joy can be appreciated in hip-hop. Yes, this genre is for those who struggled and sacrifice and overcame remarkable adversity to stand on the mountaintop, but sometimes I want that bubbly tenderness of summertime when I was a teenager going to the park with my friends. Sometimes I want good vibes and a light head. Sometimes I want that from hip-hop. Anthony Floreyyyy, or just Floreyyyy, is a 18 year old living Nevada, and while I’m excited to hear more about him, I’m enjoying the music.
Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory is what happens when a kid grew up on a diet of funk, punk rock, disco, and finally got past the so-called “Golden Age of Rap”. His music makes me nostalgic for the roller-rink nights I never experienced as a child.
Finally, what is there left to say for the giant who walks among mortals? Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN allowed us a passport into a mind at war with itself. A palindrome album (a word, poem or body of work which make sense forwards and backwards) is the style Kendrick uses to give us a glimmer into the rap’s turmoil. Despite the conflict, rage, disillusion, there are moments of love and true self-discovery. Overeager fans dub this his “worst album”, but people don’t give Kendrick space to be a deeply flawed human, which is what he is. We love Kendrick because an exceptional story-teller. He has a vision only he can see and we should be honored that he let’s us along for the ride.