Music was so good in 2017. As a huge hip hop fan, the breadth of quality options lead to me listening to a new album or two every week. I totaled just over 70 full length albums this year and that doesn’t include the many singles I also enjoyed. What I’m trying to say is this was a hard list to whittle down, but whittle it I did. So without further ado here are my top 10 of the year:
Honorable Mentions: RTJ 3– Run The Jewels (If it didn’t release at the very end of last year it would be on), Masseduction– St. Vincent, My Moment– Tee Grizzley
10. Rosecrans – DJ Quik and Problem
This album is a perfect example of how to bring the classic West Coast, G-Funk sound to modern ears, at least for the first half. It does lose steam in the back half as all the energetic songs are front-loaded, but “European Vacation” is such a perfect song I can forgive it. That beat. Fuck.
Top 3 Tracks: “European Vacation”, “Move Something”, “New Nite/Rosecrans Grove”
9. Before I Wake – Kamaiyah
This album bleeds swagger. Kamaiyah has a gorgeous flow that blends with the clean production of the album seamlessly. She also has a sharp wit that leads to some excellent lyricism. If I had more time to simmer on this one it might even be a little higher.
Top 3 Tracks: “Playa In Me”, “Me Against Myself”, “Leave Em”
8. Culture – Migos
Culture is four songs and filler, but damn if those four tracks aren’t certified bangers. Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff are so in in sync at all times that it feels like one person changing his voice and flow. Sure there is no depth to be found here. but sometimes music just needs to be a good time. Culture is a good time.
THE 4 Tracks: “Slippery”, “T-Shirt”, “Bad and Boujee”, “Get Right Witcha”
7. American Teen – Khalid
Khalid is 19 years old. Nine. Teen. All across American Teen he expresses himself with a maturity beyond his years. It is most definitely a break-up album, but it is a hopeful one. From “Saved” to “Another Sad Love Song” to “Hopeless” to radio single “Location”, he shows the many stages of heartbreak but always takes the time to end on a positive note about the opportunities in the future. It is refreshing and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.
Top 3 Tracks: “Another Sad Love Song”, “Saved”, “Hopeless”
6. Saturation Trilogy – BROCKHAMPTON
This might be cheating but separating these three albums seems wrong. BROCKHAMPTON burst onto the scene this year with three great, hour long albums. The fact that they are so cohesive while simultaneously having their own flavor is worth praise on its own. They jump across multiple genres like hip hop, trap, punk, and boy band almost effortlessly. A few years from now we might look back on this not just as the start of a promising career, but as the start of a movement.
Top 3 Tracks: “Gold”, “Sweet”, “Tokyo”
5. The OOZ – King Krule
This albums sounds like a New York dive bar on a rainy afternoon. It is easily the hardest listen on this list but it has such a unique sound I can’t get enough. The jazz punk stylings speak to me in a way that’s hard to explain. It is sad and gross and ruminating. It is also so experimental I find it fun. A wonderful mess of an album.
Top 3 Tracks: “Dum Surfer”, “Czech One”, “Half-Man, Half-Shark”
4. Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
Vince Staples made a rave rap album, which is crazy if you’ve followed him across his previous projects. It also makes sense when you think about how little he cares about what people want him to make, and this makes me love this album even more for how different it is. And when you dig in deeper you start to catch the Vince we know in love. He sounds like a man standing in the middle of dance floor as his nihilistic ruminations are drowned out by the beat, quite literally. Honestly this might be the most Vince Staples album the more I think about it.
Top 3 Tracks: “Big Fish”, “Yeah Right”, “BagBak”
3. Beautiful Thugger Girls – Young Thug
Young Thug is the most underrated hip hop artist on the planet. Yeah I said it. I put a trap album in my top 3 and that is crazy to even type. If I’m being honest though it is more of a trap R&B album. Thugger croons over beautiful and varied instrumentation in a way that will probably turn many off but I think the broken vocals make it. It gives it a flavor to help it stand out and I think he is finally starting to live up to his potential. He still raps way too much about his genitals, but his technical acumen is too good for me to ignore. He’s got a flow for every occasion and a confidence that is infectious.
Top 3 Tracks: “Take Care”, “For Y’all”, “Relationship”
2. Flower Boy – Tyler the Creator
Tyler finally made an album that lived up to his massive potential. I had given up hope and I am so happy to be wrong. Flower Boy is mature in a way his previous projects have hinted at but that never dug into in any meaningful way. It is a millenial album to its core. Generational ennui, sexuality, and loneliness are big themes in this project and Tyler looks at all of them from his unique viewpoint. Flower Boy is Tyler growing up and it might be biggest second wind album since Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I don’t say that lightly.
Top 3 Tracks: “See You Again”, “Ain’t Got Time”, “911/Mr. Lonely”
1. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
This is the boring pick, I know. But sometimes the boring choice is the right choice. DAMN. is not the vibrant story book that good kid, m.A.A.d city was nor is it the statement that To Pimp a Butterfly was. It is a flex album. It is Kendrick reminding the world that he is the best rapper on the planet and it is not even close. Kendrick holds that title because his music has such mass appeal without losing any of it’s depth or artistic vision. You can stay right on the surface or dig deeper and come away with so many different appreciations for the tracks he puts out. Even his third best album is better than multiple rappers career defining efforts. He is the modern day Tupac and it is becoming more realistic to ask whether he has surpassed him. King Kendrick is not relinquishing the throne any time soon.
Top 3 Tracks: “ELEMENT.”, “DNA.”, “HUMBLE.”