With 2018 starting up, I wanted to take a look back at all the amazing music that released this past year and share some of my favourite albums of 2017. This is a personal list, so most of these songs will be Hip-Hop and R&B based, as these are my favourite genres. 2017 was an amazing year for hip-hop culture and R&B music; there were many new artists that emerged, collaborations between already known artists, and new music from old hip-hop figures. This made narrowing down my top 10 albums extremely difficult because I believe there were so many albums that deserved more recognition from this year. For this list, I took into consideration of albums that I think have concepts that are absolutely unforgettable, with story-telling that could match a movie, and as well albums I constantly come back to listen over again.
10. Offset, 21 Savage, Metro Boomin – Without Warning
Without Warning is a collaboration between producer Metro Boomin, 21 Savage, and Offset of Migos. There is no core concept to this album, rather it is just a fun collaboration between these artists. The reason why this album made my top 10 because the album did exactly what the title says. It was a solid album that dropped ‘without warning’ from artists that had strong synergy with each other, and similar styles, appealing to the darker style of ‘Gangster Rap’ hip-hop. If you are a fan of hip-hop and in need of good driving music I definitely recommend this album.
Favourite song of the album: “Ric Flair Drip”
9. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Kung Fu Kenny, also known as Kendrick Lamar, return with his fourth studio album DAMN. and shows no signs that he plans on slowing down to establishing himself as being one of the ‘GOATs’ (greatest of all time). DAMN. has already hit double platinum (sold over 2 million), and is critically acclaimed to be another classic, along with To Pimp A Butterfly and Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. This album offers almost the complete package. It gives radio hits with tracks like Humble and DNA but also has a mind-blowing concept which tells a story of going from hate and anger to acceptance and understanding at the end of the album. He has also released a collectors edition of this album which puts the track order in reverse, changing the concept to being the story of his life from being born to what his life is now. The reason why this album is not higher on this list is because although Kendrick gives us an overall package of radio hits and a concept album, I felt that other artists did some of those aspects better than Kendrick and gave more, as well I did not find myself going back to listen to this album as much as I did with others.
Favourite song of the album: “DUCKWORTH.”
8. Daniel Caesar – Freudian
This is Daniel Caesar’s debut album and it would be an understatement to say that he ‘hit it out of the ballpark’ with it. This album was released in August but has already hit the top of the charts. This Canadian artist, with a neo-soul style R&B, has melted the hearts of everyone who has listened to his album. I believe this was my most listened to R&B album of the year, as I found myself putting songs like ‘Get You’ and ‘Best Part’ on repeat. The only reason why it is not higher on this list is that the concept was basic and told stories that have been told before, and doesn’t give much insight into Daniel Caesar’s own life. However, this was still an amazing artist and I am definitely excited to see his future projects.
Favourite song of the album: “Best Part (feat. H.E.R.)”
7. Sampha – Process
Sampha is an R&B artist from the United Kingdom, and his debut album has delivered everything and more than anyone can ask for in an R&B album. You may not know who he is, but you may have already heard his feature on Drake’s song “Too Much.” Not only does Sampha give the soft R&B style that puts people in a transcendence mood, but he does so by telling his own stories and showing his passion and relation he has had with music. Although both R&B albums on this lists had songs that I had put on repeat, Process delivers a more personal album with a concept that may be simple, but extremely enjoyable to listen to – which is why I ranked it higher than Freudian. Sampha is another artist I am excited to see grow more in 2018.
Favourite song of the album: “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano”
6. Joyner Lucas – 508-507-2209
508-509-2209 is Joyner Lucas’ debut album, in which he discusses the highs and lows of his life. He does this with various messages left on the voicemail of his phone number, hence, the name of the album. 508-509-2209 has tracks that I find myself constantly returning to. There is no one selling factor for Joyner Lucas’ album, from the beat selection, the lyrics, to the storytelling – it was overall a solid album all around. Being Joyner’s debut album, he shows that he has the technical ability that could match rappers like Kendrick Lamar. He is also known for remixing popular hip-hop songs such as “Bank Account” by 21 Savage and “Gucci Gang” by Lil’ Pump, and outdoing the originals with his almost unmatchable lyrical ability.
Favourite song of the album: “Winter Blues”
5. BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation II
BROCKHAMPTON is “the internet’s first boy band” as they are a group of fifteen people who formed in an online forum. What amazes me the most about this group is that they were able to drop three albums in the span of half a year, with them dropping the Saturation trilogy. This group came out of nowhere and took a lot of the hip-hop community by surprise. The goal of the Saturation trilogy was to saturate the hip-hop industry with music with different styles, in order to gain recognition – a goal that they were definitely able to achieve. BROCKHAMPTON delivers an experimental element to hip-hop which many artists would not be willing to try due to fear of not being able to sell. BROCKHAMPTON’s music may not be for everyone, but to those with an open mind looking for new music, the Saturation series is definitely something to consider. Out of the three albums in the trilogy, the second one was my favourite simply because it had the most songs that I would go back to constantly.
Favourite song of the album: “JELLO”
4. Oddisee – The Iceberg
Oddisee is an American rapper from Washington, D.C. that not many would know, due to the fact that he is not aiming to make ‘radio hits’ – rather he is categorized as what many would call a “conscious rapper,” which is a lane of rappers who try to tell stories and often gets into political issues and personal with music. The reason why this album is called The Iceberg is because he touches on about subjects that have a lot more to it than just what seems to be on the surface. On this album, he talks about his own personal stories growing up, shares his perspective on political issues and on why they may happen. You can tell in this album that he is not claiming to have all the answers, but rather tries to continue the conversation in a non-ignorant way. With all the issues that have arisen and reemerged recently, this album is a must listen to.
Favourite song of the album: “You Grew Up”
3. J.I.D – The Never Story
The Never Story is J.I.D’s debut album. J.I.D is a rapper from Atlanta, Georgia, and has recently signed with Dreamville Records, which is the label of rap legend and my favourite artist, Jermaine Cole, better known as J. Cole. On J.I.D’s debut album, he talks about racial issues by voicing his perspective of being a person of colour living in America. The main takeaway from this album is J.I.D technical skills, as he gives crafty lyrics and a flow that is smoother than any lyricists that I have ever heard. I had the privilege to see him live this summer, when he went on tour as the opening act for J.Cole’s 4YourEyezOnly tour, and at some points in his performance, he rapped so fast and for so long, I wondered if he even needed to stop for a breath! His debut album has the technical ability of some of the greatest rappers already and I am excited to listen to his future projects.
Favourite song of the album: “LAUDER”
2. Jay-Z – 4:44
Jay-Z, a.k.a. Hov, a.k.a. Shawn Carter, returns with his thirteenth studio album and is critically acclaimed to be one of his best album and an instant classic. Jay-Z is already arguably one of the best rappers of all time and it is not often that someone at this point in his career drops a classic, which makes this album that much more impressive. The album is a response to Beyoncé’s album Lemonade and confirms the suspicions about having an affair. In this album, he does not rap from the perspective of his ‘Gangster rapper’ persona of Jay-Z, but rather as Shawn Carter, the wife of Beyoncé, and the father of his children. This is my favourite album because not only is Jay-Z’s storytelling on point, but this is his most honest album. His marital issues are the crux of the album, but Hov, also opens up about many other issues in his life, such as the perspective of his children about him, his troubled relationship with his father, and how he has learned to forgive and understand. He does all this in a way that does not seem ‘corny’ which is why I think it is his best album and #2 on my top 10 list.
1. Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy is my favourite album of the year and definitely one of my favourites of all time. It is my #1 for the year of 2017, not only because of the album itself, but also of because of Tyler as a person and the growth he has shown on this album. Prior to this album, Tyler, the Creator was known as the ‘troll’ of the hip-hop community – producing albums with no directions, and often using offensive terms and homophobic slurs that is unfortunately often part of the hip-hop culture. However, with the release of Flower Boy, my perspective on him had changed, as on this album he showed a structured concept and reflects upon his own life. In this album, he talks about topics such as his fears about of being only known for being a ‘personality’ within the hip-hop community, rather than for the music. As well, there is a strong speculation on this album that Tyler makes references about him opening up to be being ‘gay’. Tyler, as an artist, did a 180 degree on this album from being one of the ‘clowns’ of hip-hop to become one of the most respected. This album is a must listen to for anyone, as I believe people who don’t even listen to hip-hop can appreciate his story.
Favourite song of the album: “Foreword” & “November” (Two songs, because I can’t decide between the two)
As I said before 2017 was an amazing year, and there were so many songs that I think deserve more recognition that I wasn’t able to put on my top 10 list. So, here are a few honourable mentions:
BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation I/III
SZA – Ctrl
Jaden Smith – SYRE
Lorde – Melodrama
Joey Bada$$ – All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$
IDK – IWASVERYBAD
Lute – West 1996 pt.2
Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
Logic – Everybody
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
Big K.R.I.T. – 4Eva Is a Mighty Long Time
Vic Mensa – The Autobiography
Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
Montana 300 – Don’t Doubt the God
Earthgang – Rags EP
N.E.R.D. – No One Ever Really Dies
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
The Underachievers – Renaissance
Goldlink – At What Cost
Dumbfoundead – We Might Die
Injury Reserve – Drive It Like It’s Stolen
Russ – There’s Really A Wolf
Migos – Culture
Miguel – War & Leisure
Gucci Mane – Droptopwop
Here’s to another year of amazing music – 2018, let’s get it!