As a self-proclaimed hip-hop aficionado, it is my pleasure to bring you my rankings of the ten best hip-hop albums from 2017, an exclusive list that will be sure to make, or break, the careers of every artist involved.
With that being said, there will likely be albums and artists on this list that you have never heard of; I implore you to give each and every one of them a chance, at the very least, as 2017 was one of the best years for hip-hop in a very long time, and some of the releases that went under the radar definitely deserve your attention.
This is the album that I have been waiting for A$AP Rocky to drop for five years, and I never would have expected one of the lesser known members of The Mob to come through with one of the strongest projects that anyone in the group has ever released.
Twelvyy’s debut album, “12,” carries a distinct sound that separates him from his peers, yet tracks like “Diamonds” carry remnants of Clams Casino’s production that sent the group into the stratosphere. Fans of everything A$AP will love this album, and it deservingly finds itself listed among the ten best albums of the year.
Stop calling Uzi a mumble-rapper. While his lyrical content might not require a dictionary to follow, the Philly native has carved out his own lane within hip-hop by straddling the line between hard-hitting, bass-heavy tracks like “For Real,” and pretty, glimmering tracks like “The Way Life Goes.”
Whether or not you like Lil Uzi Vert, he has a lasting power that other trap artists simply do not have, due to the fact that he has a knack for finding ear-worm choruses and production that will keep him around the top of the charts for the foreseeable future. “Luv is Rage 2” is his best album to date, in my opinion, and it highlights Uzi’s versatility that some might not have realized that he possessed.
The legendary MC from Brooklyn, Talib Kweli, returned in November with his first solo album since 2015, and it is clear that he has not missed a step. The feature list on this album is about as varied as it could possibly be, with contributions from the likes of Jay Electronica all the way to Waka Flocka Flame, yet Kweli weaves it all together masterfully.
Perhaps the most underrated artist in hip-hop, Jonwayne has been a mainstay of the underground since 2011. “Rap Album Two” was created in response to some of the problems that Jonwayne was facing in his life, and the emotion that he is able to relay throughout the project is tangible. Some of the best tracks on the album are “LIVE From the Fuck You” and “Rainbow,” and they serve as a perfect introduction to one of the most talented artists on earth.
Alright, I cheated. I couldn’t decide between “Saturation” and “Saturation II,” so you are getting both of them at once. BROCKHAMPTON is the best boy band going today. A true collective, the group consists of over ten members, each bringing a very important piece of the group’s sound.
With this communal effort, BROCKHAMPTON is able to truly vary their sound from track to track, switching from pulsing synths to overwhelming bass tracks, and allows them to release more music, more often, without “saturating” the market (I’m sorry). There is something for everyone within these two projects, and with “Saturation III” scheduled for a mid-December release, BROCKHAMPTON could have easily taken three of the ten spots on this list had this article been written on January 1.
“Laila’s Wisdom,” the second studio album from North Carolina MC, Rapsody, puts her lyrically-intricate style on full display. Further, Rapsody captures some of the thematic, and tonal, qualities that Kendrick Lamar included on his masterpiece, “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
From the jazz and funk influences that are riddled throughout the production on “Laila’s Wisdom,” to the perspective that she provides on sex, fame and her standing in the world of hip-hop, Rapsody takes a tried and true formula and elevates it beyond other similar projects.
If Vince Staples took us into the heart of Long Beach on 2015’s “Summertime ’06,” he dragged us into the middle of the Pacific Ocean on “Big Fish Theory.” This album is spacious, futuristic and pretty, but at the same time ominous, mysterious and unsettling.
I dove head-first into this album immediately following its release, and have probably listened to it around forty times front-to-back, yet I still notice new things each time I return. Staples is a genius, and the progression that he continues to show, along with his willingness to experiment with new sounds and styles, point toward his infinite potential within, and outside of, hip-hop.
To many, “DAMN.” is the album of the year, and I would never argue with someone who ranks Kendrick Lamar’s latest masterpiece atop 2017’s rankings. However, as the resident Kendrick “stan” of Study Breaks, it pains me to place “DAMN.” behind two other albums. I love almost everything about this album; “FEAR” is one of the five best tracks that Lamar has ever released, and “HUMBLE” almost gave me a concussion from nodding my head so hard when I first heard it.
What holds the album back from claiming the top spot on this list is the fact that there are tracks on this album that I skip every time (“GOD” and “LOYALTY”). Don’t let that fool you though, “DAMN.” further illustrates just how far ahead Lamar is, he is competing with himself, and in pretty much every other year the album would be an undisputed number one on everyone’s rankings.
“4:44” is Jay’s thirteenth studio album, and, in my opinion, it’s his best. He is not only a legend in hip-hop, he is a mountain in the culture of the United States, one of the most powerful artists of all-time. I don’t care if you like hip-hop, everyone should listen to this album. Jay’s philosophy, and perspective, are gospel during the trying year of 2017, yet this album will remain relevant for decades. A classic.
In my lifetime, few people have impacted my view of the world as much as Tyler, The Creator. I discovered his music when I was fifteen, confused and unsure if other people felt like I did. Tyler’s music, while intensely vulgar and offensive, captured my frustration like no artist I had ever encountered. He was not accepted by the masses, and was decidedly rejected, in fact, being banned from multiple countries along the way. He was painted as a villain, “brainwashing the youth,” and was written off by his peers and critics.
“Flower Boy,” Tyler’s newest album, is the best album that I have ever listened to. Having borne witness to his progression as an artist, “Flower Boy” is not a transformation of Tyler’s music, but a culmination of everything that he has gone through and learned during his career; an acceptance of himself and who he is, and a reflection of where he is and how far he has come. Not only is “Flower Boy” the best album of the year, but it will likely stand the test of time, hopefully spring-boarding Tyler’s career onto another level in the process.