2017 was an interesting year to say the least. Meme culture has never been stronger, Donald Trump is *still* president, 19-year olds bought $100 worth of Bitcoin and called themselves pro-traders, a 14-year old girl who told Dr. Phil to “catch her outside” in reference to throwing hands has a TV show. The soundtrack to this crazy year? Fresh Jay-Z, ballads from Ed Sheeran, the boom of Post Malone, and the reemergence of the Gorillaz. Here are my top 5 favorite albums from 2017, and why you should give them a trying chance if you haven’t yet.
5. American Teen, Khalid
19-year old Khalid stole the hearts of many this year with top hits like “Location” and album-titled “American Teen”. The Texas teen sings about the perils and shenanigans of high school romance, parties, and relationships, surely giving anyone nostalgia of times when we’d get nervous about hot-boxing our parents’ cars and faking drunk to have a good time. The production on the album is really unique, being a hybrid between fresh electric sounds and classic R & B beats. I really liked listening to Khalid on the rare days I’d drive around with the windows down and the sunroof open, or walking to class not completely stressed out. He also has a few tracks for the moodier days where the rain is falling and there’s absolutely no appeal to leave your bed, such as “Cold Blooded”.
4. 17, XXXTENTACION
Okay, I already know that it’s a controversial decision to put XXX on here and I do want it to be noted that It was really painful for me to do so. XXXTENTACION is also a youngin’, and has an extensive and frankly, disturbing history with violence and domestic abuse. I do not, in any way, condone or am forgiving of his actions, and I actually refused to listen to 17 when it was released. I caved when a few of my friends insisted that I’d like it, and indeed I did. XXX’s album is 11 tracks that begin with “The Explanation“, a spoken description of the album’s content and the state of mind that XXX was in throughout its production. XXX raps candidly about his depression, coping with it, telling his friends and family about his mental health, and some of the dark thoughts that he experienced. I could write on and on about this album, but all I will say is that male, specifically black male culture, and even more specifically, rap culture, is not one that is forgiving or accepting of mental illness, and for XXX to come out with this album is a huge step towards beating the stigma. The production is beautiful, almost old school rap-esque with the beats, with my favorite tracks being “Jocelyn Flores” and “Depression and Obsession“.
3. More Life, Drake
Drake has really done it again. I hate long albums. and I really hate to admit that I haven’t been overly impressed with anything Drake has put out since Nothing Was the Same in 2013. BUT, when If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and Views came out, I was skeptical at first, and ended up loving the albums after a few listens. The same thing happened with More Life, Drakes 22-track album with hits like “Passionfruit” and “Gyalchester”. It’s funky, hype, chill, moody, and disappointing all at the same time, LOL. There’s some really great collaborations on the album, but I just can’t get into “Glow”, featuring Kanye West. It just…… the idea was there. The execution was not. WITH THAT BEING SAID, it’s really a great album for entertaining and for getting ready for a night out in the 6ix.
2. Ctrl, SZA
SZA has been around for quite a while, with her bigger hits being the ones where she’s collaborated with Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper. This year, she released Ctrl, a 14 track album where she sings about love, betrayal, taking back the power that our patriarchal society took from women, and being the other woman. It’s really a beautiful sentiment, with her sultry voice singing about things that we probably never thought we’d never hear.. “You take Wednesday, Thursday, then just send him my way, think I got him covered for the the weekend..”. This is probably going to be one of my favorite R & B albums ever, the production is unreal in that there’s always little “ear treats”, as I call them, on the tracks that compliment SZA’s voice so well. I noticed that SZA also echoes a lot of the sentiment that I see on Twitter and Tumblr now, about how she’s hard to love and doesn’t feel worthy of her lover, but is appreciative of his affection anyway. Just the right amount of self-deprecation for my liking!
1. DAMN., Kendrick Lamar
This is objectively the best album of 2017 don’t @ me. Holy. Crap. I think that Kendrick Lamar is absolutely an unreal artist to begin with and that’s just solidified by how every album he puts out is gold. Everything from the song titles, the track order, and the intros and outros are poetic and strategic in telling a story, especially in DAMN., which features an oddly pleasant collab with U2. The tracks are bass heavy, ear candy with catchy hooks and poetic verses, and when you need a pick me up or to get a group rowdy, this is the go-to album. I have many fond memories from the summer of DNA. coming on in the club and everyone dropping what they’re doing just to rap along. And then I remember that I’m in Waterloo and that it was probably just my group of friends who went HAM to it. It’s fine by me, but I can’t say that I didn’t wish Waterloo had a more prominent rap culture.. ANYWAY. Great album, great message, and if you’ve been living under a rock and actually haven’t listened to it yet, I’d start with watching the music video for ELEMENT. It watches like a short movie and is incredibly thought provoking.
- I Decided, Big Sean
- Because I love my Detroit rap and I love Big Sean’s flow and lyricality. Why do you like rhymes and puns so much??????
- Process, Sampha
- Seriously all the feels. Sampha’s soulful voice and minimal production will have you heartbroken over someone you’ve never even met, with my favorite track being “Plastic 100”
- Flower Boy, Tyler the Creator
- I’m really not a Tyler the Creator fan but I always appreciated how unconventional he is and how unique his melodies are and how… different his flow is. Not really my taste, but we gain insight as listeners into sexuality and emotional hardships. If I’m going to give XXXTENTACION props for rapping about things that aren’t traditionally acceptable in rap culture, I have to give it to Tyler too.
- ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, Joey Bada$$
- I’m new to the likes of Joey Bada$$ and to be honest I didn’t really ever consider giving him a chance. But, thanks to Spotify’s “Discover Weekly”, I was exposed to a few great tracks like “TEMPTATION”, and “LEGENDARY” (Featuring J.Cole only my favorite artist ever), and the samples and production and lyrics are great and so pleasant to listen to, shedding light on racial inequality and social issues in America (peep the symbolic triple K in the album title).
- War and Leisure, Miguel
- This 100% would have made top five but it was released like last week so I don’t think I can consider it 2017. Great listen, very romantic, sensual, and raw. Everything you’d expect from Miguel.