We admit we haven't posted a lot this year, but telling you about our 25 favourite albums of the year is something we'll always make time for. This year we've decided to only write a little something about those albums we actually have something to say about, regardless of where they landed on this list. Now, without further ado, here are our 25 favourite albums of 2017.
Honorable Mention: Terrace Martin Presents The Pollyseeds - Sounds Of Crenshaw Vol. (Jazz/R&B/Hip Hop)
25. Fat Joe & Remy Ma - Plata O Plomo
Listen to How Can I Forget (Feat. Kent Jones). R.I.P. Big Pun.
24. 112 - Q Mike Slim Daron (R&B)
Listen to True Colours.
23. Big Sean - I Decided. (Hip Hop)
Listen to The Light (Feat. Jeremih).
22. Knuckle Puck - Shapeshifter (Pop Punk)
Listen to Gone.
21. Meek Mill - Wins & Losses (Hip Hop)
Listen to Young Black America (Feat. The-Dream). #FreeMeekMill.
20. DJ Quik - Rosecrans LP
Listen to Rosecrans (Feat. The Game & Candice Boyd).
19. Samy Deluxe - Deluxe Edition (German Hip Hop)
One could still be mad about the fact that these days - 17 years after he elevated German rap with his first full length as the MC of Dynamite Deluxe - Samy obviously prefers stream of consciousness lyrics over those that are being written with the help of dictionaries and syllable counting, but by doing that one would miss the fact that even in 2017, nobody in Germany (dare I say Europe?) raps as naturally and effortlessly as Samy Deluxe. When Samy calls himself “the German Jay Z” on S Dot Sorge, the retrospective closer of Deluxe Edition, he has a point: best (German) rapper alive, without having to be lyrically like Talib Kweli. The beats are great too, by the way.
Listen to Rooftop.
18. J Hus - Common Sense (Hip Hop/Grime/Dancehall)
Listen to Common Sense.
17. Big K.R.I.T. - 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time (Hip Hop)
Listen to Ride With Me (Feat. UGK). R.I.P. Pimp C.
16. Wu-Tang Clan - The Saga Continues (Hip Hop)
Listen to People Say (Feat. Redman). Wu-Tang Forever.
15. DJ Jazzy Jeff Presents The PLAYlist Feat. Glenn Lewis - Chasing Goosebumps (Neo Soul/R&B)
Listen to First Time Again.
14. Ruby Ibarra - Circa91 (Hip Hop)
After a strong 2016 that was capped off with Tribe's hard hitting final album, 2017 – Trump’s first year in office - was a surprisingly weak year for mainstream political rap music, one of the big exceptions being Jay Z’s 4:44 which, although first and foremost an album about self-reflection, also contains a multitude of thoughtful musings on concepts such as Black visibility and Black capitalism. Maybe (probably) it's because, unlike many newer rappers and their fans, I was a teenager rather than a kid during the Bush presidency, but it feels like a lot of them are currently treading trampled ground. Ruby Ibarra has avoided this by releasing an album that is highly political, but on a personal, micro level. The micro level is of course often a reflection of the macro level, which is why this Circa91 works so well as a political rap album. Over beautifully produced boom bap beats, the young Filipino-American artist from the Bay Area vividly raps about, among other things, growing up as the daughter of immigrants, about identity (and the occasional crises of identity), about racism she witnesses in general and Asian colourism in particular, about life in the Bay Area, and family. It's a gripping, occasionally gut wrenching coming of age story, from the kind of perspective people need to start paying more attention to.
Listen to Broken Mirrors.
13. Casper - Lang Lebe Der Tod (German Hip Hop)
Listen to Keine Angst (Feat. Drangsal). The only artist that cracked the rap x rock puzzle.
12. Oddisee - The Iceberg (Hip Hop)
Listen to Like Really.
11. Cam'ron - The Program (Hip Hop)
Listen to Lean.
10. Sainte - Smile, And Wave (Pop Punk)
Listen to Eyes Are Open.
9. G. Perico - All Blue (Hip Hop)
Listen to All Blue.
8. Ronnie Flex - Rémi (Dutch Hip Hop)
In 2016, Dutch rap group Broederliefde, whose members are of Caribbean and African decent, took over the country. Their ingenious single, Jungle, dominated the airwaves, and their album Hard Work Pays Off 2 broke records, becoming the first and only album to stay at number #1 on the Dutch album charts for 13 weeks in a row. Dutch rapper Lil Kleine's debut album broke streaming records previously held by Justin Bieber’s Purpose, and his (admittedly terrible) song Drank & Drugs was so overwhelmingly successfull that it was translated into German and became a hit in Germany too, something that seemed impossible. It seemed that Dutch rap couldn’t possibly sustain this level of dominance. Until March 2017 that is, when Algerian-French rapper Boef, who has lived in in the Netherlands since he was four and raps in Dutch exclusively, went head to head with Ed Sheeran (who is as big in the Netherlands as he is on the rest of the planet) and effortlessly beat him. Not only did he easily break Sheeran’s Dutch streaming records, among which the record for the most number of streams within 24 hours, which Boef’s song Salam took from Sheeran's Shape Of You (Boef broke his own record only one week later with Habiba), his debut album Slaaptekort also easily outsold/outstreamed Sheeran's album, which released in the same week.
Dutch rap music was now officially the hottest commodity in the country, which made it possible for Surinamese-Dutch rapper Ronnie Flex to pull a Beyoncé and stealth drop his album Rémi on June 30th, with great success. The album went to #1 in its first week. Musically, Ronnie proved that Dutch rap hasn’t just reached new commercial heights, but also artistic ones. Ronnie is an outstanding songwriter, easily rivalling his American and British counterparts, and Rémi is an effortless, modern and authentic blend of, among other things, Caribbean sounds, Nelly-esque 00s rap, trap and modern R&B. It is, in short, the album Drake wishes he could make (much like J Hus’ album, which also made our list). The main single of the album, the bubbly Is Dit Over, which introduced the show-stopping R&B singer Tabitha to the wider Dutch public, is one of the best songs of the year, in the Netherlands and world wide, and rightfully ruled Dutch airwaves and streaming services this summer. It is impossible to predict if Dutch rap can continue its winning streak, but if artists keep releasing albums like Rémi, it should.
Listen to Is Dit Over (Feat. Tabitha).
7. Romeo Santos - Golden (Bachata)
Listen to Héroe Favorito.
6. All Time Low - Last Young Renegade (Pop/Pop Punk)
Listen to Dirty Laundry.
5. Wiki - No Mountains In Manhattan (Hip Hop)
Although conscious rappers like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are currently on top of the world, most of 2017 has been defined by SoundCloud rap. Anytime a particular sound dominates rap music, a counter reaction follows, often in the form of past-oriented underground rap. At its worst, underground rap leads to uninspired projects that sound like the older hip hop albums you know and love, but not nearly as good and certainly not as timeless. It makes you feel old. At its best however, it leads to artists and albums that take a known formula and adapt it in a way that makes it feel fresh and relevant. Good underground rap doesn’t try to stop time, it instead creates a parallel timeline. It makes you feel like it’s still 1994 somewhere. Wiki’s No Mountains In Manhattan is a prime example of the latter. Wiki, formerly of the experimental rap group Ratking, skilfully and touchingly raps his heart out in a decidedly honest, very 2017 way, about topics ranging from past loves and identity crises, to sympathetic descriptions of growing up in the real New York. His flow is fresh, unique and effortless, yet just traditional enough to trick even the most skittish old head. He does all this on beats that could have held their own on many great hip hop albums of the 1990s, yet somehow still sound contemporary. This might sound like a formula that can be easily duplicated, but it isn’t. Albums like this are rare, which is why this one is such a breath of fresh air, with just a hint of 1994 mixed into it.
Listen to Mayor.
4. The Menzingers - After The Party (Punk)
Listen to Lookers.
3. Rick Ross - Rather You Than Me (Hip Hop)
Listen to Apple Of My Eye. Probably the best song of the year.
2. Jay Z - 4:44 (Hip Hop)
On 4:44, the best rapper alive - a man we thought could do no wrong – works through the fact that he failed his family. While doing so, he lays out his vision to not only better himself, but also to uplift his family, the people around him, future generations and everybody that has been left behind. No I.D.’s consistently beautiful sample beats are the perfect backdrop for Jay’s heart wrenching reflections and hopeful musings, playing their part in making this one of Jay’s most consistent and, yes, best albums.
Thank you for being real with us, Jay. You’re still helping us grow up, just like you always did. “Hov did that, so hopefully you won’t have to go through that”.
Listen to Marcy Me.
1. Kehlani - SweetSexySavage (R&B)
Early 2016, following a barrage of negative (social) media attention, Kehlani attempted to commit suicide. She spent the following months putting the pieces back together and recording most of SweetSexySavage. Knowing this, it’s difficult not to be amazed by how someone that started at such a dark place turned her pain and recovery into something this beautiful and fundamentally hopeful. On SweetSexySavage, Kehlani sings her heart out and tells the story of a woman that has been through hell and came out on the other side, by focusing on the things that truly matter: family, friends, love, faith and hope. What better way to start off (and end) 2017 than that? Musically, the album wears its influences – Brandy, Aaliyah and TLC among others – on its sleeves, without coming off as an attempt at a nostalgia reliant throwback album. Kehlani and her producers instead takes these influences and use them to create a sound that is fresh and new, yet does not shy away from being R&B through and through. This sets SweetSexySavage apart from so many current R&B releases that move away from the traditional tropes and structures of the genre in exchange for a less diverse, less bubbly (though some – not me – would say more consistent) sound. Simply put, SweetSexySavage is a triumph. We’re looking forward to many more.
Happy Holidays, One Love,
Marius | 1520