As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on all the music that has been released from January, up until now. Every year is a great year for music if you ask me. However, it’s time to compile a list of the best of the best.
I’m sure we all can agree that some releases stood out and received praise more than others, (and for good reason) while others may have been more slept on. So, for these reasons, I have excluded predictable favorites and releases we all loved, from my list posted below.
Ranked in descending order are my top 20 favorite albums/EPs of this year, with reasoning included. A list of all my favorite songs throughout year can be found here, in the form of a Twitter thread. Now, let’s begin.
Whatever Makes U Happy
April 28th | Despite this release only being 8 tracks, making it his shortest yet, JMSN never disappoints. I love the laid-back approach he takes with his music and how he doesn’t have to do much to win over fans and critics alike
The title of this album is quite fitting as well. Compared to previous releases, this one has more of a consistent upbeat tone. I’m all for artists stepping out of their box and experimenting with their sound and I feel he did just that with this one.
Favorite Track(s) | “Always Somethin'”
March 3rd | I first became familiar with Sabrina Claudio through this release, which later tuned me into a fan. She’s another artist who takes a laid-back approach with their sound but with more sass and seduction.
Although she did followed this release with her debut album in October, this EP gets straight to the point and showcases her range and uniqueness as an artist the best.
Favorite Track(s) | “Tell Me (Acoustic)”
Rather You Than Me
March 17th | Although I’m not a big fan of Rick Ross, I genuinely enjoyed this release and have to get credit where it’s due. What I loved the most about this release was the production, as well as the occasional comedic skits from Chris Rock.
As always, this album has a perfect balance between trunk-rattling, trap heavy tracks, and those that are more smooth with thought-provoking messages. The versatility alone proves why he’s one of the biggest names in the industry.
Favorite Track(s) | “Apple of My Eye,” “Santorini Greece” “She on My Dick”
November 17th | Although Jaden Smith released a number of projects, this one marks his official debut album. I’ve seen mixed reviews about this one however, I loved it for a number of reasons.
The first four tracks of the album intentionally sounds like one long ass intro and it was done perfectly. Not to mention, the production throughout the album is also noteworthy.
He isn’t the best lyricist but the fact that he’s unapologetically himself to say the least, is why I love and respect him as an artist.
Favorite Track(s) | “B,” “L,” “U,” “E”
October 31st | I can’t help but to think of “Whip My Hair” Willow Smith anytime she releases new music but that’s because I enjoy watching her grow as an artist.
I loved this album because although she’s consistently experiencing with new sounds, this albums displays her creativity the most, as well as her maturity. She takes a more raw and organic approach to both the production and vocals/lyrics, making this release memorable for me.
Favorite Track(s) | “Ho’ Ohio Interlude,” “Human Leech,” “A Reason”
West 1996 Pt. 2
September 29th | After five years, Lute finally gave us what he promised to release — a follow up to his debut mixtape. As expected, the mixtape/album follows a similar storyline but with a twist and definitely does not disappoint.
In the words of Yoh over DJ Booth, “West 1996, Pt. 2 is the working class rapper mixtape with a happy ending.” What I love about him as an artist and lyricist is his relatable approach to his music. Currently signed to Dreamville, he’s a dreamer to stay the least, who proved dreams do come true.
Favorite Track(s) | “Still Summin’,” “Juggin’,” “Ford’s Prayer”
4eva Is a Mighty Long Time
October 27th | Big K.R.I.T. is another artist who never disappoints and is one who I appreciate for always staying true to himself. Considering this album is his first full-length release since his departure from Def Jam, it was highly anticipated and rose to the expectations of fans and critics alike.
You can tell he truly took his time with this release. From the production, guest features and skits, to having a balance between hype and more mellow tracks, while still providing the superb lyrical content he’s known for.
Favorite Track(s) | “Big Bank (ft. T.I.),” “Keep the devil Off”
August 25th | Although XXXTentacion is someone who generally receives a lot of hate, (and I understand why) I also believe he’s one who doesn’t receive enough credit as an artist. He’s a controversial, yet versatile artist who released a very honest and personal debut this year.
This album focus on his pain, trauma and insecurities and is one anyone who is familiar with depression can relate to. I loved this album not only because I could relate to it but because of how beautifully the messages are conveyed.
Favorite Tracks(s) | “Jocelyn Flores,” “Depression and Obsession,” “F**k Love (Trippie Redd)”
You Only Live 2wice
March 31st | In addition to being an Indiana native, (and a former Ball State student, lol) I root for Freddie Gibbs because he’s one I feel is slept on in terms of a lyricist and overall artist in the hip-hop industry today.
Although this release is fairly short, coming in at 8 tracks, there’s no throw aways, in my honest opinion. This a release that not only reflects on his past, but his present and how he’ll continue to rise above any obstacle thrown his way.
From the production to the flows, he pulls through with a win yet again.
Favorite Track(s) | “Alexys,” “Amnesia,” “Andrea”
or more; the anxious
November 21st | Serving as a transitional release or preview of what’s to come, this mixtape/EP takes a playlist approach with no concept. However, I enjoyed it because it showcases the Mick Jenkins I became a fan of before his debut album.
I love when he fully taps into his lyrical abilities with the flows and wordplay and gives us that gritty, unapologetic sound we all love and know him for. This was just that.
Favorite Track(s) | “C Is For Cash Money,” “FreeNation Rebels,” “Energies”
The Never Story
March 10th | Despite him being signed to Dreamiville, this album was my introduction to him as an artist. Needless to say, it made a good impression and I may as well call myself a J.I.D. fan now.
Although he is his own artist, he reminds me a lot of Anderson .Paak but with something that makes him more — him. Everything about his sound is enticing and I genuinely enjoyed this album from start to finish to stay the least.
Favorite Track(s) | “General,” “Hereditary,” “EdEddnEddy,” “Underwear”
No Mountains in Manhattan
August 25th | Although I first became familiar with Wiki through guest appearances, (such as “AM // Radio” by Earl Sweatshirt) this was the first release I listened to of his — and it certainly will not be the last.
Considering the album is 16 tracks in length, I was skeptical about being interested for the entire duration of it. However, I was genuinely entertained. He’s another artist with a distinctive voice and uniqueness to him.
He’s a decent lyricist but his choice in beats are pretty immaculate if you ask me.
Favorite Track(s) | “Mayor,” “Elaine”
Your Old Droog
March 10th | To be quite honest, I mentally prepared myself to not like this album but I’m glad I did give it a chance. I had never heard of Your Old Droog before coming across this release and not only did his name throw me off, the cover art is boring as hell.
However, I was surprised to actually be impressed and yet again, I have to give props where they’re due. He sounds a lot like Nas and The Game (which is something he apparently hears a lot) yet, he still stands out as his own artist.
He’s a lyricist with entertaining punchlines, who effortlessly flows over 90s boom-bap inspired production and shall be respected as such.
Favorite Track(s) | “I Only,” “White Rappers”
March 3rd | As I mentioned in my previous article, I had the opportunity to see Ravyn Lenae live as an opening act for SZA and I’m so happy I did. She’s another artist with a distinctive voice and in my personal opinion, it’s hard to not like her.
I first became familiar with her last year but this release is my favorite from her thus far. I honestly wish this EP was a full-length, that’s how much I loved it. Her voice is ethereal as hell and I love her selection of beats.
Favorite Track(s) | Spice,” “Thirst”
Steve Lacy’s Demo
February 24th | This release is probably the most distinctive from the rest of the others I have listed. However, different is good, especially in this case. I loved the soul and funk influences present throughout this EP and the fact that Steve Lacy made this entirely on his iPhone really amazes the fuck out of me.
Despite this release only being 6 tracks long, and 14 minutes in length, it’s long enough to leave a lasting impression — at least on me.
Favorite Track(s) | “Dark Red,” “Haterlovin”
June 25th | Anyone who knows me knows this man Denzel Curry can do no wrong in my eyes as an artist. This release is arguably his most experimental yet and as someone appreciates an artist constantly pushing boundaries, (as stated earlier) I loved it.
Sometimes different doesn’t always equal superb but in this case it did for me. (Damn near almost cried the first time I heard it to keep it a buck.) Although this EP serves as a release to hold us fans over until the release of his next album, this was more than enough.
We all know Curry for his gritty and hyper-energetic approach to his music, but I especially appreciated the production on this release.
Favorite Track(s) | All 5 of them bitches
February 3rd | I almost cried the first time I listed to this release too. Sampha is an artist I feel is so slept on and it honestly makes me upset. He’s another artist with a ethereal and unique voice and someone who can do no wrong in my eyes.
Although I do appreciate the production on this release, his vocals are what stood out the most to me. Reflecting on his inner struggles and the process (pun intended) of self discovery, I loved this album from beginning to end.
Favorite Track(s) | “Plastic 100 C,” “Under”
October 13th | As the lead singer of Sonder, Brent Faiyaz released yet another solo project to follow up his debut release and it should have received more praise than it did.
With a smooth yet alluring voice, he’s another artist who doesn’t have to do much to impress. I loved the opening skit and overall theatrical feel of the album and considering this is his first full-length solo release, I’m anxious to hear more.
Favorite Track(s) | “First World Problemz/Nobody Carez,” “So Far Gone, Fast Life Bluez”
Cyhi the Prynce
No Dope on Sunday’s
November 17th | I’ll keep it a buck and admit this release is the first and only thing I’ve heard from Cyhi the Prynce. Furthermore, I had the same attitude towards him and this album as I did with the artist/release listed as #8.
Yet, once again, I was proven wrong. The title of this release is fitting because the overall sound of the album has a hood gospel type of feel. This, along with the storytelling style of lyricism and cinematic approach to the album as. concept is why it’s my top two from this year.
Favorite Track(s) | “No Dope on Sundays (ft. PushaT),” “Nu Africa (ft. ErnestineJohnson),” “Free”
October 13th | If you’re nosey and lazy as hell, you probably skimmed through this list and/or didn’t read shit I typed for any of the other releases I have ranked. If so, you’re probably feeling guilty now but it’s all good.
In the top spot is the release from IDK which received a decent amount of praise but not nearly enough as it should have gotten. Despite discovering him just this year, this album made one hell of an impression.
This release is so different from anything I’ve heard this year and that’s why I appreciate it as much as I do. Like the previously ranked album, this album also takes a cinematic approach, yet it’s unique in its own way.
Beginning with a skit, (which is something that can easily make or break an album) it meets the mark and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Filled with smooth ass transitions that are almost not noticeable at all, one thing this is evident is the strategic planning that went into the overall sound of the album.
From the production, to the energy and versatility he brings to each track, I thoroughly enjoyed this album from start to finish.
Favorite Track(s) | “Pizza Shop (Extended) (ft. YungGleesh, Del the Funky Homosapien, MF Doom),” “Windows Up,” “Black Sheep, White Dove”