The world is hella changing ya’ll and 2017 was one of those years that no matter what you were doing you felt it. This past year was filled with HEAVY HEAVY emotions, deconstruction, meme’s and music that reflected the undercurrent of the current climate. In other words, we experienced the art created mid social climate change. As an artist myself it became really hard to promote a show or a new song while the world was ending, so most of us brought that energy into our music. Artists really came through this year, every week there was a good release that deserved a few listens and full attention. I view music as a conversation, and this year’s comment section wasn’t about how much you were talking as much as it was what you were saying and can we relate to it. Vulnerability had a great year. The most impactful releases seemed to be written more thoughtfully for folks that were over listening to the same old narratives over and over. I think the value of owning your perspective and story have become more important than ever. Below I will walk you through my favorite releases of 2017. These albums were so dope and had so much content after I was full of food for thought these releases kept me coming back for seconds. Honestly, There’s enough music on this list to keep you vibing till 2019 low key.
So here are the HIGHLIGHTS (songs I played most) and The LOWLIGHTS (songs I found myself skipping occasionally). I only mention the LOWLIGHTS to display the ceiling and floor of a project and if you like the floor I mean it only goes up from there, obviously, if the project is on this list I liked it.
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: No matter if you played it backwards or forwards, front to back (it’s two albums in one depending on the order you play it in) there was no question Mr. 1 -5 wasn’t playing on this record. You found yourself saying “DAMN” after every song. Diving into his own insecurities on songs like “PRIDE” and “FEAR” from questioning his status based on his genetic make up on the triumphant “DNA”. Bringing us into a phone call about the death of one of his friend’s children and his relationship to gun control on “XXX” Kendrick once again raised the bar for the modern day album. This album has as much production value as whatever your favorite movie was this year. An overlooked and amazing co-star on this project was vocalist and producer Bekon who sang every song’s intro kind of like a narrator while helping us navigate between each soundscape. Bekon gave us a common thread that tied every track together. Every song was a question both rhetorical and explorable. Is it wickedness or weakness? Or both. There is no right or wrong answer, just our perspectives.
LOW LIGHTS :: I mean idk LOYALITY? Yea it sounds a lil Power 106ish and the video was meh but it’s still pretty tight.
- Sampha – Process
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Written while moving back home to take care of his passing mother Sampha created one of the most heartfelt and human albums this year. Sampha’s pen kept every emotion interesting, he processed with such poise and with vivid descriptions of dream states that allowed you to see every lyric in motion on songs like “BLOOD ON ME” or like “KORA SINGS” and my favorite opening songs of the year “PLASTIC 100°C”. Sampha feels fully actualized as a singer and producer surpassing SBTRKT at this point. Life will happen but it’s how we go about processing it all that dictates your true outcome.
LOW LIGHTS :: None.
- Jay Z – 4:44
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Most of Hip Hop contributors are catering to youth culture by capturing and crystallizing the perspective of the young black voice in mid rebellion. What about the post-rebellion? 4:44 seemed to be our first time hearing the perspective of a rapper over 40 that wasn’t jaded. Yes, this was JAY Z’s 13th studio album but it was actually his first real album as himself. This album wasn’t released through DEF JAM it was independently released by S. CARTER ENTERPRISES LLC. on his own platform TIDAL. He literally “owned up” to his actions publically. We can’t keep letting these companies co-opt and own the rights to our trauma. JAY always resets the game when he drops, this album is no different, NO I.D. blesses with soulful soundscape for Hov to paint on without trying to out the do the tracks. Even with an album full of million dollar game for 9.99, He kept listeners coming back to the record with video footnotes, and weekly music video’s releases that gave you a new perspective on the songs you thought you had figured out. Most peoples critiques are why it took JAY so long to be able to make such an honest piece of work, I believe failure is when we do the most learning, and to be face to face with failing at a family is quite a weight for one to sift through. Maybe it was going to therapy, maybe we weren’t ready to hear this version of JAY before 2017. No matter what we think of it what we are left with is a new example from a rapper that raised most of our ego’s and is now killing his, so that he can finally just talk to us as Shawn Corey Carter.
LOW LIGHTS :: Kill JAY Z.
- Milo – Who Told You To Think?!?!??!?!
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: This is an album that has thought about itself A LOT. If Hip Hop is a well Milo is at the bottom screaming up at us “THERE’S STILL MORE!!”. Milo is living proof of what else rappers can do. There is a constant unraveling taking place within each line. This album might have some of the highest lyrical replay value of any album on this list. A sorcerer who prefers an olive colored quill over whatever rappers are writing their lyrics on these days, Milo lets you know straight up “The working title to my autobiography, I’m probably not the rapper for you” on the Kenny Segal produced “Take Advantage of the Naysayer”. There are no compromises here, a challenging listen for some but with lines like “Wipe me down with celerity, Hold myself with alacrity ,These are careful notes of every lack in me, Freedom is it’s own kind of salary”. The “Who Told You to Think?!?!???!” project is an endless onion of wordplay and meaning, you’ll be tripping on or unpacking lines for centuries here.
LOW LIGHTS :: YET ANOTHER.
- Thundercat – Drunk
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Drunk is a jazz fusion comedy soul album. It’s fun yet emotional, each song feels lived. The truth is the most interesting we’ve got. Featuring guest spots from Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell (his verse is INSANE on here btw), Zack Sekoff, Michael McDonald, and Kenny Logans you are taken through a journey and jam session that has some high highs without ignoring its lows. The lyrics feel very thoughtful yet not overcooked, it feels like you’re are listening to some of the most melodically fulfilling yet hilarious journal entries. This 23 track journey feels like a best of compilation with most of the songs being short and sweet giving you everything you need in that moment. We are witnessing Thunder in his prime.
LOW LIGHTS :: Inferno
- Gabriel Garzon Montano – Jardin
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Most known for his song “Six Eight” being sampled by Drake for his song “Jungle”. Gabriel used that sample clarence money to complete and produce a beautiful first album “JARDIN”. Refreshing as soon as you hear it, musically bright and large sounding you will be transported to stories of lost love, self-doubt and hope. Spotless harmonies and stimulating string work will draw you in on songs like “Long Ears” and “Fruitflies”. Jardin is a well-rounded portrait that is a velvety listen front to back.
LOW LIGHTS :: Lullaby
- Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still DaydreamLISTEN TO THIS WHY :: A brilliant heartfelt concept album written as the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago Open Mike opens us to a world gentrified that’s still in pain. BBKSD proves the point that it’s not just what you are saying it’s how you say it. Open Mike is both clever and thoughtful, letting his word play out in the open with lines like “you think it’s all good but it’s really a gradient” embracing the fact we don’t live in a world where everything is black and white, even when it’s “good”. Enjoyable, inspiring yet heavy songs like “Brick Body Complex” which has a hook so charged up it will boost your immune system upon hearing it. On the hypnotic “No Selling” Open Mike write personified as Uncle Butch (because we all have an Uncle Butch) the learning of coping with the pain of being displaced, and the facades we sell ourselves on the daily. This album is a powered up powerpoint on how to talk about large topics without being preachy. In the words of Open Mike himself “I been woke so long I might need to take a nap”, don’t sleep on this project though.
LOW LIGHTS :: Breezeway Ritual
- Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Vince Staples knows exactly what he’s doing. No, he’s not confused and trying to make an electronic dance album, he’s not following in anyone’s blueprints or footsteps. One of the only mainstream west coast rappers succeeding without a Dre co sign dropped his best work yet this year. If you think you got him figured out he’s trolling you so stop trying to get it and enjoy how much this album actually truly slaps. The Big Fish Theory is an album where Vince is making a decision that he won’t be confused with anyone else in the game sonically. The bars are just as sharp and witty as they have always been, now with slick sonic canvas’ from one of my favorite producers in the game Zack Sekoff and PC Musics SOPHIE, Vince has created is own kind of bangers. He jokes that this is an Afrofutristist album, with lines like “Battle with the white man day by day, Feds takin’ pictures, doin’ play by play, They don’t never want to see the black man eat, Nails in a black man’s hands and feet,
Put ’em on a cross or you put ’em on a chain
Lines be the same, he don’t look like me” all said over a thrashing house tempo banger. He has found a way to own his perspective and stay himself by taking all but the music seriously.
LOW LIGHTS :: 745.
- Moses Sumney – AromanticismLISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Moses Sumney is an instrument and he calls his followers Israelites. This album indeed has a holy feel to it. Every line is written as its own poem existing somewhere between stardust and an ocean of light, this is an album you can get lost in. Beauty at every turn this records lush yet acoustic sounds remind you that we were born with everything we need. Moses possesses a voice that has mastered its range and every inflection. You feel like you are being directly sung to. Created with such intention each song bleeds into each other streaming together a waterfall of feels. Songs like “Plastic” and “Lonely World” feel like compositions that have been massaged for years. Moses is an example of what taking your time feels and sounds like. It was worth the wait. He ends the first song with “I tried” well damn, if this is what trying sounds like…..
LOW LIGHTS :: Stoicism.
- Washed Out – Mr. Mellow
LISTEN TO THIS WHY :: Washed Out came back out of nowhere with some life after Chillwave vibes. Mr. Mellow finds us engaged in the perfect marriage of dancy house, psychedelic jazz, rock, with blurry lyrics that sound more like instruments. Released as a visual concept album about the way we live our clock in clock out mostly boring lives, this album makes the monotony feel and sound danceable. I found myself Shazaming about 5 songs off this album while out in public. This tells me that the record can be lived to in many settings. This record is for everyone that misses that Toro sound he captured on “Anything In Return”, a great record to put on while traveling, cleaning, living, running or basically anything, it’s really good.
LOW LIGHTS :: Down And Out.
* This is the part of the write up where you are just going to have to trust me, if you haven’t heard these releases now is the time to catch up because I’ve listened all year for you. I got you I promise.
- Ill Camille – Heirloom
LOW LIGHTS :: None really, it’s all about preference here.
- Syd – Fin
LOW LIGHTS :: No Complaints.
- Nick Hakim – Green Twins
LOW LIGHTS :: Farmissplease
- Jonwayne – Rap Album Two
LOW LIGHTS :: Rainbow
- Tyler The Creator – Flower Boy
LOW LIGHTS :: Aint Got Time.
- J.i.D. – Neverstory
LOW LIGHTS :: Doo Wop
- KAMAU – CASSETTE: ŭRTH GōLD
LOW LIGHTS :: Lavindur.
- SZA – Crtl
LOW LIGHTS :: Anything.
- Ibeyi – Ash
LOW LIGHTS :: Numb.
- Lil Uzi Vert – Love is Rage 2
LOW LIGHTS :: Dark Queen.
Jlin – Black Origami
LOW LIGHTS :: 1%
- Chinano Batman – Freedom Is Free
LOW LIGHTS :: Flecha Al Sol.
- Quelle Chris – Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often
LOW LIGHTS :: Fascinating Grass.
- Goldlink – At What Cost
LOW LIGHTS :: Have You Seen That Girl?
- Aminé – Good For You
LOW LIGHTS :: Slide.
- Homeshake – Fresh Air
LOW LIGHTS :: Timing.
- Miguel – War x Leisure
LOW LIGHTS :: Banana Clip.
- King Krule – The OOZ
LOW LIGHTS :: Lonely Blue, Slush Puppy
- Swarvy x Loji – DUE RENT
LOW LIGHTS :: iiidk.
- Damian Marley Jr. – Stony Hill
LOW LIGHTS :: Slave Mill.
Okay, so I separated LP’s (albums or Long Play’s) from EP (short albums or Extended Play’s) this year because I felt the goal of LP’s and EP’s are completely different. It’s like judging appetizers and entree’s or Big Boi and Andre. You can’t really, EP’s are here to set you up or prep you for the much larger project. The art of the shorter project is to give the audience the ability to digest everything equally by giving them quality over quantity, this is especially important in a time of oversaturation. These were the highest quality and concise short EP projects I heard all year.
- Amber Mark – 3:33 Am
2. Yaeji -EP 1 + 2
3.Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
4. Mocky – How To Hit What And How Hard.
5. Steve Lacy – Demo
Visuals . Of . The Year .
- JAY Z – The Story of O.J. /// Animation Director: Mike Roush
2. BBNG X FLOCKEY OCSCOR ///Directed by Flockey Ocscor
3. björk – the gate ///director:andrew thomas huang
4. Kendrick Lamar – DNA /// Dir: Nabil & the little homies
5. Charlotte Day Wilson – Work /// Director: Fantavious Fritz
6. Kamasi Washington – Truth /// Directed by AG Rojas.
7. yaeji – last breath /// directed by kathy yaeji lee
8. Quelle Chris – Buddies
9. JAY Z – Moonlight
10. Kirsten Lepore – Hi Stranger///Written, Directed, and Animated by Kirsten Lepore
Voice by Garrett Davis.
11. Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE /// Director Dave Meyers
12. Washed Out – Hard To Say Goodbye /// Directed by Jonathan Hodgeson
13. Aminé – Spice Girl /// Directed by Adam Aminé Daniel
14. Nick Hakim – Cuffed
15. def.sound – Trill Allah /// Directed by MADASHELL
Interactive version of visual:: http://clickbecause.net/trillallah/
16. Radiohead – Lift /// Directed by Oscar Hudson
17. Thundercat – Show You The Way /// Directed By: Katarzyna Sawicka & Carlos Lopez Estrada
18. SEVDALIZA – Hear My Pain Heal /// Directed by Ian Pons Jewell
19. St. Vincent – New York /// Directed by: Alex Da Corte
20. Open Mike Eagle – Hymnal /// Director – Carissa Dorson
21. Oyinda – Serpentine
22. Ivan Ave – Young Eye /// Directed, shot and edited by Mohamed Chakiri, Ivan Ave & Erik Treiman.
23. Sampha (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano /// Director: Jamie-James Medina
24. Pinki Rings – Guns In The Club /// Directed by Lasse Martinussen
25. Black Star – Rebirth Is Necessary.
Songs . Of . the . Year .
Instead of making n extra’ed out super loooong list of songs with an unlimited scroll of links, I wanted to be more of service and concise so I made a playlist which can be played in any order of my favorite songs that happened to my ears all 2017 I hope you enjoy on shuffle or just in life.
Person(ality). Of . The . Year .
Releases . I’m . Looking . Forward . To . In . 2018 .
- Whatever Kanye Is working on, even if I end up hating it, I need to hear it.
- The release of a new double-disc experience from def.sound (called COLORED). Stay tuned!
- Nonchalant Savant‘s ¡ Spark ! project.
- This is less of a release but more of a prediction, photographers will become more popular than the subjects they are now capturing.
- Another prediction, we find out Kendrick Lamar has been an AI this whole time.
- Zeroh releases like 9 albums and they are all fire.
- Jame Blake drops a fire ass Doo Wop album.
- This next Anderson .Paak album!!
- The Free Nationals album (don’t sleeeeep on Anderson’s band though)
- The Dj in me is already hyped about whatever Kaytranada has been working on, no matter what I’m sure it’s all flame emoji’s and beyond my expectations being that I’m working on having none.
- New projects from both NoName and Princess Nokia respectively.
- The New Craig David album, yes Craig David is dropping the first quarter of 2018 and I’m sure you’re not ready.