I love this time of year. Let the debates begin. Who had the best hip-hop album of 2017?
If you’re asking me, it’s HOV.
4:44 was a masterpiece for someone in my age bracket (the late 30s). While hip-hop is a young man’s game, the fact that HOV can still manipulate the culture – not just the mainstream media but the culture – for weeks, forcing everyone not only to listen to the album but dissect it and have a true opinion on it is more than any true music fan can ask for.
Jay-Z is the only hip-hop artist that forces you to pay attention to the music, not Migos, not Tyler, not even Ye forces you to pay attention to the music. And the music on 4:44 is really good, not just the message – which is needed in our culture – the music is more mature than “Bodak Yellow” or “Rake it up” or “Bank Account.” NO ID’s production and selection of samples are a far departure from the Blueprint and Black Album but it works well enough for you to enjoy the album all the way through. For me, 4:44 elevated after I saw the concert in D.C. “Bam” bangs second only to “PSA” during the live show. “Family Feud” and “Smile” are even better live. I predict 4:44 will last as well as American Gangster or better. It’s a great album but it’s also actually a sneaky good album.
Kendrick Lamar found a lane between Good kid and TPAB and delivered DAMN.. The truth is Kendrick is so in his zone right now that a poorly executed album would be better than 95% of rappers creating music today, yet he is hitting on all levels with DAMN. – from “LOYLALTY.” to “FEEL.” to of course, “DUCKWORTH.” the album is as good as advertised or better. Kendrick is king of the game right now. He can do it on all levels.
Other albums that I really rode with in 2017:
Sean Price Imperious Rex and Raekwon The Wild will be overlooked and I can’t do that. They both turned in amazing albums proving that rap has no age. Sean Price unfortunately passed but this year. His album is the perfect eulogy for an MC that never took a bar off.
Big K.R.I.T., Cyhi, and Rapsody will all be debated and randomly placed on year-end lists but they all represent southern lyricism in the vein of OutKast. The world needs more MCs (in their prime) that are trendsetters for true lyricism.
Goldlink’s album represented the DMV and produced one of the best singles of the year. Vic Mensa and Joey Badda$$ both created albums that lived up to their building hype. It’s hard to earn the label of the future of hip-hop and live up to it. Joey and Vic can be the future of the industry. These albums will give them the breathing room to work on creating those classic they need to really take over.
Meek Mill, Rick Ross, and DJ Khaled did what they do. Nothing ground shaking but their standards are better than most out. Jada and Fab is in that mix too, a nice surprise for 2017.
This was a good year for mainstream hip-hop. I left off a lot of highly rated albums that I didn’t hear, didn’t feel, or didn’t have the time to digest (Sorry Killa Cam). That doesn’t mean that Drake, Tyler, Migos, Sampha, or Vince Staples didn’t deliver for their fans. The following albums were the soundtrack to my vibe in 2017 and I try to stay with an album at least a month or two in order to truly hear it. I know I stayed with HOV, Kendrick, and Rapsody a really long time so that I could understand the message. I had to hear them for weeks before I even really dove into the production and samples. I’m still sitting with K.R.I.T., Jada and Fab, and Cyhi right now. It’s a process.
Here is the Cheats Movement #WESEEIT list for mainstream hip-hop 2017.
Jadakiss & Fabolous: Friday on Elm Street
Alchemist: The Good Book. Vol 2
Raekwon: The Wild
Oddisee: The Iceberg
DJ Khaled: Grateful
Sean Price: Imperious Rex
Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
Big K.R.I.T. 4eva is a Mighty Long Time
Goldlink: At What Cost
Meek Mill: Wins and Loses
Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me
Joey Bada$$: All AmeriKKKan Bada$$
Vic Mensa: The Autobiography
Cyhi The Prince: No Dope on Sunday
Kendrick Lamar: DAMN