The task of condensing a year’s worth of listening into a concise list of the best of the best has been an enjoyable but challenging one. 2017 has once again seen a barrage of high-quality releases, stemming from the subterraneous depths of the independent scene all the way through to the mainstream. These are the best that I’ve heard…
Top Ten Albums
1. Apollo Brown & Planet Asia - Anchovies (Mello Music Group)
Prolific left coast veteran Planet Asia connects with Detroit’s Apollo Brown who trades in his hard-hitting drums for sparse, dusty beats. Grounded in simplicity this is a distinctively gritty, soulful release which showcases impressive artistic growth for both. Something of a slow burner and an acquired taste this album takes its rightful position at the top of the pile.
2. Big K.R.I.T. - 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time (BMG / Multi Alumni)
Reinvigorated Southern soul from a criminally underrated artist who has spent his career on the cusp of mainstream acclaim. At the third attempt Krizzle finally recaptures his mixtape magic on a retail release with this ambitious soul cleansing double album.
3. G Perico - 2 Tha Left (Caroline Records)
Throwback West Coast hip-hop with a modern sound, G Perico’s second release of 2017 is an excellent collection of synthed G-Funk nostalgia. For those in need of late night cruising music then this is the perfect soundtrack. His other 2017 album, All Blue, is also an impressive release that’s well worth a listen.
4. Prodigy - Hegelian Dialectic (The Book Of Revelation) (Infamous Records)
When it was released at the start of the year nobody could have envisaged that this would be the last Prodigy solo album in his impressive catalogue. His untimely passing in June shocked the hip-hop community and this album sees P adopt a more thought-provoking approach than his previous works. When this insightful wisdom is mixed together with the eerie production it only serves to make this feel like a fitting finale to an incredible career. R.I.P. Prodigy.
5. Roc Marciano - Rosebudd’s Revenge (Marci Enterprises LLC.)
After a brief hiatus NY native Roc Marciano returns with his fourth studio album. Fans will be pleased to see that the influential formula which he has perfected on previous releases is retained throughout. Lyrically each bar is delivered with nonchalant clarity and the sparse velvety 70’s soul samples only serve to amplify their impact. His influence on a small but notable niche within modern NY hip-hop is undeniable.
6. Nolan The Ninja - YEN (Left Of Center)
On his latest album the Detroit lyricist delivers a highly energetic, hard-hitting album which reinforces the Motor City’s status as one of the most underrated scenes. This release is proof that dusty, lo-fi boom bap is still well and truly alive in 2017 and Nolan The Ninja has enough versatility to help him avoid getting lost in the shuffle.
7. Le$ - Midnight Club (Slfemp Music LLC. / SxS)
The Houston-based rapper has been relentlessly releasing top quality music for the best part of a decade but remains strangely overlooked. Midnight Club is 10 tracks of melodic, down-tempo, sample-driven production courtesy of DJ Mr. Rogers and typically laid-back lifestyle raps from Le$.
8. GQ — E 14th (Jamla Records / GQ Music)
A member of 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records this Oakland native has once again hit the mark with his latest album. Opting for heartfelt and honest over abstract experimentation this is an album which contains all of the traits that make a good hip-hop album. Dope beats, dope rhymes and no gimmicks this is back to basics hip-hop in its rawest form.
9. Joey Bada$$ - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (Pro Era / Cinematic Music Group)
Walking the fine line between mass appeal and sticking to his roots Joey’s second studio album avoids the dreaded sophomore slump by showing variety and a willingness to evolve. Socially conscious and politically raged content can be a sensitive and often unsuccessfully executed angle in hip-hop. However, Joey succeeds with his sincerity and also his ability to lighten the mood to ensure an engaging listen.
10. Cunninlynguists - Rose Azura Njano (A Piece Of Strange Music / RBC Records)
The Kentucky trio have one of hip-hop’s most impressive catalogues and although this latest album doesn’t reach the heights of previous works this is still a great release. Conceptually they have always been adventurous and this album explores Black music in America and its historyand impact, personified by the chromesthesia-afflicted Rose. Socially conscious, thoroughly soulful and thematically absorbing.
And once you’re done with the top ten albums check out the top ten EP’s and top ten official mixtapes / compilations…
Top Ten EP’s
- Freddie Gibbs - You Only Live 2wice (ESGN Records / Empire Distribution)
- Le$ - Summer Madness (Slfemp Music LLC. / SxS)
- Skyzoo - Peddler Themes (First Generation Rich, Inc.)
- Lil Eto & V Don - Omertà: The Film (Tuff Kong Records)
- Jay Worthy & The Alchemist - Fantasy Island (ALC Records / GDF Records)
- Thes One & DJ Day - Náufrago EP (Piecelock 70)
- Le$ - The Catalina Wine Mixer (Slfemp Music LLC. / SxS)
- G-Worthy - G-Worthy EP (Fool’s Gold Records)
- Willie The Kid & V Don - Deutsche Marks (Next Records)
- Kankick & Dr. Oop - Kankick Showcase #4: Lose Your Illusion (No Label)
Top Ten Official Mixtapes / Compilations
- Camp Lo - On The Way Uptown: The Uptown Saturday Night Demo (MVD Audio)
- Conway - G.O.A.T. (GxFR)
- Nick Wiz - Cellar Sounds Volume 5: 1992–1998 (No Sleep Recordings)
- Blu & Exile - In The Beginning: Before The Heavens (Fat Beats / Dirty Science)
- Benny — Butcher On Steroids (GxFR)
- Conway — Reject On Steroids (GxFR)
- Nine — Death Of A Demo (Smoke On Records)
- Conway - More Steroids (GxFR)
- WestSide Gunn - Hitler Wears Hermes V (GxFR)
- Curren$y - The Champagne Files (Jet Life Recordings)
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