So far in 2017, we’ve had a lot of music drops. Some were great and some were not so great. It’s insane since we are only at the halfway mark of the year. Nonetheless, it’s amazing that there's an abundance of music out right now with the resurgence of some of our legends like Jay Z, and the debut of some fresh new faces, such as Sza. There’s been a variety of music and musical taste floating around the internet. With the rumors of new projects coming out by big names like Kanye, who knows how 2017 is going to turn out in the state of music. Since there are so many great records out now, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite albums of 2017 so far.
Label: Top Dawg, RCA
Released: June 9, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Contemporary R&B, Neo soul
Ctrl is the debut album of songstress Sza. The first lady of TDE has been releasing singles and EP’s like, “Teen Spirit” and "Z" since 2014 but hasn’t come into her sound till the release of this album. She gets personal on the album and talks about being the side chick in “The Weekend," has a track “dedicated to vaginas” that shows that women are more than their pussy’s and the lengths that some guys will go to get that pussy. One of my favorite songs is, “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott. In this track, we get to see the sultry side of Sza and not only in the music video. “Love Galore” goes into a past relationship that Sza was in, the changes that she faced after leaving the relationship, and how she put herself first during the process. This track was produced by her bassist Carter Lang and THANKGOD4CODY. We see the use of synths, distortion, and a drum track that is sure to get anyone to move. This track also fits Travis Scott so well. When I first heard the song I thought that he produced it because it is very similar to his musical style. I cannot wait to see more of Sza’s projects in the future.
Standout Tracks: Love Galore, Go Gina, The Weekend
Released: February 3, 2017
Genre: Neo soul, Alternative R&B
Syd is ⅕ of the band The Internet. As the lead singer and producer of the group, she has a lot going on but in early February, she blessed us with her album Fin. She labeled it as the more mainstream version of Ego Death, the band's previous studio album. This album is a cross between 90’s R&B and sultry trap beats with a twist. With limited features on the record, Syd carries every track on her own and dominates songs like, “Know,” which gives an Aaliyah vibe with the production and timbre resonating deeply with the dearly departed artist. She goes back to her The Internet roots with the track, “Dollar Bills,” featuring her bandmate, bassist Steve Lacy. “Dollar Bills” has a steady flowing bass line and the influence of Steve on this track is clear to see. She also brings back her old single, “Smile More,” which was originally released on November 28, 2015. After listening to this album, it is definitely clear how much Syd was influenced by her band in her own music.
Standout Tracks: Over (ft 6lack), Know, Shake 'em Off, All About Me
Kehlani, Sweet Sexy Savage
Label: TSUNAMI / Atlantic
Released: January 27, 2017
Genre: Contemporary R&B
Kehlani, who Diddy labeled as “the savior of R&B,” released her debut album, Sweet Sexy Savage, in the being of 2017. This album comes after all the turmoils and issues she faced in 2016 to prove why she does not hold back her emotions on this record. In this '17 track album, we see the different sides of Kehlani. In this record, we get to see the blunt side of her. We see this side of her in “CRAZY" where she says, “If I gotta be a bitch, i'mma be a bad one.” In “Everything is Yours," we see how vulnerable she is with lyrics such as,
“Sad about shit I'm sad about for the past year,
I've been low,
I've been down and out it,
And it 'cause of you and love if there's any doubts.”
Not only do we see this bluntness in her lyrics but also with the production of the track. In this album, I see her growth from her last mixtape, but there are tracks that have a similar vibe to You Should Be Here.
Standout Tracks: Undercover, Distraction, CRZY, Everything is Yours, Do You Dirty
Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator
Released: July 21, 2017
Genre: Alternative hip hop
In this new record by Tyler the Creator, we see a new side of this creative. This album is more personal and the sound has definitely changed from his previous records. Tyler is definitely a lot more serious in this album referencing issues like "Black Lives Matter" in his song, “Foreword.” He talks about how he has to “play it cool” when he’s stopped by the police because he doesn’t want to give the police a reason to shoot. Another thing that is more personal in this record is him talking about his sexuality in the track, Flower Boy. After the record leaked a few weeks early, publications and many of Tyler's fans were questioning whether or not he was "coming out," or revealing his sexuality, in this album or not. Although Tyler's camp hasn’t made a statement, fans have been linking tweets and interviews together to see whether or not he’s been a troll or if he’s been trying to come out this whole time. But besides the lyrics, we see the growth in his musical style. This album is very jazzy and has a lot of funk vibes that emulate the likes of Patrice Rushen, Roy Ayer, and many others. This doesn’t come as a surprise as Tyler has referenced these artists before.
Standout Tracks: Boredom, Where this Flower Blooms, November, Glitter
Steve Lacy, Demo
Label: Columbia/ Three Quarter
Released: February 24, 2017
I know that this isn’t an album but I had to include this body of work anyway. Steve Lacy, who is a part of the band "The Internet," dropped this demo of six songs in late February and it’s all we’ve been waiting for. This demo shows us how talented Steve Lacy is and how he will be changing the state of music in the near future. The 19-year-old producer worked on the demo using Garageband on his iPhone. As a musician who frequently dabbles with Digital Audio Workstation (DAWs) because of her internship and music projects, it baffles me that someone like Steve can create all this magic using a free apple app and an iPhone 6. I think that it is very inspiring that someone can be so creative using limited resources and I know that this demo has personally motivated my peers and me to keep working on our craft. This demo has a funk and soul feel with an indie twist (which isn’t unexpected since he’s a fan of Mac DeMarco). This demo has a lot of depth and dimension, which some might call mature coming from a teenager. His tracks have amazing drum patterns and steady guitar chords. Also, the length of each track makes you want to beg for more.
Standout Tracks: Ryd, Dark Red, Thangs
Released: February 24, 2017
Genre: Contemporary R&B, Jazz fusion, Alternative hip hop
Thundercat is my favorite artist, so I am definitely going to be biased with this review. This album has a lot of musicians in the L.A music scene. This is great because we get to see people like Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and many others. This album just proves how talented he is and it is nice to see the different dimensions between jazz and hip hop. It is also apparent in “Captain Stupidio,” that this album is very comical. In the track, you can hear farts and the song lyrics itself is funny.
Standout Tracks: Show You the Way, Walk On By
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
Label: Top Dawg Entertainmen
Released: April 14, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop Music
In "DAMN," Kendrick’s fourth studio album, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Every track on this album is a banger. He is one of the best lyricists in the game with tracks like, “Humble,” and “xxx (ft. U2)." Kendrick has a way of being insight without being preachy and that is apparent in these tracks, whether it through is his word play or his production. In “Humble," the production is fast paced yet simple. The producers are mostly using keys, guitar (in the beginning), drums, and an 808 (even though I personally put that with the drum family). Even the keys in this track are simple. Each beat in this track has a one note played in octaves with distortion so that it can sound a little bit fuller. Kendrick also uses new producers in this record. He commissioned Steve Lacy to produce his track, “Pride.” This track has a dark sound that is different from the other tracks in his project. Musically there is a lot of strumming and background vocals. "Pride" is one of my favorite tracks on the album because of how much it moved me.
Standout Tracks: Humble, Loyalty, Pride
Jay Z, 4:44
Label: Roc Nation
Released: June 30, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop
It is always a blessing when you get new music from a legend like Jay Z. Jay Z, a true GOAT, released his 13th studio album, "4:44." This album was just what we were waiting for and more. He discusses his marriage and infidelity which confirmed Beyonce’s "Lemonade" album. This album reveals to his audience that he isn’t a perfect man. He displays that makes mistakes, but learns from them. He also dropped gems on money and entrepreneurship, as well as gave advice to fellow rappers on how they should be utilizing their money. On “The Story of O.J”, he says,
“I told him,
Please don't die over the neighborhood
That your mama rentin'
Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood
That's how you rinse it".
This wasn’t the only gem that he dropped but he also used a Nina Simone sample which I assume many of these mumble rappers don’t know about. The entire record was produced by No I.D which is great because whenever Hov works with No I.D, it always ends up being something classic. He reveals family secrets as well like his mother's sexuality and how that affected him in the past and present. This album revealed a whole new side to us that I would normally expect for Hov to keep guarded up.
Standout Tracks: The Story of OJ, Caught their Eyes, Marcy Me, Family Feud
Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti
Label: AWGE, Interscope
Released: April 14
Genre: Trap Music
When trap music started to become popular (and not the type of trap the T.I does but mumble rap trap), I was very skeptical and deemed it as foolish. If the beat didn’t keep me moving, I would’ve completely been over the subgenre. But after a while, I come to appreciate Trap and Playboi Carti is one example of that. “Magnolia” was the track that pulled me in but every song is great for a party or night out with the homies. This is great club music and Playboi Carti was the Standout for XXL’s Freshman Cover.
Standout Tracks: Magnolia, Lookin, dothatshit, wokeuplikethis
Big Sean, I Decided
Label: Good Music
Released: February 3, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop
I was always a fan of Big Sean. One of the tracks that got me into hip hop was "Dance (Ass)" and "I Do It" when I was the nerd at the middle school dance hiding in the corner bobbing my hands and snapping to the beat. Since 2011, Big Sean has been making constant hits that easily made me move. I Decided isn’t different from those other records. In this record, he has incredible features from the likes of Eminem, The Migos, and Jeremih. Some of the tracks are vulnerable, while other tracks are energizing and hard like, “Bounce Back” and “Moves”. This wasn’t one of my favorite albums but among many of my friends, they ranked this highly.
Drake, More Life
Label: Republic Records
Released: March 18, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop, Contemporary R&B
I was a bit curious about Drake’s new album, but nonetheless excited but when I heard it was going to be a promo. I didn’t know what to think: whether it was going to be a collective of OVO artist featuring Drake or what the “playlist” really is, another Drake album. I really like the tracks and how each track flowed cohesively. I also really appreciated him adding artists from the U.K into his lineup including Jorja Smith and Sampha. Another feature that was pretty cool was the addition of a 4y’all skit on “Madiba Riddim”. This was definitely an enjoyable album and felt like a continuation of Views which is a positive for me.
Standout Tracks: Get it Together, Madiba Riddim, Portland, Passionfruit
21 Savage, Issa
Label: Slaughter Gang, Epic
Released: July 7, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop, Trap
When I first started listening to 21, I immediately put him in the box of mumble rappers like Yachty or XXXtentacion. You can clearly see a difference if you watch any of his interviews. He is an insightful person that clearly knows what the hell he is talking about and upon further review, 21 enunciates in all of his tracks. This was no difference in the album, Issa, all of the beats were incredible of course (with the help of Metro Boomin and other producers), and all of the verses were great too. I really like “Bank Account,” which is a stand out since it’s number 34 on the billboard 100 chart. I really like the new vibes that are on this album as well as with the track “FaceTime”, which was deemed as a track for the ladies. It really shows his versatility as an artist. Overall, this was a great album that made me a fan 21 Savage.
Standout Tracks: Bank Account, FaceTime, 7 Min Freestyle
Goldlink, At What Cost
Label: RCA Records
Released: March 24, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop, Jazz, Go-Go
I started listening to Goldlink when “Sober Thoughts” was released three years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. When the single “Meditation” featuring Kaytranada and Jasmine Sullivan dropped, I knew this album was going to be epic, and I was right. He brought back some of his favorite producers like Kaytranada and brought some new producers like Steve Lacy on the track, “Some Girl,” which is the perfect blend of Steve and Goldlink. Personally, I think that Goldlink always chooses great beats and he wasn’t lacking in this record. You can see that in the track, “Roll Call” featuring Mya, with a great mix of strings and EDM sounding bass lines. Another thing that’s great about this album is the features. Goldlink commissioned a great deal of musicians and producers to work with him and it definitely elevated the project.
Label: Quality Control Music
Released: January 27, 2017
Genre: Hip Hop, Trap
Migos' second studio album, Culture, solidifies their position in hip hop and its culture. Majority of the tracks on this album were hits you would hear on radio stations, clubs, and more. Let’s not forget about “Bad and Boujee,” produced by Metro Boomin, which had the whole world moving. “Bad and Boujee” has over 300 million streams, clearly affecting the music industry heavily. I really enjoyed “Slippery,” and “T-Shirt”, and although each beat and lyric was different, all of the songs carry the same energy (as the cast of Everyday Struggle would say).
Standout Tracks: Bad and Boujee, T-Shirt, Slippery
Released: February 3, 2017
Standout Tracks: Blood on Me
Released: April 28, 2017
Standout Tracks: Fashion Week, My Love, MY PYT
That’s the list of all of my favorite albums so far in 2017. Do you agree with this list or should I add more? Let me know what your favorites are!