2017 was one of the best years for hip-hop in recent memory, as it became the most consumed genre of music in the country. Rap has been thrusted into mainstream pop-culture more than ever and the artists took full advantage this year. There were times I couldn’t even keep up with all the music dropping every week.
The fans are the winner in all of this; enjoying an abundance of value projects throughout the year, making this list very tough to piece together. That’s what makes music so great, the conversation it sparks, as there’s truly no right answer, while producing heated debates in the culture. Without further ado, here are my top 10 rap albums for 2017.
10. Migos – Culture
No group enjoyed a more meteoric rise in 2017 than the ATL trio. Culture was powered by three singles, all of which peaked within the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Lil Uzi Vert-assisted “Bad and Boujee” notched the group’s first number hit in January and mainstream popularity followed suit. Culture II is expected to drop at the top of 2018, will Quavo, Offset and Takeoff continue to build on their monumental year?
9. Fabolous & Jadakiss – Friday On Elm Street
Two of New York’s legendary emcees finally teamed up for the collab album that has been teased for what seemed nearly two years. Freddy and Jason impressed on the 12-track album, precisely enlisting features throughout the LP. Peter Rosenberg referred to the joint project as “Adult Contemporary Hip-hop,” which sums it up perfectly. The duo boasted strong bars in a mature manner over crisp production. Friday On Elm Street was definitely needed this year, and hopefully inspires more top-flight artists to join forces.
8. Big Sean – I Decided
Sean Don delivered two projects this year, following up February’s I Decided with the surprise release of the Metro Boomin’ produced Double Or Nothing. The Detroit native finally secured the elusive Eminem feature on “No Favors” and got back to his album formula for success with radio smash “Bounce Back” surrounded by quality bars from Sean. The 29-year-old boasted his maturity and ranging ability with the album’s closing track “Bigger Than Me,” which may go on to be his best work of the year.
7. Vic Mensa – The Autobiography
The Chicago native’s highly anticipated major debut arrived in July and the 60-minute album was well worth the wait. Mensa had to sort out his own issues before sitting down with No I.D., who executive produced the project along with JAY-Z, to create an authentic body of work that could resonate with Vic years down the line. The Autobiography is truly indicative of the project’s title, telling his life story throughout the 13 tracks. (+2 bonus) The future is bright for the 24-year-old who is currently accompanying Hov on the 4:44 Tour.
6. Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls
Thugger delivered one of the most surprisingly solid bodies of work in 2017. I didn’t know what to expect from Thug’s singing Beautiful Thugger Girls project, which drew inspiration from a plethora of genres, tapping into the Atlanta native’s superstar ability. “Family Don’t Matter” and Future-assisted “Relationship” should’ve received more critical acclaim, but I’m happy the 26-year-old crossed over to mainstream success — hopping on Camila Cabello’s “Havana.” Salute to Thug.
5. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
Another album that was severely snubbed from Grammy consideration. Vince Staples transcended typical hip-hop guidelines with the futuristic Big Fish Theory. The Long Beach native’s second album leaves you wanting more, featuring a concise 36-minutes of booming acoustics across 12 tracks. Staples delivers importance with his every word and if fans aren’t listening intently, the moment may pass you by. I hope everyone gets to appreciate the 24-year-old’s talent before he eventually moves on from music — trying his hand at different platforms in entertainment.
4. Drake – More Life
Drizzy followed up VIEWS with a 22-track playlist of quality music. Instead of having the pressures of an album, Drake has fun calling on a diverse group of features weaved into the diverse “playlist.” With no major hits coming from the project, some may be quick to discredit it, but that’s the exact opposite case with VIEWS (hits but not quality body of work). Drake takes you on a journey of what interests him, hearing everything from dancehall influences to the Jennifer Lopez sampling “Teenage Fever.” His fascination with the grime culture can’t be denied on “KMT” and “No Long Talk.” More Life has something for everyone and that’s what makes Drake the global superstar and biggest hip-hop act on the planet.
3. Lil Uzi Vert – Luv Is Rage 2
Uzi’s star grew bigger and faster than anyone saw coming. The Philly native’s “XO TOUR Llif3” was the most streamed song on SoundCloud with over 148 million plays, peaking at #7 in June on the Billboard Hot 100. Stand-out cuts such as “Sauce It Up” and “The Way Life Goes,” which was recently remixed by Nicki Minaj, kept the project’s momentum all the way into the new year. He also released 4 fresh tracks on the deluxe version of the Luv Is Rage sequel last month. The rockstar carved out a lane for himself in hip-hop and now has a chance to shift the culture’s landscape.
2. JAY-Z – 4:44
JAY-Z laid out the blueprint for how to age in hip-hop, and for a 48-year-old to make one of the most relevant albums of the year is a testament to his mindset and ability to penetrate the culture. I didn’t believe he would even be dropping an album when the ads began to pop up around NYC, but I was surely wrong. On his 13th studio album, Hov is seen at his most vulnerable, admitting his faults and affirmation to rebuild the union with loved ones. With the most Grammy-nominated album of the year, the Brooklyn native notched 8 noms without a true radio hit record, but tracks like “Bam” and “The Story Of O.J.” crossed those lines to become fan-favorites. Could 4:44 actually rank atop Jay’s discography?
1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Going with the moniker Kung Fu Kenny, Kendrick Lamar cemented himself as one of the all-time greats with DAMN., which dominated the culture and charts for most of 2017, since being released in April. The 14-track album took home “Album Of The Year” at the BET Hip-Hop Awards and notched 7 Grammy nominations at the upcoming award show. The DAMN. tour was also a sight to behold, as K. Dot moved into the forefront of the culture at just the age of 30. Critically it holds substance and performed just as well commercially, selling over 600,000 units in its first week. “HUMBLE” reached number one status on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s Kendrick’s world and were just living in it. His fourth studio album is a certified classic.
Honorable Mention: Aminé – Good For You, Tyler The Creator – Scum Fuck, Flower Boy, Wale – Shine, BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION II, Joey BADASS – All-Amerikkkan Badass, Rick Ross – Rather You Than Me, Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti, Cyhi The Prynce – No Dope On Sunday, 2 Chainz – Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.
Song of The Year: “Bodak Yellow” – Cardi B
Nobody had a better 2017 than Cardi B, the glow up was real as the cool kids say. The Bronx native had the song of the summer with the anthemic “Bodak Yellow.” The 25-year-old is one of the hardest working people in the industry as well, making public appearances and performing at every notable concert/festival across the nation. “Bodak Yellow” carried Cardi to number one status, becoming the first woman since Lauryn Hill in 1998 to top the charts.
Belcalis stayed hot to finish off the year, serving up assists on G-Eazy’s “No Limit” and Migos’ “Motor Sport,” which have both cracked the Hot 100’s top 10. “Bodak Yellow” is up for Best Rap Song at next year’s Grammy Awards. Cardi returns with her next single to build on an epic calendar year with “Bartier Cardi” featuring 21 Savage on Friday (Dec. 22). Congrats to Cardi on an amazing run.