1.) Flower Boy - Tyler, The Creator:
A few years ago, it would have been inconceivable that one of the most heartfelt and emotional hip hop albums of the year would be Tyler, The Creator of all people. The former Odd Future member took a huge deviation from his usual harsh, and often grotesque, style on his latest project with dreamy production that is just as sweet as the floral themes that dominate the album.
Even more impressive is the fact that Tyler produced every single track on the project himself. Complementing Tyler’s production and greatly improved rap skills are a list of flawless features that include Kali Uchis, Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne and Estelle. Tyler has truly outdone himself with this album, producing not just the best music of his career by a country mile, but also the most complete and compelling rap album of the year.
Best Tracks: Garden Shed, I Ain’t Got Time!, See You Again
2.) 4:44 - Jay Z:
13 studio albums into his career and the rap legend Jay Z may have just reached yet another new peak. “4:44” dives deep into the personal life of Jay Z in the most vulnerable and honest project he’s ever produced. Though he still finds time for the usual braggadocious flaunting of his wealth, songs like “Smile” and “4:44” show Jay throwing his ego to the side for once to offer sincere and meaningful peeks behind the curtain of Sean Carter’s life. In a time when Jay’s relevancy in the genre was being questioned after his disappointing 2013 album Magna Carta, “4:44” crushes any doubt with a compelling and genuine story where the line between Jay Z and Sean Carter is permanently blurred. This album undoubtedly marks as one of Jay’s best in a discography riddled with hip hop classics such as as:
Best Tracks: Smile, Caught in Their Eyes, Bam
3.) DAMN.- Kendrick Lamar:
The best rapper alive is back with his most mainstream album yet. After his last album “To Pimp a Butterfly” offered a dense and profoundly experimental experience, many fans wondered where Kendrick could possibly go from there. The answer was to come back with his catchiest and most radio friendly set of tracks culminating every single track on the album making it onto the Billboard Top 100. And that’s not a bad thing in the least bit. The album was initially previewed with the song “HUMBLE” that was an out of character radio hit proving that even Kendrick, the conscious king, can do just about anything in the booth. The album itself mostly followed suit with crowd pleasing tracks like “LOYALTY” and “LUST” which still showcase Kendrick’s second-to-none natural rapping abilities alongside solid Top Dawg production over more contemporary rap beats. Despite the move in a more mainstream direction, Kendrick still manages to produce a hard hitting, poignant and deeply personal project as is expected from an emerging icon at the height of his powers.
Best Tracks: DNA, ELEMENT, XXX
4.) Melodrama - Lorde:
It’s been four years since the New Zealand prodigy dropped her debut album “Pure Heroine,” and it seems she’s used that time to just get even better.
The level of maturity that Lorde shows on this latest album make it sort of unbelievable that she’s still only 21 years old, and that’s something that was nowhere near as present on her debut album. “Melodrama” is Lorde’s masterstroke in songwriting, she manages to pen an entire 11 track project chalk full of heartfelt, emotional, and sometimes genuinely sorrowful lyrics. Lorde’s abilities as a singer, songwriter, and pop star are only continually to rapidly increase, which is a promising aspect for one of the best and most naturally talented artists in the industry.
Best Tracks: Supercut, Liability, Writer in the Dark
5.) 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time - Big Krit:
Prolific Mississippi rapper Justin Scott, aka Big Krit, finally made his masterpiece. “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time” is an epic 22 track double album where Krit highlights the duality both in his personality and in his music. The first disc of the album focuses on the grimy, southern style bangers while the second disc is a more experimental and softer dive into different genres.
Throughout the album, Krit effectively blends the boastful, self-confident rap anthems with introspective tracks that often hit close to home making even the most hardened of listeners relate to Krit’s inner struggle.
This blend of spirituality, entertainment, self-realization, and reconciliation makes Krit’s latest project one of the most resonant and effective albums in recent memory.
Best Tracks: Big K.R.I.T, Subenstein (My Sub IV), Bury Me in Gold
6.) Take Me Apart - Kelela:
Experimental R&B artist Kelela sure knows how to make a debut. Her debut studio album flaunts some of the best production of any album on this list, and with her stellar vocal performances to back it up, Kelela has truly crafted something special.
Though there are dull moments from time to time on the album, the high points soar far higher than any anyone could have expected for her.
Best Tracks: Front Line, Take Me Apart, Altadena
There are very few groups that can produce quality projects at the rate of BROCKHAMPTON, the new Texas rap collective that seems to have popped up overnight. Their excellent debut studio “Saturation” dropped in June and before long they released the follow up, “Saturation 2”, in August.
While both albums are worthy of being on this list, “Saturation 2” is the far superior of the two. It does sacrifice some of “Saturation’s” extreme experimentation, but the synergy between each member of the band is so much more solid in “Saturation 2.” Couple that with the punchy and confident lyrics and delivery and you’ve got one of the most satisfying rap projects you’re likely to get.
Best Tracks: GUMMY, CHICK, SUNNY
8.) Ctrl- SZA:
The second TDE performer on this list, SZA had a huge year in 2017. Her debut studio album “Ctrl” captured the hearts of avid R&B listeners with SZA’s brutally honest lyrics putting the microscope both on the men in her life as well as herself.
Many of the best tracks on the album such as “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” received huge radio play, introducing SZA’s best hits to a wide audience and garnering her a decent following.
As a debuting artist, she currently holds the most grammy nominations for the 2017 awards, a pretty exciting prospect for one of R&B’s brightest young stars.
Best Tracks: Love Galore, The Weekend, Drew Barrymore
9.) All Amerikkkan Bada$$ - Joey Badass:
It can be hard for any rapper to release a conscious hip hop album in the same year as Kendrick Lamar, but Joey did it and he did it well.
While his lyrics might lack in subtlety, you can’t really fault the guy for being sincere, and he is nothing if not sincere on this album.
This is essentially a 12 track essay on every social issue going on in America with Joey pulling no punches when it comes talking Trump, race, or the socio-economic divide.
Best Tracks: Temptation, Devastated, Legendary
10.) (Self Titled) - Cigarettes After Sex:
Yet another debut album rounds out this list, with the slow, dreamy melodies of Texas pop band Cigarettes After Sex. While the chill and dreary tones of the album can get to be a little repetitive, the style certainly has an abundance of charm to offer throughout. The best of this band still yet to come, but this debut shows a fair amount of potential for the up and coming band especially with front man Greg Gonzalez giving one of the best vocal performances of the year.
Best Tracks: K, Apocalypse, Each Time You Fall in Love