Ranked: Top Ten Hip Hop Albums of 2017

Patrick Inman

As 2017 draws to a close, individuals have been graced with some incredible music thus far in terms of rap/hip-hop. 2017 was a record year for hip-hop in both commercial success and overall influence on the growing culture.

Although the hip-hop landscape has changed drastically from its roots in the late 70s, it continuously provides something new for both the average listener and the fanatic.

I based these rankings off of my own personal preference, and took into consideration three factors: influence (either already or potential), repeat ability, and if the project was overall cohesive in nature. I will provide three stand-out songs on each album that highlighted the strengths of each individual artist.

Here are my top 10 hip-hop albums of 2017 thus far.

*** I know I will get flak for this, but DAMN by Kendrick Lamar is not included on this list. It’s overrated guys, get over it.***

10.) My Moment- Tee Grizzley

Standout songs: First Day Out, Country, No effort 

What many consider to be a snub off of the XXL Freshman list, Tee Grizzley is taking the rap world by storm with his ferocious attitude and winning mentality. New to the rap game this year, Tee Grizzley is one of those artists that turns even the most mellow of individuals into absolute beasts. Whether you are in the gym, about to go to an important interview, or preparing for a big game, Tee Grizzley is your man. My Moment, a ten-track Debut from Grizzley highlights the strengths that make him such a fierce new player in the game. Perhaps the most impressive song off this project is “First Day Out”Within the almost 5 minute track, Grizzley starts off slow reminiscing on the mistakes that landed him in prison, reflecting on the relationships that have disappeared while in prison, and praying to God for a message. About two minutes in, the song immediately switches gears to a must-have workout song in the gym. Grizzley morphs into a cocky and confident character firing shots at anyone who stands in the way of his goals. Grizzley’s tenacity and cockiness not only in this song, but the entire project proves to the hip-hop world that he is here to stay.

9.) Mr. Davis- Gucci Mane 

Standout songs: I get the bag, Jumped out the whip, Curve 

What a year it’s been for Gucci Mane. Regardless if you listen to hip-hop or not, Gucci Mane has one of the most inspirational stories of the last decade and proves that the american dream is very much still alive. After serving nearly 6 years in prison for multiple weapon possesion and robbery charges, Gucci Mane went from an overweight, typical thug to a fit, confident author, philanthropist, and inspiration to us all. Gucci stopped using drugs, continued to make music, married the woman of his dreams, wrote an autobiography, and his success this year has shown in the charts. Ever since his release from prison, Gucci turned into a superstar and his fan base grew by millions in one short year. Part of the reason is his new, confident flow that he provides in all of his new music. Gucci stopped talking about drugs, sex, and violence, and instead turned to money, the perils and spoils of fame, and winning…something everyone can get behind. Although Gucci is getting older, I expect his winning streak to continue after he put out an overall cohesive and fantastic album with amazing features.

8.) Paranoia: A true story- Dave East 

Standout songs: Paranoia, Phone Jumpin’, Perfect 

Focusing on a more thuggish approach to hip-hop, Dave East is Harlem’s next biggest star. This album showed East’s incredible ability to tell a story while still sounding entertaining. His music is violent and arrogant at times, but real none the less. East’s music comes straight from the heart and the listener can feel every single emotion East feels as the song was written. Having an ability to make your audience feel your emotions is a remarkable feat to say the least, and it’s what makes Dave East an exciting new talent. The project as a whole dives into East’s mind as he becomes paranoid from threats and the perils of success that comes with being a black man in America. In each song, the paranoia grows and listeners can tell as his flow/lyrics change from deep, meaningful sentences to crazy, absurd thoughts. The transformation in East’s thoughts is what makes this album so entertaining. Even the cover shows East sitting down, paranoid of what the future holds. This album is a must listen for any 90s hip-hop fans and anyone who wants to listen to a whole story through a well-balanced, cohesive project.

7.) Still Striving- A$AP Ferg

Standout Songs: East Coast Remix, Plain jane, Trap and a dream 

A prominent member in A$AP Mob, A$AP Ferg spent all of 2016 and half of 2017 gathering an all-star list of features for an exciting, adrenaline-pumping project. Throughout the entire album, listeners are treated to eccentric rhymes and boisterous anthems meant to get the blood-flowing in each and every listener. Ferg’s voice screams motivation on almost every track, and this project becomes an essential on any fitness guru’s playlist.  Ferg even stated in an interview with Complex news, “I came into this project with the mindset of making anthems for sporting arenas. I want this S#*% played in Madison Square garden.” As we can tell now, Ferg shot for the ceiling and he defied expectations. Obviously, this project is not for the feint of heart or those wanting a more chill listening experience. The world waits to see what’s next from the Bronx genius, but for now, we are blessed with some incredible music to push pounds.

6.) The Bigger Artist- A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie 

Standout Songs: Drowning, No Promises, Undefeated

A rookie hailing from the Bronx, A Boogie (as I will refer to him for the remainder of this review), possesses an incredible talent through his rhyming scheme, and his ability to mix-up flows to different melodies and beats. The Bigger Artist, shows A Boogie is in competition for rookie of the year in the rap/hip-hop world. Each song on the 15-track Debut shows a different side of A Boogie. Whether it’s the slow, melodic, R&B style singing shown on ‘Bad Girl’ or the started from the bottom tenacity/mentality shown in ‘Undefeated’, A Boogie has the rare ability to be more than a one-dimensional MC…something that a majority of rappers suffer from. This remarkable ability paired with his unbelievable hooks, and rhythm prove that A Boogie is here to make some serious waves in the music industry. The only thing holding him back from becoming a superstar is his excessive, and at times over-bearing, ego. As A Boogie matures, expect him to be mentioned on the same level with hip-hops kings such as Drake and Kendrick. The Bigger Artist is a well-crafted entrance to fame that will surely go down as one of the most impressive debut’s by a MC to date. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

5.) I Decided- Big Sean 

Standout Songs: No Favors, Bounce Back, Moves 

The people sleeping on Big Sean shouldn’t even have credibility at this point. Sean is one of the most underrated rappers of the last decade, but his win-streak, collaborations, and multi-platinum hits suggest he is a superstar. I Decided showed Sean’s tenacity, frustration, and emotions all combined into one incredibly well-crafted project. What makes this album by far Sean’s best and one of the best of the year, is Sean’s conscious effort to make every song relate to the casual listener. On tracks such as ‘Bounce Back’ the listener can relate to almost every word Sean is saying, which is what makes this track such a hit because the average listener can use this song to bounce back from their own failures, just as Sean is bouncing back from his failed relationships, criticism, and pressures. On the other hand, from an emotional perspective, the track entitled ‘Owe Me’ features Sean discussing his past love for a woman that never loved him back. This is a theme that many individuals can relate to, and connect Sean’s words with their own feelings. Sean’s undeniable ability to connect with his audience over a spectrum of emotions ranging from despair and fear, to winning and swagger, prove that Sean should be mentioned with the leaders of the new school.

4.) More Life- Drake

Standout Songs: Portland, Sacrifices, Do Not Disturb 

Any fan of hip-hop, and even some fans of pop, knows that Drake is the very definition of a superstar. He has taken the world by storm ever since his 2008 Debut, So Far Gone. Now comes More Life, a so-called “playlist” rather than an album. The 22-track project faced early criticism for lacking originality and supposedly being “leftover songs” that didn’t make the cut in his previous albums. However, upon further examination and listening sessions from both critics and fans alike, it has become clear that More Life is an excellent work. Throughout this project, Drake is graduating from US and Canadian stardom, to worldwide phenomenon. The main reason for this is Drake’s unreal ability to incorporate worldly sounds such as Afrobeat (Africa’s version of rap essentially) into modern hip-hop. By creating sounds and melodies that capture the hearts of several nations, Drake accomplishes something that is a rare feat…a project that can relate to almost any culture. Whether you are hitting the gym, studying, at a dance or reflecting on a past relationship, Drake has you covered with this project. Drake is not afraid to express his emotions which is something that was unheard of in the stereotypical hip-hop culture and allows for a project that can be easily listened to by anyone.

3.) Beautiful Thugger Girls- Young Thug

Standout Songs: Relationship, Family Don’t Matter, Tomorrow till’ infinity

For those of you that have not listened to Young Thug, his music is definitely an acquired taste. Zany, wordy, odd, and incredibly difficult to understand at times, Young Thug has the most unique style of anyone in hip-hop. Beautiful Thugger Girls features Young Thug as more of a singer/guitarist, rather than a rapper. On every song, Thug incorporates fast flows, surprisingly gorgeous vocals, and earth-shattering beats. What makes this album so intriguing and a worthwhile listen is Thug’s unpredictability. On the track “Tomorrow till’ infinity” Thug sings solemnly as he reminisces on past heartbreaks and failed relationships. Then, on the track “Relationship” Thug lays down bars over a club-like beat discussing his love for partying and women, as if he no longer cares about his past relationships. The unique thing about this album is that even non hip-hop fans can get into the music. Young Thug purposely does this, as he stays unpredictable and vague between each project of his to allow for more diversity in his music…something that will keep him in mainstream hip-hop for a very long time.

2.) CULTURE- Migos

Standout Songs: Slippery, Bad and Boujee, T-shirt 

Migos have the world at their fingertips after this album. The Atlanta trio of Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff combined to make an incredible album that shot them all to stardom. Throughout CULTURE, all three members feed off of each other to create catchy hooks, rhythmic flows, and unreal punchlines. Quavo has the hooks, Offset has the flow, Takeoff has the punchlines. This lethal combination of all three unique talents creates an effective transition into what most people consider today to be modern hip-hop. Anyone that has ever listened to Migos should know that the lyrics are nothing to be amazed by, but rather something to just party to. On the track “Bad and Boujee” the entire premise of the song is Offset talking about his girl who is…well, bad and boujee. Despite the lack of any depth in lyrics what-so-ever, Migos know how to effectively capture an audience’s attention through flow, rhythm, and catchy hooks. This album shot them to the top, expect them to stay there for awhile.

1.) 4eva is a mighty long time- Big K.R.I.T.

Standout Songs: Confetti, 1999, Substenien IV

This one will probably surprise everyone that it even made the list because Big K.R.I.T. is relatively unknown by the mainstream. However, don’t let that distract you from the fact that this album is a masterpiece in the making. Mixing soul with modern hip-hop is a daring choice, but it is one that Big K.R.I.T. has mastered. He has music for the heartbroken young man trying to find his footing, the gym junkie, and even fans of past soul music. K.R.I.T.’s ability to incorporate several different styles into his music put him on a level that is untouched by many other artists. Similarly to Young Thug, K.R.I.T. will always bring something new to the table. Throughout the entirety of this project, a range of emotions are expressed. K.R.I.T. reminisces about his past and how he can become a better man, and as the album progresses, becomes confident and ready to take on the world. The general public can relate to this, which makes it such a worthwhile listen. K.R.I.T. should have his spot at the top soon enough, but for now, he’s enjoying his rise to fame.