Music changes so rapidly over the course of one year, and especially so just this year, that songs included in this list from February sound a world apart from today. Brockhampton, a rap group that describes themselves as a “boy band,” released three records this year alone, and their transformation from June to December perfectly describes the ever-changing and evolving musical landscape.
In 2017, the sound of music had a kind of melodious-harshness to it, like a diamond in the rough. As polished and incredibly well-produced as ever, there was still a fine grit to its worth. Brought about by the political landscape in America regarding race relations and the emerging sound of trap rap moving from an underground movement to the top of the Billboard charts, the music of 2017 encapsulated the thoughts and feelings of its greatest artists from rap, indie rock, pop, R&B, and even jazz. Below you’ll find the Roseandblog’s favorite music of 2017, detailing both individual tracks and entire albums, showcasing the best of what 2017 had to offer (displayed in alphabetical order):
Aminé – “Sundays”
One of the most anticipated releases of 2017, Aminé, who was also featured on both Roseandblog and XXL’s Freshman Class picks, put out the track “Sundays” from his debut album Good For You. The track, which was originally previewed during his XXL freestyle, landed him the No. 2 spot in Roseandblog’s breakdown of the best 2017 XXL performances, where the goof-crown-prince showed a more introspective side of his personality. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Apathy & O.C. – “Live from the Iron Curtain”
Awarded Best Verse of September 2017, “live from the Iron Curtain” by underground-rapper Apathy displayed a ton of wit and lyrical dexterity, with lyrics such as: “Take 85 of ya craziest favorite rhymes and they lesser/Than 8 or 9 of my laziest lines that I threw together.” The track proved that Apathy is not a rapper to be slept on, an nonetheless the verse fell relatively as under-the-radar as the veteran MC somehow remains. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”
The album of the same name might not have fared as well as the title-track for Arcade Fire, but most of the individual tracks on this list are included because they were standout tracks on what were otherwise lackluster records. Arcade Fire, the Canadian indie-rock band that basically owned the genre back in 2010 with their third album The Suburbs, angered a lot of fans with this year’s Everything Now, which has received intensely harsher reviews than its predecessors. The inclusion of ABBA-esque soundand inspiration did wonders on the title-track however, the only track on the record where the aims accurately meet the sound.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Belle Biv DeVoe – “Ready (feat. Doug E. Fresh)”
There isn’t much to say about the long-awaited return of Belle Biv DeVoe, as most of the record is exactly what you’d expect from the all-grown-up “Poison” singers, but the standout moment comes from the intro “Ready,” featuring one of the most important figures in hip-hop, Doug E. Fresh. Known as the “human beat box,” Doug E. Fresh would go on to inspire artists such as Biz Markie, Rahzel, Timbaland, and countless others. Prominently featured on the opener “Ready,” Doug E. Fresh proves that he’s still got the skills. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Big Boi – “Order of Operations”
While Big Boi hasn’t been able to release an entire album of amazing material since he first went solo back with 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, but he’s still undeniably one of the greatest rappers of all time, especially with enough Outkast credits to propel him to rapper-superstardom. On Boomiverse‘s “Order of Operations,” Big Boi raps about his day-to-day money stacking with some of the most unmatched flows around. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Big K.R.I.T. – “Big Bank (feat. T.I.)”
A rapper from Mississippi, Big K.R.I.T. embodies the era of Southern rap made famous by artists such as Outkast, Ludacris, and T.I., one such style that K.R.I.T. is able to emulate and thrive upon greatly. He might not have the deepest lyrics or complex songs, but he’s one of the most energetic and charismatic rappers on the mic. Joining up with the latter member of the above list, T.I., for “Big Bank” off of his latest record 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, K.R.I.T. demonstrates the strength of the classic Southern sound over a fantastic beat that he also produced himself.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Black Thought – “Who Want It” by David Banner, as well as radio freestyles for Sway in the Morning and Funkmaster Flex
Tarik Trotter, a.k.a. Black Thought of the Roots, should never be underestimated. The Philly rapper is technically and intellectually one of the best in the game, with fans often stating that their I.Q. gets raised just from listening to his bars. Besides his excellent verses on Rapsody’s “Nobody,” his feature on David Banner’s “Who Want It” was awarded the Best Verse of May 2017, as well as taking October and December for his radio appearances on Sway in the Morning with Method Man and Funkmaster Flex. In a world where Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper alive, Black Thought still had the most titles for Best Verse of the Month in 2017, making the argument for who Kendrick’s competition is seem to change rosters.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
BEST NEW ARTIST(S) 2017 | Brockhampton
A rap group that defines itself as a “boy band,” Brockhampton is one of the rowdiest and most entertaining big rap cliques since Odd Future. Composed of Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Matt Champion, JOBA, bearface, producers Romil Hemnani and Q3, graphic designer HK, videographer Robert Ontenient, and lead rapper Kevin Abstract, the group has been redefining and blending genres as much as they are raising the bars for creativity.
A bonus, comes with Kevin Abstract being one of the fiercest and most talented openly-gay rappers in the game, winning the title of Best Verse of August 2017 for the song “Junky.” Their trilogy of records in 2017, Saturation, Saturation II, and Saturation III, contained some of the best material of the year, from tracks like “Gold,” “Tokyo,” and “Johnny.” Whether 2018 will spell a split of solo careers or another bevy of material, it’s clear that Brockhampton are a force to be reckoned with. (YouTube | Apple Music | Spotify)
Calvin Harris – “Slide (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)”
Song of the Summer, “Slide” kicked off Frank Ocean’s run of singles that kept him in superb relevance throughout 2017. It brought respect to the name Calvin Harris, a remix and pop-production DJ that had previously been known for more dance-centric tracks like “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” with Rihanna. On “Slide,” Calvin, with the help of Frank Ocean and Migos, was able to create a sound of his own, that still connected on other tracks on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, such as “Prayers Up (feat. Travis Scott & A-Track).” (Apple Music | Spotify)
Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”
Holding the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks, Cardi B’s song “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” achieved the title of “Longest-Running No. 1 Hit Solo Song by a Female Rapper.” The title was previously held by Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing),” released 23 years ago, making Lauryn Hill and Cardi B the only two female rappers in history to have solo No. 1 hits. I doubt Cardi will ever be able to pull off another hit as large as this, but “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” was a large enough hit to launch Cardi B to stardom, and the Billboard honor isn’t anything to take lightly. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Daniel Caesar – Freudian
The first full album on the list thus far, Daniel Caesar’s Freudian coincided with his appearance on Colbert for a new Chance the Rapper song. The connection was incredibly obvious, as Caesar’s lush, gospel-R&B driven sound is so naturally inclined to meet Chance, as well as his collaborations with R&B singer H.E.R. He isn’t the first singer to have faith and church rooted deep within his music, but he isn’t following some trend in gospel-R&B infusion, taking the style to new heights. (YouTube | Apple Music | Spotify)
DJ Khaled – “Wild Thoughts (feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller)”
DJ Khaled isn’t present on an ounce of Grateful‘s material, other than the occasional screams of “we the best!,” “another one!,” and “Asahd, my son, I love you!”, but he’s somehow able to gather this star-studded roster to make albums for him over and over again. Both tracks weren’t really designed to impress as much as they were designed to be radio hits, but that doesn’t mean these two choice cuts off of Grateful anything less than fun. They were good radio and club anthems in which one obviously succeeded more than the other, but hey, not every song can have Rihanna on it… or could it? (Apple Music | Spotify)
Drake – “Passionfruit” and Dennis Graham – “Kinda Crazy”
Drake, one of the most listened to artists worldwide, has, in my opinion, around 1-2 good songs a year. This year, his “playlist” More Life (that was actually just an album), had some good songs with “Passionfruit,” “Fake Love,” and the entirely Sampha track “4422,” but it was Drake’s father, Dennis, that really shook the world for the Graham’s in 2017. With his song “Kinda Crazy,” Dennis Graham achieved a level of cute and cool that his son had been playing with for years In just four minutes, a statement made even more true with the release of Drake’s Virginia Black whiskey ad. I might not be a huge Drake fan, but I can get behind what Dennis is putting down so far. (Drake: Apple Music | Spotify) (Dennis Graham: YouTube | Apple Music | Spotify)
Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”
Pure Comedy didn’t have the same magic that I Love You, Honeybear had, but for Father John Misty it was a very different time and a very different record. I Love You, Honeybear was a record from the ex-Fleet Foxes drummer that was more honest then it was pretentious, and more human then it was cheesy, but Pure Comedy was more of an album built on turning wry comments out of dystopia. “Pure Comedy” is more like his song “Holy Shit” cranked up to eleven. At times witty and others a bit pretentious, the title-track, “Pure Comedy,” held all of the best ideas of what the record had to offer. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Foxygen – “Follow the Leader”
One of the oddest bands of 2017, yet still one of the most entertaining, New Jersey rockers Foxygen put out their most maximalist song to date with “Follow the Leader,” a song that, like most of their material, transitions between different thematic moments like a “Strawberry Fields Forever”-themed wet dream. Anthemic and huge, throughout the entirety of the record Hang as well, “Follow the Leader” marked a new high point for Foxygen. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Frank Ocean – “Chanel,” “Provider,” and “Biking (feat. Jay-Z & Tyler, the Creator)”
Frank Ocean kept his single rollouts strong following last year’s releases of Endless and the stellar follow-up to Channel Orange, Blonde. With “Chanel,” Frank Ocean expertly crafts the Chanel logo into a symbol that stands for bisexuality, pours his heart out over tracks like “Provider” and “Lens,” and even created a bouncing Summer jam in the Fall with “Biking” featuring both Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator with so hype.
He might be a reclusive artist, but he’s churned out so much music ever since Endless dropped and he built that staircase that it’s almost as if it’s in spite of his fans’ constant Twitter rants and internet freak-outs at every little mention of new Frank material. Whatever 2018 has in store for Frank Ocean, I’m sure it’ll be just as amazing. (YouTube | Apple Music | Spotify)
Gorillaz – “Andromeda (feat. D.R.A.M.)” & “Ascension (feat. Vince Staples)”
Gorillaz is one of the coolest bands on the planet—specifically because they don’t really exist. While Humanz, their latest project, wasn’t the kind of Gorillaz record we’ve come to be used to and love, coming off more like a mixtape of random collaborations than an album. Two of the greatest collaborations in the list however, come with the tracks with D.R.A.M. and Vince Staples, as Vince encapsulates the “end of the world dance party” vibe that Damon Albarn has been cultivating, while D.R.A.M. beautifully helps Albarn pay tribute to a lost loved one. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
Painted Ruins holds Grizzly Bear at their very best musically, with tracks such as “Three Rings” and “Wasted Acres” displaying the musical intelligence within each individual band member. It’s also interesting to note that “Mourning Sound” is probably their most radio-friendly track since “Two Weeks,” and it exists on a record that is otherwise their most musically and lyrically complex. As Rossen says at the end of “Four Cypresses,” “it’s chaos but it works.” (Apple Music | Spotify)
Higher Brothers – “Made in China (feat. Famous Dex)”
IDK – “No Shoes On the Rug, Leave Them At the Door”
IDK, formerly Jay IDK, is a rising rapper from Maryland, using his juvenile experience incarcerated to carve a new niche in promoting youth engagement out of gangs in his song “No Shoes On the Rug, Leave Them At the Door.” It’s a beautiful and captivating track in which IDK details growing up with strict mother that worked all the time to provide for him, while he was an angsty teen getting in danger. Eventually placed in prison, IDK comes to realize that his mother did what she had to do for him to have a better life, and comes to love her for it.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Iron & Wine – “Claim Your Ghost”
Sean Beam, the singer-songwriter known as Iron & Wine for the past fifteen years, has made a career out of whispery, little indie rock songs, most notably known for his incredibly quiet and intimate cover of “Such Great Heights.” His album cover for Our Endless Numbered Days, his second studio album, depicts a painting of a man lying down in the grass, one such illustration that accurately defines Iron & Wine entirely. His new song, “Claim Your Ghost,” sees Beam fully come into his own, and it’s a beautiful new beginning. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Jaws of Love. – Tabitha Sits Close to the Piano
Jaws of Love., a.k.a. Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives, steps back from the more digitally produced Local Natives’ record Sunlit Youth, and returns to the days of Hummingbird, going for more of a minimalist approach on his debut solo record. Titled Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, the record was named by his wife after their dog Tasha’s location to Kelcey as he wrote the album, songs that feature quiet memories and emotional moments with his wife, a love made even more intimate by the instrumentation and tone of the album. It’s a love-letter packaged in the simplest form, and that’s all it needs to be. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Jay-Z – 4:44
4:44 wasn’t a Lemonade-response record—it was a confession. Opening with the track “Kill Jay Z,” Jay calls for the death of his ego, puts the hyphen back in his name, and sets the cathartic tone of the record. It was a new voice for Jay-Z, as he threw aside most traditional rap-cliches to produce something truly from the heart with the wisdom that one would hope and expect to hear coming from one of the greatest rappers of all time. (Apple Music)
J.I.D. – “EdEddnEddy”
The newest signee to J. Cole’s Dreamville label, East Atlanta rapper J.I.D. has a unique voice unlike any you’ve heard before. With guest appearances from 6LACK, Frank Dukes, and writing/production from J. Cole himself, his debut record The Never Story was a surprising release from left field. Earning a spot on the Roseandblog’s 2017 Freshman Class, J.I.D. has that rare ability to find a sound of his own to help him rise out of the Atlanta rapper clutter, and I’m excited to see where it may take him. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
Joey Bada$$’s All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is a concept-rap record built on the struggles of being black in America that I haven’t seen as successful since Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and even that record was arguably more personal than political. Sure, it’s a topic that’s been covered in contemporary R&B and rap ton recently, but All Amerikkkan Bada$$ is truly one of the greatest and cohesive concept rap records that I’ve heard in a good while. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
Two years ago, Kamasi Washington, a jazz saxophonist and composer out of California, was simply an accompanying, albeit key player for some of our favorite artist’s albums, most notably Kendrick Lamar, Terrace Martin, Thundercat, and Flying Lotus. Following a truly Epic triple-disc album, one amazing Meadows interview with yours truly, and a place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2017 Biennial, Kamasi Washington no longer sits behind his contemporaries. Harmony of Difference, an EP containing his piece for the Whitney Biennial, uses the ideas and concepts of counterpoint to express a message of unity, and continues to display Kamasi’s musical genius. (Apple Music | Spotify)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2017 | Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
In what was essentially a clap-back at Fox News, Kendrick Lamar’s anger and frustration at a world that couldn’t grasp his message from his previous and instant-classic of a record To Pimp a Butterfly, of course evolves past one emotion, tackling the broadest spectrum of Kendrick’s psyche yet on what is probably also his most radio-friendly release to date. DAMN. is not only as entirely complex as every Kendrick Lamar record, but it’s also Kendrick at his darkest and most aggressive.
While Kendrick’s inner war rages, so does the world around him. and if his message of unity and love didn’t resonate enough from To Pimp a Butterfly, maybe a narrative in which the new, and arguably greatest rapper of all time, is as mortal and troubled as everyone else. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Kendrick Lamar – “Mask Off (Remix)” by Future
Of course, Kendrick didn’t stop at his own release, as the greatest rapper of the past five years had an insane amount of amazing features in 2017 as well, with Rapsody, Thundercat, SZA, and especially a remix of Future’s “Mask Off.” In Kendrick Lamar’s Verse on the Remix of Future’s “Mask Off” Exemplifies What It Means to Be the G.O.A.T., I wrote that Kendrick was a “good king” because his verse proved that “he is as a part of the rap culture as he is above it,” and it’s true even today.
Here, Kendrick not only tips his hat to highly commercial contemporaries such as Future, but also adds his take on one of the most popular rap tracks of today. He’s called the best rapper alive, sometimes even the greatest of all time, but he’s still one of us—a voice both for and of the people. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Llif3”
One of the most popular songs of 2017, Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” is an incredibly dark song about pretty much every sin there is with the chorus “all my friends are dead, push me to the edge.” Less of a celebratory use however, in comparison to tracks from Future and Young Thug’s discography, Lil Uzi Vert’s struggle seems like an inescapable void of drugs, women, greed, and vanity that he’s succumbed to and given up all hope.
Trapped in this hellscape, it took his friend and fellow rapper Lil Peep to overdose earlier this year for him to be able to break free and declare wishes for a sober life. “XO Tour Llif3,” named after the tour The Weeknd took him out on, might just be another dark, drug-induced trap banger, but deep down it feels more like a cry for help than it does a celebration. One of the best songs of the year, Lil Uzi’s breakout single also does wonders for the expansion of the sound of trap music, and it helps that it’s also catchy as hell. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Lil Yachty – “Forever Young (feat. Diplo)”
I’m not the largest Lil Yachty fan aside from aesthetic, but on his record this year, he had a real good hit here with “Forever Young” thanks to some better production and direction from well-known producer Diplo. It’s a bouncey and fun track matched with an equally cute and light-hearted video from the young auto-tuner, and accompanies similar songs on the record such as “Better,” and the more forlorn “All You Had to Say,” paving the way for better Lil Yachty songs as he matures. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Lorde – Melodrama
Making its way onto the #1 spot for Album of the Year for Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, and NME, Lorde’s latest record Melodrama was her best yet/ There are a good amount of cringe-worthy moments made on the record, but her decision to remain a different artist than most Top 40 pop stars really shows here, as she adds unnatural sounding vocal lines on “Green Light” and an interesting blend of dynamics, whispers, and instrumentation on “Sober,” my favorite track on the record.
Lorde even stuck it to legendary songwriter Max Martin, by including the key change that completely changes “Green Light” after only the first minute, despite his advice against it. The record proves not just that Lorde can stand behind what she believes in when it comes to songwriting, but that she can successfully challenge the genre’s industry-norms. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
On This Old Dog, Mac DeMarco brings his “jizz-jazz” folk style to a more mature theme of growing old, and as always, falling in and out of love. With the exceptionally crazy antics appearing less frequently and the love songs filled with more self-awareness, the lyrics of This Old Dog really feel like DeMarco maturing as a songwriter and as a person. There’s something calming about hearing an artist mature while still being able to remain themselves, and on This Old Dog, it’s refreshing to hear something so familiar sound so new. (Apple Music | Spotify)
MC Eiht – Which Way Iz West
The most classic West Coast gangsta record of the year, legendary Compton rapper MC Eiht made a huge comeback on what was a generally slept on release with Which Way Iz West. Featuring fellow West Coast alumni such as the Outlawz (Tupac’s old group), B-Real, Kurupt, Xzibit, and the Lady of Rage (who earned Best Verse of July 2017), MC Eiht shows that even old flows can still be great, especially with this lineup and some exceptional production. Teaming up with the legendary DJ Premier and his recently signed Austrian DJ, Brenk Sinatra, MC Eiht newest release is exactly what all “old-head” rappers making a comeback should strive for. (Apple Music | Spotify)
The National – Sleep Well Beast
It’s hard to stay unbiased about the National, my favorite band of all time, but Sleep Well Beast is nonetheless another fantastic record from the band of brothers, one that perfectly likens the failing of a marriage to the current political climate. The reality of Sleep Well Beast is deeper than its surface, as it portrays how anxiety and fear, two emotions on high in 2017, can affect domestic life.
Coupled with experimentations of drum loops and synths, gritty guitars, and some of the most intimately recorded vocals of their entire career, Sleep Well Beast proves that the band’s strength lies in being heartwarming even in despair, and like all National records, it’s hauntingly beautiful. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Oddisee – “Like Really”
Winner of the Best Verse of January 2017, Oddisee’s “Like Really” addresses systemic racism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and recent political events in this country with an incredibly smooth yet direct and catchy flow. Where Oddisee came sometimes be too political or stagnantly dense, “Like Really” shows the MC at his best on all sides, lyrically and technically. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Offset & Metro Boomin – “Ric Flair Drip”
Earning the title of Best Verse of November 2017, Offset and Metro Boomin’ collaboration not only bumps, but cements Offset as the best Migos member. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of Migos, or even the lyrics here on “Ric Flair Drip,” but Offset’s impressive six-tuplet flow can’t be slighted. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still”
I don’t know how this song ever came out of prog. rockers Portugal. the Man, but this pop number “Feel it Still” someone came to life anyway. Like a 2017 version of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks, it’s radio-friendly and super catchy.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
Destiny Frasqueri, a.k.a. Princess Nokia, doesn’t care what you think of her. Rising out of the New York City rap scene, Nokia’s vibe is fairly more aggressive than her contemporaries, but unlike the violent nature of the Florida rap movement, Nokia uses her angsty nature to speak about her insecurities becoming strengths and the volatile feelings that come with being young and seemingly indestructible. 1992 Deluxe acts as a solid sampler of the up-and-coming female MC who’s “that weird girl that’s runnin’ shit.” (Apple Music | Spotify)
Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
One of the best rap albums of the year, Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom dispels any and all doubts, as her straight-forward flow stomps through some of the best hip-hop production since To Pimp A Butterfly. With help from some of the best names in hip-hop, this record not only bumps but sounds truly amazing, thanks to production from legendary DJ 9th Wonder.
Rapsody isn’t the most diverse when it comes to flow or inventive rhythmic variety, as she mainly has a one-track mind that occasionally impresses with a complex rhyme scheme, but with such an amazing team and production behind her, it supports her single flow and delivery as best as any artist could ask for. I included her in my conversation for the new Queen of Rap back in April, and now with a beautifully defining album like Laila’s Wisdom, she might’ve snatched the crown. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Rick Ross – “Santorini Greece”
Earning Best Verse of March 2017 for the 3rd verse of “Santorini Greece,” Rick Ross a rapper that I usually love for the aesthetics and sound of his voice way more than I do his lyrics, actually put out a pretty decent record with Rather You Than Me, possibly one of his best records in a long time. Speaking about more than just his wealth, Ross actually rhymes about racism and how hard it was for him to become as successful as he is today. He also does it with some damn decent wordplay such as “when you black, lips chapped ’cause the game cold” and “my money long, you know I’m out your reach.” (Apple Music | Spotify)
Sampha – Process
The process of songwriting is something that artists don’t always share right away, but when they do it’s usually something like “it just came to me.” On his debut record however, aptly titled Process, British-signer Sampha dives into a little more than the average case of writer’s block. Lost love, anxiety, and his mother’s losing battle with cancer are just for starters.
The record is a beautiful yet haunting peak into Sampha’s psyche, and one of the better debuts I’ve heard in a long time. It’s not just about Sampha processing some deep and emotional events to recently strike his life, but about processing emotions in of itself, and how one deals with hardships or hard to define concepts like anxiety, death, and love. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Smino – blkswn
Smino might be from St. Louis, but his Chicago days in college seemed to have a profound effect on his sound as well. One of the smoothest yet bounciest artists in rap/R&B, Smino’s hazy and hiccupy voice glides over the tripped-up instrumentals. Full of political themes, young drinking, and musings on life, blkswn is at fun sounding as it is artful. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Statik Selektah – 8
Statik Selektah, one of the most prominent New York producers in his prime, gathered a massive guest list for 8, including Run the Jewels, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Action Bronson, Wale, Joey Bada$$, G-Eazy, The Lox, Gunn, Conway, Joyner Lucas, Curren$y, PnB Rock, Raekwon, Royce da 5’9″, B-Real, No Malice, and even posthumous verses from Prodigy and Sean Price. The beats are all incredible, specifically the tracks with Run the Jewels and Action Bronson, and Statik is even able to make artists like 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa sound great.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
For UK’s next Prince of Grime, Stormzy perfectly combines paying respects to grime’s past while simultaneously reinventing it, especially on his breakout single “Big For Your Boots,” one of the standout rap tracks of 2017. With tracks like “Velvet,” “Cigarettes & Kush,” “Blinded By Your Grace,” and “100 Bags,” Stormzy is able to show the subtler and and smoother side of UK rap, as well as the hard hitters such as “Cold.” Like most Grime rappers, there’s always a disconnect in the lack of dense lyricism, but with Gang Signs as his debut, the young rapper has a lot to move forward with. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Syd – Fin
One of my favorite records of the year, Syd Bennett, the lead member of the band The Internet, broke off for her official solo debut with Fin, a pop-leading record with tons of swag, trap hi-hats, and dreamy synths to match older Weeknd records. The best part about Fin however isn’t the music and production, but how smooth Syd glides her melodies over all twelve tracks.
Singing about women just like any other major R&B star, Syd’s sexuality permeates every track seamlessly, writing a track like “Body” to be the “baby-making anthem of 2017.” Fin not only demonstrates Syd’s growth and sheer confidence as a fantastic R&B singer, but also her versatility—a tour through the sounds of today’s music, and Syd’s excellent spin on the current trends. (Apple Music | Spotify)
SZA – Ctrl
The closest contender for album of the year, SZA’s Ctrl is one of the most empowering works from a female R&B singer since Solange’s record last year. Ctrl is a record the dives into all of the “ugliness,” as she puts in, in her life, covering everything from feeling insecure to wanting real love and respect. “Love Galore (feat. Travis Scott)” was by far the catchiest song of the year, and tracks like “Supermodel,” “Doves in the Wind,” “Normal Girl” and “The Weekend,” provided her with a style and voice all her own.
With CTRL, SZA joins the ranks of a rare set of artists today that simply understand the modern human condition, and in doing so can produce brutally honest yet artistic records that somehow say more by just saying it candidly and genuinely. (Apple Music | Spotify)
T-Pain – “Textin’ My Ex (feat. Tiffany Evans)”
T-Pain’s return wasn’t the record of hits that it was meant to be since his resurgence on the remix of Desiigner’s “Panda,” but the track “Textin’ My Ex (feat. Tiffany Evans)” was the sole embodiment of what a record of T-Pain songs in 2017 should sound like. Full of smooth and catchy melodies, T-Pain will always be the king of autotune. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Taylor Bennett – “Grown Up Fairy Tales (feat. Chance the Rapper & Jeremih)”
One of the cutest and most heartwarming tracks of 2017, of course, came from Taylor Bennett’s record. Sure, having Chance the Rapper as an older brother certainly helps, especially since he has ties to Jeremih, but Taylor sounds just at home on “Grown Up Fairytales” as Chance does. Being Chance’s younger brother, Taylor has to be exceptional to get praise on his own, but his past record was one of his bests yet, with “Grown Up Fairy Tales” his best song since “Broad Shoulders.” (Apple Music | Spotify)
Taylor Swift – “End Game (feat. Future & Ed Sheeran)”
“End Game” is a good song, and no one agrees with me. It’s a point I made in the post of the same name, and one such opinion that I stand by today. Most of Reputation is purely repugnant, but Taylor’s new style, accompanied by Future and Ed Sheeran, really shines on “End Game,” a track that few music critics would agree is a good song. Check out the review for all my reasoning.
I’ve never felt any ill will towards Taylor Swift, though I can’t say I’ve ever truly enjoyed one of her songs until now, and I do completely understand where the issues, frustrations and distrust of her fundamentally stem from, but I do believe that “End Game” is a solid four minutes where the insatiable fan can become the appeased and a wider image of the pop-star can be viewed, at least for the moment, less as an overly calculated, borderline-unnecessary, cringe-filled clap-back, and more as a human. (Apple Music | Spotify)
3D Na’Tee – “I’m Back”
3D Na’Tee is one of my favorite female MC’s. She’s highly overlooked, as the lead figure in my argument of who could be the new Queen of Rap is almost hardly known. Nonetheless, she could battle-rap with the best, and her newest track “I’m Back” proves that she could go on for bars, with catchy choruses to revival that of Nicki Minaj. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Terrace Martin Presents: The Pollyseeds – Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1
When Terrace Martin isn’t producing songs for Kendrick Lamar, he’s a fantastic saxophone player, and his connections to the jazz-meets-hip-hop-world of Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, and Thundercat set up what he calls “The Pollyseeds,” a sort of super-group of the best in jazz and funk music today. Functioning as the producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Terrace Martin has now released two amazing jazz/funk records, including last year’s Velvet Portraits, and one can only hope the “Vol. 1” description can only indicate a “Vol. 2” to follow.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Thundercat – Drunk
Thundercat is your stereotypical nerd: he has an odd sense of humor, he’s introverted, and he’s obsessed with anime. Tack on a disposition for music theory and some of the funkiest bass lines of today and you have the talent to feature on records by artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Erykah Badu. On Drunk, his third studio record, Thundercat seems to be super excited, singing about his daily life and showing off his personality through some of his most upbeat and earnest material yet. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Twista – “Mortuary (feat. Vic Spencer)”
I don’t know where this song came from, as there hasn’t really been a great Twista verse since Chance the Rapper’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” and before that who knows since “Slow Jamz” with Kanye West, but Twista hooked up with rapper Vic Spencer to not only further confuse me mixing up his name with Vic Mensa, but to release one of the coolest and most slept on tracks of the year. With the smoothest Dilla/Doom-esque beat, Twista glides over the production the only way he knows how, and even throws some of that classic double-time in for fun.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
Another one of my absolute favorite records of the year, Tyler’s maturity throughout Flower Boy is truly astounding, and the record is easily my favorite release from the young Odd Future rapper so far. Ditching the heinous lyrics of Odd Future’s past to show a softer, yet always controversial side. Tyler also talks about his battle with depression, the Black Lives Matter movement, his own shattered ego, fame, and lost love.
If anything, Flower Boy feels like an escape for Tyler, like most of his records do, in which he can exit his life and go to a place where he can process all of his thoughts, good or bad, in some stream of consciousness universe. This is the heart of Flower Boy, where thoughts of anxiety, fear, depression, and maybe even coming out of the closet, can be quickly rapped and then drowned out in beautiful melodies.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Vagabon – Infinite Worlds
My favorite female-led guitar rock album of 2017, Vagabon’s Infinite Worlds reminded me of the great Indie Rock records of the 2000’s, mixed with up-to-date production and a new voice. Like most of indie rock music these days, it’s led by powerful and emotional female singers, paving the way for an industry thought dead, but just transformed. Based in NYC, lead-singer Laetitia Tamko, a Cameroon-born singer/songwriter, embodies the future of indie rock with fellow like-minded artists Courtney Barnett, Frankie Cosmos, and Mitski.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
Vince Staples – “Big Fish”
Winner of the 2017 Man of the Bounce Award for “most braggadocios and bounciest song of the year,” Vince Staples‘ “Big Fish” was one of the coolest rap tracks out this year, with Vince one the funniest and most entertaining artists to match. Produced by Christian Rich, the track is one for the books, as are Vince’s braggadocios verses, with the initial switch from the deep-register chorus to Vince’s opening line one of the coolest moments of 2017. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Wu-Tang Clan – “People Say”
A new Wu-Tang Clan track is rare enough, especially with the group selling off records for millions of dollars that we’ll probably never hear, but a new and good Wu-Tang Clan track is even rarer. The latest Wu-Tang single, “People Say (feat. Redman),” is everything a Wu-Tang should be, showcasing all the best members of the group flowing classically over amazing RZA production.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
XXXTentacion – “Jocelyn Flores”
Probably the most controversial artist of 2017, XXXTentacion represents the new emo side of trap music, but on his record 17, he took the dial down from 11 to release one of the most infectious choruses of the year. Sure, it doesn’t come without controversy, as the song includes themes of the incident wherein he beat his then-pregnant ex-girlfriend that he’s currently in court battles for, but I continue to hold the opinion that people who make horrible decisions and actions can still make good art.
It’s a conundrum that I face with a lot of artists today, wherein I refuse to condone or accept their behavior outside of the music (or with some even lyrically), but still enjoy listening to their music. I can’t deny or forget XXX’s very real charges, but I can admit that I do really enjoy a good amount of this record. Even Kendrick Lamar promoted it. XXXTentacion, purely in conversation with his music, currently represents a different side to rap’s emerging punk angst over the past two years—a darker, cathartic niche that solidifies a potential, highly influential experiment for rap’s youngest generation. (Apple Music | Spotify)
Young Thug – “Family Don’t Matter (feat. Millie Go Lightly)”
Another controversial artist, Young Thug’s lyrics are usually horrendous. Even on this song here, if he didn’t begin with “trying to put my d**k inside your panties,” it would be a perfect song. In reality, “Family Don’t Matter” is a really funny and kind of cute song about how he would do anything for this girl, saying that his “family doesn’t matter” and listing other things he would do for her, all over a blend of trap-beats and guitar, something that no other artist would have been able to even slightly pull off.
Sure, it doesn’t work for the whole, pretty horrible record, and he’s even holding the guitar upside down on the album cover, but for the opening track “Family Don’t Matter,” Young Thug, for a moment, gets it all pretty much right.
(Apple Music | Spotify)
I don’t know if everyone loves cringe-worthy content as much as I do, but it feels weird ending the Best Music of 2017 list not with Album of the Year, but with two singles from some of the most controversial artists of the year, the latter of which was the only good song they even released this year.
Sure, I wanted the list to be in alphabetical order, because I believe ranking albums #3 over #4 is pretty arbitrary when you get to the top 5, but nonetheless, ending on Young Thug doesn’t feel that much better either. So, I’ve decided to go even deeper, choosing to end this tumultuous year with what the Roseandblog calls the Worst Song of 2017.
WORST SONG OF 2017 | “Kamasutra” by Juicy J and Cardi B
Possibly even weirder than ending a Best of the Year list with the Worst of the Year is following Young Thug with Juicy J, or even more so, including an artist like Cardi B on both the “Best of” and “Worst of” sides of the list. Easily the worst track of the year, Juicy J and Cardi B’s “Kamasutra” is by far one of the grossest and most disgusting uses of the English language, like the worst smut movie come to life and making us wish we never had ears to begin with. I won’t spoil the horrors laden in the chorus and verses of “Kamasutra,” but if you can even make it through the first minute, I’m sure you’ll agree with the selection for Worst Song of 2017.
Hope you enjoyed the list of the best music of 2017, even all the way through to the most controversial songs and the winner (or loser?) for Worst Song of 2017. As always, you can jam out to these songs and more with me by shuffling the Roseandblog *Hot 200* playlist via Apple Music here (Spotify coming soon), and let me know what you thought of the list by dropping your thoughts in the comments below. See you again shortly in 2018!