Top Hip-Hop and R&B Albums of 2017 So Far
1. DAMN. –Kendrick Lamar
It might be safe to say TDE released the top Hip-Hop and R&B albums this year. Released in April, DAMN. was one of the most anticipated rap albums of 2017. Lamar unleashed “Kung-Fu Kenny” in this 14-track project that will have you listen a couple times through, just in case you miss any hidden meanings in his rhymes.
The Compton rapper enlisted select features including Rihanna for “LOYALTY,” which he just released a video with a couple of days ago. The other two are not who you would expect with Zacari and U2 lending some vocals. A hidden gem would definitely be “LOVE” featuring Zacari because the song is beautiful and well placed within the album.
Nothing short of amazing, the fourth album from the lyricist puts Kendrick among the top in the rap game, although it is debatable where he ranks compared to other elite rappers.
2. 4:44 – Jay Z
There are two points of views throughout this album: one from Jay-Z, and one from Shawn Carter. Jay-Z drops some game throughout the album with songs like “The Story of OJ.” This track shows that a black man, no matter what he may think, is still a black man in today’s society. With police brutalities around the world still prevalent, Jay Z essentially says that there is a stigma that comes with being black and never to forget that. The other side of 4:44’s story would be the most anticipated topic fans have waited for… infidelity.
Shawn Carter opens up about his side of the story, sometimes referencing Beyoncé’s popular Lemonade album. Admitting he was in the wrong, he gets deeply personal about the repercussions within his family, including Blue. Executively produced by No I.D., this album is definitely one of the best albums of the year.
3. More Life – Drake
Of course, Drake made this list. With multiple hits getting radio play, and plenty of features, More Life ranks highly even though it is considered to be a “playlist.” It is almost impossible not to hear “Passionfruit” in your car with its catchy hook and rhythmic beat all over the radio.
Also delivering bars with the intro “Free Smoke” and speaking about “drunk texting” Jennifer Lopez, you can’t forget Drake is actually a rapper. With songs like “Portland,” Can’t Have Everything,” and “Do Not Disturb,” the 6 God gives us enough to go on for a while. It is also worth noting that European rappers like Skepta and Giggs are featured on this project, which expands this to a global reach. Being a very calculated artist, it is not surprising how diverse this “playlist” is.
4. Ctrl – SZA
It has been four years since SZA released another project and she clearly has been missed. Ctrl is easily one of the best albums this year with song concepts so real and relatable that make you want to listen over and over.
Standout song “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott has been gaining traction through radio play as the two artists come together to create a track that’s very catchy and make you jam to it. Other features from label mate Kendrick Lamar and songwriter James Fauntleroy give this album a push in the right direction. Simply put, there hasn’t been anything released like this album this year.
5. I Decided. – Big Sean
Definitely one of the most underrated albums this year, Big Sean released I Decided. with the intent on being among the top five rappers. Although it may be debatable, there is no doubt he is a great M.C. after dropping this project.
“Bounce Back” is definitely a standout being produced by Metro Boomin and gives off an inspirational vibe to brush yourself off and go for it. A hidden gem within this album is “Sunday Morning Jetpack” featuring The-Dream and is beautiful. Talking about being blessed and all his family did for him, now it’s flipped he gets to return the favor.
Eminem also appears on “No Favors” and gives an insane verse. It is only fitting, as they are both from Detroit. This album is special and among his best work, as Big Sean proves he is top tier.
6. Culture – Migos
They had to do it for the culture. Definitely a top album this year, Culture has included several singles from Migos that prove they really put in work. Released in January and packed with features, this album is a solid piece of work and ad libs that still provides music for the summer.
With the breakout hit “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, it took the group in a mainstream direction being played every single day on the radio. Migos have arrived and are set to drop Culture 2 later this year.
7. ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$ delivers a powerful album with ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$ as it represents what it is like to be a black man in today’s America. Much different than what is usually released today, this gives a real and authentic, old school vibe, and it is what is needed in hip hop.
It furthers the discussion of politics, and one song in particular featuring J. Cole called “LEGENDARY” is a standout. It shows where Joey is willing to go as far as his music and gives a voice to what a lot of people are feeling at this time in the U.S.
8. The Autobiography – Vic Mensa
Allowing the ability to stream this album a week early, Vic Mensa releases his story on The Autobiography. This being his debut album through Roc Nation, he said in a recent interview that Jay Z gave him his blessing. It certainly adds to the hype.
The Chicago MC gets deeply personal as he raps about infidelity and suicide. At one point, he says he was in his bathroom with a gun thinking about taking his life. He admits he was in a dark place at the time but is in a better place now. Also talking about cheating on his girlfriend, the outcome from that was not what he expected as he further goes into detail on “Homewrecker.”
There are a number of features on the project like SYD, Pharrell, and The-Dream. Executively produced by No I.D. like Jay Z’s 4:44, it is sure to catch some buzz in the upcoming weeks.
9. Sweet Sexy Savage – Kehlani
Kehlani has been releasing great music for a while now. With two mixtapes already available, dropping her debut album at the top of the year cemented that she is not going anywhere anytime soon.
It is rare that there is an album that every song is as good as the last one, and this is one of those albums. Providing smooth vocals to great production gives the project an uplifting vibe. Kehlani has said herself that she did not want any sad songs, and she makes it work.
It is also worth mentioning that she has no features whatsoever, and she definitely doesn’t need any. Despite going through a lot last year, the songstress made sure to make 2017 a good one.
10. Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator
Another anticipated album this year, Tyler, The Creator releases a much talked about album Scum Fuck Flower Boy. He implies he has been involved with men romantically before and it is not as big of a deal as you think. The media has been going crazy over it more than his actual fans interestingly.
Anyway, there are a lot of high profile features on this album with Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne, and Jaden Smith being ones that catch your eye. This project goes in a different direction as far as what fans hear. The production is more instrumental and laid back. It’s definitely something you could get on vinyl.
To sum it up, Tyler has shown growth and has bloomed into an artist to be listened to more seriously.
11. American Teen – Khalid
It is not surprising the success Khalid has received this year. “Location” is one of the best songs to come out and with the release of American Teen, it highlights everything we need to know about the El Paso native. It also helps to be going on tour with Travis Scott.
Going in depth about those youthful years through great production and songwriting gives off a fresh feeling to this project. A sense of feeling empowered by chilling with your friends at that age is a theme throughout the album and Khalid brings us back to our teenage years. Whether it be having a crush, love, heartbreak, or having fun, there is a lot of potential on American Teen and sure to be more to come.
12. At What Cost – Goldlink
The D.C. rapper came out with quite the album. Although it is not the first we have heard of him, At What Cost is the first album from a major label, and it is definitely a step up. Although you might not be familiar with Goldlink, this project is a great introduction.
He has released other projects in the past, but this is his best to date. Giving different sonics on this album shows he is not just another singer/rapper. His dancelike flow helps ease into more serious situations on the project. His rhymes prove to be relatable and the beats are great, and if you’re looking for new, you’ve found it.
13. Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
Definitely, one of the more experimental hip-hop albums to emerge this year, Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory emerges from the west coast. It has been a big year for Staples, landing a Sprite endorsement and releasing his sophomore album.
With hidden features throughout the project, Vince wanted people to listen to the album rather than just listen to a song just because of a feature. Kenrick Lamar and Ray J are among several on this album and add to the quality of music Staples puts out. There is no denying he is a great lyricist, it is just a matter of why don’t we hear more from him?
14. Wins and Losses – Meek Mill
Meek Mill hasn’t had the best two years. Breaking up with Nicki Minaj and the Drake beef sent him under the radar for a while. However, he is back with his new album Wins and Losses and gives us some insight on what his life has been like.
Hot off his single “Whatever You Need” featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, Wins And Losses comes at the perfect time for Meek. Documenting major events on his third project, he finally gives us his side of everything. He touches on trials and tribulations on and shows there is more than one way to win in life. It is important to note that he gives off an underdog persona and shines through on this 17-track album.
If you have been waiting on Meek Mill for a while, he doesn’t disappoint.
15. Grateful – DJ Khaled
DJ Khaled is on this list because he is great at what he does: bringing multiple artists together. On Grateful, we see collaborations we do not normally see in Hip Hop, one example being Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj, as well as Nas and Travis Scott.
With hits being released before the album came out, it only added more anticipation around it. “Shining,” which was written by Partynextdoor, was released at the beginning of the year right after the Grammys and it has been on the radio ever since. “I’m The One” and “Wild Thoughts” are definitely songs of the summer and on constant rotation today.
Another key component to this album is Asahd, Khaled’s son. He is seen on the cover and is too adorable. The producer definitely makes it known that he is “grateful” for everything that has happened in his life and this project adds to it.
16. True To Self – Bryson Tiller
One of the most anticipated albums in R&B this year was the Louisville singer/songwriter’s sophomore album True To Self. Delivering 19 tracks, the Louisville singer tells us where he is right now as far as relationships and music.
Although it may sound like what you expect from him, and similar to Trapsoul, Tiller goes more in depth about love, loss, and the business. With no features, there are plenty of gems on this project such as “Blowing Smoke,” “You Got It,” “Self-Made,” and “Before You Judge,” to name a few.
Tiller is about to embark on the “Set It Off” tour soon with special guest Metro Boomin and H.E.R. beginning August 3rd. Needless to say, he will have a lot of material to perform.
17. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music – 2 Chainz
2 Chainz certainly has improved the quality of music he has put out over the years and it stays true as he released Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. Filled with features, really showcasing Atlanta’s best, Chainz releases this 16-track album and it is one of his best. With standouts like “It’s A Vibe” with several features, it gives you a sense of what type of artist 2 Chainz really is.
Promos for the album included an actually pink trap house being made that offered a listening party, art, and even free HIV testing. This project definitely took 2 Chainz to another level and reminds us why he is needed in Hip Hop.
18. Jungle Rules – French Montana
With the hit “Unforgettable” featuring Swae Lee already under his belt, French Montana released Jungle Rules and it is exactly what you would expect from him. With A-list features such as The Weeknd, Future, Travis Scott, and Pharrell Williams, French is looking to receive big numbers from this album. A noteworthy song would be “A Lie” with The Weeknd and Max B, as it has great production and is sure to be a radio hit.