We live in a world where all your favorite songs are readily available at your fingertips. In 2017, artists responded by dropping music at an alarming rate. Similar to the fast pace of modern NBA basketball, the recording industry is now about volume-scoring and rapid offense. As in who drops the most consistently, who has the most plays, who has the most social media engagement, who’s goin viral, etc.
As much as I enjoy this constant wave of creative content, life is crazy and adulthood usually doesn’t give us much time to dig for new music; let alone have time to listen everything that drops. And when I do get time in my commutes to plug my iPhone in, I turn to podcasts for aural stimulation.
As a DJ in Las Vegas, I often rely on YouTube, the Soundcloud charts, or the Apple Music browse section to keep up with new releases. But digging for new tunes the night before a set always consists of “wait this dropped this year?” and “damn I slept on that”.
With all that said, I did catch some amazing music. To highlight some of my favorite songs, here is an Apple Music playlist.
Plenty of other albums are worth mentioning of course: Drake’s More Life, Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom, Big Sean’s I Decided, Jeff Bernat’s Afterwords, Goldlink’s At What Cost, Khalid’s American Teen, Thundercat’s Drunk, Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory, T. Rabb’s Free Throws, and much more. There are countless of EP’s that dropped this year, too many to name right now (including my own EP City Never Sleeps!). But below is a list of some of my personal favorite full-length releases from 2017.
What I love about SZA is that her songwriting is always a thoughtful perspective on love, life, and the pursuit of happiness. CTRL is the culmination of her growth, captured over stunning arrangements and infectiously catchy vocals. Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith teased her debut album for years, wishing fans to stay patient as they put it together. The stars finally aligned for SZA in 2017, perfect coinciding with the strong women’s movement taking control (pun intended) and dictating culture.
Fave Songs: “Broken Clocks”, “The Weekend”, “Love Galore”, “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”, “Drew Barrymore”
Before blessing us CTRL in June, Top Dawg Entertainment gifted us Damn with a bow and shiny wrapping. K. Dot looked to stamp his legacy with his 3rd major album and he did not disappoint. A new layer is peeled back after every listen. During my DJ sets, at least 2-3 from Damn will be played knowing a chunk of the crowd will riot louder in unison. Kendrick’s ability to stay grounded and relatable despite how high he has ascended in music history is why he is 1A in rap music (Drake is 1B).
Fave Songs: “DNA”, “Yah”, “Element”, “Loyalty”, “XXX”, “Love”, “Fear”, no honestly every song is equally great
With “Get You” and “Japanese Denim” already getting serious traction, Daniel Caesar seized the opportunity and dropped an impressive full-length debut. The emotional roller coasters of life in 2017 are transcribed through haunting pianos and guitars. Similar to how Blonde did in 2016, Freudian is the perfect soundtrack for when you’re in your feels. Sidebar, I nearly broke my neck when the drums first dropped on “Neu Roses”. The soulful resurgence of R&B music is in good hands with songwriters like Daniel Caesar.
Fave Songs: Get You, 2nd part of Hold Me Down (peep my edit), Neu Roses, Transform, Freudian
The first time I heard Ruby Ibarra was 2011 in Sacramento, CA. I remember being impressed how this tiny Filipina (with her mom cheering on front row) ran circles around every rapper on the lineup. Fast forward to 2017, the good folks at Beatrock Music gave Ruby the resources to put together Circa91, a poignant journal of being an immigrant in America and how outsiders find their fit in hip-hop. My bias as producer of track 2 “Here” aside, I was struck by how much the lyrics resonated with my childhood. I too am a naturalized US citizen looking to find my identity in the world. And after Circa91, I couldn’t be even more proud to be a Filipino American in hip-hop.
Fave Songs: “Here”, “Someday”, “Taking Names”, “Us”
After years under Kanye West’s shadow, No Dope On Sundays finally puts the well-deserved spotlight on CyHi The Prynce. The Atlanta emcee was always prolific as a supporting cast, but this debut album showed that he could shine in a starring role. CyHi takes you on a day in the life of a hustler, maneuvering through the streets while trying to maintain one’s sanity. But you don’t have to be a dope boy to relate. The stories are vivid, and the metaphors are grand. The lyrics are brash, and the productions hit your face. If you ever doubted where hip-hop stands in modern day America, look no further than No Dope On Sundays.
Fave Songs: “Get Your Money”, “Movin Around”, “Looking For Love”, “Trick Me”
My favorite part of being a music lover is seeing new generations push the boundaries of creativity. Smino is one of the industry’s most refreshing voices and with Blkswn he further spread his wings. The St. Louis rep utilized fellow Zero Fatigue comrade Monte Booker to compose a genre-bending effort. Many of the guest vocalists on the album did not take a backseat, with Ravyn Lenae, Via Rosa, Drea Smith, and Bari complimenting Smino’s unique flow and unpredictable melodies. Not to mention my friend JBird producing “Ricky Millions” on the album. Keep an eye on Smino rising stock for 2018.
Fave Songs: “Anita”, “Wild Irish Roses”, “Netflix & Dusse”, “Long Run”, “Ricky Millions”
The Migos—armed with their staccato, triplet rap cadence—put together one of 2017’s most surprisingly enjoyable releases. They had no business capturing the attention of an elitist backpacker like myself, but Culture deserved every replay. Aside from the “Bad & Boujee” viral take over earlier in the year, the tracklist was filled with unexpectedly satisfying shit. All you can hope for is artists creating quality music to propel hip-hop culture further into future generations. For as long as Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff are together, I’m gonna let The Migos take the wheel.
Fave Songs: “T-Shirt”, “Call Casting”, “Get Right Witcha”, “Slippery”, “What The Price”, “Deadz”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include hip-hop’s biggest icon into this year end list. Expectations were low when 4:44 was announced, but Jay-Z showed youngin’s that he still had gas in the tank. Recruiting legendary No ID to handle the productions was HOV’s smartest move. No heavy basslines, no other accompaniments, no fluff necessary: just chopped soul samples over drum breaks, with Jay spitting some of the most mature & vulnerable raps of his career. Rather than pandering to the younger generation, he gave advice and words of wisdom like a wise, insanely wealthy uncle would. Indeed, Shawn Carter is at the “Michael Jordan on the Wizards” part of his career. But even as a shell of his former self, he’s still liable to drop 50 points any given night.
Fave Songs: “Marcy Me”, “Family Feud”, “Story of OJ”, “Moonlight”, “Smile”
In the years since “Yonkers” penetrated pop culture, Tyler has bloomed into a more sophisticated and tasteful creator right before our eyes. His fourth studio effort is chock full of warm instrumentation and introspective songwriting sure to take you on an emotional 47 minute ride. Picture you and a special someone laid out on a grassy hill, staring at the clouds, thinking of how to profess your love to them; that is this album in a nutshell. Odd Future’s head honcho is on track to becoming a voice of his generation, and with Flower Boy he’s definitely on the right track.
Fave Songs: “See You Again”, “911”, “Pothole”, “Foreword”, “Boredom”
Note from the editor: Don’t forget to stream MOOSE’s Apple Music Playlist of his favorite tracks from 2017! Follow MOOSE on Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud to keep a pulse on funny shit, thoughtful perspectives, and his journey in life + music!