2017 was all kinds of great for hip-hop. We got great music across the spectrum. You can stay in a certain lane and more likely than not, there was something there to enjoy. This is the hip-hop that was most memorable for me.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN
Okay Kendrick, we see you. If To Pimp A Butterfly was his coronation, DAMN is his victory lap. I have to agree with his own assessment of his albums, DAMN is the synthesis of his past work. Not my personal favorite album of his, nor do I think it is his best, but it’s not clear-cut. Kendrick is already one of the best ever to rap, and DAMN solidified his spot.
Rapsody – Lalia’s Wisdom
This is the result of talent being cultivated. Under the tutelage of 9th Wonder and the Jamla Records collective, Rapsody has been sharpening her skills and Lalia’s Wisdom is the breakout. She definitely maintains the high-level of lyricism seen from previous projects, but she takes it a step further and takes a risk of making more melodic, more textured, more fully-featured music. The songs with Anderson .Paak in particular is where Rapsody takes a step back from complex rhymes in service to convey emotions and ends up being more effective. Is it a coincidence that the album ends with Jesus Coming? Cause she has ascended with this.
Jay-Z – 4:44
Best album of 2017. The most open, honest, and vulnerable he’s ever been. Could be have been capitalizing on that trend? Could be using the brouhaha between himself and Beyonce for this album? Probably a little bit. It doesn’t matter. Jay gave us an album that I can pretty much use to guide my life till I’m his age, and probably even past it.
Big K.R.I.T. – 4Eva Is A Mighty Long Time
WHAT ABOUT KRIT THOUGH!? I’m so happy about this album. I loved how much attention he got for this album. Even Lebron James knows (and he’s been a fan for awhile). A double album that doesn’t needed to be a single album. He fleshes out both the Big KRIT the public figure, and Justin Scott the private figure across both discs. This project combines both the freedom he has always had on this mixtapes with the wisdom and experienced gained from his two albums with Def Jam. Thank you, Krit.
Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
Similar to Rapsody, All-Amerikkan Bada$$ is Joey Bada$$ hitting his stride. When he first came into the game, he was seen as a child of the 90’s boom-bap era. This is him going past that, and creating a soulful album, while also being his most socially-conscious and politically-active album as well. But that music comes first, so it doesn’t get bogged down by any messages or stances. He’s in-and-out on the album. You know where he stands, and it makes it easier to understand him cause the music is great. Don’t get it twisted, he can rap his ass off when he wants to. Shoutout to Joey and all of Pro Era.
Here is a list of moments that happened that made an impression on me, and in one way or another impacts how I view hip-hop in 2017.
Rest in Peace. The music entertainment attorney, turned journalist passed away on December 20th from colon cancer. His podcast was one of the best ones for the culture. Listening to them was like talking to my friends, more than some regular interview. His passing hit me in my gut. Apologies for starting the moments section with a bummer, but I have to mention him. He will be missed greatly. If you were curious on hearing some episodes, here are a select few:
- His second interview with ESPN personality Bomani Jones
- Ice Cube
- J. Cole
- Netflix’s Luke Cage Creator Cheo Hodari Coker
When I die of old age, many many years from now, please make sure the tombstone reads "He Did It For His Culture."
— Podcast Papi 🇭🇹 (@Combat_Jack) March 31, 2016
Rest in Peace to Prodigy. This one was rough, too. Mobb Deep helped move hip-hop into new heights in the 90’s, and when news broke he passed away, I listened to nothing but Mobb songs. The classic Mobb joints are obvious if you wanna hear his voice. I will share one of my favorite tributes to him. On ESPN, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill fit as many Prodigy lines and references during their live airing of SportsCenter.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 21, 2017
Marvel Hip-Hop Covers
I know that these covers have been a thing since 2015, but since the second hardcover came out this year, it counts. Knocking it out of the park again, these variants illustrate the cross-pollination between hip-hop and comic books. Having them in a physical form is a bonus.
We’ve always known how great Black Thought is. But it’s cool to see that fact be proven outside of hip-hop. His Hot 97 appearance made waves with people who don’t know him or only know him as the vocalist on the Tonight Show. It was super dope to see him be on the other side of the set because of it, too. It’s weird, though, because a few months before he was on Sway In The Morning with Method Man and they rapped together than that didn’t make as much noise as his Hot 97 video. I already was going to mention Black Thought just off the Method Man video, but I’m including both cause we are blessed to have him in our lives.
That verse was just what I had to say at the moment lol.
— Black Thought (@blackthought) December 14, 2017
Jay-Z Performing Family Feud Live
As mentioned before, 4:44 is the best album this year. The title track got the most headlines, The Story of OJ might be my favorite song off the album, but this is close. Hearing the choir with Beyonce on the song is great, but hearing it live made this performance a memorable one. Sadly Beyonce wasn’t there for it as well.
Here is a list of songs that I liked that might have been singles, random one-offs, appeared on albums, or anything else that didn’t fall in the previous sections.