Another year over. 2017 brought us many musical highlights. I’ve listened to over 100 releases and a good 70 of those were up for contention in making the top 50 albums of the year. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed every album on this list, there are certain albums truly blew me away and broke into my all-time list. We’ll be introduced to those in the top 10, but for now enjoy 30-21.
30. Cadet – The Commitment 2
A year ago, I don’t think I’d heard of Cadet yet. One year on and he’s one of my favourite Grime MCs. Always entertaining, Cadet has had an incredible 2017. Switching up styles a bit, he’s kick-started a trend with ‘Letter To Krept’, but soon came back with a banger in ‘No More Letters’ – a stand-out from ‘The Commitment 2.’ A lot of albums dropped the same day as Cadet’s, and most of them were either artistically ambitious or socially conscious – sometimes though, you just need good music, and ‘The Commitment 2’ delivers such in abundance.
29. Naughty40 – Chicken Shops & Tequila Shots
Naughty40 is one of the most beloved and talented producers from the North East of England. Mostly known as one-quarter of Gang:Greenz, Naughty isn’t half bad on the mic but truly excels in production. With ‘Chicken Shops & Tequila Shots’ the Teesside beatsmith hooks up with some of the North East’s best MC’s to create the equivalent of a DJ Khaled album for North East hip-hop.
28. Endem – Strictly For Promo
Endem released his full length debut album in 2017, but the preceding EP ‘Strictly For Promo’ may have overshadowed it. Whilst ‘Planning For Permission’ deserves its plaudits, there’s something about the EP’s shorter listening time that makes for a bigger impact. ‘Icon’ showcased Endem’s songwriting ability, but ‘Top Tier’ stole the show with that third verse in particular providing a highlight.
27. J Hus – Common Sense
49 albums on this list can be considered hip-hop or grime for the most part – even if some are more melodic than others. None are quite so melodic as J Hus’ ‘Common Sense.’ Hus’ debut album helped him breakthrough to the mainstream and supplied an entire 12 months worth of hits. ‘Did You See’ might be my favourite non-rap record of the year, and seeing J Hus perform live at Creamfields is one of my highlights for the year. A lot of people will have ‘Common Sense’ higher on their lists, but for someone who’s not such a fan of melody, 27 is a very high placement relatively speaking.
26. Baron Von Alias & Arhat – Rebel Of The Magna Carta
Baron Von Alias is one of the most underrated artists on this list. Rapper-producer-director-animator. A true polymath. Not only did he create an incredible album as one-half of The Great & The Magnificent with MistaBreeze, but he also crafted an outstanding opus with another long term collaborator, Arhat. ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’ strikes a balance between braggadocio and insecurity that resonates with me, and even though ‘Grow Up’ 10000% has a diss directed towards me its one of my favourite tracks of the year.
25. Lunar C – Jake
Bar-for-bar Lunar C is one of the best rappers in the UK. His comedic punchlines never lose their impact no matter how many times you hear them, and this stepped up another level on ‘Jake.’ While we were expecting an album to follow up the mixtape, hopefully that’ll come in 2018. If we can get more ‘Step Daddy’’s then when that LP finally comes, it’ll be more than worth the wait.
24. Liam Hope – Seven
For the longest time I had Liam in my Facebook messages promoting his EP, while 90BRO was also highly recommending it. At the time I was way too busy to listen to a project from an artist I’d literally never heard from before. When I finally pressed play, I regretted not doing so sooner. ‘Seven’ is superb, from the concepts to the production to each individual lyric. Liam Hope is the reason I’m going to start checking out more mixtapes sent to me from those Twitter accounts that just spam links to people.
23. Shocka – Kenneth Is A King
Hands up, technically, ‘Kenneth Is A King’ probably doesn’t deserve to be so high on this list. There’s no great quadruple-entendres weaved between multi-syllabic internal rhyme schemes. This EP is much greater than technical greatness because it emits from Shocka’s heart and soul. If you can listen to ‘Kenneth Is A King’ without welling up a few times at the heartbreaking stories told within, you might be dead inside. Joe Budden is my favourite rapper ever because of his transparent vulnerability. Shocka takes transparency to a whole new level here.
22. AJ Tracey – Secure The Bag
‘Secure The Bag’ is the archetype of an album I hate. When an exciting new rapper burts on the scene then drops an LP filled with melodies rather than the bars I wanted. Every now and again this happens, and the music is so good I forget about the want for bars. ‘Blacked Out’ is still a highlight because AJ fully turns up, but ‘Secure The Bag’ also finds highlights in softer, more pop-friendly records.
21. Eum. – Macabre.Blossoms
There’s a storm brewing in the North East of England. That storm comes in the form of teenage rappers already outshining veterans. Eum. is leading the charge and ‘Macabre.Blossoms’ is a masterpiece. ‘Ropey.Ray’’s second half is also worth checking, but that mixtape takes too long to kick in, while its predecessor is quality from top to bottom. Sixteen years old y’know.