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. Here’s the top 10:
10. 90BRO – Requiem 4 A SceNE
For years, 90BRO was known as Mr-Kill-A-Collab. He’s developed a name for himself from renegading other MCs on their tracks, yet he hadn’t shown that ability to simply RAP on his own mixtapes. Often pushing creative boundaries, 90BRO took time in ‘Requiem 4 A SceNE’ to show that he can bar his life away. With ‘CyberSoul’ slated for a 2018 release, it’ll be interesting to see where the balance lies between creative ambition and 90BRO’s ability to rappity-rap.
9. Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
Loyle Carner is my favourite UK rapper. In fact, now that Joe Budden has ‘retired’, the South London hip-hop artist might be number one on earth. ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ as a debut is incredible. There’s a couple tracks I find myself skipping but ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ and ‘Isle Of Arran’ in particular are two of my favourite songs of all time. Loyle’s real, transparent introspection is breathtaking.
8. Leddie MC – A Piece Of Cake
I don’t know who, but somebody pissed Leddie off in 2016. The Boro barsmith has been on a mission in 2017, and her music has stepped up a gear. Rapping as if she’s out for revenge, Leddie also took the time to craft good music alongside the penmanship she’s known for – and ‘A Piece Of Cake’ is testament to her talent. ‘I’ll Be Good’ is top 5 songs released in 2017, and I’ll fight anyone who tells me otherwise.
7. Reali-T – Stay Tuned
What a breakout year 2017 was for Reali-T. Many tipped 90BRO to be the solo star from New North East, and in many ways he still is, but outside of North East hip-hop, Reali-T has shone brightly. Recently making Spark Local Music’s top 30 artists at number 22, the ‘Black Guy In Your Neighbourhood’ rapper has made the wider local music scene in the North East to pay attention to him. ‘Stay Tuned’ is a brilliantly executed political commentary without compromising Reali-T’s natural comedic charm. Reali-T was Big Shaq before Big Shaq with roadman satire, but 2017 seen that transform into an artist with a real message to deliver, and finding the right voice to express it.
6. Eyeconic – Sink Or Swim
Back-to-back bangers fill Eyeconic’s 2017 offering ‘Sink Or Swim.’ The TGF MC explores various different sounds mixing boom-bap with trap and continues to shine with grime including the iconic ‘Spit One Lyric.’ With ‘Sink Or Swim’, Eyeconic has created an album that is a joy to listen to from top-to-bottom with a showcase of versatility – mixing radio-ready songwriting with screwface inducing flows. If you include the 90BRO assisted ‘Realignment / Walls’ to Eyeconic’s 2017, he’s made some of the best music of the year across various subgenres.
5. Joey Bada$$ – All Amerikkkan Bada$$
I remember way back when Joey Bada$$ first broke through, I didn’t rate him. The 90’s throwback style just didn’t sit with me, although I’ve come to respect it retrospectively. It wasn’t until I seen Joey live in Newcastle in 2015, that I truly understood his artistry. Later, ‘B4.DA.$$’ would drop and become one of my favourite albums of all time. ‘All Amerikkkan Bada$$’ is a step further in the evolution of the PRO ERA rapper, finding a musicality that puts him into a whole new category of artistry.
4. Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
My expectations were low for Stormzy’s debut album. We’d seen the story before, a UK artist gains an enormous popularity very quickly, and suddenly completely switch their style up chasing pop stardom. You wouldn’t blame Stormzy, and his likability would make it so we’d probably still place him on this list – just not so highly. Thankfully the music smashed all expectations, and delivered what some might consider an instant classic. ‘Lay Me Bare’ is top 5 tracks of the year – a very important song for me to hear at the time of its release.
3. Trev Rich – Balance
Trev Rich’s evolution as an artist hasn’t always been an easy listen for me. ‘Heights’ was a brilliant exhibition of his ability to rap – but soon, the Squizzy Gang rapper would chase a more melodic driven song. Music for the club, not for hip-hop obsessed bloggers. I respected it, but found it difficult to enjoy. ‘Balance’ brings exactly just that. Trev has found the perfect ratio of bars mixed with musicality. Trev acknowledges on the album that some fans might have been put off by the trap beats and autotuned hooks on past projects, but they’re executed excellently on ‘Balance’ and the bars are some his best, ever.
2. Vic Mensa – The Autobiography
Vic Mensa’s ‘The Autobiography’ is probably my favourite album of 2017. It’s definitely my most listened to. ‘Fire Next Time’ is song of the year for me, and it’s only marginally better than the rest of the album. ‘The Manuscript’ was enough to give Vic a good year, but ‘The Autobiography’ ensured greatness for the Roc Nation rapper. He’s probably not doing J Cole numbers, but he deserved to be in the top 5 right now conversation way more than the ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ MC.
1. Jay-Z – 4:44
2017’s undisputed classic album. Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ is the first mainstream grown-up hip-hop album. Dealing with very mature themes, offering jewels of advice and more, Hov’s stature in rap music is finally reflected in his music. He’s no longer a peer to other MCs but a role model, father-figure, idol. This wasn’t Jigga stunting on the industry with how rich he is and the businesses he owns, but an exploration of his relationship with Beyonce and his past mistakes romantically, financially and socially. It’s not necessarily an album with loads of replay value, but ‘4:44’ is the most important rap album of the 2010’s.
No stream because I don’t have Tidal access and it’s not on Spotify but here’s a link for to stream on Apple Music.