Saturday, January 20, 2018

Underrated Albums of 2010

What's good folks?! With a new year comes a new series being done here in this blog.  This series is focusing on the most underrated/underappreciated albums of the decade per year.  Now that it's 2018, we're inching closer and closer to the end of the 2010s and approaching the 2020s.  Make no mistake about it, this decade has been one of the most musically rich periods ever heard in hip-hop.  Landmarks like To Pimp A Butterfly, Laila's Wisdom, Black America Again, all three Run The Jewels releases, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy changed the scope of how far hip-hop can go.  Socially, musically, and spiritually, these and more refined the art of the game as we know it today.  What about other albums that weren't as mainstream recognized or acclaimed as these others that got more awards, plaques, and overall props/ This is where we come in.  With that, let's get into the most underrated albums of 2010.  Let's go!

20. Gangrene
Gutter Water
Production: artist

It's well known that The Alchemist is one of hip-hop's most incredible producers, and has especially emerged as such within the span of close to two decades.  Along with being such a highly regarded producer, he's also a part-time emcee, and not a bad one either.  He's joined by Madlib's younger brother, Oh No (who himself is a very decent emcee/producer) to become Gangrene.  Their debut album, Gutter Water, was grimy yet comical, dirty yet mischievous, and it struck on all chords.  Although it wasn't a terrible lyrical album, the production on the project was the story, as Al crafted some of his best work, while Oh No started to come into his own and hang with Allan The Chemist.

19. yU
Before Taxes
Production: artist, Oddisee, Kev Brown, others

Diamond District member, yU, is arguably the most sharp lyrically of the trio consisting of him, Oddisee, and Upton XO.  He displays this great talent on Before Taxes with precision and confidence.  Throughout the album, yU is on point over some excellent production and a concept that basically has him displaying how much more fun and important hip-hop was before it became such a commercially-driven business.  Honest, personal, and provoking, yU dropped an album worthy of more attention than it received.

18. Freddie Gibbs
Str8 Killa
Production: Beatnick, K-Salaam, Kno, others

One of the first real times we got exposed to Gangsta Gibbs was his EP entitled Str8 Killa. The Gary, IN native brought that realness over menacing production and was a raw as one could perceive.  Although many believe it was Cold Day In Hell that was his true door opener, he cracked the door open with this one, and it thumped.

17. 7L & Esoteric
Production: artist, Statik Selektah, DC The Midi Alien

Boston's 7L & Esoteric are considered among the most respected in underground hip-hop.  A fairly consistent discography up to 2010 was known, as albums like The Soul Purpose and A New Dope were rotated and acclaimed for boom-bap production and hitting lyrics from Esoteric.  With 1212, they continued with the knocking sounds they had been known for, plus we got a tease of things to come with a Czarface cut, "12th Chamber".  One of these duo's best efforts.

16. Black Milk
Album Of The Year
Production: artist

Curtis "Black Milk" Cross was deemed as the next to uphold the torch Dilla left behind in the D.  He did a very valiant job in attempting to do so, as he was among the most revered emcee/producers to come from the motor city.  His album, Album Of The Year, was more of the same incredible production (mostly live instrumentation) that we had been knowing from him.  His sound was becoming progressively more live instrument driven, but regardless if you copped this release, you played the hell out of this quite often.

15. Homeboy Sandman
The Good Sun
Production: 2 Hungry Bros, Ski, Psycho Les, Core Rhythm, others

Queens emcee Homeboy Sandman is a very well-rounded lyricist.  He has a complex and vast array of styles and can adapt to seemingly anything.  An under-the-radar emcee since his emergence in '07, HS has always needed that bigger platform to display his tremendous talents.  On The Good Sun, the teacher-turned-emcee comes correct with multi-syllabic layers and flows that are often repeat-worthy.  He's also a great conceptual writer, as evidenced with cuts like the homeless-ode "Angels With Dirty Faces" and "Mean Mug", an ode to fake thuggery.  One of his best efforts to date, Sandman started to really find his own route as an emcee on this one.

14. DJ Muggs & Ill Bill
Heavy Metal Kings
Production: DJ Muggs

Non-Phixion member Ill Bill is known for his in-your-face, aggressive delivery and his knack for writing rhymes centered around apocalyptic themes and anti-government rhetoric.  He collabs with legendary Cypress Hill producer, DJ Muggs for Heavy Metal Kings.  Dark yet intense, Bill pulls no punches with the listener and sounds like he needs to do a lot more projects with Muggs more often, as this project was head to toe DOPE.

13. Kno
Death Is Silent
Production: artist

If there was a list of highly talented, yet underrated, producers in hip-hop, Cunninlynguists' Kno must be near the top.  Just as much known for spitting as he is constructing dark and melodic beats, Kno steps from the shadow of his group mates Deacon and Natti to create Death Is Silent.  Beautifully orchestrated, Kno's debut solo effort is something that elevated Kno's ability to create cinematic soundscapes.  A mesmerizing album, this is one that must be felt as much heard.

12. PackFM
I Fuckin' Hate Rappers
Production: Marco Polo, Kno, J-Zone, Domingo, Tonedeff

Brooklyn emcee PackFM was very jaded with hip-hop.  He started to hate the very thing he had loved, and this was apparent on his album, I Fuckin' Hate Rappers.  Conceptually based off his own personal feelings about the state and climate of the culture at the time, the Cunninlynguists-assisted emcee made his own feelings known throughout very humorous skits and pretty dope cuts that explained how much he was just over it all.  After a few listens to this, you might see you're not too far from his viewpoint yourself.

11. Big K.R.I.T.
K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
Production: artist

By the time 2010 hit, Mississippi's own Big K.R.I.T. was already on mixtape number six, and boy was it impressive.  His mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, became his signature project for some years to come, as it set the bar for all future releases.  Southern bumpers like "Country Shit" and "Gumpshun" exemplify his love of the 808 bump with all the flavor of sugar rich Kool-Aid in the summertime, but cuts like "They Got Us" and "Children Of The World" showed how much of a soulful writer he was as well.  Fantastic mixtape and fantastic artist, K.R.I.T. was on to something big.

10. Skyzoo & !llmind
Live From The Tape Deck
Production: !llmind

One of the most consistent and skilled lyricists of the decade has been Skyzoo.  We had seen his unbelievable potential with his albums Could 9: The 3 Day Theory and The Salvation before, but with this collabo album with Grammy Award winning producer !llmind, Live From The Tape Deck, he elevated his game even more.  A concept meant for the listener to not fast forward through the album and to listen throughout, this was album was just that: a stellar playthough.  There was no filler whatsoever on this project.  From the densely layered "Langston's Pen" to the thumping 808s of "Speakers On Blast", this album serves as Sky's top effort, if not second best within his discography.

9. The Left
Gas Mask
Production: Apollo Brown

Detroit fixtures Journalist 103 and producer extraordinaire Apollo Brown put a hard one down as The Left with Gas Mask.  This is just straight ol' school boom-bap hip-hop.  No more, no less.  Journalist more than holds his own with guests such as Finale, Guilty Simpson, Hasaan Mackey, and the legendary Kool G. Rap, while this is first time we really see the talents of Brown, as he now is among the sought after beatmakers in the game.  If you want a no-mask approach to hip-hop, peep this one out.  No disappointments will be given.

8. Celph Titled & Buckwild
Nineteen Ninety-Now
Production: Buckwild

If you're familiar with practically any type of NY hip-hop throughout the nineties and early thousands especially, you most definitely are familiar with Buckwild.  The legendary D.I.T.C. producer responsible for cuts like Black Rob's "Whoa", O.C.'s "Time's Up", Biggie's "I Got A Story To Tell", and Mic Geronimo's "Masta I.C." teamed up with Army Of The Pharoahs/Demigodz member Celph Titled to construct Nineteen Ninety Now.  This album is clearly a salute and throwback to arguably the most poppin' decade ever in hip-hop and this is just a warm feeling album to those that miss that old NYC nineties sound.  Buck went ten toes deep in this production, and Celph's husky baritone voice does damage to the mic on this incredible release.

7. DJ Premier
Get Used To Us
Production: artist

One of the game's most revered producers of all-time is the one and only DJ Premier.  In 2010, he and his label Year Round Records dropped a thunderous compilation, Get Used To Us, which had the legendary producer showing his stripes once again in hip-hop.  He cleverly showcasing established talent such as longtime west coast vet MC Eiht, QB massacist Blaq Poet, KRS-One and Bumpy Knuckles, as well as up-and-coming talent such as Nick Javis (where you at Nick?), Young Maylay, and Khaleel equally.  Throw in other emcees such as Saigon, Papoose, Royce 5'9", and Joell Ortiz, and you have an explosion.

6. Freeway & Jake One
The Stimulus Package
Production: Jake One

Former Roc-A-Fella soldier and State Property rhyme animal Freeway had enjoyed lots of success with his platinum debut effort, Philadelphia Freeway, and his almost equally dope follow-up Free At Last and Philadelphia Freeway 2.  However, he went a slightly different route, as he collaborated with ultra talented Seattle-based beatmaker Jake One to deliver The Stimulus Package.  The producer known for making fire for the likes of Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, Evidence, De La Soul, MF DOOM, and Scarface went on a killing spree with the beats on this album.  With Free delivering his profound bars, this was a winning duo in 2010.  Front to back, this was a knocker.

5. Bun B
Trill O.G.
Production: Boi-1nda, DJ Premier, Drumma Boy, Steve Below, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, others

When we think of hip-hop's legendary trilogies, we think of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Mobb Deep, EPMD, Kendrick Lamar, Outkast, and a few others.  You can most definitely add Bernard "Bun B" Freeman to that list.  His Trill series was just marvelous, and considering the circumstances each album was recorded under with partner-in-rhyme Pimp C's incarceration and later death, this series was a definite challenge.  He finished it with the most overall complete of them all, Trill O.G.  The five-mic certified album by The Source Magazine was indeed a hallmark moment in the career of Bun.  the veteran spitting game and street tales while at times reminiscing over his late dear friend, Bun crafted one of the best albums chances are you slept on more than you should've been.

4. Rakaa Iriscience
Crown Of Thorns
Production: Evidence, Exile, The Alchemist, El-P, !llmind, DJ Babu, Oh No, DJ Honda, others

While we are very familiar with Evidence and even DJ Babu of Dilated Peoples, many aren't that acquainted with the other emcee of the group, Rakaa Iriscience.  This son of a preacher man dropped his debut, Crown Of Thorns, to let us in more to his world, and are we ever glad he did.  Besides the fact that this was one of the most well-produced albums of the entire year, this was also honest, poignant, and intelligent to make people remember him as not just that "other emcee".

3. Reflection Eternal
Revolutions Per Minute (R.P.M.)
Production: Hi-Tek

In '98, Talib Kweli and Cincinnati producer Hi-Tek constructed one of hip-hop's true golden albums with Train Of Thought, ans is still revered to this day as a classic.  Over a decade later, they come back together for Revolutions Per Minute, and it was definitely worth the wait.  Picking up where Train Of Thought left off to a degree, we still get soulful, intelligent, poignant rhymes over melodic, thumping production from my man Hi-Tek.  We truly hope we don't have to wait another decade for a third album, but this one by itself is another chapter in two already fantastic respective careers.

2. Nas & Damien Marley
Distant Relatives
Production: Damian Marley, Stephan Marley

In the entire legendary discography of the modern day god emcee Nas, a lot of people overlook this extraordinary effort with Damian Marley, Distant Relatives.  Over mesmerizing production by two of the Marley brothers, including Damian himself, their lyrics and rhymes about freedom, family, and spirituality provide a blend of cultures and unite them to let us all know we all are one at the end of the day.  These brothas created an album that should be valued as a timeless, epic album that sadly more people weren't able to digest fully.

1. Roc Marciano
Production: artist

Much like Conway The Machine of today, Roc Marciano silently became the face of gritty and grimy hip-hop from NYC with his power-packed debut, Marcberg.  The former U.N. and Flipmode Squad member put his ski mask on, put his revolver in his pants, and was ready to wyle out at a moment's notice on this album, with insane knockers like "Panic", "Snow", and "Ridin' Around".  This was quintessential east coast hip-hop at its most rugged, and Marciano was the kingpin.

Honorable Mentions

Brotha Lynch Hung- Dinner & A Movie
Raekwon, Method Man, & Ghostface Killah- Wu-Massacre
Devin The Dude- Suite #420
Rick Ross- Teflon Don
Slum Village- Villa Manifesto
Lloyd Banks- The Hunger For More 2
Guilty Simpson & Madlib- OJ Simpson
Oddisee- Traveling Man

Without question, 2010 was an absolutely great year in hip-hop. What a way to start the decade of the 2010s.  While Kanye's MBDTF was clearly the most revered album of the year and one of the most hallmark momens in hip-hop altogether, this list showed that there quite a number of others that gave West a run for his money. This decade was just beginning with greatness. Until next time!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Most Anticpated Albums of 2018

What's crackin' people? As we now are in the new year, already heads are largely awaiting projects from their favorite artists, and critics are speculating if 2018 can match the greatness of 2017.  With instant classics from Rapsody, Kendrick, Jay-Z and Run The Jewels dropping last year, and almost equally incredible projects from Skyzoo, Talib Kweli, Joey Bada$$, and Brother Ali dropping, it naturally gets one excited about the prospect of new music coming from people we were wanting to hear from last year.  Who's gonna hit? Who's gonna flop? What's the next set bar for hip-hop? Who knows, but for now let's go over twenty-five of the most anticipated releases in 2018.

25. Joyner Lucas
Production: unknown

After making some bubbles with his slept-on mixtape, 508-507-2209, he released the controversial cut, "I'm Not Racist".  Polarizing as it is, more people knew who this very talented lyricist was.  With his forthcoming untitled effort dropping sometime in 2018, you can expect to hear even more of his excellent bars and his potential to be one of the game's next stars.

24. Phife Dawg
Production: Q-Tip, J Dilla, Pete Rock, others

Long live the "five foot assassin".  When Phife Dawg passed from diabetes complications in 2016, our collective hip-hop hearts were broken.  Our collective consciousness was raised by A Tribe Called Quest, and one of its vital members had gone home.  Before the reunion and his passing, he was finishing up his solo album entitled Forever, which reportedly has work done by Pete Rock and Q-Tip, plus a Dilla beat with it as well.  Previously released singles like "Wanna Dance" and "Dear Dilla" are expected to be included on this effort, but there's no doubt it will be bittersweet to hear the "funky diabetic" and him not be here.  However, as we know, his spirit will continue to live on thus he's immortal.

23. Masta Ace & Marco Polo
Production: Marco Polo

Word around the campfire is that underrated beatsmith Marco Polo will be in charge of production for Masta Ace's next effort.  We last heard from Masta Ace with his very decent The Falling Season album.  One has to wonder if this will be another conceptual album like the unforgettable efforts of Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer.  This may just be good ol' fashioned hip-hop.  Either way, we here for it from Ace.

22. Earl Sweatshirt
Production: artist, others

The ever allusive Earl Sweatshirt.  Once seen as arguably the moist talented member of OFWGKTA, he was also among the most with personal issues.  These issues resulted in some damn great projects such as his full length debut, Doris, and his last effort, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside.  With the unfortunate passing of his father, it's very possible we will hear even more from his troubled heart, but we'll be all the more grateful for him letting us in.

21. Ludacris
Production: unknown

Anytime there's a chance of a new Luda album, we jump at the mention.  He already dropped a couple cuts in 2017 to whet our appetite for an upcoming project, and hopefully it will see the light of day in 2018.

20. Cypress Hill
Elephants On Acid
Production: DJ Muggs

The legendary weed advocates have returned.  The group of B-Real, Sen Dog, Bobo, and DJ Muggs are back Haven't been heard from as a group since Rise Up!, Muggs reunited with them full-time, and we can't wait to see if they can recapture the magic of influential releases such as their self-titled debut, Black Sunday, and III: Temples Of Boom.  There's never been such a thing as a disappointing Cypress album (even with Muggs only handling a few beats instead of the whole album), but I have a feeling this one could be their best one in over a decade.

19. Elzhi & Khrysis
Jericho Jackson
Production: Khrysis

Elzhi is one of hip-hop's true lyricists.  This superb Detroit-rhyme slinger is the type you don't want guesting on your song because he'll take the cut with him.  We last heard from him in 2016 with the personal, Lead Poison, but who can forget the fucking incredible, The Preface?  In 2018, he'll be teaming up with 9th Wonder protege and Grammy nominated NC beatmaker Khrysis to release Jericho Jackson, and just the thought of those two working on a whole album together could be as great as anything Elzhi has ever done, plus continue to show just how crazy Chris Tyson is behind the boards.  Hopefully we'll hear a verse or two from him too.

18. Boogie
Shady Records Debut
Production: unknown

Compton emcee Boogie shocked the world when he was announced as a new member of the Shady camp along with Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine with the Griselda camp.  Boogie is a very nice emcee and soon enough the world will soon know this as well, as hopefully we'll get a very strong debut from the latest to extend the legacy of Compton.

17. Roc Marciano & DJ Muggs
Production: DJ Muggs

One of NY's grimiest storytellers is Long Island's Roc Marciano.  Thunderous previous efforts such as Marcberg, Reloaded, Marci Beaucoup, and 2017's Rosebudds's Revenge (be on the lookout for the sequel as well reportedly) shows just how nuts of a talent Marci is.  With the addition of DJ Muggs to do a whole album with him, this will be a dark, brooding gem of an album.  If you thought Muggs' effort with Meyhem Lauren, Views From The Equinox, was hard, wait til you get a load of Kaos in all likeliness.

16. The Roots
End Game
Production: Quest-Love, 9th Wonder, others

The legendary Roots crew ladies and gentlemen.  The most consistent group in all of hip-hop is returning with their next potentially amazing effort, End Game.  With 9th Wonder in assistance, this may be yet another new sound for the group, but one that will bring a new level of soul with them.  The same ones that delivered classics like Illadelph Halflife, Things Fall Apart, and How I Got Over return with their next potential instant classic.

15. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Production: Madlib

One of the most delightful efforts of the past decade was the collaborative effort between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, when they delivered the memorable, Pinata.  Now with Gibbs' legal stuff behind him, plus hoping to capitalize off the acclaim off his 2017 album, You Only Live 2wice, here's to hoping they can repeat the gritty magic that was Pinata.

14. T.I.
The Dime Trap
Production: unknown

Many consider him the Jay-Z of the south, and it's definitely undeniable how influential T.I. has been to southern hip-hop.  His Roc Nation debut, The Dime Trap, has been a couple years in the making, but hopefully it'll drop in 2018.  Speculation has it that Dr. Dre has worked with him on this project, which may make the project that much more intriguing.

13. Evidence
Weather Or Not
Production: artist, Nottz, The Alchemist, DJ Premier, Khrysis, DJ Babu, others

Mr. Slow Flow himself, Evidence, returns in early 2018 with his third solo album, Weather Or Not.  Following up the critical acclaim of his previous two efforts of The Weatherman LP and Cats & Dogs, Ev already dropped two singles from the album: the Alchemist-crafted "Throw It All Away" and the Nottz-produced banger "Jim Dean".  Along with guests like Rapsody, Styles P, Defari, Jonwayne, and his fellow Dilated Peoples brother Rakaa Iriscience, this will be a heatseeker in the winter months.

12. Royce 5'9"
The Book Of Ryan
Production: unknown

The lyrical perfection that is Royce 5'9" returns with his seventh full-length album, The Book Of Ryan.  Royce is following up his personal release, Layers, and promises to get even more in-depth and introspective with this new release.  This will no doubt be a very intriguing effort and one that will likely continue to push Royce into earning the title of lyrical legend.

11.Dave East
Untitled Def Jam full-length debut
Production: unknown

The new voice of Harlem, Dave East, has been quite the buzz for the past few years.  From his mixtapes of Hate Me Now to the critically acclaimed Kairi Chanel and 2017's Paranoia EP, East is sitting on a flamestarter for a full-length debut for Def Jam.  If we go upon his track record, it's very apparent that the young Harlemite will definitely deliver in the goods department, as his gritty rhymes and great storytelling will be something intriguing to watch in 2018.  he will drop Paranoia 2 in early 2018, but it's the full-length that will officially make him a bonafide star.

12. Pusha T
King Push
Production: Kanye West

If there's one album we've been eagerly awaiting for a few years now, it's definitely Pusha T's King Push album.  Releasing the teaser for King Push entitled King Push: Darkest Before Dawn in 2015, we knew that if Darkest Before Dawn sounded THAT crazy, one could only imagine what King Push itself would sound like.  It had been reported that Kanye was going to be the sole producer for the project so this sounds like this could be quite the sonic treasure we had been hoping for.  Although it's unknown if previously released singles "D.D.A." with Jay-Z, H.G.T.V.", and "Circles" will be included on the effort, one thing is for sure, Pusha's King Push will be well worth the wait.

11. Jon Connor
Vehicle City
Production: Dr. Dre, others

Detroit's Jon Connor has been a heat dropped for some years now in the underground with some rather fire mixtapes. However, it was when Connor revealed during a BET cypher that he was the best to blow from Aftermath that heads were immediately in high anticipation. We see how Dre's last protege blew up (read: Kendrick Lamar) so here's hoping for the same massive success with his Aftermath debut, Vehicle City.

10. Redman
Muddy Waters Too
Production: Erick Sermon, others

Jersey hip-hop legend Redman has been hitting the sequel to his most acclaimed album, Muddy Waters, for the last few years. His last effort, the EP Mudface, was a pretty reintroduction to this new generation of emcees. However, the album is reportedly finished and is ready to be felt by his loyalty masses.

9. The Game
Westside Story
Production: Dr. Dre, Bongo, others

One of hip-hop's most consistent emcees of this generation is former Dr. Dre protege The Game. Following up one of the most acclaimed albums of his career, 1992, will be Westside Story, which is reportedly his final album. Word has it that he will be reunited with his former mentor along with having a collabo with Kendrick Lamar. If this is his swan song, he may be going out like the G he is.

8. Jay Rock
Production: unknown

When we last years from.TDE's O.G. Jay Rock, he had delivered his VERY dope 2015, 90059. Even better than his Follow Me Home debut, 90059 was his breakout album. He's ready now to drop the follow up and based upon TDE's momentum, this will be another fire release.  He already dropped "King's Dead" with Kendrick, James Blake, Future, and Mike WILL Made It, which will also be on the potentially FLAMES Black Panther OST.  If this new album is anything like or better than 90059, Jay will have a serious one on his hands.

7. Kanye West
Turbo Grafx 16 (tentative title)
Production: artist, others

One thing about Kanye (Kardashian) West is you never know what to expect from him musically.  He tends to always reinvent himself with every release, which is a good thing.  His last effort, The Life Of Pablo, was a mixed bag or Yeezus mixed with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with some original herbs and spices added.  As to what we can expect to see from the tentatively titled Turbo Grafx 16 (named after the highly underrated video game system of the early nineties), all we can say is stay tuned.  Whatever it is, it'll be something as ambitious as ever.

6. Westside Gunn
Shady Records debut
Production: Daringer, others

Griselda may very well be one of the most must-see labels/crews of all of 2018.  Since getting signed to Shady in 2017, speculation has really ran rampant about how the sound will be.  Gunna's last full-length effort, FLYGOD, was among the most hard-hitting releases of 2016, and since then he has dropped the mixtapes of Hitler Wears Hermes 5 and Hitler On Steroids.  Not to mention his EP with MF DOOM and the quietly dropped Riots On Fashion Ave.  With his Shady Records debut, this could be a gritty as ever, and along with his brother Conway, El Camino, and B.E.N.N.Y., this will be a very big one.

5. ScHoolboy Q
Production: unknown

After the enormous successes of Oxymoron and its follow-up The Blank Face LP, TDE's ScHoolboy Q is set to drop another banger for our ears in 2018.  Reportedly the album was either finished or near completion by late summer so it's only a matter of time before we get his third major label effort.  The Grammy Award-nominated emcee delivers another collection of gritty, in-your-face rhymes for you to absorb.  Is another gold or platinum plaque in Quincy's future? Only time will tell, but I wouldn't bet against him.

4. Conway The Machine
Shady Records debut
Production: Daringer, others

Many would say the true star of Griselda is Conway The Machine, the brother of Westside Gunn.  His no-nonsense, slightly slurred delivery has made him among the most in-demand emcees in the game right now.  In 2017, along with doing collaborations with the lies of Mayhem Lauren, Big Twins, and several others, he dropped the mixtapes Reject On Steroids, More Steroids, and the intense G.O.A.T., all of which exemplified that nihilistic griminess that  Conway fully exhibits.  In 2018, it's speculated he'll drop a few efforts, with one being his official Shady debut.  Conway with Eminem is a very scary concept, but it could very well happen.

3. Royce 5'9" & DJ Premier
PRhyme 2
Production: DJ Premier & Antman Wonder

Who could forget the instant classic that was PRhyme, the collaboration between Royce 5'9" and DJ Premier?  Although at an EP's length, the project was among the most incredible listens of the decade, much less the year of 2015.  Immediately the taste was for more of the same with the announcement of a PRhyme 2.  The difference being this time, they get assisted by Preemo protege, Antman Wonder instead of Adrien Younge.  If you have heard anything from Antman, you know this is a very worthy substitution for Younge, and this will no doubt be a FLAMES follow-up to a monumental debut.

2. Skyzoo
In Celebration Of Us...
Production: !llmind, Apollo Brown, Daringer, Cardiak, others

There's no going wrong with Brooklyn's Skyzoo.  Among the slept-on lyricists in the game currently, Sky has delivered some excellent albums such as his debut, The Salvation, Music For My Friends, and his most recent EP, Peddler Themes.  In 2018, he returns with In Celebration Of Us, and quite frankly, based upon the sampler that was dropped, this already is a high bar setter for the year.  Phenomenal production from the likes of !llmind and Apollo Brown, as well as others like Marc Nfinite, this is a personal, in-depth, vivid release with Sky at his lyrical and conceptual best.  This could very well be his official hallmark moment.

1. Nas
production: unknown

The god emcee from Queensbridge is finally set to drop his long awaited follow-up to his stellar Life Is Good album from 2013.  DJ Khaled teased the masses by stating "Nas Album Done", but we hadn't heard anything in terms of a single yet.  However, word is he's fully ready to drop the new album, and we all know it'll be nothing less than another important piece of hip-hop excellence.  You can bet based upon today's political and social climate, plus personal matters, Mr. Jones has a bunch to say, and in 2018, here's hoping we get it all from the street's disciple himself.

Other anticipated albums
Westside Gunn & Conway- Hall & Nash 3
Jeezy & T.I.- untitled
Brockhampton- untitled
NYGz- Hustla's Union
Remy Ma- Seven Winters, Six Summers
Remy Ma- PunisHER
A$AP Rocky- untitled
Isaiah Rashad- untitled
Earthgang- Dreamville full-length debut
Lenny Grant- The Lenny Grant Story
GZA- Dark Matter
Jedi Mind Tricks- The Bridge & The Abyss
Method Man & Redman- Blackout 3
Chuck Strangers- untitled
Scarface & DJ Quik- untitled EP
Rain910- untitled Maybach Music debut
MF DOOM & DJ Muggs- untitled
Lil' Wayne- untitled
Nicky Minaj- untitled
G.O.O.D. Music- Cruel Winter

While there are a lot more projects that are destined to drop, some of these efforts may not drop, and that's just being real.  However, if the musical stars align just right, we will see all these releases and more (will we ever see efforts like Madvillainy 2, GhostDOOM, Jay Electronica's Act II, or Kendrick & Cole album?).  If 2018 is anything like 2017, this will be another musically astounding year.  Here's to the anticipation of these releases.  Until next time, folks!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Best Songs of 2017

What's happening folks?! While the year was filled with amazing albums this year, imagine just how many cuts that have blessed us this year.  Not just the singles Billboard considers "the biggest", but songs that were that good that never appeared on Billboard, if not for nothing else, just massive amounts of replay value. Huge singles such as "Bodak Yellow", "T-Shirt", and "Magnolia" have been major successes commercially, but critically, whole different story.  Just like the Best Of 2017 Albums list, this is all subjective and will likely get contested in some way, shape or form. Incredible albums from Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody, Big K.R.I.T., Joey Bada$$, Cyhi The Prince, and others spawned cuts that exhibited why their albums were so fantastic or better.  With that being said, let's get to it.

50. Cunninlynguinsts
"Mr. Morganfield & Ms. Waters"
Rose Azura Njune
Production: Kno

Arguably the most flavorful cut on their excellent Rose Azura Njune album was the split produced, "Mr. Morganfield & Ms. Waters". While the first half of the song ("Mr. Morganfield") was fairly melancholy in aura, the second half ("Ms. Waters") was perhaps the best beat on the entire album, giving it an ol' school, Native Tongues-type feel. Not to mention, it's more upbeat in appeal as well.

49. J.I.D.
The Never Story
Production: Hollywood JB

Dreamville signee, and Atlanta native, J.I.D., has had many people turning their heads to him on his debut effort, The Never Story.  Tremendous production and lyricism has J.I.D. among the leaders of the new lyrical school from the south.  One such cut that exhibits his ability to be lyrically crafted and be a good storyteller as well is the slightly ominous-sounding, "EdEddNEddy".  Highlighting the ways of he and his boys, J.I.D. displays a lyrical visual of the streets of the A to show why he's a rising hip-hop star.

48. Jay-Z
"The Story Of O.J."
Production: No I.D.

One of the most acclaimed albums of the year was 4:44, the stellar album from the returning Jay-Z.  This album was less Jay-Z the artist, and more Shawn Carter the man.  One track that received some bit of controversy was the cut "The Story Of O.J.", a cautionary ode to how you can have it all and lose it all if not careful.  He didn't judge or condemn anyone in particular, but did spit jewels about mishandling of money and being responsible, investing in Black businesses, and the importance of credit.  Some younger cats were salty about this, but the grown and mature appreciated this advice from a near billionaire.  Over a brilliant Nina Simone-sample, Hov delivered a fantastic one here.

47. Scarface
"Black Steel"
Deeply Rooted: The Lost Files
Production: N.O. Joe

Uncle Face has been in the game for nearly thirty years, and hasn't lost a single step. In fact, with his 2016 album, Deeply Rooted, he regained a fire we hadn't quite seen since his epic 2005 release, The Fix.  He released a remix/cutting room floor-type album with Deeply Rooted: The Lost Files. One of the new cuts on the effort was the venomous Public Enemy-reworked, "Black Still".  Using the production and part of the title from PE's "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos", Face goes in on the government and the police on this cut that has Face at his "fuck you" best.  No touching, introspective cut here. This is straight Fifth Ward, Houston, and Face wasn't holding anything back on this one.

46. Freddie Gibbs
You Only Live 2wice
Production: KAYTRANADA & BadBadNotGood

One of the hardest efforts of 2017 was Freddie Gibbs' EP, You Only Live 2wice.  After his acquittal from a rape charge, he returned with vision and a "resurrection" if you will in terms of lyrical abilities and storytelling.  On "Alexys", he grabs the listener by the throat with focused and point-serving delivery over one of the most melodic beats of the year provided by Canadian production talents KAYTRANADA and BADBADNOTGOOD.  Haters be damned. Gangsta Gibbs is back, and even more determined to have the rap game in a chokehold. 

45. Jay-Z
"Kill Jay-Z"
Production: No I.D.

The very first cut on Jay-Z's spectacular 4:44 was the cut "Kill Jay-Z". Over an haunting No I.D. beat, we have Shawn denouncing Jay-Z and wanting to grow up.  From slapping himself for his infidelity to other mistakes in his life, this is one of the bravest tracks we've ever heard from Hov, and lays it all out there for us.  What a hell of a way to start an album, but this was sincerely one of Jay-Z's finest moments ever.

44. Tha God Fahim feat. Mach Hommy and Billie Essco
Tha Ineffable Conflict of Roosevelt Creek
Production: Camouflage Monk

Among the plethora of projects Fahim delivered this year, one of them was Tha Ineffable Conflict of Roosevelt Creek, an EP filled with menacing and melodic production, mixed with tough guy talk with some jewels in there sprinkled as well.  One standout is the ominous sounding "D'Art", with comrades Billie Essco and another former Griselda affiliate Mach Hommy (y'all should REALLY peep his HBO album, as it bangs) go for broke on this cut.  With no bars from Fahim, this allows especially the lyrically potent Hommy to show his abilities.  Hommy's another guy that put out a lot of material this year so check his shit out.

43. Big K.R.I.T.
"Bury Me In Gold"
4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Production: DJ Khalyl

The Meridian, Mississippi native's 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time double disc is arguably his most stellar effort to date and really shows his duality in a way that is introspective and honest.  One of the more gripping cuts on the "Justin Scott" disc is the cut "Bury Me In Gold", a cut that shows that no matter how much fame you have or money you make, you can't take it with you when it's time to leave the earth. A very needed message in today's flashy, showoff-type times.  K.R.I.T. knows how to reach your soul without having to do a ton of effort, and this is yet another example.

42. Drake
"Madiba Riddim"
More Life
Production: Frank Dukes & Nineteen85

Aubrey Graham is totally the guy that can just deliver a hit.  Effortlessly.  We know this by now with all the records he's setting and breaking on Billboard.  His penchant to crank out a catchy club cut is impeccable.  He does so yet again all over his More Life "playlist".  One standout was the dancehall-infused "Madiba Riddim".  We all know from previous dancehall cuts such as the wildly popular "One Dance", the just as crazy "Controlla", and the Rihanna-featured "Too Good" (all from his prior album Views), and this one is no different in terms of how this will fill a dance floor with its mid-tempo production. Not too many people can continuously pull off great-sounding dancehall/reggae/Afrobeat cuts without being a part of the culture itself somehow, but Drake does it and does it well.

41. Big Boi
Production: Jake Troth

When Big Boi dropped Boomiverse earlier this summer, it had a vibe of futuristic funk mixed with the soulful bounce we had been accustomed to with his phenomenal debut solo album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot.  With the singles "Kill Jill" and "Mic Jack" in heavy rotation, and rightfully so as thoise songs were very dope in their own right, it was the track "Chocolate" that had the most potential to start the party and start it well.  This club knocker has the elements of futuristic funk and has the ability to have the hardest goons two stepping reluctantly.  Leave it to one half of the legendary duo Outkast to help bring the ass-shaking in 2017 with cuts like this.

40. Future
"Mask Off"
Production: Metro Boomin

Love him or hate him, Future has secured his place within hip-hop's elite within the past seven years.  Hit after hit after hit, the cousin of Organized Noize's Rico Wade is one of the biggest stars in the game.  In 2017, he hit paydirt with the runaway smash off his self-titled album, "Mask Off".  The hypnotic flutes from the sample of "Prison Song" make this cut that jump-off cut.  While he proudly boasts about "molly Percocets", there's no auto-tune singling here, just spitting.  If the song wasn't hot enough, he brought King Kendrick for the remix and it was even more searing.  Future has quite a few anthems ("Turn On The Lights", "Fuck Up Some Commas", "Move That Dope"), and this has become a new one for him.

39. MC Eiht feat. DJ Premier
"Compton Zoo"
Which Way Iz West
Production: Brink Sinatra

Longtime Compton triple O.G. MC Eiht returned to the scene in a major way with his thirteenth solo effort, Which Way Iz West.  He partnered with the legendary DJ Premier for this project, as Preem either produced or just straight did cuts on tracks.  One of the more notable bangers on this album was "Compton Zoo", as Brink Sinatra's knocking production meets Preem's signature scratching to deliver another hard-hitter for the former A-Wax. 

38. Joey Bada$$
"Land Of The Free"
All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$
Production: Kirk Knight

While we've been seeing the star appeal of Joey Bada$$ steadily grow over these last few years, he delivered his best effort to date with the politically/socially charged All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$.  Trying to be a crucial voice for the under twenty-five crowd, the Pro Era star hit you in the face with truth, and voices his displeasure with Trump, stating that "He's not equipped to lead this country", but with images such as burning crosses and Trump supporters in the video, this is one of his most important cuts ever, and here's to hopefully hearing more like this Brooklynite.

37. Jonwayne
"Blue Green"
Rap Album Two
Production: artist

One of the most conceptually painful cuts to hear this year was the disturbing, yet courageous cut by Jonwayne from the acclaimed Rap Album Two called "Blue Green", in which is vividly paints a picture of his drug and alcohol addiction, with him evidently having a dangerous liason with Jameson, the whiskey.  The melancholy piano keys and a lovely female voice towards the end of this troubling cut makes this among the most detailed cuts heard in some time about the reality of addiction.

36. Freddie Gibbs
"20 Karat Jesus"
You Only Live 2wice
Production: Speakerbomb & Blair Norf

The one and only Gangsta Gibbs reemerged in 2017 with one of his single finest efforts to date with You Only Live 2wice, stemming from his acquittal of a rape charge overseas in 2016.  On "20 Karat Jesus", he spits like he not only never missed a step, but that he gained even more lyrical potency. Personal, yet aggressive, this is a hard cut.  Over a split beat, Gibbs goes for broke and delivered a banger.

35. Talib Kweli feat. Jay Electronica and Yummi Bingham
"All Of Us"
Radio Silence
Production: Samuel Truth

One of hip-hop's most important voices, Talib Kweli, had not one but two projects in 2017.  The first was his collabo EP with Styles P, The Seven, but he would later release Radio Silence to the people.  Filled with the vintage Kweli we've all been accustomed to in terms of education, Black liberation, and calling out the oppressors of our society, he channels all that into one track called "All Of Us". Over fantastic melodic production, he shares the mic with the incredible Jay Electronica for some of the most complete bars of 2017.  Alongside the dreamy vocals of Yummi Bingham and this belongs among the top cuts within the discography of Mr. Kweli.

34. KMD feat. Jay Electronica
"True Lightyears"
Crack In Time
Production: MF DOOM

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Adult Swim teamed up with the legendary supervillain himself, MF DOOM, to release a weekly dose of unreleased DOOM cuts. The second week of this project (which sadly didn't last past six weeks or so) was a hip-hop lover's dream booking of DOOM (released under his old group name of KMD) and Jay Electronica over a vintage DOOM track.  Supposedly the cut will be on the next KMD album, Crack In Time.  KMD haven't released an album since the ever controversial Black Bastards album of the mid-nineties and the unfortunate death of DOOM's brother.  Will the album ever see the light of day? We have no idea.  Until then, if ever, we have this neck-snapper from two of the most enigmatic emcees in the business.

33. Apollo Brown & Planet Asia
"Deep In The Casket"
Production: Apollo Brown

Apollo Brown has done it again.  Every year he collabs with an artist and their subsequent album is flames.  This year, he paired with west coast underground champ Planet Asia for Anchovies.  Basically the entire album is non-skippable, but one standout cut from the album is the melodic, piano laced, vocal-wailing "Deep In The Casket", where Asia pulls the nine-milli on any and all haters that dare wanna stop his shine.  You know Asia comes correct with any track he's handed, but as has been the case with Skyzoo, O.C., Guilty Simpson, and Ras Kass, he was able to bring the ass out of him like nobody has done in some time.

32. Run The Jewels
Production: El-P

We were blindsided on Christmas Eve 2016, when Run The Jewels delivered RTJ3 a month ahead of schedule.  What resulted was another searing, in-your-face release that showed why Killer Mike & EL-P are the biggest bullies on the block.  Before the album dropped, however, we got a taste of what was to come with their amped up, "2100", an ode to the then-newly elected POTUS, Donald Trump.  Highlighting racism, fasicm, and classicism,  this was a call to arms and need for preparation for what was ahead, and boy were they ever right.  

31. Jay-Z feat. The-Dream
"Marcy Me"
Production: No I.D.

When it comes to saluting and unapologetically chronicling their upbringing, Jay-Z is as devoted as it gets.  Knowing that who he was end up making him who he is today, he snags The Dream for the vivid "Marcy Me" from 4:44, a look into his days growing up in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn and the streets that had a hand in his growth.  With what was already a fascinating album up to that point, this cut only elevated the album even more, and became of the best cuts on the album, even if it was overshadowed by more revealing cuts like "Family Feud" and the title track.  Don't sleep on this joint.

30. Skyzoo
"'95 Bad Boy Logo"
Peddler Themes EP
Producer: TUAMIE

Skyzoo dropped one of the year's strongest EPs and efforts overall with Peddler Themes EP.  The always lyrically precise emcee comes through with everything in detail.  With "'95 Bad Boy Logo", he glides through the excellent TUAMIE-produced track reminiscing over how much of an influence Bad Boy was in its heyday in New York and for him personally.  There's no denying how strong of an influence Bad Boy was, and how it was one of the biggest labels to ever exist in hip-hop.  Leave it to Sky to give Puffy and the gang their well-worth due.

29. Westside Gunn feat. Conway The Machine and Royce 5'9"
"100,000 Machine Guns"
Hitler On Steroids
Production: Just Blaze

There may not have been a more cohesive unit this year than Griselda Records.  Led by Westside Gunn, the crew consisting of him, his dumb nice brother Conway, B.E.N.N.Y., EL Camino, and slept-on poet Keisha Plum put out mixtape after mixtape this year, and even got officially signed to Shady Records.  However, just because they got Marshall Mathers over them doesn't mean the rawness ends.  In fact, they reminded people who the fuck they are on Gunna's Hitler On Steroids mixtape this year.  On the meticulous just Blaze-crafted track, Gunn, Conway, and Royce all obliterate this track, especially the ever lyrically insane Royce who once again outshined the artist who's track it was in the first place.  Nonetheless, Shady and Griselda just may be a match in hardcore heaven.

28. Drake
More Life
Production: T-Minus & Frank Dukes

Drake once again blesses us with the dancehall he's become accustomed to when wanting to get the dance floor popping.  In this case, it comes in the form of the slow-winding "Blem", whcih is ironically right after the aforementioned "Madiba Riddim".  This is certified to get the dancehall flavor started in any situation, and Drake, in this lane, can just absolutely deliver.

27. Fashawn
"Mother AmeriKKKa"
Manna (EP)
Production:Hecktick & Jukebawks

Fashawn is known for delivering some pretty good cuts that not only exhibit his lyrical talents, but also brings a sense of himself with him.  None are likely more powerful from a social level than the melancholy "Mother AmeriKKKa". A call to action by addressing the ills of today's country under the Trump Administration, Fashawn drops a very needed cut for today's unfortunate times.

26. Royce 5'9'
"Wait A Minute (freestyle)"
The Bar Exam 4

Royce was once labeled as "the complete emcee".  Never has that title been more accurate for anyone better than the Detroit rhyme animal.  In between delivering his 2016 album, Layers, and his forthcoming Book Of Ryan and the just as anticipated, PRhyme 2 collab album with Preemo, he dropped his THUNDEROUS mixtape, The Bar Exam 4.  Among the many standouts of the project was his version of the otherwise catchy radio cut "Wait A Minute" by Phresher. Arguably the most ridiculous freestyle on the entire project (you MUST peep his collabo cut with Conway and Westside Gunn "Governors Ball" on the mixtape), Royce once again shows why he's among the respected, yet feared, spitters in the game bar none, no pun intended.

25. Kendrick Lamar feat. U2
Production: Mike WILL Made It, DJ Dahi, & Sounwave

King Kendrick dropped so many jewels from his third classic album, DAMN, that it solidified his distinction of being the most talented emcee of his generation (feel free to put J. Cole and possibly Big K.R.I.T. in that category in that mix too).  On the dual-layered cut "XXX", he shows a duality.  The first half has a NWA-type beat from Mike WILL Made It having him on a rant about what would happen to people if they were to mess with friends and family, but then the more brooding second half has him more reflective on how the country has declined since Trump has come in and has him very observant.  With the legendary Rock band U2 at the helm with lead singer Bono providing the bridge between halves, this song is another different, yet brilliant, cut on one of the most memorable albums we've heard in this era.

24. Cyhi The Prince
"Get Da Money"
No Dope On Sundays
Production: Novell, Mark Byrd

In an important moment on the very highly impressive No Dope On Sundays album, Cyhi breaks down the highs and lows of hustling on "Get Yo Money".  Over a neck-snapping beat, Cyhi spits his truth about the street game and it's important, if that's how you wanna live, is handle your business and get out as he unapologetically lets us into his former life of what he raps about here.  Definite highlight.

23. Logic feat. Damien Lamar Hudson
"Black Spiderman"
Production: artist, 6ix, & DJ Khalyl

Fantastic Baltimore emcee, Logic, hit paydirt when his third album, Everybody, debuted at number one.  The album was led by the highly celebratory first single, "Black Spiderman".  With spirited vocals by Damien Lamar Hudson, the single highlights diversity and differences in culture.  Just the type of positive tone of music we need in today's divisive times.

22. Logic feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid
Production: artist & 6ix

In what came to be one of the single most important and gripping singles of 2017, Logic delved into a very sensitive, yet vital, issue with "1-800-273-8255", the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.  Joined by Grammy nominees Alessia Cara and Khalid, Logic raps from the perspective of a very depressed and suicidal individual and bringing to light the despair of what life can bring.  The video is even more compelling.  Shouts to all of the above artists for touching a needed subject.

21. Big K.R.I.T.
"Aux Cord"
4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Production: DJ Khalyl

One of MANY standouts on K.R.I.T.'s amazing, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time double album, is the excellent "Aux Cord".  The song gives it up to all his influences growing up within music and really shows how much of an old soul he is.  K.R.I.T. name drops artists like The Ohio Players, Minnie Ripperton, Eddie Kendricks, and Raphael Saadiq among others to show how much music really inspires him and just puts together an appreciative cut for those that made him love music as a whole.

20. Rapsody feat. Busta Rhymes
"You SHould Know"
Laila's Wisdom
Production: 9th Wonder

The first official single from Rapsody's breathtaking Laila's Wisdom album was the Busta Rhymes-assisted "You Should Know".  Rapsody been long known for being an intricate emcee on the mic and showing how stellar of an emcee she is.  Over this clever reworking of Goodie Mob's classic single "Cell Therapy", Marlena Evans spits flammable bars, but the mighty infamous Busta Rhymes comes through on the smoothed out second half to show that after twenty years plus, not only does he still got it, he has more than these young so-called emcees today.  The dungeon dragon still delivers flames with one of the hottest emcees going.

19. Evidence
"Jim Dean"
Weather Or Not
Production: Nottz

It's been some years since we last heard from Dilated peoples' "weatherman", Evidence.  Mr. Slow Flow himself returns with the second single from his forthcoming Weather Or Not album, "Jim Dean".  Over a snapping Nottz instrumental, Ev reminds us that he's still a very talented emcee and has his album among the most anticipated releases of 2018.  

18. Sean Price
"Imperious Rex"
Imperious Rex
Production: The Alchemist

Approaching three years since the untimely passing of Sean Price, we still snap our necks relentlessly and rewind his sick bars.  Duck Down and his wife Bernadette dropped his posthumous album, Imperious Rex and it was every bit as knocking as other previous efforts such as Mic Tyson and Jesus Price Supastar.  With the Alchemist-laced first single, named after the album, his guerilla lyricism was top notched and there was definitely a lot more where this came from on the album.

17. Cyhi The Prince feat. Travis $cott
"I'm Fine"
No Dope On Sundays
Production: Charlie Heat & Anthony Kilhoffer

If there was ever some heat on the album, it definitely came in the form of the searing collabo between Cyhi The Prince and fellow G.O.O.D. Music artist Travis $cott on "I'm Fine".  Over a blazing beat meant for the dance floor, Cyhi details how he has reaped the benefits from his hustles and struggles.  A possible anthem for those that didn't need any help from anyone for them to get to the place he or she needed to be.  Plus the prayer from the pastor to close out the track was perfect.

16. Jay-Z
Production: No I.D.

Rarely do we hear Hov bare his soul on records drenched in pain.  Cuts like "Song Cry" revealed there was more than the flashy Jay-Z we had known.  On "Adnis", Shawn Carter pens a poignant and saddening letter to his absent father, Adnis.  Over arguably the most haunting beat on the album, Jay also expresses his forgiveness for his fathers misdoings.  He made his song cry again.

15. Westside Gunn & MF DOOM
"Gorilla Monsoon"
WestsideDOOM EP
Prtoduction: Daringer

Dear God! When the word came out that Gunna and the legendary MF DOOM were doing a joint effort together, the streets went ballistic.  Rightfully so.  The first sonic earthquake from the album was the stinging "Gorilla Monsoon" Westside sounded his grimy best, but DOOM clearly didn't miss a step over the chilling production from Griselda's beatmaker de force Daringer.  One can hope for a full-length album one day.

14. Big K.R.I.T.
"Price Of Fame"
4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Production: WLPWR

Big K.R.I.T. is one emcee never afraid to bear his heart, mind and soul on a cut.  On disc two of 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, he does so in incredible fashion.  One such meaningful cut is "Price Of Fame", in which he highlights the stresses of being in the public eye and how much it can take on toll on your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.  While we've heard this topic covered before, when K.R.I.T. spits it, you really get a good taste of authenticity, and this is yet another standout cut in an already critically acclaimed career.

13. Skyzoo
"Let It Fly"
Peddler Themes EP
Production: !llmind

Skyzoo presents a BANGER on his Peddler Themes EP in the form of the !llmind-crafted "Let It Fly".  Over a beat that could've very easily fit in with their marvelous 2009 collab album, Live From The Tape Deck, S-K-Y-Z-O-O spits with slick and highly skillful precision that makes among the most underrated emcees going in the game.  Arguably the best highlight on this scorching EP.

12. Westside Gunn feat. Conway The Machine
"R.I.P. Bobby"
Hitler Wears Hermes 5
Production: Daringer & The Alchemist

Simply put kiddies, Griselda was on fire with joints in 2017.  One such cut was the super grimy "R.I.P. Bobby", which took its title from the passing of the iconic wrestling personality Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, in which they're very passionate WWE fans.  Over a split beat (first half done by Daringer, and the hypnotic second half done by Alchemist), Gunna and his brother spit that gun talk and continue to make themselves among the main ones to watch in 2018.

11. Conway The Machine
"Bishop Shot Steel"
Production: Daringer

Betrayal is something taken very seriously in these streets.  On the flute-driven "Bishop Shot Steel" (a reference to a pivotal scene in the movie Juice), Conway hollas at a former friend that backstabbed him and lets him know he didn't appreciate it and he got something coming for him.  With someone like Conway, I would suspect that's the last cat I'd want as my enemy.  Although he never calls out anyone by name, one has to wonder who he's dissing.

10. Prodigy
The Hegealian Dialectic: Book Of Revelations
Production: The Alchemist

The rap world was stunned and saddened by the unfortunate passing of Albert "Prodigy" Johnson of the seminal duo Mobb Deep in 2017.  One of the nicest to ever touch a microphone, Bandana P laces us with his brand of braggadocio hip-hop over a very breezy, flute-driven beat from close friend The Alchemist.  Although technically released as a single in 2016, it made its way onto The Hegelian Dialectic: The Book Of Revelations, which was released in the beginning of 2017.  This was the standout cut on what would be P's deepest and most philosophical album ever.  God rest the dead.

9. Rapsody feat. Anderson.Paak, Black Thought, and Moonchild
Laila's Wisdom
Production: 9th Wonder & Khrysis

Rapsody's major label debut, Laila's Wisdom, is cut for cut the best album of 2017, and for great reason.  There are cuts that are great, and there are cuts that are near flawless.  One such near perfect cut is the mid-tempo yet smooth "Nobody". Over live instrumentation with the croonings of Anderson.Paak and the band Moonchild, Rapsody breaks down how, in true poetic form, a variety of issues that "nobody" comprehends or gets or does anything about.  Double that with another great verse from the legendary Black Thought (he even compared her to Philly rhyme great Bahamadia), and this is a truly fabulous cut.

8. Statik Selektah feat. G-Eazy, Joey Bada$$, and Enisa
"Ain't A Damn Thang Changed"
Production: artist

What would a year in hip-hop be without Boston's favorite deejay/producer Statik Selektah? He dropped yet another impressive outing in 8, and one of the true highlights of the album is the cut "Ain't A Damn Thang Changed".  Possibly the most radio-accessible cut on the album, west coast rapper G-Eazy, frequent collaborator Joey Bada$$, and vocalist Enisa show how the more things change, the more they stay the same over a mellow head-nodder.  Although many argue the cut with The Lox and late seventies group Mtume, "You Don't Hear Me Though" may have a slight edge over this one in terms of radio friendliness, it's the production of this cut that stand out more so.  Can't go wrong with either.

7. Joey Bada$$ feat. J. Cole
All AmeriKKKan Bada$$
Production: Statik Selektah

When heads learned J. Cole would collaborate with Joey Bada$$, the anticipation grew even more with A.A.B.A., and the cut "Legendary" definitely fits the aura of this song.  Over a melodic, mellow track provided by Statik Selektah, Cole and Bada$$ go the conscious route, they address the ills of life while encouraging brothas in the struggle to stay "legendary", but also questioning their own existence.  A very meaningful cut that deserves repeating quite a few times to get its essence.

6. Rapsody feat. GQ
Laila's Wisdom
Production: 9th Wonder & Eric G.

On another stellar cut from Laila's Wisdom, Rapsody goes to bat over a family member still struggling to find her own identity.  Always wanting her to know that she has her back throughout, she also gives her tough love as well, as only a loving family member would do.  Assisted by fellow Jamla artist, GQ, this cut is personal in the fact that we all have that member of the family that we're close to but that also needs help and guidance to make it in life.  Rap does this and does this very well.  The second half has Rap is seemingly playing the role of the family member she's concerned about in a party atmosphere.  Mix this with a sobering GQ verse, and this one is a knockout.

5. Talib Kweli & Styles P feat. Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and NIKO 
"Nine Point Five"
The Seven EP
Production: Marco Polo

Is there anyone Talib Kweli can't rap alongside and it's not a sizzler? In 2017, he got up with another hip-hop great Styles P and they released a tremendous EP entitled The Seven.  The lead single, "Nine Point Five" is just a melodic speaker breaker.  These two, alongside Styles' Lox brothers Jada and Sheek, provide jewels for the masses without being preachy or overly heavy.  With NIKO providing the hook, this is straight up and down good ass hip-hop. Period.

4. Brother Ali
"Dear Black Son"
All The Beauty In This Whole Life
Production: Ant

We waited for over six years for the return of Minneapolis' own Brother Ali, and boy was it worth the wait with his 2017 album, All The Beauty In This Whole Life.  A simply fabulous piece of work from the man that created genuine classics such as Shadows On The Sun and The Undisputed Truth, the highlight of the album lies with the very personal and poignant "Dear Black Son". Over a piano loop provided by Atmosphere's Ant, this one has him having a heart to heart with his teenage son about today's society and that through it all, he still loves him.  A tear jerker if there ever was one, Ali has crafted arguably the most important father to son cut since Will Smith's "Just The Two Of Us", but in today's racist, Trump-fueled atmosphere, where young Black men are getting killed by police and the George Zimmerman's of the world, this is a song EVERY father needs to play and discuss with his son. Bravo Ali. Bravo.

3. Kendrick Lamar
Production: 9th Wonder

Once we finally reach the end of the excellence that is DAMN, Kendrick presents us with a real life story about the time his boss of TDE, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tififth nearly shot his father at a fast food restaurant, and how that would've ultimately made the story of DAMN a lot more complex.  The genius of this album has the story from top to bottom different from listening to it in reverse, and this is the hot 9th Wonder-produced cut that literally summed it all up at the end...or told the whole story from the beginning.  Your call.

2. Rapsody
"Jesus Coming"
Laila's Wisdom
Production: 9th Wonder

Just when you thought Laila's Wisdom was done with how incredible it was, the final cut comes in the form of "Jesus Coming", and it hits you like a sack of stones.  One of the heaviest tracks you'll hear in hip-hop in recent memory, Rapsody plays different characters in this cut: a mother who has been shot by random violence, her daughter who also got shot, and one of the guys that had the shootout with another.  All three are dying.  A troubling yet brilliant cut that will leave quite an impression on you after just one listen.  Over one of the melancholy tracks we've ever heard 9th put together, this song will give you the chills and may even choke you up.

1. Kendrick Lamar
Production: Sounwave

If there was one song that captured the essence of what DAMN was about, it was this cut.  Kendrick basically expresses his frustrations about his life and doesn't give a damn who likes it and who doesn't.  Feeling nobody is praying for him, it's from this point we see where his pain and anger come from.  Once you get a grasp of this cut, it makes the remaining album more clear as to why he is how he is through the album.  This cut is as real as any cut you'll ever hear from King Kendrick.

There were PLENTY other incredible single that were blazing in 2017.  There's no time to make a list of a hundred songs, but in terms of replay value, these are some of the best around.  Feel free to bump these cuts at any given time of the year.  Let's see what 2018 has to offer.  Until next time y'all!