It’s that time again for my review of the last year in hip-hop. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2017. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, Cyphers, and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.
The Latest Playlist: 2017
*Track listing at bottom of post
Notable Albums of 2017
Choosing albums to highlight this year was difficult, and I want to at least mention some of the projects that for whatever reason I had a difficult time deciding not to critique: Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, Kendrick Lamar – DAMN, Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom, Marlon Craft – The Tunnel’s End, Billy Woods – Known Unknowns, and Kota the Friend – Paloma Beach. In the end, I decided to bring attention to the following 2017 projects:
BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION I, II, & III
The most wonderful surprise of 2017 was the trilogy of albums released by self-proclaimed Internet boy band, BROCKHAMPTON: SATURATION I, II, & III. My initial intention was to comment on just one of the three albums, but it would have been irresponsible not to address the entire trilogy as a whole, as well as the group’s overall significance in 2017. Formed by Kevin Abstract in an online Kanye West fan forum, the group consists of about a dozen members, each with a unique style, blending together in an incredibly impressive and complex dynamic. With a collective 48 tracks (only 8 of which are skits), and accompanied by about 20 music videos, this trilogy is and has everything, leaving little to be desired.
Forming a description of this music is anything but simple, as there are completely different styles from track to track, and even from section to section within each track. Some parts are difficult to digest; others contain a beautiful harmonizing of melodies, while others tiptoe into more classical rap and lyricism, and at times display styles that resemble poetry and spoken word. SATURATION pulls from a wide variety of genres and uses a plethora of sounds culminating in a project that is uniquely refreshing and absolutely genuine. The overall energy is invigorating and exiting in a way that is reminiscent of early Odd Future, but far more sophisticated.
In general, the content covers everything relevant to 2017 without beating the listener over the head with anything in particular. The message oscillates between introspective, contemplative, and outwardly conscious to a far less enlightened self-indulgence, which is clearly self-aware, dabbling in a comedic irony. The more time you spend with this music, the more there is to unpack and appreciate.
Milo – Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!
2017 brought yet another magical release from the rap poet alchemist/sorcerer: Milo. With the opening track titled “Poet” and closing track titled “Rapper”, Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! Actively addresses the natural crossover of poetry and rap, particularly in Milo’s own music, which has become commonly referred to as the Open Mike Eagle coined genre of “Art Rap”.
The instrumentals on this project are mostly mesmerizingly mellow (mmm…), leaving room for Milo’s message, which is, as usual, contemplative and inquisitive on many levels. Deeply saturated with abstract metaphor and philosophical references, as in all of Milo’s music, momentary distraction is unforgiving to the listener, and understanding his messages require undivided attention.
Much of this project seems to be a path of self-discovery through music as well as observation of others, and finding his place relative to those observations. He frequently employs blatant critique of stereotypical rap clichés and shortsighted arrogance, though his disses would clearly be lost upon the targets of his criticism. Well aware of his intellectual prowess, particularly in the field of hip-hop, intelligence and vocabulary become his bragging points: “The point is my vocabulary pays my rent”.
Though I wouldn’t consider this Milo’s best project to date, it is undoubtedly successful, solidifying his place as one of my favorite artists.
lojii & Swarvy – Due Rent
Any classic head can appreciate “Due Rent”, the latest double “disc” album from lojii & Swarvy. Lojii tackles the age-old hip-hop theme of hustling for cash, striving to overcome struggle, and then rapping about it. With a low-energy Godfather/Mafioso type East Coast flow, lojii casually floats over a bed of dark lo-fi instrumentals that clearly display Swarvy’s ability to orchestrate sample mastery.
Accurately self described as “rap vintage”, each track is only about 2 minutes and is essentially a different take on the same point: lojii going about his day to day trying to find a way to pay rent and make it to the next day, with of course, a bit of classic hip-hop braggadocio peppered in. Overall the album is cohesively satisfying, with a seemingly low budget production and message, lojii & Swarvy show that they can make dope hip-hop with any budget, reminiscent of an earlier time in underground hip-hop production.
Notable Music Videos of 2017
Open Mike Eagle feat. Sammus – Hymnal
Open Mike Eagle – Happy Wasteland Day
Jay-Z – The Story of O.J.
Brother Ali – Never Learn
BROCKHAMPTON – SWAMP
Notable Cyphers of 2017
Method Man & Black Thought on Sway in the Morning
Harry Mack Freestyles in Venice
Notable Rap Battles of 2017
Bigg K vs Pass (KOTD)
Dizaster vs Oxxxymiron (KOTD)
Oops vs Xcel (KOTD)
The Latest Playlist 2017:
Brother Ali – Never Learn
lojii & Swarvy – Northern Organix
Marlon Craft – The One (Intro) / TTE 1
Milo – Sorcerer
Danny Watts – Things We Have To Do
Devin the Dude – Can I
Open Mike Eagle Feat. Sammus – Hymnal
Little Simz – Backseat
J.I.D. – General
Billy Woods – Snake Oil
BROCKHAMPTON – TOKYO
Araabmuzik feat. Illmind – Selda
Anti-Lilly & Phoniks feat. Mariel – Sunshine
Cyhi The Prynce – God Bless Your Heart
Kendrick Lamar – FEEL
Loyle Carner – Ain’t Nothing Changed
Cunninlynguists – Mr. Morganfield & Ms. Waters (A-Side)
Sampa The Great – Protect Your Queen
Homeboy Sandman – Bless Up
The Doppelgangaz feat. Tnava– Roll Flee
Kota the Friend – Lawn Chair
Joey Bada$$ feat. Styles P – SUPER PREDATOR
Smino – Spitshine
Blu & Exile – Party of Two
Quelle Chris feat. I, Ced & Mndsgn – Popeye
The Underachievers – Cobra Clutch
Statik Selektah feat. Run The Jewels – Put Jewels On It
Stik Figa feat. Apollo Brown – Holding Back Tears
Armand Hammer – Stole
G Perico – All Blue
Have a great 2018!