On January 1, 2017, Barack Obama was (still) the president of the United States, Kendrick Lamar had yet to release DAMN., Migos had yet to release Culture; no one knew what would become of Bad and Boujee. Cardi B had yet to release Bodak Yellow, and Jay-Z’s side to the tale of his infidelity was still kept deeply under wraps.
So now, as the year comes to a close and we approach 2018, it’s hard to summarize the incredible impacts music has made this year. 2017 has been a year filled with political tension, protest, technological advancements, and setbacks alike. Unsurprisingly, the music released this year has reflected all of that. Music — like many other art forms — has been used as a means of offering an escape, a voice, a place for rage, a means of hope, and sometimes a combination of all of those things.
The narratives for the music industry in 2017 all read like stunning announcements coming to unsuspecting onlookers from a bull horn. Jay-Z addressed allegations of philandering and schooled listeners in hoods across America about the importance of investing. Lauryn Hill’s crown for last [Female] Rapper to go no. 1 on Billboard was relinquished to the self-proclaimed “Trap Selena,” Cardi B. After years of anticipation, SZA finally delivered a full-length project, and encouraged all the main chicks to get on their jobs before “The Weekend” hits. And N.E.R.D. reunited for the release of a new and most timely project, “No One Ever Really Dies; all of this as young rappers who have built a following on Instagram and SoundCloud have leveraged their followings for hit singles putting the very structure of the industry as we knew it on its head.
Additionally, while some have argued that R&B is dead and gone, and is only useful for OVO and G.O.O.D. Music samples, there have been a slew of artists that have shown the range of possibilities and dexterity of ‘millennial’ R&B, from PJ Morton and Daniel Caesar to Jordan Rakei and Bosco. Moreover on the Jazz front, artists have taken the art form and ventured into new spaces. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah has taken improvisation, chord structures, and the spirit of jazz and fused it with elements of Trap and Bounce music; Thundercat has taken major steps as a vocalist, and songwriter, yet remains true to his jazz roots, and Kamasi Washington continues to prove himself as one of today’s best horn players.
As a result, choosing our favorite albums of the year was no easy feat for 2017, but we managed. Here are just a sample of what had our adrenaline pumping, fists bumping, and feet stomping this year (in no particular order).
1). SZA, CNTRL
2). Tyler The Creator, Flower Boy
3). Snoh Aalegra, FEELS
4). Jay-Z, 4:44
5). Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
6). Daniel Ceasar, Freudian
7). HAIM, Something To Tell You
8). Rapsody, Laila’s Wisdom
9). Drake, More Life
10). Sabrina Claudio, About Time
Our Honorable Mentions:
Both albums dropped at the end of this year—December, respectively. Nevertheless, they deserve to be acknowledged, for their future impact will certainly be felt, in 2018
.N.E.R.D, No One Ever Really Dies
Miguel, War x Leisure
Interested in a longer list of what we liked? Head over to 808’s and Jazz Breaks to check out a deep 2017 Year-end Review with 50 of our favorite albums of the year.