The year has come to a close, and we got a lot of great music in the past 365 days. In the past, I’ve made two separate lists for hip-hop and everything else, but I decided to combine them all into one list of my favorite 25 albums of the year to make it more concise. Maybe some of our choices will match and some may not, but that’s the beauty of having different tastes. Hopefully though, you’ll find something you haven’t heard yet during the year and you’ll be able to go back and check it out. So let’s get started.
25. J.I.D. – The Never Story
The Atlanta rapper J.I.D had a pretty great year. Signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records in February, J.I.D delivered a great debut album. The project is full of stories from him growing up as a kid with almost nothing to his name to struggles he had with girls, admitting that he’s a bad person to them. The great production along with J.I.D’s unique voice makes this album a great listen. Favorite tracks: NEVER, EdEddnEddy, All Bad, LAUDER. Check out “NEVER” below.
24. Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice
Freddie Gibbs delivers on a relatively short album with You Only Live 2wice, but it’s all filled with bangers in which Freddie’s rhyming shines. Talking about his recent court cases and going into his past life where he sold cocaine, Freddie glides through every beat smoothly and sometimes takes it up a notch to rhyme fast. He also gets into how a certain past lover was able to help him through a difficult time in his past but he always felt bad for not treating her the way she should have. Favorite tracks: 2o Karat Jesus, Dear Maria, Phone Lit. Check out “20 Karat Jesus” below.
23. Rina Sawayima – RINA
This pop EP (yes, it’s not an album, get over it) is amazing. Rina’s vocals over the strangely different poppy beats make for a great combination. The melodies and instrumentation are a treat for your ears to listen to, and the themes of love in the 21st century with all this new technology aiding and/or hindering relationships. Favorite tracks: Ordinary Superstar, 10-20-40, Tunnel Vision, Cyber Stockholm Syndrome. Check out “Tunnel Vision” below.
22. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
To call this album an “enjoyable” listen would be a bit strange. Phil Elverum, the frontman of Mount Eerie, made this album after his wife passed away, and the whole album is recounting memories along with dealing with her death just weeks after her passing. He struggles with figuring out how he’s going to raise his daughter, and tells a touching story of how she bought their daughter a backpack while she was in the hospital and it arrived at their house after she passed away. The whole album is completely heartbreaking, which is why “enjoyable” wouldn’t be the right word to describe this album. However, it is definitely a window into Phil’s life vividly told through the songs on this album. Favorite songs: Real Death, Ravens, Forest Fire, Swims, My Chasm, When I Take Out The Garbage At Night. Check out “Real Death” below.
21. SZA – CTRL
TDE really has been firing on all cylinders lately. And SZA is not an exception. The first singer signed to the West Coast label came through with a great debut album and a follow up to her Z mixtape from a couple years back. SZA touches a lot on being the “other girl” in a relationship and how it influenced how she grew as a person and learned from those mistakes and failed relationships. I’m looking forward to hearing more growth coming from SZA in the upcoming years. Favorite tracks: Supermodel, Love Galore, Drew Barrymore, Prom, The Weekend, Broken Clocks. Check out “Love Galore” below.
20. Migos – Culture
Migos really surprised me with this album. Sure, most every trap rapper or group out now is pretty much a case of rinse and repeat, but I think Migos has a little more to offer. They actually have great lyrics that keep you invested in what they’re saying, and their flows all differ from one member to the next. Sure, the hype for this album might have started off as a meme with the “rain drop, drop top” challenge tweets, but the project has way more to offer than just that song. Favorite tracks: Culture, T-Shirt, Bad and Boujee, Brown Paper Bag, Deadz, Out Yo Way. Check out “Deadz” below.
19. Mac Demarco – This Old Dog
Indie darling Mac Demarco came back with another album this year that hit it out of the park and actually came to give him a bit more recognition. Mac gets into the relationship with his dad and how he doesn’t want to be anything like him, yet when he looks in the mirror, that’s all he sees. There’s also some love songs for his girl that are sweet and perfect for a picnic with your significant other. Favorite tracks: My Old Man, For The First Time, One Another, Still Beating, Sister, On The Level, Watching Him Fade Away. Check out “Still Beating” below.
18. Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Open Mike Eagle gets a little more introspective than usual, delivering on one of the best concept albums I’ve heard in a bit. Mike goes back to his childhood in Chicago, growing up in the projects and the memories made there and how gentrification is tearing down those memories and driving out people who cannot afford housing. He touches also on the impact that this gentrification is having on his community and how it’s ruining the memories he had made and how kids nowadays grow up in Chicago. Favorite tracks: Legendary Iron Hood, (How Could Anybody) Feel At Home, No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don’t Hurt), Brick Body Complex, 95 Radios. Check out “Brick Body Complex” below.
17. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
Julien Baker came out with her sophomore record this year that is full of great songwriting and vocals from Julien. She touches on relationships falling apart because of drug use and mental health issues. Julien’s soft spoken vocals along with beautiful guitar and piano melodies bring the album together and provide many layers to her feelings. Favorite tracks: Over, Appointments, Shadowboxing, Televangelist, Hurt Less. Check out “Appointments” below.
16. Remo Drive – Greatest Hits
Despite the title of this album, it’s not a compilation of the band’s best songs from over the years. This is the debut album of the Minnesota band Remo Drive. The band really knows how to put together a catchy song with riffs that’ll stay with you and lyrics that you’ll want to scream into your ex’s face. Favorite tracks: Art School, Crash Test Rating, Strawberita, Yer Killing Me, Name Brand. Check out “Yer Killing Me” below.
15. Daniel Caesar – Freudian
Toronto R&B artist Daniel Caesar delivered an amazing debut album this year, with a pleasant and feel good record. His smooth vocals over lush guitar grooves makes for a very enjoyable listen from front to back. There’s no doubt that there’s better things coming from Daniel Caesar, and this project is a great indication of that and an amazing start for the artist. Favorite tracks: Get You, Best Part, Hold Me Down, We Find Love, Blessed. Check out “Best Part” below.
14. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
Yes. This album came out in 2016. But it was slated to come out early January until Killer Mike and El-P decided to just drop it on Christmas of last year for free as a present to all the fans. So I’m including it in this year’s list. I was actually lucky enough to go to their concert for this album this year, and it was definitely an experience. Every song was banging throughout the room, and it was apparently also the biggest venue they had ever sold out. But now being their third record together, Killer Mike and El-P show why they are one of the best rap groups out there, and their goals are set to become the best rap group ever. It’s hard not to see them as that if they continue dropping great albums such as this. El-P also keeps showing why he’s one of the best producer/rapper combos out there, as well as one of the most underrated. Favorite tracks: Down, Talk To Me, Legend Has It, Call Ticketron, Stay Gold, Thieves! (Screamed The Ghost), 2100, Everybody Stay Calm. Check out “Legend Has It” below (yes, it’s the song used in the Black Panther trailer, but it’s a banger).
13. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
No, Kendrick’s album didn’t land in my top 10. Yes, he’s still my favorite rapper out now. However, this is definitely not a knock towards DAMN. It was definitely a more accessible album than To Pimp A Butterfly (which is still my favorite Kendrick album), so it was good to see more people find his music. I love that this album touched on a lot of different emotions, having a different one for seemingly every song title with the exception of a few. Some emotions had their counterparts coming right after which showed contradicting feelings that went inside Kung Fu Kenny. And of course there was the ever famous deluxe edition with the reverse tracklist, which came about because of Kendrick saying you could play the album backwards and it would have a different meaning. I didn’t really find this to be true, and it was pretty weird ending it on “BLOOD.”, but more power to him. Favorite tracks: DNA., ELEMENT., FEEL., HUMBLE., FEAR., DUCKWORTH. Check out “ELEMENT.” below.
12. Xiu Xiu – Forget
The experimental pop group Xiu Xiu came through with a great record this year that explores many different sounds. Their last record which were covers from songs from the Twin Peaks tv show, was a great look into how they could take a cover and turn it into something completely different and special. The album starts off very quickly and gets you into the feel of what you’re in store for for the rest of the tracklist. Favorite tracks: The Call, Queen Of The Losers, Wondering, Get Up, Jenny GoGo, Forget. Check out “Wondering” below.
11. Kelela – Take Me Apart
Kelela is the type of R&B artist that pushes the genre forward. The instrumentals she sings over are not your typical ones, yet she’s able to sing on them with ease and make you think that there was definitely no other genre where these beats would fit on. Very passionate vocals from Kelela bring you into the world she’s painting with these songs. Favorite tracks: Frontline, Waitin, Enough, LMK, Blue Light, Onanon. Check out “LMK” below.
10. Lorde – Melodrama
Lorde’s sophomore effort went over really well this year for me. I thought Melodrama was a great collection of songs that delved into a recent breakup that she went through. The beginning of the album is sort of an overview of the breakup, with the following tracks dissecting how the couple came to an end. Some songs take an angry stance against things that her boyfriend did, but others show her remembering the great things that happened while they were together now that they’re over. Favorite tracks: Green Light, Sober, Homemade Dynamite, The Louvre, Liability, Hard Feelings/Loveless, Supercut. Check out “Supercut” below.
9. BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION II
Brockhampton took the world by storm this year. Their “Saturation” series really gave us a saturated 2017 filled with great music from the rap boyband. Their second installment showed them capitalizing on the magic captured in their first album, while giving us some new instrumentals and great verses from Kevin Abstract, Dom McLennon, and Ameer Vann. Favorite tracks: GUMMY, QUEER, TEETH, SWAMP, JUNKY, FIGHT, SWEET, SUNNY. Check out “SWAMP” below.
8. BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION III
The last installment of the Saturation series came towards the end of the year, and it was a glorious send off for the group and all the great stuff they put out in 2017. This really was their year. The quick saxophone start off from the opening track will get you hyped for the album no matter what mood you were in before. Matt Champion’s verses really stand out on this last installment of the series too, as well as production from Romil. Favorite tracks: BOOGIE, JOHNNY, STUPID, BLEACH, ALASKA, HOTTIE, SISTER/NATION. Check out “BOOGIE” below.
7. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
As the year went on, Joey’s album really did jump up for me. And that’s not to say I thought it wasn’t good the first time I heard it. It’s just that as things kept happening in the country, as every news article and story came out every day, the words Joey spit on this rang even more true. This album is definitely Joey at his best lyrically, and he’s only 22. Great year for Joey too, continuing his acting career on Mr. Robot as well as dropping this great album. Also, “Y U Don’t Love Me (Miss Amerikkka)” still astounds me to this day. Favorite tracks: GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA, FOR MY PEOPLE, TEMPTATION, LAND OF THE FREE, DEVASTATED, Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA), ROCKABYE BABY. Check out “ROCKABYE BABY” below.
6. BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION I
The one that started it all. Brockhampton’s first album was really last year, but Saturation I is what made them burst into the scene and they did not look back at all continuing into the rest of the year. This was an introduction to how diverse the group was, with great verses coming from everybody and even some great singing from a couple in the group. Loved this album and I’m definitely looking forward to whatever Brockhampton decides to do next. Favorite tracks: HEAT, GOLD, STAR, BOYS, FAKE, TRIP, SWIM, BUMP, MILK, FACE. Check out “GOLD” below.
5. Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
Tyler really stepped up his game for this album. I was always a fan of the different directions he would go in when I first heard Bastard, even though it was a bit less accessible to people. It definitely showed how raw Tyler could rap, but as albums went by, we would see a bit more beautiful instrumentation from him, seeing that he could venture out into a more pop filled album if he wanted to (and he alluded to making a pop album on twitter earlier in the year). The news covering this album were that he came out in one of the songs, but the album is much more than that. It’s about friends not actually being there for you at times, about moments that you wished never ended, about falling in love for the first time. But then there’s also bangers that only Tyler can deliver such as “I Ain’t Got Time” and “Who Dat Boy”. Favorite tracks: Where This Flower Blooms, See You Again, Who Dat Boy, Garden Shed, Boredom, I Ain’t Got Time, 911/Mr. Lonely, November. Check out “See You Again” below.
4. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
This album was a pleasant surprise in 2017. I have loved Fleet Foxes’ past albums, but they hadn’t released one since 2011. They had their hardships in the past couple of years, with two of their members having obstacles in their friendship that they had to pass through, and the album touches on that. Robin’s songwriting bring us into what he was going through at the time of his friendship’s troubles, and he also talks about the way that women’s lives have been taken away by society by putting them in lesser roles and not letting them show off their full potential, which was especially hard hitting this year after all the Hollywood sexual harassment allegations which drove a lot of women to not want to keep on pursuing their acting careers and dreams. This album is full of beautiful music that I had missed from Fleet Foxes and that I will definitely be hearing for years to come. Favorite tracks: I’m All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar, Cassius, Naiads Cassidies, Kept Woman, Third Of May/Ōdaigahara, If You Need To Keep Time On Me, On Another Ocean(January/June), I Should See Memphis. Check out “Third Of May / Ōdaigahara” below.
3. Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Big K.R.I.T. is finally back once again with this new album. I had always been an fan of KRIT ever since his mixtape days, but I always felt that even though his tapes would be incredible, his albums wouldn’t bring out the best of his musical ability. Most of that probably had to do with the fact that Def Jam did not know how to market him and the pressures of a label weighing down on him was something he wasn’t used to. But now, he has left Def Jam and gone fully independent, and it seems like this has brought the best of Big K.R.I.T. back into the spotlight. This double disc album has 2 sides of KRIT; the rapper and the man, Justin Scott. Each disc delves into both of these personalities respectively, and the result is the rapper side of KRIT coming through with bangers in the first disc and Justin Scott’s story coming through on the second disc. A more personal look into his life than he has given before. Favorite tracks: Big K.R.I.T., Confetti, Big Bank, Layup, Aux Cord, Get Away, Mixed Messages, Keep The Devil Off, Everlasting, Price Of Fame, The Light, Bury Me In Gold. Check out “Big Bank” below.
2. Jay-Z – 4:44
Jay-Z hadn’t really made anything of interest to me in a long time. His verses weren’t really hitting me as they once used to. But that all changed when 4:44 came out. The album infamously known for being Hov’s apology to Beyoncé made waves when the first single came out. Touching on O.J. and how the country still looks down on black people no matter what status they have in the world. Yes, he does have an apology song for Bey but he also touches on many more things, especially personal, which to me makes this album truly the first Sean Carter album, and that concept is brought about from just the opening song, “Kill Jay-Z”, where just by the title you can see that Hov doesn’t want to rap from that persona for this album. He wants to give us something more personal and introspective. Favorite tracks: Kill Jay-Z, The Story Of O.J., Smile, 4:44, Bam, Moonlight, Legacy. Check out “The Story Of O.J.” below.
1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
This album by Father John Misty definitely encapsulated the whole year perfectly for me, as well as the past couple of years, it seems. The first line Josh Tillman says in the album, “The comedy of man starts like this”, gets you ready for a different view to an Earth whose humans are really all part of this huge comedy. The album touches on a lot of very great topics, and a lot of dark comedic themes as well as irony and human behavior that we see every day but don’t think twice about it. There’s a song about a man who, even on his death bed, is scrolling through his timeline, feeling sad about what he’s about to miss on his timeline and all the people who he can’t troll on or call out anymore. “Two Wildly Different Perspectives” gives us a clear cut view of 2 of the most popular ideologies in the world, and reveals that the end product of believing in either of these brings us to the same destructive end. I was lucky enough to see Father John Misty in concert this year too and it was one of the best experiences I had. He was very passionate while singing these songs but also was not taking himself seriously at times when he just wanted to have fun. Favorite tracks: Pure Comedy, Total Entertainment Forever, Revolution, Ballad Of The Dying Man, When The God Of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay, Two Wildly Different Perspectives, So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain. Check out “Ballad Of The Dying Man” below.