ADAIYA'S YEAR IN REVIEW: Top albums of 2017
10. The Never Story – J.I.D.
While you may have heard of J.I.D. on earlier tracks with fellow Spillage Village members (particularly EarthGang), J.I.D. makes a huge statement with his debut solo album. His raw lyrical talent paired with his versatile voice characterize the huge potential he has as an artist and elucidate why he was recently signed by J. Cole to Dreamville Records.
ALBUM FAVORITES: NEVER, EdEddnEddy, D/vision, All Bad, Hoodbooger, LAUDER
LISTEN TO WHILE: participating in relaxing activities
9. Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
Cleverness and creativity continues with Vince’s sophomore studio album. He considers how rappers are perceived by the general public and the downfalls of fame in his exploratory album bursting with heavy bass and house beats. While Vince, somewhat jokingly, promoted Big Fish Theory as an Afrofuturistic album, it almost follows through with its upbeat energy, techno influences, and unconventional, yet sharp and intelligent lyricism.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Big Fish, Love Can Be…, 745, Yeah Right, Party People, BagBak
LISTEN TO WHILE: covered in sweat and dancing at a rave (or Shooters)
8. Laila’s Wisdom – Rapsody
Still working to establish her name, North Carolina emcee Rapsody may have done just that with her debut album on Roc Nation. Holding it down as the only female rapper on this list, Rapsody deserves all the credit for her crisp lyrical skills and ability to have a conversation on the track. Jazz and funk samples are found throughout the album with crazy beat transitions, which makes sense given that Duke’s very own professor and head of Jamla Records, the OG 9th Wonder produced many of the tracks. A fluid and smooth album examining Black womanhood and controlling one’s own destiny, it is no wonder the project is up for two Grammy nominations this year.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Power, Chrome (Like Ooh), Pay Up, Ridin’, Nobody
LISTEN TO WHILE: playing music at a family get-together
7. Luv is Rage 2 (Deluxe) – Lil Uzi Vert
Uzi’s weird, spaced-out SoundCloud hits remain, but with a little more structure in his album Luv is Rage 2 (Deluxe). 2017 was a big year for Uzi with “XO TOUR Llif3”—a top song of the year—that helped put him on the map and provided a sneak peek into the album altogether. While I’m not a big fan of Uzi’s rap of the past, this animated pop-rap project warrants praise for its innovation and impact on the SoundCloud-era of rap. (The deluxe songs are fire and really solidified the album on my list, so make sure to listen!)
ALBUM FAVORITES: For Real, Neon Guts, X, Dark Queen, Loaded, 20 Min
LISTEN TO WHILE: hyping up your best friends
6. blkswn – Smino
After listening to Smino for some time on SoundCloud, his debut album did not disappoint. The album contained multiple hit singles – a huge accomplishment for the St. Louis rapper. Smino’s unique flow—with the way he connects his phrases and is able to sing and rap at the same time—makes for a creative sound. This album lives up to Smino’s smooth and silky standards, touching on lust, his personal struggles with drinking and smoking, and a need to stay on the right track.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Wild Irish Roses, Glass Flows, Flea Flicka, Spitshine, Netflix & Dusse, Anita, Amphetamine
LISTEN TO WHILE: watching landscape/skyline pass you by
5. ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – Joey Bada$$
In his 2nd studio album, Joey focuses on what it means to live in a Black man’s body in today’s America. This central theme establishes Joey’s maturation as not only a rapper, but as an emerging activist concerned with political engagement. As one of my favorite rappers in high school, I’ve been disappointed with his most recent projects. B4.DA.$$ and Summer Knights were underwhelming – it seemed like he was trying to conform to a version of rap that wasn’t him. With this album, old 1999 Joey flow ~almost~ returns and I couldn’t be happier. Make sure to check out the other exceptional singles he dropped on SoundCloud in 2017 (“500 Benz,” “Too Lit,” “Love is Only a Feeling”), which may even surpass some AABA songs in greatness.
ALBUM FAVORITES: TEMPTATION, LAND OF THE FREE, Y U DON’T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA), BABYLON, LEGENDARY
LISTEN TO WHILE: in need of a reminder of your self-worth (a.k.a. remembering who TF you are)
4. 4:44 – JAY-Z
This album was unexpected, both the release itself and its greatness. Still a legend no doubt, JAY’s most recent collaborations have been mediocre. 4:44 is honest, open, heartfelt, vulnerable, and a platform upon which JAY-Z talks about his personal trials, tribulations, and triumphs, bringing Queen Bey on a track for added emphasis. A concept album about being a Black man in America today, JAY offers lessons for young Black men on how to start a family, secure the bag strategically, and deal with toxic masculinity.
ALBUM FAVORITES: The Story of O.J., Caught Their Eyes, 4:44, Family Feud, Marcy Me
LISTEN TO WHILE: killing that final essay at the end of the semester
3. Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator
Flower Boy Tyler is bit more personal and laidback compared to his past, rowdier projects. He displays strong artistic growth and truly elevates on arguably his best project yet. Tyler reflects on his journey as an artist and in the music industry, as well as a journey of self-awareness with conversations about sexuality, fears, anxieties, and insecurities.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Foreword, Sometimes…, Garden Shed, Boredom, 911/Mr. Lonely, Droppin’ Seeds, November, Glitter
LISTEN TO WHILE: contemplating life
2. Culture – Migos
Culture is a career-defining album for the Atlanta trap trio with classic bangers almost all the way through. Of course, “Bad & Boujee” takes the crown for being a timeless hit in 2017. Impacting the club scene, but also Instagram captions and Twitter memes, the song had a huge influence on 2017 mainstream ‘Black culture’. However, you can’t just pick one single song on the album – somehow all the hit singles come together cohesively; trap excellence embodied. Offset and Takeoff prove themselves as individual rappers (did they really have to, though?), while the album also illustrates how the three rappers flow so well together and complement each other. Migos has come a long way from YRN – this album and its amazing music videos made 2017 a huge year for the group. Culture 2 coming soon…
ALBUM FAVORITES: T-Shirt, Call Casting, Slippery, What the Price, Brown Paper Bag (really every song slaps except Culture)
LISTEN TO WHILE: pre-gaming/on the aux at the [Yearby] function
1. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
A masterpiece. I don’t feel like I need to do much explaining, nor do I feel equipped to fully analyze DAMN. All songs on the album were on the Billboard Hot 100 list at some point in 2017, and for good reason. The album is a fluid story and cements KDOT’s position as the king of this rap sh*t today (maybe of all-time, to be determined). DAMN. is extremely intricate and requires multiple listens, which is why I am still working through the album today. Even when it seems like it’s impossible, KDOT continues to raise the bar, grow, and evolve with every project he releases. All hail King Kendrick.
ALBUM FAVORITES: YAH., FEEL., PRIDE., LUST., LOVE., XXX., FEAR., GOD.
LISTEN TO WHILE: working up a sweat at the gym or honoring KING KENDRICK during any activity
· Rather You Than Me – Rick Ross
· Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti
· SATURATION III – BROCKHAMPTON
· Huncho Jack, Huncho Jack – Travis Scott, Quavo
· NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES – N.E.R.D.
· HNDRXX – Future
· or more; the anxious – Mick Jenkins (EP)
· Pretty Girls Like Trap Music – 2 Chainz
· At What Cost – Goldlink
· Humble Beast – G Herbo
10. Aromanticism – Moses
Moses Sumney’s debut album is centered around the concept of aromanticism and what it means to not experience romance in a world where we are conditioned by popular media to believe that we need it. An indie soul album with bluesy, classical sounds, Aromanticism is the calm in the midst of the storm that is today’s world. Woeful, but sensual at the same time, Moses speaks of loneliness, disappointment, isolation, and incongruity with hegemonic norms surrounding romantic love.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Plastic, Quarrel, Doomed, Indulge Me
LISTEN TO WHILE: drinking tea in your bed and watching rain pour down outside
9. Face Your Fear – Curtis Harding
A mashup of retro-soul, R&B, neo-blues, gospel, and punk rock, Harding provides refreshing sounds on his sophomore album. 70’s nostalgic, but vibrant and lively – it is easy-to-read the influence from the Atlanta-via-Michigan singer’s time as a back-up singer for Cee-Lo Green, as well as his inspiration from greats like Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye. Listen to this heartfelt album about juggling romance, fears, and life itself.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Wednesday Morning Atonement, On and On, Need Your Love, Dream Girl, Welcome to My World
LISTEN TO WHILE: eating a bougie brunch on a Sunday afternoon
8. Drunk – Thundercat
Thundercat’s inventiveness prevails on his funky, neo-soul album. Punk yet R&B, coherent yet all over the place, funny yet somber, you can feel Thundercat’s idiosyncrasy through the music. A tad bit more upbeat than usual to begin, the album still ends with melancholy sounds and remains psychedelic as ever. Thundercat thinks through his music – particularly about drinking and heartbreak – and in an album packed with emotion, demonstrates his skills as a genuine musician through and through.
ALBUM FAVORITES: A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song II and Tron Song Suite II), Show You the Way Walk On By, Friend Zone, Them Changes, Drink Dat
LISTEN TO WHILE: you’re up late scrolling on tumblr (let’s make it cool again)
7. Fin – Syd
At the center of my favorite group, the Internet, is singer/song-writer Syd, who dropped her debut solo-album in 2017. She came to fame with the likes of Odd Future and Frank and has been putting out amazing work since Purple Naked Ladies, but this album allowed her to showcase her personal capacity and full talents as a singer. Holding to the alternative R&B, neo-soul, and hip-hop vibes of the Internet, Syd comes into her own on the album, boasting confidence and control over sensuous beats.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Know, No Complaints, Smile More, Body, Dollar Bills, Insecurities
LISTEN TO WHILE: sharing beverages on a rooftop with your close friends
6. Feels – Snoh Aalegra
Persian singer Snoh Aalegra shines in her debut album that meshes contemporary R&B, with soft rock, hip-hop, and neo-soul. Stockholm born and raised, but L.A. based, Aalegra recently emerged on the scene, gaining traction after being sampled on Drake’s More Life. However, she has already collaborated with greats like Common and RZA. The album boasts many different emotions, covering love and emotional availability, and is accentuated by witty rap features from innovators like Vince, Vic, Logic, and Timbuktu, a big-time Swedish rapper. Aalegra has a uniquely raspy voice and an extraordinary vocal range, exhibiting Amy Winehouse vibes on Feels.
ALBUM FAVORITES: You Got Me, You Keep Me Waiting, Fool for You, Time, Nothing Burns Like the Cold, FEELS, Walls
LISTEN TO WHILE: reading and relaxing near water (e.g. on a boat, on the beach, etc.)
5. War & Leisure – Miguel
Oh, how we’ve missed Miguel’s raspy voice over his two-year hiatus from songwriting. More relaxed with an emphasis on guitar – Miguel shows us how he’s grown as a singer/songwriter, while his colorful and sexy R&B is still recognizable. Miguel doesn’t necessarily follow through on creating music that is politically aware, but as many other artists, he is becoming more politically active and vocal, showing Trump protests in his music videos and performing at the #SchoolsNotPrisons concert in October, where he debuted the last song from W&L, “Now.” Instead, the album itself focuses on the notion of love as a battlefield and the need to defend it.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Pineapple Skies, Sky Walker, Banana Clip, Wolf, Caramelo Duro, Come Through and Chill, Now
LISTEN TO WHILE: cuddled up on a baecation or on a sunny day dedicated to self-care
4. American Teen – Khalid
Khalid dropped his debut album, had multiple hit singles, and is currently on tour all at the age of 19. A military child whose father was killed by a drunk driver at a young age, Khalid matured early. He grew up singing with his mom, who performed with a US Army band, and studied singing on Youtube before beginning to release his own music. The hit single “Location” was dropped last year while he was still in high school. Themes of young love, technology, and other ‘millennial probs’ are discussed over poppy, alternative R&B beats. As someone who was always picked on for not meeting the dominant standards of manliness, Khalid also wanted the album to be ‘political’ — he wants other ‘misfits’ and ‘nonconformists’ to find solace in his music, especially in the current US political moment. #CarefreeBlackBoyMagic
ALBUM FAVORITES: Location, 8TEEN, Hopeless, Winter, Therapy, Shot Down
LISTEN TO WHILE: driving on a road trip
3. Process – Sampha
Sampha initially rose to fame as a featured vocalist with artists like Drake, Solange, Kanye, and SBTRKT. The South London singer-songwriter continues to develop as an artist on his beautifully crafted debut album where he shares with us his raw emotions, pain, and trauma. In 2015, where most of the album’s writing occurred, Sampha lost his mother to cancer – a feeling all too familiar after losing his father to the same disease 17 years back. The title of the album references his dealings with the grieving process, as well as the relationship between grieving and how he makes his music.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Plastic 100C, Blood On Me, Take Me Inside, Under, Incomplete Kisses
LISTEN TO WHILE: getting some work done in a cafe, like I am right now
2. Freudian – Daniel Caesar
A wow-worthy debut album came from Daniel Caesar in 2017. An R&B singer from Toronto, heavily influenced by gospel, he brings a new sound to differentiate himself from other R&B artists out of the city. The album’s female features are very intentional, building an almost hour-long conversation about love. Kali, H.E.R., Charlotte Day Wilson, and Syd are all artists pushing creative boundaries in the realm of neo-soul and R&B. The CaDaRo Tribe, a female collective of singers/performers, are also singing back-up vocals on half of the album to help string the songs together. Freudian renders love a fragile and holy experience in this emotional album, tracing narratives of romance and heartbreak with Caesar’s divine and elegant vocals.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Best Part, Loose, Hold Me Down, Neu Roses (Transgressor’s Song), Transform
LISTEN TO WHILE: hardcore simping
1. Ctrl – SZA
SZA has released some amazing projects already—especially those part of her self-titled trilogy—but her debut studio album was definitely worth the wait. The sole TDE female rapper/singer offers us Black girl magic veiled in alternative R&B, neo-soul, and indie sounds. A critical analysis of romantic love in the contemporary moment, SZA observes the ups and downs of romance and the hurt that can come with relationships. Yet, she also talks to us about sexual freedom, agency, self-worth, and the fact that “you can never trivialiiiiiize pussy.” Thanks for the reminder boo.
ALBUM FAVORITES: Supermodel, Doves in the Wind, Broken Clocks, Anything, Normal Girl, 20 Something
LISTEN TO WHILE: cleaning up around the house/your room
· H.E.R. (Vol. 2) – H.E.R. (EP)
· Soul of a Woman – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
· Trip – Jhene Aiko
· About Time – Sabrina Claudio
· Jardín – Gabriel Garzón-Montano
· Into – Sonder (EP)
· It is extremely difficult to compare these albums. Although technically (or according to Apple Music) they are in the same genre, most are very different in style and cannot be siloed into one category for comparison. Genres themselves are beginning to compress and blend with each other. For the most part, the rankings and genres are arbitrary – guaranteed good music though!
· These albums are my favorites of the year based on impact/talent. This is not a wholly objective best album list.
· Some albums were released more recently than others, so I had significantly less time to listen to, analyze, and compare them. In the future, rankings could change.
· Some albums were ignored due to disappointing and unacceptable actions of artists, implying that they have no respect for women. Still trying to determine where to draw the line and if we should separate art from the artist, how?