5. Jay-z 4:44
4:44 sits as the most honest Hip-Hop record this year. Jay Z opens up about infidelity, speaks on the importance of financial independence, challenges race relations in every segment of the social ladder. All uniquely done over the first one-producer album of his career, masterfully crafting songs over No-ID sample chopped beats in an era of 808s, library snares, synths and vocal mumbles.
4. Xxxtentacion- 17
Possibly the most original Hip-Hop album to be released in years controversial rapper xxxtentacion releases the indie-alt-rock-boom-bap depressive catharsis classic. A purging of deep emotions from an artist troubled by inner and outer demons all released in top speed fashion clocking under 25min in it’s entirety. Production is as unique as it is top notch, lyrically X sings and flows over tracks expressing his pain in efforts to reach some sort of solace.
3. Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 3
Hip-Hop heavy weights EL-P and Killer Mike have found their sweet spot with hardcore duo Run The Jewels. Both virtuosos in their own right the third installment of their releases is just as raw as their previous LPs. A beautiful mix of angst, humor, anarchy, disorder and hope. RTJ3, technically released at the very end of 2016, but officially released in physical form in January 2017, is obviously not confided to the current soundscape. Anachronistic in sound, but instead of missing a golden era Mike and EL sound decades ahead of present day Hip-Hop.
2. Steve Lacy- Steve Lacy’s Demo
Production prodigy and musical mastermind Steve Lacy, the 19 year old Grammy award winning iPhone music producer, steps out as a solo artist. Not only producing for Kendrick, Goldlink, and other major artists with tracks crafted solely on his iPhone, this The Internet guitarist is ready to step into the spotlight. Steve Lacy’s Demo is a genre bending soul, indie-rock, funk classic. At such a young age Steve Lacy sounds like a combination of soul heavy weights and indie rockers well before his time.
1. NERD- No_One Ever Really Dies
A deconstruction of sound and formula ‘No_One Ever Really Dies’ is a chaotic spiritual masterpiece. The ‘Dangerous’ (Michael Jackson) of this Funk-Punk-Soul-Rock band plays simultaneously as an evolution and devolution of the beloved melodic chords and signature sound of musics reigning super producer team. Political and spiritual themes all sprinkled in with pure genius throughout a project that blends almost every genre the Neptunes and NERD ever touched into a sound almost completely unheard. Both minimalist and maximalist NERD manage to pull together polar opposite seamlessly, ‘Rollinem 7’s’ has a distinct groove and rhythm but once deconstructed it is only 808s percussion and sampled screams as a musical bed for the MCs to flow. A far off evolution from ‘Fly Or Die’ but just as potent and genius in a time submersed in simplicity.