Trey Alessio and Brandon Ogden relive their favorite moments from the 2017 entertainment headlines and rank their top-10 songs, albums, TV shows, movies and sports moments of the year.
By Trey Alessio
It’s finally that time of year again: list season. At the end of every year, I like to look back and rank my favorite rap albums from January to December. 2017 was another crazy year for hip-hop—it statistically became the most popular genre in music, the GRAMMY committee seemed to show a lot more love to the genre than in past years and it produced some classic albums—and I loved every second of it. Here’s this year’s top-10 list for hip-hop albums.
10. "More Life" - Drake
More chune for your headtop, so watch how you speak on my name—you know? Drake’s playlist project that was actually just an album just cracked my top-10 because he capitalized on creating a moment for me. There’s always something memorable about an album release that the world gets to simultaneously consume, enjoy and react to on social media. Last year, it was “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight” by Travis Scott when he premiered the album on Beats 1 Radio. This year, it was “More Life” by Drake. I remember driving through Tennessee on my way back home from spring break in Florida with my family and hounding my sister to put on Beats 1 Radio to be one of the first ones to hear Drake’s new project. I remember hearing the opening vocals on “Free Smoke” and being like, “This album is going to be crazy.” I remember hearing “Passionfruit” and immediately saying, “This will be on the radio.” I remember hearing Kanye West come in on “Glow” and getting super hype. Moments in hip-hop like that are just fun, and while “More Life” isn’t Drake’s best piece of work, in my opinion, it still deserves to be recognized.
9. "I Decided" - Big Sean
It feels good to show some love to Big Sean. This is the first time in the three years I’ve done a top-10 list for this blog that Sean Don has made the cut. There has just always been something I can’t quite put my finger on about Big Sean that has made him tier-2 in my mind, but “I Decided” finally did it for me. In my opinion, this is Big Sean’s best album. It was cohesive, it had skits, it had different sounds and it told a story about seizing second chances. This might be a hot-take, but I think the song, “Voices in My Head/Stick to the Plan” exemplifies Big Sean’s growth as a rapper more than any other song I can think of in his catalog. We knew he could get introspective, which he did on this song, but he also showed us he can rap from a different perspective and he can rap fast while maintaining the theme of the song and telling a story all over a Metro Boomin’ beat. I also loved “Sunday Morning Jetpack” and “Bigger Than Me” where Sean Don seemed to take a page from Kanye West and Chance the Rapper’s book. I got “Ultralight Beam” and “Blessings” vibes from these songs, which is a nice breath of fresh air from Big Sean.
8. "Laila's Wisdom" - Rapsody
This is real rap. Rapsody took her time, signed with a label and put out a really, really good debut album while staying true to herself the entire time. “Laila’s Wisdom” didn’t stray from the classic, lyrical rap vibe that genuinely made Rapsody sound like an old soul. Speaking of soul, this album had a lot of it. It’s very apparent she put her heart into this story. “Laila’s Wisdom” is a cohesive, lyrical tale of a black woman’s ride through life with dope punchlines sprinkled in throughout. Don’t sleep on Rapsody!
7. "The Autobiography" - Vic Mensa
It’s always refreshing when you see the title of an album, hope that it will sound the way you want it to—even if you have doubts after seeing the tracklist—and then it exceeds your expectations. That’s what Vic Mensa did with his debut album, “The Autobiography.” This is truly his story, and he told it in an amazing way. This album is deep, complex, lyrical, sonically dope and cohesive with skits to go along with the story. “The Autobiography” is to 2017 as Isaiah Rashad’s “The Sun’s Tirade” was to 2016 and Joey Bada$$’ “B4.DA.$$” was to 2015, which makes it my sleeper pick for this year’s list. I loved the blend of street and soul with multiple different sounds on this album. It really added to the story of a kid on the come-up in Chicago. Much like Rapsody, Vic Mensa took his time, signed with a label and put out an excellent album. Trust the process, ladies and gentlemen.
6. "Scum Fuck Flower Boy" - Tyler, the Creator
It has been interesting to see Tyler, the Creator grow from the song, “Yonkers” to this album, “Flower Boy.” Before this album, it has always been about the standout song on each of Tyler’s albums—first “Yonkers,” then “Domo23,” then “SMUCKERS”—but “Flower Boy” is an outstanding body of work from beginning to end. Despite the vibrant album cover and colorful sounds, this is actually a very dark album. He touches on how lonely he is, his sexuality and his insecurities and fears about his life, career and relationships, among other things. But it’s definitely a nice change of pace for Tyler, the Creator to talk about some real topics. “Flower Boy” proved that Tyler, the Creator deserved to be mentioned in Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse.
5. "Everybody" - Logic
After initially hearing about this album, my expectations for “Everybody” were on “To Pimp a Butterfly” levels—which may have hurt my initial reaction to this album. I wanted this Logic album to be the wokest piece of work I’ve ever heard. Sadly, I have to admit, it wasn’t—which pains me to say because Logic is one of my favorite rappers. But taking my ultra-high expectations out of the picture, “Everybody” was really dope and powerful. In my opinion, this was Logic’s best album simply because of the message and the creative layers. “Everybody” is about a man who dies and goes to a “waiting room” to face God (voiced by Neil deGrasse Tyson). This man, Atom, then learns that he is every human who has ever lived and who will ever live, and he must walk in the shoes of every race, creed, religion, gender and sexual orientation before he can basically become a god himself. We, the audience, then find out that every song is rapped from a different perspective that Atom is living in order for him to become this god-like character. It’s a very deep and complex concept, which is why Logic is one of the most creative artists in the game and why he’s so successful. You may not agree with the theology, but I think Logic wants you to open up your mind and appreciate the storytelling—something that took me a few listens to fully grasp as it sort of seemed like it was toying with my beliefs. Let me say this: the execution was a little sloppy, but the message and the creativity were next-to-none. And for that, “Everybody” deserves the high-praise. I think the commercial success for “1-800-273-8255” also pushed this album into my top-5. Logic is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s really cool to see him getting all this love for a message that truly needs to be heard by the masses—peace, love and positivity.
4. "All-Amerikkkan Bada$$" - Joey Bada$$
In my opinion, this is by-far the most underrated rap album of the year. Honestly, “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” is the type of album we need with the social, racial and political unrest in America right now. This album’s core theme is about the mistreatment of African-Americans in today’s America—something that rightfully has been a major topic in a lot of recent rap projects. I think Joey Bada$$ executed his message perfectly with the culmination of the written word/skit at the end of “Amerikkkan Idol.” I loved the passion in each song, I loved the different vibes on each song, I loved the features and I loved this album. It deserves more recognition, so go bump Joey Bada$$’ latest.
3. "4eva Is a Mighty Long Time" - Big K.R.I.T.
Normally, a double-disc rap album is cluttered with a mosh-posh of sounds, themes and topics and ends up sounding more like a playlist—a set of songs meant to be played on shuffle. But “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time” breaks the norm. Big K.R.I.T. found a way to stay true to his southern roots, tell his story in a cohesive way while solidifying his spot in the rap game. On the first disc, K.R.I.T. shows off his southern roots with more of an old-school vibe, and on the second disc, he shows his softer side while becoming Justin Scott (his real name) and getting more introspective. This is an amazing piece of work, which is pretty impressive to maintain with a 22-song tracklist. Big K.R.I.T. will be here for a mighty long time, and I’m excited about it.
2. "4:44" - Jay Z
Who would’ve thought on Jay Z’s thirteenth album, he’d put out a top-5 album in his discography? On an album that’s a little less than 40 minutes long, Jay Z talked about race, credit, his infidelity with his wife Beyoncé, his mom, his children, his legacy and many other mature, adult topics that a lot of “trap rap” fans probably didn’t truly appreciate. “4:44” made “dad rap” cool. It just seems like Hov has come full circle from the drug-dealing gangster from “Reasonable Doubt” to the apologetic dad on “4:44.” I appreciate this humility, vulnerability and growth, and I’d love to see more of it from today’s artists. Jay Z kills off his Jay Z persona and truly becomes Sean Carter on “4:44,” and it’s honestly really cool to see. This is why Jay Z is one of the greatest rappers to ever do it.
1. "DAMN." - Kendrick Lamar
Ya’ll know what happens on Earth stays on Earth! I think I read on a DJBooth article that said Kendrick Lamar has finally found the formula to mesh the “biggest” and “most popular” rapper alive with the “best” rapper alive, which couldn’t be any more true. This album is so complex and dense but, at the same time can be consumed casually, which is why I think it’s so amazing. “DAMN.” touches on religion, race, emotion, and it tells the best cohesive story of the year. Here’s my take on the theme: the most important line on the album, in my opinion, is the opening line on “BLOOD.” “Is it wickedness? Is it weakness?” To me, this album’s core subject is religion. I think “wickedness” refers to the act of sinning. I think “weakness” refers to the sinner giving into said sins and allowing them to be his or her downfall. On “BLOOD.,” I believe Kendrick dies by the hand of God (a possible parallel from TDE label-mate Ab-Soul’s album, “Do What Thou Wilt,” where the common theme was “God is a girl”—because he gave into his sins thus damning him to hell. The album is meant to be played in reverse, so we hear about all these encounters up until this point. I also think “FEAR.” is the most important song on the album because it represents that constant question, “Is it wickness or weakness?” and the fear that Kendrick may die because of his sins. And that’s only scratching the surface. YEAH. That’s how layered this album is. Kendrick Lamar’s storytelling is next-to-none, but I think the reason it works is because he maintains the mystery and allows the fans to interpret the concept for themselves. From beginning to end, “DAMN.” is incredible. The fact you can pick apart and dissect each song, each lyric is exactly why Kendrick Lamar is such a genius. The man has solidified himself as a top-10... no, top-5 greatest rapper of all-time… OF ALL-TIME. There, I said it. “DAMN.” is just another classic K Dot can add to his discography.
While all of these albums were very good, they didn't quite make my cut this year. (I never would have thought I'd leave an Eminem album out of a top-10 list...) It was a great year for hip-hop, and 2018 is shaping up to be just as good.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know!
By Trey Alessio
R&B didn't quite live up to 2016, in my mind, but it was still a great year for a bunch of up and coming singers. Let the rhythm and blues flow through your body with my top-5 list for R&B albums of 2017!
5. "War & Leisure" - Miguel
Miguel’s album, “War & Leisure” is a fun, smooth mix of vibrant sounds and flows. Miguel has always been good, but this seems like his first steps into the real mainstream. I loved “Sky Walker” with Travis Scott and “Come Through and Chill” with J. Cole. This album isn’t mind-blowing by any means, but it’s just cool music to vibe out to.
4. “Process” - Sampha
Sampha’s debut album, “Process” is a deep, emotional journey. It’s surprisingly cohesive, and his voice is flat-out amazing. I really hope Sampha emerges to the forefront of R&B because the man is talented and he showed us he can and will tell a cohesive story that will stick with you. Don’t sleep on the London singer!
3. "American Teen" - Khalid
“American Teen” was Khalid’s coming out party. “Location” did numbers, “Young, Dumb & Broke” is on its way, but the album, as a whole, is outstanding. This dude is 19 years old, which blows my mind because with an album of this caliber as his debut, it just means Khalid has a lot more left in the tank, and he’s more than likely going to continue getting better. Mark my word: Khalid is going to be a star. “American Teen” is just the beginning.
2. "Freudian" - Daniel Caesar
A buddy of mine put me onto Daniel Caesar, and I’m damn glad he did. “Freudian” is the type of album that truly sticks with you. It’s kind of a lovey-dovey, put-you-in-your-feels type of album, but there’s a time and place for everything. Daniel Caesar has the type of voice that seeps into your soul. He’s just straight-up amazing. Like I want “Best Part” to be played at my wedding type of amazing. “Freudian” is a roller coaster of emotions, and I loved every second of it.
1. "Ctrl" - SZA
“Ctrl” (pronounced “control”) is an amazing concept album about a coming-of-age black women in a modern world, and SZA (pronounced “sizz-ah”) tells her story to perfection. It’s the perfect album to sing along to but, at the same time, makes you take a step back and think about life. “Ctrl” faced many delays, but it was well worth the wait. SZA trusted TDE’s process, and it paid off in the end. I know this word gets thrown around quite a bit these days, but YOLO… This album is a classic.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know!
Trey Alessio and Brandon Ogden talk the Disney-Fox merger, Golden Globes, Eminem's new album, "Revival" and much more on the latest episode of the R | U | NTRTND podcast. Plus the boys deep-dive into a full breakdown of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Also, don't miss this week's Draft Dawgs segment on Star Wars characters.
Trey Alessio and Brandon Ogden talk the final College Football Playoff rankings, the Heisman finalists, the GRAMMY nominations, Eminem's tracklist for "Revival," the "Avengers: Infinity War" trailer and much more. Plus the boys pick their best Heisman winners in the latest Draft Dawgs segment.
The Don of Entertainment