2017 may go down as one the biggest years in music in quite some time. Looking back, we saw a bountiful supply of new projects from some of the industry’s biggest stars including JAY-Z, Drake, Future and Kendrick Lamar amongst others, including breakout efforts from SZA, Daniel Caesar, Playboi Carti and more. It goes without saying, but the consensus in 2017 wasn’t easy and unfortunately we had to omit a number noteworthy musical efforts along the way.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 albums/mixtapes of the year in no particular order.
1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar‘s fourth studio album, DAMN. took the hip-hop community by storm after his official release back in April. During the first week, every song on the project landed on the Billboard Hot 100 and would eventually reach double platinum status in just three months time. The album was spearheaded by smash hit singles, “Loyalty,” “Love,” “DNA” and “Humble” which would ultimately become Kendrick Lamar’s first number one single ever on the Billboard Hot 100. The album is currently nominated for a number of GRAMMYs including Album of The Year, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Music Video.
2. Migos – Culture
Since Drake remixed “Versace,” Migos had trouble living up to the success of the single — that is, until this beginning of this year. Culture, originally titled No Label 3, was not only a commercial success, but garnered universal acclaim. Migos released “Bad and Boujee” in August 2016, but the track only started picking up months later. In December, the Gwinnett County trio went on tour to Nigeria, and a viral video showed how big the song has grown internationally. After the song hit No. 1 on Hot 100, things continued to go uphill for the group. Culture hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 the week of its release, earning 131,000 album-equivalent units, and attained platinum certification back in July.
3. SZA – Ctrl
TDE’s first lady SZA released her debut album back in June of this after years of various setbacks that even left her contemplating a retirement back in October of 2016. Thankfully, her label situation ironed itself out and she began recording nearly 200 songs leading up to 2017 where she would eventually ideate the overall creative direction for CTRL. From there she would team-up with several producers who were aligned with her vision. The efforts ultimately resulted in an astonishing Neo-Soul/R&B album with hints of indie, soul, hip-hop and electronic. The project made its debut on June 9 and reached No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 and earned her not only five Grammy nominations, but also her first-ever platinum certifications for “Love Galore,” “What Lovers Do,” and “The Weekend.”
4. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
Flower Boy, unofficially titled Scum F*ck Flower Boy is Tyler, The Creator’s fourth studio album and arguably, his best. Its thoughtfully curated guest contributors, like Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, Rex Orange County and Steve Lacy, helped make the LP all the more enjoyable. But what stood out most is the stellar production, which is handled entirely by Tyler himself. It is his most genuine album, covering topics like unrequited love and showcasing his more introspective side. Tyler, the Creator has shown artistic and personal growth and maturation since his previous releases; Flower Boy bears almost no similarities to the brash and reckless character of his early work.
5. Sampha – Process
Sampha has come a long way since the days of collaborating with the likes of SBTRKT and Jessie Ware; 2017 is the year he finally achieved worldwide recognition as a solo artist. With the exception of “Timmy’s Prayer,” which is a Kanye West collaboration, every single track on Process was written by Sampha himself, showcasing his phenomenal songwriting and production skill. His arrangement style is unlike anything that came before him. Yet, the music is still relatable to listeners. Although Process did not chart as high as some of the other contenders on the list, it’s still one of the most outstanding bodies of music work released this year.
6. Jay-Z – 4:44
JAY-Z dropped his 13th studio album, 4:44 back in June and unlike his previous efforts, the LP had no singles leading up its release. Despite that, 4:44 would not only go platinum in just a week’s time, but also make history with the hip-hop mogul becoming the first rapper ever to have 10 or more platinum albums. The project also proved to be one JAY-Z’s most emotional and introspective albums ever, opening up on a number of topics including infidelity, sexuality, politics, race and police brutality. The album is currently GRAMMY Award nominated for Album of the Year, while the title track “The Story of O.J.” is also nominated for Song of the Year.
7. Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti
After releasing music for several years, first with Awful Records then with AWGE, Playboi Carti finally dropped his debut eponymous mixtape via AWGE and Interscope Records in 2017. Even though the mixtape was released on the same day as Kendrick Lamar’s hyper-popular DAMN., it was not overshadowed. Strong singles, like “Magnolia,” “Wokeuplikethis” and “Lookin” catapulted him to mainstream relevance and the rest of the songs helped establish the essence of the tape. Because the tape’s producer and featured guests (Pi’erre Bourne, Lil Uzi Vert, ASAP Rocky) are Carti’s real life friends and frequent collaborators, the final product feels all the more organic. It, however, is Carti’s sheer personality that makes this project phenomenal.
8. Bonobo – Migration
Migration, the sixth studio album by Bonobo, is also his best and most sophisticated. While it’s not as sonically progressive as some of his beat-making counterparts, the LP displays a maturation in the sound that he had presented in previous releases like The North Borders. The whole LP has a sleepy, drifting feel to it, but at the same time an interaction of many color, tones and layers that gives off the feeling of nostalgia and travelling. In an age where ambient producers have moved on to pop or rap music, it’s refreshing and inspiring to witness Bonobo stay true to his roots and improve on his sound.
9. Daniel Caesar – Freudian
Canadian singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar put the music world on notice this year with the release of his debut album, Freudian. Released independently in August, the project received much widespread acclaim for his unique blend of classic gospel and R&B that stood alone in comparison to the syrupy alt-R&B that’s seemingly oversaturated the game. For his efforts, the singer has also earned two Grammy nominations. His biggest single to date, “Get You” also appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at No.15 which isn’t bad considering he’s independent with no major label support.
10. King Krule – The OOz
Following a four-year hiatus after releasing his acclaimed debut, Zoo Kid otherwise known as King Krule made a valiant return through the release of his third proper album, The OOZ. The project saw the 23-year-old music prodigy testing with new sound elements while also revisiting some of his previous tonality ranging from everything including ska, jazz, and experimental. Ultimately, the project is the return of Archy’s prominent and distinctive approach on sounds and textures like none other.