It’s that time of the year. Time to drop the only top 10 list that matters. The criteria remains the same. It’s based on how much I listened to a project. If you had no replay value, you can’t be included. It must be a full length project of original material. No EPs or Mixtapes allowed. Lastly, I cannot be associated with the project in any way. If I struggle rapper’d my way on to your album, or I was lucky enough to Diddy the shit out of it, then you are excluded. I can’t be bias. So here’s my top 10 for 2017!
10. Conway – G.O.A.T. (Grimest of all Time)
Release Date: December 21, 2017
Some Production Includes: Daringer and the Alchemist
Some Features Include: Prodigy, Styles P, Raekwon, Benny, Royce Da 5’9, Lloyd Banks
What I Thought: Conway is a true MC and his bars sure are grimy. GXFR in house producer Daringer produced most of the tracks while the Alchemist produced one. The features are larger than normal for a Conway project. Granted he’s worked with tons of MCs, but this is the first time we saw this many heavy names on one of his project. And with so many legends, we easily learn the Machine is amongst the company he belongs in. As the criteria states, my list is based on how much I listened to a project during the year. Dropping right before Christmas effected how much I was able to listen to it. Between work, then time with family, and food induced comas, I was unable to listen to this as much as I wanted to. Had it dropped sooner, it would easily be higher on the list. None the less, Conway is the Grimest, and he proves that he is supposed to be mentioned with the Greats.
9. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Some Features Include: Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, BJ the Chicago Kid, Anderson Paak, Black Thought
What I Thought: I have a crush on Rapsody, but that’s not why I keep her in heavy rotation. She is just dope. I feel better about myself, because I am a Rapsody fan. Her ability to sit on a melodic beat and spit so fierce yet so soothing is incomparable for many in rap today. She’s able to stand tall with such a small physical frame by lyrical icons like Kendrick and Black Thought. The album is very close to flawless. “Sassy” is the only song that doesn’t do it for me sonically. Rapsody was also nominated for a Grammy this year. Cheer for Raps. Not because she’s a woman, not because she’s the underdog, but because her music is incredibly dope.
8. Jay-Z – 4:44
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Some Production Includes: NO I.D. and Jay-Z
Some Features Include: Frank Ocean, Beyonce, Damian Marley
What I Thought: This album had arguably, the most important song of the year with “The Story of OJ”. This album, though the beat choppiness can get redundant, was Hov’s most poignant effort to date. He’s grown as an artist, but most importantly he’s grown as a man. Even though it is ironic that he talks against the flossy lifestyle that he spent so many years to promote. Jay-Z is one of the greatest artists of our time, not just in Hip Hop, but in music all together. “Bam” with Damian Marely doesn’t break any new ground, especially with the horribly overused Sister Nancy sample. But, for some reason, I kept “Bam” on loop. Michael Rapaport didn’t rock with this album due to the lack of “smackers”, but I really enjoyed the laid back approach. I will admit though, I am kind of tired of Jay-Z making drug references.
7. MC Eiht – Which Way Iz West
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Some Production Includes: Brenk Sinatra, DJ Premier
Some Features Include: B-Real, Kurupt, WC, Big Mike, Outlawz, Lady of Rage
What I Thought: DJ Premier handled 1/5th of the albums production, but he did exeutive produce the whole project. Brenk Sinatra did the rest of the album. This album is tough. The mid-90 gangster aesthetic that Eiht provides is a time capsule that manages to still sound refreshing and new. The features were precise and well fitted. Eiht was never considered as the lyricist of the year, so he tends to be outshined on his own records. That doesn’t matter, because he knows that the end result is what’s important. The end result of this project is constant west coast dopeness. Side note, Lady of Rage bodied her feature, making it the best verse on the project and one of the best of the year. If only Rage, and Premier would do an entire project together.
6. Planet Asia and Apollo Brown – Anchovies
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Some Production Includes: Apollo Brown
Some Features Include: Willie the Kid, Guilty Simpson
What I Thought: Apollo Brown is a genius at producing entire albums for artists. He’s proved it time and time again. This is no different. The great thing is, Planet Asia is amazing too. It’s a sonic one-two punch that we welcomed. Planet Asia released multiple projects this year. Some rappers overdo it, but Planet Asia shows that he is one of those rare MCs that get better as time goes on. The other amazing part, at 15 tracks, it only has two features. He manages to rap that much without being boring. Anchovies is on a lot of lists this year, as it should be.
5. Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 5
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Some Production Includes: Daringer, DJ Green Lantern, Alchemist, Knxwledge
Some Features Include: Styles P, Keisha Plum, Conway, Benny
What I Thought: Westside Gunn had one hell of a year. Many dope moves and his team dropped many dope projects. This album has a gritty and a minimalist approach. This is a style that we Westside fans really love. Daringer handles most of the production, but some other notables lend some assistance. “Finn Balor” is one of the illest songs to drop this year. The only downside of this project is that it’s so dope, but it’s less than 30 minutes long. But in true reformed dope boy fashion, the Flygod gives us just enough to have us fiending for more. He also caught a lot of criticism for the cover art and title. People kind of missed the point. And if it was really an issue, why did it take for part 5 to drop for people to notice? Where have those critics been this whole time?
4. Jarren Benton – The Mink Coat Killer LP
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Some Production Includes: DJ Hoppa, Spittzwell, Dirty Art Club, The Coalition, 8 Track
Some Features Include: Aleon Craft, Nick Grant, Demrick, Bingx,
What I Thought: Holy Fucking Shit. This project is an unofficial ode to the Wu Tang Clan. That sentence alone usually makes me avoid such album. I always liked Jarren Benton, but before June of this year, I don’t know if I would have called myself a fan. He has an uncanny ability to bully even the most vicious beats into submissions. Recycling Wu samples seems like a bad idea, but in this instance it is not. You know when you were young, and you daydream how things would be if you were recruited as the newest member of the Wu? Well, this is the album you had in your head at that time. There are other influences here, like A Tribe Called Quest, but the Shaolin heroes seem like the largest inspiration. Lyrically Jarren Benton manages to make these classic sounds his own by being witty and brutally honest about himself and his life experience.
3. Meyhem Lauren and DJ Muggs – Gems from the Equinox
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Some Production Includes: DJ Muggs
Some Features Include: Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire, Sean Price, Benny, Conway
What I Thought: DJ Muggs is one of my favorite producers of all time. I was excited for this to drop. I believe Muggs is the only producer on the entire project. Meyhem has been gaining far more exposure due to his assistance on Action Bronson’s cable television show. Meyhem is a fly human being and that spills over on these tracks. It’s a fly and dark mix that I really appreciate. Add a Sean Price feature in the mix, and you will at least get a 1st listen. What really solidified it for me was the song “Street Religion” ft. Roc Marciano. It features the same sample as “Two Dope Boyz (in a Cadillac) by Outkast. The Kast version is such a classic, that I wondered if this song could hold its own. Not only did it hold its own, but the Roc Marciano feature took it in an amazing direction that I didn’t expect.
2. Hus Kingpin and Big Ghost LTD – Cocaine Beach
Release Date: June 1, 2017
Some Production Includes: Big Ghost LTD
Some Features Include: Rozewood, Smoovth, Sage Infinite, Milano Constantine, Vinnie Paz, Planet Asia, Recognize Ali, Vic Spencer
What I Thought: For a good portion the year I was obsessed with this album. It was so close to perfect. Hus and Big Ghost both are street and elegant in their style and delivery. Hus has been doing his thing for some time. He’s been on my radar, but I am going to be honest; it was his work with Westside Gunn that made me seriously check for him. And I am disappointed in myself for taking so long. Sidenote: Westside Gunn never gets enough credit for the careers he’s helped elevate. Hus the Wave Lord bobs in and out of this coke themed adventure with a style that is infectious. Big Ghost LTD is great at talking shit on the internet, but he is even better as a beatsmith. Randomly but refreshing, Mahershala Ali and Everlast show up for drops. And Lukey Cage breaks the seriousness with some of the best skits that I’ve heard in years.
Sean Price – Imperius Rex
Release Date August 8, 2017
Some Production Includes: Alchemist, 4th Disciple, Stu Bangas, Harry Fraud, Marco Polo, Crummie Beats, Nottz, DJ Skizz
Some Features Include: Bernadette Price, Rim, Ruste Juxx, General Steele, Vic Spencer, Ike Eyez, Prodigy, Junior Reid, Styles P Method Man, Rock, Raekwon, Freeway, MF Doom
What I Thought: Many may argue that my Sean Price fandom is what would make me put this at number one. And it might be. Remember the main criteria is how much I played an album. The entire month of August I mainly listened to Imperius Rex. As other artists released projects, they would get attention, but I just found myself going back to P.
Most of the time, when a rapper dies, the label rushes to piecemeal a project together. Those projects tend to sound like shit. Fans leave disappointed. This album took that thought of possible disappointment and kicked it right in the nuts. Bernadette, Sean’s widow, executive produced this album, and along with the help of Rim, put together something so incredible, it left us fans wondering if P actually had finished the album prior to his death.
The beats made sense, as did the features. Nothing sounded forced. There was no song that was the best. The whole album is great, I just played it on loop with no skipping. When Sean Price died, we fans all worried that we would never hear any music from him again. We were excited to find out that he has a vault of music, and much of it has a high chance that it will be released.
Sean Price is one of the greatest rappers to ever walk the face of the earth. We are better people because he shared his talent with us. Even from the grave, P out raps most of us. P!