RLGT Rap-Up: Best of 2017

2017 was a melting pot of all of our greatest fears, none of our wildest dreams, and a few fixin’s that we didn’t know we needed. It was a year of utter polarity – fear, guilt, mongering, & delusion; we lost idols and spawned Cretans. In conclusion, 2017 was awesome.

No, that’s not a typo. 2017 was awesome because of what it signified. 2017 was the beginning of something new, and here at RLGT new beginnings are something we tend to praise. The pain and horrors of 2017 have opened the eyes of many, and in more ways than not pushed us past the notion of “creating a dialogue”, and well on our ways of crafting tangible action to see the change that we want. Yea, sure, we probably went a little too far with the blaming and guilting and self-shaming in 2017, but we surely left most of our complacency in 2016. What this has meant for many movements, and groups, and industries, and genres, is that a record-setting amount of ‘newness’ is being allowed. The barriers to entry are lower than ever, and those irregularities that locked us out for too long are finally being celebrated. And since this isn’t a political website but rather a culture publication, this has been great to see. I mean when is the last time rap let so many newcomers shine out? Many of the familiar names stayed home in 2017, yet nonetheless, it was a great year for music.

So, without further ado, welcome to the 2017 RLGT Rap-Up. We’ve put together four of our signature ‘Top 3’ lists to rationalize a wavy year in urban culture. Who do we think made the best songs, albums, and moments in 2017? Find out below, and introduce yourself to our new team member while you’re at it. (Welcome, Cam!). It’s a long one, so grab a candy apple Faygo and some Dab of Ranch Rap Snacks and enjoy!


2017 RLGT Rap-Up

Best Songs of 2017 by Husson Zaman

Well… it’s been a while. And what a while it’s been. Glad to be here for one last go (editors note: it’s never over). Song of the year.

The amusingly momentous year of 2017 is quickly spiraling to a sudden expiration.
The time where we, as Internet connoisseurs, quietly huddle behind our screens and
start to piece together our sentiments in regards to the 12 months we’ve so quickly
left behind.

For me, this time of the year is never a time to look back at album sales or billboard
singles, but rather, a time to step outside our inconsequential selves and try our best
to discern the sounds from the passing months and their contribution to our societies evolution.
Music is a quintessential measure of the human condition. It—as a form of
expression, speaks volumes about the issues and topics that we’ve forgotten how to
assess—or never even were capable of doing so in the first place.

Throughout the brief exploration of my iTunes library, Soundcloud account, and
fragile mental psyche, I came across three reoccurring subjects that plagued our
minds, our world, and our music in 2017. I’ll use this platform (more like a step stool)
to take a brief moment and speak on behalf of my entire generation (as I often find
myself doing, thanks to my rapidly evolving 23-year-old wisdom) and say that, as a
society we’re more depressed, obsessed with race, and weirder than we’ve ever
been before. Here are 3 songs that summed up 2017 perfectly.

3. Rockstar – Post Malone

Post Malone never expected to play a momentous role in in hip-hop. Well, maybe he
self-assuredly anticipated the musical accolades—but I promise you, no one
expected the 22-year-old musician to be a significant topic in a culture fueled race
debate that’s been burning under our heels for decades.

“We culture,” Kanye West proclaimed in 2013. “Rap is the new rock ‘n’ roll.”
It didn’t take a Seer to commend Kanye’s predictions four years ago—but it’s
important for everyone to realize that 50 percent of the Number One
songs in 2017 were of Hip-Hop/Rap genre.

“Rockstar” is dark; it’s slow and it’s simple. The instrumental cuts in and out which
helps emphasize lines that you probably had stuck in your head for months.
Malone’s lyrics are brash and reckless while paying respects to some of the worlds
most infamous rock stars. The 21 Savage feature ties together Kanye’s “Rap is the
new rock ‘n’ roll,” sentiments perfectly. Post Malone without a doubt scored big on
this record.

And even though he’s the living encompassment of the ideas Kanye West abrasively
barked out into the world four years ago, we haven’t been so welcoming to the idea
of Post Malone as one of hip-hop’s biggest (rock) stars. “Problematic,” “Culture Vulture,” “Racist,” and “White Privilege,” are just some of the convoluted ideas that have followed Post Malone wherever he’s tottered. Since his break out single “White Iverson,” to the enigmatic claims that he’d rather cry to Bob Dylan than the hip-hop records he hears in 2017. Rap is finally the biggest genre in music. Interestingly, a white kid from Texas is one rap music’s quintessential characters.

He made a great song—and we sparked a complicated conversation.

2. XO TOUR LLIF3 – Lil Uzi Vert

2017 was yet another year that saw suicide and depression rise across the globe.

On a completely unrelated note—the biggest club (shitty house party) banger of the
year saw kids around the globe ominously singing: “push me to the edge/all my
friends are dead.” With “XO Tour Llife” Lil Uzi Vert brings forth the relatively underground “emo-trap” sound that’s been fermenting on Soundcloud accounts of sad kids around the world, to the forefront of popular music.

Structurally, the song is held together by the gentle cry of a two-note riff. The
instrumental blends trap production with Uzi’s “emo” lyricism that tells a
disconsolate story about his now-ex-girlfriend and substance abuse issues. The
video of the song features Arabic words that bounce along the bottom of the screen
as if appearing there as a translation—but in reality, merely translating to nothing.
The song follows an extremely simple formula that we’ve all seen before. The song
itself isn’t always the story, but rather, the infatuation it stirs in the society in which
it’s introduced.

Maybe the obsession with “XO Tour Llife” has nothing to do with societies
collectively fragile state of mind stepping out of 2017. But then again—maybe we’re
trying to tell ourselves something by the choices we are making together.

3. Dum Surfer – King Krule

We can’t help but comply with the notion that weird is wonderful. For a
society that finds it consistently struggling with mental health issues and getting lost
in the nuances of convoluted conversation, we’ve often found a way to be
progressively accepting of newfangled ideas and folks.

Archy Marshall is weird. He has red hair. He has an eccentric public image. He has a
blunt and blasé attitude towards the culture that surrounds him, blasé to the point
where he shrugged of praises from Kanye West and Beyoncé. Marshall’s ability to tell shadowy stories on behalf of the apathetic working-class urban youth (me) has made him something of an underground cult hero. On his new LP, The Ooz, Marshall tells these stories of disillusion that grip you from the very start and they sound like absolutely nothing else.

“Dum Surfer” is headlined by an echoing post-punk baseline, a symphony of fat
saxophones, and Marshall’s surly vocals barking out an ugly tale of vomiting,
sidewalks and car crashes.

Our society is a melting pot of bad ideas, bad habits, clashing cultures, and weird
people. And in 2017, Archy Marshall gave us a quick reminder of why weird can be
the shining wonder that propels us forward into the ill-omened streets ahead.
See you in 2018.


Best Albums of 2017 by Cam Hache

2017 was a great year for music, one of the best years for music in a long-time in fact. Full-disclosure, this list was fucking hard to make. I spent hours re-listening to different albums, reading reviews and endlessly browsing Twitter before finally landing on these final three. My selections were based on replay-value, the overall effect on hip-hop culture and my personal enjoyment of the album. Please refer to the honourable mentions list to see the other projects I had considered or simply really enjoyed. With rumored releases on the horizon from top-tier artists Drake, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Kanye West, and Chance the Rapper (to name a few) there’s definitely a lot to look forward to next year in 2018.

3. Flower Boy by Tyler The Creator
Scum_Fuck_Flower_Boy_cover
In all honesty, besides exceptions like “Telephone Calls” and “Trouble on My Mind”, I didn’t have much care for Tyler the Creator. I missed the rise and fall of Odd Future and being younger I always swayed away from the shock-value lyricism he was known for. It just wasn’t my thing. When I heard about the concept of Flower Boy (originally titled Scum Fuck Flower Boy), I was definitely intrigued. Tyler the Creator rose with intense, aggressive bars and a give-no-fucks mentality. Flower Boy best shows his progression as an artist, with Tyler finding a balance in his louder, brash personality with a softer, sincere side. This album is honest with Tyler exploring themes of anger, loneliness, sexuality and self-doubt over a beautiful musical backdrop that sways from one song to the next with ease.

The transitions on this project are insane. Entirely self-produced, Tyler makes his fourth studio album his most cohesive to date. Tyler’s anxiety and excitement frequently intertwine throughout all 14-tracks and he is really able to express his strengthened, yet skillful rapping with excellent flow and delivery throughout. Due to past antics, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether he’s being thoroughly honest or if he’s just joking. In the end it doesn’t matter because nonetheless it’s great music featuring Tyler as himself. No alias, no false bravado it’s simply Tyler the Creator at his finest. Flower Boy is the album Tyler wanted to create, and fans have wanted to experience.

HIGHLIGHTS: “See You Again”, “Who Dat Boy”, “Boredom” and “I Ain’t Got Time”.

 2. Culture by Migos
culture

Yes, I know you might not be expecting this one. At least not this high anyways. Personally, there was no other album that had a replay value this high for me (just please get past that shitty DJ Khaled intro). Migos, who have been known to sway in and out of relevancy were able to cement themselves into rap music and pop culture with the release of Culture in January. Riding high off of the success of “Bad and Boujee”, the ad-libbing trio of rappers dropped this 13-track album to the delight of fans. Culture provides a purely fun, exciting project filled with front-to-back bangers all the way through.

Each song is catchy, defiant and colourful. Quavo floats, Takeoff flows and Offset spits. And although Migos had released a countless number of mixtapes, Culture elevates into an actual cohesive project that takes trap music to another level. A highlight was the perfectly placed features throughout from the likes of Travis Scott, 2-Chainz and Gucci Mane. Each served a purpose and quickly became fan-favorite verses. Migos show a confidence in their music and embrace their signature triplet flows and lively ad-libs. The same signature flows and ad-libs that have become increasingly influential in hip-hop over the years. Whether you like it or not, 2017 was the year of the Migos. Culture allowed a group known for infectious singles to create a platinum-selling album as popular as it is polarizing.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Bad and Boujee” (obviously), “T-Shirt”, “Kelley Price” and “Slippery”.

1. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
damn
Although I had to make & re-make this list 10+ times, each and every version had DAMN. right at the top. Kendrick’s third studio album was able to sustain his greatness while evolving his sound and exemplifying his growth over time. DAMN. featured contrasting themes of love and lust, humbleness and pride, and fear and bravado with Kendrick giving his honest takes on how they’ve applied to himself throughout his life. It was well-constructed, with masterful storytelling and compelling lyricism. Lamar spits with intelligence, confidence and a swagger that makes one feel he knows he’s king. Kendrick expresses his complex inner thoughts in a way that gets across to the listener without losing impact on delivery.

DAMN. is as ambitious as Kendrick’s past projects (GKMC and TPAB), while also being more musically accessible to a wider audience. Each song is nearly flawless and well-placed, getting his story across whether you listened from front-to-back or even from back-to-front. A stellar unique guest list that included U2, Rihanna, James Blake and Zacari provide successful contributions to the project and aren’t just there to get people talking. Considering these factors, this was my favourite album of the year. Kung-Fu Kenny may have provided us yet another modern classic.

HIGHLIGHTS: “LOVE”, “LOYALTY”, “FEAR”, and “DNA”.

MY HONOURABLE MENTIONS:Saturation Trilogy by BROCKHAMPTON, 4:44 by Jay-Z, All-American Badass by Joey Bada$$, and More Life by Drake.


Most ‘2017’ Moments of 2017 by Thomas Johnson

I don’t know what the most important moment of the year was. Frankly, I don’t care what it was; it was probably political and I’m convinced the world’s going to end soon so I don’t have the time anyway. These are the capital-B best moments of the year.

#3 Freddie Gibbs’ Trial

gibbs-hip-hop-give-zero-fcks2

I wrote about “20 Karat Jesus,” the two-part intro to You Only Live 2wice, as part of Passion Of The Weiss’ Top 50 Raps Songs of 2017 list. Within, I briefly summed up his summer: arrested in France, extradited to Austria, held in foreign jails on +50K bail, kept from his wife and daughter by a phony sexual abuse charge. You can read about it in detail here. Gibbs maintained his innocence throughout and was eventually acquitted of all charges when the plaintiffs’ depositions proved to be steaming horseshit. In the wake, with a new lease on freedom, Gibbs recorded YOL2, a follow up his 2015 sophomore Shadow Of A Doubt. Gibbs is arguably the most technically gifted rapper alive, and there’s nary a facet to his technique that could be improved upon. He is, all things considered, a flawless rapper. But after his overseas ordeal, in his breakneck flow, there was a newfound desperation in his delivery that made the brief effort all the more engrossing. Plus, who doesn’t like a feel-good story. Freddie is back to America, back to his daughter and wife, and happily plotting his third album. We all reap the benefits.

Oh, by the way, add him on Snapchat.

2. Donald Glover Thanks The Migos

donald-glover-migos-golden-globes-2017.jpg

As Cam alluded to, Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff as a whole are the MVP of 2017. The Atlanta Cerberus released a defining album and permeated every aspect of the #culture. Music, television, nursery rhymes. They were deservedly everywhere and a large part of that is thanks to a Donald Glover acceptance speech. Glover’s Atlanta won Best Comedy Series at the 2017 Golden Globes and of his many thanks, the one extended to the triplets was the most important. “I’d like to thank the Migos – not for being on the show, but for making “Bad and Boujee.” Backstage he continued, “I think that they’re the Beatles of this generation and they don’t get a lot of respect, I think, outside of Atlanta.” It was a triple crown moment: the Migos have been the most influential artists of the last 5 years; Atlanta was a groundbreaking tour de force; Atlanta, Georgia, has been pumping out paradigm shifting art for decades without ever really receiving its deserved respect. Win, Win, Win (“MAMA!”). The internet, undefeated, has already proved that the Migos are better than the Beatles. It’s science. It’s time the rest of the world knew it.

1. Shaq Dissing Lavar Ball

shaq-lavar-ball-two-on-two-sons.jpg

It was kind of destined to happen, all the planets and stars and Jackie moons aligned, and there’s probably some history buried beneath years and contracts and hella tweets. One of the greatest-Lakers-of-all-time, a Top 10 player, greatest center and player/rapper ever, Shaq, made a diss track aimed at a goof who’s kids (well, Lonzo anyway) are talented. Lavar Ball is a distillation of the year, a manifestation of the primordial internet troll, and probably the most frustrating thing about the current NBA next to the officiating, but his eldest was hand-picked by the other greatest-Laker-of-all-time (Magic Johnson) to be the franchise player of the decorated franchise. And so Shaq dissed him, roasted him. Shaq dunked on him so hard the backboard came down and squashed a spread-eagle Big Baller between the hardwood. It’s like the internet anticipated the needs of anyone who likes basketball or rap or ginmorous people. It’s all the infinite possibilities of the internet condensed into three minutes. Shaq plugs Icy Hot Patches, compliments the Ball spawn and calls himself Steph Harden. It’s perfect.

…And it’s all downhill from here.

Honorable Mentions:

Gucci Manes Wedding: He proposed at an Atlanta Hawks game and cut his cake with a sword. Love conquers all.

Also, Clout Goggles: Stay woke.

Best New Artists of 2017 by Negele ‘Hospey’ Hospedales

This time last year (embarrassingly enough one of my most recent posts to RLGT) I published an article called “5 Artists Taking Over 2017” where I talked about my predictions for a few artists who would break onto the scene in 2017. My top 2 choices had what can only be considered as break-out years for their careers as Khalid & Daniel Caesar both released massive debut albums, completed massive headline tours, and grabbed substantial cosigns with a Lil Wayne feature & Chance the Rapper duet respectively. While Saba had a somewhat quiet year with only a handful of releases, his comparable counter-part Smino had a big year with the success of his debut album blkswn led by breakout single “Anita” (and its T-Pain assisted remix). 24hrs rounded out the list and also enjoyed a moderate 2017, jumping on a bunch of collaborative projects and running with his hit single “What U Like”.

Overall, I’d say I my ESP was fairly tuned, and while my predictions came through, I’d like to focus this segment on 3 new artists who were my favourite breakout stars of the year. (Stay tuned for the end where I’ll predict a few names you can expect to blow in 2018!)

Best New Artists 2017

3. Trippie Redd

2017 was the year of the ‘underground’. Lofi & druggy ballads over explosive electronic fueled production had Soundcloud rappers moving in and out of new-on-the-scene media company New Jumper’s interview seats, as ‘mumble’ (and the debate over whether ‘mumble’ was a compliment, diss, or mere description) took over. From a 17-year-old Xan rapper in Lil Pump infiltrating the top 10 radio charts, to glorified weirdo Tekashi69 delivering one of the internet’s favourite anthems of the year, it turned out to be the 1999 born Trippie Redd who had my attention on lock for the majority of the year. In what seemed like a replica of the Lil Uzi rise to fame a year previous, Trippie Redd dropped a crazy 2-part mixtape in A Love Letter To You 1 & 2, with a bonified hit in “Love Scars” coming from the prior. Finishing off the year with “Dark Knight Dummo” ft. Travis Scott, Trippie Redd rightfully owned one of the hardest records of the year. A spot that might’ve belonged to XXXTentaction or Lil Peep (R.I.P.) barring various controversies and/or tragedies, Redd was my favourite underground artist of 2017.

2. Billie Eilish

Before I get too deep into this one, I have to say that as a 23-year-old hip-hop/rap head, 15-year-old alt-art-pop artist Billie Eilish was easily my favourite new artist of the year (but when I get to #1 it will make more sense why I couldn’t name her top new artist of the year). The tweenager dropped her debut 8 song EP. don’t smile at me, halfway through the year, and truthfully I hadn’t even heard of her until many months after that; when I did though, I was instantly hooked. The sounds, the vibes, the emotions. These were definitely deeper thoughts and issues than a 15-year-old me ever even knew existed, but the ways Eilish was able to braid together unique song structures, empty beats, and powerful yet versatile vocals would make you feel like the girl had lived through 40 sad years already. While the slightly more upbeat single “bellyache” has acted as the newfound favourite for many fans, “idontwannabeyouanymore” is much more my speed, and undoubtedly one of my personal picks for song of the year. It’ll be interesting to watch Eilish’s career blossom into full-fledged stardom over the next few years – don’t be surprised when it happens.

1. Brockhampton

Jaden made it cool to be weird again, Tyler made it cool to be yourself, and Khalid made it cool to be a kid again. Somewhere along the line, self-proclaimed “boyband” and California based music collective Brockhampton made it cool to be all three… and then they did it three times over. Though the Saturation series wasn’t their debut, it was our proper introduction to them. Dropping the first and second iteration of the project within 3 months over summer 2017, the 14 artist & producers led by Kevin Abstract owned the season.

If for some reason you haven’t heard of them or maybe just aren’t that familiar with the movement, think ASAP mob scheme mixed with 2010 OFWGKTA energy, completed with the legs to saturate the market quicker than Adidas drops Ultra Boost colorways. It’s electric and truthfully would’ve been hard not to take notice of. Not to mention the internet clinic they’ve been putting on since the first release – dumbasses have their own strange corner of the internet now (‘dumbass’ being the affectionate stan-name for fans given by Kevin). 7 months, 3 albums, 48 album tracks, and a handful of visuals later and Brockhampton had the best year for a set of new artists in recent history that I can think of. Posse rap is back. The only question left is “MILK” or “SWIM”?


As trash as 2017 was for, well, just about everything, there were some great new additions to all of our music libraries. While noting that the above 3 acts were my favourites in 2017, these aren’t necessarily my picks to have the biggest year in 2018. In 1 line or less, here are my official picks for 5 Artists Taking Over 2018.

5. Maurice Moore – The product of Canada dropped a surprisingly great & versatile project with The Amber Room, and while the Ontario scene has slowed down a bit for now, expect it to pick right back up in 2018 with Moore right there in the mix. Listen here.

4. Smino – Making the list again in 2018, Smino has broken onto the scene but I believe his fairly low visibility still is enough to classify him as a new artist still – and if his rumoured STL collaboration project with Metro Boomin is fact, his big break may arrive sooner than later. Listen here.

3. Grace Weber – The Grammy award-winning writer for her contributions to Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book recent dropped her first 2 singles from her forthcoming debut album (produced front to back by the SoX) to some amazing reviews; expect the official release to bring a whole lot of attention to the sultry vocalist. Listen here.

2. Thirdstory – Coming off of touring alongside Chance the Rapper for a year can never hurt, and following up a 3 song EP produced by Malay (credits include Channel Orange & Blonde), the NYC based trio has some big surprises planned for 2018 – be ready. Listen here.

1. Jon Vinyl – Another Canadian made some splashes in 2017, with Jon Vinyl’s “Nostalgia” filling in as one of my favourite tracks of the year; At this moment he sits at 636 followers on Soundcloud and only 2 posted songs, but I’ve got a good feeling about this bold pick. Listen here.

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