AT the dawn of 2017, I made a promise to myself that 6 months into the year, I would take a moment to appreciate the soundtrack that has made the first half of the year.
We’re now in June, so I thought I’d get started before it becomes socially acceptable to put Christmas trees up.
Urban music has undeniably defined 2017 so far, with everything from hip-hop to rap, trap, drill, grime and afro-bashment storming the soundwaves.
The UK Grime scene has exploded, leading to number one albums and sold out tours for the likes of Stormzy and the Boy Better Know crew.
The other side of the pond, Atlanta trap artists like Migos, Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug have embodied the spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll and lyrical GOAT Kendrick Lamar has shown how conscious rap is not only breathing but thriving.
So, without further ado, here are my top listens of 2017 so far:
10.) Logic – Everybody
Although Logic’s penultimate album is flawed, it’s also one of the best I’ve heard so far this year. Check out my extented review.
9.) Glass Animals – How to be a Human Being
Okay, so let’s address the elephant in the room here- this isn’t a rap album! So shoot me, I enjoy the odd bit of indie every now and again. That being said, you know when a non-rap album makes it into my top 10, it’s definitely worth a listen.
8.) DaVinChe – #POWERS
An incredible landmark for UK urban music, DaVinChe and Tasha Demi have crafted a compilation capturing the UK music scene in its renaissance. Featuring the brightest artists of the UK urban scene, #POWERS demonstrates that UK music is far more than the sum of its parts.
Check out my extended review on my blog here.
7.) Lil Yachty – Teenage Emotions
The self proclaimed “King of Teens” is a divisive figure in modern hip-hop. He represents the rise of so-called “mumble rap” as opposed to old school lyricism. Whilst some may accuse the likes of Lil Yachty of lacking substance, I’ve spent the bulk of this year listening to trap music, with Lil Yachty contributing to much of my playlist.
Yachty is making waves as part of a generational revolution, where rappers are ditching the style of their 90s veterans for grunge cues (think trashed denim, bright colours and skater influences.)
This album is experimental with its heavy-hitting bars over 808-bass, influenced by 80s melodic pop. As Lil Yachty proves, hip-hop is growing up and tearing the rule book to shreds.
6.) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Let’s be real- this album was disappointing. Following on from “To Pimp a Butterfly,” I and many other Kendrick fans expected so much more.
Gone is the storytelling and complex narrative, in its place a confusing medley of ideologies which doesn’t try to make sense.
Not only this, but its unlistenable. I find myself listening to the same tracks (“DNA,” “LOYALTY,” “HUMBLE,” “LOVE,” and “XXX”) and neglecting the rest.
That said, DAMN. has a prime spot on my list as I wait for the album to grow on me.
5.) Joey Bada$$ – ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
If you’re looking something to soothe your DAMN. disappointment, look no further than Joey Bada$$’s coherent, enjoyable and well produced record. Check out my extended review here!
4.) DJ Khaled – Grateful
Anyone who follows DJ Khaled knows the real star of this album is his son, Asahd, who is also the executive producer of this album and makes many a cameo.
Bringing the hip-hop family he has brought together over the years, Grateful is packed with banger after banger. His hard work has paid off, helping shape the evolution of contemporary hip-hop and forging more “dream” collaborations than most artists can hope.
3.) Drake – More Life
Drake’s much talked about “soundtrack to your life” has been the biggest shock of the year for me! A well curated project, More Life is head and shoulders above anything else coming across Stateside this year. Check out my extended review.
2.) Wiley – Godfather
“Aight were in the studio ya know, look out the window there’s 3 skyscrapers/So that means something’s about to get built up/Empire” – Wiley “My Mistakes”, 2007.
Thanks to Wiley’s “My Mistakes” (2007), Grime has struck a cord with me ever since. As the “godfather” of Grime, Wiley has been a stand out figure guiding the scene as it grows in popularity.
With this being his 11th and possibly final album in addition to an upcoming biography, Wiley is still a hallmark of the Grime scene and continues to inspire a growing number of MCs.
1.) Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
The de facto heir to the throne of Grime, Stormzy has finally realised the vision laid down by Wiley in Grime music and boy has he succeeded in extraordinary fashion.
Gang Signs and Prayer was so good it was worthy of a 2000 word review by myself, which you can read here.
So there we have it, and with so much to look forward to (Dizzee Rascal’s much-anticipated return to grime, Chip’s new album, Calvin Harris’s reinvention as the Scottish DJ Khaled) and many questions to be answered (what will Bugzy Malone’s send for Stormzy? When will Lil Uzi Vert drop Luv is Rage 2? Will we see a project from Saint Pablo himself?), 2017 looks set to be a fantastic year for urban music.
What albums have been your favourites so far? Tweet me at @neverbeenin