Undisputed (Mostly)Top 5 of 2017 (thus far)

Undisputed (Mostly)Top 5 of 2017 (thus far)

I didn’t want to bother with placing anything in numerical order, as those ratings can change with my mood, level of hunger, level of fatigue, season, etc.… So, I just placed everything in the order in which it was released. I had to go back and do a bit of tinkering with what I thought was my original list once I took note of what I was still listening to and revisiting with any regularity.

So, with all that being said …

Run the Jewels – RTJ3

Released December 24th, 2016

I’m sliding this one in on a technicality because I think the physical copies didn’t actually ship until mid-January. That seems like a reasonable enough justification, plus it came out online too close to the end of the year to legitimately garner the respect and acclaim it deserved in 2016. You can’t sit with an album for a week and accurately assess its standing or merit. At least I can’t (I could go on a rant here about how loosely we toss around the term “classic” these days, like we’re just yearning for everything to be something more than it is. You can’t call something a classic after 5 listens, you need to sit with that and see how it ages. Return to it in a few years and see what holds up and what sounds dated. Yeah. That part.)

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RTJ3

Favorite track: “Thursday in the Danger Room”

Digressing now. I think Killer Mike and El-P have gotten better with each release. The chemistry has strengthened and the beats and overall quality of the music have progressed and matured alongside the two rappers. The first project was apparently compiled of beats El had laying around already, the next two were crafted from scratch. With this one, I think the newness and surprise of their late career ascent had kind of worn off and they were more aware that their place had been solidified. That festival stage money can do that to you, one would assume. El has gotten so much better being alongside Mike, as I can only assume Mike has forced him to temper himself a bit and he’s focused more on flow and being a bit more concise and less abstract. Everything that made him him is still there, but it’s been smoothed out a bit more for easier consumption. And Mike is just Mike. He found his muse with Jaime and they’ve been off to the races ever since. Theirs it truly a match made in whatever fictional fairy tale land you place credence in.

Favorite track: “Thursday in the Danger Room”

Honorable mention: “Call Ticketron”

 

Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice

Released March 31, 2017

This is perhaps the most important release on the list, considering the fate Freddie had dangling over his head prior to this album’s creation. Gibbs has been one of the best for a while now and his consistency and work ethic are worth marveling at. The work with Madlib is what elevated him and garnered more critical acclaim and notoriety, but Freddie has been a beast, he just had a tendency to surround himself with a few bums that didn’t deserve to sniff the same mic he burped on. His sound is his own, but there’s a lot of Midwest influence in

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You only live 2wice

Favorite track: “Homesick”

there. You hear the Do or Die and Bone in his flow and cadence with some Z-Ro sprinkled in there (at least to my ears). I think the length of this project was perfect and Freddie was able to touch on some of the trials and tribulations he faced over the previous year without dwelling too much and altering his approach and subject matter. It’s still a Gibbs album through and through. I was glad he touched on what happened a bit and even though I may have wanted a bit more, really, how much is there to say when we know the story and his days seemed fairly mundane and redundant in an Austrian prison cell. Thankfully he emerged triumphantly, reassessed his situation and his circle and got right back to that good old Gibbs greatness.

Favorite track: “Homesick”

Honorable Mention: “Alexys”        

Brother Ali – All the Beauty in This Whole Life

Released May 5th, 2017

After an extended hiatus in which Ali considered leaving music altogether to further pursue his social activism and organizing, he was instructed by one of his mentors to return to his calling, and so he did. I like that he makes music when it needs making and lives life in the interim. That obviously feeds the music and aids the art. After his last album took a more political tone than some of his fans were prepared for he returned with a more hopeful and uplifting tone.

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All the Beauty in This Whole Life

Favorite track: “Dear Black Son”

I’m normally prone to pessimism and enjoy my music bleak and depressing, but Ali manages to make upbeat positive music that doesn’t come off as corny. He mixes enough depressing aspects of reality and acknowledgement of current conditions to balance it all out. This was also his first album back with Ant, who produced the entire thing, after Jake One produced the entirety of his last album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color.

Favorite track: “Dear Black Son”

Honorable Mention: “Out of Here”

SZA – Ctrl

Released June 9th, 2017

 My anticipation for this one wasn’t as long lasting as many others, as I had previously missed out on her music until they started releasing singles from this project. “Drew Barrymore” was cool, and definitely piqued my interest, but “Broken Clocks” grabbed me and I had that on repeat for quite some time.

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Ctrl

Favorite Track: “Broken Clocks”

I need to personally thank Top Dawg for prying this album from her, as she previously admitted that her obsessive tinkering would’ve likely led to this never coming out. She’s stated that the next one won’t take as long, and I hope that’s the case, as this has been in regular rotation for a few months now. Didn’t really need the Kendrick verse, but her and Isaiah Rashad have fantastic chemistry.

Favorite Track: “Broken Clocks”

Honorable Mention: “The Weekend”

Jay-Z – 4:44

Released June 30th, 2017

Honestly, initially had little interest in this one. I was completely confident that Jay’s career had run its course. An impressive course, like that doofy Tough Mudder shit white people love, but course completed nonetheless. I was happily proven wrong upon my first listen. While Jay’s flow wasn’t as perfect as it had previously been, and he seemed to fall in and out of the pocket from time to time, even reverting to some strange off beat spoken word hullabaloo at points, this was easily his most honest and introspective album.

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4:44

Favorite Track: “Marcy Me”

Jay always portrayed himself as a superhero in his music, even on the songs that would display some vulnerability, they typically ended with Jay triumphantly sauntering into the sunset. With this, therapy Jay released himself from the bravado and ego that had limited his writing and artistic expression for so long. He became human and the result was beautifully mature music. I mean, Nas did this on Life is Good too, but got much less fanfare (have to make that comparison whenever possible, they’re linked for life). And Nas should’ve had a feature on “Moonlight” considering the sample. This was the Jay I didn’t know I wanted, but damn, I needed this. Short, sweet, no filler, that’s how I like music these days. Miss me with that 22 track nonsense I used to covet.

                Also, “Marcy Me”, he wrote that, I don’t care what he says, the way he’s rhyming in and out of the bars and the syllables he’s flipping, yeah, he penned that, and it’s glorious.
 

Favorite Track: “Marcy Me”

Honorable Mention: “Bam”

I love food, television, music, and movies. I hate making lists. You can probably catch me at def*matic making lists :(