DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
DAMN. proved that Kendrick Lamar can be successful with just about everything he does. The album is one of the most important albums of 2017 because in it, Lamar lamented, boasted, philosophized and rapped about everything from his internal struggles (“FEAR.” and “FEEL.”) to his jovial celebrations (“GOD.”). On “BLOOD.”, Lamar opened with one of the most thought-provoking intros in hip-hop history. The full-circle effect achieved on “DUCKWORTH.” is nothing short of brilliant. The song itself is one of the most important songs in Lamar’s discography because it gives the origin story of the most important rapper alive (Lamar) and is one of Lamar’s best songs. Simply put Lamar took the rawness of Section.80, the sonic elements of good kid, m.A.A.d city, the themes from To Pimp a Butterfly, and fused them together with the final product DAMN.
Ctrl by SZA
Ctrl is the best R&B album of 2017. SZA’s masterpiece is important because it brings alternative neo-soul with hip-hop influences into the mainstream. SZA’s voice is like ice cream. It’s sweet, chilling, can be any flavor and you always crave it. Ctrl’s critical and commercial success shows how a self-made artist like SZA can rise to the top of the charts. Although SZA shares a label (Top Dawg Ent.) with Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Isaiah Rashad, she has no problem competing with and, in some cases, outshining her peers.
Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples
Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory is a groove-hop manifesto that combines brisk rhymes, dance rhythms, dystopian distortion, catchy hooks with the inevitable call-response, and a looming theme that is the Big Fish Theory. I created the term “groove-hop” (a combination of EDM and rap) to describe the sounds of this album. Big Fish Theory is important because it establishes this musical genre, whether you like to call it groove-hop, hip-hop, electronic or to give it no label at all. The album brought a diverse sound to the ever changing landscape of hip-hop.
Harry Styles by Harry Styles
Harry Styles doesn’t need One Direction. In fact, he’s better without them. Harry Styles is important because it confirms that a One Direction member can shine outside of the group. The album also reveals that mainstream pop is accepting of music that doesn’t necessarily match every other song on the radio. Styles followed his heart and made the music he wanted to play. We want to play it too.
Flower Boy by Tyler, the Creator
Flower Boy is important because it marks an important time in Tyler’s career and it reflects the acceptance and demand for his Odd Future sound. Tyler has come a long way since Bastard and Goblin. He has released a slew of music that has been compelling and shocking but always a creative musical creation that refuses to fall victim to conformity or complacency. Tyler has been tweaking his sound little by little and on Cherry Bomb, he has discovered what has now become his signature sound. Flower Boy is one of the best and most important albums of 2017 because it is an example of the music world today. According to one of Spotify’s studies, hip-hop is the most popular genre in the world. Today it’s largely dominated by trap but there are still plenty of artists like Tyler who do their own thing and achieve great success while doing so.
Culture by Migos
Culture is more influential than it is important but it is still one of the most notable releases of 2017. After Gucci Mane’s Trap House in 2005, trap has slowly risen in popularity. Migos (who were originally discovered by Gucci Mane) have been around for a few years but Culture is a good reflection of our times. Our culture has a lot to do with the music world. The music we listen to, the videos we watch, the style we copy, the music we dance to is all a part of our culture. When you think about how much influence the music world has on our lives, you cannot discount Migos’ importance in 2017. A song like “Bad and Boujee” is one of the most important songs of 2017 because that song alone influenced many future releases in hip-hop as well as many people’s musical preference and demand.
Contact Tristan Niskanen at [email protected]