March 8, 2018

Kendrick Lamar and Migos Lead the Pack for 2017’s Year in Hip-Hop

Aryeh Lande ‘18

1.     DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Following months of flirting with a release date, fan conspiracies and diss tracks, “DAMN” was released. It was a triumphant return to the music scene for Lamar, who once again solidified his place as the king of rap with this masterpiece. As an album, “DAMN” is an exquisite work of art, pushing the boundaries of rap and carrying a bounty of playful lyrics. It blends electrifying tracks with gloomy reflections, all while highlighting Lamar’s rap prowess. Throughout the album, Lamar characteristically asks introspective questions about the social issues of 2017, though he makes sure to remind listeners he can verbally demolish anyone standing in front of his rap throne – the hallmark of a winning album.

2.     Culture – Migos
This was the year the Atlanta rap scene flourished and no artist led this resurrection more than Migos. The controversial trio took the world by storm with “Bad and Boujee,” (admit it, you’re probably singing it in your head as you read this) and their album did not disappoint. Even though nothing ties its songs together other than the album’s title, that’s all the songs really need. It is not the lyrics that make this album so sensational by any means, but rather it is the message its success sends. With it, Migos have managed to transform themselves from a fringe underground group to a household name. That, in itself, is a resounding success. Just as the title suggests, by mixing trap beats with autotune and random ad-libs, the Migos have created a new rap culture without dispute.
3.     I Decided – Big Sean
Possibly the dark horse of the group, Big Sean is a reigning star who has long demanded recognition in the rap industry. He has built his career over the course of three albums containing catchy beats, loaded lyrics and star features. On this album, Sean maintained his high standard, but added to his profile, opening up about his personal life and raw thoughts for a change. He takes on his enemies and proclaims his love for Detroit. In a way “I Decided” can be seen as a tour de force proving that Sean is not destined to live in the shadow of greatness, but rather contest for the top crown of rap.

4.     Mr. Davis – Gucci Mane
Gucci Mane released three albums in 2017, earning him the top spot on my overachiever list. Lucky for us, Mane does not sacrifice quality to achieve quantity. On “Mr. Davis,” the rapper, hailing from Atlanta, shows off his suave trap persona, creating a unique sound that is nothing shy of captivating. On top of his own talent, Mane was able to attract features on this album like a political meme attracts comments on Facebook. Between his plethora of tracks and sheer ability to produce enticing music, Mane is a force to be reckoned with.

5.     Everybody – Logic
With the release of his third studio album, Logic struck a chord beyond the tone his fans are used to hearing. This album is a true ballad of the outsider in hip-hop. He focuses on the differences between people, touches on our political climate and tells stories from different perspectives. His passionate and encouraging messages about understanding differences shine through. Among these is his acclaimed suicide prevention song – a true triumph of the power of rap music. For so long hip-hop has been marred by drug use, violence and other vices. Logic reminds true fans that they are special and keeps listeners engaged through his lens of positivity. I would be remiss not to mention this album is loaded with Logic’s embrace of his biracial childhood- get ready for some eye rolls by the end of the album. Still, the focus on unity coupled with Logic’s outstanding flow and story-telling ability may not make the album destined for the club scene, but still gives it sentimental and artistic value beyond the competition.

Overrated: Issa – 21 Savage
Issa vibe. Issa a lifestyle. Issa wreck. This album was a phenomenal flop by all accounts. Savage, an eerie, intimidating character, was very excited to announce his second album to world. So excited, in fact, that I couldn’t seem to escape it on my Instagram feed (not salty, I promise). Unfortunately, the world was less excited to receive it. Before you readers out there start attacking me, let me explain. This list judges albums on their contents, and Savage’s ability to produce a coherent project pales in comparison to others I have mentioned before. His lyrics are pretty bland and even a track list featuring the all-star team of producers can’t save him this time. It may be a good or even respectable album, but it is definitely overrated.

Underrated: 508-507-2209 – Joyner Lucas
Joyner Lucas defines accountability. You may know him from his music videos in which he embarrasses rappers over their own beats. If not, you may know him from his own jarring tracks on this album. Lucas, representing Worcester, Massachusetts, has an undying passion for rap culture and his goal is to make sure you know that. He has worked to build a repertoire as a true rapper, using witty lyrics and brutal truths to call out competitors who disgrace the purpose of rap music. He speaks out against drugs and violence, using his platform to address social issues. His album shows he is not only a battle rapper, as he maneuvers his way through somber stories and social barbs. There are no major hits on this work, but that doesn’t matter. Like rap was intended to be, the content is the hit.

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