So here we are at the beginning of 2018, a perfect time to reflect on all of the music releases that 2017 had to offer. After having such an abundance of amazing projects in 2016 I thought last year started off quite slowly, there was a decent amount of good music but not a whole lot of great albums. Things really picked up around June though and I’ve struggled to keep up with everything.
2017 was an incredible year for underground hip-hop, a year that saw boom bap make a comeback in a fresh, evolved form. There have been a number of artists creating gritty, minimal and soulful hip-hop for the past few years but in 2017 the sound really exploded. With cold blooded raps about crime and street life, and a vibe reminiscent of mid 90s Ghostface but more stripped down. Griselda records have been gaining quite a lot of attention with releases from Westside Gunn, Conway and Benny, but it’s Mach-Hommy and Tha God Fahim who have dominated 2017 musically. The sheer amount of music those two have dropped is incredible but the consistency of it all is what really impressed me.
The king and originator of this minimal, soulful hip-hop, Roc Marciano dropped an almost perfect album this year, packed with cold lines, complex rhymes and lavishly understated instrumentals. Planet Asia also continued to excel at this sound as he teamed up with heavyweight producer Apollo Brown on Anchovies, one of the strongest releases I’ve heard from either of these artists.
Elsewhere on the underground we had one the hardest boom bap albums I’ve ever heard as Fly Anakin, Koncept Jack$on and Tuamie give us ferocious bars on knocking beats with Panama Plus. Milo and Homeboy Sandman both dropped poetic masterpieces with dreamily smooth instrumentals and we got weird with Quelle Chris’ superb Being You Is Great… I Wish I Could Be You More Often. Billy Woods and Elucid combined forces again to bring us an apocalyptic soundscape on their brutal album Rome. Wiki, J.I.D, Nolan The Ninja and Lando Chill all cemented their places as the future of the underground as they refined their sounds and all dropped focussed, cohesive albums. In the later part of the year we were also treated to another colourful album from Open Mike Eagle who continues to deliver insightful, witty and often emotional compositions.
It was a strong year for UK releases with a number acts evolving their sound a breathing new life in to the scene. UK veteran Jehst dropped one of his strongest albums to date with Billy Green Is Dead, creating his signature gloomy vibe but with a fresh set of interesting instrumentals. Melanin 9 went lo fi with Old Pictures and Strange U crafted a bizarre electronic project laced with no nonsense political bars. Nottingham MCs Cappo, Juga-Naut and Vandal Savage combined for a neon phantasmagoria of brilliant poeticism and hip-hop absurdity.
As well as the hip-hop releases out of England there was some fantastic high energy music coming out too. Grime’s popularity stays strong as the legendary Wiley dropped Godfather, gaining him significant recognition overseas. My favourite grime release of 2017 came from Manga Saint Hilare on his Lewi B produced album Outbursts From The Outskirts, delivering back to back bangers. UK drum & Bass was on top form with Kings Of The Rollers members Serum & Voltage putting out an LP of chest rattling tunes while Alix Perez curated a compilation of forwarding thinking D&B flavoured electronic mayhem on 1985 Music’s Edition 1.
Although I didn’t love a lot of 2017s trap releases there were some notable exceptions such as the solid collaboration between 21 Savage, Offset & Metro Boomin, Future’s self-titled album and Young Thug’s melodic Beautiful Thugger Girls. Rich The Kid, Jay Critch & Famous Dex had one of the catchiest trap mixtapes I’ve ever heard in Rich Forever 3 and Kodak Black got soulful on his laid back Painting Pictures LP.
There was some real experimentation on the bass heavy and electronic side of hip-hop this year. Ethereal released the terrifying Mankind, packed with abrasive beats and slurred raps while Kweku Collins gave us a beautifully off-kilter, R&B laced album. Chicago’s Supa Bwe channelled his inner pop punk fan to create a uniquely energetic melodic hip-hop project and fellow Chicago native Lucki expressed the sadness of an addict on Watch My Back. Pushing the boundaries of hip-hop to their limit was Zelooperz and Shigeto on their challengingly futuristic project A Piece Of The Ghetto that had me hooked for most of the year.
All these releases and many more made 2017 a sublime year for music. Check out my official rankings below and listen to the corresponding episodes of my podcast to get a taste of these projects for yourself.
50. 21 Savage, Offset & Metro Boomin – Without Warning
49. Oh No x Tristate – 3 Dimensional
48. Conway – G.O.A.T. (Grimiest of All Time)
47. Future – Future
46. Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 5
45. Cdot Honcho – Takeover
44. Lando Chill – The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind
43. Strange U – #LP4080
42. Al Divino – Dump Gawd: Divino Edition 2
41. Serum & Voltage – Strike Back
40. Tha God Fahim – Tha Ineffable Conflict Of Roosevelt Creek
39. Supa Bwe – Finally Dead
38. Malanin 9 – Old Pictures
37. Babylon Dead – 2000 BD
36. 1985 Music – Edition 1
35. Tiron & Ayomari – WET: Wonderful Ego Trip
34. Branko – Branko Presents: Enchufada Na Zona
33. Yung Simmie – Big Smokey
32. Wiley – Godfather
31. Dom Kennedy & Hit Boy – Courtesy Of Half-A-Mil
30. Rich Homie Quan – Back To Basics
29. Kweku Collins – Grey
28. Apollo Brown & Planet Asia – Anchovies
27. Shigeto – The New Monday
26. J.I.D. – The Never Story
25. Nolan The Ninja – YEN
24. Zed Bias – Different Response
23. Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls
22. Homeshake – Fresh Air
21. Tha God Fahim – Tha Dark Shogunn Saga Vol. 2
20. Lojii & Swarvy – Due Rent
19. Ethereal – Mankind
18. Kodak Black – Painting Pictures
17. Jehst – Billy Green Is Dead
16. Famous Dex, Jay Critch & Rich The Kid – Rich Forever 3
15. Mach-Hommy – DUMPMEISTER
14. Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
13. Wiki – No Mountains In Manhattan
12. Manga Saint Hilare x Lewi B – Outbursts From The Outskirts
11. Homeboy Sandman – Veins
10. Milo – Who Told You To Think
9. Tha God Fahim – Dump Goat
8. Fly Anakin, Koncept Jack$on & Tuamie – Panama Plus
7. Armand Hammer – Rome
6. Mach-Hommy – Dump Gawd: Hommy Edition
5. Lucki – Watch My Back
4. Quelle Chris – Being You Is Great… I Wish I Could Be You More Often
3. VVV – Bozo Boys
2. ZGTO – A Piece Of The Geto
1. Roc Marciano – Rosebudd’s Revenge