The Best Albums of 2017 by the Month
Written by Jolene Carter
Migos - Culture
The Atlanta hip hop group’s third album gained extra attention after Donald Glover heralded them as “the modern day Beatles”. Culture isn’t all just about selling drugs and glorifying the trap. It tells the rags to riches story of its members in a way that uniquely reflects who they are. Their captivating beats, triplet style rhyming, and complementary melodies make them a prime example of quality trap music.
Listen to some of Migos' current songs on Rap Caviar by Spotify.
Thundercat - Drunk
From the first track of Drunk you can immediately get a feel for Thundercat's artistic style. He grew up surrounded by 70s funk music and played bass for several high profile artists. He demonstrates his musicianship with an album that seems all over the place. One minute you will hear uptempo jazz improvisations and the next you will hear ethereal RnB. Thundercat uses several short interlude-like tracks which keep the listener interested throughout the album and blend it all together. You’ll never be bored when it comes to Thundercat.
Close Competitors: Sampha - Process, Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer
Drake - More Life
Drake has never been a grimey rapper. His style of hip-hop has always been heavily pop influenced. His last project, Views, had a couple hugely successful singles, but the album itself paled in comparison. However, in More Life, it seems the Canadian rapper is going for a more holistic approach by creating a twenty-two track album that he refers to as more of a playlist. This has led to Drake’s most cohesive, yet expansive and unique project yet.
Kendrick Lamar - DAMN
As one of the most influential rappers in the game right now, Kendrick Lamar released arguably the best album of the year. DAMN is filled with social commentary, devotion yet frustration toward God, and raw introspection offered with the same upfront honesty as the title evokes. Lamar pulls no punches lyrically, musically, or in his content. His lead single, Humble, showed his willingness as an artist to explore a new sound. This intricately crafted album even tells two different stories depending on if you listen to the tracks backwards or forwards. Try it.
Harry Styles - Harry Styles
Harry Styles surprised us all with his soulful crooning and the pop-RnB sound of his first solo album. While most people expected music in a similar vein to what he created with One Direction, as a solo act he brought forth a more mature sound in theme, content, and style. The album is far more intimate and emotional than expected from Styles.
Jay-Z - 4:44
In case you thought Jay-Z was old news in the wake of a new generation of rappers, he returned in June to remind us why he’s one of the greats. 4:44 showed the usually pompous rapper in a more vulnerable light as he laments his infidelity and publicly apologizes to his wife. He almost comes across as the father figure of hip hop with iconic lines such as “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit.” In many of his songs, he hints that we should focus on financial stability, financial literacy and investment.
Close Competitor: SZA - Control
HAIM - Something to Tell You
The second album from this talented trio of sisters showcases a skillful blending of Soul, Pop, RnB, Rock, and even Country vibes. The album creatively fuses different genres and each track seems to belong in a different decade. Their mastery of several different instruments comes across in the unique sound of each track. However, the album still flows seamlessly for easy listening. HAIM shows true artistry in songwriting by incorporating various musical influences.
Daniel Caesar - Freudian
Daniel Caesar is one of the newer faces keeping pure silky, soulful RnB alive. What makes this album so compelling is the blending of classic and futuristic. 1990s RnB aficionados will appreciate the old school influences in his vocal inflections and instrumentation. There are also traces of Gospel from his church upbringing on tracks such as We Find Love. However, he still incorporates the futuristic light of modern alt-RnB. Freudian is an album for every type of RnB lover.
Lecrae - All Things Work Together
Lecrae started off in Christian music circles, but his new partnership with Columbia Records and his encouraging lyrics have propelled him into the mainstream hip-hop sphere with features from Ty Dolla $ign, Tori Kelly, and production by Metro Boomin'. On All Things Work Together, Lecrae offers a unique perspective through his critique of white-washed Christianity, his celebration of blackness, and journey of self-identity. Every track is brutally honest, yet inspiring.
Majid Jordan - The Space Between
The Space Between is the sophomore album from the futuristic RnB/Pop duo featured on Drake’s Hold On We’re Going Home back in 2013. Their unique style can be described as retro-electro RnB. The album occupies the space between bright, upbeat electro music and melancholy themes. The album perfectly captures a 1980s throwback sound simultaneously with a futuristic dance sound all wrapped up in the soulful RnB vocals Majid Jordan always provide.
Read our official "The Space Between" by Majid Jordan Album Review, written by Sydney Hamilton.
Jaden Smith - Syre
What makes Smith’s debut album such a gem is that he neither attempts to rap juvenile songs about pretty girls in class, but also doesn’t attempt to force maturity by being something he’s not. Instead he has created a raw coming-of-age album that authentically reveals the struggles and thoughts of his 19-year-old self. He didn’t carelessly throw out an album in hopes to start a rap career based on his dad’s name. He spent three years writing and creating this seventy-minute project and it’s evident in the quality songwriting and production.
Check out our official SYRE Album Review, written by Bitota Mpolo.
Miguel - War & Leisure
War & Leisure offers up psychedelic RnB with plenty of funk. This retro groove brings a certain brightness and upbeat vibe throughout the entire album and it isn’t achieved cheaply. You can hear how Miguel uses real instruments to capture the vibe through the funky bass lines, dirty reverb-heavy guitars, and bluesy piano runs. The album just makes you feel good. As the title suggests, War & Leisure isn’t all fun and games. Miguel also touches on somber social and political topics.
Check out these awesome photos of Miguel rocking out at Governor's Ball.