10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2017 … So Far

Where did the time go?

We’re already halfway through our music year, so before the summer heats up with new tracks and we anticipate the usual glut of high-profile fall releases, let’s take a moment to revisit the most notable rap releases so far.

Many of the year’s most celebrated albums touched on America’s shifting political landscape and its effects on hip-hop culture. Many artists took the opportunity to tell that story from their point of view, often teaming up with other heavyweights to strengthen their message. The result has been a strong stream of protest music, with many of those albums represented here.

Take a look at the best of what 2017 has delivered so far.

Honorable mentions: Organized Noize, Organized Noize EP; David Banner, The God Box; Logic, Everybody

run the jewels 3Run the Jewels,                                 Run the Jewels 3

The third installment of Killer Mike and El-P’s Run the Jewels series dropped Christmas Eve 2016 but since we rocked with it pretty much all winter, it gets inclusion here. While it’s not nearly as strong as its predecessor, Mike and El still prove to be a potent combination, weaving social commentary into fiery rhymes and head-nodding beats. These two never fail to deliver.


at what costGoldLink, At What Cost

GoldLink has been a fixture on the mixtape scene for the last couple of years, helping to keep the DMV in hip-hop’s spotlight. His first official album, At What Cost, may feel like a slight departure from those earlier mixtapes but never fear – GoldLink doesn’t lose himself by widening his appeal. Producers like KAYTRANADA and Teddy Walton give GoldLink a fresh, mainstream sound but the man of the hour continues to lace those beats with his trademark intriguing concepts.  It’s catchy but full of substance – the perfect combo for your summer playlists.


the sevenTalib Kweli and Styles P,                 The Seven

When you have two MCs the caliber of Kweli and the Ghost, there is no way the project can fail. The Seven, their appropriately titled seven-track EP, lives up to its billing. The duo dive headfirst into socially charged concepts, spitting the honest truth about police brutality, politics and racial identity. Guests like Common, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Rapsody bring their A-game too. This set is a must for boom-bap fans.


rosecransDJ Quik and Problem, Rosecrans

Last year DJ Quik and Problem teamed for a Rosecrans EP, proving that the duo has a surprising amount of chemistry. That collaboration birthed a full-length version of Rosecrans, and it’s even better than its predecessor. West Coast hip-hop fans dying for a taste of G-funk finally get their fill here – this album rides as hard as any of those classic records circa 1994. While there is some repetition from the previous release, there’s enough new content to differentiate it from its little brother.  Superb production and insanely catchy rhyme schemes will make this a summer hit.


the icebergOddisee, The Iceberg

Oddisee is one of those artists who seemingly has been around forever, quietly releasing strong albums and mixtapes that resonate with hard core fans but rarely make it to mainstream ears. And while I wouldn’t call The Iceberg “mainstream,” I think it’s his best shot at moving his message forward. Oddisee’s keen observations on the current political climate resonate loud and clear, along with the fantastic production that has long been his trademark. Hip-hop soul has a new champion – just make sure y’all don’t miss out.


the wildRaekwon, The Wild

Read our review here

Never doubt a legend. With legit classic albums already under his belt and a 25-year career that reshaped the face of hip-hop, Raekwon had nothing left to prove. But on The Wild, Rae proved one key fact – he’s still one of the best to ever grip a microphone. Rae’s superior wordplay is in full display, along with some of the best production since his mid-90s heyday. From the cinematic excellence of “Marvin” to the brutal braggadocio of “The Reign,” The Chef’s meals are still unmatched.


all amerikkkan badassJoey Bada$$, All Amerikkkan Bada$$

When Joey emerged in 2012 with his throwback 1999 mixtape, rap pundits couldn’t wait to place him on hip-hop’s throne. It was amazing that someone so young seemingly mastered his craft so soon. Later releases, including his debut album, showed that Joey still had plenty of room to grow. But here, on his sophomore release, Joey finally starts to capitalize on that potential we saw all those years ago. There’s been no shortage of politically charged albums this year (this list is filled with them) but few are as poignant as All Amerikkkan Bada$$, a clear depiction of America’s flawed facade. It’s bold, scathing and most importantly, real.


youonlylive2wiceFreddie Gibbs, You Only Live 2wice

Fresh from acquittal of sexual abuse claims in 2016, Freddie Gibbs hopped in the studio to deliver this third studio album – a set so brief that it almost feels like an EP or abbreviated mixtape. But Gibbs is more about quality than quantity. You Only Live 2wice feels like a turning point in his career, scaling back the usual trap tales for more introspection. Family and Gibbs’ own future are big themes here and they’re delivered with the vocal ferocity fans have come to know and love. It’s a different type of album for Gangsta Gibbs, but one that’s definitely appreciated.


neva leftSnoop Dogg, Neva Left

I guess the title says it all. Rap fans who thought the glory days of Snoop Doggy Dogg were lost to dinner dates with Martha Stewart and stints as Snoop Lion can rest easy with Neva Left, a statement of affirmation that Bigg Snoop is still one of rap’s premier icons. While the set is a little inconsistent in spots, the album is strongest when Snoop goes back to basics – that classic laid-back flow over head-nodding production. Snoop might be a grandfather now, but he’s just as comfortable reliving his days as the Doggfather.


damnKendrick Lamar, DAMN

Read our review here

Yeah, there was no doubt that Kung-Fu Kenny would make the list, and there’s good reason for that. Kendrick’s fourth LP is yet another bold statement that he, legitimately, should be mentioned among the greatest rappers of all time. DAMN is elite-level storytelling, with every vocal inflection and shifting soundscape adding new layers to his thesis. In April, I proclaimed that DAMN would be the album of the year. I haven’t been proven wrong yet.


What are your favorite hip-hop albums of the year? Let us know below. And check out the 10 best R&B albums of the year too.



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