If you haven’t already go read my prior articles, but here are 2017’s top 25 tracks of the year. There may be some surprises here and some shoe ins, let us know what you think!
25. REMY BANKS FT. CODY B. WARE, JESSE JAMES SOLOMON AND ISAIAH BARR – SKY’S FALLING
What a collection of artists to have on a track. When Remy Banks’ Champ Hoody Music EP Vol. 1 dropped this is the first song I went to listen to, all give their all here. The artists think about their legacy’s to be left behind and it’s a real good insight into these guy’s minds, Jesse James’ cool nuances throughout the hook make the track that much better too. Remy’s World’s Fair affiliate Cody B. Ware has a verse that is pretty damn impressive too and has one of my favourite lines of the year…. “They chanting ‘2 falls out of 3’ Malenko and Guerrero but they talking to me”. What a beautiful wrestling reference.
24. DJ SHADOW FT. RUN THE JEWELS – NOBODY SPEAK
Run The Jewels have been regarded one of Hip-Hop’s best acts since their inception and it’s because of songs like this that are why. ATL’s Killer Mike and New York’s El-P were always gonna be something special when they joined forces but on tracks were they go back to back like this they blow expectations out of the water. Controversial lines like “Flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest” are rife in their music but the rhyme schemes that go into them are impeccable… “Now face the flame, fuckers, your fame and fate’s done with” is the line that follows, El has been consistently rapping this well since his Company Flow days. DJ Shadow provides the production on what is a great track from 3 of the scenes veterans.
23. JACK JETSON, BLACK JOSH, TOSHIRO STEEL, KOSI TIDES, BLACKO, PERTRELLI – HELLA SKARY
A plethora of Northern artists come together for one of the best crafted, underrated songs of the year. All the artists are on their A game here, spitting with swagger and pizzazz but also in such a manor it’s like friends speaking directly to you – something that’s very rare to achieve these days. It’s impossible for me to pick a favourite verse here but there’s something about Blacko’s verse that I resonate with, all in all it’s a great track and something you really need to have on rotation for years to come.
22. VINCE STAPLES FT. JUICY J – BIG FISH
Put Juicy J on a hook and you’ll have an instant hit. Nah but in all seriousness, Vince Staples has matured into one of hip hop’s most respected, well rounded, prestigious rappers. He’s one of the “your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper” type and Big Fish is one of those of tracks that lets the world see why. Lines like “Swimming upstream while I’m tryna keep my bread, from the sharks make me wanna put the hammer to my head” see Vince illustrate how the industry can be and how he’s trying to keep level and well off in a ruthless game. His album Big Fish Theory is definitely a top 5 project of 2017 and you should go give it a listen if you haven’t already.
21. LIL UZI VERT – XO TOUR LIFE
It was impossible to escape this song, in such a short span of time Lil Uzi Vert went from a relatively unknown soundcloud rapper to one of the scene’s biggest names with one of the most recognisable voices. This song catapulted him to the forefront and it’s easy to see why, in a style only he can really pull off Lil Uzi Vert rapped one of if not the catchiest and most memorable hook of the year. “All my friends are dead, push me to the edge”… yes it ,may have been turned into memes here and there but there is true originality in this song and Lil Uzi Vert made a new style in music here – it also helps that TM88 did an amazing job on the beat.
20. J.I.D – NEVER
Now a member of Dreamville Records, J.I.D had a very good 2017 and it really seemed to start with this track. Coming off of his album The Never Story, Never is a track which sees J.I.D talk about his life and how never had materialistic items and had to grind for things in life. There’s two beats in the song and he rides them both amazingly well, his voice is so unique and it really makes this song like no other out this year, or ever really. He has charisma and personality when rapping and it makes you believe what he’s saying, and in recent years legitimacy is something that’s been amiss in the game. He’s a special talent and is on the come up, everybody will know his name in a few years.
19. OVERDOZ. – MANIFESTO
This sounds like something A Tribe Called Quest would put out, it’s the type of sound that is universally recognised as great – if only more people had heard it! The YouTube video for it currently clocks in at under 4000, but don’t let that take away from the magic these guys have created. It’s a fun and bouncy song that sounds like an anthem for a generation, it’s another song on the list that’s also personal and you can see the guys adding in things that matter to them. These can either be family matters like “can’t even fuck with my cousin she a basshead” or pop culture bars that might go over people’s heads “We rockstars… in search of”(a subtle reference to N.E.R.D). Overdoz. deservedly find their way on the list with a feel good banger here.
18. NINES – BREAK AWAY
Nines begun the year strongly and sort of squandered off a bit but this song has been stuck on all my playlists since its release. To me it’s the crown jewel of One Foot Out, a deeply introspective song from the London rapper speaking about family issues to drug dealer issues it’s highly personal and the type of song rappers dream of making. Production is handled by Jevon and Fwdslxsh and there’s a little synth that’s present about a minute in that is incredible if you listen to it with headphones in, it’s the little things like that that make certain productions amazing. Nines has excelled and come into a league of his own in terms of British rappers, he’s here to stay.
17. ALCHEMIST & MOBB DEEP – TRY MY HAND
2017 was the year we sadly lost Prodigy of Mobb Deep, he was only 42 but he left behind a legacy that will last an eternity. It’s fitting that one of the few posthumous releases we get from him sees him team up with his Mobb Deep bretherin Havoc and long-time collaborator in producer Alchemist. The beat is ridiculous from Alchemist, part of The Good Book Vol. 2 in which the beats are made with gospel/Church samples, we have Mobb Deep spitting realness that is synonymous with their career. Havoc takes the first verse in what seems like it would belong on one of their 90s album but of course Prodigy has the spotlight with yet another classic verse. “I got the best of all time verse, my shit quotable”… Well, he’s not wrong. It was so gratifying to hear this and realise it was probably one of the last verses he ever rapped and he still had it.
16. FREDDIE GIBBS – ALEXYS
Freddie Gibbs can never not be gangsta, how do you start a song with “I first tasted cocaine in 10th grade”?! He’s the guy, and since his release from being falsely imprisoned has been gaining back the respect that some people may have lost for him, Alexys is Gibbs at his finest as he roars “I get cake bitch everyday be my birthday” in the chorus you can feel everything he’s saying. It’s one of those songs where his untouchable breath control is on show, just check that second verse where blends into it so seamlessly from the chorus and doesn’t take a break the whole time. We hope that the sequel to his collaboration with Madlib comes out next year as promised, but for now go back and listen to his project You Only Live 2wice from which this is from.
15. METRO BOOMIN & GUCCI MANE FT. OFFSET – MET GALA
Metro Boomin has steadily been dominating the rap scene this year, almost every noticeable rap record had a Metro credit. He’s worked some of the best in the game and this track with help from Southside that ensured he was not an amateur but Rap’s best at the moment. Migos’ Offset delivered one of his best verses here, and it’s matched by Guwop. Both spit in a rapid, purposeful flow and it really pays off, Offset has a vigorous style whilst Gucci delivers it in such an insouciant but dope way – his line “Thought it was killers, camped out in my bushes
Then come to find out it’s photographers” is also my favourite in the track.
14. A$AP ROCKY FT. PLAYBOI CARTI, LIL UZI VERT, QUAVO AND FRANK OCEAN – RAF
I’ve begun to realise 2017 was a great year for collaborations. 5 of the year’s most successful and notable artists teamed up for this one, even if Carti was only providing adlibs. The congregation of rappers all spat about their Raf Simons collections as well as name dropping a few other brands in their wardrobes including Maison Margiella and Marc Jacobs. The star of the track is undoubtedly Frank Ocean however, to me he had a bit of a lacklustre/disappointing year but this verse is one of 2017’s best, lines like “This ain’t on the Gram, Wizard of O-Z” may seem simple but are actually intelligent triple entendres… “Ain’t on the gram” referring to his acts not being on instagram, also his drug use isn’t measured by the gram due to it being so immense, to top it off he calls himself the Wizard of O-Z – a slick reference to the movie Wizard of Oz but also calling himself Wizard of Oz (ounces) – yeah, pretty good Frank.
13. IAMDDB – SHADE
IAMDDB ignited the streets with this song, it’s been a while since I’ve heard my friends playing a female rappers song so much on repeat and I’m so glad it was this. The Manchester singer found the perfect balance of; hood, sexiness and everything in between with this, her voice is remarkable and so harmonious it really pays off with songs like these. It’s like Jazz, Trap, R&B and Grime have all mixed here and created a new genre, it’s a middle finger to any doubters she has and I personally doubt there’ll be many left after the year she’s had.
12. ALFA MIST – 7TH OCTOBER
When it kicks in the instrumental to this wouldn’t be out of place in a jazz bar, and his vocals would seem fit for Mike Skinner but Alfa Mist has carved out his own path in music with his experimental fusion of genres. I found him via SoundCloud’s station feature and I’m glad I actually had it turned on for once, his highly intimate lyrics are kicked off with such a sombre but intriguing bar “I weren’t gonna vent, but what a turn of events”, spoken with that English dialect that makes you feel homely when you listen, it’s a warming song that makes you think deeply about life both from his words but also that inspiring production. Alfa Mist has been one of London’s best kept secrets for a while now and it’s time his to blow soon surely, go check this out before he does.
11. DANGERDOOM FT. BLACK THOUGHT AND VINNY PRICE – MAD NICE
Originally a bonus track from the DANGERDOOM album The Mouse and the Mask, the verses from both DOOM and Black Thought are stupendous and I never thought I’d see them team up. Unfortunately we don’t have Vincent Price spitting but we do have his infamous laugh on the track hence his credit. Danger Mouse’s solemn piano tones in the background provide a great floor for the two rappers to spit their best game. Mad Nice gives me a great sense of nostalgia due to it being recorded over ten years ago you can tell and it reminds me of when I first heard DOOM, fingers crossed for a new album soon ey?
10. TYLER, THE CREATOR – 911/MR LONELY
Tyler, The Creator has the ability to make a song that seems like a joke but is actually very complex and well, good! 911/Mr. Lonely first appeared at the end of Who Dat Boy’s video and to me it serves as the best reminder to his early days on Bastard and Odd Future Tape. The production is handled by himself and you can tell a Tyler beat easily, the engineering on the vocals are the real throwback though – there’s a sense that they’re just edited over and it gives it that unique sound he creates just for himself. Steve Lacy and Frank Ocean also provide their voices for what is really a vocal masterpiece at points. Mr Lonely sees Tyler then spit straight fire and an incredulously underrated verse, please go out of your way to hear this one.
9. FUTURE – MASK OFF
There was no where you could go without hearing this. It was on the radio, it was on in the club, I walked past so many houses blaring it I could hear it from outside – it was crazy. Mask Off is hands down one of 2017s biggest songs, it helped give Future an even bigger fanbase and also helped the popularity of the flute in hip-hop this year. Again, Metro and Southside collab for another beat that took the world by storm whilst Future’s lyrics – although not the best – provided some of the year’s most quotable lines. Despite it like I said not being amazingly lyrical it deserves it’s spot here for the replay value it holds and also that it’s actually quite a personal, dark and deep song.
8. KENDRICK LAMAR – THE HEART PART 4
The hype for Kendrick’s album started with this, a multitude of beats back to back that nobody saw coming. Yes, it’s the 4th instalment in the Heart series but damn, he snapped. “My fans can’t wait for me to son your punk ass and crush your whole lil shit, I’ll Big Pun your punk ass you a scared lil bitch”, it was like something had reignited in King Kendrick and he went off at people dropping subtle hints as to whom he was throwing shade at. The track instantly became a hit and had people talking about all over social media and rightly so, although not included on the album it’s one of Kendrick’s best pieces of work and deserves to be recognised as so. This was the perfect way to build hype for what was, in my opinion, the best album of the year.
7. GORILLAZ & POPCAAN – SATURNZ BARZ
I’m saying it right now, Popcaan had one of the best verses of the year here. “The system force me to be a killer jus like Rodney Price” “Know few Popcaan song so, and feel dem know mi, Four mile mi used to walk to school, them know man story? Ha!” Spat in his Jamaican/Patois idiolect and voice Popcaan manages to have the longest lasting impression on me from this Gorillaz album and it’s beautiful counteracted by Damon Albarn’s unapologetically British twang when he sings “I’m at the staking bar, I got debts, I’m a debaser” . The contradictory tone of the song is perfect for Gorillaz, it’s a collaboration nobody thought they’d hear and if you can manage to see them live I’d definitely go even if it’s for this track alone.
6. SZA – THE WEEKEND
This song divided people’s theories on what it was about but SZA cleared it up by stating it was about one man playing 3 different women, it’s still a highly regarded song from SZA’s catalogue and it helped her achieve popularity like never before. Touching lyrics and a poignant tone in her voice make this unforgettable, her vocals are unbelievable and she dominates the beat in a beautifully composed song from TDE’s Queen. She really stepped up and became one of the most respected and revered women in the game.
5. DAVE – QUESTION TIME
Finally a rapper has addressed the government in a fully articulate way that was ground breaking, and thankfully it was someone young showing that the youth do have an interest and pose a threat to the old, long established, lying people running the countries. Dave poses important questions and asks several people not just the current Prime Minister Theresa May or Donald Trump but also Jeremy Corbyn. It honestly gives me goosebumps when he raps about the horrific incident and response at Grenfell Tower. Dave did a nation justice here and spoke on behalf of millions of people with thoughtful questions. Here’s a a little example of what’s asked… “But how do we spend so much money on defence And weapons to wage war when the NHS is dying?” but to me the best line has to be the one addressed to Trump… “I just find it funny you can’t give a hand to Palestine But you can trade whole arms with Saudi Arabia”.
4. KODAK BLACK – TUNNEL VISION
People may read this in disgust but hear me out. The hype for this track started last year when a snippet of him in the studio dancing to this was released, the chorus is immensely memorable and will have you repeating it for days, when that hype was happening people said this will be the one to blow Kodak up and when it finally dropped in February it really was. It’s reminiscent of a mid 2000s Lil Wayne which is another reason it’s this high up, as well it’s music video which tells a tale of the current racial crisis happening in America. Produced yet again by Metro Boomin and Southside it is just further proof them two are killing it right now. Kodak is painting pictures of real life, he’s a product of his environment and it’s no excuse for his actions outside the music but with songs like this he tells people how it really is about his family, mental and legal troubles as well as internal struggles.
3. LORDE – SOBER II (MELODRAMA)
Lorde’s return saw her have one of the most well received albums of the year, Melodrama was universally loved by critics and fans alike for her lyricism, vocals and production. This track has those in abundance, her voice softly sings “We told you this was melodrama, our only wish is melodrama” as the song builds and her vocals get stronger and stronger before the breakdown. Ah, the breakdown, happening halfway through the track it nicely descends into a hip hop beat many producers would be proud of. She spoke of the song saying it’s a sequel to Sober which appears earlier on the album and it sums of the “lights turning on” after the party in a deflated room. It’s really impressive from the New Zealand musician and is definitely one of this year’s greatest highlights in music.
2. BIG K.R.I.T – DRINKING SESSIONS
Krizzle’s ability to poetically inspire people and tell tales of his life and mental trauma is sensational, Drinking Sessions is the quintessential Big K.R.I.T song. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this much real emotion in a hip-hop song before, you can hear the pain and struggle in his voice at times it’s honestly touching. It covers the trials and tribulations of his life and his career, the frustration he’s felt throughout it from being overlooked as one of the best, but upon listening to this you should acknowledge him as one of the best from this generation. He produced it himself and it’s unapologetically Mississippi, and you wouldn’t want a K.R.I.T track any other way. Go listen to the song and feel what he’s rapping about, this line will make you shiver when you hear his voice break…” And I think about death a lot, my father scared of dyin’”. His problems with alcohol are noted throughout the song and even though the industry can change rappers for better or for worse he feels he’s kept true to himself even saying “I’m still the kid writin’ poems, too shy to eat in the cafeteria” in what is another heartbreaking line. It’s clear to see he’s not going away anytime soon after he put out one of the best albums of the decade, K.R.I.T demands the respect he deserves and after listening to songs like this you’ll feel obliged to give him it.
1. KENDRICK LAMAR – FEAR
If you want pure Hip-Hop in its rawest form look no further, Kendrick Lamar has mastered the art of it. FEAR. is without a doubt in my mind the greatest song of 2017, maybe even of the decade seriously. His bars, his delivery, the fucking outstanding beat from Alchemist which samples the classic Poverty’s Paradise from 24-Carat Black, the song gives off such an amazing aura. You take it all in and listen to what he’s saying when it’s on because everything about it is so captivating. 3 of the verses are rapped from the perspective of him being 7,17 and 27 and he himself said it’s his most honest and also his best song. It really is the apex of the album maybe even his career so far, the truthfulness in his rhymes and the powerful impact of that delivery is crazy, the last verse where he’s rapping “I’m talkin’ fear..” is my highlight of music this year, you see Kendrick at his most vulnerable here and it’s what makes the song and really the experience of listening to it so special and memorable. Kendrick Lamar and really TDE have owned the past few years of Hip-Hop and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be stopping in the near future, do yourself a favour and go listen to this right now as a treat.
There you have it, Kendrick Lamar has the best song of 2017 with FEAR., it was an incredible year for music and we hope 2018 brings more of the same!
words by Rohan Parmar.