#5E Top 10: Albums Of 2017
LADIES & GENTLEMEN!
It's time for the main course of the Official 5th Element Lists. Top 10 Albums of 2017.
This is only my second year of doing these lists, so when I say this year was harder to do, it's not as sexy as saying that this is the hardest Top 10 I've ever had in my 20 years. But we'll get there in time!
2016 was, in my opinion, an average year for Hip-Hop. Considering that I only put four Hip-Hop albums in my Top 10. There weren't many projects that really grabbed me. 2017 on the other hand, was STACKED with amazing Hip-Hop projects.
And it wasn't just stacked for Hip-Hop. R&B had a really great year. Overall, it was an amazing year for music. There was always something for me to dig into. Which brings me to the Top 10.
It took me a while to compile this list. I had about 12 albums I wanted to put in, which meant that somebody was unfortunately getting snubbed. But even that was easier than actually ranking the final 10. So many switches. Having an Album at 2 and then bumping it down, having one at 10 and then bumping it up! It was all over the place.
Okay! We start at 10 and the best Reggae artist that doesn't have Marley as a surname.
10. Chronixx - Chronology
You know when you're listening to several artists and this feature keeps popping up?
This year, Chronixx was that feature.
After hearing him on Little Simz' "LMPD" & Joey Bada$$' "BABYLON", I wanted to hear more. Coincidentally, he dropped an album by the name of "Chronology". And I was hooked from the get go.
There's nothing like some great Reggae and this is some great Reggae. Starting with "Spanish Town Rockin'", Chronixx knows that even though it's his Sophomore effort, this is his first with an audience outside of The Caribbean. So he really keeps it simple with the subject matter. With "Smile Jamaica", a love letter to his country, to "Black is Beautiful", which is all about empowerment for anybody with significant amounts of melanin.
His voice is so soothing and inviting, you'll happily want to spend the hour with Chronixx and hopefully many more.
Favourite Tracks: Skankin' Sweet, Black is Beautiful, Likes
9. Thundercat - Drunk
Man this album is so much fun to listen to. On top the absolutely boss funk that is laced throughout this album. The lyrics. Oh man, some of these lyrics make me laugh.
I genuinely wonder if Thundercat & crew actually took a couple of shots before every recording and writing session. The second track "Captain Stupido", is literally Thundercat and I guess his inner self, trying to make sense of his drunk state. Finding solutions for him "Feeling weird". The following solutions that are suggested: "Comb your beard, brush your teeth, beat your meat" & "go to sleep". He then realises that he's lost his wallet.
It's such an odd way to start an album but it's so funny! Thundercat doesn't mind embracing this way of thinking and I'm here for it. I'm especially here for the song "Friendzone" which is exactly what you think it's about. He'd rather play Mortal Kombat than mess with a girl that has clearly "friendzoned" him. Preach brother, preach.
And I must mention the great features on here. From Kendrick Lamar to Kenny Loggins, the guest voices embrace Thundercat's vision and overall, this album is just fun to listen to. Oh, and the album cover is just perfect!
Favourite Tracks: A Fan's Mail (Tron Song Suite II), Show You The Way, Friendzone
8. Daniel Caesar - Freudian
Onto one of the more heartfelt albums of 2017. This was my surprise of this year. Before "Freudian", I never heard of Daniel Caesar. Never heard a feature, absolutely nothing. I was simply put on by word of mouth.
R&B has evolved significantly over this past decade. Some say for better, some say for worse. But whatever your opinion is, this is a refreshing album. It's similar to a Coming of Age film that just makes you feel.
Caesar embraces his inspirations of Gospel with his vocal range and the instrumentals and beats behind him are smooth as silk. And the features certainly kick this album up a notch. Kali Uchis, H.E.R, Syd & Charlotte Day Wilson made their respective songs way better. With those added dimensions, it goes a long way. With some R&B albums, one viewpoint can be a little too much and sometimes boring, but Caesar brings in four very unique women to give a fresh voice into his project.
Now, Caesar isn't really a demanding voice. I mean, in "Take Me Away" he tells the girl to "Throw it back" but it's not as in your face like some R&B men. And that's what I like about Daniel Caesar, he's only 22 and not afraid to put his thoughts on sliding in and out of love on wax. The way he's crafted this album is just different than the other R&B artists doing it today and I for one appreciate the fresh voice that is Daniel Caesar.
Favourite Tracks: Get You, Best Part, Take Me Away
7. Joey Bada$$ - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
I wonder if can guess the overall message of this album? Judging by the title, I'm going to guess that he isn't very happy with the state of his country right now. Or that he's ever been happy as a matter of fact.
Joey unleashes all of his angst on this album with some of his best lyrical work to date. And even though on the face of the album you might think that this would be all hate on the system and oppression that is ever prevalent. Then you wouldn't be giving Joey enough credit. He uses the tree of "Amerikkka" and branches out. Sure, there are songs like "LAND OF THE FREE" & "AMERIKKKAN IDOL" but it is the other cuts like "FOR MY PEOPLE" & "TEMPTATION" that really looks into his feelings.
With that said, this album is basically Joey thinking out loud. It's songwriting at it's organic core, writing about what is on your mind. It's even better that he managed to not just focus on the stuff that is said on US news every time a black guy gets wrongfully shot.
Favourite Tracks: FOR MY PEOPLE, TEMPTATION, DEVASTATED
6. Dizzee Rascal - Raskit
WELCOME. BACK. DIZZEE!
Oh man. This was the return to form I needed in my life. If you remember my story so far, you know how close I hold "Boy In Da Corner" to my heart. It was my first album, Dizzee's best work and in my opinion, the "Illmatic" of Grime.
After "Maths + English", Dizzee, for better or worse, went full on pop. After "Tongue & Cheek", I admittedly stopped listening to him. It just didn't feel right.
But then came his single "Space" and I knew that he was going all the way back like an actor in all those hotel adverts, diving onto a bed.
I was hyped for this album and it really didn't disappoint. What makes Dizzee Rascal better than the rest in my opinion, is his hooks. Any Grime MC can spit bars, that's practically a legal requirement. But Dizzee can do hooks like no other. Nearly every track on this album has a catchy hook! Listen to "Bop N Keep It Dippin" and tell me that won't stick in your head like glue!
This may seem like a passion pick for an artist finding his home again musically, but this is Grime at its best. Most Grime fans have left Dizzee for dead but I know a great project when I hear one and this is a great project.
Favourite Tracks: I Ain't Even Gonna Lie, The Other Side, Slow Your Roll
5. SZA - Ctrl
Kicking off the Top 5 is one of the most loved albums of 2017. I feel kind of bad honestly because this is an album all about female empowerment.
Because I'm a guy, even though I understand the growth that occurs though this album, I can't fully relate to it. But regardless, I love what SZA has done here. This is probably the most open I have ever seen an artist be, so early in her career.
To talk about being the "Side Chick" and the mental battles that come with that. Her self esteem also come into play. Her vulnerability has garnered die hard fans and the most 2017 Grammy Nominations for a female artist (5 Noms)
Even though I could guess that she was nervous tackling these socially taboo subjects, she sounds extremely confident on every track. Not ashamed to highlight her negative feelings and vulnerability towards the subjects on this album.
I saw a quote saying that this album was "A voice for an entire generation of women". Time will tell, but I'd probably agree with that statement.
Favourite Tracks: Doves In The Wind, The Weekend, Broken Clocks
4. Rapsody - Laila's Wisdom
Number four is one of the best examples of Hip-Hop you'll find. None of this "female rapper" crap. This is one of the best Hip-Hop albums this year. Male or female.
Rapsody has been in the game for a while, a real "Rapper's rapper", people in the game know how great a lyricist Rapsody is and has been but I hope this album "Laila's Wisdom" has really given her the respect she deserves. That Grammy award nomination was such a surprise to me because I thought that Rapsody was too "Under the Radar". And although she might not win, although out of the five albums nominated, people will crap on her's because she's not Migos or Jay-Z, I know that this album is great.
The lyrical skills she shows on this album is amazing. She's powerful, she's insightful, it's all you want in a Hip-Hop album.
And shouts to producers 9th Wonder, Terrace Martin & others because the beats on here are smoother than Belgian Chocolate. This is a full fat Hip-Hop album and honestly, you're not a Hip-Hop fan if you don't give this a listen.
Favourite Tracks: Power, Pay Up, Jesus Coming
3. Big K.R.I.T - 4 Eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Usually I don't mess with albums that are near to 90 minutes, but this is a glistening exception.
Big K.R.I.T has been in the game for a while now. He's always been a great rapper. One of the best that the "Southern Hip-Hop" sub-genre has to offer. Previously with Def Jam, K.R.I.T made this album with freedom. Under his own label, you can see that being under such a big name hindered him in some way. You can hear that on this album. His freedom to explore was all over this project. An epic double disc album that are unique on both sides.
While the first half is an expression of his elite lyricism, the second half is more reflective, softer. The two discs show two sides of K.R.I.T and it's so refreshing to hear such a major switch up in attitude halfway through a project.
This is his magnum opus. He took a big risk leaving a major label and experimenting on a double disc album. That risk paid off.
Favourite Tracks: Aux Cord, Mixed Messages, Price Of Fame
2. Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone
I dare you to find a better blend of traditional US Hip-Hop music elements and London voice/lyricism.
This album is realness personified. A debut album that is more personal than some artists 10th albums. Carner's skills in storytelling and painting a picture in your mind are on the level of a Mos Def or Common.
Yea, I said it. He's as good a storyteller as one of my Top 5 All-Time rappers. That's how you know I'm not messing about.
The skits of Carner's family life and the recording of his late step-father?! Man, if this album doesn't make you feel, you're straight up heartless.
This was no question my no.2 Album of the Year. This album dropped in January by the way! I'm not allowing this album to be forgotten.
Favourite Tracks: The Isle Of Arran, Stars & Shards, No CD
1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN
I'm sorry. I wish that I wasn't so predictable, but then again, "DAMN" is, by consensus, the best album of this year.
This is probably the easiest listen out of Kendrick's two other studio albums GKMC & TPAB. And I'm not saying that in a negative way.
I feel like I have to listen to every lyric for the other two albums. I need to focus. For "DAMN", I don't feel obliged to focus, even though that's never his intention. The beats on here are so rugged I feel like I can just get lost in the beats.
And even though I personally feel like I can listen to this casually, his lyrics are still elite. Yes, I have listened to it backwards, no, it doesn't make it better or worse. I prefer the normal version but don't get it twisted, if I have the chance to cop the Collector's Edition vinyl, I will cop it with no hesitation.
There's nothing I can say about this album that other writers haven't said already. When people constantly write think pieces of Kendrick and his subject matter, you know that Kendrick is in a space separated from the rest.
Favourite Tracks: DNA, ELEMENT, HUMBLE
And that, ladies & gentlemen, is my Top 10 of 2017. I hope you give these albums a listen if you haven't already, and if you do, let me know what you think of them. Below are my honorable mentions, be sure to look out for the Top 15 Songs of 2017 and check out all the previous lists done already. Get listening, I release you!
Honourable Mentions (Alphabetical)
BROCKHAMPTON - SATURATION I, II & III
Damian Marley - Stony Hill
Gorrilaz - Humanz
Gucci Mane - Mr. Davis
J.I.D - The Never Story
J Hus - Common Sense
Kelela - Take Me Apart
Khalid - American Teen
Liam Gallagher - As You Were
Logic - Everybody
Meek Mill - Wins & Losses
Oddisee - The Iceberg
Sampa The Great - Birds And The BEE9
SAMPHA - Process
Snoop Dogg - Neva Left
Splurgeboys - Chill+Bill
Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer
Syd - Fin
Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory
Wu-Tang Clan - The Saga Continues
6LACK - FREE 6LACK