#5E Top 15: Songs of 2017
As the New Year draws ever closer, the Official 5th Element End of Year Lists draw to a close for only the second time.
Hopefully you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on some of best projects dropped this year as much as I have collating and writing about them. Even more so, I hope you've really enjoyed this year in music, whatever you listen to. In my opinion, I think it's been a good year, I may go out of my way to say a great one. Can't make lists without great projects and for me, there were many to listen to.
So for the final list of 2017 on this lovely site, it's all about songs. Fifteen of them if you want to be specific. Now, to bring you into behind the curtain a little as to how I picked the list. I have been contemplating whether to rank this list or not. Even though I ranked the list last year, I felt like I shouldn't for this list and for future song lists. Because as I was going through my regular rotation and other places to figure out what to put on here, I realised I was looking with two mindsets.
One based on what I've been blasting nearly everyday, and another based on "significance". By that I mean songs that I don't listen to regularly, but I feel deserve to be on the list because they have sparked conversation whether it be positive or negative.
With that in mind, I decided that I won't rank them. Since I've picked songs for specifically different reasons, it feels a little odd for me to do it. If you really want a ranking, just hit me up on social media or something. But on here, I'll just do what I did on the EP list and leave them on their own merits.
One more thing before I start. I kept multiple picks by one artist capped at two, just to make it look like I've at least attempted to create a little diversity. Okay! Let's begin with one of my "Significance" picks. You'll begin to realise what I mean by significance.
Joyner Lucas - I'm Not Racist
You already understand now I bet. If you haven't seen the video, you probably don't watch YouTube often or have anything remotely black or Hip-Hop related on your social media. (Obviously there are more factors. I'm just exaggerating.)
When the music video for this song dropped and the first half is this bearded white guy with a "Make America Great Again" cap on, people and the social media they frantically used to rage on caught fire. This song universally triggered everybody in some form of fashion. Whether that is good or bad, is up to you.
Every YouTube reaction channel did a video on it, tons of blogs & news sites broke it down. Everybody had an opinion to this video and the song.
We can't mention this without mentioning the artist. I watched one reaction video where one of the participants originally thought the white guy was the actual rapper who made this! Only Joyner Lucas could have done this. This guy has been under the radar for so many years now. The first time I saw Lucas was a video he dropped a few years back when he was challenged by his friend to spit some bars, and then do those same bars backwards.
He did this. Multiple times. In one take.
"I'm Not Racist" forced conversation like no other song this year, so much so that other rappers have done their own versions and I even saw a female version on Facebook the other day. It's a video only Joyner Lucas could've thought of and I think he got what he wanted and then some. For me and you to talk about it.
Favourite lines - You think you know everything but you don't
You wanna copy our slang and everything that we know
Tryna steal black culture and then make it your own, whoa
Mike Will Made It - On The Come Up (Feat. Big Sean)
I want to take this time to say that Big Sean is the most frustrating rapper for me personally. When Sean doesn't actively attempt to either wave ride or write the corniest lyrics that would put Lil Wayne to shame. He can actually be a pretty freaking good MC.
Unfortunately, this is the best song I've heard with him rapping since Dark Sky Paradise. Even though this is my "Get ready, stay ready" song of the year, it's frustrating listening to Sean boss this Mike Will Made It beat with ease and then listening to his recent project with Metro Boomin where I feel like smashing my device.
Sean, I beg you. Do a full project with Mike, and do something about the people around you. Because if you do have a team and they're allowing you to create "I Decided" and whatever that last project was called, they need to go my guy.
But for real, this song is fire. Just have to throw that in.
Favourite Lines - Cause I'm living play-by-play, day-by-day
No time for her honestly
Unless her face lookin' like a young Sade
'Cause I gotta get it a hundred ways
Loyle Carner - The Isle of Arran
Off my No.2 Album of the Year "Yesterday's Gone", Carner's introductory track "The Isle of Arran" got me hooked from the first time I heard that gospel choir. When they fade in and Carner takes over, it just feels like I'm right there in the local church.
Carner then goes into some highlights of his life. Admittedly it's not the most positive song ever, but it's such a powerful introduction to a equally powerful album. And I need to reiterate the choir. When they are at full blast in the chorus, I get goosebumps every time. It's a beautiful track and it's essential Loyle Carner.
Favourite Lines - 'Cause the best don't change, clinging to that whole one
My mother said, "There's no love until you show some"
So I showed love and got nothing, now there's no-one
Rapsody - Pay Up
Man I love this song. If you listened to my radio show in the past couple of months, you know that I blasted this song every week.
And there's something really fascinating I noticed about this song. And it involves another song. Lauryn Hill's iconic "Doo Wop. (That Thing) Stay with me. As you know, Doo Wop is Lauryn Hill dedicating a verse each to men and women, warning them that the opposite sex are always looking for "That Thing", (you know what I mean...) it's a tune, I still got it on my regular rotation.
Now, what Rapsody has done for her song is that she's taken the template of Hill's song structure and instead of commenting on "That Thing", she talks about gold digging for lack of a better phrase. Where some relationships are built on money and when one half of the relationship are trying to show that there's more to life than money, the other half *pay* no mind. It really is a great piece of story building by Rapsody. First talking about the woman that just wants the new boots, to the lazy man that takes his girls car and comes back without refilling the tank.
All praise to Rapsody. Oh and shout out to Heather Victoria, amazing backing vocals.
Favourite Lines - Thought it would impress, picked her a bouquet
She only want new boots like Beyonce
She like I got dreams that'll one day pay
She looking at you like "Baby, I ain't got time to waste"
Kendrick Lamar - HUMBLE & DNA
Thought since I picked two Kendrick songs I'd just clump them both together.
Starting with "HUMBLE", it's one of the most listened to songs of the year. The music video is so freaking sick, the beat gets me hype and as soon as Kendrick goes "WAAAAAY! YEA YEA!" I need space to spaz out.
People definitely have fatigue of the song and I understand that. But the song hasn't worn off on me yet.
DNA got the Hip-Hop community going at each other a little. Simply because the final verse of Kendrick going off had people either saying it was the greatest verse ever or people saying it was nothing. No grey, just black & white. This is the part of Hip-Hop I don't enjoy. Can't we just say it was fire when you heard it first time?
But I will say this and contradict myself a little... That beat switch nearly melted my ears. Oh my, that beat switch.
Favourite lines - DNA - Watchin' all the snakes, curvin' all the fakes
Phone never on, I don't conversate
I don't compromise, I just penetrate
Sex, money, murder — these are the breaks
Little Simz - Good For What
As part of Simz' Deluxe Edition of Stillness in Wonderland, Simz released "Good For What".
Now, for a little context, I have listened to (I think) everything Simz has done. Including the Mixtapes. And she has never stepped on a track simply to flex. This is that flex track. And I love it.
Little Simz is a total boss on this track, the bars on here are so memorable, the beat is clean, there's really nothing like a good brag rap! Anybody can do it, most rappers base their entire careers on bragging, but this feels extra special because Simz is at a key point in her career where her name is on the precipice of mainstream success. So, to commemorate, she drops this heat. And it's just boss. Tell me you don't feel like aiming bullets of honesty right at people's jaws.
Favourite Lines - Family and pack of lions
You rappers are liars and frauds
I've got a bullet of honesty aiming it right at your jaw.
Thundercat - Friendzone
If you read my Top 10 Albums of 2017 list. You know that it was guaranteed that I was going to put this song on my list. An entire song dedicated to Thundercat's distaste for being friendzoned. What a guy.
He goes into so much detail, wondering why she isn't messing with him. He starts to wonder if it's him, but then just stares at his phone screen silently begging for the phone call to end.
And the second verse. Absolute greatness. Saying that he'd rather play Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat than listen to the woman.
Thundercat is just a G for this and as a guy who's been friendzoned, he's preaching to the choir.
Favourite Lines - I can tell you've kinda got uncomfortable
So let me break it down for you
Don't call me, don't text me, after 2am
Unless you plan on giving me some
Cause I got enough friends
JAY-Z - The Story of OJ
Even though I boycotted listening to Jay-Z's latest album "4:44", (click here for my reasoning) I found the music video of "The Story of OJ" so fascinating. The old school American animation that WAS A THING IN early 20th Century USA really caught me and the song itself is Jay's evolution in a nutshell. Where he starts with the many stereotypes of a Nigga. Saying that no matter what you do, whether you're LeBron James or Jay-Z, people will still call you that word.
He then goes into what he could've done differently, such as buying a place in "Dumbo before it was Dumbo". (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) The song is filled with a kind of regret for Jay, even though he's wealthy, there's a lot more he could have done. Generational wealth my brothers and sisters. That's how they did it.
Favourite Lines - I can't wait to give this shit to my children
Y'all think it's bougie, I'm like, it's fine
But I'm tryin' to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99
Big K.R.I.T - Aux Cord
This is a pure nostalgia journey for KRIT. For me, it's just a great song to blast in the car. It's just convinient that it's called "Aux Cord".
KRIT spends the whole track name dropping classic artists he listens to. The beat is clean and it's just great to have in the background. There's also a minor beat switch in the middle of the song that is subtle but so seamless. It's beautiful.
But the highlight for me, even though it's brief, is the additional vocals from Nikki Greer. I wish she got a whole verse honestly. She bossed what she was given. Her voice just rides the wave that is the melody. It's just a boss Hip-Hop song. Plain and simple.
Favourite Lines - New Birth, Wildflower was that jamming shit by far
And Eddie Kendricks' voice will have you singing in your car
I know, I know, I know Marvin played at your home
But that's the reason why your parents had to get it on
Joey Bada$$ - DEVESTATED
This song isn't the most popular song on his album "ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$", but this song is fun as hell! It's basically just all about winning. The chorus is so simple, he used to fell devastated, sometimes he felt like wouldn't make it, but now he's on the path and all it took was patience. Simple, to the point. A message that everyone can understand and get behind.
The beat is great, it dips several times so the hook can really get you going. Watching it happen live on Joey's IG makes me jealous, I bet Joey hates the song now but I thoroughly enjoy it.
It's my feelgood song of the year.
Favourite Lines - Okay, just gettin' better each day
Stackin' that cheddar, cheesecake
Look up to the Lord, we pray,
tryna be my best each day
And 'til I'm laid to rest we lay, yeah
Calvin Harris - Slide
Probably my song of the Summer, this is a tune. Some people didn't like the fact that Migos were on here but in my opinion, I think they were the highlight of this song.
Calvin Harris wasn't afraid to go outside the box when it came to features for his latest project "Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1" and Migos wasn't the most eccentric, but I think they really nailed it on this track. And this is the Calvin Harris I loved back in his "18 Months" days. He's managed to evolve consistently throughout albums and even though I didn't rate Funk Wav, I loved this song. And speaking of the sound...
Favourite Lines - Walk in my mansion, twenty thousand painting, Picasso
Bitches be dippin', dabbin' with niggas like a nacho
Took off her panties, diamonds dancin' like Rick Ricardo
SZA x Calvin Harris - The Weekend (Funk Wav Remix)
So I liked the original version of SZA's "The Weekend" on it's own. But when I got word that Calvin Harris did a remix of it, I had to give it a listen. And it's really bumped the song up. So much so that I have put this version on my regular rotation.
And if you think a remix would possibly damage the message and lyrics of the song, I can happily report that it doesn't at all. I still sing the lyrics just like the original, it's just that the beat adds more enthusiasm to the song as a whole.
Favourite Lines - I mean I'm saying what kind of deal, just two days?
I need me at least 'bout four of them
More of them, more of you on me
On us, just tell me you want me, yeah
Joel Culpepper - Mr and Mrs Brown
In a little challenge for you, in my interview with Joel Culpepper, we talked about his song "Mr and Mrs Brown". Go read the interview if you want to learn about the backstory to this song. You won't regret it, it's part of the reason why I love this song.
It's also why this song is great. At its core, this song is all about the storytelling and it is very clean. All about Mr Culpepper and his relationship with this child at a school he worked at. With the title, it gives the song an air of sending a letter to somebody. I also love the end of the song where it sounds like an archive recording of an assembly of kids singing the chorus. It really was an unexpected finish and it really put a bow on a great song.
Favourite Lines - If we could just turn back the clock
Cause if I understood, that the boy was in the hood
Would've tried my best to make him stick around.
Logic - 1-800-723-8255
My final song is Logic's song "1-800", which is the American Suicide Prevention Line.
Even if you don't have suicidal tenancies, or suffer depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue. You have to respect Logic's efforts to raise awareness. Mental health is an issue that is increasingly becoming more and more talked about, which is a good thing. But there's always that one person that falls through the cracks. And that person could be your best friend, your partner, your sibling. In the age we live in, it can be very easy to fall off mentally and I applaud Logic for this song. It's a great message, and I think only Logic was the only rapper that could do this with as much success as it did. He's not a rapper that relies on being about puffing chests. He realises that he's human and like everyone else, he can have a bad day, or week, or month. It's just the way it goes.
Khalid and Alessia Cara are okay features but Logic carries this song. But honestly, it doesn't really matter. It matters that this song exists and I'm happy it is.
Favourite lines - I know where you been, where you are, where you goin'
I know you're the reason I believe in life What's the day without a little night? I'm just tryna shed a little light
So that's the Official 5th Element Lists for 2017 done & dusted. Once again, I hope you've enjoyed them. Be sure to have a prosperous 2018 and you know that The 5th Element will be there. Insightful interviews, opinions and more. Thanks for everybody that made 2017 worthwhile for me. I appreciate it.