Here we are already at the halfway point of the year, and 2017 seems to be shaping up a lot like 2016: police are still killing unarmed people of color with no consequences, celebrities continue to bite the dust, comic book heroes dominate the box office, politics continues to show us white skin and money take priority over everything... but fortunately the year has been shaping up to be a pretty decent year for hip-hop music as well.
Here are the 10 best hip-hop albums I've heard this year so far. By the end of the year, this list will likely change and I may have a whole different 10 albums, or maybe it might be the exact same albums, who knows?! But if you haven't checked out these releases yet to come out this year, I think you won't be disappointed if you did.
10. Insight & Damu The Fudgemunk- Ears Hear Spears: veteran Boston MC/producer Insight blesses fans of true school, boom bap hip hop with a no-frills, no-filler 10 track album featuring stellar production from D.C. producer Damu The Fudgemunk accompanying his effortless rhyme flows. This album sounds like it was frozen in time in 1996, and then was released today. A must listen for fans of boom bap!
9. Substantial- The Past Is Always Present In The Future- Maryland lyricist and underground veteran Substantial comes out of nowhere with this moody, yet very mature sounding LP that will impress any head who needs to hear some real grown up rap. While this album is not as heavy on the comedic, battle ready punchlines of Substantial's earlier work, he switches gears a bit and is more introspective, spitting rhymes about his past, parenthood, and the trajectory of black peoples' progress in America. Definite sleeper.
8. Nick Grant- The Return of the Cool- South Carolina lyricist Nick Grant blesses fans with another consistent project that combines witty, razor sharp, punchline driven lyricism with radio friendly production that will keep heads nodding and hips shaking. As one of the most underrated and underappreciated MC's in the game, Nick Grants proves on song after song why everyone needs to be put on notice about this dude.
7. The Underachievers- Renaissance- Flatbush, Brooklyn duo Issa Gold & Ak The Savior embrace the melodic, dusty, boom bap production (which has been making a comeback these days) for their appropriately titled Renaissance album. Rhyming about life lessons as well as smoking really strong weed, they are a group that you can chill out to but also know to take very seriously when the mood calls for it.
6. Talib Kweli & Styles P- The Seven- Never judge a book by its cover, because while the album cover for this looks like it was done by a 6 year old with only 3 crayons, what's contained on here musically is a true work of art. It's an EP, so while it's runtime is not as long as a full length LP, it's straight to the point with no frills and filled with clever, well thought out lyrics over hardcore, boom bap flavored beats. Talib delivers for the conscious rap fans and Styles delivers for the street rap fans, yet they compliment each other perfectly while speaking on the same topic on the same song, but through two different prisms. So there's something on here for everybody. Don't sleep!
5. Venomous2000 x Trilian- Sounds of the Great Ones- This album truly came out of nowhere for me; it popped up in my recommended album feed in my Bandcamp page and I really dug the album cover and decided to check it out. And boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Venomous2000 drops track after track of dope, battle ready lyrics over Trilian's aggressive, polished production. Fans of Dilated Peoples, Wu-Tang, Redman, Cannibal Ox, etc. will appreciate this brand of increasingly rare hip hop. Contributions from Inspectah Deck, C-Rayz Walz, The Artifacts, Reks, and Shabaam Sadeeq also give this album a punch as well.
4. Raekwon- The Wild- Wu-Tang wordsmith Raekwon comes back strong his seventh solo LP. On this release, he utilizes a variety of classic old school break beats as well as lush, soulful Motown era samples that give the album a definitive vintage feel. But there are moments in the album where Rae shows he can still hold his own amongst the current crop of spitters and dips his toe into the more contemporary sounds of the day and invites guests like Lil Wayne and G-Eazy. Not to mention, the autobiographical dedication to Marvin Gaye he does is worth the price of admission alone.
3. Murs- Captain California- Mid City, L.A. veteran Murs has been blessing the underground masses with dope underground music for 20 years now, and on his 15th LP, Captain California, he returns to his roots sort of speak with cleverly written songs about everything from hollering at females to gentrification to just having a bad day in the hood. Most of the songs on here are stories, so it makes for a very entertaining listen. The production has backbone but is still easy on ears enough that it doesn't take too much attention away from the one you should be listening to the most, the MC. Check out this album, but if you haven't already, google this man's discography and check it out. Because this album is merely a tip of the Murs iceberg.
2. Joey Badass- All Amerikkkan Badass- Joey is an MC that I have been rooting for since I heard Survival Tactics back when he was only 17 years old. From the jump he embraced the grimey, boom bap, laid back production that was the signature sound of 90s golden era hip hop to compliment his steady fire flows. But being so young at the time, you didn't know if he was going to be a one-trick pony and fizzle out or grow with his art. Fortunately Joey B eludes the sophomore slump with delivering a concise, consistent, and sonically diverse album that tackles race relations in America in a way that I have not seen done since the days of Mos Def and dead prez, and definitely don't see from many of his peers.
1. Kendrick Lamar- Damn. This should come as no surprise that this album made the top of the mid-year list. Ever since he entered the game, Kendrick has demonstrated a consistency that has not been seen in 10+ years from hip hop artists and shows no signs of slowing down or falling off. Damn. is an album that is deeply insightful, reflective, and socially aware but at the same time radio friendly and melodic enough to compete with all his rap contemporaries.