TheHipHopDemocrat’s Second Annual Best Albums of the Year List, Who Makes The Cut?

Back for a second straight year, we at TheHipHopDemocrat once again despite being a mostly Hip-Hop based website, decided to include not only Hip-Hop, but a few of the other genres we cover a lot of, such as R&B and Soul, and even Jazz, as part of our latest best albums of the year list for last year (2017).  Counting down from 10 to one, we cover a bunch of the variety of different artists and albums we covered throughout the year and came up with the following for our best of 2017 albums.  A few honorable mentions were even thrown in as well.  So without further ado here is TheHipHopDemocrat’s second Best Albums of the Year list.

10. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.  A powerfully incredible album and easily one of the best not only Hip-Hop albums, but albums dropped period last year, you can see why it recently won the Best Rap Album of the Year award at The Grammys.  That said, I still think there was plenty of other albums and even a few other Hip-Hop albums that were better than it and why it lands at number 10, just barely making the cut.  Which also shows though, how great of a year it was once again for music last year, after a pretty strong 2016 as well.

9. SZA – Ctrl: Kendrick’s TDE labelmate and TDE First Lady, SZA, went through many hurdles to release her debut album, Ctrl.  Which is quite funny cause even as she shows in a a lot of her songs on the album how much she accepts she can’t control certain things.  It’s quite contradictory in that the talented singer fully controls the actual album to deliver by far one of the best albums of the year across all music and that could’ve easily been one of the best albums of the year in each of the past couple of years, when it was originally supposed to be released.

8. Jhené Aiko – TRIP: With her sophomore album, very beautifully talented singer/songwriter, Jhené Aiko shows that not only does she avoid a sophomore jinx.  She blows it out of the water with easily her best album to date and one, that’s one of those once in a lifetime albums, you work your whole life to deliver as your truest timeless masterpiece body of work.  As she literally takes fans on a trip through the ups, downs, mental, physical and psychedelic trips everyone goes throughout life, to help find out more about ones selves, accept certain flaws and ask some deep questions, as you try to find that one love, everybody seeks, but has a hard time finding.  Especially when you lose someone so close to you, that makes you even more guarded in doing so.  Though she’s always been honest in her music, what I also love most about this album, is how honest Jhené is on it too.  It’s by far her most honest album to date, which gives us an honesty about her like never before and the difficulties it took for her to get over the death of her brother, how it played a huge part in her shunning love at first, but also helping her get to great love of herself, the relationship she’s in now and just where she’s in all of the happiness of life right now, as compared to where she was before.  It’s definitely a must own album that can help so many others in finding the greatness of not only love, but themselves as a person and human being to be the best version of themselve.

7. Sevyn Streeter – Girl Disrupted: Sevyn Streeter has long been a girl disrupted in this crazy music industry.  So it seems quite appropriate that after years of delay and much anticipation for her long-delayed and highly anticipated debut album, Girl Disrupted, the very talented singer/songwriter, was not only able to finally release it in 2017.  But she also made it well worth the wait with the masterpiece she delivered.  Also helping her close out a very important chapter of her life, to finally get her solo career really off the ground.

6. Ill Camille – Heirloom: While many heralded Rapsody’s major label debut with Roc Nation, Laila’s Wisdom as a classic or near classic and the female rap album that everyone should’ve heard last year.  I think it should have been Los Angeles female emcee and wordsmith, Ill Camille’s latest album, Heirloom, which is a very heartfelt, encouragingly life changing album, that should have been nominated for a Grammy.  As you can tell all the blood, sweat and tears Camille put throughout the album to deliver by far one of the best albums of all of 2016.

5. MC Eiht – Which Way Iz West: Just when you think a veteran Gangsta Rap emcee can not deliver one of the best albums of the year.  MC Eiht proves everybody wrong and shows no matter how young they say an emcee has to be and that the older generation can’t deliver.  It’s quite the contrary and they still can.  As the Compton-bred emcee shows despite what many think, he’s one of the older generation of emcees that’s much needed to deliver that raw straight street lyricism and grittiness, needed to keep the balance of real Hip-Hop and take down the fake.  Teaming up with fellow legendary Hip-Hop figure, DJ Premier to do so, being the icing on the cake of a Westcoast and Eastcoast connection, many not only didn’t really see coming, but didn’t know was so needed and necessary too.  Eiht and Premo’s pairing helping ring across streets from Compton to Chicago, Detroit, New York, London, Africa, Australia and so many other urban areas to show the importance and impact it had across streets throughout all the U.S. and the world.  With such a straightup Westcoast classic album, that also had that great boom-bap and scratches of the origins of Hip-Hop from the East and it’s birthplace of New York, Eiht delivered an album that was a straight classic album period and among the best across all of music in 2017, not just Hip-Hop.  With features such as The Lady of Rage, WC, Xzibit, Maylay and Kurupt, it definitely gave it that true authentic Westcoast feel too.  Rage’s guest verse, even arguably being one of the best of the whole year.

4. Elijah Blake – Audiology: Elijah Blake’s sophomore album, Audiology, is the very timeless and classic debut album we thought we would get from the very talented singer/songwriter on Shadows & Diamonds in 2015.  His first independent release too, you can tell the difference in the artistic freedom he is allowed on this compared to his debut album.  A finally crafted one that you can easily play from front to back and not only one of the best of 2017, but of the past few years across any genre.  It’s music in its true purest art form, to try to help and heal all.

3. The Pollyseeds – Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol. 1: Los Angeles producer, artist and musician extraordinaire Terrace Martin’s new Jazz supergroup, The Pollyseeds debut album, Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1, is one of those very timeless albums, you can just throw on and play the whole way through.  Preferably on a nice summer day, cruising down the streets of Crenshaw.  The influence of the L.A. natives hometown is felt throughout in the very smooth, mellow and laidback, feel-good sound of the album.  An album that’s a real masterpiece and perfect for that feel-good summer mood to go in the summer months and among the reasons why I’m sure it dropped during last summer.

2. Snoh Aalegra – FEELS: An honorable mention on last year’s first annual TheHipHopDemocrat’s Best Albums of the Year list, mainly due to it being an EP rather than an actual album, ARTium Records singer/songwriter, Snoh Aalegra comes back as strong as ever on her first official debut album, FEELS.  A very timeless and what many will consider over time and space, classic debut album, FEELS, shows what a truly great talent and artist the No I.D. protege is.  Also showing why if she keeps putting out as great a music as she has since she first burst onto the scene in 2014, she will be remembered as a future legend.  Both her EP’s and now her official full length debut album, great stepping stones for the Swedish born and now residing in L.A. singer has in doing so.  Her sweet and soothingly rich vocals helping to explain how we use our emotions and consciousness of ourselves to develop love over a journey of time and space.  That journey of time and space developing and continuing to grow over a long time that becomes timeless.  Letting you know just how timeless and memorable this album will be to so many years from now as well.

1. JAY-Z – 4:44 : Accomplishing almost all that can be accomplished in one’s career and being widely recognized as the greatest emcee of all-time, not much more can be done by JAY-Z that he hasn’t already done, before he dropped his mostly critically-acclaimed 13th solo album, 4:44, last year.  So when the Brooklyn-bred emcee decided to drop the album last June, it was not only a surprise, but that it was also his most personal and emotional album of his career, surprised many as well.  Delivering by far one of the most mature albums in not only his own storied career, but Hip-Hop history.  He displays a vulnerability, grace and grown-up wisdom throughout, that before now we had never seen from one of Hip-Hop’s most eldest statesman other than Nas and maybe a few other handful of select emcees.  With veteran and legendary Hip-Hop producer, No I.D. of Chicago handling production throughout the whole album, he really helps bring out a stunning and raw honesty from the 47-year-old emcee, that shows that age can’t stop you from putting out great work, as he bares his soul in a way we had never really seen till now.  By giving us his most personal album of his career, JAY-Z shows that by opening up about his own suffering and forgiveness, and showing his very human flaws as an example to others, is that by being raw, honest and true to yourself, no matter how much you may suffer or have to redeem yourself from it,  it usually leads to an artists best work.  This time not only proving true, as one of his best albums to date, but also the best album of 2017, in what was another very great year for music.

Honorable mentions: K. Michelle – KIMBERLY: The People I Used to Know : On her fourth solo album, KIMBERLY: The People I Used to Know, the very sexy and talented songstress delivers easily her most soulfully honest, raw and honest album to date.  Letting go of what was holding her back before and giving way for what’s to come, Kimberly pours out all her heartfelt emotions and shows off her angelic voice throughout.  As she thanks everyone, including her haters and those who tried to step on her toes on her way to the top, she gives a piece of herself on each record, as an open letter to someone with each song.  This is definitely one of those pure heartfelt timeless, old-school R&B/Soul albums where you can tell all the soulfulness and emotions was put in throughout from beginning to end.

DJ Quik/Problem – Rosecrans: Originally released as an EP in 2016, Compton-bred emcees, DJ Quik and Problem teamed up again in 2017, to deliver a full-length album version of Rosecrans.  Two generations of Compton together on one record, the two emcees showed what great results can be had when you pair together two of the most talented emcees from the city of the CPT.  As they delivered easily one of the not only best and most note-worthy Hip-Hop albums of the year, but one of the most versatile.  The very soulful title track, which features fellow CPT-bred emcee, The Game and singer, Candice Boyd, showing that versatility with how much heart and emotions Game puts into the track.  Also shown in all the heart and emotions Problem puts into the very soulful, You Are Everything.  The album is also one that shows off various great talents besides just the two CPT reps.  Most notably besides the title track, on the also very soulful, as well as jazzy, Chachi’s Ride, which mostly features the great singing of Brittany Barber and Bryan J.  Overall though, if you love that old-school Westcoast G-Funk sounds with that feel-good sound that makes you want to get your groove on and have a good time, which Quik himself was among the most noteworthy for throughout most of the 90’s, then that’s what it mostly sounds like and this album is definitely for you.

Snoop Dogg – Neva Left: Going back to his original sounds of the 90’s, for his 15th solo album, Neva Left, Snoop Dogg, shows what made him such a legendary figure in Hip-Hop and especially Westcoast Hip-Hop.  Delivering by far his best album since Tha Blue  Carpet Treatment in 2006, this is the closest album Snoop’s put out since than to being a classic.  His longtime producer, DJ Battlecat, who produced a majority of the album, really helping him get that classic sound back.  Ultimately as great of an album as it’s, it falls just short of being a classic though cause of one or two songs.  Drawing a 4 1/2 out of 5 mic rating, if we were to use the classic five mic Source Magazine rating system.

LeToya Luckett – Back 2 Life: On her third album, Back 2 Life, very beautifully talented singer/songwriter and actress, LeToya Luckett delivers by far her best album to date and one you can tell she definitely used the long time it took to craft it, to really hone her craft with the vocal growth and maturity she developed over that time.  With its great song selection, fun and enjoyable vibe, Back 2 Life, is such an amazing album that you gotta read the rest of the review here to get my full thoughts and review of it.

Chris $pencer – Blessed: On their sophomore collaboration album, Blessed, the unique team of Chicago emcees Chris Crack and Vic Spencer, who are Chris $pencer, shows how blessed we are to hear dope unique bars and the unique perspectives they bring together over mostly soulful backdrops.  By far one of the best Hip-Hop albums to drop all of 2017, is it a classic or not?  Find out after you read my full review of the album here, if you haven’t already.