And there we were, thinking that 2016 was the worst year ever.
Luckily for us, we had a really good soundtrack to probably the worst US year since I’ve been alive.
This list is pretty self-explanatory–> it’s 10 singles from 2017 that encompassed many things like being catchy, prominent, influential, and basically anything that I personally enjoyed a lot.
And in terms of me overlooking certain songs, let’s refer to what I said last year:
“This is a list of my favorite SINGLES. So, I apologize for not including Track 17 off Dickhead McGee’s independent album.”
Now, before we begin, I have to address one thing:
Why “Bad and Boujee” isn’t on the list:
Although the album Culture dropped in early 2017, the single Bad and Boujee and its accompanying video actually came out in October of 2016.
If you don’t believe me, you can ask your Black friends.
Anyway, it can’t be on the list because it was super popular already in 2016.
Otherwise–> yes, it would be #1. Obviously.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it:
Honorable Mention: “Dear Life” – Beck
Hopefully, if you were ever able to get over the 2015 Grammys snub, you’d realize that Beck is actually a once-in-a-generation talent.
While his skills with composition and production have continued to evolve over time, the general themes of his music have remained a delightful constant.
In terms of content, Dear Life is a direct descendent of Beck’s 2001 hit Loser. It touches on the sense of aimlessness that constantly rears its ugly head throughout life. The song doesn’t offer a resolution to the issue, but instead gives us a hell of a ride as we search for one ourselves.
Maybe that was the point.
Honorable Mention: “Bodak Yellow” – Cardi B
“Said little bitch, you can’t fuck with me if you wanted to”
I haven’t heard people at the club yell an opening line this passionately since 2014’s I Don’t Fuck Wit U.
Although she was relatively well known in the rap scene before this song, Bodak Yellow was Cardi B’s global debut
Needless to say, it’s left quite the impression. I recently saw a video posted of people going crazy to this song at a train station–>in Australia.
Channeling her inner B Rabbit, Cardi puts all her dirty laundry on the table and embraces it before the haters even get a chance. Not only does she reference her former life as a stripper, but she ties it up in a lyrically witty bow and throws it in your face.
“I don’t dance now, I make money moves”
Like…damn, that’s good.
10.) “I’m the One” – DJ Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, & Lil Wayne
Many people saw the personnel of this song and scoffed.
The Biebs with Quavo? And Little Wayne? And DJ Khaled had to drag Chance into it??
…and then they listened to it.
As much of a self-parody that DJ Khaled has become, the man can flat-out arrange some good music. Only that would explain how this song smoothly pulls off such a potentially chaotic ensemble of talent.
On a side note, it’s also nice to see a popular hip-hop song say such nice things about females.
2017–the year of respecting women.
All in all, I’m the One is an exceptional balancing act of styles, subgenres, and personnel. Just some good, clean fun.
9.) “Slide” – Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean & Migos
Frank Ocean. The end.
Just kidding, but any song that makes such heavy use of Frank is bound to draw some attention.
Appropriately named, Slide might be the most smoothly executed song of the year. Calvin Harris’ production harmonizes the vocal and instrumental portions of the track so well that the song flows naturally–>making it seem much shorter than it actually is.
Perhaps the best example of this is the relay handoff between Quavo and Offset (2:27), which is so seamless that most people don’t even notice it on first listen.
8.) “Mask Off” – Future
It might have gotten kind of annoying at one point, but this song was overplayed for a reason.
Oddly enough, Future’s highest-charting single was also one of his most personal.
Mask Off is a recounting of Future’s personal and financial journey, “from food stamps to a whole ‘nother domain”.
The candor in his lyrics ties into the song’s main theme. While initially opting to cover his struggles and inner-self with a mask, he decides “fuck it”, and proudly displays his vulnerability to the world.
Also accompanying the addicting flute loop (heh heh) is some solid life advice:
“Chase a check, never chase a bitch”
7.) “Fear” – Kendrick Lamar
Picking a favorite song from Damn is like picking a favorite child→ it’s not a choice that anyone wants to publicly make.
But while we’re on the topic: I’m totally my mom’s favorite.
You can’t go wrong with this album. It all comes down to personal preference. With that in mind:
I’m picking Fear because it hits so close to home for me→ almost to an eerie extent.
The first verse mirrors my own encounters with child abuse growing up, and how much I feared my mother as a child.
The second verse reminds me of growing up in a gang infested community, and the ever-present potential of death that came along with it.
The third is about Kendrick’s fear of suddenly losing it all, and how he lives a conservative lifestyle in response. I can relate to that also→ I still get anxiety about spending $10 on lunch.
Basically, I am Kendrick Lamar→ or just a Black kid who grew up poor as fuck and is terrified of returning to my former life.
6.) “Shape Of You” – Ed Sheeran
You knew it was going to show up eventually.
There’s only 3 reasons why someone would still hate this song:
- You listen to the radio a lot
- You’re a hater who dislikes popular things just because
- You’re a hater who listens to the radio a lot and dislikes popular things just because
Admit it→ there was a portion of 2017 when you loved this song.
That portion for me was the entire year.
Sure, it’s become as basic and played out as “Keep Calm” posters, but there is no denying this track’s appeal.
It is incredibly catchy, with lyrics that are cleverly advancing without being overly aggressive.
Also→ notice how Sheeran never explicitly describes the person’s body, meaning that listeners can listen to it with literally anyone in mind.
That was a very deliberate choice, opening the track’s content to widespread appeal. And it worked.
Don’t hate the player.
5.) “Unforgettable” – French Montana featuring Swae Lee
You see, the biggest problem with French Montana’s big commercial songs is that they feature French Montana.
His first verse anchors Swae Lee’s otherworldly chorus and drags it back down to earth, with throwaway lyrics like “I got a hard head, but her ass soft”.
I have to mention that he saves it a bit by getting more melodic in the second verse, but…like….c’mon bro.
That said, this song just won’t’ be held back. The ambiance is so uplifting and polished that it stands head and shoulders above most other tracks from the recent Dancehall craze.
On a side note: Swae Lee should really consider going solo.
It’s pretty rare that I consider a sound arrangement to be beautiful. But the chorus of Unforgettable, which dominates most of the song, is just that: beautiful.
4.) “T-Shirt” – Migos
DOES IT LOOK LIKE HE WAS LEFT OFF BAD AND BOUJEE??
After being the butt of every Migos-related joke in late 2016, Takeoff came back with a vengeance on T-Shirt.
While serving double duty on the track’s pre chorus and his own verse, Mr. Kirshnik Khari Ball spits a flow reminiscent of Migos’ early days.
He even calls back to earlier songs→ “‘Sace, that’s my hobby”
Takeoff definitely carried this track, and some have said he was the star of the entire Culture album.
That said, Quavo and Offset are no slouches either, shooting out memorable bars like “Space coupe, Quavo Yoda, pourin’ drank in sodas” and “Yeah, shawty bad, but she broke ’cause she don’t own shit”, respectively.
T-Shirt is a great group effort, which reflects that “team first” mentality that has netted Migos so much success in their young careers.
Also–> best ad libs ever:
3. “Ghostface Killers” – 21 Savage, Offset, & Metro Boomin
The whole Without Warning album was a clever bit of fun, featuring tracks that both gave you chills and got your head bobbing.
Ghostface Killers embodies this best, featuring stone-faced verses from album stars 21 Savage and Offset, imposing production by Metro Boomin, and even Travis Scott dropping from the heavens on a guest verse.
The verses are full of fun, violent, I-will-kill-you bars, but Boomin steals the show on this one. The church bells and minor organ scales make this song sound like the most catchy funeral ever.
“Do you wanna take a ride with the coroner today?
2. “I Get The Bag” – Gucci Mane featuring Migos
For those wondering why I didn’t include Slippery on this list–>here’s your answer.
I Get The Bag is Slippery 2.0, taking the same flow and adding a faster tempo, a better showing from Takeoff, a great hook, and an overall smoother execution.
Speaking of 2.0: the digivovled Gucci has arrived.
After cleaning up his act and getting married, Radric seemed to be involved in a new project every week.
He wastes no time addressing it on this track, kicking off his verse with “I know that these niggas gettin’ sick of me”
When looking back on 2017, I Get The Bag best exemplifies the continued growth of both Migos and Gucci Mane as artists.
Clever punchlines like “I used to break and then enter/Then Takeoff run ’em like the game of temple” over this river flow beat complete this victory lap of a track, helping close out a year that these artists absolutely dominated.
“I won’t even come out the house for free/
I pay a nigga to drive for me/
Jay Z couldn’t even co-sign for me/
I do what I want, ’cause I’m signed to me”
1. “First Day Out” – Tee Grizzley
This song caught a lot of people off-guard.
Not only because Tee Grizzley was a relative nobody during its release, but because it was a widely popular rap song that (gasp!) actually told a compelling story.
First Day Out is a recounting of Grizzley’s turbulent past—> from his high school days, to his 2014 arrest for attempted robbery, and finishing with his release from prison in 2016.
Word on the web is that the song was literally recorded on his first day out→ and it sure feels that way.
After a somber intro and some building tension, the beat explodes and Tee delivers what was likely a very cathartic latter portion of the track.
The song’s opening lyrics do such a great job drawing us in that we’re right there with him after the tempo change, and can empathize with his delivery’s increased intensity.
While the story behind the track gives it a lot of weight, it should not be ignored that Grizzley has bars.
This is one of the most quotable songs I’ve heard in a while:
“My first offer was 30 years, not a day lower/I told them crackers holler at me when they sober”
“He don’t want that pistol play? Okay I’ll Tyson him”
“I ain’t hear from bitches when I had them blues on/ So soon as I’m done fucking, put your shoes on”
People are skeptical over whether Grizzley can keep this up once the “I was in prison” subject matter runs dry, but worry not about that.
Just like his debut album title says→ this is his time.
We’re almost 1,800 words into this dang thing, so I’ll cut it there.
Thanks a bunch if you’ve made it this far.
All in all, I’d say 2017 had less variety in terms of big songs, but it still tops 2016 in the quality department.
You can chalk up the saturation of Hip Hop this year to two words: The Culture.
Thanks for reading!