Top 10 Vocal Artists of 2017
You saw the verses – now here are the artists! Look for the top 10 producers next; have to show love to them as well. Slip into some cozy clothes, get those headphones ready and thank you for being here, friends!
What Hov did on 4:44 cannot be under-appreciated. To be at his level in the game and still drop something so personal, finely-tuned and lyrically elite is just incredible. Many of the rhyme schemes on the LP still impress me to this very day. The man got called out and he responded. With a high-caliber album, nonetheless. Props are due to Jay this year.
Notable Feats: 4:44, ‘Biking,’ ‘Shining,’ various Tidal endeavors, NYT pieces
9) Tyler, The Creator
2017 saw a major change in the career, image and sound of Tyler, The Creator. Once known for a rather abrasive style, the West Coast artist revealed new sides of himself to the public that we’ve never seen before. The end result was the beautiful soundscape that is Flower Boy – an album filled to the brim with rhythm and raw soul. This was the year Tyler showed us he literary can do anything – hats off to the risks he took. They paid off ten-fold.
Notable Feats: Flower Boy, ‘Biking,’ NPR Tiny Desk concert, Nuts + Bolts TV show, The Drum Chord Theory, Golf Wang store and clothing line, The Jellies
8) Joey Bada$$
Growth, growth, growth. One of the major traits I aim to see in my favorite MCs. Few artists in the younger generation of MCs displayed more growth this year than Pro Era’s Joey Bada$$. Used his album as a platform to discuss societal problems, and as a way to connect directly with his people and supporters. Not only did it have a message, but All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ was a shredder of an album. Flows, 16s, meaning – Joey knocked it out the park. Add his near-masterpiece of an album to a slew of dynamite singles and freestyles and you have yourself quite the year. As Q-Tip said, this is a “gatekeeper of flow,” after all.
Notable Feats: All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, ‘Love is Only a Feeling,’ ‘500 Benz,’ ‘L.A. Leakers freestyle,’ ‘Audiopium,’ ‘Victory,’ ‘Ain’t a Damn Thing Change’
Props to J. Cole. Still astonished by the success of Dreamville. I mean, did you hear the year J.I.D had? The Never Story shocked the world as one of 2017’s freshest and most-spastically rapped projects. Almost seems like J.I.D had a battery pack hidden on him somewhere whenever he spit – unlimited energy on display. He can go and go and go without a single bead of sweat, leaving you smirking throughout the entire process. Amped to see where next year takes him – potential at an all time high.
Notable Feats: The Never Story, ‘Hasta Luego,’ ‘Meditate,’ ‘Bruuuh,’ Funk Flex freestyle
If you pretty much create your own style of hip hop, you’re bound to rank near the top of year-end lists. Still not sure how to describe Smino’s style – funk-hop maybe? Nah, that sounds too vanilla. Honestly, f*ck a label at this point. If you like rap, soul, funk, R&B, hip hop and a little mix of all of it together then Smino is your guy. Not only can he lay a 16 with 3 Stacks-esque swagger (yeah, I said it. I dropped the André comparison already), but his singing voice is also heavenly. Combine these two gifts and few can match-up. Smi-yeah takin’ over next year. It’s inevitable.
Notable Feats: Blkswn, ‘Sorbet,’ ‘Pecans,’ ‘Anita Remix,’ Sway freestyle
RhymeBeat’s top singer of 2017. Right now all I can think of is the drop on ‘The Weekend’ and how perfect SZA sounds when she starts releasing those notes. Angelic bliss. To be blunt, SZA kicked 2017’s ass. Dropped a classic album. Collabed with mainstream heavy-hitters. Headlined her own tour. It’s over. Pack it up. She slayed it. And you want to know the scary thing? CTRL. was the debut. Marinate on that.
Notable Feats: CTRL., ‘Quicksand,’ ‘What is Love,’ SNL performance, ‘Down For Whatever, ‘Homemade Dynamite Remix’
When I was typing out Hommy’s “notable feats” from this year it became apparent that I don’t really need to waste my time with an explanation – Hommy’s music speaks for itself. Body of work from these past 12 months is disgusting. Haven’t been this taken aback by an MC in a loooooooong time. Don’t take his sh*t lightly – Mach-Hommy is a PROBLEM. Scared to see what he’s gonna bring in 2018. The world ain’t ready.
Notable Feats: HBO, Dollar Menu, ‘Floor Seats,’ The Spook, ‘Brand Name,’ ‘Easter Gunday 2,’ ‘Saga City,’ Dollar Menu 2, ‘Niggas Knxw,’ Fete Des Morts AKA Dia De Las Muertos, ‘Macho on Coke,’ Dollar Menu 3, Dump Gawd: Hommy Edition, ‘Jesse James,’ ‘Dashiki in the White House,’ ‘Warning Shot’
3) Kendrick Lamar
You saw this one coming. Hell, you can see Kendrick’s crown glowing from the Andromeda Galaxy. His reach knows no bounds. We saw the release of another near-perfect LP from Kendrick in 2017, as well as an assortment of disgustingly devastating guest spots. It’s not even a question at this point who reigns supreme over the 2010s. Kendrick made us think both backwards and forwards this year, and with that, he must be praised.
Notable Feats: DAMN., ‘The Heart Pt. IV,’ ‘Walk on By,’ ‘Power,’ ‘Yeah Right,’ ‘Mask Off Remix,’ ‘Doves in the Wind,’ ‘New Freezer’
2) TIE: Conway / Westside Gunn
First thing I want to do is stress just how important it is that we recognize each MC as their own. Reason I lumped them together is ’cause I genuinely could not decide who went off more this year. They each deserve to be ranked near the top, so I figured let’s split the second spot. Because, if we’re being honest, it’s hard to find two MCs who had more respected years than these two. DOOM collaborations, mixtapes on mixtapes, an insane network of producers – SIGNING TO SHADY RECORDS! When does it stop? One memory that sticks out above the rest is their sold-out show at Webster Hall. Listen to who they brought out: Prodigy (RIP), Jadakiss, Styles P, Raekwon, Roc Marciano, Smoke DZA, Meyhem Lauren, Bernadette Price and more! They’ve barely been big in the game for 1-2 years! To already have that kind of respect and following is unheard of. These guys have reignited a flame in a lot of rap circles and collectively told the game “step your sh*t up.” In a mainstream label world where originality is fleeting, I can’t stress how important that truly is. Bow down to Griselda.
Notable Feats (Westside Gunn): Hitler on Steroids, ‘Raw is Flygod,’ Riots on Fashion Avenue, ‘Gorilla Monsoon,’ ‘2Stings,’ Hitler Wears Hermes 5, ‘Machine Gun Black,’ ‘Easter Gunday 2,’ ‘Rest in Peace’
Notable Feats (Conway): Reject on Steroids, More Steroids, G.O.A.T., ‘Luger,’ Funk Flex freestyle, ‘No. 8,’ ‘A Thousand Birds,’ Showoff freestyle, ‘Hashashin’
The Boy Band reigns supreme. I was looking back at the early posts this year on RhymeBeat, and came across the video for their track ‘Cannon.’ It was a video they released way back in January – kind of got lost in the shuffle of the Saturation Trilogy. It’s a dope song – would have been worth shouting out on year-end list possibly in its own right. BUT THEN THEY WENT AND DROPPED A TRILOGY ON US. In barely six months. All by themselves mind you! All in-house. No help from anyone but their own. On top of this feat, their music is so gahd damnly unique and fantastic it almost blows my mind. Let me break this down.
Here they are – living in a house together in South Central, L.A. – creating some of the most intangible, wild, vivid, colorful, well-crafted hip hop music we’ve heard all decade. Producing all their own music – as well as mixing and mastering it. Shooting their own videos. Editing them and publishing them. Touring independently. Airing a TV show on Viceland. Putting together their own merch and boxset – BROCKHAMPTON is hip hop entrepreneurship to the next level. And, as I said, on top of all this hard work is magnificent, forward-thinking music.
BROCKHAMPTON showcases the beauty of collaboration. When humans combine open-minds, toughness, love, passion and art together then nearly anything is possible. To Joba, Kevin, Ameer, Romy, Dom, Merlyn, Jabari, Ashlan, Henock, Jon, Bearface, Rob, Kiko and Matt. Thank you all. Life probably treated y’all like sh*t for a while and I hope that y’all are bearing the perks of success. The magic of BROCKHAMPTON’S past year will only grow as the present moves on and time passes. To me, nothing was as special, ambitious and of insanely high-quality as this group’s art was in 2017. A well-deserved win. Time to go marvel at my boxset again. One love to all!
Notable Feats: Saturation, Saturation II, Saturation III, BROCKHAMPTON TV show, ‘Cannon,’ Saturation boxset
Tha God Fahim
Your Old Droog
Lil Uzi Vert
Lou the Human
Cyhi the Prynce
Royce da 5’9″
*more honorable mentions to possibly come*
images via Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Tyler The Creator, David Cabrera, Joey Bada$$, J.I.D, Smino, Bryan Allen Lamb, Kendrick Lamar, Westside Gunn, Conway, Ciroc Studios, Mach-Hommy, SZA, BROCKHMAPTON, Reddit user ‘DroggyDrogg’ & All rightful photographers
– Benny P