The Most Slept-On Albums Of 2017
Hit the snooze button, wake up and press play on these really dope albums you might’ve slept-on for the year of our Lord, 2017.
There hasn’t been a better time to be alive and love the music industry than right now. People are going from memes to millionaires, and viral creators are appearing on Billboard charts for their imaginative style. All in all, thanks to the Internet, we are able to hear, see, replay and enjoy music from everywhere, hell, anywhere in the world.
From revolutionary cuts to anthems about being better than beaches to making waves and telling Trump to “eff off,” 2017 was an impactful year for music. We were able to create a soundclash of immense proportions. But there was a loop of sorts that managed to take us away from everything that was dope and kept us trapped in the three-chord-fold of trap-hop and same-sounding R&B.
Despite us living in a year where no white man was nominated in the top four “General Field” categories for the Grammys and black people dominated everywhere else (we see you, Jordan Peele and Lena Waithe) — in music, it still has been a struggle to push those who needed to be in the forefront out to the edge of the spotlighted stage. With that in mind, we decided to pinpoint the 17 most slept-on albums that should have dominated more of the narrative in 2017.
From names you may have never heard of to those whose veteran status needs no introduction, peep our list, debate our choices and make some of your own by hitting us up @Okayplayer.
17. Matt Martians – The Drum Chord Theory
Release Date: Jan. 26, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Dent Jusay,” “Diamond in Da Ruff”
Matt Martians is a genius recording artist and it is a damn shame that more audiences didn’t digest his latest effort, The Drum Chord Theory. In a year where fellow The Internet stars Syd and Steve Lacy dropped projects, people have chosen to sleep on such cuts as “Found Me Some Acid Tonight” and “Dent Jusay”.
The Drum Chord Theory is a worthwhile effort, ready-to-play and is a pure adventure for any true stone cold roller. Playing this album with friends or just on your own for those lazy, winter afternoons — The Drum Chord Theory is a masterclass session in creating grooves and blowing out speakers. An expertise adventure cultivated by an organic guru, if you need something to kick off your 2018 in a smooth and distinct way, then this is the project for you.
16. Nef the Pharaoh – The Chang Project
Release Date: Apr. 28, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Cpt. Save-A-Hoe 2K17,” “My N****s”
Still one of the most engaging and entertaining lyricists from the Bay Area, Nef the Pharaoh has offered rap fans a truly hyphy-esque experience. The Chang Project is co-signed by rap impresario, E-40, as one of hip-hop’s “next up,” and bridges the gap between old head and young bull styles. For those who are still on the fence as to whether or not take a chance on this MC with the effortless quick-witted flow, let us reassure you that “Back Out” and “Bass Head” are two must-hear tracks that you need in your life now. A rapper with an expert level of skill, Nef is equally a prophet, as much as he is a pharaoh, because he can certainly engage the listener in a fun way while pushing the future forward. Don’t miss out on hearing more from this really good MC.
15. Problem – Chachiville
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Don’t Want No Smoke,” “Melrose”
Problem, better known as Chachi, has been a staple of West Coast rap for almost a decade. As a connected individual, Problem has prominently gone toe-to-toe on the mic with some of the game’s best and worked with a few legends as well. While his Rosecrans project with DJ Quik was criminally slept-on, his solo forays have been equally snoozed upon with great offense. Chachiville, a project where Problem took a huge step outside of his comfort zone, was worthy of audiophile’s attention thanks to additions by 1500 Or Nothin’ vocalist Uncle Chucc, Airplane James and Tyrin Turner.
“Don’t Belong To You” is a solid, “don’t-chase-‘em, just-raise-‘em-better” cut, which focuses on parenting as opposed to the one-note formula used in prior attempts. Taxstone’s appearance prior to his detainment places Problem and his Compton-bred style of MC-ing to a menacing tilt that compliments anything that his contemporaries, Nipsey Hussle or Kendrick Lamar have come out with this year. Problem will continue to make a living off of rapping, but if he was big enough to leave his comfort zone on Chachiville, you should be willing to do the same.
14. Homeboy Sandman – Veins
Release Date: Mar. 31, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Lemon Ginger Tea,” “Bamboo”
Stones Throw Records signee Homeboy Sandman made N.Y. hip-hop lovers happy when he joined the left-of-center collective to make records aimed at lovers of lyrics and true style. Sand was designated as a unifier of sorts, able to bridge the gap between the multisyllabic rap lovers and those who appreciate great song structure. Fast forward a few years into his career, and it is a travesty that more people don’t have him on their year-end lists when he drops a project.
While Veins might not have been as impactful as 2016’s Kindness For Weakness, that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve to be on audiophiles’ radars. With solid offerings such as “Bless Up,” which brings his love for Golden Era hip-hop to the forefront, and “Bamboo,” which throws your ear on a railroad track and runs it over with a two-ton locomotive of lyrics — Homeboy Sandman’s passion gives listeners something to healthily digest and think about. As you can hear all over Veins, the red-blooded MC sticks out in many ways, and you would be hard-pressed to not let Boy Sand get busy before 2018 starts.
13. Talib Kweli & Styles P – The Seven
Release Date: Apr. 14, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Let It Burn,” “Nine Point Five”
Talib Kweli is a treasured and respected man of art. You might feel some kind of way when he sons you Twitter, but that’s because most times you’re an uneducated troll. For those who have been following and supporting Kweli’s solo career, this (and his Radio Silence project) has been the stuff of legend. Seeing on the marquee bill, two of hip-hop’s most preeminent MCs in Kweli and Styles P of The LOX, means you’re going to get the brand of reality rap that only these two can do unlike no other.
It is a travesty that this straight-forward, hard-hitting, consciously-advance project didn’t get more love from our fellow contemporaries. Fueled by production from 88-Keys, Ohno, Nottz and Marco Polo, The Seven is a successful attempt at two MCs collaborating and bringing their distinctive styles to the forefront.
Talib Kweli and Styles P’s chemistry is apparent all throughout The Seven, so before the ball drops and we start another year of Agent Orange, be sure channel your ancestors and enjoy this high-brow masterpiece.
12. Snoop Dogg – Neva Left
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Still Here,” “Go On”
For 25 years, Snoop Dogg has been a part of our musical consciousness. Call him whatever you want, just make sure to add “timeless” to whatever you say. The triple O.G. has more hits that you can swing a bat at, plus he is an institution on the West Coast. If you want a stick of bud, you got to ask him, and if you want a guest appearance, you got to make sure to clear it with him first. Despite the longevity, the accolades and the applause from his hip-hop peers, Snoop has been getting a bit nostalgic at this point in his career. Neva Left offers old and new fans a look at just how Tha Doggfather came to be while ensuring his legacy as an iconic hip-hop monument never cracks, fades away or crumbles.
On Neva Left, Snoop isn’t an old, forsaken, crusty, grumpy, frumpled-up man. Instead, he’s lively, spry even, as he drops truth bombs all over this 16-track set. Over BADBADNOTGOOD and Kaytranada production, Snoop tries on a new style like a funky smoker’s jacket and rides through with the ease of a veteran. On other cuts, he sticks with his family: Battlecat, Rick Rock, Too $hort and Devin the Dude.
If you’ve willfully ignored this project, but smoke KK and Chronic while listening to some of that other basura that plays out the radio these days then you should be ashamed. Light up another one, press play on Snoop Dogg’s Neva Left and give this the listen it deserves for 2017.
11. MC Eiht & DJ Premier – Which Way Iz West
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Represent Like This,” “Last Ones Left”
From the outset of hearing that legendary, “GEAH!” by MC Eiht, you know you’re going to get into some gangsta s**t. On Which Way Iz West, Eiht proves that there is no age limit to create indisputable rap cuts, while Premier shows “real rap purists” that there is no one way to scratch a record to get the effective reaction. Over 15 tracks, these two legends from the West and East Coasts, respectively, demolish expectations while keeping the elite from that bygone era of rap—The Outlawz, The Lady Of Rage, Bumpy Knuckles, and more—in front of the spotlight.
With a relationship trump tight since 1992 (Compton’s Most Wanted’s “Def Wish II (Remix)”) — MC Eiht and DJ Premier vibrate colorfully together, lacing each entry with gangsta rap seasoning plus dark-and-grimy sonic landscapes. If you’re missing out on that West Coast sound from yesteryear without it sounding forced or dated then MC Eiht and DJ Premier’s Which Way Iz West is the project facing right in your direction.
10. Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice
Release Date: Mar. 31, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Alexys,” “20 Karat Jesus”
The hype was palpable for You Only Live 2wice when Freddie Gibbs was freed from an Austrian jail cell. Since then, it has been buried underneath numerous releases, no pushes and the budding hype for Bandana—a collaborative effort with Madlib. A damn shame since Gangsta Gibbs keeps the spirit of hardcore raps and drug tales alive on You Only Live 2wice. With each song from the eight-track engagement sounding like different scenes from a Francis Ford Coppola movie — Freddie Corleone shares his relief at being home, the happiness of being a father figure to his daughter and cementing his reputation as a devastating lyricist.
For those who haven’t seen or heard the Baby Face Killa, yet, You Only Live 2wice is worth the play and the replay. From “Crushed Glass” to “Amnesia” to “Phone Lit” — the former Gary, Indiana to Los Angeles transplant puts on a solid performance that should serve as a reintroduction of sorts since being taken away from us by the law. With production by BADBABDNOTGOOD and Kaytranada — the ESGN CEO has mastered just what you need for that lean-down-in-the-seat, driving-slow, gangsta-riding-music in your whip. Do yourself a favor, plug in your AUX and jam out You Only Live 2wice a few times before the snowstorms come.
9. Chaz French – True Colors
Release Date: July 14, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Invite Only,” “So Are We”
First Look Friday alum, Chaz French, has grown considerably since dropping his debut project. Now, poised as a champion of D.C. culture, Chaz’s newest effort, True Colors is a kaleidoscope of cool energies, high moments, low and dark times, all tinged with a clearer, more mature outlook on it all. The Curren$y-featured single, “Invite Only,” got the ball rolling, while appearances from Phil Ade and Innanet James helped to balance the story that Chaz was looking tell.
In addition to the 17 tracks, Chaz has an initiative that aims to help fathers and their children reuniting after incarceration. A theme that is littered throughout True Colors that is worth your examination. If you have a heart, a true love for your own city and the feeling of complication that comes with success then Chaz French’s album, True Colors, is right up your alley. Don’t miss out!
8. BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation II
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2017
Featured Tracks: “QUEER,” “SWEET”
“I’ma be a star even if I say the same things,” Vann raps astutely over the sinister-sounding cut, “CHICK,” which focuses on his biting sense of humor and Debo-esque lyrics. The West Coast Wu-Tang-like collective better known as BROCKHAMPTON has flooded the game like a new D-boy on the block. They are successful utilizing the thought of “less is more,” which has me a bit verklempt as to why folks in the 30-plus generation aren’t jumping on the bandwagon to appreciate these faster-than-fios rappers. Songs such as “JELLO,” “GUMMY” and “JUNKY” are cool, charming and stand out from what’s currently abusing your ears on the airwaves. Plus, these are Disney kids turned into grimy rap spitters. BROCKHAMPTON is a legit, polished and funky collective.
Armed with a button that goes from zero to 60 on the aggressive meter (see: “QUEER,” “SWEET”) — BROCKHAMPTON is beats, rhymes, and life below the age of 25. Each song sounds as important as the next, so it should be apparent that anyone snoozing on BROCKHAMPTON should wake the eff up and learn about these guys with extreme urgency. For those who enjoy seeing their artists incubate and grow, BROCKHAMPTON is also the right one for you. Saturation II has exuberance, despite not having enough boom for your head top, while prizing an otherworldly coolness that is currency in today’s rap game. As BROCKHAMPTON continues to develop into a hip-hop/pop force, listen to these guys and help them to keep their freeform approach to making music as they move up in the ranks.
7. Prophets of Rage – Prophets of Rage
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Unfuck the World,” “Legalize Me”
This supergroup of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill managed to help fuel the angst-filled masses towards disobeying Trump’s law and kicking arse to anyone who was against progress. Sure, Run the Jewels proved that the revolution doesn’t stop just because you’re over 30, but these guys were/are the architects of being at the head of the table of their respective movements. Putting them together wasn’t just some slick marketing ploy to return Shepard Fairley back to prominence — the times demanded it. Trump, Russia, racism in full swing, poverty increasing and a lack of human decency called for the Prophets of Rage to come together and fight against the ignorance of the upper echelon.
Hearing Chuck D scream and snarl, “We f***ing matter!” on “Who Owns Who” is a great moment in music history. If you’re sleeping on these legends just because they seem “old” or “dated,” well don’t be surprised if explosive riffs by Tom Morello or lyrics by B-Real wake you the eff up. If nothing else Prophets of Rage the album helps to distill the polluted taste of bile and Shchi that’s going on in today’s American politics with activist music that doesn’t even need the word “political” appended to it to sound good. Prophets of Rage is a blueprint for those looking to change the current climate of our world and say something new that hasn’t been heard before.
6. EarthGang – Rags
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2017
Featured Tracks: “Meditate,” “House”
Prioritizing bars over style has been a successful lane for Spillage Village collective, EarthGang. With an un-relentless vitriol within their lyrics, EarthGang dropped the Rags EP. If you haven’t heard this strong effort yet, you’re doing your ears a disservice. Rags shines a bright light on black life in America. Songs such as “Nowhere Fast” and “House” paint a picture of father-son relationships through incarcerations, jazz-laced instrumentals, and really unique vocal inflections.
Rags pushes genre-melding forward in a way that helps those who love the emo-influences of Lil Peep and the lyricism gymnastics of J. Cole find a perpetual bridge. By pressing play on this album, Rags helps to destroy the stale three-note-beat of today’s hip-hop sound, while pushing the creativity forward in an exhilarating way.