Before that New Year’s Eve ball drops, make sure you have these songs uploaded and ready to go in your playlist, as @Okayplayer ranks the Best Songs Of 2017.
A sincere thank you from the bottom of our music-loving hearts goes out to the musicians, composers, singers, producers and instrumentalist who gave us our soundtrack for the year of our Lord, 2017. What was thought to be an off-year because of the onslaught of music from our faves in 2016, instead became another banner year for us who appreciate the effort from those who seem to be at the peak of their powers. This year was also another excellent one for discovery. Acts such as Khalid, Cardi B and Playboi Carti were everywhere thanks to the way we now hear and share music—plus their songs were friggin’ dope.
It seemed as if during every changing month someone was giving us something to be excited about. Whether it was Kendrick Lamar’s prelude to DAMN. with “The Heart Part 4” or Jay-Z with his advice to young gunners with “The Story of O.J.” — the culture was rightly served by those who aimed to make 2017 a great year. As there was no unifying thread that connected the veterans to this new crop of SoundCloud artists against the orange-faced invasion — each project served as a pressure valve that allowed us to release stress while facing real anxieties, danger and ugliness (see: Donald Trump).
With that in mind, we continue our year-end hoorah before transitioning into 2018 by saluting the Best Songs Of 2017. For enabling us to shake our stankin’ arse, free our minds and get off some fire tweets using your lyrics and hooks — we thank you, artists, musicians and the like, we thank you sincerely.
17. Shabazz Palaces – “Shine a Light”
Shabazz Palaces—the highly impressive jazz-rap duo—has found a warm and inviting place here @Okayplayer. Whenever Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire put their collective powers together — the world is all that much better for it. “Shine a Light,” their first offering from Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star, is not only an introduction to their character, Quazarz, “a sentient being from somewhere else,” but also a deeply rooted venture into the realm of hip-hop science fiction.
Imagine if Flash Gordon had met up with Lieutenant Uhura and had production from an interstellar funkadelic being. You’d have Quazarz while being “surrounded by the ethers of the Migosphere,” which is pretty cool if you think about it. “Shine a Light” is an otherworldly space romp through the electric-funk-filled mind of Shabazz Palaces, and really dope to listen to. Extra points goes to Shabazz Palaces as they throw in a mantra (“Shine a light on the fake”) plus a repurposed sample of Dee Dee Sharp’s “I Really Love You” really makes this song lightyears ahead of its time.
16. Brent Faiyaz – “L.A.”
Brent Faiyaz, as one part of the trio Sonder, has created soothing R&B riffs and songs that made the group an impactful addition to the music industry. But, as a solo artist, most people know the Los Angeles transplant for his charismatic vocals on GoldLink’s top-billing cut, “Crew,” from the Grammy nominated project, At What Cost. With newfound success comes interest and with interest comes revelation. To put it bluntly, Brent Faiyaz is a star on the rise. No better song to describe such elevation than the newfound hometown anthem, “L.A.,” which appears on Brent’s Sonder Son album.
Fueled by an outstanding track, while remaining open about his ups-and-downs in L.A., you feel like you’re right there at the ATM as he gets that insufficient funds message, has to hustle to get food with his last dollar in his wallet and earnestly wish to help him get rid of the growing list of phonies that tag themselves along the way. A relatable track that many will still find in rotation in the new year, Brent Faiyaz’s “L.A.” is a delight and a strong indicator of what’s to come from the Sonder vocalist in 2018.
15. Moses Sumney – “Quarrel”
If you’ve heard Moses Sumney there’s one thing you know that is paramount in his young career: his voice is major. Gifted with the ability to change texture, tone and color so confidently, Moses Sumney is a powerful, yet elegant singer whose song, “Quarrel,” is a evocative of an introduction as anything one has heard. Upon pressing play, Sumney’s golden-coated harmonies ease the ears into enjoying the moment without overshadowing the song as a whole.
“Don’t call it a lovers’ quarrel,” Sumney sings, making the listener feel invited into a back-and-forth between a couple on the outs. When he hits the surprising logic in the song that it “can’t be a lover’s quarrel if there’s no love,” you’re taken aback by how simple and fair his argument is to the would-be suitor on the other side. Add to the mix the precision and downright Bob Saget-esque humility he offers, and you see that this isn’t some nah-nah-boo-boo, childish attempt at getting over someone—Moses is feeling the pangs of the feud as well.
Moses Sumney has a bright and strong future ahead of him, and as “Quarrel” suggest, the honey-drenched singer-songwriter is ready for the journey.
14. Yo Gotti – “Rake It Up”
Whether you are 80 or 18, Yo Gotti and his song, “Rake It Up” issa bop (as the kids say). With a “Freaky Tales” vibe and a strip club attitude, Yo Gotti, accompanied by Nicki Minaj, create an anthem that makes anyone blessed with the ability to throw it back, move it around in a circle while dropping it fast. Yes, it may not lyrically be astounding, but when that hook comes around, your hands are clapping, toes are tapping and you’re caught in the ratchet spirit.
Fresh from Gotti’s ninth studio, I Still Am, it’s proven that the Memphis, Tennessee rapper can go hard in the paint. With over 122 million views on YouTube, a huge pop culture boost from the Young Money superstar, it is absolutely no surprise that “Rake It Up” would become a smash for Yo Gotti. In fact, the song is such a hit for the Roc Nation rapper that “Rake It Up” peaked at no. 8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming his most successful single to date.
13. Migos – “T-Shirt”
Rap’s biggest superstar group (sorry, Run The Jewels) is the Migos. They are rock stars in a way that makes hip-hop still dangerous, yet fun… catchy without being boring. After dropping the no. 1 song in the country with “Bad and Boujee,” the trio from Nawf Atlanta doubled-down on their impact with another fitting song, “T-Shirt”.
This is how ATL this song is: a homage to the late D4L co-founder Shawty Lo is the song’s hook. Meanwhile, Quavo and his cohorts drop some colorfully wicked lines, while the production makes you go into overdrive with hittin’-dem-folks and all the other new school dances. A solid contribution to the culture, “T-Shirt” is something that no matter what year, what era, what part of the planet it’s played on, it will get people up out of their seat and moving.
12. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
DAMN. is a revolution in sound. Spoiler alert, as our best album in our “Best Albums of 2017” list, Cortez Kenny has a talent for blending the street, the clubs and all roads in-between to make a song that gets burn everywhere. It may sound like sweet science, but the TDE superstar has been doing that before the major love flowed. On the song “DNA.” Kendrick Lamar takes America to the woodshed, while keeping the bop strong and steady.
If you tune out the words directed at the culture of fear, bigotry and injustice then all you hear is “I got, I got” and “DNA,” which for some is all they need. For those who are the people who need some real meat and potatoes on their plate, hearing the Compton kingpin go in on Geraldo Rivera, his own blackness and symptoms of oppression shows that he is one of the game’s brightest minds. No matter what side of the coin you find yourself on with this song, one thing is clear that Kung-Fu Kenny won’t stop kicking the truth to the young black youth.
11. Daniel Caesar – “Get You”
It’s no secret we love the guy Daniel Caesar here @Okayplayer. The personality, the ripped-from-my-diary vibes and the earnest singing have propelled him into a new leader of R&B flows. With an exceptional album in Freudian and a sold-out tour in the books for 2017, it can be argued that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for “Get You”. The song, produced by Daniel Caesar, Jordan Evans and Matthew Burnett, features the wonderful Kali Uchis, singing about a love undeserved at the time.
The melody is drenched in emotion, as the guitar serves as the heartbeat, leading the listener to the river of amoré. “I met a girl and got very involved. She brought things and feelings out of me that I didn’t know I had,” Daniel said in an interview. Kali Uchis, filling in for the role of the significant other, adds a virtuosity to the song that feels like a dream to listen to. All in all, whenever this song gets played, you might have to keep your head on a swivel as someone might drop to one knee to propose to someone they love. It’s just that damn sweet.
10. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO TOUR Llif3”
The energy that Lil Uzi Vert exhibits is probably enough to power a third world nation. As evident from his performs during 2016’s Roots Picnic, the guy is electric and unable to be contained by no mere stage. Fast forward to this year, and Uzi is a two-time Grammy Award nominee for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rap Performance,” rightfully so. With such an animated persona, it’s only right that “XO TOUR Llif3” makes our “Best Songs of 2017” list. From the hook (“Push me to the edge / All my friends are dead”) to the psychedelic production — Uzi makes this song into a character in and of itself.
If you push the dread and bleakness sound to the side, you’ll realize that Uzi is more trying to bring the listener into his world through his own dulled senses. “XO TOUR Llif3” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you definitely need to take a sip to get the flavor of what this rapper is putting out into the world.
9. Khalid – “Location”
19-year-old pop prodigy, Khalid, was on our radar early and made such an impact that we introduced him to y’all through our First Look Friday series. “Location” was such a bop, equipped with a breezy, summertime vibe (probably from his El Paso roots) and and his lovely voice. The lead cut from his Grammy nominated debut album, American Teen, is full of 21st century love-and-relationship motifs: the GPS pins, texting, cellphone photo albums, ride-sharing apps and the like.
The song came out of nowhere and was such a delight to hear. “From the first time I heard the beat play, the words flew out,” Khalid said to Billboard. “Hearing the chords instantly took me to the first stage of a relationship. Young love, man. It’s a crazy thing.” And that dope craziness, aided by producers Syk Sense and Tunji Ige, to the hype of a new artist with such an appeal — and you have one of the most developed songs of the year.
8. Tyler, the Creator – “Boredom”
Tyler, the Creator has went from petulant teen prodigy with a fetish for macabre to a colorful grown man whose production has blossomed. “Boredom,” which is off his wonderfully creative Flower Boy album, was an exhibition of just how dope Tyler’s production skills. From the simple guitar flourishes to the extremely hefty drum roll to the appearances from Rex Orange County and Anna of the North — “Boredom” is anything but what the title says.
Tyler accentuates, executes and adds a level of beauty as the song goes on. All of his gifts come into view in this song, which means us as the listener, is rewarded for our dedication to his craft. If you haven’t listened to “Boredom,” or even Flower Boy as a full project — please channel your inner “scum fuck” and play this now.
7. DJ Khaled – “Wild Thoughts”
DJ Khaled’s penchant for creative massive anthems, jam packed with superstar guests has made him a very influential man in the industry. Just about anybody who’s anybody has worked with this guy—and made a hit. Throw your hands up and they stay there, y’know? With his latest effort, Grateful, capitalizing on his wave and keeping “they” away — it was his first single that knocked it out of the part for the Miami-Dade County DJ extraordinaire.
“Wild Thoughts,” which enlisted the sexiness of both Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, borrows heavily from the popular Santana song to make the clubs rock back-and-forth. There’s some beautiful magic still left in Carlos’ guitar, and as its Latin rock aesthetic floats all throughout this hip-hop vibe yet again, Riri and Tiller make everyone blush and get a bit frisky from having “wild, wild, wild thoughts.”
What aids in this song not being another “All I Do” is a muted Khaled, who allows his stars to lead the show, while he lets his fingertip behind the boards do the talking. Even as we prepare to head into 2018, “Wild Thoughts” will be a song that keeps the dancefloor hot and sweater until summer returns again.
6. Drake – “Passionfruit”
It’s been a few years, but finally Drake has mastered his dancehall sensibilities. No one is mad at it either, as “Passionfruit” came at the right time. Blending Drake’s harmonies with some adult contemporary reggae, “Passionfruit” is the right mix of sensual and seductive. The track—imbued with soft drums, Detroit house and a rather intriguing downbeat—shines most because of Drake himself. His vocal coaching over the years has helped to sustain some of the shakiness he exhibited in past songs. Now, on “Passionfruit,” Drizzy hits an ideal pocket that is refreshing and repeatable, whether in the club or in the car. You just want to sing along and dance, making “Passionfruit” one of those cuts you definitely get down to when the groove hits.
5. GoldLink – “Meditation”
Kaytranada, GoldLink and Jazmine Sullivan star in this funky, D.C. fueled, “TRACK UNO” flipped track for “Meditation”. Armed with a bounce and a two-step rhythm that would elicit a bop from the staunchest hardrock. GoldLink retells a story that actually happened to him—a fight over a girl—but his vocals are so crisp, fun and engaging that you don’t see why the girl just didn’t step out with him on cool factor alone. “You the one, you the one now / After daughter, want a son now / Sundress to a wedding gown,” he said. Now, who wouldn’t want a history, a future with a guy who can string vernacular together like that.
Throw in the mix, Jazmine Sullivan’s velvety vocals, which chases some of the hard-edge grit that GoldLink offers, and you have the makings of a bouncy, club-ready track that will fit in smoothly while popping bubbly during your New Year’s Eve celebration.
4. Playboi Carti – “Magnolia”
Was “Magnolia” the song of the summer? It is a good question to ask because Cardi B certainly had the warm weather sewed up. Playboi Carti’s banger of a track—even with the bounce that can’t be duplicated—is thanks to solid production by Pi’erre Bourne. The trunk-rattling low-end bass provides more kick than Jason Bourne, making Pi’erre more Matt Damon: Action Hero on the Boards than a little bit. For what it’s worth, Carti’s voice excellerates this song through the collision of his voice and the beat. Carefree, cool, crescendoing and breaking in parts to showcase his extreme swag-talk, Playboi Carti is the other half of this MVP song that will still reign in the clubs once we jumpstart 2018.
3. GoldLink – “Crew”
This song made stars out of Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy to the mainstream, while cementing GoldLink’s place as an innovating creative able to leap tall speakers in a single bound. “Crew,” for everyone who has heard this song, it is an excellent rap song. The hook is money, the rhymes are top notch and never fall into “mumble” status, and makes the listener feel welcomed along for the ride.
2. Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”
“Sit down, be HUMBLE.”
A G-check from a certified Grammy Award winning G was just what we needed from Kendrick Lamar. Continuing his barbs from “The Heart Part 4,” which found him saying, “It’s levels to it, you and I know, bitch be humble.” The point is that Cortez Kenny is better than all in the game and when one wants to step up to drop receipts, it is best that you be humble about it. Produced by the living superconductor, Mike WiLL Made-It, “HUMBLE.” squares up his world-conquering boasts (i.e. the Grammys) and his thoughts on beauty in a way no mere mortal can keep up with.
For any OG who lived a hard-scrabble life to a revolutionary-minded college student who is fighting for change — “HUMBLE.” is a zig-zag-zig-Allah-esque track that was worthy of its ascent atop the Billboard Hot 100. And truth be told, it gets a party pretty active with the best of ‘em.
1. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
This song was literally everywhere. From clubs to cars to the radio to prisons to the Times Square Subway station — Cardi B was keeping us motivated to make money moves. Yes, you can be mad that an Instagram-slash-reality-TV star, who used to be on the pole, is now an undisputed rap star. You can even lose sleep that she talks like she’s still from the Bronx and not some corporate shill. But what you won’t do is deny that “Bodak Yellow” was the song that kept us going, grooving and telling those haters off.
“Bodak Yellow” took over the summer in a way we haven’t seen in rap in a long while. The records she demolished show the stats: no. 1 on Billboard, replacing Lauryn Hill as a hip-hop history entry point and gave us something to celebrate while the GOP and Dotard Donald destroy the world as we know it.
What do you think of our ‘Best Songs Of 2017’ list? Have selections of your own? Add them in the comments underneath. Want to debate our choices? Hit us up on Twitter!