Updated: Jan 4, 2018
What a year for music. In 2017 we've seen some of the biggest artist release music and got introduced to plenty newer acts. As we turn the page on 2017, we wanted to recount all the songs we loved in 2017. This is not a list regarding the biggest artist, the most popular, the most critically acclaimed or even the most underground list, this is simply a list of the songs we enjoyed, danced to, lived through. So introducing, Check the Vibes: Top 50 Hip Hop/R&B Songs of 2017. Starting with 50-25
50. Hablot Brown: She Said
Producer: Hablot Brown
There can be no better introduction to a new act more than an incredible song and Hublot Brown provides this here. The group of 3 consisting of members Linus Lester Hodges, Austin Brown, and John Brown should definitely be on your radar and She Said is one of the best composed songs of the year. We first come across this song on episode 132 of the Joe Budden Podcast (credit has to be given) and have not stopped listening since. Linus Lester Hodges Layes incredible vocals about the crucial point of the night with a mate on whether there will be a night cap. The instrumentation is lush and the background vocals add beautifully. Look out for these guys in 2018.
49. Fabolous & Jadakiss: Soul Food
Producer: C Sick
Album: Friday Night on Elm Street
Label: Def Jam, Street Family, D Block
Fabolous & Jadakiss finally released their joint effort in 2017 after what felt like years of anticipation (Fabolous clarifies that it was really only 1 year). The highlight of this album is our 49 ranked song, Soul Food. Soul Food captures everything fans wanted the project to be. Fabolous and Jadakiss laying incredible verses to a classic soul sample. No hook needed as the two drop trademark lines in complete pocket. Fabolous plays the role of mentor to the youth, (“….I feel like these young niggas need some eye jammies, more passport stamps less trips to Miami) while Jadakiss reminds you of his status in rap (“….almost 20 years in the game and Im still me”). We hope to see more joint efforts from these two.
48. Daniel Ceasar: Best Part feat. H.E.R.
Producer: Burnett. Evans
Label: Golden Child
Two of the most talented young R&B artist link up for an acoustic ballad? Sign us up. Daniel Ceasar and H.E.R. have been two of the most buzzed about artist of recent years and Best Part is proof of why. The two complement each other incredibly well and vocally live up to the reputations they have created so early in their careers. The writing is top notch and is sure to be one of your go to songs when you start to have those special feelings about someone.
47. DJ Khaled: Wild Thoughts feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller
Producer: DJ Khaled, Nasty Beatmakers, Kurk Harell
Label: We the Best, Epic Records
Let’s be honest, Wild Thoughts is Rihanna’s song. DJ Khaled lends his name and maybe it was his brilliant idea to sample Carlos Santanna’s 1999 hit Maria Maria. Bryson Tiller gives an admirable feature that does not take away from the song, but Rihanna’s presence, appeal, melodies, and star power does all of the heavy lifting and catapulted this song to a mainstay in the summer charts. If DJ Khaled is good at anything it’s putting his adlibs in and getting out of the way.
46. Migos: T Shirt
Producer: Nard & B, XL Eagle
Label: Quality Control Music. 300. Atlantic
The Migos are charismatic there is no doubt in that. After the overwhelming success of Bad and Boujee in 2016, it was worth seeing what the follow up was. We were on T Shirt early. Although Bad and Boujee provides an energetic soundscape with a killer hook, T Shirt gets to the basics. I can argue that T Shirt highlights the Migos skillset better than any song. The lyrics are direct and to the point but intriguing none the less, the adlibs are in full display, and the monotonous flow gives the song a consistent bop. It is also worth mentioning, this is what Takeoff meant when he asked if he was left off Bad and Boujee (come on, you know the reference was coming). TakeOff is easily the highlight of the song with his laid back flow and urgent lyrics (“….Ima get that bag nigga aint no doubt about it. Ima feed my family nigga aint no way around it. Aint gon never let up nigga, God say show my talent :). Anytime you can compare Cocaine to a white t shirt is a win.
45. Big Kritt: Price of Fame
Album: 4eva is a Mighty Long Time
Label: Multi Alumni. BMG
Big Kritt was meant to write this song. The price of the acclaim and the fame he has received was being stranded on Def Jam without any direction. Price of Fame serves as an understanding that Kritt has gotten in the last years; making a living doing what you love is what matters, everything else is secondary. Big Kritt discusses his depression at length due to his focus being in the wrong place, family who are only family when they need something, and the immense pressure that one can deal with when one possess so much talent. He also makes it clear that what is between the ears determines how you deal with it because at the end of the day “food is food, water is water, air is air, the rest is mental”. Thank You for the perspective Kritt.
44. Drake: Passionfruit
Producer: Nana Rogues
Album: More Life
Label: OVO Sound. Cash Money. Young Money
For Drake’s standards it was a pretty below the radar year. He had low visibility for most of the year and the release of More Life feels like years ago in an actioned packed year for music. Still, we are talking about Drake, one of the biggest stars that exist in music today. Not to mention, from the mixed reviews coming from Views last year, More Life was a welcome change. Passionfruit adds to that narrative. 5 minutes of blissful production by Nana Rogues and appropriate crooning by Drake. The writing on the song is standard, but this is Drake in his element. Passionfruit is what Drake offers that many contemporary artist like him cannot. A ballad of sorts that comes across genuine and a ballad that you won’t mind singing in your car at embarrassing levels.
43. Rick Ross feat. Wale and Young Thug: Trap, Trap, Trap
Producer: Yung Coke
Album: Rather You Than Me
Label: Maybach Music. Epic.
Trap songs have become so generic and completely par for the course in modern day hip hop, that within the first 30 seconds of hearing one, you can decipher if you have a special one on your hands, or another one in the trash pile. Rick Ross’ Trap Trap Trap is instantly addictive. First of all, the hook is incredible and easy to sing along to. Secondly, every artist featured do what they do best. Rick Ross remains in pocket and continues to espouse his larger than life persona, (“Im the wrong one to rob, in the jungle Im Nas, in the label Im Russ, in the trap Im Rick Ross…) Young Thug doubles down on his unique delivery, and Wale delivers one of his best verses of the year. The beat is relentless throughout and the players execute flawlessly.
42. Lil Uzi: XO Tour Life
Producer (s): TM88. JW Lucas
Album: Luv is Rage 2
Label: Generation Now. Atlantic
XO Tour Life is one of the biggest songs of the year, also without a doubt Lil Uzi’s breakout single. Besides the song’s success, there is an unintentional deepness to the hook. The lyrics from the chorus, (“All my friends are dead, push me to the edge”) can easily be relatable to someone who is dealing with isolation and depression, or someone who simply identifies as a loner, or simply someone who wants to self-medicate into oblivion. The lyrics were simply about C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me). As Lil Uzi himself explains, the dead friends referred to here are dead presidents. Regardless of how you take it, the song has been an anthem for many this year. The production is undeniable, and Lil Uzi does what he does best; bounce around the beat with his charisma and uses his skill for melody throughout. Go ahead and push yourself to the edge.
41. Kendrick Lamar: Element
Producer: Sounwave. Blake. Riera
Label: Top Dawg. Aftermath. Interscope
Element might be the most confrontational song on Kendrick Lamar’s 3rd major label album, Damn. Kendrick Lamar makes his intentions clear within the first bar (“Im willing to die for this shit, I done cried for this shit, might take a life for this shit”). By the time the beat drops and Kenrick Lamar professes how he does this rapping thing for Compton not you fame starved herbs on Instagram, you want to break whatever is in arms reach due to the energy provided. Kendrick Lamar has an amazing skill for creating moments regardless of how small. (For a week, we were all attaching “Make it look sexy’ to every damn phrase”). In a 3 minute span, Kendrick manages to switch deliveries several times, tribute Juvenile, and ponders on whether to fake his death or not. The best rapper in the world is undoubtedly in his element.
40. PartyNextDoor: Low Battery
Producer: G Ry. Wallis Lane. PartyNextDoor
Album: Colours 2
Label: OVO Sound. Warner Bros
Have you ever heard a song and thought to yourself, “This is a hit. Why is this not a hit right now”? That is Low Battery for me. There is no reason why if given the necessary push, that this song could not have been a top 40 record. It is that good. First off, it is an incredibly written song on infidelity. If PartyNextDoor is describing a true event or how he would handle discovering infidelity from his mate, it’s fair to say that he is an emotionally mature person. He tells his presumed ex-lover, “I’m not going to ask you was it worth it cuz I know I’m not perfect….” And “I just want the truth”. The production is incredibly bouncy and rhythmic. OVO has a monopoly on these type of records and they continue to do it well. The chorus is catchy and amazing. Again, why is this not a hit single? One thing is obvious, PND is talented and may have many more of these type of songs in his arsenal.
39. Big Sean: Jump out The Window
Producer: Key Wane. Hey DJ Camper
Album: I Decided
Label: GOOD. Def Jam
Big Sean, to his credit, has shown huge improvement in his song writing ability since coming onto the scene. Jump out the Window shows that ability. A well written, well delivered song with a melodic yet bouncy beat provided by Key Wane and DJ Camper. Jeremih provides help with background vocals throughout the song while Sean flows about navigating trust on a relationship. Solid work by a solid artist.
38. Future: Mask Off / Mask off Remix feat. Kendrick Lamar
Producer: Metro Boomin
Label: A1. Freebandz. Epic
Mask Off was responsible for so much moments this year. The flutes, which were the highlight of the beat, were memable and became viral. The hook was catchy and caused multiple nauseating discussions on what is the role do rappers play in the promotion of drugs and had many self-righteous rappers contribute to the conversation (seriously, I think the opioid crisis has very little to do with Future and Metro Boomin). Despite the moments it created, at its core, it is a great song. Kendrick Lamar hops on the remix and does what he does best, light up a beat. Mask Off is undeniable, and assures that Future kept his name ringing in 2017.
37. Nav: Myself
Label: XO. Republic
Nav is the faceless industry type. You know who he is, but you don’t really know who he is until 2017. The rapper producer stepped out on his own with his self-titled mixtape to start the year. Nav is no Kanye West by any stretch, but similar to Kanye West, what he lacks in rapping, he makes up for in production. Myself highlights his strength in both of the areas. The beat is hazy, melancholic, and makes for a great drug infused song. The braggadocios lyrics gives the song the right contrast and balance. “ I remember being a kid my teacher said I wouldn’t be shit” Nav proclaims triumphantly over the laid back beat reminding us that it took a while to get here.
36. Tyler the Creator: Boredom feat. Rex Orange County and Anna of The North
Producer: Tyler the Creator
Album: Flower Boy
A major part of Tyler the Creator’s 2017 release Flower Boy was his exploration of loneliness. Boredom is the apex of this exploration and its performed in a whimsical yet beautiful way. The background vocals and the production are lush and Tyler Creator details his everyday boredom like a badge of honor. “Boredom has a new best friend” is a strangely optimistic way of viewing loneliness, but Tyler has never been traditional in any sense.
35. Meek Mill: 1942 Flows
Album: Wins & Losses
Label: Maybach Music. Atlantic
1942 Flows signifies Meek Mill’s triumphant return from what most would consider many losses. 1942 flows is close to 5 minutes of straight determination, fury, and vengeance. Meek Mill has not forgotten where he has been and where his is now, and he makes sure that you don’t forget as well. He addresses it all throughout: His legal troubles, (“Now every move I make Im in the news with it. Even if I ain’t do it they be like you did it”), the gossip on his relationship with Nicki Minaj (“Aint doing no interviews Im busy nigga we litty. So when you see me out don’t ask me about no Nicki, fuck I look telling my business on Wendy”), and his detractors (“I told niggas who wrote it aint taking back what I quoted”). 1942 flows is Meek at his best, and that is with a chip on his shoulders.
34. Drake: Get It Together feat. Black Coffee and Jorja Smith
Producer: Nineteen85. 40. STWO
Album: More Life
Label: OVO Sound. Cash Money. Young Money
Get It Together displays Drake’s versatility like very few of his songs before it. Im not sure Drake has many songs in his catalog like this. It is a dancehall leaning song yes and Drake has done those but it also has elements of electro and progressive house. It has very little of Drake himself, outside of the chorus and a few vocal spots throughout. Without a doubt, the star of the song is British vocalist Jorja Smith who sings the verses and does the chorus with Drake. Drake gives Jorja the assist and she not only dunks it but windmills that motherfucker (cliché sports reference YAAAAY). Jorja Smith’s vocals are sultry, smooth, and powerful. It’s the kind of performance that widens an artist’s fan base. Drake’s ability to provide great talent a platform to shine might be unparalleled among artist today.
33. Calvin Harris: Slide feat. Frank Ocean, and Migos
Producer: Calvin Harris
Album: Funk Wav Bounces: Vol 1.
Slide is fun. Lots of Fun. Sometimes the simplest of explanations are the best. The song was released on February 2017, but it was obvious that it would be perfect for the summer time. You cannot hear it or come across it without wanting to dance or at least do a little shoulder shimmy. Calvin Harris laces the beat and Frank Ocean croons throughout. Quavo and Offset delivers (especially Offset who flowed like he had something to prove). It’s a pop record that’s as fun as anything that you heard in 2017. Slide fit with no matter the crowd, no matter the party, no matter the event. Well done, Calvin Harris.
32. Playboi Carti: Magnolia
Producer: Pi'erre Bourne
Album: Playboi Carti (Mixtape)
Label: AWGE. Interscope.
The beauty of trap music is that a trap song does not have to make sense or be about anything to be good. I honestly could not tell you what Magnolia is really about but once you hear, “Yo Pierre you want to come out here” (a reference to the song’s producer) and those 808s make an appearance, I dare you not to feel it. “In New York I milly rock, hide it in my sock…” starts off the hook, and it simply is a fun thing to say while you let the beat take you away. I don’t know if Playboi Carti can be described as a trap rapper or a “mumble” rapper, but one thing that rappers of his ilk understands, sometimes, simplicity is all that’s needed. Sometimes you just need a hard hitting beat, a simple hook, and barely audible lyrics to get the job done. Magnolia gets the job done, simple and plain.
31. French Montanna: Unforgettable feat. Swae Lee
Producer: Jaegen. 1 Mind. C.P. Dubb
Album: Jungle Rules
Label: Epic. Bad Boy. Coke Boys
It has been said that French Montanna paid up to 300k to secure Unforgettable. It has also been said that Swae Lee originally recorded the song and let French Montanna used it as his. This might have been the most important investment that French Montanna has made in his career. Unforgettable is made for the charts and Swae Lee is a superstar that we have not fully appreciated. Swae Lee’s hook defines the song and French Montanna (no disrespect intended) can do very little to mess it all up. The beat uses Caribbean influences such as the drum patterns that Drake has helped popularized in Hip Hop music and everything else about the record helped it become arguably the song of the summer. There was not a party where this song was played that it did not turn it up a notch. You can’t ask for more, and thanks to this song, Im sure French Montanna isn’t doing much complaining these days.
30. Big Sean: No Favors feat. Eminem
Producer: FrancisGotHeat. WondaGurl
Album: I Decided
Label: GOOD. Def Jam
No Favors is going to the basics. Here’s a dope beat, here is a simple hook, rap your ass off. Big Sean and Eminem does not disappoint. In fact, Big Sean’s flow does not wow you, but there is no wasted lines. He finds a pocket and he sticks to it. His verse is methodical, consistent, and lethal. Big Sean wants you to know, that he believes he is better than all of your favories. (“How many hot verses till you bitches start acknowledging the pictures we been painting…). Eminem’s verse is high on the dexterity (flow and multi syllables are A1) although lacking in content. These are the beats that Eminem is meant to be on in 2017, and I pray that someone finds him and forces him to listen to No Favors over and over and convince him that this is what his career needs. Nevertheless, 2 Detroit giants trading verses makes for one of the top songs of 2017.
29. Cardi B: Bodak Yellow
Producer: J White
Something about Cardi B makes people root for her. The New York resident, who use to strip, and is a Love & Hip Hop alumni, through charisma and likability has the music industry in the palm of her hands. But charisma and likeability can only take you so far before you have to deliver. Enter Bodak Yellow, a bonified anthem for 2017. Bodak Yellow became an instant hit, and began the improbable dominance of Cardi B in 2017. First off, Im not sure there is any hook that is catchy as Bodak Yellow. Who can not relate to, “If I see you I don’t speak that means I don’t fuck with you”. Secondly, J White’s production hits you like electric shock and red bull mixed. Lastly, the first verse is so quotable, that it did not take long for footage to go viral of Cardi B at multiple shows with fans carrying the song’s lyrics from start to finish. It is the perfect storm for someone who you could not be happier for. Bodak Yellow sets the stage for one of the most anticipated album releases from anyone in 2018, but like J. Cole advised her, Cardi B has already won.
28. Jay-Z: Family Feud feat. Beyoncè
Producer: No I.D.
Label: Roc Nation. UMG.
Jay Z and No Id make magic together throughout 4:44; Although, Family Feud may not be the best song on 4:44, it is easily the best produced record. No ID’s sample of the gospel group Clark Sisters and the application of the sample throughout is perfect even blissful. Beyoncè adds minimal vocals to the song, but her impact is not minimal by any stretch. Strategically placed, Beyoncé’s vocals heightens the song to new levels. Jay-Z delivers gem after gem like the uncle who never steers you wrong with his advice. Several lessons to be learned from Jay-Z on Family Feud: It’s okay to grow old, there is nothing wrong with it. Tupac had a nose ring too guys, let’s stop judging the new generation. Support your own before you support outsiders; Jay-Z will never buy Belvedere while Cîroc exist. One of the lighter moments of 4:44 is a triumphant one.
27. Tyler The Creator: 911/ Mr. Lonely feat. Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy
Producer: Tyler The Creator
Album: Flower Boy
911/ Mr. Lonely finds 3 of the most talented artist of the Odd Future family tree at their most creative. The first portion of the song 911 is a pure funk, disco-esque jam session. Steve Lacy croons during the chorus, Tyler the Creator handles the verses, and Frank Ocean adds to background vocals and handles the bridge as well. There is not a moment in Flower Boy that displays more growth in terms of Tyler the Creator’s abilities as a producer then 911. You cannot help but to dance when it comes on. The 2nd portion does not live up to the first, but it holds up well regardless. Tyler again continues to brag about how much of a loner he is. The two songs added together creates one of the brightest highlights for Flower Boy.
26. PartyNextDoor: Freak In You
Producer: G. RY. Neenyo. Top FLR. 40.
Album: Colours 2
Label: OVO. Warner Bros
Yes, PartyNextDoor uses a strange delivery on Freak In You that sounds like stayed up all night listening to Young Thug before he recorded this song; however, in no way does it take away from how exceptional Freak In You truly is. The production is sensual and truth be told, it should help you get that girl that’s you have chemistry with to that special place. Freak In You truly sets the tone for the rest of Colours 2, and is easily one of the sexiest most seductive songs of 2017. Again, the only weakness is Party’s odd need to use the choppy delivery that he uses, but by the end of verse 1 to chorus 1, that does not even become noticeable.
Check Out Part 2 ranking 25-1 in the blog.