My 2017 List
Tradition stays alive! If this is your first time seeing one of my lists, I refer back to my preface from last year’s list: “If you know me you know I like pop culture. Albeit a specific segment: Indie dramas, rap music, epic TV sagas & outrageous sitcoms, true-crime & socio-political themed journalism”. Cheers!
In a year that was for the most part objectively trash from the American political spectrum, there was some cool art/pop culture and things that I enjoyed and didn’t like “from the brutish realities of this foul year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Seventeen” (Raoul Duke voice).
Without further ado, please look below to find the following:
- Best Songs
- Best Movies
- Best TV Shows
- Best Longform Articles
- Things I Didn’t Like
- Things I Liked
Make your own list or give me some feedback.
25 Best Songs
There could be an entire list devoted only to the continued rise of Metro Boomin. Alas, there are some other producers/artists on here instead. ICYMI, my list every year has one rule in that only one headline artist per entry (this year Goldlink made me break this rule but mainly because “Crew” is a posse cut and #DCorNothing. Also, major snub would be Tay-K’s “The Race” mainly cause that beat is infectious but I don’t promote teenagers wanted for capital murder. Technically, some of these came out last year, but they really didn’t pop until this year. Peace be to Jay-Z’s 4:44, the Washed Out album, the Tyler the Creator album, the War on Drugs album, the Alex G. album, the Mac DeMarco album, the St. Vincent album, the N.E.R.D. album and D.R.A.M. Didn’t have time/came out too late in year/not interested/too contrarian to give it a spin. Also no apologies for no “Bodak Yellow” and Eminem has been hot garbage for quite some time.
Big fan of Your Old Droog & Wiki. They are New York to the core and it comes across as soon as the beat drops. But the MVP for this track is Edan, a white Jewish guy from MoCo (sound familiar?). He absolutely slays this beat. Looking forward to more from these guys in 2018.
When I originally sent this out, a friend mentioned that this got old and proceeded to name better songs from the Calvin Harris album. For said friend, I DON’T CARE! Could do without the Big Sean verse, but Skateboard P & Katy Perry made this the infectious pop song of the summer. Both videos stank but can’t win ’em all.
I really didn’t want to like Lil Pump before I’d even heard of any of his music. I heard “D. Rose” and “Flex Like Ouu” and couldn’t wait to just rail any Lil Pump stan on the internet or IRL (essentially just my 12 y/o cousin.). Alas, though I heard this for the first time. At ear-shattering volume at a house party. Everybody was feeling it. So to any haters, “your momma still lives in a tent”.
While Dave East is most definitely Harlem through and through, it should be known that he put numbers on the boards at the rival high school of mine, Springbrook High, once upon a time. With that provincialism in mind, I pull for this guy even if I don’t always dig the music. He can clearly rap. However, his hooks and songmaking ability have lacked in then past (even on this mixtape). That said though, “Hate Being Broke” is straight flames. The flow switch-ups, beat, even his pacing is exceptional.
Metro Boomin speaks the truth (in these beats too)
Since moving back to Northern California, it’s only natural I pick up on the local rap. Nef is super high-energy post-hyphy Vallejo to the core. E-40 & Mac Dre torch lives on through this young gent but definitely in each of their own original ways and voices. The Soil is more just such a place that only naturally brings out unique rappers. Stay tuned further down for Slimmy B and the rest of SOB x RBE crew.
Issa Metro Boomin beat again. I said “7500 on a Saint Laurent jacket” more times than I could count yet I cannot wait for more Metro Boomin x 21 Savage moving into the new year. From this point forward, if anyone ever counts to 8, I am compelled to say “M’s in my bank account…”
It was a mighty long time since Justin put out his last country rap tune, but my oh my we were very greatly rewarded in waiting. In the anthemic way to tune out your haters, “Get Away” rang out.
17. Caroline — Aminé
OK OK this is one of those that dropped sometime last year. But for the swaggiest Ethiopian/Eritrean out of Portland, Oregon, 2017 was the year “Caroline” popped. I will never forget teaching my cousin how to strip a beat on Audacity only so he can attempt to sing-rap croon Drake-style over this beat.
16. Anti — SOB x RBE
The latest generation of Vallejo super rap stars. Slimmy B is a true force on the mic (long as you’re down with his somewhat nasal voice, if you want more check out: “Don’t Lie to Me”). Yhung To cleans up with the incredible bridge and hook. Expect much more from “RBE, SOB that’s the gang bitch” especially since these kids are just coming into it at 19–20.
Who needs this binary existence? When you “C” both sides as eloquently and mellow as Frank, you can exist freely as you intend to be. My iPhone 5S (so behind) fits just fine in my pocket, thanks for asking by the way.
When I worked in radio, this band was brought up a lot. I should mention I worked at a contemporary rock station. I rejected them solely on the principle that people told me to listen to them and that it would benefit me for work (also most “new rock” that was suitable for playing at my station was garbage). I finally did get around to listening to them and I’ve liked what I’ve heard. This song in particular.
Take 2 artists who I marginally liked but always shined best in groups and/or guest verses (Company Flow & his verse on “The Last Huzzah” for El; “The Whole World” & “Never Scared” for Mike), pair them together and they put out the best works of either of their careers. That being said, I did not forsee RTJ3 being as good as its predecessors yet here we are; “RT & J, we the new PB & J”!
Like my friend said: dope song, whack video. The hook reads like my favorite new tongue twister: “One up top ahky, something stocky in the choppy / fat wally for bradaski, off a Oxy bet he mop ’em / Pour a four of wocky, vision cloudy, sleep walkin” but make no mistake this song nor is Mozzy a laughing matter.
Yo, Pierre what if I don’t want to come out here? Mainly because I was in the house all day listening to your beats. I don’t know if Carti will be hot this time next year, but there was a point where everywhere I went in LA, I heard this song out car windows, in dive bars, apartments, you name it. Long live Pi’erre Bourne though.
Like “Caroline”, this also came out last year but just came into its own in ’17. Much like some other things from this year, I will forever associate saying “raindrops” and following it up with “drop top”. Yes, there were other better #deepcuts from Culture but there can only be one Lil Uzi Vert “Yah Yah Yah Yah Yah” on a Migos track.
James Murphy is a genius. This song rules. LCD Soundsystem rules. That is all.
What can I say? Destiny is that “Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba”. I’m literally just obsessed with anything she does. Music. Rose water recipe videos. Fashion. Instagram. You name it. She’s the G.O.A.T.
Shame on all the fake YouTube versions of this. The DJ Moodyman intro, the lo-fi production, the crooning over lust/love — the formula for a stellar Aubrey track. “More Life” was uneven and average at best, but “Passionfruit” speaks on LDR’s the way “Marvin’s Room” became THE DRUNK-DIAL YOUR EX ANTHEM.
Despite my tremendous homerism for Washington, D.C., I’ve never claimed Shy Glizzy. His voice is that cat-scratch nasal and irritating. Yet for some reason on this track, he spit one of the best verses of the year! Aside from that, this song just has everything. Fire hook. Fire verse from the main rapper. Incredible Backyard Band remix with all the go- go slander in the YouTube comments (shouts to Pauly C for pointing that out). Much like Dan Snyder’s refusal for Redskins name change, this song cranks to the point of “4th down and we ain’t punting it”.
This is the hook that I will remember from 2017. It may not be “the best” in my mind, but I will always remember that “all my friends are dead”.
I miss the heyday of rap/r&b crossovers like Nelly & Kelly, Me (ODB) & Mariah, Meth & Mary J., and Ja & Vita. The latter’s “Put It On Me” is the closest resemblance to “Love Galore” I can think of. Perhaps not sonically nor even aesthetics nor even lyrical content, but simply “It’s a vibe”. And that vibe has been monumental in 2017. Travis Scott is still an industry plant.
“I get those goosebumps every time” I hear verse 2.
Goldlink’s flow is authentically his own. Doesn’t seem to matter what kind of beat or vibe to his music, he always finds a place to make it work. Haresquad’s hook is so infectious, this is the type of music you listen to when it’s 13 degrees outside and you gotta walk to that metro station, but looking for that boost of positivity to start the day.
It took me a lonnnnnggggg time to “get” Future. My introduction to him began with the obnoxious Niners kick-off squad snapping along to “Tony Montana” and disdain went further upon the “memeability” of essentially any bar from “Same Damn Time”. But then I can pinpoint exactly when I “got” him. I was at a TDE show in Austin back in 2013 waiting for Kendrick and co. to come out when one of the warm-up DJ’s played “Bugatti” 3 times in a row and everybody in the crowd moshed so hard that people ended up on opposite sides of the venue space. Like Dipset, Future is powerful street music and “Mask Off’ is his 2nd best anthem to date (“March Madness” still takes the cake).
Between TV, music, and film, I would say I stayed on top of films the most. That being said, for like the first 6 months, with the exception of Get Out, I was going to say this has been a trash year for movies. Moviepass came and saved me for the last quarter of the year. Still, peace be to Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and Star Wars Episode VIII, Logan, Dunkirk, and It as I haven’t had chance to see. Lastly, Beach Rats & Killing of a Sacred Deer just outside top 10.
This film is super morbid, bleak, yet beautifully shot and acted. I was a fan of “Tangerine” and frankly had no idea which direction this film would head. But with strong heartfelt performances by industry vet Willem Dafoe along with newcomers Brooklynn Prince & Bria Vinaite, the Florida Project was an incredibly rich portrait of despair in Central Florida (can be read as Anytown, U.S.A.).
9. Good Time
If you’re not familiar with the Safdie brothers, I’d strongly suggest checking out “Heaven Knows What” along with “Lenny Cooke” (doc about HS bball player who was essentially LeBron James before LeBron James). They are raw, gritty, and unafraid filmmakers. The same is true of Good Time. It is an incredible film and insurmountably thrilling and fun as a heist flick. Robert Pattinson is electrifying, the cinematography is top-notch and Buddy Duress (a true star in the making!) steals the movie here. My only quip is the neverending techno keyboards and disorienting percussion is amazing to begin with but gets old quickly. Still looking forward to whatever subject matter the Safdie brothers take on next.
8. Wind River
If you missed it, Sicario was my favorite film rom 2 years ago and Hell or High Water was my favorite from last year. What does this have to do with Wind River? All three were written by Taylor Sheridan and Wind River also serves as his directorial debut. It is a powerful whodunit set in the most remote part of the United States of America; Wind River reservation in Wyoming. It is a compelling and thrilling murder mystery that also comments on Native American — White American relations, poverty in the Mountain region, and Native American pride. Looking very forward to Sheridan’s next project!
Most profane trailer I’ve ever seen combined with Frances McDormand’s undercut, Woody Harrelson’s nice-guy act, and every turn Sam Rockwell goes through in the performance of a lifetime and you had me googling about Missouri for the first time in my life history (outside of Ferguson in 2014).
OK. It was too long. I understand. But Denis fulfilled Ridley Scott’s vision incredibly. Gosling remains the best actor to act devoid of dialogue. This movie is beautiful and should be watched on 100+ foot screen like I saw at San Francisco’s Metreon Imax theater. So give it another shot at a big screen if you can.
5. Logan Lucky
Combine Soderbergh’s coolness as displayed in “Out of Sight” and “Ocean’s Eleven” along with an Appalachia setting, a terrific accent by Daniel Craig, a one-armed war vet, NASCAR and Seth MacFarlane getting punched in the face and you get one of the most fun movies in years!
4. The Big Sick
Between this and my #2 Lady Bird, I’d like to start a new genre called “Originally Conventional”. Love Kumail and him and his wife Emily wrote, produced and starred in a lovely film about from surface an original topic, yet when dug into the layer, the only substitution was miscegenation instead of class, background or other interracial relationships of love stories of the past. Not to take away from them. The writing was sharp and made me laugh and warmed the cockles too. Round that out with great performances from Kumail, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Roy Romano and you have my 4th favorite film of the year.
I was introduced to The Room by some friends during my senior year at Rice University. It was a slow Friday night. I was sitting in the server with some friends and the topic of guilty pleasures came up. I, in defiance of my college radio station, am adamantly against the idea of guilty pleasures existing. Either you like something or you don’t. Alas, The Room was brought up and next thing you know we were in my friends’ suite watching my guiltiest pleasure. Franco and company are masters of capturing everyone’s favorite best worst movie. Much like the source material, it is incredibly rewatchable (I saw in theaters twice and contemplated a 3rd within 2 weeks of opening). There will never be another The Room, but I hope there will be plenty more James Franco passion projects.
2. Lady Bird
Set in the “Midwest of California”, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut served as Saoirse Ronan’s coronation as the most talented young actress of her generation along with a lovely story of coming into their own. The Catholic school rebel. The conspiracy theory- laden, roll-your-own cigarette smoking, worthless rich kid boyfriend. Shaky mother- daughter relations as a result of projecting of insecurities. All these tropes we’ve seen before, yet with Lady Bird, it always felt so fresh and redeeming.
1. Get Out
No thinkpieces here. Simply, this was my favorite movie because it was the best. Most entertaining. Smartest film. Best twists. And first horror movie I’ve looked forward to and enjoyed in years. Instead I’ll tell you about the story of me seeing it for the first time. I went to see this darling of a film at the Daly City theaters with my cousin, Heidi, and my good friend, Moses. Moses and I went to get concessions and Heidi said she would meet us in the theaters. We were a little on the late side but knew previews would still be running. I break my no-phone in theater rule only to find that Heidi had went to the other screen playing Get Out to which she was very confused as she watched the first cell phone flash/”get out” scene. She figured it out and went to the right showing. Much like I told Heidi after the film: Stay Woke
Best TV Shows
Peace be to Chewing Gum (loved it but just barely missed top 10), Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, The Leftovers, Mr. Robot, Twin Peaks, Legion and BoJack Horseman. Essentially if I haven’t started at this point, I never will with those shows. Here’s the list:
10. Curb Your Enthusiasm
We definitely weren’t “foisted” into another season of LD. There were just as many memorable moments as previous seasons however the writing and schtick could be tiresome at times. Still, Lin-Manuel’s storyline was amazing! Fatwa jokes for life.
9. Master of None
The Thanksgiving episode. That’s the pinnacle. Lena is doing her thing and even given her more space on Showtime with “The Chi” so I’m looking forward to that. Back to Master though, I love Aziz and love this show. However, I can’t help but want to root against Dev. He sees all the angles yet can’t bring himself to stop what he knows is in front of him. Extra kudos to Chef Jeff’s sexual harassment as foreshadowing of all the reports that came in later in the year.
8. American Vandal
I thought I would get bored with a show about a high schooler who may or may not have drawn a bunch of dicks on cars. I was wrong. This was wildly funny and entertaining and so committed to the parody of true-crime documentaries. Kudos to the entire staff but a special shining star to Jimmy Tatro as Dylan. The ball hairs are the signature!
7. Better Call Saul
Jimmy is still chugging along and I’m still not tired of it. This seasons saw Mike fleshed out more but the marquee obviously is to finally see Jimmy & Chuck square off. It’s so soul-crushing yet it had to happen. Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean are masters of their craft. Here’s to another season of Slippin’ Jimmy.
I was sold when I heard Fincher. But upon viewing and bingeing through the entire series in 2 days, Jonathan Groff is a force. Oddly, I didn’t experience the juxtaposition of his career from Frozen/Hamilton to FBI agent. This is chilling stuff yet I cannot look away. Despite a shaky first episode, Mindhunter was like “Silence of the Lambs” 1.5 and I couldn’t be happier.
5. The Deuce
David Simon. George Pelecanos. Literary giants and heroes of mine. Just as good as advertised. Commitment to period is impressive. Humanity is very real for often looked over people e.g. sex workers. That is the talent of these showrunners along with the great cast that is James Franco and co.
Show keeps getting better & better. Issa is our favorite hot mess. Molly keeps getting better as the do as I say, not as I do best friend (IDC Dro is wack yo). I never would have imagined being compelled to care about Lawrence or how his relationship with Aparna is going. But that is all thanks to the great job that Issa does as showrunner/black girl magic!
My favorite sibling by same actor combo ever (James Franco’s Martino Brothers in The Deuce isn’t far behind) consists of Ewan McGregor’s Stussy brothers here. The show has morphed into its own noirish subgenre totally independent of the original film. Blessings to the next Minnesotan I meet because I will be nothing but relentless to them with the accent.
2. Big Little Lies
For once, I hope for no sequel to a show I very much enjoyed. So please HBO if somehow you read this, keep it with the original seven eps here. Reese, Nicole, Zoe, Shailene, and Laura were all terrific. My only complaint is that I cannot drive on that stretch of Route 1 that they show in the opening credits.
1. The Defiant Ones
Some of the best documentary work I’ve ever seen. Dre and Jimmy are not the demi-gods others have painted them to be. I mean they are that, but so much more. I grew up on Interscope Records. This story needs to be told and thankfully it was pretty damn honest and well-done.
Best Long Articles (in no particular ranking)
This year, I probably read less books than I ever have in my life. I attribute a lot of this to job-hunting, moving (constantly), then studying for GMAT. That said, I still made time to read longform articles. Please note entry #7 is three separate pieces that having read together they have been invaluable in unpacking my Asian-American identity and thus I view as one entry.
1. The NBA’s Secret Addiction — Dwight Eschliman; ESPN
2. Seven Days of Heroin — This is What an Epidemic Looks Like — The Cincinnati Enquirer Staff; The Cincinnati Enquirer
3. The First White President — Ta-Nehisi Coates; The Atlantic
4. What Bullets Do To Bodies — Jason Fagone; Highline — Huffington Post
5. Colin Kaepernick Has a Job — Rembert Browne; The Bleacher Report
6. From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories — Ronan Farrow; The New Yorker
7. What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity — Jay Caspian King; The New York Times;Why Is Asian Salad Still on the Menu? — Bonnie Tsui; The New York Times; Asian-American Cuisine’s Rise, and Triumph — Ligaya Mishan; The New York Times
8. How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality — Matthew Desmond; The New York Times
9. The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Milennial — Venkatesh Rao; Ribbonfarm
10. What to do with the Art of Monstrous Men — Claire Dederer; The Paris Review
Things I Didn’t Like
- Imagine Dragons is still a popular music band and one of my favorite artists ever, Prodigy, passed away.
- The rise of Fascism and Nazism (or increased visibility if you believe they were always around like snakes in the grass) in AmeriKKKa.
- Everything “President Agent Orange” has done (I did take great pleasure in watching a friend’s dog tear apart a chew toy of him last Sunday night).
- Each and every mass shooting replacing the previous one as the worst ever. Gun control now.
- All your heroes are trash…was what a friend texted me when he let me know that Louis C.K. sexual harassment allegations came out. Speaking to the broader sexual misconduct/harassment/assault and rape culture rampant among powerful men. May this be the straw that breaks the camels back in getting men to not be such disgusting pigs.
- The U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria.
- Earthquakes, hurricanes, wild fires, and other natural disasters.
- Bay Bridge traffic.
- The repeal of net neutrality.
Things I Liked
- I moved back to Northern California.
- Got a new car. Greyboy ceased to exist back in May and picked up the nameless black VW (open to name suggestions) in September and haven’t looked back since.
- Tribe & Busta’s performance at the Grammys. Great way to close out on an era with Phife and as political protest, screw “President Agent Orange”.
- Family time with my cousin Heidi, her son, Sedge, and Heidi’s boyfriend, Jason. I very much cherish spending time with them. Oh and can’t forget my two cousins I just met this year: Laura & Shira.
- The weekend of May 12th. That weekend, my little brother graduated from college with my whole family present, I got the offer to my current job, and I parted ways with Greyboy — some much needed closure.
- Regularly playing basketball again all over the Bay. Shoutouts to the Mission Rec Saturday afternoon crew, F.M. Smith Park Sunday morning crew, Monday and Wednesdays nights at Bushrod Rec, and the random whatever pickup games at Sunset Rec, Potrero Rec, Mission Bay Creek Park, Mosswood Park, San Pablo Park, Jamtown, and UC Berkeley gym.
- Getting to learn all there is about grains and particularly whole wheat as I work towards becoming the biggest, baddest WHEAT DEALER (shouts to Gurpal for that title) in the Bay. Should also mention I’ve never eaten so much bread in a year as I did, but thankfully the bread is incredible up here thanks to Tartine, Firebrand, Josey Baker, Jane the Bakery, Marla , Market Hall, Acme, and last but not least Community Grains’ bread.
- I got to see one of my favorite musical artists finally and they played one of the greatest shows in my life. Shout out to Broken Social Scene and that magnificent night at the Fox Theater in Oakland. I’ll never forget.
- Thanksgiving, while always my favorite holiday was even better this year in that it was first time since I was 7 in that I was able to spend it with my parents but not at my parents home. Heidi played wonderful host, there was corn pudding, football, a scavenger hunt at Fort Mason and getting to show my parents around the Bay. Only wish little bro had been able to join.
- Moviepass. It’s like…the greatest thing ever, especially for a cinephile like me. “If you don’t know, now ya know”.