The Second Annual Completely Subjective Top 20 Songs of the Year

I don’t know “Bill,” but here is Chrisboard’s top chart

Year-end lists are like tweets from Donald Trump: folks read them and mostly think “this person is a moron and I can do better.” So with that disclaimer out of the way, welcome to the Second Annual Completely Subjective Top 20 Songs of the Year: 2017 Edition. Before we disagree with one another and you roll your eyes at the selections, let’s discuss some of the very scientific and highly-specific criteria used in the methodology of this list’s formation.

-Beats, Rhymes and Life. I am an unapologetic hip-hop fan, connoisseur, critic and defender. And yes, I listen to a lot of it. No, I don’t just listen to the old rappers, though some of them are still awesome. If this list seems like it’s boom bap heavy, well it is (black guy in a blue shirt shrugging emoji).

-Each one teach one. Turns out a LOT of music was released in the past calendar year. I did not have an opportunity to listen to all of it. If you have an artist or record that moved you and I missed it, please share!

-All Hail, King Kendrick. It was quite the year for Mr. Lamar. He appears on a whopping 20% of the list despite having just the second-best album of the year (4:44 > DAMN).

-The Power of the Producer. If lyrics are the body of a record, the production is the engine — difficult to move at top speed without a good one. This list has some heavyweight titans handling the soundscapes of the year’s greatest records and are rewarded for their contributions.

Close Calls

  • “Mask Off” -Future (the flute sample was hypnotic, but the chorus sounded like a pharmacy — meh, but impossible to ignore)
  • “Rollinem 7s” -N.E.R.D featuring Andre 3000 (the new album went to some new directions sonically and this record was one of the standouts)
  • “Brother Jedediah” -The Alchemist/Budgie featuring Action Bronson and Big Body Bes (ridiculous church hymn sample with nonsensical musings; perfect)
  • “Shining” -DJ Khaled, Beyoncé and JAY-Z (power collabo for hip-hop’s power couple)
  • “4AM” -2 Chainz featuring Travis $cott (damn right, bro)
  • “Black & Ugly” -Rapsody featuring BJ the Chicago Kid (neck-snapping 9th Wonder beat with raw, honest lyricism)
  • “Losin Control” -Russ (token smooth R&B jam)
  • “Congratulations” -Post Malone featuring Quavo (everyone’s favorite culture vulture came through with a catchy-ass record)
  • “Razzle Dazzle” -Mike WiLL Made-It featuring Future (ridiculous production with Future mumbling his way through another drug store)
  • “The Story of O.J.” -JAY-Z (the best video of the year was also a really good record)
  • “OMG” -Vic Mensa featuring Pusha T (any Neptunes/Pusha T union is guaranteed to be one of the year’s best)
  • “St. Regis” -Conway the Machine (lace up your Timbs, flip up your Champion hoodie and practice mean-mugging all those in your vicinity)
  • “Gyalchester” -Drake (Champagne Papi still makes bangers now and then)
  • “Everything (Show Me Love)” -Statik Selektah featuring PnB Rock and Lil’ Fame of M.O.P. (more grimy and gutter street MCs need to find dudes to do their hooks over great production)
  • “Bring Dem Things” -French Montana featuring Pharrell Williams (just a great party record to sip Ciroc to)
  • “That’s What I Like” -Bruno Mars (my girlfriend controlled the aux cord a lot in 2017, this was a guilty pleasure)
  • “Under” -Sampha (I was late on this dude, but his voice is incredible)
  • “Kill Jill” -Big Boi featuring Killer Mike and Jeezy (best song in the BOOMIVERSE)
  • “1–800–273–8255" -Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid (simply a great song and message, even if the “who can relate? Woo!” is a bit corny; the hook evolving throughout and ending with Khalid’s melodic sermon is fantastic)
  • “Soul Food” -Fabolous and Jadakiss (Friday on Elm Street didn’t really live up to the lofty expectations of two of the best artists from NYC, but it did deliver this heater and I’ll settle for that. Side note: one of the best Fab verses I’ve heard in recent memory)

20. Trick Me -CyHi the Prynce featuring 2 Chainz

One of the lowkey best hip-hop albums of the year dropped late in the fall, but it was worth the wait. CyHi has been in the game for years, but broke through in a major way with the release of No Dope On Sundays. The 2 Chainz assist is decent, but the song becomes great during the beat-flipped second act.

19. T-Shirt -Migos

MAMA! Everyone’s favorite ad-lib maestros had a ridiculously successful 2017 with their Culture album being inescapable. “T-Shirt” was the perfect follow-up single to the overplayed “Bad and Boujee” and showcased all three members in their comfort zone.

18. Once Upon A Time -The Diplomats

Dipset is back and they brought sped-up sample super-producers, The Heatmakerz, with them. We’re not worthy. Also, I believe this is the only song of 2017 that references Harvey Weinstein getting smacked. So there’s that.

17. XO TOUR Llif3 -Lil Uzi Vert

You ever hear a record that you can’t stand, yet you can’t deny? This fits that bill for me. The production is just so damn good and the hook is so damn good and…ugh, I don’t have to go buy skinny jeans now, do I?

16. 1st -Torii Wolf

The first of three DJ Premier-powered songs on the list, few can bring so much soul and emotion from bare-bones drums and piano loops. Torii Wolf’s haunting voice and cadence is the perfect match.

15. Marcy Me -JAY-Z featuring The Dream

Sometimes I’ll listen to an artist’s wordplay and just mutter “that’s not fair.” Mr. Carter’s lyrical CrossFit assault and The Dream’s harmonic addition creates two minutes and 54 seconds of unfairness.

14. XXX. -Kendrick Lamar featuring U2

Everything that makes Kendrick one of the all-time greats is on display here: the low, monotone first verse, the hyped-up, emotional, tongue-twisting verse two, the Bono-led bridge/beat breakdown and the introspective, street poet finale. True artistry.

13. Met Gala -Gucci Mane featuring Offset

Two things solidify the status of this record: Offset’s verse/hook, which by Migos standards is Nas-like and the Metro Boomin production, which is the pinnacle of trap. Guwop jumps in and doesn’t ruin the record, but he’s mostly window dressing.

12. Doves In The Wind -SZA featuring Kendrick Lamar

Probably don’t want to bump this at your parents’ next cookout, but it does bump. SZA was a commercial diva this year and IMO, this was her standout performance and message.

11. Santorini Greece -Rick Ross

Rick Ross might be the best beat-selector in hip-hop history. This isn’t to say he’s not a legitimate artist in his own right, but I dare say his ascendency would be curtailed were it not for the incredible soundscapes he seems to always pluck. This record is no exception.

10. Don’t Run -Statik Selektah featuring Joyner Lucas

I had not even heard of Joyner Lucas until a month ago when a friend introduced me. Since then I’ve become more familiar with his catalog and his appearance on Statik Selektah’s 8 album furthers my suspicion that stardom is nearby.

9. Bodak Yellow (Money Moves) -Cardi B

Imagine shutting off your radio, your phone, your computer, everything that omits sound in your life…you STILL would not have been able to escape this song. Cardi B’s glow-up in 2017 was crystallized by this record’s infinite chart-topping run.

8. RIP BOBBY -WestSide Gunn and Conway The Machine

If you’re not familiar with Griselda Records and their distinct brand of goon hip-hop, then they will make you familiar. They dropped hours of mixtape material in the past year, but this Daringer and Alchemist produced gem is their finest product.

7. Can’t You See -Raekwon

Raekwon rapping over a stirring vocal sample was just meant to be. While his new album had plenty of misfires, this song showcased the Wu-Tang vet in his sweet spot and the result was fire.

6. 2 LOVIN U -DJ Premier and Miguel

A funky, head-bobbing ballad brought to you by Miguel and the greatest hip-hop producer ever. This song is like a Bruno Mars track for grown-ups, but…

5. Our Streets -DJ Premier featuring A$AP Ferg

…don’t get it twisted: Preemo is still here for the boom bap. Ferg shows that the new era can pay homage to the legends without sacrificing a thing artistically.

4. Location -Khalid

My pound-for-pound best R&B record of 2017, newcomer Khalid delivered a monster single over scattered drum stabs and a booming baseline. And apparently, millennials don’t even need to spit game anymore, just ask for your crush’s location and you’re in!

3. Power -Rapsody featuring Kendrick Lamar and Lance Skiiiwalker

Forget “female MCs,” Rapsody delivered a top-3 hip-hop album of the year for all genders with Laila’s Wisdom. The standout record was this Kendrick-assisted heater, which showcases Rapsody’s lyrical dexterity going toe-to-toe with one of the greats about what truly gives power.

2. DUCKWORTH. -Kendrick Lamar

No, not the big man from the early ‘90s Trailblazers. King Kendrick tells an incredible tightly woven story of his father, his boss and his hood. The lyrics alone are top 20 worthy, but the beat(s) by 9th Wonder? Instant classic.

  1. 4:44 -JAY-Z

(The following was taken from the list/review I did of the 4:44 album over the summer, which you totally should read)

Did JAY-Z cheat on the hottest chick in the game who also happens to don his chain? Only they know for sure, but Hov certainly does an incredible job apologizing. The title track is instantly one of the best records ever made by the best rapper to ever do it. No I.D. was exceptional producing the entire project, but this beat is his crown jewel. The blending of an ultra-soulful vocal sample and perfectly looped horn blasts layered over the best drums on the album is a masterpiece.

JAY-Z accomplishes the tricky feat of making an emotionally available record without coming across as emo or whiny. The authenticity in his tone is undeniable and sincere. I wish Jay and Bey nothing but the best, but the worst parts of their lives elevate their music to another echelon.

And that’s a wrap! If you’ve made it this far and agree with some of the selections or want to explore more of the records you’re less familiar with, click HERE for the Spotify playlist. Happy New Year. (Note: “The Story of O.J.,” “St. Regis,” “Marcy Me,” “RIP BOBBY” and “4:44” are not available on Spotify and are omitted from the playlist).