An Album Fit For a King

With movie soundtracks taking center stage recently with movies such as Bright and Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, the once quiet genre is finding itself a new home in 2018. The release of Black Panther The Album is an incredible feat curated by the man himself, Kendrick Lamar. Since the release of DAMN in 2017 and a slew of awards and nominations during this year’s Grammy’s, Kendrick Lamar has been seemingly unstoppable when it comes to making the highest quality of music. This month saw the release of Black Panther The Album on February 9th and the hype and praise have been growing stronger ever since.

With Kendrick Lamar at the helm of this project, his voice and style lead the way on each song and set up some insane hype songs fit for King T’Challa himself. With the album starting off with Kendrick speaking about culture and the king-lifestyle one can tell the theme of this album is exactly what Black Panther represents: culture. Black Panther is the symbol of culture in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe and has given fans a figure to believe in and represent their culture on the big screen. With a cast of almost all African-American’s, the symbolism and culture that the movie is going for is already set to satisfy, however, the album must also do the same to be worthy of the film it accompanies.

Black Panther The Album sets out to represent culture, life, and royalty in 14 songs and a length of 49 minutes, but does it meet these requirements? I’d say that the album does that exactly and that it raised the bar more than usual due to Kendrick Lamar’s creative talent and unending urge to outdo himself on each album he releases. The 14 songs that are on this album each deserve their spot as they each represent a different side of music.

This album serves as a vehicle to move the audience from hype to hope as each song shows a new side of being the Black Panther. Songs like “X” and “Paramedic” serve as bangers for the album while songs like “Bloody Waters” and “Seasons” serve to invoke the true emotion and feeling that comes with being the king of a nation. Each song is relatable and suggests that everyone has the opportunity to be the king of their own life and can lead things their way.

Overall, if you’re a fan or not of Marvel and the Black Panther film, I highly recommend this album. This album gives the people what they want: culture and quality music from the mind, heart, and soul of Kendrick Lamar himself.

I’d also like to thank fellow writer Zada for her suggestion of this article and feel free to check her site out here: Molasses.

17 Songs of 2017

The rules for this year’s list are simple. One song allowed per artist. Only songs I can see myself playing in the future. Only songs from January 1st – December 31st.

17. Lonely – NAV

NAV isn’t the best rapper, nor should he be. NAV is all about his ego, but that’s what makes NAV one my favorites this year. His unconventional and sometimes hilarious talk about drugs, money, and women make NAV a unique yet familiar artist. NAV still somehow manages to create “Lonely”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs of this year. This slow yet hype song invokes sadness and a sense of loneliness more than any other NAV song. “Lonely” is the ultimate song to rage to or to cry, it sets NAV apart from other identical artists and gives him a reason to continue with his outlandish songs.

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16. One More Light – Linkin Park

This song earns its place on my list because of its purpose and relativity. With the passing of one of my idols, Chester Bennington; I find myself coming back to this song more than any other Linkin Park song. This song is just a reminder that life is only temporary and every action makes waves. “One More Light” transcends conventional Linkin Park music and instead ends up becoming what can only be described as a conversation from artist to fan. Chester Bennington’s sincerity to be there for others and caring about their lives and issues are just another reason why this song deserves its place and why Chester Bennington’s passing has been very tough for me to get through.

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15. Frank Ocean – Mir Fontane

I found this song to be intriguing within the first 30 seconds, the rest of the song just rides that wave. I found this song by mistake while attempting to listen to Frank Ocean, so after 30 seconds I realized I had found a hidden gem. Mir Fontane can surely sing, and his rapping is rather solid which backs up his name dropping of Drake, J. Cole, and notably Frank Ocean. While Mir is good he’s not as good as Frank Ocean, however, his disappointment of people favoring them over him is legitimate. I enjoyed Mir Fontane’s album Camden and I cannot wait for what he has to offer moving forward.

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14. Too Good At Goodbyes – Sam Smith

Sam Smith has returned, and in a tremendous way too. Sam Smith bolsters his sad tale of failed relationships with grand execution. This song is one of the most heartbreaking songs of this year, complete with a choir to invoke emotion from even the hardest of listeners. Sam Smith knows what he’s good at and yet on “Too Good At Goodbyes” he multiples those strengths. With a solid album following the release of this single, it’s simple to see why music needs someone like Sam Smith to shake it up every few years.

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13. Flood Watch – Juicy J

Juicy J surprised me with this beautiful song back in August, and to this day it continues to amaze me. From start to finish this song is enthralling with its melodious piano which ironically creates one of the slowest hype songs ever made. As usual Juicy J knows how to make an exquisite chorus which is only further exemplified when Offset drops his verse. Leave it to Juicy J to make hits each year, and leave it to me to appreciate said hits.

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12. Outlet – Desiigner

I absolutely love Desiigner, and I love “Outlet” because of that. I first heard “Outlet” when it was teased last year and I proceeded to listen to that tease on repeat for hours on hours on end. Desiigner created one of the most exciting and loud songs of this year and because of that, he deserves my praise. Pre-existing bias aside, “Outlet” is just a song to enjoy and dance to, at the end of the day. Desiigner has found his niche in the fast and loud sound here’s hoping he continues it into next year and with the release of his debut album coming in 2018.

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11. Rockstar – Post Malone

All controversy aside, “Rockstar” is one of the greatest songs to come out in 2017. Post Malone unquestionably knows how to make hit songs, and “Rockstar” is just another testament to that statement. Post Malone’s particular vocal range and talent, mixed with one of the greatest beats the year has seen and topped off with a feature from 21 Savage it’s safe to say this song was going to explode no matter what. The rhythm and execution of this hit makes you want to get up and dance and feel reckless just like any rockstar would.

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10. Fallen – Jaden Smith

So much can be said about this song, whether it’s the simple music video or just simply the vibe; “Fallen” has it all. This slow song is one the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever been fortunate enough to listen to. Jaden Smith knows music and he knows rhythm, “Fallen” directly taps into his knowledge to deliver the smoothest song of 2017. Being such a divergent song in comparison to the rest of SYRE, “Fallen” is just another reason why I believe this year belongs to the new generation of talent.

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9. As the World Caves In – Matt Maltese

Matt Maltese is one of the most underrated musicians to appear in the past five years. “As the World Caves In” tells a detailed account of the end of the world due to war. This song is all too real in today’s political climate which the Matt Maltese taps into to create a brand new emotion for the listener to experience. Having a song implement emotions such as stress and anxiety is quite the feat for any artist, even for someone like Matt Maltese. Matt Maltese is on a path to success with each release being something I look forward to, it’s easy to see why he deserves a spot on this list and my eternal admiration.

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8. Chanel – Frank Ocean

After a prestigious comeback in 2016 with the release of Endless and Blonde, Frank Ocean immediately went back to work on singles and features that have been sprinkled around over the year. This all started in March when he released “Chanel” seemingly out of nowhere. “Chanel” is Frank Ocean at his best; complete with illustrious vocals and a slow beat which Frank Ocean has always benefited from. “Chanel” is the Frank Ocean we love and expect to see in 2018.

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7. Ric Flair Drip – Offset

Coming off the immensely hyped surprise release Without Warning project, Offset and 21 Savage are at their best when they come together to make this album, however, one song stands above the rest. “Ric Flair Drip” is singlehandedly the best song Offset has ever put out or even been a part of. The production by Metro Boomin is superlative in comparison to the rest of the album. In less than three minutes, Offset delivers some of the best verses, chorus, and ad-libs of his career thus proving that not only is he the best Migo, but that he also can make a song worthy of my top 17 list.

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6. GUMMY – Brockhampton

Brockhampton came out swinging this year with multiple consecutive album releases this year, however, “GUMMY” from the Saturation 2 is my definitive favorite song by the collective. This song has everything you’d expect from Brockhampton but yet sounds like something you’ve never heard before. With off the wall production combined with powerful verses this song is the ultimate Brockhampton track.

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5. LUST – Kendrick Lamar

Picking just one song from DAMN is almost impossible. Each song is set apart in a multitude of ways and makes this decision almost inconceivable. I decided “LUST” is the one song I can truly pick from DAMN after a huge tie with almost every other song on the album. Kendrick Lamar outdoes himself on DAMN and had I not implemented a rule for one song per album, this whole list very well could’ve been DAMN. While “GOD” was my favorite song going back into the album, “LUST” required many listens to justify my choice. With exceptional production and a rather new style from Kendrick Lamar, “LUST” just makes sense. The beginning of this song is almost nothing like the end, only the chorus remains the same. The simplicity of the beginning verses and sound transforms into a smooth and steady verse from Kendrick at the end including political references done in such a tasteful way it can almost be a timeless lyric in which it can be applied to almost any political event moving forward. “LUST” had just a little something extra to get on this list, and to see a relatively new Kendrick sound and style emerge it was worth it to put my faith into this song.

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4. Blacktop – Being As An Ocean

Although Being As An Ocean’s newest album Waiting for Morning to Come wasn’t able to make my top ten list of this year, they were still able to create one of my favorite songs of 2017. The layered vocals, message, and execution of “Blacktop” is impeccable. Each time the chorus enters, it gives me chills and yet somehow energy. Being a fan of Being As An Ocean has had it’s fair share of hits and misses, however, this album was particularly a nice addition to my daily playlist and “Blacktop” has buried its way into my heart.

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3. XO TOUR Llif3 – Lil Uzi Vert

The anthem of the year is without exception, “XO TOUR Llif3”. Lil Uzi Vert’s unique yet meaningful song has not only been regarded as a banger but also as a song with a deeper meaning of sadness and depression. “All my friends are dead, push me to the edge” has been a mainstay in the vernacular of 2017 and will remain there in the foreseeable future. This song is nothing short of a masterpiece and deserves all of the attention and fame it has received this year. It will be interesting to see what Lil Uzi Vert can bring to the table in 2018 and how he can continue to test the boundaries of rap and punk.

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2. Crew (Remix) – Goldlink

So much can be said about the original cut of “Crew” and how polished this track sounds, however, I believe Gucci Mane adds just a little more personality and prosperity to the already excellent song. With that being said, “Crew” is my hype song, my sad song, and my thought-provoking song. With Goldlink enlisting the captivating voice of Brent Faiyaz along with the enhancing addition of Shy Glizzy(Jefe) the song earns its recognition within the first 15 seconds. “Crew” also earns my praise for having the best chorus of 2017 due to the unbelievable talent of Brent Faiyaz. This song about Goldlink’s home and community growing up and is conveyed in an excellent way on this song. “Crew” is a sign that Goldlink knows exactly what he’s doing and how he plans on doing it.

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1.  Jet – Citizen

Very rarely is there a song I can listen to multiple times every day, the exception being Citizen’s opening track off their album As You Please. “Jet” is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I’ve only been listening to Citizen since early 2016, however, their discography is timeless and deserves my praise for that feat. We often see emo bands similar to Citizen simply fall out of favor and eventually become known for very few songs. I firmly believe that Citizen is not destined to become one of those bands. I believe Citizen is ultimately going to leave quite the legacy, and “Jet” is just one stepping stone towards their success.

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Best Albums of 2017

The rules for this year’s list are simple. One album allowed per artist. Only albums I can see myself playing in the future and/or have an effect on myself or music as a whole. Only albums from January 1st – December 31st.

Honorary Mention: Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 – Lil Peep

Of all of the albums released this year, one stuck out to me more than some others; that being Lil Peep’s debut and final non-posthumous album release from Lil Peep. With Lil Peep’s recent passing I figured putting him on this list as my honorary mention would be the most justifiable. Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 is Lil Peep at his best and was just a sample of what could’ve come from the 21-year-old. His work with emo rap helped revive the emo genre and shed some new light on the outdated and forgotten style. Lil Peep’s personality of a loving boy who’s been mistreated and hurt by people he thought loved him resonated a lot with me along with his fairly huge fanbase he accumulated in such a short amount of time. This album has a song and style for almost everyone; songs like “Benz Truck” and “The Brightside” show two completely different perspectives of Lil Peep and add a commendable contrast in style. Although I was a big fan of Lil Peep and his untimely passing affected myself along with his fan base, however, I am glad he released Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 so his debut album could live on indefinitely, thus solidifying his legacy.

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10. IWASVERYBAD – IDK

IDK put out an explosive album this year with IWASVERYBAD, and I must commend him for his work. From start to finish this album explores IDK’s flow and talent as he rips through each song. IDK’s voice and execution is the most distinct factor that sets this album apart from much of today’s current rap music. This album is solid and is filled with many names such as MF DOOM, Swizz Beatz, and Chief Keef. Songs like “Pizza Shop” and “17 Wit a 38” offer a refreshing style that is sure to go a long way if continued. If IDK keeps up this work and continues to surprise his fans, I believe he will become a big name within the next few years. I highly recommend this album and this artist especially his older work under the moniker of Jay IDK.

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9. At What Cost – Goldlink

This year seems to be full of surprises from debut albums and At What Cost is a testament to that statement. DMV rapper Goldlink shines through on his debut album as his groove and flow follow him. This album is silky and smooth as Goldlink manages to effortlessly slide through each song with his incomparable style, giving each song a new layer of depth in the process. Songs like “Herside Story”, “We Will Never Die”, and “Crew” are the climax of Goldlink’s style and sound as they contribute the most singularity to this project. Additionally, being filled with features from artists such as Jazmine Sullivan, Shy Glizzy, and Wale solidifies the fact this album was created to be as polished as possible. Given that this is just his debut album, I think the 2015 XXL Freshman has a shot at success ahead of him as he continues to stroll on each song on At What Cost.

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8. Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

Pure Comedy is without a doubt a masterpiece. Father John Misty invokes thought and emotion unlike any other current artist today. His gloomy yet seemingly positive outlook on life is beautiful as each lyric tell a story within themselves. Father John Misty’s unique indie-folk sound works wonders with his narrative and soothing yet powerful voice and lyrics about life, death, and everything in between. This album is an experience, to say the least; and songs like “Pure Comedy”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, and “Birdie” need to be heard. I find it hard to talk about this album from a critical and informative standpoint because of how necessary it is to listen to. I absolutely recommend Pure Comedy to anyone reading this and especially anyone who loves the folk sound.

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7. Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

For Tyler, the Creator this album is balanced, to say the least. Tyler, the Creator comes alive with an authentic humanistic approach and appropriate beats to match. Tyler finds the perfect balance of loud and quiet on this album that he has been seeking since Wolf back in 2013. Tyler’s contrasting sounds finally come to be harmonious in Flower Boy for the first time. This album by Tyler is truthful and deep, as he explores missed opportunities, especially love. The journey from Goblin to Flower Boy has been quite extraordinary as Tyler has had time to delve into different genres and sounds each becoming more cohesive with time. This album is easily Tyler’s greatest release to date and boasts a plethora of features which only further endorse Tyler’s balanced sound. If Tyler, the Creator continues to perfect his balance of sound, the future seems bright for the Odd Future founder.

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6. Process – Sampha

Sampha somehow did it again and released another great project. Not since his 2013 EP Dual has Sampha released a project, but Process was worth the 4-year wait. With “Timmy’s Prayer” being one of my favorite releases of 2016 I couldn’t wait to see what Sampha had in store. Process is the culmination of Sampha’s feelings and time over the 4-year gap, and it couldn’t be any better. This album hits hard and can make the toughest shed a tear as Sampha is brutally honest about himself and life in the most symphonic way possible. The piano was seemingly made to compliment Sampha’s unique voice and projection as the two combine to make truly flawless pieces. It’s safe to say that I would wait any amount of time to hear Sampha release another project that could rival Process.

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5. Without Warning – 21 Savage & Offset

2017 was the year of collaborations with at least four albums paired some of the best current names in the industry. Of the profuse amount of releases, the one that stands out the most is 21 Savage and Offset’s Without WarningWithout Warning is the most volatile of the collaboration’s released in 2017 and for good reason. 21 Savage has had an amazing year with his debut album and numerous of features that topped the charts, meanwhile, Offset had a prolific year with the Migos debut album as well as his own personal life and relationship with Cardi B. This pairing, however, isn’t an obvious choice as the duo haven’t put out as much work with each other, but nonetheless they make it sound as if they’ve been working together for years. With production being handled by Metro Boomin and sprinkled with some features by Quavo and Travis Scott, this album is the recipe for success. While songs like “Rap Saved Me” and “Ghostface Killers” display the duo’s synergy, yet songs like “Ric Flair Drip” and “Run Up the Racks” show their individual talent on raging beats by Metro Boomin. Without Warning is the blueprint for collaboration albums, and I for one cannot wait to see if this duo plans to release another project.

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4. As You Please – Citizen

With Citizen ranking high on my list of favorite songs of 2017, the placement of this album on this list was obvious. Citizen is one of my favorite emo bands and after their previous work and “Jet” they should be yours too. As You Please is a welcoming followup to their 2015 album Everybody Is Going To Heaven which I enjoyed more than their previous album, YOUTH. Somehow Citizen continues to outdo themselves and produce some of the best emo music since it’s revival. As You Please is a reaffirmation of Citizen’s influence and talent in the genre whilst still leaving the door open for even further experimentation and exploration. I enjoyed every song on this album especially “Jet” and recommend it to anyone who likes emo or is at least interested in what I believe to be the best band of the emo revitalization era.

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3. Saturation 2 – Brockhampton

I was unfortunately late on the Brockhampton hype train, so when I did finally listen to the Saturation 2 I was astonished. This collective of 14 guys continue to break the boundaries of “boy bands” and have ushered in the new rules and regulations on how a collective should function. With each member contributing their talent it’s not shocking how well Brockhampton can function seamlessly and coherently. I chose the Saturation 2 out of the trilogy due to the differing production and lyrics. The production of the Saturation 2 is exceptionally impressive. With some of the beats sounding like they came straight from the Middle East; the creative choices make this Saturation the superior of the three. Regardless, Brockhampton has already solidified their name as one of the best boy bands of all time.

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2. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album simply reinforces the reasons why he is one of the best rappers of all time. A stark contrast to To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN is loud, angry, and accessible. This album boasts nothing but hits, each one proving time and time again why it deserves to be on the album. Kendrick Lamar once again defies the norms and continues to raise the bar for himself and others.

“Kendrick further goes in-depth of his psyche, social systems and the effect of fame on his life but also the world around him with his fourth album release, DAMN. Creatively the production of the album shines due to it’s “double album” style of being able to be listened to forwards for the “weakness” side of the story and reverse for the “wickedness” side of the story, As a seamless continuation of the Good Kid, M.A.A.D City narrative of the life of Kendrick, the tone of the album is frustrated and angry at the state of the world but also reflective in how our own lives can affect the world around us. This is a statement album and should remove any doubt of who the greatest rapper on the planet is right now.” -ZiggyStarscream

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1. SYRE – Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith really surprised me with this one. When I heard SYRE was coming out and heard the trailer, I knew I would like this album, however, I didn’t know at the time that I would love it more than anything else this year. The fact that I put SYRE higher than Saturation 2 and DAMN should be enough to convince anyone to listen to this. The album soars beyond any expectations that were set for Jaden Smith and continues to amaze me each time I listen. Songs like “BLUE”, “Icon”, “Fallen”, and “George Jeff” are Jaden Smith at his best, he isn’t the greatest musician, lyricist, or rapper but he is the greatest relatable figure for myself and the youth as a collective. If you take nothing away from this list, at least give SYRE a listen, it has my official seal of approval and my praise to the highest extent. Jaden Smith won 2017 with SYRE now we can only wait to see what else he has to surprise us with in the future.

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DAMN

With the recent release of the collector’s edition of DAMN which plays in reverse, it’s time to further shed some light on Kendrick Lamar and give insight into DAMN with a little help from my friend and fellow music buff ZiggyStarscream.

DAMN. – The Fourth Installment in the Film Narrative of Kendrick Lamar:

There are not many artists who have created a sense of mythos in the age of social media. With accessibility at an all-time high, the sense of mystery behind the art has started to fade. Music specifically had felt the impact of the internet far before the social media comet reshaped human interaction forever. The singles were the parts to sell a record. Like tinning for gold in a river hoping for a single damn sparkle of gold What happens if we change. We make the album to MAKE AN ALBUM. Think about the last time an album really mattered. A whole album that really grabbed hold of a people’s heart and never let go. Not the one song or a transition or two. Kendrick Lamar, with each release, reminds us that those albums can really exist.

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Is Kendrick Lamar worthy of the hype?

October 22, 2012, marks one of the most important days of my life. On this day, an album was released that made me rethink everything that I knew about hip-hop. This, of course, marks the release date for Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.

Up until that day I had no idea who Kendrick Lamar was or what he sounded like. This album was my introduction to his mind and style. At the time I picked up Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, the only Kendrick song I was familiar with was “Swimming Pools”, which I knew exclusively from the radio play it received. One of my main attractions to the album was the appearance of Dr. Dre. When I saw that Dr. Dre was featured on the tracks “Compton” and “The Recipe”, I decided to give this record a listen and immediately fell in love with this project. The story presented on this project is real and the emotions are representative of a young and cautious Kendrick Lamar.

This album made me a huge fan of Kendrick Lamar and even made me interested in more rappers from Compton such as The Game and YG. Less than a year after Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was released, Kendrick Lamar decided to flip the rap game on its head once more.

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