3×3 Monday’s 5/27/19

I DO EVERYTHING! – Masego

While I’m fairly new to Masego and his music, I have become a huge fan ever since a good friend of mine recommended him to me. His song “I DO EVERYTHING!” is a fun tune where we listen to Masego list off all of his talents and how much he can accomplish in the world of music. The song is playful and exciting as we hear all that he can do in order to create music in his world. The song fits well as the closer to his 2016 album, Loose Thoughts but can also be enjoyed as an entertaining song at any time.

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Outside – The Weeknd

Feeling lonely and sad recently has brought me back to one of my most favorite artists of all time. The Weeknd never ceases to help my mind when times get tough, and “Outside” is no exception. Heartbreak is no joke and The Weeknd knows that thus giving us a relatable song that everyone can feel connected to. With such a great discography the choose from, I chose “Outside” because I feel like it is often forgotten about when it comes to The Weeknd’s amazing music history.

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Bring the Pain – Method Man

The oldest song on this weeks 3×3 Monday is “Bring the Pain” by Method Man on his 1994 album, Tical. Method Man’s flow on this song brings pure joy and brings a special edge to listen to. I think this song is fairly hard to write about because it just works in every way imaginable. The song is sleek, Method Man is smooth, and the song itself it a complete work of art. I highly recommend this song to any fan of the Wu-Tang Clan or 90’s hip-hop.

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Bottle Service – YG

“Bottle Service” is a brand new song from Compton rapper YG from his album “4REAL 4REAL”. I believe his newest album is outstanding and this track is another reason to present my case for this opinion. “Bottle Service” is very similar to his other 2019 song, “Stop Snitchin” whereas they’re both lively and amusing to listen to. I personally prefer “Bottle Service” over “Stop Snitchin” but both are great songs from YG this year. “Bottle Service” is a catchy song and definitely worth putting in your playlist for this Summer.

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PUPPET – Tyler, The Creator

Much like YG’s newest album, IGOR from Tyler, The Creator is another wonderful album release from 2019. “PUPPET” is a sad song that disguises itself as a slow and melodic love song. With an unnamed feature by Kanye West, “PUPPET” stands out on the album IGOR for good reason. While I fully recommend IGOR to anyone and everyone, I think many will find this song to be one of it not the best song on the album hands down.

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Nameless – Lil Keed

I only found out about this song three days ago and I absolutely love it. Lil Keed did a great job on this song and making it a memorable tune. I’ve had this song on repeat ever since I heard it a few days ago and I plan to keep it that way until I get tired of it. I haven’t heard his 2018 release, Keed Talk To ‘Em but I plan to when I have the time assuming the album is similar to this song. I actually would like to shoutout Rico Nasty for playing this song during one of her Instagram live streams because I doubt I would’ve heard it otherwise.

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Like I Ain’t – Tech N9ne

Tech N9ne is a rapper with one of the greatest discographies in all of hip-hop and “Like I Ain’t” is a stroll down memory lane for Tech N9ne. In this song, Tech lists many of his accomplishments and collaborations with other rappers and musicians during his career. I really enjoy this song because it shows how prolific Tech N9ne has been for the past 20 years. Tech N9ne has been one of my favorite rappers for many years and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us in the future now that he’s reached his 20-year mark.

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I’M DOPE – Tobe Nwigwe

Much like “Nameless” I recently discovered this song and have listened to it many times since my discovery. Tobe Nwigwe is a unique voice in hip-hop because of a majority of his songs barely even song like hip-hop in the first place. “I’M DOPE” is a smooth and laidback song that allows Tobe to explore his musical talent while referencing Dave Chappelle in the chorus. I really enjoy this song and have already dove into Tobe’s work and I really like what I’ve heard so far.

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Come Closer – A Boogie Wit da Hoodie ft. Queen Naija

“Come Closer” feels like a blast from the past and I couldn’t possibly like it any more than I already do. Sampling Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” is a genius move on the producers part and Boogie rides that wave all the way throughout the fairly short song. Boogie’s flow and rhymes are on point the whole time and the feature by Queen Naija fits perfectly as if she was made for this song. I really like this song and I hope he dabbles in this sound again in the future.

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Runaway: The Proof of Excellence

Very rarely does a song guide one through many emotions in less than 10 minutes. These songs do exist but they are often hard to discover and listen to endlessly. “Runaway” by Kanye West is an example of a master-class song that still stands tall to this day. Nine years ago this song was considered to be a beautiful masterpiece that highlighted the best things that Kanye West had to offer, and all of that remains true to this day and then some. Nine minutes and eight seconds is the amount of time that Kanye West has to take you on a spiritual adventure throughout verses and autotune to deliver his message. “Runaway” is Kanye West’s second best song in my opinion and that says a lot when you look at his portfolio spanning 15 years. “Runaway” truly is a perfect song and one that I believe all can enjoy whether you’re a fan or not.

The Intro/Kanye

“Runaway” begins with the famous piano intro featuring heavy use of the E key which then transitions into the grand beat of the song. This slow start is a great way to build up excitement and tension as each key is pressed. This intro quickly turns into a ballad as Kanye begins his first chorus of the song. In this chorus Kanye discussing a fictitious toast to all those who doubted him, those who gave up on him, and his inner-self. Kanye’s life had become shrouded in drama at this time and this chorus is his first attempt to redeem himself by revealing his true nature. After this catchy chorus, Kanye decides to spit some truth about his love life and how he consistently fails to find true love. Kanye takes this time to assert his arrogance and how he blames everyone for his mistakes because that’s all he ever does. After another chorus section, fellow collaborator Pusha T is recruited to perform the next verse of the song.

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Pusha T enters the scene with a short but sweet verse about the lavish lifestyle and the trials and tribulations that come with it. Pusha T’s verse is quite particular when you consider he is referencing Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow to Rolex watches. However, Pusha T details his issues with being rich and famous by showing off an ignorance similar to Kanye’s first verse. This verse is great from Pusha T because not only does it paint a picture of the jerk that he views himself as but also the self-realization aspect that comes with it. Pusha T isn’t afraid to flex his wealth and will surely make sure you see his bling before he gives the song back to Kanye.

Kanye Pt.2

This second verse from Kanye is very short but is a great way to pick up where Pusha T left off. Kanye is afraid of losing his partner and simply doesn’t know how to live without her. Kanye knows he’s done wrong and he knows he’s hurt her but he truly loves her deep down inside past all the ignorance. Kanye wants the one thing he can never buy, Kanye West wants to love.

The Outro

The outro of “Runaway” is honestly something that cannot be put into words. Using a vocoder, Kanye sings the chorus of the song in such a beautiful way that I cannot help but have a tear in my eye. This nonsensical section is perhaps the most powerful part of the whole song as we see Kanye ending the song in an absolutely different way than he started it. This beautiful outro is what makes the song for me and I think Kanye really outdid himself on this track especially in the film. The film features Kanye performing which a multitude of ballet dancers perform until just a few remain for the remainder of the outro. I am thankful that this song exists because it induces many thoughts and feelings for people to ponder as they listen to this piece of art unfold around them. This song is a must listen to as it is so poetic yet beautiful that describing it is nearly impossible to someone who’s never heard it before. “Runaway” is the perfect song and I am thankful that we have this song in the world and I hope you feel the same way after you listen to this masterpiece.

 

OPINIONATED: 5 of the Most Essential Hip-Hop Songs

I’m making this list as a guide for people to follow. This first version of this list is my top five current favorite songs of all time. I hope you at least listen to one of these songs after reading! If you like and enjoy the content that I have to offer please consider liking, following, and/or commenting on my posts. It really means a lot. Feel free to contact me for anything too! Thanks for your continued support!

5. Still D.R.E. – Dr. Dre

Every once in awhile we need to be reminded who we are in life, however, we should never forget who the Doc is. “Still D.R.E.” is that exact reminder of who Dr. Dre is and the role he played and continues to play in music. This song from his 1999 album, 2001 is and will forever be a statement of why Dr. Dre deserves to have his name in the history books. With a smooth feature from Snoop Dogg, this track captures everything about G-Funk music and releases it with enough power and suave that is almost impossible to beat. This song is the ultimate testament to having street cred especially when it comes to California.

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4. Gangsta’s Paradise

“Gangsta’s Paradise” is an absolute essential when it comes to hip-hop music especially from the 90’s era. Coolio really gave his all when it comes to this song, which has been known for being a critically acclaimed and commercial success. Coolio’s depiction of a gangsta’s paradise has been implemented into the minds and hearts of many specifically myself. Over the years, this song has made more and more sense to me as I began to understand the lyrics and the realism that Coolio details on this track. Very few songs have me revisiting them with age, however, “Gangsta’s Paradise” is one of the few exceptions. I must recommend this song to everyone even if you aren’t a fan of rap music and it’s meaning. This song I believe is universal in nature and is able to be enjoyed by almost everyone.

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3. Stan – Eminem

“Stan” is one of the greatest rap songs of all-time. This story of a man who essentially is the biggest fan of Eminem is heartbreaking and realistic every time I hear it. The story is powerful and teaches us a good lesson that we should give people time because they are more than likely busier and still attempting to make an effort to talk to you. Another blatant lesson of “Stan” is to simply not be a “Stan” of an artist to the point of it resulting in killing yourself for his attention. With a sampling of Dido and an emotional tale to boot, “Stan” will always be my favorite song by Eminem, while also being one of the most essential songs of all time.

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2. All Of The Lights – Kanye West

“All Of The Lights” is a certified classic and forever will be in my book. This Kanye West anthem is without a doubt my favorite song from him for many reasons, mainly the beat. The beat is composed mainly of trumpets, drums, and piano to create a chilling theme to an already amazing album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “All Of The Lights” is the culmination of Kanye West’s hard work up to 2010. And yet, eight years later this song still holds up and surprisingly is still my favorite song by him even having released three albums since then. This Grammy-winning song deserves all of the praise it’s been given since it’s release and any further praise it will certainly garner in the future. With features from Rhianna, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Drake, The-Dream, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Elly Jackson, Alvin Fields, Ken Lewis, Ryan Leslie, Tony Williams, and Charlie Wilson there’s no wonder why this will always be a staple of hip-hop music.

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1.Mr. Rager – Kid Cudi

My all-time favorite song is without a doubt “Mr. Rager”. This tale of fighting your demons is timeless and always gets me out of a slump because it helps me in understanding people and the problems we all suffer from. I treat this song as if it was a religion, I put my faith, praise, and soul into “Mr. Rager” because it’s the one song above the rest to guide me in life. “Mr. Rager” has never failed to help me, therefore, I have to make it the number one slot on this list. However, this song should be treated as an experience instead of just a song. Listen to this song with an open mind and let the music paint the story in your mind. I feel like it will be impossible for me to ever find a song I would consider greater than this one, however, with Kid Cudi releasing new albums every few years anything is possible.

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Favorite Song Friday

With school finally being over for the Summer vacation, I have decided to start a new series here called: Favorite Song Friday. The name says it all, and every Friday(hopefully) I will release an article containing one of my favorite songs and my reasoning behind the choice. None of these songs are in order nor does this account for all of my favorite songs. This will be my first planned series of releases and I would appreciate any feedback and criticisms that one may have. Anyways, here’s my first song of Favorite Song Friday.

5/18/18

“Mind Playing Tricks on Me” – Geto Boys

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“Mind Playing Tricks on Me” was released in 1991 by the Geto Boys on their third album We Can’t Be Stopped.  This song was more than likely introduced to me by my Dad, however, many fans of this song could trace it’s recent popularity to the hit game Grand Theft Auto V. “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” details the story of Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill experiencing illusions and hallucinations as they go about their days. Each rapper experiences a different illusion such as Scarface suffering from paranoia about being set up potentially getting shot, Willie D imagines being tailed by someone he did wrong while driving about, and finally, Bushwick Bill thinks he and his crew are in the middle of a fight with a cop. Each verse ends with each rapper realizing their mind was indeed playing a trick on them and that they imagined every situation due to paranoia and other mental-health related issues.

The main reason I adore this song is the beat that is sampled from Isaac Hayes’ classic “Hung Up On My Baby”. The beat matches perfectly when paired with the Geto Boys chronicling these unusual situations they find themselves thinking that they are in. Another strength of the song is the harrowing detail and lyricism that is explored each rapper’s verse. The animosity and terrors that the Geto Boys encounter in these illusions paint a very vivid and realistic into their lives and what they experience through these imaginary situations. This song will forever be a favorite in my book simply because this song is timeless. I enjoy this song driving in the Summer, doing school work in the Fall, and even working out in the Spring. “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is and forever will be one of my favorite songs of all time and that is why I chose it to be my first entry in this series.

Experimentation

Hip-hop is just one genre in a world where at least 1,260 others exist. With hip-hop surpassing rock music recently in terms of popularity it is essential to understand how flexible this genre can be. With Kendrick Lamar beating out Taylor Swift in consumption last year, the fight for success is more evident than ever. Successful hip-hop artists like Drake and Wiz Khalifa have already started working on transforming their sound away from modern rap into a more popish sound. Songs like “Hotline Bling” and “See You Again” ran the charts for a considerably long amount of time during their peak. The secret to their success is simply merging two of the most dominant genres into one super-genre.

Pop-Rap has been on the rise lately as artists are using this genre to their advantage to extend their fan base and increase sales and streams. Lately, pop artists have decided to also engage in the pop-rap culture, however, most find little to no success in this transition. Most notably, Miley Cyrus attempted to make a name for herself in the pop-rap genre in 2013-2015 which led to mixed reviews. This leads us to someone who has been able to subtly make her presence in hip-hop known while still maintaining her status as a pop icon, this is Lana Del Rey.

Lana Del Rey has always been considered unconventional in her career as a pop artist. Lana Del Rey can be described as a modern woman who lives her life in the past. Her music is very reminiscent of 1950’s and 1960’s American pop music, however, her modern twist on this style creates a particular sound that she has undoubtedly perfected over the years. Her voice is sincere and her stories are grim, yet this phenomenal artist continues to surprise fans and the charts. Her second album, Born to Die is a multi-platinum classic that spent over 300 weeks on the charts. By 2015 Lana Del Rey had the formula and sound perfected, her career as a musician was untouchable. Despite all of her achievements, she continued to keep the industry on their toes with her 2017 album Lust For Life.

Lust For Life seems like a typical Lana Del Rey album at first glance, however, this 14 track album deviated from the formula. This is the first Lana Del Rey album to have features on it from other artists. This addition to the album opened up a new realm of possibilities, especially within the hip-hop genre. By this point in time, The Weeknd already had Lana featured on his albums, Beauty Behind The Madness and Starboy. Normally, an artist having features wouldn’t matter except this is Lana Del Rey who hasn’t had a single feature during her five-year career. Features such as Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon are nice additions to the album, but the real focus is on “Lust For Life”, “Summer Bummer”, and “Groupie Love”. These three songs feature popular names in hip-hop with The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, and Playboi Carti being featured on this album.

Lana Del Rey auspiciously integrated her pop song with modern rappers. On her fifth album, she singlehandedly combined the two genres seamlessly. This combination of old American sound mixed with modern hip-hop is huge when examined. Two sounds that never coexisted at the same time in history finally coming together in 2017 is phenomenal. In three songs Lana Del Rey accomplished what some couldn’t even do in a whole album. This move not only opens the doors for future collaborations, but it also allows for her fanbase to grow as members of the hip-hop culture can be introduced to her. Pop-Rap was not created by Lana Del Rey, however, she was the first to make a new sound through this experimentation between two separate genres. With these new options on the table, Lana Del Rey should be held to a higher standard now, as she will undoubtedly continue to surprise everyone with her amazing talent and ability to merge completely opposite sounds and styles into one.

 

10 Best Albums of 2018 (1/1-3/22)

This year is shaping up to be another great year for music, so here are 10 of my favorite releases so far. Mixtapes and EP’s are included.

January

Culture II – Migos

After last year’s Culture, the Migos had a lot to live up to with Culture II. Their unique use of the triplet flow would need to carry them to different heights in 2018, however, Culture II had some trouble finding its footing. With 24 songs and a lot of repetition, the Migos couldn’t necessarily top last years work. Regardless, Culture II does stand on its own when not being compared to the group’s previous work. With a majority of the songs being nothing but pure hype and top-notch features, the Migos deliver an above average album. With songs like “White Sand”, “Walk It Talk It”, and “Top Down On Da NAWF” being some of the better songs on this album, the Migos can once again dominate the charts and prove once again that they are one of the greatest musical trios of all time.

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February

Amen – Rich Brian

Debut albums are imperative in modern music. The debut of an artist can be the make or break for their career now more than ever before. Rich Brian needed Amen to work so he can fully transition from music video star to respectable artist in the rap genre. Amen did an exceptional job at introducing the world to Rich Brian, however, this is greatly attributed to his style. The look, style, and sound of Rich Brian scream eccentricity. This unusualness greatly benefits Amen. Rich Brian created some of my favorite songs on Amen such as “Trespass” and “See Me” which each deliver a satisfactory level of hype and appreciation towards Rich Brian’s work. While this album does has some flaws and may not be for everyone, I believe that for a debut release Rich Brian is on the right path.

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Black Panther (The Album) – Kendrick Lamar

With movie soundtracks on the rise, it only makes sense that Kendrick Lamar would be the one to bring the best lyrics, production, and guests to Black Panther. Kendrick’s connections are what really make this album a high-caliber release in 2018. Kendrick Lamar’s voice echoes all over this album as he puts several guests on the spot and allows them to voice their own interpretation of what the Black Panther is about. Songs like “Paramedic”, “X”, and “Pray for Me” are just a few of the prodigious songs that can accurately portray the trials and tribulations that Black Panther faces in his billion dollar grossing movie. Hopefully, this soundtrack can be the spark that lights the way for more outstanding movie soundtracks in the future.

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2 Heartless – Moneybagg Yo

Moneybagg Yo’s 13th mixtape 2 Heartless is an exhilarating way to start the year for the Memphis rapper. After a solid string of releases in 2017, Moneybagg was destined for greatness this year, and thankfully he delivered. 2 Heartless proves a point in its 18 songs. Moneybagg is here to stay, and his greatness will stretch for years to come. With 14 solo songs and four features, Moneybagg is able to drive this mixtape in the right direction with his heartfelt storytelling about his quest for money, fame, and love. This album is a great listen in one sitting, however, a few songs can be enjoyed outside of the project. Surely, this is not the last we’ll hear from Moneybagg this year and any future releases have a lot to live up to with 2 Heartless being a great way to start his year.

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Victory Lap – Nipsey Hussle

Nipsey Hussle blew open the gates this year with his explosive release: Victory Lap. In 16 songs Nipsey Hussle invigorates the iconic West Coast sound in 2018. Nipsey Hussle seriously delivered on his debut album as he paints a vivid picture of gangs, money, and music in California. Although being named Victory Lap, Nipsey Hussle details his troubles from gangs and violence that eventually propelled him to stardom and success. After almost a six-year grind, Victory Lap is Nipsey Hussle’s trials and tribulations finally come to fruition on this debut album. I can confidently say that this album is going to be a staple of West Coast rap and a huge victory for Nipsey Hussle as he continues to follow his ambitions for success.

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If There Is Light, It Will Find You – Senses Fail

Senses Fail took a rather softer approach this year on their seventh album, If There Is Light, It Will Find You. The harsh and abrasive sound from 2015’s Pull the Thorns from Your Heart is dropped in favor of a more melodic and cordial concept. This style works wonders on this album as it shows a style reminiscent of the middle 2000s. This revitalization of their older sound is pulled off very well and also greatly benefits from having the lead singer Buddy Nielsen writing all of the lyrics for this album. Senses Fail have proven time after time again that they are one of the few dominant emo bands to stand the test of time, and this album only adds to that statement. Hopefully, their next release can build upon and improve this older sound and breathe new life into the genre. Until then, If There Is Light, It Will Find You is an essential album for 2018 and vital for the resurgence of the emo genre.

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Gangin – SOB X RXE

After a huge success on the Black Panther album, SOB X RBE once again delivers their second album in two years. Gangin once again displays the talent that this quartet has to offer. With loud beats and quick lyrics SOB X RBE continue the unique sound that they displayed to their fullest potential on “Paramedic” from the Black Panther album. With two impressive releases in two years, SOB X RBE simply cannot do wrong it seems. Their outlandish sound is refreshing in such an oversaturated genre. Songs like “Once Upon a Time” and “Carpoolin'” are some of my favorites off this album, and I cannot wait to see what else this quartet has to offer in the near future.

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March

Planet – Tech N9ne

Planet is a huge landmark for Tech N9ne’s career as it’s his 20th album release. Since his debut in 1999, Tech N9ne has released at least one album almost every year since. With this incredible track record, a few of his releases have had their problems. With last year’s Storm being one of his weaker albums, Tech N9ne had to reinvent himself to get back on track to crush his 20th album. Planet is worthy of taking this 20th slot as it shows Tech N9ne displaying almost 20 years of technical ability. Tech N9ne is a master of his craft and Planet is a reassurance to this claim. Planet is considerably a slower paced albums which is great for Tech N9ne as he’s allowed to demonstrate his rhyming skill to the fullest extent. After 20 albums, and numerous features and collaborations Tech N9ne continues to show the world the power of Strange Music and more importantly the power of words. If Planet is any indication, Tech N9ne unquestionably has another 20 albums left in him to deliver to the fans.

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? – XXXTentacion

XXXTentacion delivers his heart and soul on his second album, ?. This album is a great way to start off the year for XXXTentacion and continues to solidify his authenticity for being one of the more influential artists of this modern age. ? benefits from the range and versatility that XXXTentacion has to offer. Songs like “I Don’t Even Speak Spanish Lol” wouldn’t normally be seen in this context nor would it even be good, however, XXXTentacion has cracked this formula on ?. With 17 and ? under his belt, XXXTentacion has had an impressive run over the past two years and I doubt we will be seeing him slow down anytime soon.

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Corinthiax – Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal has become quite the favorite of mine recently, especially with his collaborations with former GothBoiClique member Lil Peep. After his work with Tigers Jaw, Wicca Phase has been a solo artist for a few years now as he continues to explore himself through music. Corinthiax is another strong release from Wicca Phase as he continues his reflection of love and happiness. With this short EP only having five songs, the emotion conveyed is visible in every second of each song. With songs like “Corinthiax” and “High Strangeness”, Corinthiax has something to offer for everyone. With this being his first release of 2018, I believe we will be seeing some more quality releases from Wicca Phase Springs Eternal this year as he continues to excel at mastering his distinctive sound.

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Legends Pt.3

Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of music. I can remember riding in the car with my Dad and hearing the usual rotation of Eminem, D12, and Ludacris shake the car as we went places. However, one song stood out to me like no other, I didn’t know what the words were nor the story it was telling but I particularly remember falling in love with the beat.

Eventually, I wouldn’t hear that song again until I was in high school; simply because I could not remember who made it or what the words were. “One More Road To Cross” immediately found it’s way into my iPod library along with the rest of DMX’s discography. Out of all of the rappers, I grew up listening to, DMX amongst few has had an everlasting impact on me and continue to be one of my favorite musicians of all time.

Earl Simmons, otherwise known as DMX is singlehandedly one of the greatest rappers to enter the game. At the time of his entrance, not many rappers could talk about both their feelings and their hood status on the album. No other rapper had such a menacing and aggressive intro track than DMX when he released It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot in 1998. However, the album that grabbed my attention as a 14-year-old was his third album …And Then There Was X this album was all I listened to at that time. While most of the kids in my school were listening to newcomers such as Big Sean, Tyga, and J.Cole I listened heavily to DMX. Every song that DMX has created shows human emotion to the fullest extent that can be relatable and inspiring. DMX is a true thug, but often shows a religious aspect on his albums which makes DMX the perfect blend of good and evil.

And Then There Was X is the album that really inspired my childhood interests and one of the albums that propelled me deeper in the rap genre. Not many albums could capture my attention like this one did almost seven years ago. With one of my favorite tracks growing up (“One More Road to Cross”) being on this album, the rest of the songs are just a bonus in my opinion. Each song serves a purpose and tells a deep and heavy story about the everyday situations of life and death that DMX faces with his lifestyle. DMX even has the party staple of the 2000’s “Party Up” on this album.

1999 was a great year for rap with albums from Eminem, Mos Def, Jay-Z, and Dr. Dre coming out. DMX happened to just come out at the right time to be associated with these other rap legends. With a generous mix of emotion and hype, DMX nails this album and deserves to be considered a classic in all regards. With this classic album and many other great projects under his belt, it’s safe to say that DMX is a legend in the rap genre.

Charm

One of the most essential factors about being an entertainer is the practice of simply entertaining. Producing an art such as music works seamlessly when paired with a likable face and icon. This process has led to many of the famous icons in pop culture that we love along with the mainstream culture. An important selection when creating a persona is the angle of approach one takes when crafting their alter ego. One of simplest yet hardest questions one needs to ask themselves is, “Who Am I?”. This question is such a tough part when creating a persona that sometimes it’s often passed over and thus leads to an artist who’s clueless and lost in their own identity.

This new generation of rappers has been quite fluent and aware of their identity and what they represent. One of these artists stands out due their innate charm and grace, this is GoldLink.

Goldlink is a relatively new face when it comes to fame seeing that he’s only been active since 2014 with his first release of The God Complex which then lead to his next mixtape And After That, We Didn’t Talk. With singles from his sophomore project giving some credibility to his name, it wasn’t until 2017 that Goldlink’s talent came to its full fruition. At What Cost is a phenomenal release from the DMV rapper who’s identity was perfected after a few years of crafting.

“Crew” from At What Cost is an example of this identity. “Crew” is one of the smoothest rap songs of all time. Goldlink combined with Shy Glizzy with a chorus from Brent Faiyaz is the ultimate recipe for success, however, it’s the storytelling and charm that makes At What Cost important. While “Crew” is an undeniably marvelous song, it’s the album as a whole which displays the full extent of Goldlink’s artistry. The slick and smooth verses that come from Goldlink on songs like “Herside Story” and “Pray Everyday” is the true focal point for his talent to be displayed.

Charm is what comes out of Goldlink on At What Cost thus creating one of the best releases of 2017 because of this. The style of fluid rhymes along with sleek beats is where Goldlink prospers. Not once does Goldlink abandon this style on At What Cost, thus resulting in his contribution to the revival of style and suave in modern music that hasn’t been seen since the peak of A Tribe Called Quest, Slick Rick, and RUN D.M.C to name a few. Goldlink along with artists such as Jidenna, Sampha, and Frank Ocean are leading this revolution with their unique usage of heart, charm, and personality that’s been sweeping the charts. This renaissance of personality in music is very much welcomed and looks to be quite the success in years to come especially due in part to Goldlink’s exhibit of character on At What Cost.

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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