2017 has been packed with an insane amount of music. It’s been impossible to listen to everything, particularly rap outside of the mainstream market and other genres. I’ve tried my best to balance the list out and have some variety without compromising what my genuine favourites have been. Some songs weren’t included on the amount of plays but purely on the quality of the song. These songs are also songs I’ve gone to this year individually, without any album context.
Out of hundreds of songs it’s not easy narrowing it down to a mere 50 and having to compromise to fit a range of artists in. The list has constantly shifted with dozens of removals and last-minute inclusions, but this is what I’ve decided.
Note: Songs released in December 2016 that are part of a 2017 album or single are included.
These are a few songs that were cut from the final fifty or missed out.
- Ard Adz ft. Bellzey, What’s Gwarning
- ASAP Ferg, Plain Jane
- Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean & Migos, Slide
- French Montana ft. Ziico Niico, Bag
- Ice City Boyz, 2AM Freestyle
- Kojo Funds, WARNING
- Mura Masa ft. A$AP Rocky, Love$ick
- Pak-Man, Verified
- Playboi Carti, Magnolia
- Post Malone, Rockstar
- Skengdo x AM, Best in South
- Sneakbo ft. Giggs, Active
- SZA, Supermodel
- Tee Grizzley ft. Lil Yachty, From the D to the A
- Trippie Redd, Love Scars Pt. 2 / Rack City
- Tyler, The Creator, Boredom
- Vince Staples ft. Juicy J, Big Fish
- XXXTentacion ft. Trippie Redd, Fuck Love
- Young Thug ft. Meek Mill, Homie
- Yung Lean, Red Bottom Sky
50. Bonkaz, “Intro“
Album: Quality Control 2.0
British MC Bonkaz kicks off my top 50 with a simple “Intro” to his Quality Control 2.0 mixtape. Bonkaz delivers an introspective verse alongside witty bars over the jazz-styled instrumental (“She said I owe her time / I told her throw that on my tab babe”), creating a perfect song to listen to in headphones on the train when coming back home.
49. Post Malone, “Candy Paint“
Album: The Fate of the Furious: Soundtrack
Overshadowed by the overplaying of “Rockstar” was this gem off the Fast and Furious soundtrack. “Candy Paint” stays true to its name with a sweet melody in one of the most memorable hooks of the year.
48. Vince Staples, “Yeah Right” (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
Album: Big Fish Theory
“Big Fish” originally made the top 50, but the hysterical feeling of “Yeah Right” makes it stand out from the rest of the album. The metallic instrumental shouldn’t even allow anyone to flow over it but Vince is able to effortlessly. The breakdown vocals by Kilo Kish are a pleasant touch, as is the surprise verse by Kendrick Lamar who brings his A-game.
47. PARTYNEXTDOOR, “Rendezvous“
Album: COLOURS 2
Out of all the tracks PartyNextDoor dropped in 2017, “Rendezvous” is the one that stuck with me. There is the typical lo-fi R&B feel but “Rendezvous” is able to provide enjoyable verses and a hook that enabled replay value throughout the year.
46. Charli XCX, “Roll With Me“
Album: Number 1 Angel
It was difficult to pick one favourite from her mixtape Number 1 Angel but “Roll With Me” set itself apart as the most infectious pop song of the year.
45. Future, “Rent Money“
The opening track to Future’s 2017 self-titled album is nothing but a banger.
44. Meek Mill, “Wins & Losses“
Album: Wins & Losses
The bangers were in an abundance this year, so who else would provide the best intro to a rap album of the year than the intro master himself? Meek Mill is as aggressive as he’s ever been on “Wins & Losses” over the loud horns, creating his usual empowering spectacle.
43. MoStack, “Screw & Brew” (ft. MIST)
Album: High Street Kid
While I found MoStack’s debut mixtape disappointing, the undisputed tune from the tape has to be “Screw & Brew”. Producer Steel Banglez brings his usual style to the beat as MoStack and MIST bounce back and forth, and is the first indication on this list that the UK rap scene can make a catchy rap song.
42. Tee Grizzley, “First Day Out“
Album: My Moment
Tee Grizzley might be running with Meek Mill’s style, but at least he’s doing it successfully. Grizzley released “First Day Out” in late 2016 celebrating his release from prison. LeBron James helped it blow up in 2017, showing the world the banger Tee Grizzley curated. The song begins with a minimalist piano beat, then explodes into an intense, furious display of aggression that makes “First Day Out” give you an undeniable shot of energy no matter how you’re feeling.
41. Future, “Solo“
“Solo” easily reserves a place in the group of Future’s most mellow offerings. The whirring synth loop connects with Future to create an atmospheric vibe.
40. Nines, “Break Away“
Album: One Foot Out
“Break Away” is one of my few favourites off British rapper Nine’s debut album One Foot Out. The trap production is melodic, something that UK producers have only recently tapped to, on where Nines brings his usual relaxed delivery.
39. Kendrick Lamar, “The Heart Part 4“
The fourth installment of Kendrick Lamar’s The Heart series is how you set up an album. “The Heart Part 4” dropped suddenly in March with Kendrick portraying a new level of hunger. Whether the song was a diss towards Big Sean is debatable, but nevertheless is a display of Kendrick at his peak rhyming over the numerous beat switches (one of which would go on to be “FEAR.”), whether he’s making bold, cocky statements (“1, 2, 3, 4, 5 / I am, the greatest rapper alive”) or announcing that he’s about to fuck up the game with an album (“Y’all got till April the 7th to get y’all shit together”). The public might have put “The Heart Part 4” aside once DAMN. came out but it stands tall on its own right.
38. Baka Not Nice, “Live Up to My Name“
Baka’s “Live Up to My Name” is 2017’s male equivalent to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow”. It might not have blown up in the same way, but the vibe is there. Every line is a quotable, uplifting you whenever you turn it on (“Louis pouch across my body, this is not for fashion”, I drink Henny when I shoot my pistol at the range / That way when I’m tipsy, I still know I got my aim”).
37. Jay-Z, “Kill Jay Z“
The opening track to Jay’s 4:44 lets you prepare for what we’re about to hear. “Kill Jay Z” lets you know 4:44 is a Shawn Carter album, not a Jay-Z album. No I.D. does a brilliant job on the production and Jay addresses Kanye West on a track for the first time since their 2016 fall-out. Jay just speaks his mind on this track. Sometimes you just have to speak your mind.
36. Brockhampton, “Rental“
Album: Saturation III
Rap supergroup Brockhampton had an impeccable work rate in 2017, dropping three albums during the course of the year. While it’s been hard to digest all three projects and pick a favourite, “Rental” stood out the most by the time I composed this list. It is a pleasant, alternative hip hop song with a summery vibe and great melodies.
35. GoldLink, “Crew” (ft. Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy)
Album: At What Cost
Released in the final few weeks of 2016, GoldLink’s “Crew” went on to become the unofficial song of the summer. The twinkling beat and irresistible hook results into one of the most melodic rap songs of the year.
34. J Hus, “Spirit“
Album: Common Sense
An easy favourite off J Hus’ debut album Common Sense would be “Did You See”, but “Spirit” makes the list for being more uplifting while maintaining that pop appeal, establishing itself as the anthem of the entire album.
33. Ramriddlz, “Habaesha“
Album: Sweeter Dreams
Toronto’s auto-crooner Ramriddlz delivered the most infectious and accessible dancehall song of the year with “Habaesha” (sorry, Drake). As stupid as the song concept may be, “Habaesha” is too enjoyable to avoid.
32. Frank Ocean, “Chanel“
“My guy pretty like a girl” sets up the lyrical metaphor of “Chanel” – a smooth, luscious R&B song about Frank Ocean’s sexuality. “Chanel” continues to push Frank Ocean’s artistic freedom to consistent levels since the release of 2016’s Blonde.
31. 6LACK, “In Between” (ft. BANKS)
Album: Free 6LACK
6LACK and BANKS delivered a remarkable R&B duet with “In Between”. The vocal delivery is what makes this track connect; BANKS steals the show with her performance over the minimalist production that is enough to leave “In Between” on repeat.
30. Ski Mask The Slump God, “Catch Me Outside“
Ski Mask The Slump God proved he stands out from the pack with “Catch Me Outside”, rapping over the beat to Timbaland and Missy Elliot’s “She’s a Bitch” (1999). The bars aren’t lyrical but show Ski is a man with personality, utilising his signature fast flow in the verses and the simple yet effective hook (“Bills on me blue, uh-huh, like a bruise, uh-huh / Better yet, uh-huh, Blue’s Clues”). You won’t find a song as fun and carefree as this.
29. Migos, “Too Hotty“
Album: Quality Control: Control the Streets Vol. 1
2017’s definitely been Migos’ year, yet out of all the hits “Too Hotty” managed to stick with me the most by the end of the year. The trio flow over the most obscure beat I’ve heard them on, with Takeoff spitting the best verse, not allowing a dull moment.
28. Drake, “KMT” (ft. Giggs)
Album: More Life
“KMT” is the song responsible for making crowds go ballistic at shows. It ticks numerous boxes; the hard, sinister beat tied with the most hype-worthy verse of the year by Giggs is a formula for jumping out your seat and going nuts.
27. Fredo, “Change“
UK’s Fredo is far from your usual trap rapper. “Change” maintains a lyrical concept from start to finish, with Fredo appreciating how far he’s come from the life he used to live. He executes this brilliantly with memorable bars and hooks alongside some pop appeal while maintaining that street feel.
26. Daniel Caesar, “Hold Me Down“
Daniel Caesar brings a certain charm to R&B on “Hold Me Down”, a sense of sincerity and gentleness that sets him apart from the more generic ‘trap&B’ acts. “Hold Me Down” is an R&B song in the most purest form, providing two unique ways in approaching the song in the first half and the second half.
25. Giggs, “50 Cali“
Album: Wamp 2 Dem
More bangers. Giggs sounds right at home in the Zaytoven-produced “50 Cali”, delivering his usual menacing flow and range of quotables.
24. Wiley, “Back With a Banger“
In one of the best grime songs of 2017, UK legend Wiley is “Back With a Banger”, a fast-paced track on all fronts to the point where you would not be able to keep up with it if you are not accustomed to the fundamentals of grime. The track features a string-led grime instrumental on which Wiley just keeps going and going. If you want to get acquainted with grime, look no further than “Back With a Banger”.
23. Drake, “Sacrifices” (ft. 2 Chainz & Young Thug)
Album: More Life
“Sacrifices” is a one-song soundtrack for a relaxing string of quotable bars. Each verse is impressive with little touches of motifs in them, whether that’s the “21” motif that starts each of them or Young Thug’s string of “I’m talkin ’bout”s. Young Thug steals the show without needing any vocal theatrics, easily being a contender for guest verse of the year based off enjoyability alone.
22. Krept & Konan, “Ask Flipz” (ft. Stormzy)
Album: 7 Days
With lyrical verses, a hypnotic beat and a solid hook, “Ask Flipz” is one of the best UK rap songs of 2017. Krept & Konan are back to their lyrical best, spitting punchline after punchline, particularly Konan (“I met the weed plug in Sweden / Like, I’ve gotta try bring the stock home”). It’s relieving that “Ask Flipz” is able to balance being a banger with top-tier lyricism.
21. Harlem Spartans, “Call Me a Spartan“
Although its music video came out at the end of 2016, British drill collective Harlem Spartans ran the first half of 2017 with their catchy take on drill music. Their stand-out hit is “Call Me a Spartan”, which uses the most obscure, Indian-tinged beat that I’ve heard from a drill song. However that’s what makes “Call Me a Spartan” special; the beat doesn’t recycle every other drill beat out there. On top of that , each member provide memorable lines and flows.
20. Jay-Z, “The Story of O.J.“
Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” is a fine piece of social commentary; you can be as successful as humanly possible as a black man, but the racist prejudice that comes with your skin colour will always be there. With all that Jay has achieved, it was refreshing for him to come out with a song like “The Story of O.J.” and maintaining the level of lyricism he’s always possessed (“Y’all on the ‘Gram holdin’ money to your ear / There’s a disconnect, we don’t call that money over here”).
19. A$AP Ferg, “Trap and a Dream” (ft. Meek Mill)
Album: Still Striving
ASAP Ferg’s opener to his mixtape Still Striving is a noisy explosion of fast flows and energy. “Plain Jane” may have been the hit for Ferg in 2017, but “Trap and a Dream” is a finer example of an American trap banger.
18. Skrapz, “High Spec” (ft. Chip)
Album: Different Cloth
British rappers Skrapz and Chip showcase faultless chemistry on “High Spec”, another example of a UK rap song that’s mastered the art of making a catchy hook. Skrapz describes the car he’s driving in such a memorable way (“You might see me in the Benz or the Bimma / Cocaine white, black leather interior”).
17. Sampha, “Kora Sings“
The stunning “Kora Sings” is one of many songs off Sampha’s album Process where he pours his heart out over the death of his mother. This happens to be one of the few upbeat tracks on the album, but the upbeat production takes nothing away from the emotional effect the lyrics have (“We don’t have to talk, I just need you here / But if you go away please don’t disappear”).
16. Kendrick Lamar, “ELEMENT.“
A revitalised Kendrick Lamar is on his brag-rap shit now. After securing two classic albums back-to-back, it makes sense for a song like “ELEMENT.” to succeed that achievement. He’s not at his best lyrically here but the sense of confidence Kendrick asserts is irresistible to the point where it can even be funny (“If I gotta slap a pussy-ass n**ga I’ma make it look sexy”).
15. Lil Peep, “Better Off (Dying)“
Album: Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1
The late Lil Peep was far from a rapper. Once you establish that, he made decent music for what it was – punk rock infused with trap beats. “Better Off (Dying)” epitomises the depressed and suicidal content of new generation artists masked behind a good beat. Peep’s vocal delivery and performance makes “Better Off (Dying)” an enjoyable punk trap song that shows Lil Peep was creating his own lane.
14. Jaden Smith, “B L U E“
The 13-minute “B L U E” (split into four parts in the album tracklist) is a stunning rollercoaster of a song. It is packed with multiple transitions, vocal performances and layers in the polished production. Some music consumers can’t bear a song longer than 3 minutes, but Jaden Smith’s “B L U E” is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
13. 21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin, “Rap Saved Me” (ft. Quavo)
Album: Without Warning
The best collaborative rap album of 2017 gave us one of two standout cuts. “Rap Saved Me” tailors to both 21 Savage and Offset’s styles. The beat maintains a low, whirring tone whenever 21 raps and then explodes into a Western-styled melody whenever Offset joins. Metro Boomin perfected the beat, 21 did his thing, Offset brought his flows, and even Quavo – who has disappointed in guest features this year – brings his A-game. There’s no faults here.
12. Young Thug, “Family Don’t Matter” (ft. Millie Go Lightly)
Album: Beautiful Thugger Girls
Young Thug went country on us this year. “Family Don’t Matter” is driven by Thug’s usual infectious hooks, performances and melodies over guitars and trap 808s. Millie Go Lightly’s verse is a necessary touch to make the song as complete as it is.
11. Jay-Z, “4:44“
No I.D.’s powerful sample enables Jay-Z to be the most vulnerable he’s ever been. The title track to 4:44 is a confessional letter to Beyoncé – he apologises. Whether you as a listener ‘forgive him’ is another story, because “4:44” is a song where the public’s opinion has no business in. Jay’s vulnerable side is something he should continue to explore in the future if we’re to receive such compelling songs like “4:44”.
10. Kendrick Lamar, “DNA.“
Kendrick decided to experiment with trap production and ended up delivering his most explosive song since 2012’s “m.A.A.d city”. Producer Mike Will Made-It pushes himself to the limit on the obscure beat for “DNA”. If it’s not buzzing bees in the first half it’s a mere choppy vocal sample leading the track for the second half. Lyrically, Kendrick makes a statement about his character in the most aggressive fashion, particularly in the second verse where he just keeps going and going. “DNA.” is the epitome of why Kendrick Lamar deservedly ran rap in 2017.
9. Future & Young Thug, “No Cap“
Album: SUPER SLIMEY
As underwhelming as SUPER SLIMEY was, “No Cap” is an absolute gem with insane replay value. Future and Young Thug flow impressively over the Southside–produced beat, with Future’s first verse being a quotable extravaganza. There’s no hook on here and it’s only 2 minutes and 20 seconds long but the duo pack a lot of enjoyability in the short time.
8. 21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin, “Ghostface Killers” (ft. Travis Scott)
Album: Without Warning
Without Warning opens up in the strongest way possible with “Ghostface Killers”, a song title that pays homage to Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah. It quickly establishes the tone for the rest of the album; a dark, menacing theme as produced by Metro Boomin in the Sitar-led beat which constantly ascends and descends. Offset steals the show with his hook and verses off flow alone, but 21 Savage holds it down as well with memorable lines (“Kim Jong, yeah big bombs”). Travis Scott joins towards the back end to continue the captivating lines (“Private status, tryna land the jet at Magic / Going way up out my way to cut the traffic”). In the massive pool of trap music released in 2017, “Ghostface Killers” stands out from the pack on all fronts.
7. Dave, “No Words” (ft. MoStack)
Album: Game Over
Without the best singing voice in the world, Dave sings the catchiest hook of 2017 on “No Words”. From the first time you hear it, it clicks. It’s a mere four lines but the melody accompanied by the piano-driven beat is strong enough to make “No Words” irresistible. MoStack compliments the track well with his humorous lines, continuing the entertaining concept of the song to make it one of the UK’s strongest songs of the year.
6. 67, “Waps“
Album: The Glorious Twelfth
There’s been an abundance of drill music in 2017. When there’s an abundance of something you have to narrow the pool down and find what’s worth listening to. 67’s “Waps” continues to prove why they still run road rap. Similar to Harlem Spartan’s “Call Me a Spartan”, the beat stands out thanks to the looping vocal sample that drives the dark tone of the song. Dimzy may as well be our own 21 Savage, whose relaxed delivery fits the hook perfectly, while Monkey and LD maintain the memorability with quotable lines in their verses. This one’s been on repeat all year.
5. Pak-Man, “Elevation“
Album: Still Legendary
I’ve never been a big fan of Pak-Man, but somehow he created my favourite UK rap song of the year. The brilliance of “Elevation” stems from the beat, featuring a vocal sample that creates such a haunting atmosphere. The beat alone is enough to captivate me regardless of who is rapping over it. Over the beat, Pak-Man does what he does best; deliver brag rap bars with a simple yet effective flow. With production like this, it’s no wonder “Elevation” manages to make my top 5.
4. Young Thug, “For Y’all” (feat. Jacquees)
Album: Beautiful Thugger Girls
Dare I say it, Young Thug manages to come off as romantic in the penultimate track to Beautiful Thugger Girls. The beat reminds me of a Mariachi band, adding to the concept of the song where Young Thug is serenading a girl. All that aside, the best element of the song is Jacquees stellar background vocals that feature all throughout the song up to where he eventually gains an isolated part of the song – right at the end for 20 seconds in the outro. The outro alone encompasses the elegance of “For Y’all”, a definitive showcase of Young Thug’s artistic versatility.
3. Sampha, “Plastic 100°C“
Beautiful is rarely a word I use to describe a song because it can be slightly corny, but Sampha’s “Plastic 100°C” is worthy of that description. To some, “Plastic 100°C” may just be a boring song, but once you tap into the emotion of the song you feel like you are levitating. “Plastic 100°C” is a cry for help from a man who appears to be broken, a song that generates goosebumps. The stripped-down production allows Sampha to be at his most vulnerable, both from a songwriting and vocal standpoint, that is effective enough to transcend onto you while you are listening. It is no wonder Sampha released one of the most innovative albums of 2017.
2. Kendrick Lamar, “FEAR.“
Just like Sampha, Kendrick Lamar shows it is okay to air out how you are feeling, whether it’s present or past with the centrepiece of his 2017 album DAMN. Kendrick provides both across four captivating verses, firstly reversing the vocals at the start of “FEAR.” to take us back to his childhood where he raps from the perspective of one thing he feared; his mother and how she disciplined him as a child. The second verse gives another fear; the fears of dying as a teenager in the violent neighbourhood of Compton without making a name for himself. The third verse focuses on Kendrick’s fear of losing all he’s earned, followed by the final verse summarising all of Kendrick’s fears.
“FEAR.” makes you wonder what you fear, what your future could hold and how you will be remembered once you are gone, if you are remembered at all. While “FEAR.” isn’t a song with incredible replay value, it is conceptually one of the best songs of the year.
1. Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3“
Album: Luv Is Rage 1.5 + 2
In February, Lil Uzi Vert released a 4-track EP – Luv Is Rage 1.5 – on SoundCloud to serve as a teaser to his now-released album Luv Is Rage 2. I enjoyed all four songs, but I gravitated towards “XO Tour Llif3” the most, leaving it on repeat as it quickly blew up on SoundCloud. After popular demand it was released commercially as a single and reached the top 10 on the American charts. By the end of the year, I still haven’t got tired of it in the slightest, and there’s a certain sense of being ahead of the curve. I’m sure it was never in the plans to make this song the lead single off Luv Is Rage 2, let alone the tracklist – that’s all down to the will of the fans picking it to become a hit.
You might not believe it, but “XO Tour Llif3” is an emotional song. It’s a song that’s so lit but sad at the same time. “XO Tour Llif3” perfectly represents the current American youth of rap; broken individuals, popping pills to numb their pain caused by ‘heartbreak’. Uzi is far from a decent singer, but the passionate Auto-Tuned delivery at the peak of his vocal performance is enough to make the song work. At times, “XO” is shockingly vivid, whether Uzi is saying “All my friends are dead / Push me to the edge” (meaning that he’s both suicidal and only has bands to keep him company) over TM88’s hypnotic bells or blatantly admitting his self-destructive vices.
She say I’m insane, yeah
I might blow my brain out
Xanny, help the pain, yeah
Please, Xanny, make it go away
I’m committed, not addicted, but it keep control of me
Lyrical content aside, Uzi delivers a range of flows and catchy refrains that showcase the insane grasp that Uzi has when it comes to melodies.
Is it mumble rap, punk rap or emo rap? All three? I don’t know, but whatever it is was always guaranteed to be my favourite song of 2017.