By sheer volume alone, competition within Hip Hop and R&B is higher than ever before. Any aspiring musician can hop on the internet and take control of their career with a few clicks of a button — and some of their output has actually proven to be incredible.
How incredible, you ask? For more than 15 years, HipHopDX’s Year End Awards have documented the best of the best — the crème de la crème — the top dawgs to be forever etched in history.
And once again … it’s on!
Join us over the next week as we celebrate the top albums, songs, moments, production, artists and more. 2017 has been another unforgettable year for Hip Hop music and we’re proud to salute the standouts. Have a blessed holiday, y’all.
Rapper Of The Year
2017 was so much Kendrick Lamar’s year that it’s not really worth mentioning any other contenders. Again — but also more effectively than ever in his career — he unified commercial and critical success while maintaining his unique artistic vision.
Whichever way you want to look at it (even forward or backward), Kendrick’s DAMN. album shattered sky-high expectations, weaving together recurring themes of religion, fate, family, love, fame and blackness. Not only that, he successfully expanded on his hit-making sensibilities, while maintaining his street authenticity and the respect of pretty much everyone in the game.
Rap Album of the Year
Kendrick Lamar — DAMN.
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Billboard 200 Peak: 1
Kendrick Lamar has been crowning himself as “King Kendrick” for years but it wasn’t until the release of DAMN. that his coronation was complete. The album was immediately heralded by many as a classic — an ambitious claim — but the more the album breathed, the more it lived up to the hype. Propelled by the smash single “HUMBLE.”, each of the 14 songs bring a distinctive take on Kendrick’s ongoing tug-of-war between spiritual predicaments and his increasing celebrity status. The greatest parts of K. Dot’s musical arsenal appear on DAMN. – whether it’s his aggression on “DNA.”, harmonizing on “LOVE.” or storytelling on (DX’s Top Song Of 2017) “DUCKWORTH.,” the album packs a serious generational punch.
See all of DX’s picks for the Best Albums Of 2017 here.
Beat Of The Year
“Mask Off” — Metro Boomin f. Future
Hip Hop — at least on a mainstream level — has de-emphasized sampling in recent years, but the hottest beat of the year was centered around this production pillar. Metro Boomin went digging in the crates to find Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” from the 1978 musical Selma, then flipped it into the majesty that is Future’s “Mask Off.” That hypnotic flute spawned Future’s highest-charting single to date, went quadruple platinum, inspired countless rappers to jump on the beat (including Kendrick Lamar on the official remix) and launched a wave of flute-laden songs in its wake.
Producer Of The Year
Metro Boomin’s 2017 output was so strong that dropping two entire projects worth of duds (Perfect Timing with Nav and Double Or Nothing with Big Sean) can be written off as an afterthought. “Mask Off” alone is worthy of high praise, but he also produced multiple full-length projects and crafted hit songs for a laundry list of stars — Future, DJ Khaled, 21 Savage, Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert and Lana Del Rey, to name a few. Even some of his 2016 credits (like Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” and Post Malone’s “Congratulations”) were still making waves in 2017. No matter what subgenre of rap you subscribe to, there is no disputing Young Metro is truly shaping the sound of Hip Hop, and that he should be trusted.
See more of Metro’s impact in DX’s Top Songs Of 2017: By The Numbers.
Best Song Of The Year
Kendrick Lamar — “DUCKWORTH.”
Producer: 9th Wonder, Bekon
Kendrick Lamar has multiple songs deserving of this honor, but none of them are quite like the storytelling masterpiece titled “DUCKWORTH.” The track is one of the most dramatic album endings (if you disregard the backward theory) in Hip Hop history and a jaw-dropping conclusion to DAMN. Hearing the true-life tale of how K. Dot’s father and Top Dawg’s actions could have changed the course of Hip Hop remains riveting with repeated spins, helped by some outstanding production by 9th Wonder. It’s already hard to deny Kung Fu Kenny’s seat atop Hip Hop’s throne and “DUCKWORTH.” makes it even harder.
See the full list of the Top 50 Rap Songs Of 2017 here.
Hottest Song Of The Year
Cardi B — “Bodak Yellow”
Producer: J. White
Hate it or love it, Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” is undeniable. The stripper-turned-reality star-turned-rapper proved she was a formidable artist in 2017 when she released her massive hit single. Whether it was at the club, at a show, on television or even blaring in the subway, folks loved to hear “Bodak Yellow” at all times. That opening line — “Said lil bitch, you can’t fuck with me if you wanted to” — could send crowds into a frenzy and did so many times following the single’s summer arrival. Cardi may never reach such heights again, but 2017 was undoubtedly her year and it’s all thanks to “Bodak Yellow.”
Listen to all our picks for the Top 50 Rap Songs Of 2017 here.
Collaboration of the Year
GoldLink f. Shy Glizzy & Brent Faiyaz — “Crew”
Excuses to sleep on DMV Hip Hop officially were deaded once the soon-to-be-classic chorus, “She see money all around me/ I look like I’m the man,” featured on GoldLink’s “Crew,” hit the airwaves and internet scene. Backed by his inner circle of Shy Glizzy and Brent Faiyaz, the incredibly organic collaboration earned itself a Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, as well as a true rap anthem for the nation’s capital.
EP Of The Year
Freddie Gibbs — You Only Live 2wice
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Label: ESGN, Empire
Freddie Gibbs had one of the most trying periods of his life in 2016 when he was accused (and subsequently acquitted) of sexual assault. Taking all of that pain and frustration, he was able to funnel it into the eight-track EP, You Only Live 2wice, most notably on the song “Crushed Glass.” He goes into detail about what it was like dealing with the experience. The project proves that even through adversity, good art (and justice) can prevail.
See our full list of the Best Mixtapes & EPs Of 2017 here.
Most Disappointing Album
Eminem — Revival
Eminem told Elton John that he set out to make “a little something for everyone” on his ninth studio album, Revival. After seeing the reactions following the pop-oriented project’s release, it’s clear that everybody doesn’t want “a little something.” They want that ‘ol Slim Shady feeling, or at least a matured version of his impressive raps.
Between puzzling beat choices supplied by Rick Rubin and Alex da Kid, to the decision for picking P!nk, X Ambassadors and Skylar Grey over his own in-house roster of Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf, Westside Gunn and Conway, it’s apparent Em chased the chart instead of trusting his natural talent. Better luck next time and Em, we need that next time to actually happen.
See our full list of the Most Disappointing Rap Albums Of 2017 here.
Most Slept-On Album Of The Year
GoldLink — At What Cost
Release Date: March 24, 2017
Label: RCA Records
Can a single be too good? That’s a real question when it comes to GoldLink’s “Crew,” which became one of the hottest anthems of the year — but might’ve overshadowed his outstanding At What Cost album. For those who got stuck on “Crew,” At What Cost should be required listening.
Essentially, GoldLink concocted an ode to his hometown of Washington, D.C. in the form of an album. His hypnotic brand of “future bounce” celebrates his city’s go-go roots and evolves the sound with the help of producers such as Kaytranada.
GoldLink also acts as a connective tissue for D.C., making music that fostered collaboration with disparate staples of the scene (Wale, Shy Glizzy and Kokayi).
Check out our full list of the Most Slept-On Albums Of 2017 here.
R&B Album Of The Year
SZA — Ctrl
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
SZA’s Grammy Award-nominated Ctrl album offers something sonically pure to the emotions. It’s a refreshing take and relatable monologue of the female psyche that illustrates what she goes through, without apology, in musical form. As morally uncomfortable “The Weekend” seems to be (despite her clarifying several times the song is not about being the side chick), the honest, slow ballad begs to be sung as the lyrics of infidelity vibe perfectly off the production laid out by Memphis producer ThankGod4Cody.
Hot 100 hit “Love Galore” (alongside Travis Scott) was all over the radio this year, also nabbing a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance. Ctrl features more satisfying cuts such as “Supermodel,” “Garden (Say It Like That),” and “Go Gina” that progressively encourages you to be content in being yourself.
TDE should be proud.
See our full list of the Best R&B Albums Of 2017 here.
R&B Song Of The Year
SZA — “Love Galore”
SZA’s “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott is such an incredibly, addictive number. Produced by Carter Lang, ThankGod4Cody and BG, “Love Galore” speaks to anyone who has ever been faced with the dilemma of succumbing to love in vain or simply walking away for your own sanity. Its super relatable hook, “Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me?” is a push and pull of allowing your time to be wasted by someone you adore.
No doubt, the TDE princess’ song-writing skills encompass the proficiency to grace the soul. The song’s visual has amassed over 39 million YouTube views since the end of April and the track was certified platinum in September.
Comeup Of The Year
Cardi B isn’t new to winning DX awards. In 2016, we lauded her with the esteemed title of Worst Album Of The Year for Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1. But in 2017, her infectious energy took over the whole game. The immensely likable firecracker soundtracked the summer with “Bodak Yellow” and stood out as the unrivaled new name that everyone wanted to work with. The 3x-platinum track launched her to superstar status, making her only the second solo female rapper to hit the top of the Hot 100, where she stayed for three consecutive weeks.
Comeback Of The Year
Obviously, JAY-Z has reached a point in the culture where his every move will be studied and scrutinized and when he started cranking the album rollout gears, there was definitely some reluctance from any fans still sour from Magna Carta Holy Fail. The multifaceted mogul was nearing the age of fifty and was more known for topping Forbes’ lists rather than anything resembling a music critic’s.
But then came along 4:44 and the music immediately resonated with fans — past and present. Everyone was breaking Hov down through his lyrics rather than through his investments and whether it was detailing infidelity with you-know-who to helping his mother live her truth or teaching us all to never be like O.J. Simpson, there was plenty to break down. Given he’s accomplished more on beats and his bank account than most of his peers combined, this salute feels extra special. Welcome back, Carter.
Hardest Working Rapper Of The Year
Gucci Mane’s year has been so jam-packed with activity that just listing his projects — an EP (3 For Free), two collaborative mixtapes (Droptopwop with Metro Boomin and Ralo LaFlare with Ralo), two albums (Mr. Davis and El Gato The Human Glacier) and an uncountable number of features — takes up 33% of this writeup.
Throw in an engagement, a $1.7 million wedding, an autobiography and a reality show and it’s incredible that those rumors of Gucci clones have cleared up. Still, this seems to be just another typical year for Mr. Zone 6, who’s getting back-to-back wins in this category.
Video Of The Year
Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.”
The visuals for Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” have been nominated for a slew of awards (including the Grammy for Best Music Video), and for good reason. It’s a cinematic marvel shrouded in aggressive symbolism, from the juxtaposition between K. Dot as the Pope to him showering himself and women with money. The three minutes are filled with striking imagery, with Lamar reenacting Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” standing out as the only one with hair in a sea of bald heads, and wearing white at a funeral. It took an already successful single to the next level.
Check out our full list of the Best Rap Videos Of 2017 here.
TV Show Of The Year
Power was so popular in 2017 that any fan who wasn’t able to catch the show live could just follow along with their Twitter timeline for a play-by-play. The 50 Cent-produced drama was massively successful, drawing in three million viewers each week, and helping 50 net more shows for Starz, along with a reported eight-figure contract extension. This season of Power explored the vindication of James St. Patrick a.k.a. Ghost. The twists and turns promise an exciting fifth season, which premieres in 2018.
Movie Of The Year
Who would’ve guessed one half of Key & Peele would create the most ingenious horror film in years? Jordan Peele did just that in his directorial debut with the brilliant Get Out, which removed racism from the abstract and transformed it into the ever-present evil in a scary movie. Audiences showed up in droves to see the hit flick, making it the highest-grossing debut film based on an original screenplay in cinema history. From overwhelmingly positive reviews and box office records to all the memes it inspired, Get Out firmly entrenched itself in the zeitgeist of 2017.
Rap Battle Of The Year
Iron Solomon vs. Rum Nitty
Battle Date: December 9, 2017
League: Ultimate Rap League
(Yes, we’re aware that this battle didn’t drop on YouTube in 2017, but in our current era of live Pay-Per-Views, the official, months-later release is really only a formality. The battle happened in 2017 and anyone who follows the scene closely saw it in 2017.)
Battle rap likes to subvert expectations. While the most-anticipated matchups often disappoint, the ones that seem random often end up being classic. Solomon vs. Nitty lands firmly in the latter category, and the intimate setting URL chose for its Smack Vol. 1 event was perfect for it.
Solomon brought an unbelievably layered clinic in penmanship and haymaker angles, while Nitty easily kept up with him based purely on the creativity of his punches.
See more of our picks for the Best Rap Battles Of 2017 here.
Battle Rapper Of The Year
Despite some tough competition from more active/consistent battlers, Maryland battler Tay Roc is our BOTY pick. He wasn’t his best versus Charron, but he (at the very least, debatably) beat Chess (a rising star with massive potential), Hollow Da Don (who many consider the G.O.A.T.), and Dizaster (a West Coast legend).
The virtually undisputed king of URL hasn’t slacked once in his career, but he made his legend run in 2017, and sometimes impact rings louder than sheer consistency.
See our full list of the Best Rap Battles Of 2017 here.
Verse Of The Year
Eminem’s “The Storm”
After months of black rappers railing against Donald Trump, White America finally paid attention when Eminem stepped in with a four-minute, line-drawing political manifesto that eviscerated Trump’s racist, divisive and hypocritical ways. The verse became a hot-button issue, leading to wide coverage across media outlets all over the political spectrum.
Forty million views later on YouTube, and Trump is still too afraid to respond.