The Blocland Department of Hip-Hop has enjoyed many shrimp-fueled late nights bumpin’ this year’s freshest albums, mixtapes, “playlists,” etc. While 2017 has failed to give us a true “classic,” a whole crop of fresh faces have impressed with debuts that confidently embrace both the sounds of the past and promise a thrilling future for the genre. Here are five of our favorites so far…
Location: Los Angeles
A bunch of young creatives meet online through Kanye West fan forums and decide to move into a house together to pursue their artistic ambitions? No, I ain’t talkin’ bout the origins of Blocland; it’s how we ended up with this fabulous debut from alt-rap collective BROCKHAMPTON.
Kevin Abstract is the closest to a “star” in the group, but what’s missing in his solo work is the undeniable joy, craft, and youthful spunk we get from the BROCKHAMPTON collective. From the teeth-gnashing fury of “HEAT” (“I’ll break your neck so you can watch your back” is a pretty kick-ass lyric) to the sincere sweetness of mini-ballad “2PAC“, the instrumentals are dynamic but know when to make room for bars-on-bars-on-bars, like on standout mic-dropper “STAR.” Few collectives have managed a debut like this, where every track feels essential and everyone seems to be operating on the same stratospheric artistic level.
Artist: G Perico
Location: Los Angeles
Album: All Blue
We’re probably not getting a YG album to soundtrack this summer, but G Perico is stepping in (among others) to keep carrying the torch of the G-funk renaissance. Perico plays into the West Coast tradition of gritty autobiographical nuggets played over summery synths and bass as deep as the Pacific (“I’ma take you all around my turf in a day / Show you how I live, bring you where I stay” are the first lyrics on the title track and proper opener). It’s a nearly guest-free affair (Sonny Digital jumps behind the mic for the hook of “Westside Digital“, with a deep gargle that more rappers need to jump on), so Perico’s slick delivery has to carry the day. And for a man with the confidence to rock the Jheri curl, that’s hardly an issue.
Artist: J Hus
Album: Common Sense
Across the pond, Brits like J Hus are showing up Drake in the hip-hop-crossover game. The 21-year-old takes on the monumental task of incorporating dancehall, Afrobeat, grime, and a little trap, yet nothing about Common Sense comes off as labored or bloated. “Did You See” is an instant classic and dancehall crossover with a sense of effortlessness money can’t buy, while “Clartin” has Hus rapping with vitriol over the sound of grime and trap thrown into a blender. Somehow, even at 17 tracks, it all seems to work.
Seems like a rarity this year, but a long-established hip-hop star released an album that fuckin’ slays. Wiley, a grime legend, is a household name in the U.K. but is somehow still anonymous in the U.S. I guess grime has inexplicably failed to crossover (it is the accents?), but if Americans can’t fuck with “Can’t Go Wrong“, then there is no hope.
Artist: Freddie Gibbs
Location: Gary, Indiana
Album: You Only Live 2wice
We’ve already discussed this album in great detail. It’s still very good. Just check out our review from April. I need a nap.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3 (a little bloated but still essential RTJ)
Young Dolph – Gelato & Bulletproof (gritty Southern rap from potential future star)
Mike WiLL Made-It – Ransom 2 (I mean, of course it’s good; Mike Will made it)
Kodak Black – Painting Pictures (polarizing Florida rapper leading the “emo hip-hop” charge)
AD & Sorry Jaynari – Last of the ’80s (Rapper/producer contributing to the G-funk renaissance)