Over the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to the first ten songs off of different Best of 2017 compilations that I downloaded using the Hoopla app, which anybody with a Chicago Public Library card can take advantage of.  I started with just the basic Best of 2017, then I listened to Best of Indie 2017, and today I listened to Best of Hip Hop 2017. Let’s do it!

1. HUMBLE- Kendrick Lamar (2:58)

This track was on the general Best of 2017 (as are two more selections from the Hip Hop 10 I’m listening to today). Instead of skipping them, I thought it would be more rewarding to revisit the songs. I really dig the groove here. Sounds like a Roland 808 drum machine. Cool sentiment going on… “I’m so fucking sick of the Photoshop… show me something natural.” This seems to counter a lot of the sentiment going on in Kanye-esque solipsistic Hip Hop culture. The whole jist of this song is just what the title suggests. There are many levels to things, and it’s key to be humble. Very much looking forward to spending time with the rest of this album at some point.

2. Congratulations – Post Malone, Quavo (3:40)

Nice, thick vocal harmonies. This guy is happy he’s got a Bentley, twenty bad bitch, and everything custom like he’s at the border. There’s an easy and grateful sentiment going on with the tone, though. He focuses on hard work, patience, and not just the payoff. Overall, pretty sweet.

3. 1-800-273-8225 – Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid (4:10)

Logic begins in a bleak spot at the start of this song, which takes its name (or more specifically number) from the suicide prevention hotline. “I feel like I’m outta my mind… I feel like my life ain’t mine.” I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. Alessia Cara’s verse comes in offering affirmation in “Seeing light in the darkest things”. Finally, Khalid comes in “… but I’m moving til my legs give out… I don’t wanna die anymore.” I just looked at the very cinematic video and it’s pretty amazing.

4. Bounce Back – Big Sean (3:42)

Big Sean is nothing if not resilient. “The underdog just turned into the wolf and the hunger steady grows”. Definitely poetry. The music has a lot of atmosphere to it in addition to the straightforward beat and rapid-fire lyrics. “If you a real one, then you know how to bounce back.” Good inspirational stuff.

5. Let You Down – NF (3:24)

Ooh! Very cool beat. Lots of parts dropping out to reveal just vocals and very sparse music. I’ve heard this trend all over the place on the Best of 2017s and have incorporated the technique into my RPM Challenge rough drafts (specifically Shangri-La and Famous Bones). I feel it makes the songs more ‘taut’. This particular song (Let You Down) is about the dynamics of a relationship on the verge of collapse. Very honest lyrics with realistic depictions. Creepy realistic.

6. It’s A Vibe – 2 Chainz (3:30)

This song certainly has a vibe. Yes. A very sexy vibe. Touches of R&B with subtle reggae offbeat accents. Contrary to the other tracks so far, this song focuses quite a bit on the music side of things, and the lyrics are a close second. “Dim the lights. It’s a vibe, yeah!” Would advise against playing this one for the kids.

7. wokeuplikethis – Playboi Carti (3:55)

This guy’s got a Bentley and an Audi. Obviously, the bling is a big part of the Hip Hop form, so to focus on that all the time will make me miss the other points of the song. “Wakin’ up to niggas talkin’ like me”. Hm. Maybe Playboi should take a page from Kendrick’s playbook and chill out a bit. This song has a 1 bar music loop (which is very short) but it’s still pretty cool. The fact that you can make the same 4 beats of music work for 4 whole minutes is pretty impressive. Noted.

8. No Complaints – Metro Boomin (4:22)

“At 17 I wanted everything that was in the store. At 23 I bought it all just to make sure”. This track has a laid-back groove and a bit of call and response fun going on with the vocals. I’m trying hard to get past the ‘I’m a rich bad-ass’ element here but I’m afraid there’s not much more going on lyrically.

9. Do Re Mi – Blackbear (3:54)

Sounds like Blackbear got himself into a lackluster relationship. “Do re mi fa so fuckin’ done with you girl.” Kinda clever. “I ain’t no tic-tac-toe, send the X and O’s on another note”. The music on this one is a little more involved than some of the others. Warm analog keyboard pads and a creepy haunting piano melody. Fits the ethos of the lyrics well.

10. Perplexing Pegasus – Rae Sremmuro (3:25)

I think Rae sums it up best himself: “I got a problem, I’m in love with money”. I think the song could be infinitely more interesting if he delved deeper into that issue rather than spout out the symptoms for 3 and a half minutes. His G35 needs a lift kit. I hate to be selling this song short. Maybe I’m missing something. “The only thing I’m here for is perplexing,” sings Rae. Mission accomplished.

That was a lot of fun. A few of these songs were great lyrically (Kendrick Lamar, Logic, NF), but I got a bit lost when the songs were a list of cars and lust for all things material. It was interesting to find out that if you’re good, you can build a 4 minute song out of a 1-bar loop (Playboi Carti), and also to see that many of these songs do the ‘drop out to just vocals’ which seems to be on trend with most of the 2017 tracks I’ve been listening to.

Next up, I’ll check out the Best of LATIN 2017. See you next time!

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