Hip hop 2017

This feature first appeared in Vulture Hound Magazine Issue #15. Available to read now via issue.

For all its indiscriminate icon massacring, heart-warming nazi-resurgence and the election of a highly insecure, openly racist, T-rex-handed world leader, 2016 wasn’t all bad. In music anyway – we had stellar releases from some of the biggest names in hip hop, from Kendrick to Tribe – and also saw the emergence of artists that rightfully drew our attention. Is it too much to hope that 2017 will have all of that and be a half-way decent year for the human race? Probably, but we’ve got you covered for the former regardless.

Travis Scott / Astroworld / TBA 2017

Astroworld

After perfecting his sound, dropping a contender for best album of 2016 and unloading THE anthem of the year (“I get those goosebumps every time”) Travis Scott is taking a well deserved brea- oh no, wait… he’s dropping again next year, he’s focusing on making more beats (song-building being probably his greatest strength) and he’ll be doing another tour. See, good things do happen! Expect meticulous, explorative production, pitch-perfect features from some of the best artists in the game, and expect it all a bit closer to summer-time. Which is no bad thing: Travis albums are built for sleazy summer nights with good friends and lots of liquor.

SZA / CTRL / early-to-mid 2017

SZA

Things we know about SZA’s new album: 1. It’s called CTRL 2. It’s ‘definitely’ next on the TDE roster. 3. She’s working with some of the most revered names around, from Rick Rubin to James Fauntleroy, and was at least affected by a meeting with Frank Ocean. 4. The album will centre around control and honesty, which is in part influenced by the fact she’s had to bury too many bodies recently. 5. After working with Rihanna, being compared to Erykah Badu and, well, her incredible first album, we should be very, very excited.

Things we don’t know? 1. When ‘definitely’ next means. 2. Whether or not there will be a ‘next’ after this. There is something very laboured in the way SZA describes her place in the music world. She has expressed a desire to move into the visual, away from the music, and while we should obviously wish for SZA whatever makes her happiest, it would be a huge loss were she to hang up her pipes & pen after this one.

Schoolboy Q / Untitled / TBA, 2017

Schoolboy Q, album, sometime this year, what more do you really need to know? Over the past few years Q had carved himself a nice little position – profitable, popular – less concerned with the politics of the rap game, and instead, just doing him. Q the party rapper has always been excellent – humans that don’t vibe to his choice cuts when played at a party are a rare breed and should be shunned – but on last year’s Blank Face LP he chose to explore the more nuanced side of his artistry. We know Schoolboy can get real (you won’t find a more heartfelt song than ‘Blessed’ in anyone’s catalogue) and we know he can get his story on, to great effect. Whichever side of Schoolboy Q we see this year is irrelevant; we will feel blessed either way.

Russ / No album announced / TBA

Russ has been ‘one to watch’ for a while now – and ever since his debut single, ‘What They Want’ went gold, that tag has outlived its usefulness. One of those multi-talented super-freaks that has to do it all himself; he produced, mixed, mastered, engineered and wrote the entirety of his gold-selling single; Russ comes off as precocious, aware of his brilliance. And why should that be a bad thing? Better to recognise the excellence within yourself than bury it.

From the angelic oath-driven ‘Fallin’ (“If you fall I’m fallin’ tooooo“) to the lip-curling in-your-bag anthem ‘For The Stunt’, the rapper’s content is as flexible as his voice. As so very common now Russ can rap as well as sing – but not many do it as well as this. Check his Soundcloud and download the singles for now, and considering that long-building buzz has seemingly come of age, the album can’t be that far around the corner.

Quasimoto (Madlib), Eric B & Rakim / Untitled Album & Tour / TBA 2017

There’s rap royalty, and then there’s rap’s divine leaders – Eric B and Rakim live in the latter, and so does Madlib, which makes the prospect of their union positively dangerous. This will be their first release since 1992, and Madlib, masquerading as his producing alter-ego, will be touring with the two legends as well.

Metro Boomin & Nav / Untitled / TBA 2017

At this point you might as well put a one-to-watch tag on anything Metro Boomin chooses to bless his sound with – at 23 years old, there isn’t a more influential / sought after beat-maker in the industry. A touch of genius then to pair him with the latest Toronto enigma Nav – probably signed to XO, he emerged fully formed, now with hundreds of thousands of likes on a Soundcloud and a scene-stealing feature on Travis’s ‘Biebs In The Trap’. It’s an open secret that Metro will make your record a hit, but with the commercial promise of a new artist ready to blow up in a nuclear way, you wonder if the two young artists can somehow still confound expectations.

Jay Z / Untitled / TBA

It’s been three and a bit years since Jay Z’s last album, and that’s his longest hiatus in an utterly incomparable career. Cause for concern? Jay Z doesn’t tend to observe the normal working laws of our universe, so it’s unwise to jump to conclusions – plus veritable breadcrumbs have been dropped by everyone from Jermaine Dupri to Zaytoven – and yet there’s still that nagging sense that Jay might just be winding down. Is a totally-for-realsies-this-time Black Album that out of the question this year? The only counterpoint to that is Jay can still rap as well as anyone (if you find yourself in the tiresome position of having to prove this point, slap on ‘Drug Dealers Anonymous’ and get your best I-told-you-motherfucker face at the ready). An enigma, but not much has changed. Feel midway confident that it’s coming this year, then – hip hop needs Jay, and he knows that better than anyone.

Grown Adolescence (Isaiah G. & Aaron Deux) / Untitled / TBA 2017

Isaiah G and Aaron Deux have been making music since grade school, and it shows. While the ability and understanding of what makes a great track has seemingly always been there, there was a feeling that they needed a statement to really ‘arrive’. The 27th December gave them / us that – ‘YES’, a heater to close out the year. Chance-favourite Saba does his thing with characteristic passion and verve, but the real stars are the pair of Grown Adolescence themselves. Isaiah rinses the first verse and the chorus, Aaron comes through with the second as well as handling the vibrant production – both snap indubitably. The two have a similar cadence and feed off each other’s energy – it’s reminiscent of early Chance and Vic, and it speaks to the amount of time spent in each other’s company. No official word on a mixtape or album of yet, but keep an eye on any announcements by following on Twitter and / or Soundcloud.

Gorillaz / Untitled / TBA 2017

Gorillaz are back, and they’re shitting on Trump. Come for the re-igniting of one of pop’s most cherished bands, stay for the inevitable reveal that Damon Albarn is actually at the mercy of 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Hobbs.

Future / Untitled / TBA, 2017

Best to let Future do the talking.

DaringerGOAT (production) / Early 2017

Daringer holds one of the best positions in rap right now – he’s the go to man behind the boards for one of it’s fastest rising collectives. It’s fairly obvious to say that he’s not there by chance; Daringer has managed to carve out a completely unique sound by, ironically, revisiting what makes old-New York production so infectious and iconic – his beats are dusty, aged, cinematic. He’s the perfect foil to Conway – as attested to by the 2015’s Reject 2 – which bodes well for the upcoming GOAT, or the next chapter in the illustrious relationship between this Buffalo producer and GxFR.

Drake / More Life / Early 2017

Interesting, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Deem Spencer / Untitled / TBA 2017

Blurring the line between rapper and poet as most of the greats tend to do, Deem Spencer performs deadpan and still manages to illicit a sense of pain and despair that just can’t be play-acted. Labyrinthine rhyme schemes with a subdued delivery reveals an ear very familiar to Earl Sweatshirt – passages like: “If I cared about some money I would be in college wasting it / hate itself is sin and I hate sinning” suggest that there is the substance of a poet there, too. It’s easy to jump conclusions in the practice of trying to spot the next big thing – but sometimes you just know. The visual for his best offering yet (‘Soap’, above) is as good as this type of thing gets.

Conway & Westside Gunn / GOAT, project with Just Blaze, Hitler on Steroids / Throughout 2017

It seems churlish to get vexed by Buffalo’s finest Conway the Machine delaying his output – he’s dropped more consistently than anyone this year (not just in frequency – each verse tends to be as good as the last) – but that’s the position he’s put us in. That his brother and labelmate Westside Gunn also blessed us with two of the most underrated heaters of the year (FLYGOD and There’s God And There’s FLYGOD, Praise Both) only adds to the building momentum of GxFr. It’s hard to think of two more exciting, ready-made artists, and while the collaboration between the brothers and patent legend Just Blaze gets the salivary glands pumping, it’s Conway’s GOAT that we think will be the crystallisation moment.

Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper / TBA / maybe 2017, maybe never

 

Well this would be a doozy, wouldn’t it? Should probably be filed in the the same folder as the joint project between J Cole and Kendrick or Watch The Throne 2, but their recent rumour-baiting Instagram post can give even the most cynical heart a burst of hope. There hasn’t been a better time for it, really – Childish is coming off what is by far his most all-round successful album and Chance has been lighting a match in a dark world with his life-affirming performances. Questions still remain: Does Childish want to be pigeonholed when he seems so determined to forge a new sonic identity? Can Chance ever break away from that ridiculously cute bundle of joy to put the time in? Time will tell. But as long as they keep stoking the flames (and Chance keeps proving he’s open to a collaborative mixtape – Lil B, Jeremih…) the fans will dream. #roscoeswetsuit