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40 Best Rap Albums of 2017

Migos, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and more of the year in rhymes

40 Best Rap Albums of 2017

Quavo of Migos, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar

Hip-hop was the success story of 2017, the streaming model providing new levels of speed and access to music that always thrived as dispatches from someone’s here and now. Yes, this meant Jay-Z was able to work in a joke about Al Sharpton’s selfies on an album released weeks later, but it also means Future, 21 Savage and Trippie Redd can flood the market with their latest ideas. Stars were made on SoundCloud, Drake called his 22-track release a “playlist,” Run the Jewels dropped their album via streaming (in 2016!) before their retail release date, and Kendrick Lamar provided a new way to hear his double platinum album by re-releasing it with the track list backwards.

Lil Uzi Vert, 'Luv Is Rage 2'
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Lil Uzi Vert, ‘Luv Is Rage 2’

Lil Uzi Vert was one of hip-hop’s reigning meme subjects of 2017 and, remarkably, his music is just as fun, silly, sassy and unwieldy. On Luv Is Rage 2, he smashes his obsessions into a magnetic, lyrically verbose persona that comes off like a bouncy, chipper Looney Tune with a Tumblr page. No matter the producer – Maaly Raw, Pierre Bourne or Metro Boomin – he challenges them to keep up with his dynamic energy; and indeed, the production here is the best of his career; completely gassed-up and bright. But nothing can outshine Uzi, who flips from fun club tracks to singing to shouting to goofy sound effects with no respite. Completely unflappable and effortlessly glamorous, it’s hard to imagine another rapper who could absently scream, “LEONARDO DICAPRIO” with such melodic flair. Luv Is Rage 2 also has its moments of heartbreak and reflection, but you’d never know it from Uzi’s voice. He’s having the time of his life. I.D.

Future, 'Hndrxx'
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Future, ‘Hndrxx’

With Future’s back-to-back album roll-out, the Atlanta rap star tried to balance his seductively lovestruck and despairingly drugged-up personas. While the self-titled first release was more familiar and harder-hitting with a few attempts at levity, Hndrxx is the sound of Future fully emerging from his man cave, showing nuance and growth, being more selective with beats and crafting a batch of songs that might be the most accessible of his career. He raps with finesse and fire-marshall friskiness amid ghostly ambience (“Damage”), sings with an open-hearted wail (“Use Me,” “Incredible”) and unveils pop-shiny gems (“Comin’ on Strong” feat. the Weeknd, “Fresh Air”). Then he really goes for it in grandly self-aware-superstar mode, lavishing us with an irresistible apology tour – “Selfish” feat. Rihanna, “Solo” and “Sorry” – that nails the landing of Hndrxx‘s slyly sincere balancing act. B.S.