And the Top 15 Mixtapes/EPs of 2017 are...
2017 has been an excellent year for music.
So much so that we've compiled a series of lists to highlight the standout moments. Delving into the year's best albums, songs, and a look forward to the artists you should be listening to in 2018, the first list to get your teeth stuck into is the Top 15 Mixtapes/EPs of 2017.
Jacquees & Nash B - Since You Playin'
Filling the musical void for Cash Money Records while Lil Wayne and Baby continue their much publicised spat, Decatur crooner Jacquees released one of the year's most fluid R&B projects. Teaming up with producer Nash B, and enlisting the help of Quavo, Ty Dolla $ign, Tory Lanez and Tank to provide support, Since You Playin' is a 12 track mixtape that not only provides the perfect soundtrack for those cozy nights in during cuffing season, it also proves that R&B is alive and well in a climate where the once dominant genre is often criticised for its lack of originality.
Make sure you peep: "Shot"
Tory Lanez - Chixtape 4
Another R&B mixtape that didn't fail to impress this year was the latest in the Chixtape series from Tory Lanez. Continuing his longstanding love affair with throwback R&B, classics such as Mario's "Just A Friend", Diddy's "I Need A Girl Pt.2", and Bobby V's "Slow Down" all got the Tory remix treatment on Chixtape 4. Quite possibly the best in the series, there's also an argument to be had on whether or not this tape is better than Tory's actual studio album, 2016's I Told You So.
Make sure you peep: "Proud Family"
Vacations Presents: Drake & Sade - More Love
Playing off of Drake's obsession with singer Sadé, Brooklyn DJ John McSwain (who also goes by the name Vacations) came up with the genius idea to put out a blend tape that marries the Canadian rapper's music with the soulful songbird's. More Love is an unofficial extension of Drake's 2017 playlist, More Life - although it did get an OVO co-sign when tracks from it were played on the May 27th episode of OVO Sound Radio. Standing at five tracks in length, it's an incredible body of work that really does sound as if the pair recorded it together in a studio. If it's not Sadé's beautiful vocals floating effortlessly over the top of some of Drake's most recognisable hits of late, it's Drake's lyrics complimenting the singer's melodies on more than one occasion.
Make sure you peep: "Never Thought I'd See the Passionfruit"
Royce Da 5'9" - The Bar Exam 4
One of the only MCs who can lyrically keep up with Eminem, Royce Da 5'9" is probably your favourite rapper's favourite rapper. With an impressive pen game, killer punchlines and a knockout delivery, Royce rarely ever performs below par. Releasing the fourth instalment of his The Bar Exam mixtape series, things got a little hot in June when the 28-track mixtape hit the internet. Rapper's were sweating when they heard tracks like the six minute "C Delores" - which might as well have been branded a lesson in lyrical excellence - and when they heard him team up with his Slaughterhouse family on "Chopping Block". Put it this way, if you're a fan of lyricism and you don't own this then you might not be the fan you thought you were.
Make sure you peep: "C Delores"
Ace Hood - Trust the Process
Trust the Process is Ace Hood's redemption song. It's a soul-stirring project that hears the Floridian rapper open up about the various trials and tribulations he's endured over the past few years - he even addresses his departure from DJ Khaled's We the Best Music Group. Packaged perfectly, this might be the best mixtape of 2017. It's powerful. It's inspiring. It touches a part of the soul usually reserved for a Talib Kweli, a Common, or a Kendrick Lamar, not a rapper whose biggest hit promoted a materialistic lifestyle via one of the world's most luxurious cars ("Bugatti"). Seeing a different side of Ace Hood on Trust the Process, we can can only hope he continually chooses to embrace this new direction.
Make sure you peep: "To Whom it May Concern"
Giggs - Wamp 2 Dem
Taking on a new lease of life after appearing on Drake's "KMT", Giggs dethroned Skepta this year as the UK's biggest musical export. While Stormzy, of course, has become the biggest thing since sliced bread, he hasn't earned the ears of international listeners the way Giggs has. Feeding off of the energy "KMT" provided this summer, Wamp 2 Dem showcased a different side of Giggs, a more refined one. Stepping away from the singular dimensions of some of his previous efforts, this time around Giggs went up and down the levels exploring new sounds and new features - 2 Chainz on "Ultimate Gangsta" is a solid collaboration.
Make sure you peep: "The Essence"
Oswin Benjamin - Hueman
A child of God first and an artist second, Oswin Benjamin, who rose to prominence because of his various appearances on Sway's Universe - one of which he freestyled alongside actor Shia Labeouf - is a talent that hasn't fully been tapped into yet. But his time is coming, trust us. Releasing Hueman back in March, the six track tape is a taster of things to come from the New York wordsmith. Whether it's the open letter to his fellow black man ("Dear Black Man") or the tape's energetic outro ("Mama's Outro"), Hueman is food for thought and a snack for the soul.
Make sure you peep: "The Soul Pt.2"
Dave - Game Over
Heard of Dave? How about Santan Dave? If you haven't then you've probably being living under a rock this past year. A one to watch for 2017, he definitely showed and proved. If it wasn't his passionate social commentary about issues here in the UK - think Brexit, NHS cuts and Grenfell Tower - or his appearance on Drake's More Life playlist, then his EP Game Over should have caught your attention. An intelligent poet who, for the most part, marries his words with grime instrumentals, his emotionally vulnerable track "How I Met My Ex" stood out in particular when it had the internet talking for weeks when it was leaked back in November.
Make sure you peep: "My 19th Birthday"
Emeli Sandé - Kingdom Coming
Probably one of the biggest surprises of 2017, Kingdom Coming by Emeli Sandé sort of just appeared out of nowhere. Showcasing a side of Sandé we hadn't seen for quite some time, she tapped back into her love of Hip Hop culture. Instead of forcing big ballads she sat back and told her stories in a way that felt organic. It felt real. Her painful narratives, that often looked back in a reflective manner, felt comfortable and relatable over beds of raw soul that also accommodated raps from Wretch 32, Giggs and even Harlem rapper Dave East. The award-winning singer really came up trumps with this one. After multiple spins since its release, not only does Kingdom Coming have plenty of replay value, it's actually a pretty flawless project.
Make sure you peep: "Higher"
Sonder - Into
In October Brent Faiyaz released his critically acclaimed Sonder Son album. Before that however he released another project as part of the group Sonder. Alongside producers Atu and Dpat, the trio released Into, a refreshingly experimental seven track project that pairs soulful R&B with gushing soundscapes. Featuring some of the same drum patterns an early Timbaland used on releases like Ginuwine's The Bachelor... - you can even here a vocal sample of Ginuwine's "Only When Ur Lonely" used on the track "Too Fast" - it's a hypnotic and atmospherically stunning hidden gem that shouldn't be hidden anymore.
Make sure you peep: "Searchin"
SiR - Her Too
What do you get when the realness of South Central L.A. meets sultry soul? SiR, that's what. The latest signing to Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), the same label Kendrick Lamar and SZA are signed to, SiR was a much welcomed addition when he scribbled his name on the dotted line. Imagine having the same type of cool as D'Angelo, Bilal's non-conforming mentality, the uplifting spirit of Anderson .Paak and the psychedelic funk prowess of Erykah Badu. This is the type of potential SiR has. Her Too is a great starting point for those just now getting on the SiR train.
Make sure you peep: "New LA"
Lil B - Black Ken
When he's not putting curses on NBA players, or getting into scuffles with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil B does in fact make music. Having come a long way since his time as part of The Pack - remember them? - he's often regarded as one of the most innovative artists of this generation. An artist who unquestionably divides opinion, whatever you may think about him you can't discount his impact on modern day culture. Returning with his 27 track mixtape Black Ken, Lil B digs deep into his repertoire and pulls out a variation of styles. From hyphy to trap, futuristic jazz to muddy rap, Black Ken is as explosive as it is experimental.
Make sure you peep: "Free Life"
Chase N. Cashe & Jansport J - The Black Jesus
Ever since his exceptional work on Mélat's Move Me EP back in 2014, Jansport J has been on our radar. This year teaming up with Chase N. Cashe - a name you should know from his work with Drake - the pair took it in turns both rapping and carving out a series of head-noddingly addictive beats for their collaborative effort, The Black Jesus. Featuring Negus and Phil Spive, this is definitely for fans of lyricism and boom bap beats with sprinklings of jazz for good measure.
Make sure you peep: "Yes Indeed"
MICK & Chi Duly Present 7:18 - An Homage to Jay-Z and DJ Premier
Described as a "love letter to Hip Hop", 7:18 is the brainchild of MICK (formerly Mick Boogie) and Chi Duly. A blend tape that takes the best of Jay-Z's verses and pairs them with some of DJ Premier's grimiest beats, it's probably as close to a real Jay and Preemo project as we're ever going to get. Cold like New York's pissed stained pavements, this is rap in its rawest form. Don't believe us? Just push play for yourself and absorb this genius idea from two of music's nerdiest representatives.
Make sure you peep: *Note that none of the tracks are titled and the project runs as one long mix so no individual track can be named.
Sinead Harnett - Chapter One
One of the UK's most underrated voices, Sinead Harnett is special - the girl can sang! You might know her from her time collaborating with the likes of Rudimental and Disclosure, but she's much more than that. Releasing her Chapter One EP this year via Rinse FM, if it wasn't "Want It with You" that caught your attention then her Wretch 32 collaboration, "Heal You", should have. Combining electro vibes with sky high moments of soul, Sinead's music inspires a euphoric state.
Make sure you peep: "So Solo"