TSR’s Top 20 Albums of 2017

When compiling a year-end albums list, it’s always interesting to see which albums I returned to the most, which albums from earlier in the year held up with repeated listens, and which albums fell off of my radar.

A couple of notes, though:

– I waited until now to post this after Run the Jewels dropped arguable best rap album of the year during the last days of 2016. I just wanted to play it safe.

– Narrowing down a list like this really is like pulling teeth. Albums will need to get left off. That’s why you won’t find any Calvin Harris, Migos or Vince Staples on my list.

– However, there’s also a good chance that I just simply did not listen to certain albums this year. Either I did not have the time to listen to an album (Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage, Paramore’s After Laughter, The National’s Sleep Well Beast, St. Vincent’s Masseducation, Brockhampton’s Saturation trilogy, etc.)…

– …or just didn’t find the album worth my time… (most country albums, Joey Bada$$’s All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, etc.)

– …or thought they were really, really bad. Where do I even begin on that one?

– It’s MY list. After all, you shouldn’t need validation, especially from me, if you think an album was great.

– I listen to mostly hip-hop/rap, so that’s why most of this list features those albums. However, as you will soon find out, I’m open to almost all genres and I definitely enjoyed my fair share of non-rap albums this year.

Speaking of which… let’s start the list with one of those albums, shall we?

20. Flicker – Niall Horan

The former One Direction member took about 18 months to craft his debut album, which has influences from soft rock bands like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. The most fascinating thing about this album, however, is how different it is from anything Niall Horan has ever done with One Direction. Flicker isn’t an album one can picture being played in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, as shown by Horan playing at smaller venues in his Flicker Sessions tour a couple of months ago. The latter setting fits the sound of the album, which reveals a more personal and vulnerable side of Horan.

Favorite Tracks: “Slow Hands” + “Too Much To Ask” + “You And Me”

19. Acoustic Levitation – Devin the Dude

After more than three years, Houston rapper Devin the Dude elevated his listeners with his ninth studio album. Compared to many younger hip-hop contemporaries on this list, Devin the Dude is very different sonically, incorporating aspects of Bootsy Collins and James Taylor into some of his songs. This is an album where one can separate themselves from all responsibilities and feel uplifted for close to an hour. Whether one does that smoking weed in the Southeast Side of Houston, though, is entirely up to them.

Favorite Tracks: “Are You Goin My Way” + “Acoustic Levitation” + “Do You Love Gettin’ High”

18. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music – 2 Chainz

This is, by far, the best project that Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz has released to date. Sure, it may not contain the comedic value of his breakout album, Based On A T.R.U. Story, but it makes sense that he would dial that persona down. His laid-back delivery and on-point lyrics mesh well with some of the moody trap melodies. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music has depth, as opposed to all three of 2 Chainz’s past projects, and if anything, shows his growth as an artist even at age 40. For all of this success, I hope he does get that song with JAY-Z.

Favorite Tracks: “It’s A Vibe” + “OG Kush Diet” + “Burglar Bars”

17. Boomiverse – Big Boi

One-half of the greatest hip-hop duo of all-time, Atlanta rapper Big Boi is partly responsible for hip-hop’s overall direction over the past two decades. Boomiverse not only took it back to the OutKast days of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, but also sprinkled in elements of electronic and indie music. Like all of his past records, Big Boi touches on a number of subjects, ranging from police brutality to relationships and even women’s rights. But of course, what’s a Big Boi project without Organized Noize as executive producers? Speaking of which, they came out with an excellent EP earlier in the year that I highly recommend checking out.

Favorite Tracks: “Kill Jill” + “All Night” + “Freakanomics”

16. No Dope on Sundays – CyHi the Prynce

Finally! After years of label confusion and industry politics, Georgia rapper CyHi the Prynce dropped his long-awaited debut album under G.O.O.D. Music and Sony Music. No Dope on Sundays is about encouraging men to stay true to themselves, speak for themselves, and live life with more integrity. Raised by strict Baptist parents in Stone Mountain, CyHi the Prynce sheds light on that experience with a lot of biblical references and gospel elements in his songs. He also touches on today’s current climate and offers some advice to those determined to overcome personal demons to become the greatest version of themselves. In short, No Dope on Sundays was well worth the wait.

Favorite Tracks: “No Dope on Sundays” + “Get Yo Money” + “Nu Africa”

15. More Life – Drake

I lied. I actually have one “playlist” on this list.

Canadian rapper and singer Drake created this project to fit the concept of OVO Sound Radio, his record label’s Saturday night Beats 1 radio program that mostly airs newer material. In other words, More Life is basically new songs put together in the format of a radio show. Drake may see it as “the evolution of the mixtape,” but it’s really just new music to keep the ball rolling after Views and keep listeners excited. Mission accomplished.

Favorite Tracks: “Passionfruit” + “Sacrifices” + “Glow”

14. Divide – Ed Sheeran

Unlike Flicker, Divide is an album made for a “Wembley Stadium crowd, 240 thou.” Perhaps English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, the first solo music act to ever headline at Wembley, kept this in mind when crafting this album. This album has beat-driven pop hits, perfect for his signature loop pedal, as well as acoustic stadium anthems that fans will be eager belt out along with him. There’s a strong case for Divide as the most impactful album of 2017. Literally days into the new year, Sheeran released two hit singles that flew to the top of the charts. Since then, he has sold over one million copies in the U.S. alone and even turned one song on the album into a chart-topping duet with Beyoncé. Even as we turn the page to 2018, one can still feel Divide‘s impact on mainstream music today.

Favorite Tracks: “Eraser” + “Shape of You” + “Supermarket Flowers”

13. Fin – Syd

California singer Syd has come a long way from her days in the Los Angeles-based rap crew Odd Future, headlined by artists such Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. Today, Syd is most known for her work as the lead singer of neo-soul side project The Internet. Since the band’s last album in 2015, Syd has ventured out into a solo career and released arguably the lushest and sexiest album of this year. After a few listens, I honestly had to lay down because I felt like I was floating in clouds. In addition, for a gay woman to sing a love song to another woman goes to show how far the music industry, let alone the genre of R&B, has come over the years.

Favorite Tracks: “Got Her Own” + “Dollar Bills” + “Over”

12. Rosecrans – DJ Quik and Problem

It does not get more West Coast then a Compton producer collaborating with a Compton rapper on a project featuring West Coast artists and named after a long California avenue that runs through Compton. DJ Quik honestly has nothing else to prove at this point, and if you don’t believe me, google his production credits. Initially, Rosecrans was an EP that DJ Quik and Problem released back in 2016, but the Compton duo decided to give listeners 58 minutes of West Coast hip-hop at its finest.

Favorite Tracks: “Rosecrans” + “This Is Your Moment” + “Straight to the City”

11. Science Fiction – Brand New

After nearly eight years, Long Island rock band Brand New finally dropped their fifth, and likely last, studio album that expunged all traces of their earlier pop punk and emo persona. The band opted for a more classic rock vibe on Science Fiction that features more apocalyptic string sections. Perhaps the best thing about this album is that it’s not just for Brand New fans – it’s for everyone. The moody guitar tones and convincing lead vocals on the choruses from frontman Jesse Lacey make Science Fiction the best rock album of 2017. Like No Dope on Sundays, this album was well worth the wait.

Favorite Tracks: “Could Never Be Heaven” + “Desert” + “451”

10. HNDRXX – Future

Atlanta rapper Future once said he had six albums and three mixtapes ready to drop at any moment. Even with that in mind, it was still a surprise to see him drop two No. 1 albums in the span of a week. I was not a huge fan of the first project, FUTURE, so I came into HNDRXX with much lower expectations. Not only was I blown away by this project, but at times, I had to ask myself, “Is this really Future?” The Future of the past few years was never this open and personal, and that includes his second studio album titled Honest. There’s a lot of references to his past relationships and children, particularly with R&B singer Ciara and their son. HNDRXX is about Future moving forward and recognizing that he hasn’t been as good of a father as he could have been. It may have taken him a while to come to this realization, but HNDRXX reveals that he’s just not perfect, something that everyone can relate to.

Favorite Tracks: “Lookin Exotic” + “Fresh Air” + “I Thank U”

9. 4:44 – JAY-Z

Like DJ Quik, Brooklyn rapper JAY-Z has nothing else to prove. At this point in his career, if he’s going keep releasing projects, he should make them for him and do it on his terms. That’s exactly what he did on 4:44, the most raw and vulnerable album of his career. Based on some of the lyrics, many believe 4:44 is a direct response to his wife, Beyoncé, and her album, Lemonade, which claimed that he was unfaithful. Though executive producer No I.D. confirmed this wasn’t JAY-Z’s intention, one could tell just by listening to this album that this was about a variety of topics beyond JAY-Z’s family life and relationship with Beyoncé. JAY-Z also touches on ongoing hip-hop culture, stereotypes and racism. These are subjects that JAY-Z has rarely ever talked about in his music, and considering the content on this album, 10 tracks is the perfect length.

Favorite Tracks: “The Story of O.J.” + “4:44” + “Marcy Me”

8. Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator

Usually known for his witty rhymes, California rapper and Odd Future founder Tyler, the Creator not only abandoned his past humor, but he largely abandoned rapping. Flower Boy features a lot of singing from not just up-and-coming R&B singers, but from Tyler, the Creator himself. Like JAY-Z on 4:44, this is the most vulnerable we’ve ever heard Tyler, the Creator and I think the honesty, combined with the lack of humor, is what made the project such a great listen.

Favorite Tracks: “Who Dat Boy” + “Boredom” + “Glitter”

7. Laila’s Wisdom – Rapsody

After signing with JAY-Z’s Roc Nation last year, North Carolina rapper Rapsody wasted little time in making a name for herself on her second studio album, named after grandmother who would often use the phrase, “Give me my flowers while I can still smell them.” Laila’s Wisdom explores themes such as preserving knowledge, love, confidence and self-doubt. Of course, the greatest thing about Rapsody is that she can hold her own on the mic against anyone, male or female. In a genre dominated by male trap rappers and auto-tune, Laila’s Wisdom was so refreshing to hear.

Favorite Tracks: “Power” + “Black & Ugly” + “You Should Know”

6. 4Eva Is A Mighty Long Time – Big K.R.I.T.

After being on the outskirts of Def Jam for the better part of six years, Big K.R.I.T. opted to leave the label in search of success equal to that of his former counterparts. After a two-year hiatus, the Mississippi rapper dropped a double album that far surpasses anything Def Jam has released this year. The two sides of the album represent his duality, with one side being “Big K.R.I.T.” and the other “Justin Scott,” his birth name. Instead of opting for the clichéd inner tug-of-war between the two sides, Big K.R.I.T. outlines the good, bad and ugly of both characters. He addresses issues about his past depression as well as faith, love, and the value of self-worth. It really is a masterfully crafted southern hip-hop album.

Favorite Tracks: “Big K.R.I.T.” + “Get Up 2 Come Down” + “Keep The devil Off”

5. Rather You Than Me – Rick Ross

I think I speak for everyone when I say that everyone would like obtain riches and/or do big things in life. After all, what’s the point of even looking at yourself in the mirror every morning? I say that to explain why I’ve always been a huge fan and admirer of Florida rapper Rick Ross since he dropped Teflon Don in 2010. Sure, he’s dropped albums, mixtapes, created catchphrases and still possesses an impeccable ear for beats. But the admirable thing about Rozay, a former correctional officer, is that he even reached “Boss” status in the first place. In the context of Rather You Than Me, however, this “Ross the Boss” persona is largely swapped out for a more introspective and thoughtful Rick Ross. Most notably, Rozay pens an open letter to Cash Money founder Birdman, who’s since had falling-outs with close Rozay counterparts Lil Wayne and DJ Khaled. “Ross the Boss” shows up sporadically on this album, but make no mistake – this is truly a Rick Ross album.

Favorite Tracks: “Idols Become Rivals” + “I Think She Like Me” + “Maybach Music V”

4. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

Coming into this album, I kept thinking to myself, “There’s no way Kendrick can follow-up To Pimp A Butterfly, the greatest rap album of this decade.” In other words, I was expecting a slight step back on this next project, and I think was correct for the most part. I don’t think DAMN. is on par with To Pimp A Butterfly, but it was still the best hip-hop album of 2017, which speaks volumes about the Compton rapper. While his last album focused on the idea of changing the world, DAMN. makes it clear that to change the world, one must change who they are as a person. That’s clear by the number of tracks on this album named after human emotions. It’s almost like Kendrick Lamar is looking at himself in the mirror and coming to grips with the good and evil of these emotions. DAMN. is another brilliant addition to the already renowned discography of Kendrick Lamar.

Favorite Tracks: “DNA.” + “LOVE.” + “FEAR.”

3. Melodrama – Lorde

It’s easy to forget that New Zeland singer-songwriter Lorde was just 16-years-old when she dropped her debut single and smash hit “Royals.” Since then, she’s performed concerts all around the world, she’s befriended Taylor Swift, helped inducted Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and paid tribute to David Bowie, who proclaimed her as “the future of music.” Melodrama all but confirmed Bowie’s sentiment and saw Lorde transform from teenage songwriter into millennial icon. She recounts her relatively recent experiences with fame, particularly through her friends and their interactions. Much like a house party, Melodrama goes through intoxicating highs and sinking lows, perfectly encapsulating the intense and wild energy of her generation. What’s even more impressive, however, is a 20-year-old implementing songwriting elements of 70’s and 80’s singers such as Paul Simon, Phil Collins and Don Henley. In other words, Lorde didn’t entirely concede to that mainstream dance pop or rock sound, especially on some of the slower tracks. If Lorde can continue to write like this and mature as an artist, the sky is the limit.

Favorite Tracks: “Green Light” + “Liability” + “Supercut”

2. Ctrl – SZA

New Jersey singer SZA was stealing beats off the internet and recording music in her friend’s closet before signing with Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment label in 2013. After an EP in 2014 and many delays for the release of her debut album, she dropped one of the best albums of 2017, something that seemed impossible just a few years earlier. SZA had to watch three of her boyfriends die and also overcame suicidal depression, all of which led her to re-gain and build a form of self-acceptance that led to Ctrl. The chill and moody production is a stark contrast to its edgy lyrics and SZA’s charismatic, fierce tone. Even in songs about vaginas and being a side chick, SZA exemplifies swagger and finally finds a sense of “ctrl,” a concept that she has craved, yet lacked her entire life.

Favorite Tracks: “Love Galore” + “Doves in the Wind” + “20 Something”

1. Tuxedo II – Tuxedo

I mentioned in my last post about my love for this album, so allow me to now explain why this album is so brilliant. First off, funk and R&B are my favorite genres, despite the heavy hip-hop slant of this entire list. Unfortunately, the number of funk/R&B acts has dwindled tremendously over the years. As a result, I’ve often found myself returning to 70’s and 80’s funk acts like the Gap Band and Zapp, in addition to g-funk legends like Dr. Dre, the previously aforementioned DJ Quik, and Nate Dogg. Tuxedo, composed of soul singer Mayer Hawthorne and hip-hop producer Jake One, do a tremendous job of melding these two eras of funk together on Tuxedo II. Not only did they get former Zapp drummer Lester Troutman to help produce the album, but they also got g-funk legend Snoop Dogg to appear on the album’s opener. It’s almost like Tuxedo were sent to the future to remind everyone about the importance of getting down and the impact of funk music. Tuxedo II is just brilliant.

Favorite Tracks: “Rotational” + “Shine” + “July”


TSR’s Analysis of the 60th Annual Grammy Award Nominations

I don’t care who or what wins a Grammy Award. You should not either, at least in my opinion.

Since its start in 1957, the Grammy Awards have ignored countless artists and records. Not to mention, there’s also a bunch of industry politics that go into why the Academy votes the way they do.

Personally, I don’t understand why people get so angry when their favorite artist or record does not win an award. The Academy has made ridiculous decisions year after year. Why should we expect anything different from them in 2018?

Of course, the most recent example of pointless Grammy outrage came last year when Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost to Adele’s 25 in the Album of the Year category. Everyone should have seen that coming, but really… who cares?

Tuxedo’s Tuxedo II, released back in April, is one of my favorite albums of all-time. It did not come anywhere close to getting nominated for a Grammy Award. Will that ruin my love for the album? HELL NO!

And I would imagine last year’s “snub” has not sullied anyone’s admiration or love for Lemonade. If you think it’s a “classic” album and you know the Academy has a history of ridiculous decisions, then what’s the point of getting worked up?

Regardless, I still find it interesting what the Academy thinks of the music that has come out over the course of a year. Remember, this year’s Grammy calendar runs from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017, so that’s why you’ll see some albums and songs from 2016 in the field of nominees.

So I will go through the categories that interest me and offer some random thoughts on the records or tracks nominated. Again, I really don’t care who wins, but it’s still interesting to see what the Academy thinks is some of the best music of the past year. So let’s get started, shall we?



Redbone – Childish Gambino
Despacito – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
The Story of O.J. – JAY-Z
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
24K Magic – Bruno Mars

The only track I was not a huge fan of was “Redbone,” and I’ll explain why in the next category. “Despacito” and “24K Magic” are the mainstream choices, so I would think those two are the front-runners. That being said, “HUMBLE.” and “The Story of O.J.” are fantastic songs as well.


Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
4:44 – JAY–Z
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Melodrama – Lorde
24K Magic – Bruno Mars

Again, the only album I was not a fan of was Awaken, My Love!, but some proper context to explain why this album has received so much acclaim:

Awaken, My Love! is straight mimicry of Parliament-Funkadelic (specifically Funkadelic), a funk/soul/rock collective from the 70s. As a fan of their music, I can’t help but think of them every time I hear “Redbone” or any other song off the album. Now, of course it’s unfair to compare Childish Gambino to Funkadelic, but that just goes to show how similar in sound Awaken, My Love! is to any one of Funkadelic’s records. On top of that, how many people under the age of 30 have even listened to a Funkadelic record? My guess is very few, which is why you’ll likely find so many people enamored with this album, even though it’s nothing really creative or original.

As for the other four albums, I thought 24K Magic was decent, though it lacks substance. 4:44 and DAMN. are great, but neither album is JAY-Z nor Kendrick’s best work. So that leaves Melodrama, which is… wait for it… my favorite album of the nominees.

I think Melodrama is dynamic and brilliantly written, especially considering that Lorde began writing this when she was 17-years-old! Having just turned 21 last month, the sky is the limit for the young New Zealand singer. And again… I don’t care who wins, but I also love pointless anger, and there will be lots of it if Lorde wins Album of the Year. Book it.


Despacito – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
4:44 – JAY–Z
Issues – Julia Michaels
1-800-273-8255 – Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid
That’s What I Like – Bruno Mars

Unlike Record of the Year, which recognizes performers and producers, Song of the Year only recognizes the composer(s) of a song. That same criteria applies for all the “Best (blank) Song” categories below.

I’ve never heard of “Issues” or Julia Michaels, so I’ll pass…

I was not a huge fan of “1-800-273-8255,” but I see the appeal of the song. Like Record of the Year, “Despacito” and Bruno Mars are the mainstream choices. “4:44” is a solid song as well.


Alessia Cara
Lil Uzi Vert
Julia Michaels

Again, never heard of Julia Michaels…

The Alessia Cara nomination confused me for two reasons: 1) her biggest song, “Here,” and debut album, Know-It-All, were both released in 2015, so she’s not exactly “new” to the “public consciousness”; and 2) she was not active over the past year.

The only three songs she has done over the past year are “How Far I’ll Go” on the Moana Soundtrack, a feature on Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” and a collaboration on Zedd’s “Stay.” According to the criteria for this award, I guess these three songs “notably impacted the musical landscape.” Whatever that means..

However, I can perfectly understand the other three nominations. Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert and SZA all not only had high-profile features and singles, but debut albums to go with their mainstream success. I did not listen to Khalid’s American Teen and did not enjoy Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv is Rage 2, but I really enjoyed SZA’s Ctrl. NJ represent!



Love So Soft – Kelly Clarkson
Praying – Kesha
Million Reasons – Lady Gaga
What About Us – P!nk
Shape of You – Ed Sheeran

The only song that has had any replay value for me is “Shape of You.”


Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
Despacito – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man
Stay – Zedd & Alessia Cara

I do enjoy “Stay” as well as “Feel It Still,” though I’m still shocked that the song has done has well as it has.

I yawn at the thought of “The Chainsmokers & Coldplay” and Imagine Dragons…


Kaleidoscope EP – Coldplay
Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey
Evolve – Imagine Dragons
Rainbow – Kesha
Joanne – Lady Gaga
Divide – Ed Sheeran

Yes, that’s right. One of the nominees here is a five-song EP. Great job, Recording Academy!

I did not listen to Evolve, so withdrawing from that conversation…

I never really got on board with Lust for Life, Rainbow or Joanne, though there were a few good tracks among the three records. Again, the only album I found myself re-visiting was Divide, which I believe is Ed Sheeran’s best album to date.



Everything Now – Arcade Fire
Humanz – Gorillaz
American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
Pure Comedy – Father John Misty
Sleep Well Beast – The National

I was only able to listen to three of the five records nominated here – Everything Now, Humanz and American Dream. Much to my disappointment, all three albums were underwhelming. However, I have heard great reviews about Pure Comedy and Sleep Well Beast, so I will be adding those records to my list.



First Began – PJ Morton
Location – Khalid
Redbone – Childish Gambino
Supermodel – SZA
That’s What I Like – Bruno Mars

Your fun fact for the day? PJ Morton is a keyboardist for Maroon 5. The more you know…

“That’s What I Like” was one of my favorite songs off 24K Magic and, much to my surprise, became a bigger song than “24K Magic.” As for the other two tracks, “Supermodel” was not one of my favorites off Ctrl, but I really enjoyed “Location,” the lead single off American Teen.


Free 6LACK – 6LACK
Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
American Teen – Khalid
Ctrl – SZA
Starboy – The Weeknd

Did not listen to Free 6LACK

The only album here I haven’t discussed yet is Starboy. Outside of the main singles and the one song featuring Kendrick Lamar, I was very underwhelmed by this project, as I often find myself feeling when I listen to an album by The Weeknd.



Bounce Back – Big Sean
Bodak Yellow – Cardi B
4:44 – JAY-Z
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
Bad and Boujee – Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert

This is a loaded field, featuring three huge No. 1 singles (“Bodak Yellow”, “HUMBLE.”, “Bad and Boujee”). It did take me a while to come around on “Bad and Boujee,” mostly because I saw it as a “meme” song thanks to the “rain drop, drop top” intro. But honestly, I enjoy all five of these songs. How awesome would it be to see artists like Cardi B or Migos walk away with a Grammy Award?


Crew – Goldlink Featuring Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy
Family Feud – JAY-Z Featuring Beyoncé
LOYALTY. – Kendrick Lamar Featuring Rihanna
Love Galore – SZA Featuring Travis Scott

*skips 6LACK*

Interestingly enough, I did not enjoy the JAY-Z or Kendrick Lamar tracks as much as I did the Goldlink and SZA songs. I think “Crew” is the best radio-friendly rap song of 2017, and “Love Galore” is not only one of my favorite songs off Ctrl, but it’s one of Travis Scott’s best features.


Bodak Yellow – Cardi B
Chase Me – Danger Mouse Featuring Run the Jewels & Big Boi
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
Sassy – Rapsody
The Story of O.J. – JAY-Z

I was very happy that Run the Jewels, the best rap duo in the world at the moment, and Big Boi, one-half of the greatest rap duo of all-time, received Grammy nominations. Though I wasn’t a fan of “Sassy,” I’m also very happy that Rapsody received a nomination. Speaking of which…


4:44 – JAY-Z
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Culture – Migos
Laila’s Wisdom – Rapsody
Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

…I think Rapsody has the second-best album of the five nominated. Seriously, I cannot recommend Laila’s Wisdom enough.

Like “Bad and Boujee,” it did take me a while to come around to Culture, but in no way does it measure up to its counterparts. As for the Tyler, the Creator, I’m happy to see him get some recognition, though it’s worth noting that Flower Boy is probably his most relatable and listener-friendly record.


Again, even if you disagree with my opinions on some of these records and songs, it’s pointless to get worked up. After all, it is just my opinion.

Anyway, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards will be held on January 28 and broadcasted by CBS live from Madison Square Garden in New York City from 7:30 to 11:30 PM ET. So make sure to mark you calendars for the big event!

The PERFECT Holiday Music Playlist

Creating the perfect holiday music playlist sounds a lot harder than you think.

One must find a way to entertain everyone at their family’s holiday gathering, from adults to children. In 2017, it isn’t as simple as dusting off an old holiday CD or turning on your local radio station or even making a mix CD of your favorite holiday classics.

Thank goodness for platforms for Spotify, which offers an enormous catalog of songs to choose from, but in a way, it kind of puts more pressure on one to create the “perfect holiday music playlist.”

Sure, Spotify and other platforms attempt to help us out by creating their own playlists based on different generations and genres. But relying solely on one of those playlists would be very tacky, and being that family knows you better than anyone, they’ll be able to tell that the playlist is pre-packaged.

So make your own playlist, and more importantly, make it from the heart.

But thankfully, I already did it for you! Think of it as my Christmas gift to all of you.

Using the magical platform of Spotify, I created “the prefect holiday playlist,” containing 126 DIFFERENT holiday tunes from wide range of artists, generations and genres. Below are some of the songs featured on the playlist, with YouTube links to go with them. Think of it as a little preview of what to expect on this playlist.

All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

Of course, what’s a holiday playlist without the biggest holiday song?

Last Christmas – Wham!

I miss George Michael.

Hallelujah – Pentatonix

The best rendition of “Hallelujah” in the history of music. Then again, that’s probably the “millennial” in me talking. Plenty more Pentatonix to come…

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The little girl in the video is me every time I listen to this song.

Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix

But DID YOU KNOW beatboxers can sing?

Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

This is beautiful in every single way imaginable.

Underneath the Tree – Kelly Clarkson

Just to make you feel old… it’s been 15 years since Kelly Clarkson won American Idol.

Mistletoe – Justin Bieber

For the kiddies… and because we definitely say “shawty” before kissing someone under the mistletoe, right?

Baby It’s Cold Outside – Idina Menzel, Michael Bublé

Gods, I love this music video.

Santa’s Coming For Us – Sia

Whatever that means..

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays – *NSYNC

Yes, that’s Gary Coleman.

Step Into Christmas – Elton John

Young Elton John!

That’s Christmas to Me – Pentatonix


Amazing Grace – Peter Hollens, Home Free

A capella territory…

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Home Free

Gods, I love this music video too.

Angels We Have Heard On High – Home Free

7.7 million views, if you were curious…

Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell

One of many R&B/soul holiday songs on the playlist

Player’s Ball – OutKast

[WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS] Depending on your family gathering, you may want to skip over this song. Then again… why would you skip over OutKast?

A Saints Christmas – Kermit Ruffins

I’m sure the Superdome will be blasting this song on Christmas Eve when the Saints play the Falcons.

What Christmas Means To Me – Stevie Wonder

God bless Stevie Wonder.

Little Drummer Boy – Pentatonix

They’re back… and get used to them.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Pentatonix

Reminder: no musical instruments.

The First Noel – Pentatonix

Starting to run out of words…

O Come, All Ye Faithful – Pentatonix

… really, I am.

Coldest Winter – Kanye West

Whether intentional or not, Kanye West made a song for the holidays… I think?

How Great Thou Art – Pentatonix, Jennifer Hudson

Even Jennifer Hudson is on board…

Away In A Manger – Pentatonix

Once again… superstars.

Cold December Night – Michael Bublé

Our modern-day Frank Sinatra.

Below is the link to the full six-hour, fifty-six-minute playlist. If you’d like, you can find me on Spotify (dshin131) and check out my other playlists as well. Let me know if I left out/missed any songs or accidentally repeated any songs.

Oh, and most importantly: HIT SHUFFLE!

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. Album Review


ARTIST: Kendrick Lamar
RELEASE DATE: 14 April 2017
LABEL: Top Dawg Entertainment
GENRE: Hip Hop


This is the fourth full-length album from American rapper and Compton, CA. native, Kendrick Lamar. He has a very solid discography and is known for his versatility. On his first album, Section.80, his style was a bit more raw, but still delivered in terms of content. His second album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, told the story of his upbringing while blending in some skits. But perhaps his best project to date is his third album, To Pimp a Butterfly, which combined elements of jazz and hip-hop with socially aware and, frankly, pro-black content. Since the release of that album, more and more artists have begun to release more socially conscious music. In that respect, Kendrick is one of the few trend setters in the music industry.


WARNING: The lyrics do contain explicit language which may be offensive to some viewers. I only include the lines I feel are most important to the overall message of the album.


Kendrick goes to help a blind lady cross the street, but then… he gets shot.


After that, we hear this clip from FOX News where Giraldo Rivera and the other clowns critique Kendrick’s lyrics for being too “anti-police.”

Obviously, there is a very serious lack of understanding…

2. DNA.

…which carries into the bridge of this song. When Kendrick says, I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA, we also hear Rivera, from that same FOX News clip, state, “This is why I say that hip hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.”

That’s just a stupid thing to say, and obviously, Kendrick knows that.

Tell me somethin’ / you mothafuckas can’t tell me nothin’ / I’d rather die than listen to you

Mike WiLL Made-It’s production is out of this world, from the sitar-like sound in the first verse to the bass rolls in the second verse. This was a very aggressive way to kick off the album.

3. YAH.

I can do without this song. I’ll leave it at that.


This track sounded very Drake-esque because of the percussion style and scattered piano keys. Like DNA., Kendrick is addressing his critics, more specifically the rappers throwing “shade” at him.

Most of ya’ll throw rocks and try to hide your hand / Just say his name and I promise that you’ll see Candyman

Just say Kendrick’s name. What, you scared?

He also throws it back to 1998 in the beginning of the third verse, replicating the flow of Juvenile’s 1998 hit song “Ha“. As a Juvenile fan, I enjoyed this reference very much.

If I gotta slap a pussy-ass nigga, I’ma make it look sexy / If I gotta go hard on a bitch, I’ma make it look sexy

The hook sounded a bit silly on the first few listens, but it is quite catchy. Not to mention, the lyrics make sense in the context of the song. If Kendrick does have to take one of these beefs to the next level, he is going to make it look sexy.

5. FEEL.

There’s not really much to this track. Kendrick is just rapping about the negative feelings that his worldwide stardom has elicited such as depression and self-hate, hence the blues-y production.


Again, there’s not really much content to this track. I just see this as a summertime jam that’s good for long road trips.


I wonder what this song is about…

I can’t fake humble just ’cause your ass is insecure

Which sets up the next song, titled…


This is easily Kendrick’s most mainstream song. Once again, Mike WiLL Made-It comes through with an amazing beat filled with West Coast piano riffs and in-and-out synth hits. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this song because it’s a nice change of pace from some of his deeper and more complex tracks on To Pimp a Butterfly. This is more out of the book of “i” or “Alright.”

As for the content, let me say this…

– No, he’s not mocking Big Sean on the chorus (hol’ up, lil bitch)
– No, he’s not mocking Lil Uzi Vert in the second verse (ayy)

People need to stop reaching and trying to start something that is not there. Besides, don’t you think Kendrick would actually… you know… say their names? Have you heard his “Control” verse?

But the lyric that has most people up in arms?

I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop / Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks

Seriously… what is wrong with this? He’s just saying his preferences, which does not automatically mean that he thinks everything else is worse. Just stop.

9. LUST.

Unfortunately, this track failed to grow on me after a few listens.

In the second verse, he raps about waking up to the results of the 2016 Presidential Election and not wanting to believe it. But as upset as people were about the election, most people just returned to their cycles. Sure, there were protests, but eventually, everyone returns to doing what they want to do.

That’s what lust can do people. It makes people either do things that they should probably think about or just get them caught in those repetitive cycles.


This is the best instrumental that Drake has never rapped over.

The hollow, almost watery synths combined with Zacari’s singing make a for nice, laid-back track. Other then that, there’s not much else noteworthy about this song.

11. XXX. FEAT. U2.

The U2 feature threw a lot of people off in terms of their expectations for this song. However, lead singer Bono only has two very short singing parts, so he didn’t really make that big of an impact on the song.

Based on Mike WiLL Made-It and Sounwave’s production, this song can essentially be divided into two parts.

The menacing and chaotic beat combined with the stray, deep piano keys and sirens really set the tone for the first verse. Here, Kendrick tells the story of “Johnny” getting caught up in his surroundings, a situation that is all too familiar for some young African-Americans in this country.

Johnny don’t wanna go to school no mo’, no mo’ / Johnny said books ain’t cool no mo’ (no mo’) / Johnny wanna be a rapper like his big cousin / Johnny caught a body yesterday out hustlin’

But what stood out to me was his phone conversation with his friend, who just lost his son due to insufficient funds. In other words, he probably got caught up in some criminal activity and didn’t have enough money for a drug or arms dealer.

Anyway, his friend asks Kendrick for some nice, spiritual advice on how to overcome this tragic event. But after thinking about, Kendrick says:

I can’t sugarcoat the answer for you, this is how I feel / If somebody kill my son, that mean somebody gettin’ killed.

All the pro-black and anti-violence rhetoric could all go out the window pretty quick when said violence involves a family member. In other words, ain’t no Black Power when your baby killed by a coward.

The second verse of this song flips into more a jazzy beat as Kendrick explores the shady side of business and politics. Essentially, the United States of America has a well-documented history of setting up African-Americans for failure.

It’s nasty when you set us up / Then roll the dice, then bet us up / You overnight the big rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us / Gang members or terrorists, et cetera, et cetera

In Kendrick’s mind, America is basically saying, “Despite the history, why can’t you guys just get it together? What’s wrong with you guys?” That is just messed up.

12. FEAR.

Here, Kendrick raps about the different things he has feared at different stages in his life. So in the first verse, he is a young child who fears his strict mother for repeatedly “beating his ass” to keep him out of trouble.

The second verse covers Kendrick’s life as a teenager and his fear of getting caught up with the wrong crowd. He fears dying for a number of reasons, from wearing the wrong colors to stepping foot in the wrong neighborhood. It just goes to show how difficult life was for Kendrick growing up in Compton.

The last verse revisits the fears of his newfound fortune, specifically losing his creativity. Obviously, that would be the biggest thing for an artist to lose because he wouldn’t really have anything to say.

Like FEEL., this was another very deep track that dives deep into Kendrick’s mind.

13. GOD.

While this track does sound a bit mainstream, it is completely different sound from what Kendrick normally does. Not to mention, the main producer, Cardo, is known for his very wavy beats (ex: Kendrick’s “untitled 07 | levitate”, ScHoolboy Q’s “THat Part”).

Laughin’ to the bank like, “A-ha!”

Man, that’s still stuck in my head.

As for the content, Kendrick is asking not to be judged for stuff he did back in the day like getting caught with a strap or fuckin’ all the rats. He’s also asking not be judged for making it and succeeding. Now my home got a Valley peak. It’s a really cool way of saying that people are always going to judge you. Even if you’re doing good at the moment, people will try to find dirt on you. That’s just life.


Personally, I was not a big fan of this track, but I can see why others have praised it. The storytelling is just unbelievable.

Producer 9th Wonder comes through with multiple soul sample flips such as Ted Taylor’s “Be Ever Wonderful.” Kendrick tells the story of his father and his connections with “Top Dawg”, the founder of Kendrick’s current label. There was even a point where Kendrick’s father was almost killed by “Top Dawg” at his KFC job. But of course, chicken and biscuits saved the day.

They robbed the manager and shot a customer last year / He figured he’d get on these niggas’ good sides / Free chicken every time Anthony posted in line / Two extra biscuits, Anthony liked him / And then let him slide; they didn’t kill him / In fact, it look like they’re the last to survive

The last part of the song was especially cool as well. Twenty years later, “Top Dawg” and Kendrick’s father met again at a recording studio. Like Kendrick said, it’s amazing to think about what could have happened had “Top Dawg” went through with his original plan.

Because if Anthony killed Ducky / Top Dawg could be servin’ life / While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight


While there are a few low points, the highs on DAMN. are really, really high. There’s crazy rhyme schemes, content and lots of interesting concepts. Once again, Kendrick’s versatility shines through on this album. As for his best album, I would still give the edge to To Pimp a Butterfly, but that’s just me.




Again, I’m still fairly new to reviewing music, so feedback on this would definitely be appreciated. Let me know what you think in the comment section or send me a tweet @danny_shin131

59th Grammy Awards Predictions

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards take place tonight from 8:30 to 11:30 PM ET on CBS! It’s time for us to get pissed off when the artist that we like doesn’t win… because we all know the Grammy Awards are about popularity and politics, NOT musical talent and artistic vision! Here we go!

25 – Adele
Lemonade – Beyoncé
Purpose – Justin Bieber
Views – Drake
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

WHO SHOULD WIN? Lemonade – Beyoncé
WHO WILL WIN? Lemonade – Beyoncé

If Justin Bieber wins this award…

“Hello” – Adele
“Formation” – Beyoncé
“7 Years” – Lukas Graham
“Work” – Rihanna Featuring Drake
“Stressed Out” – Twenty One Pilots

WHO SHOULD WIN? “Formation” – Beyoncé
WHO WILL WIN? “Hello” – Adele

Either Beyoncé or Adele can win this award. Just please don’t let Lukas Graham win.

Kelsea Ballerini
The Chainsmokers
Chance the Rapper
Maren Morris
Anderson .Paak

WHO SHOULD WIN? Anderson .Paak
WHO WILL WIN? Probably Chance the Rapper or The Chainsmokers

Just listen to Malibu and Yes Lawd! and you will see why Anderson .Paak is head and shoulders above these other artists.

25 – Adele
Purpose – Justin Bieber
Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande
Confident – Demi Lovato
This is Acting – Sia

WHO SHOULD WIN? Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande
WHO WILL WIN? 25 – Adele

Yes, Dangerous Woman is better than 25.

Skin – Flume
Electronica 1: The Time Machine – Jean Michael-Jarre
Epoch – Tycho
Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future – Underworld
Louis Vega Starring…XXVIII – Louie Vega


“Joe” (Live From Austin City Limits) – Alabama Shakes
“Don’t Hurt Yourself” – Beyoncé Featuring Jack White
“Blackstar” – David Bowie
“The Sound of Silence” – Disturbed
“Heathens” – Twenty One Pilots

WHO SHOULD WIN? “Don’t Hurt Yourself” – Beyoncé Featuring Jack White
WHO WILL WIN? “Don’t Hurt Yourself” – Beyoncé Featuring Jack White

David Bowie winning this award would be cool as well, but the Grammy’s are probably planning that image of Beyoncé carrying all of her awards down the red carpet because that would make for a great photo-op, right?

“Shock Me” – Baroness
“Silvera” – Gojira
“Rotting In Vain” – Korn
“Dystopia” – Megadeth
“The Price is Wrong” – Periphery

WHO SHOULD WIN? Why is this is a genre of music?
WHO WILL WIN – Baroness?

“Blackstar” – David Bowie, songwriter (David Bowie)
“Burn the Witch” – Radiohead, songwriters (Radiohead)
“Hardwired” – James Hetfield & Lars Ulrich, songwriters (Metallica)
“Heathens” – Tyler Joseph, songwriter (Twenty One Pilots)
“My Name is Human” – Rich Mayer, Ryan Mayer & Johnny Stevens, songwriters (Highly Suspect)

WHO SHOULD WIN? “Blackstar” – David Bowie, songwriter (David Bowie)
WHO WILL WIN? “Blackstar” – David Bowie, songwriter (David Bowie)

Radiohead winning this award would be cool as well.

California – Blink-182
Tell Me I’m Pretty – Cage The Elephant
Magma – Gojira
Death of Bachelor – Panic! at the Disco
Weezer – Weezer

WHO SHOULD WIN? Ummmm… Brendon Urie & Friends?
WHO WILL WIN? Maybe Weezer, but knowing the Grammy’s… Blink-182

This is the worst field for “Best Rock Album” in the history of the Grammy Awards.

22, A Million – Bon Iver
Blackstar – David Bowie
The Hope Six Demolition Project – PJ Harvey
Post Pop Depression – Iggy Pop
A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

WHO SHOULD WIN? Blackstar – David Bowie
WHO WILL WIN? Blackstar – David Bowie

This will likely be the year that David Bowie wins many awards because he’s a huge legend that tragically passed away in the past year. Not to mention, Blackstar got fantastic reviews across the music world and he’s contributed so much to rock music. The only problem is that Blackstar is not as “alternative” as some of the other nominees, and that’s likely due to the fact that he’s such a huge star. But regardless, it would be great to see him take home this award.

“Turnin’ Me Up” – BJ the Chicago Kid
“Permission” – Ro James
“I Do” – Musiq Soulchild
“Needed Me” – Rihanna
“Cranes in the Sky” – Solange

WHO SHOULD WIN? “Cranes in the Sky” – Solange
WHO WILL WIN? “Needed Me” – Rihanna

It’s worth noting that “Needed Me” is not that good of a song. “Cranes in the Sky” should win by a landslide.

Lemonade – Beyoncé
Ology – Gallant
We Are King – KING
Malibu – Anderson .Paak
Anti – Rihanna

WHO SHOULD WIN? Lemonade – Beyoncé
WHO WILL WIN? Lemonade – Beyoncé

This field has the two of best albums of 2016. Lemonade will win, but Malibu is SO GOOD and seeing Anderson .Paak win this award would be an absolutely amazing story. But unfortunately, it’s the Grammy Awards, which means Rihanna probably has a better chance of winning than Anderson .Paak, which is an absolute travesty.

“No Problem” – Chance the Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
“Panda” – Desiigner
“Pop Style” – Drake Featuring The Throne
“All The Way Up” – Fat Joe & Remy May Featuring French Montana & Infared
“That Part” – ScHoolboy Q Featuring Kanye West

WHO SHOULD WIN? “No Problem” – Chance the Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
WHO WILL WIN? “Panda” – Desiigner

Let it be known… Desiigner will win a Grammy Award before Future.

“Freedom” – Beyoncé Featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Hotline Bling” – Drake
“Broccoli” – D.R.A.M. Featuring Lil Yachty
“Ultralight Beam” – Kanye West Featuring Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream
“Famous” – Kanye West Featuring Rihanna

WHO SHOULD WIN? “Broccoli” – D.R.A.M. Featuring Lil Yachty
WHO WILL WIN? Anything but “Broccoli” – D.R.A.M. Featuring Lil Yachty

Kanye West should not even be nominated because The Life of Pablo was an awful album. GET HIM OUT!

The reality is that “Hotline Bling” and “Freedom” are both really good tracks and are more likely to take home the award. But “Broccoli” is so stupidly good, though…

Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
And the Anonymous Nobody – De La Soul
Major Key – DJ Khaled
Views – Drake
Blank Face LP – ScHoolboy Q
The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

WHO SHOULD WIN? Views – Drake
WHO WILL WIN? Views – Drake

Compared to recent years (like 2013 or 2016), this is a very weak field for “Best Rap Album.” Drake will win, as much as you all don’t want him to win, because Views is better than every other album listed above (even though it’s not as good as Thank Me Later or Take Care).

Again, it’s the Grammy’s. Let’s learn to live with disappointment, okay?

Let me know what you think in the comment section below or send me a tweet (@danny_shin131). Who do you want to see take home a Grammy Award this year?

The xx – I See You Album Review



ARTIST: The xx
ALBUM: I See You
RELEASE DATE: 13 January 2017
LABEL: Young Turks
GENRE: Dream Pop


This is the third full-length album from London indie pop band, the xx. One of the biggest acts to come out of the UK in the past ten years, the xx broke out in 2009 with their debut album, xx, which exuded a very minimal-style indietronica and UK bass sound. Their sophomore album, Coexist, combined that sound with a bit more of an atmospheric vibe.


Okay… the singing of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim is still not very good. Just listen to “Say Something Loving” [Track 2].

However, this is easily the most musically engaging album that the xx has produced to date. Unlike the minimal-style tracks of their first two albums, I See You has more lively and exciting instrumentals.

For instance, the album’s lead single “On Hold” [Track 8] takes a sample from Daryl Hall & John Oates’ 1981 song “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and combines that with these funky rhythms and strangely enjoyable static noise. The following track, “I Dare You” [Track 9], also has an intriguing marching-type beat and the guitars match Sim’s vocal delivery very well. Unfortunately, the chorus of “I Dare You” (Singing oh-oh-oh // Go on, I dare you) brought back painful memories of the overplayed Kings of Leon song “Use Somebody.”

I See You is also The xx’s most dramatic and diverse album to date, once again thanks in part to some climactic instrumentals on songs such as “Performance” [Track 5]. The melancholy string sections emphasizes the pathos of the track while elevating the baseline and echoey guitars.

Unfortunately, multiple tracks on this album contain abrupt, fizzled-out endings (i.e. “A Violent Noise” [Track 4]. “Replica” [Track 6] and “Brave For You” [Track 7]), which made for some awkward transitions.

Another intriguing aspect of I See You is the lyrical content. While there are still tracks centered around love and heartbreak, there are some subtle references to anxiety and the challenges of staying true to yourself in tough emotional situations.

On “Performance”, Madley Croft sings, “If I scream at the top of my lungs // will you hear what I don’t say?” Essentially, she is telling her lover that WHAT she is screaming is not as important as WHY she is screaming. She’s afraid to admit that she is lonely and miserable, suggesting some potential underlying anxiety and self-esteem issues. This made for a very nice change of pace on this album and for the band.


Despite its weak points in terms of vocals and composition, I See You is a decent album. The xx have definitely matured over the years and took some risks instrumentally that worked out very well.


Performance, On Hold, I Dare You


NOTE: This is my first-ever music review, so feedback on this would definitely be appreciated. Let me know what you think in the comment section or send me a tweet @danny_shin131