The PUP List’s Top 10 Rap Songs of 2017
By: Alex Marcheschi
*due to music licensing, some of these YouTube videos may not work on your phone, but should work on a computer*
2017 may have been the fastest year of all time, you can’t convince me those days were 24 hours long. Those were 17 hour days at the maximum. However, that didn’t stop rap’s most talented artists from dropping wonderful ear candy. We had Jay-Z pop out of hibernation, Kendrick drop another all-timer, Tyler, The Creator figure out a way to perfectly mesh one million sounds into a masterpiece, Migos glow up, Future top the charts with two different albums back-to-back and Gucci become reborn right before our eyes, among many other things.
Below are my top 10 rap songs of the year. I have to admit there are many good rap songs I haven’t heard, but this list is comprised of the 10 best that blessed my eardrums. We’ll countdown from 10-1. Get a nice cup of mud, your finest pair of headphones and strap into your chair like you’re about to enter the Matrix.
10 – T-Shirt by Migos
If you can hear this song and sit still in your seat, then your soul left your body years ago my friend. The beat to this song is mesmerizing and Quavo did what he does best by laying down a great chorus. I sat here for quite a long time trying to decide who had the best verse on the song, and although Offset’s verse inspires mob dancing every time one hears it in a party setting, Takeoff’s impeccable cadence to start the song takes the cake here. No one has ever rapped like that before, and the creativity it took to keep that rhythm for the entire verse is stunning. Takeoff often gets overlooked when people talk about Migos, but this may very well have been the best verse on Culture.
9 – GOD. by Kendrick Lamar
DAMN. was so good that many of its tracks that would have been #1 songs on other artist’s albums got lost in the sauce because Kendrick pumped out so many hits. This was one of the rare albums that can be listened to from front to back without skipping, and GOD. is the most underrated song on the album. The second verse was spoken directly from an archangel’s chest into Kendrick’s lungs:
Fuck is you talkin’ to?
Ayy, do you know who you talkin’ to?
Slide on you like fallen drapes
God toss full of carnivals
I kill ’em with kindness
Or I kill ’em with diamonds
Or I put up like fifteen hundred
Get yo’ ass killed by the finest
Everything in life is a gamble
Nothin’ in life I can’t handle
Seen it all, done it all, felt pain more
For the cause, I done put blood on sword
Everything I do is to embrace y’all
Everything I write is a damn eight ball
Everything I touch is a damn gold mine
Everything I say is from an angel
8 – November by Tyler, The Creator
Flower Boy was the album where Tyler, The Creator peaked. It was an absolute gem. He prides himself on rarely sampling, which is something to behold in today’s music landscape, and November was perfectly constructed. He poured his heart out into this song and it translates to the listener. He told us about his biggest fears and his most lofty goals, using “November” as a metaphor for perfection. Then, toward the middle of the song, Tyler perfectly created the sound of depression and ends the song with the sound of a missed call. Check out how deep this first verse got:
What if I’m hustling backwards?
What if my accountant ain’t payin’ my taxes?
Fillin’ his pockets and IRS show up asking me questions
I couldn’t answer ’cause I was too busy tryna make classics
Boy ain’t got no motherfucking classics
What if my music too weird for the masses?
And I’m only known for tweets more than beats or
All my day ones turn to three, fours ’cause of track seven
Fuck, what if I get stuck?
What if I got comfortable? I gotta keep it buck fifty
What if I lost it all and ended up back in Ladera
At them shitty apartments that’s across the Bank of America
Damn, I would be hurtin’
7 – Sacrifices by Drake, 2 Chainz and Young Thug
Absolutely classic Drake vibe to this song, and the boy himself opens the song up with a nice verse that seems to be setting the table for his friends. 2 Chainz comes in and verbally dances on the beat as only he can. When he works with Drake, it’s truly something to behold, and when he says “when she bust it down, I said thanks for giving it to me like a pilgrim” you can’t help but laugh in amazement. On any other song his verse would likely take home the trophy for best verse, but Young Thug was IN HIS BAG!!! Thugger caps off the song with a verse that can only be described as what would happen if a grand piano got sucked up into a tornado and somehow gained the ability to talk about growing up in the hood. When he starts singing “like a new car, I got two keys, tryna score the score the bucket like a Chevy seat. Then I heard they’ve been pulin’ all week. I’ma use ya name like “who is he?” You get it? I said I’m a username like, “who is he?” it’s mind-numbing. This is up there for verse of the year.
6 – Met Gala by Gucci Mane and Offset
Offset snapped like a diving board when a fat boy tries to swan dive on this song. If you really sit back and listen to how fast he raps, how perfectly it rhymes and then consider that he claims to freestyle every verse he does, you begin to foam at the mouth. Then, Gucci comes in and matches him with the smoothest transition of the year. At one point Offset says, “me and the Wop, Biggie and Pac”, but we’ll let that slide because this song is so good.
5 – Magnolia by Playboi Carti
Any top rap songs of 2017 list that doesn’t have Magnolia on it is gone off the Henny. Pi’erre Bourne produced the best beat of the year and when Carti says “in New York I Milly Rock, hide it in my sock. Running from an opp, then I shoot at opp and I’m on the block, and I’m on the block”, I lose it. A true classic that will bring back memories of 2017 whenever you hear it in the future. Speaking of the future…
4 – Might As Well by Future
I have a weird ear for Future, and upon listening to his self-titled album for the first time, this song immediately stuck out as my favorite. I can actually picture it like it was yesterday, I was living in New Jersey at the time and driving on my favorite road that has a perfect view of Manhattan while sipping a blueberry coffee from 7-Eleven. A truly fond memory of mine. No one else can flow like he flows in this song and the beat is perfect for an introspective Super Future banger. My favorite part of the song comes in the second verse where he gets personal:
Can’t say I ain’t think about it (fact)
(Can’t say I ain’t think about it)
Pink diamonds, no blinking
Niggas got no dripping
Started off on a mission
I got real niggas still Crippin’
Child support gettin’ heavy
It’s hard not to get offended
Oh, you maxin’ out your credit card?
Like it wasn’t hard for me
I just bought a new Bugatti for you
In my opinion, the true test of a great song is when it can change minds. For example, if you play this song for someone who doesn’t like Future, I guarantee they will like Future after hearing it. What a song.
3 – Boredom by Tyler, The Creator
First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due and praise Rex Orange County, Corinne Bailey and Anna of The North for the amazing intro and hook to this song. As for the lyrics, Tyler took it to the slaughter house. Anyone who has ever dealt with the feelings of loneliness and boredom can relate to this song on a deep level. This third verse is extremely intricate:
Bored and getting desperate as hell
(Desperate, using, texting, amusing)
Cellular not amusing and I hope someone will
Message me with some plans that are amusing as well
Cause I haven’t seen the exit of these walls since before this morning
Morning, morning, morning, morning
(Morning, ohh, what the fuck?)
Got some cars I can handle but nowhere for performance
My stomach angry and yellin’, I need some food, I could order
But I hate eating solo
Need someone, we can loiter in parking lots
As sunsets at the border, yeah
Ringy dingy dong, I can’t be alone
I been starting to feel like I don’t know anyone
So now I’m staring at my ceiling fuckin’ going
Like I have no idea where I’m going
(Damn, gotta get outta here)
Flower Boy was the best album I heard this year, and Tyler deserves two spots on my top ten list. Give the album a listen if you haven’t yet.
2 – Smile by Jay-Z
Everything about this song is moving. The Stevie Wonder sample, the honest lyrics about his mom’s struggle with her sexuality and the impossible-to-replicate flow from HOV. The video above is the only version of the song available to post since he only puts his songs on Tidal, but you get most of the studio version of the song and basically a short movie to go along with it. My favorite part of the song is the chorus:
Bad times turn to good memories, smile
Even when I’m gone and you remember me, smile
Good times never fade away, smile
Even if I’m not with you here today, smile
My two other favorite parts go as follows, this, when Jay reminds the rap world what he did for them:
Everybody wave bye to the guy you thought you could lie to
This was meant to be a haiku, huh
But my story’s too wide to fit inside the line or two
Oh, these that drugs, heron flow, I spaz on the stove
This is Hov, no flex zone, nigga, who lied to you?
Look, you a pedestrian, don’t ever question the security I provided you
And then, finally, the beautiful poem written and spoken by Jay’s mom Gloria:
Living in the shadow
Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?
In the shadows people see you as happy and free
Because that’s what you want them to see
Living two lives, happy, but not free
You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love
The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free
But you live with the fear of just being me
Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be
No harm for them, no harm for me
But life is short, and it’s time to be free
Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed
Smile is a true work of art.
1 – YAH by Kendrick Lamar
As I said before in the paragraph for GOD., DAMN. was so good that it basically became impossible for every song to make it big because Kendrick would’ve essentially dominated the charts with every single song. I obviously like the hits, but YAH stood out to me as the best song upon my first listen of the album and to this day every time I hear it, it feels like the first time. This is a song for the skeptics of the world. The opening lines crash down upon you like a tidal wave:
I got so many theories and suspicions
I’m diagnosed with real nigga conditions
Today is the day I follow my intuition
Keep the family close—get money, fuck bitches
How often do we struggle to trust our gut? How often do we say “this is the day I get it together?” The answer is this: too often. And Kendrick knows it. Only Kendrick could make this chorus so beautiful:
Buzzin’, radars is buzzin’
Yah, yah, yah, yah
Yah, yah, yah, yah, yah, yah
Buzzin’, radars is buzzin’
Yah, yah, yah, yah
Yah, yah, yah, yah, yah, yah
Imagine another rapper trying to do that chorus and make it sound great. It’s not possible. Kendrick is tapped into another realm, and I truly think the “yah” in this song is in reference to “Yahweh” which is believed to be the closest thing to God’s actual name. He harnessed that power and was able to create the best rap song of the year. Thanks are in order to all of the artists on this list, but especially to Kendrick, who gave us an album for the ages.
Thanks for reading.