Music’s purpose in 2017 posed an impulse of more feeling, more groove and more substance. And boy, did it deliver. From matters of the heart to those politicking on Capitol Hill, this year’s releases have strapped us into a rollercoaster of emotions, praying for another go around. There was no shortage of prompts for song fodder—a sh*tty political storm that just won’t end, the evolution of dating in the age of social media and the ongoing exploration of blackness from the vets and rap’s new elite, all elements that secure its safe place in popular culture.
But substance isn’t all about the richness in heavy social topics. It’s finding those cadences that keep us nodding our heads instead of scrolling the timeline in boredom. As we hit the clean middle of the year, VIBE has looked back on the albums, EPs, mixtapes, and compilations that made a difference. All music between the definitions of the sound and project, essentially matter.
Often forgotten, we also included a handful albums released in the final weeks of 2016 that made a splash throughout winter, spring and summer ‘17. We’ll hold onto some of our faves (Khalid, Syd Tha Kyd, Westside Gunn) for our end-of-year debates. For now, enjoy this list, in addition to the five honorable mentions down under.