When you think back on the amount of music released this year, if one thing is clear, it’s that hip-hop and R&B dominated the airwaves.
In fact, in Nielsen’s annual mid-year report — which aggregates data from around the music industry halfway through the year — R&B and hip-hop surpassed rock as the most consumed genre in the U.S. for the first time since they started keeping tracking data.
The prevalence of both genres was further confirmed when, for the first time in the history of the Grammys, no white male performers were nominated in the album of the year category.
Yet, as inescapable as hip-hop as seemed, R&B has shown up too. While the biggest hints were rap, R&B came with both the quantity and the quality.
Marc E Bassy
And now Miguel…
Thank you for making 2017 the greatest year of R&B
— jerm. (@jeremyacdan) December 1, 2017
SZA made her long-awaited debut with CTRL, setting relationship Twitter off in the process, not to mention the brilliance of both Daniel Caesar and Khalid, who seemingly came out of nowhere to give us all the sad vibes we could ever ask for.
It seems as if the quality and response of Solange‘s Seat At A Table last year stirred something up in the industry.
While lists are subjective by nature and almost always ends up leaving someone out, it’s too irresistible to not at least try and put some perspective to the moments year. So here are ten of what I think are the best R&B efforts this year.
10. Future – Hndrxx
Yes, I am categorizing Future’s Hndrxx as an R&B album.
Released just two weeks after his self-titled project Future surprised his fans, Super Future outdid himself with this raw soulful album.
We’re used to Future giving us club bangers and real-life raps, but with Hndrxx he bares all, speaking on his public relationship drama and battling demons all while singing his ass off.
Go listen to “Incredible” and tell me if that isn’t as R&B and R&B gets.
9. Sabrina Claudio – About Time
If you don’t know about Sabrina Claudio, just go ahead and start thanking me now.
Just 21 years young, the Miami born songstresses blew up on Soundcloud when she dropped the single “Confidently Lost“. Now signed to Atlantic, Sabrina has the resources to take her talent even further.
Peep track “Belong To You”, it’s my favorite.
8. Daniel Caesar – Freudian
The Canadian-born singer was all over the place this year. Singles “Get You” and “Best Part” were not only infectious but never got old.
Every time any of his songs came on the radio, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, you really didn’t mind.
Grammy-nominated for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album, Caesar definitely put something special together with this one.
7. Jhene Aiko – Trip
Trip is the second studio album by Jhené Aiko. The September release was a surprise and came in the middle of the night.
Fitting the album and cover, Aiko provides soft, laidback vibes as she takes you into her world. With the stresses of our news cycle and presidential predicament her album serves as a much needed escape. “Sativa” goes crazy.
6. H.E.R. – H.E.R.
Part singer, part multi-instrumentalist (who requires her identity be hidden) H.E.R. first made a splash on the scene on SoundCloud when she dropped her EP, H.E.R., Vol 1 in 2016.
Her debut studio effort,Vol 2, is a continuation of that project and she picks up where she left off. H.E.R.’s music gives you a little bit of everything.
Because of the instrumentation, she has the freedom to give lyrics and melodies to the full-bodied sound they provide.
5. DVSN – Morning After
Houston’s own and OVO signees DVSN could not be overlooked.
After last year’s slightly disappointing project Sept. 5th, the group came back with a soulful body of work showcasing what their great at: heavy 808’s and falsettos.
The entire mood of this tape is perfect after a stressful day.
4. Toro y Moi – Boo Boo
Bending the rules of traditional R&B, songwriter-producer Chaz Bear, aka Toro Y Moi, has time after time proved himself as a formidable artist in alternative dance music and R&B. Toro Y Moi does something different on every album and this was no different.
Released in June, Boo Boo is nothing short of the electric groovy tunes we know him for. “Girl Like You” is a stand out that will have anyone in their feels.
3. Ty Dolla $ign – Beach House 3
This was hands down one of my favorites of the year. Ty’s free spirit on this album made it one of 2017’s most fun releases.
With features from everyone from Lil Wayne to Pharrell, there was no shortage of star power or talent brought to the table.
The musically-inclined West Coast native gives you whatever vibe you’re looking for all in one place. Gotta check out this project if you haven’t yet.
2. Kelela – Take Me Apart
She may have flown under the mainstream radar for the better part of this year but that doesn’t matter, because Kelela has arguably the best album of the year, R&B or not.
Carrying momentum from her 2015 EP Hallucinogen, Take Me Apart gives you deep brooding emotion, soaring synths, and strong songwriting. Anyone who says R&B is dead clearly hasn’t heard Kelela’s album.
1. Sampha – Process
Although released in February, Sampha’s Process has stood tall through the numerous amount of music released this year.
Spending the previous years lending his genius to the likes of Drake (“Too Much”), Solange (“Cranes In The Sky”), Kanye West (“Saint Pablo”), and Jessie Ware (“Valentine”), he apparently saved the best for himself. Process is a masterclass of songwriting, melodies, and transitions.
He is fearless in approach; and in turn we get a front row seat to innovative R&B. Not only is Process my pick for the best R&B album of 2017, but I believe it’s the best complete body of work put out by an artist this year, period.
If you have not checked out any of these albums, I advise you do.