Like most Americans surely, we're happy to turn the page and leave 2017 in the past. Thanks in part to the election of a fuckboy as President, handfuls of hate and bigotry have bubbled to the surface this year and issues like racism and sexism have simultaneously been at the forefront of national conversation, and seemingly ignored by our government.
Traditionally, social and political turmoil create for great art and 2017 was no exception. Keeping the momentum going after a strong musical 2016, this year we saw a plethora of politically-charged lyrics in popular music, a resurgence and metamorphosis of R&B, and a lot of new faces. As the film and entertainment industry undergoes a cleansing, we've seen the output of great films and series hold steady. The status quo reigned this year in sports as well, with the Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the third straight time and the Patriots winning yet another Super Bowl.
Here, we share all the good stuff that made the year noteworthy between all the headlines in music, entertainment, sports, and culture. Please note these are just opinions of the writers and in no way intended to say what the "best" things were - it's all subjective!
Top 17 Albums of 2017
Ctrl is an album about self-exploration through sexuality, relationships, seeking approval, and normalcy. SZA delivers an album that openly bares her raw emotions as she straddles between feelings of existential worry on songs like “Prom,” to exuberant confidence on “Wavy.” The album is highlighted by SZA’s raw voice and honest songwriting, as well as production that draws from hip-hop, neo-soul, and indie music. What makes Ctrl a special album is SZA’s ability to openly reflect and investigate whom she truly is. On “Supermodel” she sings about sleeping with an ex-boyfriend’s friend in retaliation to him going to Las Vegas on Valentine's Day to be with other women. Then, on “Prom” she questions her maturity with hopes of becoming better as she gets older. The album comes full circle on the final song, “20 Something.” SZA realizes that she doesn’t have all the answers and is slightly fearful of what the future may hold, but she hopes for the best. Ctrl highlights the feelings that many people, both men and women, experience in their 20s as they try get hold of their life. Through her vulnerable lyrics and soothing voice, SZA does an incredible job of encapsulating all of these feelings and emotions by telling her own story and presenting it to the rest of the world.
Can Kendrick Lamar ever make an album that isn’t a timeless classic? Forwards or backwards, whichever way you prefer to listen to it, this project flows like reading a novel. From the heavily discussed parable on “Blood” to the storybook ending of “Duckworth” Kendrick not only invites listeners to critically analyze every word, but also gives us goosebumps with his story telling ability. The viral video sensation “HUMBLE.” not only ruled the internet, but also, the single set the tone for what we could expect on the album. Lamar’s ability to create mainstream hits, yet at the same time concoct a cohesive album with a message and a story is uncanny. This shows on songs like “DNA” where Lamar is able craft a hit song that articulates his competing viewpoints of both celebrating and critiquing black culture, which is literally in his DNA. In fact, the whole album is an internal battle among the different sides of Kendrick Lamar. Even looking at the tracklist we can see this, there’s “LUST.” and “LOVE.”, “FEAR.” and “GOD.”, and “PRIDE.” and “HUMBLE.” all opposite emotions and feelings that Kendrick is dealing with.
In today’s Internet-enabled copy-and-paste society, original art is a dime a dozen. Trends catch on quicker than ever and in certain spaces, are contagious and almost impossible to avoid - pretty much as long as you don’t live under a rock. This is true whether it’s fashion, diets, philosophy, music, whatever. As it applies to music, I think originality is one of the most valuable aspects of art.
Smino’s debut full-length album blkswn is one of, if not the, freshest sounding hip hop projects to come out in a long time. With Monte Booker’s weirdness behind him, the St. Louis rapper blazed new paths with his melodic rhyme schemes and vivid, poetic imagery. Sitting at 18 tracks, the project flows seamlessly – much like the liquidity of Smino’s delivery – touching on a handful of moods and messages along the ride.
4. Scum Fuck Flower Boy
Where Tyler, the Creator began to explore the expansion of his sound through collaboration on Cherry Bomb, he artfully wields the chops he gained on his fourth album to craft something beautiful. Much like the three projects before it, Flower Boy, the Ladera Heights native’s most honest and personal album, is produced entirely by Tyler himself. The soul-injected beats make for the perfect landscape for what feels like a look into Tyler’s psyche; for the most part it’s vibrant, positive, and braggadocious, but has moments where it’s dark, and at times bare.
The debut album from the talented Londoner comes at the most opportune of times. Fresh off some impressive cameos/ collaborations over the past two years with the likes of Solange, Drake, Frank Ocean, and Kanye West, Sampha delivers a uniquely beautiful album. The album starts with “Plastic 100°C” an ominous and spacey song - that appropriately includes an intro from astronaut Neil Armstrong - where Sampha talks about the stresses of his rising fame and dealing with his physical and emotional problems. Then, Sampha comes face to face with his inner demons on “Blood On Me.” And, his song “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” has to be the most beautiful song of this year. You can’t help but feel Sampha’s emotion on the track as he talks about the comfort of the piano in his home during a time when his mother was dying from cancer. We are all looking forward to more music from the rising London star.
6. Sonder Son
Sonder Son is a strong debut effort from Brent Faiyaz. The album chronicles his journey leaving home and trying to make it in the music industry. Instead of focusing solely on his struggles as a starving artist, Brent shows the whole gamut of human emotion. On “Gang Over Luv,” he recalls memories he made with his friends and the impact they have had on him. He also keeps it real about his struggles on the song “L.A” as he has overdrawn his account for recording sessions and missed meals, yet he’s proud to be pursuing his dreams. Guitars back Brent’s silky voice on many of the tracks, which give Sonder Son a vintage R&B vibe. 2017 was a strong year for Brent. From singing the hook on “Crew,” to dropping the project “Into” as a member of Sonder, and somehow managing to release his own project, Brent has been nothing short of busy. To create such a solid debut album in addition to his other projects, it is clear that the path to stardom is there for Brent Faiyaz.
On his third album, Thundercat really finds his groove. Drunk can literally be described as a soundtrack to someone’s life. Much like life, this album is all over the place. It evokes a lot of emotions and displays the various thoughts that we, as humans, display on a daily basis. And, while it may feel a little chaotic at times, everything somehow comes together and makes sense in the end. This seems to be done intentionally. The album’s first song “Rabbot Ho,” uses the same melody as the final song “DUI,” making everything come full circle. Thundercat does a phenomenal job with the production. While the music is rooted in jazz, Thundercat incorporates elements from a number of genres including: funk, hip-hop, and soft rock. Like the music, the feature game on this album is strong. Not only was Thundercat able to get Kendrick Lamar, Wiz, and Pharrell on the album, but he also managed to get OGs Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins on the same track. The smooth production blended with Thundercat’s nerdy lyrics and references to pop culture definitely make Drunk one the most fun albums of the year.
Bubbling onto the music scene after releasing countless mixtapes over the years, the Migos have finally broken through into the mainstream with Culture. This album is a culmination of the potential the Migos have shown since they started dropping mixtapes. From catchy hooks and memorable ad-libs, to the signature Migos flow, this album is filled with bangers. Naturally, “Bad and Boujee” is the crowning achievement of the album, but don't let that distract you from the quality of the other tracks on this album. On songs like “What’s the Price” Migos tells the world their price has gone up since reaching their new level of success, while “Out the Way” is an ode to special women that go the extra mile to support them. The Migos have always had a larger than life persona, and they finally released a project that matched their energy. Appropriately titled, Culture, definitely set the wave for all of 2017.
9. The Never Story
Kendrick Lamar probably knows who J.I.D is. He’s got to, right? I bet when/if he did/does hear him, he got happy. Not because he has funny punchlines, but because the kid can rap. It might as well be time for another “Control” verse when it comes to how far ahead of his peers King Kendrick is. Despite hip hop producing more popular songs relative to other genres in the history of its existence, there aren’t many bearers of the “rap as sport” mentality. J.I.D on the other hand went to that school and he’s got the chops. Between flexing his pen and rolling out tongue-twisting flows, he uses his debut The Never Story to tell his tale and show off his songwriting skills.
10. Boo Boo
On his fifth official album under the guise of Toro Y Moi, Chaz Bear breaks down his walls to give listeners a closer glance into his psyche. In a statement released with the record, he explains that Boo Boo is the result of an identity crisis caused by being “famous” and an uncertainty behind desires and necessities in his life. Musically, the project sounds like an amalgamation of his previous efforts, combining indie rock vibes, chill synth-led haziness, atmospheric ambience, and funky grooves to dance to. Bear sounds more at home on this record than ever before and this may just be his best project to date.
Born in Brooklyn to two French-Colombian immigrant parents, Gabriel Garzon-Montano carries his heritage in his music. From the title of his album Jardin – the word for “garden” in both French and Spanish – to the infusion of Latin sounds in its compositions, the New Yorker’s background is at the center of his debut. Aside from the cultural implications of the title, the album feels much like a garden itself – a space where plants, fruit, and other forms of nature are cultivated and displayed. Songs like “Fruitflies” and “Sour Mangos” give up that notion immediately, but the entire album is lush with vivid nature imagery. The sounds of the album, full of elegant string arrangements and delicate, tingling percussion, serve to bolster this notion while beautifully melding elements of soul, funk, and hip hop. Entirely written, produced, arranged, and performed by Garzon-Montano, Jardin is a piece of personal art that allows the talented young artist’s personality to shine through and sets the tone for a successful career to come.
12. Rags / Robots
I know, I know. Rags is an EP. Robots is another EP. BUT if you put them together, you get an album-worth of tracks that stand alone as some of the best rap this year. With all the great, and not-so-great, music coming out of Atlanta that has picked up traction globally in the past few years, the Spillage Village family has been well overlooked in favor of a sound that’s done well on charts and very often recycled and reused. Artists like EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and 6LACK, however, have continued to master their crafts within their own lanes and are now receiving the fruits of their labor.
Two parts of a trilogy, concluding with Royalty in January, Rags and Robots are intended to be pre-cursors to Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot’s third full-length, Mirrorland. Following up their last, excellent project Strays with Rabies, the duo picks up where they left off with a flurry of inventive flows, playful but serious subject matter, and weird, head-nod-invoking production. These couple EPs feature a more accessible sound, however, incorporating the club drums that their metropolitan region has come to be known for. Their modern take on the soulful sounds of old school Southern hip hop puts the duo in the lineage of the Dungeon Family and begs a comparison to its centerpiece, OutKast.
13. 4eva is a Mighty long time
Big KRIT returns in classic fashion and brings us just that… a classic. In his third album KRIT gives us a taste of his entire repertoire showing his versatility and breaking down the two parts of his life (as a rap star and his personal life behind the music) in dual album format. Still bringing that famous southern 808 bass booming knockers in songs like "Subenstein (My Sub IV)" KRIT also links up with multiple legends from the south throughout the project - with T.I. in “Big Bank”, Bun B and the late Pimp C in “Ride Wit Me” and Cee Lo Green in “Get up 2 Come Down” - Big KRIT can also slow things down and give you the feels in songs like “Layup” that champion the overcoming of struggles and receiving the opportunities that allow you to reach your goals. Not to mention the classic “fly shit/ Sly Family Stone ride shit/ Even if you don’t smoke, get high shit” that we’ve come to expect from the Mississippi artist in “Aux Cord”.
While the first half of the album is more braggadocious and filled with trunk knockers, the second half is more introspective for KRIT, especially in songs like “Price of Fame” and “Drinking Sessions.” Whether you’re trying to vibe, bump some heavy sub knocking 808 jams, reminisce about the old times, or contemplate the ups and downs of life, 4eva Is a Mighty Long time has something for everyone while encompassing all that is Big KRIT .
Producers Dpat and Atu, teamed up with singer, Brent Faiyaz to form the group Sonder and release Into. With only 7 songs, this project does not waste any time delivering substance. From the intro, “Feel,” Brent Faiyaz’s smooth voice blends perfectly with Atu and Dpat’s detailed production and continues throughout the rest of the project. Every song, note, and syllable is deliberate and thoughtfully crafted. Brent is able to weave through topics, like complex relationships, living too fast, and memories from his youth with almost no effort. The production is influenced by 90’s R&B but utilizes contemporary sounds to create a unique and distinct vibe. As each track seamlessly transitions into the next it’s easy to get lost in the music and miss the substance offered. Into is definitely a project that requires multiple listens to get a sense of how good it really is.
15. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
Although I am admittedly not the biggest 2 Chainz fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. While this album is on the longer side, clocking in at a little over an hour with 16 tracks, I find it easy to listen to the album straight through without thinking that it’s overly long or having to skip very many songs. Not only was this project full of radio hit singles - “Big Amount”, “Good Drank”, “4 AM”, “It’s a Vibe”, but also the features were powerful and well placed. From Gucci Mane, Migos, and Nicki Minaj to Drake, Swae Lee, and Pharrell, 2 Chainz certainly brought out an all-star cast. Even though it certainly isn’t my pick for the top album of 2017, it is definitely in the top in terms of my most listened to projects of 2017.
2017 in an album. This project will forever live on as a product of its time. Although Jay-Z wasn’t overly impressive lyrically, he still said a lot, using his album as a social commentary piece, which has propelled it - and its single “The Story of O.J. - to receive multiple Grammy nominations for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. With production from No I.D. - featuring samples from Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and more - and features from Frank Ocean, Damian Marley, and Beyonce, this album is definitely nothing to sleep on. It felt like this project was very personal to Jay Z, like on the song “Kill Jay Z” talking about the death of his ego, on “Smile” talking about his mom, her sexuality, and realizing she was lesbian, and on “Family Feud” where he references his alleged infidelity in his marriage with Beyonce saying, “Yeah I’ll fuck up a good thing if you let me/ let me alone, Becky.” Then, of course, there’s “The Story of Oj” and its magnificent video, in which Rap Genius perfectly describes as Jay Z relaying that, “whether one is wealthy or poor, light skinned or dark, one’s blackness is a more relevant marker in a racist society.”
17. More Life
Marketed as a “playlist,” More Life gave Drake a chance to depart from the normal constraints of an album and deliver a project that catered to everyone. Drake takes this opportunity to dabble in other musical interests and showcase them to his fans. He draws from a number of musical inspirations, including Afrobeat, UK grime, R&B, and trap. More Life is far from a cohesive project musically, but the songs somehow fit together. In addition to a diverse sound, Drake recruits a diverse set of guests to join the party. Guests like Giggs, Black Coffee, Jorja Smith, and Sampha help add legitimacy to the songs in which Drake is experimenting with his sound. While artists like Kanye West, Quavo, and Travis Scott add star power to put this playlist over the top, More Life is a project that showcases Drake’s inability to be restrained creatively. Drake has no problem experimenting, and continues to push the boundaries on his musical style. While this project isn’t one of Drake’s best, it was a great holdover until his next album.
Record of the Year:
After his long awaited return in which he blessed us with the releases of Blonde and Endless in 2016, Frank Ocean continued his momentum in 2017 with some great performances - including the Headliner spot for FYF festival in Los Angeles - collaborations, and singles. “Chanel” - his first solo track post Endless and Blonde - had to have been one of the best songs of the year, and seeing him perform it live in front of a crowd packed together like sardines who knew all the words just made it that much more memorable to me in 2017. From the very first lines you hear Frank’s lyrical brilliance with “My guy pretty like a girl/ And he got fight stories to tell/ I see on both sides like Chanel” highlighting the the fact that although his male partner has feminine features, but he also physically fights with others - typically a more masculine associated attribute - using the Chanel logo, which has two C’s facing opposite directions, as a metaphor for this duality and also possibly his bisexuality, being attracted to both men and women. And, in an year where Trump and his administration have gone out of their way to attack members of the LGBT community with their policies, Frank Ocean’s openness about his sexuality is refreshing, uplifting, and much needed. Franks beautifully witty lyrics and intoxicating voice make this a legendary track and my pick for Record of the Year in 2017.
"(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano"
This might be one of the most beautiful records I’ve ever heard. Naturally, songs that artists make dedicated to their parents touch home for a lot of listeners. “Dear Mama,” “Hey Ma,” the list goes on. The tear-jerking “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is no exception. Featuring a refrain Sampha wrote when he saw his old piano while visiting his ill mother at his childhood home, the song is a ballad about motherly love, comfort, and inspiration. Driven by an elegant piano, the track delivers.
Honorable Mention - "RAF"
This isn’t his song, but Frank Ocean had a hell of an off-year. Appearing, and stealing the spotlight, on Calvin Harris’s “Slide” and A$AP Mob’s “RAF” on top of the four solo songs he released this year, Ocean gave fans much more than expected after shaking a five-year hiatus following the 2016 release of Blonde. On the Cozy Tapes, Vol. 2 posse cut, the singer out-rapped a who’s who of current rappers, including Quavo, Lil’ Uzi Vert, and A$AP Rocky – all of whom had very respectable verses themselves. Aside from Frank flexing his lyrical abilities for nearly two minutes, I felt the need to honorably mention this song as posse cuts are very much missed in hip hop.
“She see money all around me/I look like I’m the man” really set the tone for probably the most infectious hook of the year. “Crew” is one of the most versatile songs of 2017. It can be played at a kickback, party, or the comfort of your own room. This song can set the tone for anything. While the song technically came out at the end 2016, it didn’t start getting its recognition until 2017. But once it did, “Crew” caught on like wildfire. The star of the song hands down is Brent Faiyaz. He steals the show with his strong hook game and smooth voice. Goldlink and Shy Glizzy do their thing by providing solid verses, but its Brent’s hook that makes thing song an instant classic.
Patriots Super Bowl Victory
What more can be said about the Patriots Superbowl? The Atlanta Falcons suffered a major meltdown by giving up a 25-point lead and allowing the Patriots to score 31 unanswered points. They literally had no answer for the Patriots once Brady and co. started rolling. At the same time, Tom Brady solidified his status as the GOAT. Not only did he have enough composure to lead his team to the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever, but he also broke a number of records while doing it. Some of the records Brady broke were, most Super Bowl MVPs, passing yards, and completions. As great as Brady was, the Falcons did a lot to blow the game. For example, calling passing plays while up instead of running the ball to run down the clock and not being able to get defensive stops. Whether you want to blame the Falcons play calling or dub Tom Brady as the greatest to ever touch the football field, one thing is certain the Patriots had one of the greatest Super Bowl performances ever.
Kevin Durant in the NBA Finals
After becoming the villain in Lebron-esque fashion when he decided to leave Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant was easily the most criticized player in the league. Although the Warriors were the clear favorite for the 2016-2017 season after following up a record setting season with the addition of a top 3 player in the league in Kevin Durant, many people - myself included - were still skeptical that they could defeat a retooled Cavaliers team. Then there was Stephen A. Smith on First Take highlighting Kevin Durant’s subpar statistics in the fourth quarter of games. However, KD didn’t let any of this phase him and he just simply balled out. Despite the fact that the Warriors looked unstoppable before KD joined the squad, they elevated their play even more with KD and made winning the finals look easy. In five games against the Cavaliers, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.6 blocks a game, not to mention shooting 47.4% from three point range and 92.7% from the free throw line.
I couldn’t stand LaVar Ball when his roller coaster of a media existence took off, but as the year treaded on, I began to understand and grow to respect the man. He’s a father of three talented boys and happens to have a business acumen. In the age we live in, it’s very common for people with influence to use it to make profit. Why not, right? Whether you have followers because you make good art, look good, perform well, etc., the principle is the same. Ball understands this, and in 2017 he used this knowledge to begin what can become an empire, all while going over everyone’s heads. From his engagement with his sons’ basketball careers, to soundbites that spread over the interwebs at light speed, Ball was almost always in the news in some sense throughout the year. He appeared on all of the major networks including ESPN and even CNN. He had a Twitter beef with the President of the United States. I don’t know if any single-individual brand independently made as many impressions as Ball did for his brand in 2017.
And he’s not doing it for himself. Many critics of the big baller brand say that he’s exploiting his children for personal profit. He’s a father with teenagers he’s provided for his entire life, it should be expected that he strives to be able to continue to do so. In fact, LaVar Ball is preventing his sons from being exploited. Aside from all the marketing tactics, he understands how corporations in America profit from young black men – whether it’s at the hands of social media, retail and internet brands, or colleges, organizations like the NCAA, and professional sports leagues. By controlling the narrative, retaining independence by not signing away ownership, and proposing alternatives to the current structure of sports recruiting systems, Ball is actively addressing these issues. If you can’t respect a business man, you should respect the little guy standing up for what’s right in a very one-sided battle.
Athlete of the Year
While Serena Williams may have only played in two tournaments this year, the fact that she was able to win the Australian Open while pregnant instantly gives her the nod as athlete of the year. I have never been pregnant—and probably will never be since I lack the organs needed to reproduce as a man—but I have seen the struggles plenty of women have gone through during their pregnancy.
As someone on the outside looking in, I can honestly say pregnancy looks hard as shit. I can also say that training your body to be in the best shape possible and compete at the highest level is no easy feat either. So to combine two unbelievably difficult tasks and excel at the highest level is to be at a level of greatness that I can’t even begin to fathom. Therefore, cheers to you Ms. Williams as you continue to dominate both on and off the court.
The brodie, a.k.a. The human triple double, a.k.a. Russell Westbrook absolutely shined in the 2016-2017 season after the departure of Kevin Durant, and he did it in historic fashion. Westbrook became the first player since the “Big O”, Oscar Robertson, to average a triple double throughout the course of an entire NBA season posting an insane stat line of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebound, and 10.4 assists Westbrook showed that he really can do it all. Although he didn’t achieve the postseason success that he and Thunder had hoped for, he did deservedly win the NBA MVP in a unanimous decision. It seemed that Westbrook was a man on a mission as he dominated his competition even with a sub par supporting cast. Now, with a newly formed all-star nucleus from the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Westbrook will look to build on his momentum from last year and try to turn that into postseason success.
is a masterpiece that takes the horrors of racism and put it under a magnifying glass. While most people, and by most I mean white people, think of racism as having to be overt and explicit, director, Jordan Peele, shows the dark side of subtle racism and intensifies it in hopes of giving audiences a sense of how scary it is. Unfortunately, this seemed to go over many people’s head most evident by the fact the Golden Globe categorizes it as a “Comedy.” Ironically enough, situations like this are exactly why Jordan Peele made Get Out. He wanted to show that even in today’s “progressive” society that black people are still considered paradoxical figures and our cries for equality, justice, and fair treatment still fall on deaf ears. Instead, black people are forced to have to constantly acclimate to our surrounding environment and some try so hard that they even fall into the “Sunken Place.” While the message of Get Out may not have gotten through to all viewers, the significance of this movie cannot be overstated. While the black experience is a unique and diverse concept, Jordan Peele did a masterful job of shedding light on one of the most overlooked parts about the culture.
Best TV Show
Rick and Morty
Starting where it left off, Rick and Morty continued to push the envelope in season 3 getting even darker and crazier than in previous seasons. Rick and Morty catapulted itself into pop culture super-stardom earlier this year when its fans forced McDonald’s to bring back the infamous Szechuan sauce. What made this season so interesting were the character development of Rick and the rest of his family. Each episode gave viewers insight into each character with the highlight being “Pickle Rick.” That episode highlights the series least developed character, Beth. It is revealed that Beth is more like Rick than she thought and opens a door that writers can explore in future seasons. One of the few downfalls of this season was the fact that one of the first episodes was arguably the best, but overall Rick and Morty delivered plenty of laughs and some interesting character development. It’s going to be a long two years waiting to see where Rick and Morty goes next.
Master of None
When I started watching Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series this year, I did it without watching the first season. Not on accident either. I watched the first two episodes of the first season the year before, and was not a fan. I never finished that season, but after watching the first episode of the second season, I was hooked. In a rare feat of binge watching, I finished that season in about two weeks. Netflix distributed a good amount of self-produced content in 2017, and a lot of it was in fact good, so the fact that Master of None was arguably their best work should be considered a great accomplishment.
Season 2 of Master of None was very ambitious, but exceptionally executed. Many of the episodes stood out as standalone pieces of art – the “Thief” episode in Italy and the “First Date” episode, for example. The writing, filming, acting, music, etc. come together beautifully. On a macro level, the show continues to provide a fresh, non-conforming take on a classic and common premise. It seems to have something everyone can relate to, delivered with a clever, light-hearted humor, but it doesn’t fall in line with expectations with its variance of direction and experimentation in form. Despite tackling some serious issues, it stays warm, witty, silly, and, just watchable.
Game of Thrones
What is there left to say about the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones? We have seen similar fantasy television shows/ movie franchises permeate pop culture, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, etc. but the argument can be made that none quite compare to the hype surrounding GOT. From character inspired costumes, apparel, and accessories to show themed beer and wine - even macaroon cookies - its hard to find a product that doesn't have some type of Game of Thrones spin off. All of this hype is well warranted however, because this last season of Game of Thrones was mind blowing. From the ultra realistic CGI to the now rapidly moving story line, GOT fans were not disappointed. What made this season in particular so epic, were the intense, graphic, and masterfully filmed battle scenes. Not only were the battle scenes elongated, but they were also beautifully chaotic. For example, when Daenerys decides to attack the Lannister forces after they took over High Garden, a battle that incorporated fire breathing dragons, thousands of riders on horseback, and flying flaming corpses ensued. As a viewer you couldn't help but be captivated and memorized by how CGI meets real life acting. Beyond the cinematography, the writing of the actual story line is finally starting to play itself out after years of us fans waiting for these legendary showdowns, which was a delight in and of itself. The way the creators of Game of Thrones make their writing and scripts a reality on screen is truly astounding and makes season 7 of Game of Thrones my pick for best TV show of 2017.
THE TING GO SKRRRRRAAAAHHH, PA PA KA KA KA SKIDIKI PAP PAP! Is that Skepta? Who in the world is this clown? Those are the first things I thought when I saw the video on Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth that became THE viral sensation of 2017 - which was accompanied by an infinite supply of memes permeating the twitter-sphere. At first, I feel like almost everyone thought this guy Big Shaq was a serious rapper. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks after I initially saw his now famous freestyle that I realized this guy was an actual comedian by the name of Michael Dapaah. Apparently, “Big Shaq” is merely a character/persona that Dapaah created for his web-series Somewhere in London, aka SWIL. Anyway, the actual freestyle is hilarious and hard at the same time that I find myself smirking and getting hype simultaneously. In fact, the whole interview he does for Fire in the Booth is pure gold and littered with many quotable moments, and he even does part of the interview in another of his personas, MC Quakez. Big Shaq also happened to make a song and music video out of this freestyle, impeccably titled “Man’s Not Hot”, currently at over 150 million views and counting - and, people go crazy when they hear the song in bars/clubs. Since he has achieved his viral fame he’s been interviewed by Rap Genius in a lyric video, gone on the Breakfast Club with Charlamagne tha God and his crew, and been featured in countless other blog/media sites and outlets.
People of Color
2017 has been year of a lot downs in my opinion. We had to say goodbye to Obama and welcome in Trump and his regime. Since his election, hateful rhetoric, actions, and crimes are on the rise. However, one bright moment for me in this tumultuous year has been the success of People of Color in the film and television industries. From Moonlight winning Best Film of the Year to Get Out killing it at the box office and becoming the most profitable film of the year, minorities have shined on the screen. Outside of film, shows, like “Master of None,” “Insecure,” and “Dear White People” have been some of the most successful shows on their respective platforms. What was really great is that each film and show felt fresh and witty instead of a being a showcase of the overplayed stereotypes we are used to seeing on shows with People of Color. The success of the various movies and shows display just how talented People of Color are when given the platform to showcase their creativity and tell their own stories. Hopefully in 2018, there will be even more People of Color putting their creativity on display for the screen.
Moonlight at the Oscars
While I completely expected La La Land to receive the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, I almost threw my TV off the balcony when Warren Beatty announced the film did indeed win. “Of course, Hollywood’s going to pick the movie about Hollywood starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and other beautiful white people over a film that explores issues faced by marginalized communities with a predominately colored cast,” I thought. In my opinion, Moonlight was the best movie to come out last year, and probably one of the greatest films I’ve seen period. So the joy that I experienced when it was revealed that the announcement was a mistake was unparalleled.
You know the “Fixed that for you” meme? Like when someone says something stupid, so you correct them. Like how Colbert fixed this Donald Trump tweet to the left. When Moonlight won, that was the ultimate “fixed that for you” to the closed-minded, white male-dominated. film industry and it couldn’t have been more timely. As the narrative around the lack of diversity and opportunities for minorities in film and television became louder, a beautiful story about a poor, gay, black boy becoming a man, stole the spotlight during the biggest night in entertainment.
The meteoric rise of Cardi B has been simply phenomenal. Cardi B has seemed destined for stardom even dating back to her days on Love and Hip-Hop New York. Her larger than life persona and no filter attitude gained her a huge following on the Internet. While she had been bubbling with Internet fame these past couple of years, she took it to another level in 2017. Earlier this year, she released “Bodak Yellow” and set the streets on fire. With it’s hard hitting beat and catchy lyrics “Bodak Yellow” blew up over night. The song became the soundtrack for women everywhere eventually reaching number 1 on the Billboards. She was also featured on “No Limit” by G-Eazy and “Motorsport” by Migos and Nicki Minaj, which are both shooting up the music charts. In addition to her success on the music charts, she recently partnered with Steve Madden for a new shoe collection. Despite all the doubt and hate she has received, Cardi B has proved that she’s much more than a reality star or a social media personality. With so much success this year, saying the “sky’s the limit” would actually be setting the bar too low for young Cardi.
Being from Philly I was a little bit biased on this one, but name one other person who’s dominated in sports and in social media to the level that Joel Embiid has in the past year? Go on… I’ll wait. This man has single-handedly uplifted a city whose basketball team has been in perpetual tank-mode for the past 3 years. Not only has he helped the team turn around their abysmal record, but he has done it in dramatic fashion, turning a team who was the laughing stock of the league into serious playoff contenders. Although he only played 31 games last season under a minutes restriction, Embiid was in the All-star discussion after averaging 20.2 points 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game - and receiving an impressive share of the fan vote. Despite missing a few games this season, Embiid has improved upon last year’s outstanding rookie statistics with a current line of 24.0 points 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game and is again in the all-star conversation and potentially even Defensive Player of the Year. Not to mention the fact that he is still the king of social media trolling.
Lowkey: 21 Savage in 2017 was the male Cardi B. It might be a hot take, but the parallels are plentiful. Both were virtually everywhere. Both had #1 records. Both are not particularly good at rapping, but say clever, funny things in their songs. Both are in high-profile celebrity relationships. The list goes on, but there is no doubt that Cardi B in 2017 was the hottest female rapper feature and 21 Savage was her male counterpart.
I have never been a fan of his music, but 21 Savage has done so well that some of his work is starting to grow on me. After becoming a global meme and self-releasing Savage Mode with Metro Boomin’ last year, the hype heading into 2017 for Savage was huge, and he followed through. His debut Issa Album was released on Epic Records at #2 on the charts to generally positive reception and thus far has gone gold at the hands of the lead single, an undeniable bop, “Bank Account.” He was featured on the most rapidly streamed song in history in the #1 single “Rockstar” by Post Malone - and featured among other songs by artists like Mike Will Made It, Big Sean, Rich Chigga, and, most recently, Cardi B - and dropped a second, surprisingly good album with Offset and Metro Boomin’. That’s work.