Uproxx has a diverse staff who write about all sorts of things, from sports to politics to food and travel, to TV and film, but obviously, most of the people who work here share a passion for music, because music is always in the background throughout all of those other things. It’s one of the things that links us, no matter what our lifestyle, job, or location may be.
To celebrate that, Uproxx staffers are sharing their own personal year-end lists. Our official best albums list is here, and our favorite rap albums are here, with more genre-specific lists rolling out the rest of the week. For now, you can read John Gotty’s top 20 albums below.
20. Nick Grant, 88
Nick Grant may not be on the national radar yet, which is all the more reason to go ahead and get hip to his 88 project before the bandwagon becomes crowded. The South Carolina-born, Atlanta-based newcomer was handpicked by Jason Geter and Chaka Zulu, which is pretty solid backing for a new artist. Grant’s a throwback in the sense that he relies on his music, packed with clever metaphors and lyricism, to make his point instead of, well, all the other shit artists use to draw attention to themselves these days.
As the name implies, 88’s a head nod to Rap’s golden era when MCs earned their respect line by line, song by song, which Grant sets out to do with his record. “Somethin To Say” kicks off the album, beginning with Andre 3000’s “The South’s got something to say” speech and an Outkast beat jack that Grant pummels into submission. “Window Seat,” “Trouble-Where Is The Love (Interlude)” and “Royalty (Remix)” with Big K.R.I.T. and Killer Mike keep the pace as Grant spits as if his life depends on every word making it to an audience starved for more than Actavis raps.
On “Black Sinatra,” Grant proclaims, “You trippin’ if I ain’t the hottest, f*ck being modest, I probably make Rakim and Daddy the proudest.” Obviously, that’s saying a lot but Grant’s got the words and talent to try and back it up.
19. Joey Purp, iiiDrops
Chicago will never be confused with Atlanta but there’s something to be said for the number of really talented MCs that keep popping up from the City of Wind. Chance The Rapper’s Save Money crewmates have been benefactors of his success, gaining looks they might not see had he not found his way into the national spotlight. But this isn’t just a case of the buddy system at play. They all bring something to the table and, for Joey Purp, that’s his iiiDrops project.
Purp is slightly more street than some of his peers, evidenced by the lines “I done been on both sides of the burner, I done witnessed both sides of the murder” heard on the album opener, “Morning Sex.” The mixtape’s strongest cut is arguably “Cornerstore.” Powered by Thelonious Martin and Nico Segal, Purp draws on what it means to grow up as a black kid in a city currently overrun by gun violence when he spits, “I remember finding that revolver, I was looking through my closet, tryin’ to find my remote-control car charger, Aimed it at my head and make a gun sound, ain’t that a b*tch?”
Saba adds on a poignant verse of his own, and it’s then that you start to realize all of these young guys have a way with words because they’ve worked together and pushed each other for so long. Plus, surviving on Chicago’s south and west sides means you’ll have seen things by the time you reach early adulthood.
While some of his earlier work tended to sound like rapping for rap’s sake, iiiDrops is a more cohesive outing from a guy who’s still got a ways to go before finding his comfort zone. Luckily for Purp, he’s so versatile that he’s got options.
17. Jay IDK, Empty Bank
Rappers talking about money is usually as predictable as the sun rising each morning. Most describe how the means they use to get it and what they spend it on as soon as it touches their hands. Jay IDK took a completely different look at the power of the dollar on Empty Bank. For starters, he premiered the project on Forbes, which isn’t exactly a hotbed for hip-hop music. But, the accompanying interview he gave for the project’s release allowed him the space to speak candidly about how cash rules everything around him, as a rapper and regular person, and rap fans, who soak in bad financial advice from MCs without realizing how unconsciously influential it is, as he explained to Forbes.
Being financially literate is the most important thing for any rapper or artist. Now that I’m starting to gain success, it’s important that I not only know about some of these things, but I have the people around me that instill a lot of these things that people need to know — not just tell me what to do, but actually teach me. Having those things is what is keeping me prepared for what’s about to happen.
The DMV native doesn’t simply point the finger. He takes stock in himself and speaks about his own poor spending habits (“Priorities, Pt. 1”), his perception of money (“My Wallet”), how materialism drives poor spending habits (“I Picture”) and other insightful takes how money and means can skew how we view the world and the people in it. Empty Bank was a strong follow-up to 2015’s SubTrap so anyone looking for cleverness and honesty that doesn’t come off as contrived or corny can find the music with meaning by checking for Jay IDK
16. Russ, his whole SoundCloud
As far as multi-hyphenates go, Russ is creeping his way into national recognition just yet, but it’s bound to happen. He’s a one-man band and he’s still technically independent, which makes what he’s managed to create in terms of momentum all the more impressive. Especially when it’s taken into consideration he’s yet to release an actual album, mixtape, EP or any formal collection of his music. Nope, he’s building his catalog brick by brick, turning his SoundCloud page into homebase for the time being, shooting down offers and opting to maintain control over his career by staying independent.
Earlier in the year, he said “I’m gonna drop songs consistently until I blow up.” He followed up on that statement by continually feeding fans’ appetites by delivering new songs almost weekly and the majority of them — like “The Otherside,” “Do It Myself,” and “To Be Honest” — being ones that instantly commanded a reblog on SoundCloud. Almost every one has racked up a million plays with one of the newest ones, “What They Want,” now finding its way to radio is a sign that 2017 is going to be special for this singer-rapper-producer-all-around-badass. And that’s with or without an album to his name.