A Hip-Hop Wish List for 2017
2016 was a mess. I don’t need to explain to you why because you already know. There are several reasons (but one in particular) your timeline is flooded with “me at the beginning of 2016 vs me at the end of 2016” memes, which are both hilarious and depressing. Kanye West dapping up Donald Trump and getting him to sign his copy of Time magazine (which features Trump on the cover) is such a fitting way to end the year.
2016 wasn’t a total write-off, though. As music fans, we’ve been spoilt rotten with new albums from Kanye, Drake, Frank, Kendrick, Cole, Chance, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Solange, Gambino, .Paak, Travis, Future, Gucci, Thug and — who can forget? — Lil Yachty. Phife Dawg’s death was tragic, but it also triggered the grand return of A Tribe Called Quest, which provided more solace than we might have realized.
As the new year approaches, there’s a lot to fear, but also a lot to look forward to. Here are 10 things we’d like to see happen in 2017.
Someone, Anyone, Break Up the Kanye West-Donald Trump Bromance
If this was the president’s first hundred days, this would be at the top of the agenda. I can’t say I was all that surprised when Kanye West came out in support of Donald Trump last month. As The Ringer’s Justin Charity pointed out, Kanye and Trump have more in common than you might think. But seeing the guy who once called out a sitting president on live TV for not caring about black people suddenly chumming up to an even bigger racist just doesn’t sit right.
Discussing issues like “bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago” is one thing—and possibly a good thing, if you can believe Donald Trump would ever take anything Kanye West says into consideration—but calling Trump a “genius” and dapping him up in front of cameras is another. Maybe real friends like Pusha T, Common, and Chance The Rapper need to have their own sit down with Ye.
More Politically-Charged Hip-Hop
Maybe the only upside to four years of Donald Trump in office is the kind of reaction it’ll generate from rappers (not named Kanye West). Even before winning the election, we’ve seen how Trump’s racist rhetoric has turned YG into the closest thing to a current-day Ice Cube. With the police brutality problem unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future, that only makes Vic Mensa, Run The Jewels and Rapsody’s missions all the more important. In the same way Public Enemy and N.W.A rose up during the Reagan Era, Trump’s presidency could inadvertently inspire a new generation of politically-charged rappers.
Old Rappers to Stop Shitting on New Rappers
Look, I get it. There are some pretty terrible rappers making noise right now, and most of them wouldn’t have made it in the ’90s (or any previous decade). You can’t help but let the world know how phenomenally wack this shit is, and you have every right to do so. But here’s the rub: there are countless young artists pushing the culture forward in bigger and better ways.
For every gripe you might have about a Young Thug or Lil Yachty, there’s a Chance The Rapper or Joey Bada$$ balancing the scales. The whole “today’s rap sucks” attitude is painfully short-sighted and downright insulting to all the new stars carrying on traditions and making legitimately great music. Just because a red-headed, marble-mouthed teen catches a buzz off a catchy jingle, doesn’t mean hip-hop is crumbling before our eyes. Notice how we’re still standing after Soulja Boy supposedly brought about the hip-hop apocalypse?
We’re good. And if you focused your energy on promoting the shit you do like, rather than panning the stuff you don’t, we might be better.
Chance The Rapper to Win a GRAMMY
Chance The Rapper was the undisputed MVP of 2016. He released one of the best albums of the year, threw his own festival with some of the biggest names in the game and shepherded in a much-needed wave of gospel rap to the mainstream. Oh, and he had his own Kit Kat commercial, too. Chance did so much this year it’s easy to forget he basically forced the GRAMMYs to recognize free music (even if they don’t like to admit it) and heads into 2017 with an impressive seven nominations. He’s up against tough competition like Drake and Beyoncé, but Chano will probably fancy his chances of walking away with a gold gramophone next February. It won’t be the first time he’s made history.
More Livestream Album Listening Sessions
Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Travis Scott’s Birds In the Trap Sing McKnight are pretty solid albums. The only thing I enjoyed more than the actual music, however, was the way in which it was released.
Even from behind a laptop screen hundreds of miles away, watching Kanye fill MSG with family, friends and fans while playing his new album off an aux cord was genuinely one of my favorite moments of 2016. Not only because it allowed us to witness Kanye and Cudi bro-moshing as “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” rang off in the arena, but the excitement and anticipation over what the next song was and who’s on it. Oh shit, that’s Chance! Holy crap, Frank! Woah, Future! (Sorry, Desiigner).
It was a similar, albeit not as euphoric, experience when Travis premiered Birds In the Trap Sing McKnight live on Beats 1 in September. Hearing the album in full for the first time as part of a collective audience, completely oblivious to its star-studded cast, was so much more rewarding than scanning the tracklisting beforehand and streaming it by yourself at two in the morning. Thanks to Twitter, you could lose your shit to a Travis Scott and Kid Cudi song next to everyone else tuning in.
In the age of Netflix and Spotify and Amazon Prime, where everything is on-demand and on your own schedule, it’s even more special when we all sit together by the proverbial fireplace and share moments like these.
Vince Staples to Get His Own Talk Show
GQ’s “Vince Staples Reviews Every Fucking Thing” series was cool, but part of me felt like they were treating him like a circus act, prodding him to say something funny about rapper chains or Olympic sports. I mean, he did, because he’s one of the most naturally witty guys around. But there’s a weird dynamic you can’t quite put your finger on.
Vince recently got his own monthly radio show on Beats 1 (which, if the first episode is anything to go by, places more of a focus on playlists than personality), but it’s time Vince got his own show—TV or internet — to talk about whatever he wants and however he wants, without the pressure of having 90 seconds to make us laugh.
I’m not the only one who’d watch a Vince Staples show: Complex’s Joe La Puma recently asked Vince about what it would take to make it happen, to which he replied, “I want a lot of money for that. Like a lot.” Someone needs to come up with that bag.
Birdman to Stop Acting Like a Dick and Release Tha Carter V
Not only because it’s Lil Wayne and it’s the final Carter album and we’ve been waiting so fucking long for it. But to save us from another underwhelming Wayne album that no one asked for. With all due respect, I’d rather attend an actual funeral than hear Funeral.
Less Features That Aren’t Actually Features
André 3000 on “30 Hours.” Beyoncé on “Pink + White.” Jay Z on "Pop Style." Kanye West on “White Ferrari.” Kanye West on “Friends.” Kanye West on “M.P.A.” (you see a pattern here?) Quit teasing us with these pump fake features and give us at least, like, half a bridge to actually enjoy. (P.S. Stay tuned for my debut album dropping next year featuring Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T and Young Thug. Thugga has whisper of the year, I promise you).
Rappers to Stop Announcing a Bunch of Albums, Only to Disappoint Us
Rewind to last week, and Lupe Fiasco and Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def)—two of the most talented, if not frustrating rappers of all time—were ready to release three albums each over the course of the next year before retiring (for good this time). Lupe had DROGAS Light, DROGAS and Skulls on deck, while Bey was supposed to release December 99th on December 9 before premiering Negus In Natural Person and As Promised, his full-length collaboration with Mannie Fresh, during his farewell tour later this month.
History told us it was setting up to be a thrilling race to see who could break our hearts first—and history was right.
Mos Def took an early lead when December 9 came and went without even a sniff of a new album (“The album is coming out,” producer Ferrari Shephard wrote on Facebook. “The delay [is] not [his] fault”). Not to be outdone, Lupe decided to blow Bey out of the water by straight up canceling all three of his albums after catching flack for the “dirty Jewish execs” line on his latest freestyle. “I’m officially not releasing anymore music,” he tweeted earlier this week. “Albums canceled.”
So, no word on when—or even if—Yasiin Bey will release his new album. And no more Lupe Fiasco albums ever again. Was there really any other outcome?
Less albums with hilariously unaware titles. Less headlines about petty beefs over his teenage girlfriend. Less landing a record deal through nepotism and irreversibly ruining my favorite rap label. Just less Tyga in general, please. The only feline rap we acknowledge is Meow The Jewels.
By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credits: Instagram