Forty-four years ago today (Aug. 11), Jamaican American DJ Kool Herc pulled out his turntables and deejayed a Bronx party for the ages, playing an extended cut of the percussion-heavy portions of James Brown’s Sex Machine album while shouting instructions to dancing party-goers. This, historians recognize, as the birth of hip-hop.
To celebrate the occasion, YouTube Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen and the legendary Fab 5 Freddy teamed with the good folks at Google to create the company’s first ever hip-hop Doodle. Now, when you visit the Google main page, you’re greeted with a colorful and interactive doodle that allows you to scratch popular R&B/soul records, much like Herc did when he threw his legendary block party 44 years ago.
In the interactive doodle, you can hear Fab 5 Freddy’s voice in the intro and a voice barking out various minor congratulations as you learn to scratch the records after peeping the tutorial. Google really went all out.
Before revealing it earlier today, Google previewed the doodle for hip-hop legends like DJ Red Alert, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Roxanne Shante, and others. The newest edition to Google’s celebratory doodles will be live on Google domains until Saturday (Aug. 12). Check it out on Google’s homepage and read what Lyor Cohen had to say about the process.
Happy birthday, hip-hop!
See 25 of the Best Hip-Hop Projects of 2017 (So Far)
Big Sean, I decided
Big Sean might thrive on his perceived underdog status, but it’s a classification he's long since outgrown, and continues distancing himself from on I Decided. On his newest project, Sean Don swerves through everything from his frustration with fame (“Halfway Off the Balcony,) to romance to his belief in his own potential ("The Light"). Flexing his typically malleable flow and clever rhymes across vibrantly cloudy instrumentals, Sean shows his bars are at least as sharp as they were the day he first freestyled for Kanye West, while showcasing slow jam-making abilities he definitely didn't have back then ("Same Time"). As is usually the case, though, Sean's at his best when he infuses his aspirational bars with club-ready tracks like the Hitmaka, Smash David and Metro Boomin-produced "Bounce Back"—which landed at No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, giving him his highest-charting single to date. —Peter A. Berry
21 Savage, Issa Album
Ever since 21 Savage took over the internet in 2016, following his explanation of "Issa knife" in reference to the tattoo on his forehead, the rapper has infiltrated the pop culture lexicon with the word "issa." Now in 2017, his major label solo album arrives bearing the appropriate title Issa Album. On the effort, the Atlanta rapper teams up with producer Metro Boomin, who was at the helm of his 2016 collaborative LP, Savage Mode, as well as P'ierre Bourne, DJ Mustard and Zaytoven, among other production stalwarts, to create a sonic bed of trap-inspired gems. Crafting platinum-selling hits like "X" is comfortable territory for 21 and Issa Album doesn't disappoint when it comes to tracks that will stick in your ear just as much as that Future-assisted joint did. "Bank Account" is on its way to earning some of those same platinum accolades for the simple fact 21 creates a timeless get-money anthem (I got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 M's in my bank account") over Metro's brooding beat. While flaunting his success is standard fare for 21, he showcases his versatility by singing on the endearing ode "Special" and tackling racism, police brutality and political injustice on "Nothin' New." Issa solid album.—Georgette Cline
Rick Ross, Rather You Than Me
Being the boss comes at a cost, an exchange which Rick Ross knows all to well. Spending the last decade building his Maybach Music Group empire, the rapper continues his transition into an elder statesmen on the album Rather You Than Me. The project details the relationships he's lost and sacrifices made along the road to prosperity. As with all albums from Ross, the ambiance is opulent and palpable with the Bink-produced "Santorini Greece," leaving listeners in awe before they're snapped back to reality with the incendiary takedown of Cash Money CEO Birdman on "Idols Become Rivals." Scathing appraisals aside, Rozay is more concerned with linking with rap's biggest names, with Nas, Future, Meek Mill, Young Thug, Gucci Mane, Ty Dolla $ign and Wale all making appearances on the LP. Preaching financial independence ("Game Ain't Based on Sympathy," "Scientology") amid musings about drug deals and shootouts, Rick Ross adds to his stellar discography with Rather You Than Me, an album that is as visceral as it is cinematic.—Preezy
Starlito and Don Trip, Step Brothers Three
Starlito and Don Trip have been one of the most consistent duos in rap ever since they started dropping their Step Brothers series, so the fact that the third one is the best of the trilogy so far makes it all the more impressive. Blending the clever concepts from the second iteration with the no-nonsense bars from the first, Lito and Trip serve up every flavor of rap you could ask for. "Yeah 5x" finds them venting over driving, soulful production, while "Good Cop Bad Cop" takes a look at the other side of racial profiling and police brutality. Step Brothers Three finds Trip and Lito at their most relaxed and focused, making for a well-balanced LP.—Max Weinstein
Migos ascend to their rightful place as Southern rap stars with the album Culture. Coming off a less-than-stellar official debut album with 2015's Yung Rich Nation, Migos spent the past two years in jail, in the studio and in a battle with their label. But while each artist built their buzz separately (Quavo alone dropped 20 fire guest verses in 2016), Takeoff, Quavo and Offset never deterred from their original mission. In October 2016, the guys dropped “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert and it only took a few months and a casual name-drop from Childish Gambino at the Golden Globes for the banger to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 by January. From there, it was like a battery in their backs.
Naming their sophomore album Culture was a deliberate move by the young bulls to stake their claim on the new wave of music coming out of their city. With features from Travis Scott and Gucci Mane and production from Murda Beatz, Zaytoven, Metro Boomin and more, the syrup-soaked hits just don’t stop on this project. The LP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, moving 131,000 units in first week sales and to date, six out of 13 songs on the tracklist make appearances on the Hot 100; “Bad and Boujee,” “T-Shirt,” “Slippery,” “Kelly Price,” “Call Casting” and “Get Right Witcha.” Bottom line: even though it came out six months ago, if you need an album to get cheeks clappin’ at a party this summer, Culture is still your best bet.—Sidney Madden
J.I.D, The Never Story
Known for its expansive trap scene, Atlanta isn't exactly the first place rap classicists search for a revival of 1990s hip-hop, but it's exactly where you'll find J.I.D's The Never Story, a modernized, southern boom-bap album that marks the arrival of Atlanta's next top lyricist. With richly understated production as the backdrop, J.I.D uses dexterous flows and sharp writing to explain everything from life with childhood friends ("EdEddnEddy") to the condemned fate they share in East Atlanta ("Never"). “Most of the niggas I came up (with), haven’t came up," he raps on "Never," sounding like "m.A.A.D. City" Kendrick Lamar the whole way through. More than simply a guy that can body a Hot 97 freestyle, J.I.D showcases some dynamic songwriting and vocal malleability on "Hereditary," using the suppleness of his voice to convey naked vulnerability as he addresses a doomed romance. J. Cole’s got a good one.—P.A.B.
J Hus, Common Sense
As the U.K.'s afrobeat and grime scenes continue to grow legs and captivate listeners in the U.S., London rapper J Hus crashes the party with his debut album, Common Sense, a collection of vibrant offerings that showcase his versatility. Live instrumentation accompanies J Hus as he takes center stage on the album's title track, as well as "Closed Doors," two of the more subdued outings on Common Sense. However, the London rep shines brightest on more festive soundscapes, with producer JAE5 providing pulsating production to compliment J Hus' international flair. In addition to the lead single "Did You See," other standouts include "Bouff Daddy" and "Plottin," which modernizes U.K.'s vintage garage vibes. Equally adept at delivering bruising stanzas as he is at delivering harmonious ditties, J Hus proves himself to be a jack of all trades on Common Sense, which ranks among the more enticing rap imports of 2017.—Preezy
Thirteen studio albums in and JAY-Z is still giving his competition, old and new, reason to step their game up. With the release of 4:44, Hov's most transparent and vulnerable project yet, the Brooklyn MC calls on producer No I.D. to helm the boards for a sample-driven soundscape to support his candid rhymes. While JAY-Z is no stranger to braggadocio lyrics here, much of the project centers on the reality of his personal life, past and present. From opening up about his mother being a lesbian on "Smile" to the trials and tribulations of his relationship with Beyoncé on the title track "4:44," the MC holds nothing back. He even takes fellow rappers to task for their money phone-flaunting ways on "The Story of O.J." ("Y'all on the ’Gram holdin' money to your ear/There's a disconnect, we don't call that money over here, yeah") and shares a track with his daughter Blue Ivy on "Blue's Freestyle/We Family," on which she flexes her lyrical skills as a novice. Both a rapper and family man, time has certainly changed JAY-Z for the better.—G.C.
The definition and parameters of what makes a rapper a star continues to be defied as the genre continues to evolve, with Logic being a prime example of the new "cool" in today's musical landscape. With two critically-acclaimed gold albums to his credit, Logic looks to cement his status as an elite wordsmith on his 2017 release, Everybody, a conceptual release that tackles the gamut of sociopolitical issues plaguing society. "In my blood is the slave and the master," the Maryland native laments on the title track "Everybody," reconciling his biracial identity with his place in the rap game and society, a theme that is prevalent throughout. His most ambitious effort to date, Logic is joined by a mix of tenured veterans (Black Thought, Chuck D, Killer Mike, Juicy J) and fresher faces (Alessia Cara, Khalid, Ansel Elgort) on the album, all of which contribute enthralling performances, assisting him in making Everybody among the superior long players of 2017.—Preezy
Wale's Shine is one of his better albums in his discography. The 14-track LP, which features guest appearances from Lil Wayne, WizKid, G-Eazy, J Balvin, and Davido, among others, is like a trip across the world. You visit Medellín when you listen to "Colombia Heights (Te Llamo)," you dance in Lagos, Nigeria when you hear "Fine Girl" and you relax in Washington D.C. when "Smile" comes on.
Shine is a wonderful LP that showcases the versatility that Wale has in his sound while showcasing his skills as one of the better rappers in the game. One thing that stands out on the album is the happiness Wale exudes throughout the album. It's probably credited to his daughter, who was born last year. For the majority of the LP, the sound is melodic and dance-friendly, the perfect combination for the summer. The crazy thing is "Shine Season"—one of the best songs that Wale has ever created—was left off the album.—Emmanuel C.M.
Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
Big Fish Theory is a frenetic, electronic-fueled street race through the psyche of a cynical 20-something who's found that—as a Ramona Park survivor turned Sprite-endorsing rap star—he's just a bit "too cultured and too ghetto" for the world he now lives in ("Homage") . Finding inventive ways to rhyme over lithe tracks that could easily be a collection of Adult Swim bumps, the Long Beach native uses concise rhymes to describe what it's like trying to remain engaged in a world where fame can be alienating and racism is pervasive ("Big Fish," "Crabs in a Bucket"). Forceful optimism bursts through the seams of "BagBak," though, which feels like Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" remade in the image of Staples' dry-wit and recently adopted EDM-leanings. "So 'til they love my dark skin/Bitch I'm goin' all in," he raps on the song. Word. —P.A.B.
Tee Grizzley, My Moment
On the surface, Tee Grizzley sounds like a lot of other Detroit rappers—hard-nosed narrative raps over piano-laced beats. But the more you listen to his debut project My Moment, the more you hear his style develop. It's his grasp on melody that sets him apart from the pack; songs like "Real Niggas" and "How Many" show how unafraid he is to sing his own hooks, and while "No Effort" is some of the best rapping you'll find all year, "Testimony" sounds almost like a gospel record. He's the complete package; no wonder Hov's a fan.—M.W.
Kodak Black, Painting Pictures
Amidst legal troubles, Kodak Black made his Atlantic Records debut with Painting Pictures. The 17-track LP featured guest appearances from Future, Young Thug, Bun B, Jeezy and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie plus production from Ben Billions, Mike WiLL Made-It, Honorable C.N.O.T.E., Wheezy, Metro Boomin and Nav. Kodak has an uncanny ability to deliver shockingly-blunt first-hand testimonials of how cruel life can be. However, he struck gold with the lead single, “Tunnel Vision,” which thrived on the Hot 100 chart and peaked at No 8. The LP also debuted at No. 3 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart, selling 71,000 equivalent units in its first week of sales. Painting Pictures showcases a variety of his sounds; "Up in Here" and "Why They Call You Kodak" beat up speakers, "Patty Cake" and "Reminiscing" prove the 20-year-old Florida rapper has lighter radio-ready singles on deck. Even tracks like "Side Nigga" and "Save You" reveal a more emotional, vulnerable side to Kodak that the general public might not be aware of. The LP has something for everybody. –E.C.M.
Freddie Gibbs, You Only Live 2wice
One of the feel-good rap releases of 2017 comes from an unlikely source, as Freddie Gibbs returned to the rap scene with You Only Live 2wice, which arrives after spending a chunk of his 2016 incarcerated overseas on charges of sexual assault. Spending two months in prison, Gibbs was ultimately exonerated, returning to the states, where he wold complete You Only Live 2wice, which finds him reminiscing on his genesis in the trenches. "I show you how in one summer one nigga could lose it all," Gibbs delivers on "20 Karat Jesus," but spends the majority of the project delivering D-Boy parables over a bevy of soulful backdrops. Painting vivid scenes on "Dear Maria" and "Andrea," before touching on fair-weather friends and the paranoia of a hustler on "Homesick," Gibbs keeps it relatively sparse on You Only Live 2wice, with eight focused selections that leaves the listener craving for.—Preezy
St. Louis rapper Smino makes his full-fledged introduction into the game with twangy bars against R&B and jazz-inspired beats for his debut album, blkswn. Preceded by the singles “blkswn” and “Anita,” the March 2017 release was a breath of fresh air for fans searching for diversity in rap these days. The 25-year-old storyteller muses on a variety of topics—everything from loving his girl to giving Black creatives their props—while injecting every verse with scat-like voice inflections and his Missouri accent. Production on the 18-track offering is handled by Smino’s right-hand man, Chicago producer Monte Booker, along with THEMPeople, Phoelix and Soulection member Sango.
Even though it dropped almost five months ago, critics are still citing the project as a standard of the year and fans are still discovering new favorites off blkswn with each passing day. “Netflix & Dusse” is currently at 1.8 million Spotify streams while “Wild Irish Roses” is climbing up to 1.5 million. And with an upcoming tour in support of TDE’s SZA this fall, expect Smino’s star to rise even further before the year is out.—S.M.
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar's DAMN.is a focused meditation on wrath, fame, morality, love, peace and Blackness. Abandoning the largely tranquil introspection and jazz-infused sounds of To Pimp a Butterfly, K. Dot's rapping is sharper and more visceral than ever as he attacks the Mike WiLL Made-It produced "DNA" in a furious proclamation of the "royalty and loyalty" his blood carries and the capacity for greatness it affords him. While TPABchronicled issues faced by the Black community Damn. sees Kendrick take the leap to analyzing the moral quandaries those issues leave him to face as, by his own admission, the guy nobody's praying for ("Feel"). On "Element," , Kendrick explains his career as something he's willing to die for—and maybe even take lives for—to prevent him from "going back to broke" with his "family selling dope, while the raging U2-assisted "XXX" sees the Compton rapper shoot down the notion of turning the other cheek, using heart-wrenching hypotheticals to drive home that point. Futuristic, yet retro production from Sounwave, DJ Dahi, 9th Wonder, The Alchemist and Top Dawg line K. Dot's latest masterpiece, which only adds to a ceaseless debate about which album's his best.—P.A.B.
Future's self-titled fifth studio album proved to be a commercial success for the Atlanta native as it featured several noteworthy tracks including the smash hit, "Mask Off," which eventually became the rapper's highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 so far. With production from Southside, Metro Boomin, Zaytoven and others, the 17-track LP stays true to Future's aesthetic and highlights why the ATL rapper is one of the most influential artists of today's generation.—Roger Krastz
Joey Badass, All-Amerikkkan Badass
Joey Bada$$ taps into his activist side and attempts to enlighten the people on All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$. Using music as his soapbox, Joey takes a nosedive into heavy topics on his sophomore album while showcasing his growth as an artist. The 22-year-old Brooklyn boy offers up his perspective on police brutality, institutional racism, drugs in the community and more with a cadence that proves he’s wise beyond his years. Though new fans will easily identify “Devastated” as the biggest commercial single, songs like “Land of the Free,” “Amerikkkan Idol” and “Legendary” featuring J. Cole stand out as the strongest takeaways. As for the rapper’s signature boom-bap production, Joey keeps it in the Pro Era family, tapping Kirk Knight, Chuck Strangers and Powers Pleasant to handle beats as well as trusted past collaborators like Statik Selektah.
Released in April under Pro Era and Cinematic Music Group, All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, moving 51,000 copies in the first week. With a tour with Logic currently underway and new acting gigs on the way, being political is proving to pan out for the young visionary.—S.M.
Goldlink, At What Cost
GoldLinlk's At What Cost is easily one of the best albums of the year. The beauty about the LP is that it's so authentically inspired by the DMV, Link's home. Everything about the project is spectacularly Chocolate City. From the fantastic album artwork created by Riverdale, Md.'s Darius Moreno, to the go-go-inspired production that was handled by Steve Lacy, Matt Martians, KAYTRANADA and Louie Lastik, among others, to the lyrical references, At What Cost is a firsthand look at what makes up the DMV.
The driving force for the album is the standout single "Crew" featuring Baltimore phenom Brent Faiyaz and D.C.'s young boss Shy Glizzy. The song, including the video, is intoxicating, infiltrating listeners' veins and inspiring a mean two-step. But that's not the only record worth noting. "Meditation," "Herside Story" featuring Hare Squead and "We Will Never Die" are just some of the notable tracks on the LP. From top to bottom, At What Cost was a beautiful look at what it's like to live in one of the greatest areas in the world.—E.C.M.
Drake, More Life
In March of 2017, Drake released the eclectic project More Life. Considered by the Canadian artist as a playlist, the project boasted 22 new tracks with guest features from the likes of Young Thug, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, Giggs and more. Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, the LP featured a number of number of buzzworthy tracks such as “Passionfruit,” “Gyalchester,” “Portland” and “Ice Melts,” to name a few. Receiving positive reviews from music critics and fans, the project also helped Drake reach another milestone in his career as he set a streaming record on both Spotify and Apple Music.—R.K.
2 Chainz, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
The legend of 2 Chainz crystallizes on Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, a luxurious trip through the world of Atlanta's newest self-made superstar. Traversing glittering production from the likes of Mike WiLL Made-It, Mike Dean and Murda Beatz, Chainz mythologizes himself as the trap's own Epic hero using impassioned, yet playful lyricism and agile flows to recount the story of his trip from the hood to "Riverdale." With its blaring electric guitar riffs and climactic piano keys, "Saturday Night" begins the tale of the man who "left the crib walking" and "drove a Mercedes back," while the Dean-produced, Monica-assisted "Burglar Bars" acts as a sort of spiritual sequel to the song and a fitting bookend for the project. With tracks like the ethereal "Poor Fool" and the anthemic "Blue Cheese" sandwiched in between, you’re looking at 2 Chainz's coronation as truly one of the rap game's elite. —P.A.B.
YFN Lucci, Long Live Nut
In a sprawling Atlanta rap scene that is dense with star talent, YFN Lucci continues to stand out from the pack. After enjoying a breakout year in 2016 with his single "Key to the Streets" impacting radio, YFN Lucci looked to build upon that buzz his Long Live Nut EP, a project that finds him attempting to turn tragedy into triumph while mourning the death of his mentor. Rooted in determination, Long Live Nut expresses YNF Lucci's ambitions ("Way Up") as well as his motivations ("Been Broke Before"), with the rare celebratory moment coming on the PnB Rock-assisted smash "Everyday We Lit." Despite boasting additional standout features from Rick Ross (Heartless), YFN Trae Pound ("Ammunition"), Lil Durk ("Turn They Back") and Boosie Badazz ("Testimony), YFN Lucci's distinctive wail serves as the main attraction on Long Live Nut, a release that should bolster his standing as a force to be reckoned with.—Preezy
Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti
If you listen to Playboi Carti's self-titled debut project with preconceived notions of what it will be, it's easy to toss it away as nonsensical blabber. But if you're open-minded to change, it's hard to deny that Playboi Carti is creating a new sound. Carti's minimalistic approach can drive hip-hop purists crazy but the catchiness of his records is undeniable. The focus is more about creating the perfect atmosphere for losing your mind than lyrical wordplay. The project is wonderfully sequenced and Playboi Carti is masterful at making magnetic records.
"Wokeuplikethis" featuring Lil Uzi Vert is great, but "Magnolia" is arguably the best song of the year. With stellar production—and a standout DJ tag—from Pi'erre Bourne, Playboi Carti drops memorable line after line ("In New York I Milly Rock, hide it in my sock"). His music is made for live shows and his sound is already being copied. You don't know when and where his verses, hooks or ad-libs start or stop but it doesn't matter. When you listen to Cash Carti, you're just excited to be along on the ride.—E.C.M.
DJ Quik and Problem, Rosecrans
DJ Quik remains one of the most brilliant producers not just in hip-hop, but all of music. Last year's Rosecrans EP was a breath of fresh air, but the full-length LP is a gust of G-Funk wind that'll blow you off your feet. The "European Vacation" intro features the kind of lush instrumentation people think only Dr. Dre is capable of, and the LP is full of so many West Coast legends (AMG, Suga Free, MC Eiht), it feels like a gangsta party on wax. Problem and Quik's chemistry on wax is undeniable to the very end, so we've been wearing this album out ever since it dropped.—M.W.
Fat Joe Remy Ma, Plato O Plomo
Released in February of 2017, Fat Joe and Remy Ma's collaborative LP, Plata O Plomo, was a highly anticipated album before it dropped this year. Rightfully so, the album lived up to its expectations, and sparked plenty of radio-friendly tunes such as the mega smash "All the Way Up," the Ty Dolla $ign-assisted, "Money Showers" and "Heartbreak" featuring R&B crooner The-Dream. Backed by the production of Cool & Dre, Edsclusive, Street Runner and more, the project not only introduced the duo to a new, younger crowd, but helped Remy Ma win a BET Award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist in 2017. The project not only proved the duo still had the streets' ears as they once did during their Terror Squad heyday with "Lean Back," but they could compete with the new class of rising hip-hop talent.—R.K.