The year is coming to a close, which means that it’s time to look back and appreciate some of 2017’s greatest offerings. Way too many good songs dropped this year to list them all, but there were a few that we thought should’ve gotten more plays, exposure, and attention. We’ve thrown together a list of the 17 most slept on from the past year. They were either overshadowed by an artist’s other releases, didn’t have a big enough push to reach many of your ears, or simply didn’t blow up as big as we thought they deserved to. Check out the list below and share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear which slaps you thought were slept on.
17. Rexx Life Raj x YMTK – What’s Up (Prod. Drew Banga)
Both Rexx Life Raj and YMTK released impressive full length solo projects in 2017, but their more-than solid joint project Emoji Goats kind of came and went. The EP’s lead single “What’s Up” was produced by Drew Banga and found two of the Bay’s best rapper/singer hybrids explaining that their success is no accident. They’ve worked really hard for it. My favorite part of the song comes at the 41-second mark, when Raj decides to snap in double time about Uber Blacks and foolish n*ggas. The message is simple on “What’s Up”. Give them their due and you’ll live to see another day.
16. Robbioso – Talkin Shit
Vallejo’s Robbioso had a breakout year in 2017, stunning the Bay with an abundance of gas at an octane we haven’t seen in a while. His aggressive flow & high powered punchlines have made him stand out among a sea of local rappers, while his penchant for funky sampled beats makes his bars more easily digestible for the masses. While he had a few really dope slaps that we feel could have made this list, we decided to go with the one that put him on our radar – the original “Talkin Shit”. Unlike its darker sequel, “Talkin Shit” is a fast-paced manifesto that fits neatly into Vallejo’s burgeoning rap scene with its 80s record sampling production and witty punchlines like, “If you ain’t talking bout a check/ I turn to Helen Keller” and “I’m still in the streets like a piece of metal”.
15. MACK – Bigger Dreams (Prod. Drew Banga)
Mack is a rising emcee that offered a standout verse on Caleborate’s “Life” from his 2017 album, Real Person. Though a relative newcomer, Mack has honed a masterful and passionate delivery. He spits every bar and syllable with an urgent purpose that commands the attention of the listener. On “Bigger Dreams”, Mack tackles a minimalist Drew Banga beat with poetic lines that detail a rambunctious childhood, paternal resentment, and a nagging desire to earn enough to provide for his mother. If his Instagram stories are any indication, he’s been working on a lot music — a promising sign for 2018.
14. Lil Buzz – No Feelins (Prod. DJ Swift)
Lil Buzz is a rapper coming out of Richmond breathing new life into the city’s hip-hop landscape. He makes auto-tuned trap slaps that standout in today’s post mobb and hyphy dominated Bay Area rap scene. In September, Lil Buzz dropped a record called “No Feelings”. DJ Swift plays emotive Zaytoven-esque piano keys on the skeptical track, that serve to rebut anyone who claims trap isn’t musical. On “No Feelins”, Buzz is pensive on the subject of interpersonal relationships. He decides that he’s too involved in making money and achieving a rap dream to fall in love with any woman. Similarly, it’s too dangerous to befriend other men because they can be jealous opps in disguise. Lil Buzz will be dropping Ballads Of A Young Player in 2018.
13. Kamaiyah – Playa In Me (Prod. Link Up)
After having a whirlwind 2016 like the one Kamaiyah had, it would be difficult for anyone to replicate that level of success. Commendably Kamaiyah accomplished a lot in 2017, including snagging a spot on this year’s XXL Freshmen list and delivering one of the stronger cypher verses produced by this year’s class. However she also had a few false starts, failing to deliver music videos when they were promised, never dropping her album DEGIT due to sample clearances, and butting heads with her record label. In November she released a full length project called Before I Wake to silence the chatter of eagerly waiting fans. On Before I Wake you’ll find the funky “Playa In Me”. The Link Up produced single familiarly samples Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz’ 2003 release “Play No Games” and highlights everything we love about Kamaiyah’s best music. It’s the cool, evolved g-funk that doesn’t take things too seriously. It breathes easy, and encourages you to do the same.
12. Trey Coastal – R1R2L1L2 (Prod. Rye Mann)
Trey Coastal is an Oakland-based hip-hop trio composed of two emcees and a producer. With two EPs under their belts already this year, No Lay-Ups (Side A) and No Lay-Ups (Side B), the crew is planning a third, aptly titled Third Rail on New Year’s Eve. From their output this year, “R1R2L1L2” off of No Lay-Ups (Side B) stands out. The single features dope production and lyricism, but most notable, is its innovative music video featuring an 8-bit game of Trey Coastal traversing an animated Oakland. Natives will recognize 12th Street BART station, the Fox Theatre and Lake Merritt in the video. The video game motif, besides being visually appealing, serves to carry the message that life is in fact not a game. Despite the fact that “R1R2L1L2” is one of 2017’s most unique music videos to come out of the Bay, it’s also one of the most slept on.
11. Michael Sneed ft. Alana – Too Grown (Prod. IAMNOBODI)
Michael Sneed is an Oakland native who recently graduated from Howard University. Now that he’s back in the Bay, he’s making his rounds through Oakland’s rap scene. Back in May, he released “Too Grown” featuring Alana. On first listen, Sneed’s vocal inflections, his approach to melody, and his obsession with youth call to mind Chance The Rapper. On the IAMNOBODI produced cut, Sneed proposes that growing up means learning to laugh through difficult times. There’s debate to be had about that, but the record is a worthy effort that hints that Sneed has a lot to offer if given the time to craft it.
10. Iceeapher – Got Right Back (Prod. Paupa x JJTurnItDown)
Vallejo has kept 2017 lit all year. Iceeapher gave us a few records in 2017, but was most notably a part of Lil Sheik’s hit “Cannon” along with Benny. On “Got Right Back”, JJTurnItDown and Paupa laced him with some feel-good slap, allowing Iceeapher to send threats to the opposition in a deceptively catchy melody. Ultimately “Got Right Back” is an ode to Iceeapher’s lost friends as well as a promise to seek and enact retribution for those losses. That doesn’t change the fact that it’ll go off at a family bbq if you aren’t listening too closely to its lyrics.
9. Lavish408 ft. Mike Sherm – Slight Work (RJ Lamont)
In this blogger’s opinion “Slight Work” should have been the record that put Lavish408 on the map, at least here in the Bay. The San Jose rapper connected with Mike Sherm, Best Of Thizzler’s Rookie Of The Year for 2017, to give us an instantly likable slap. Detroit producer RJ Lamont laced the track with playful steel drums, infusing the mobby slap with an island bounce. Lavish challenges his inferior haters while punctuating his bars with Yatta-esque inflections. Mike Sherm appears on the second verse to serve up a 16 chock full of juvenile gems like “I be talking shit like a kid that be cursing,” and “mixtape got a std, that shit burning.”
8. Guapdad4000 ft. TJ Bridges – You Broke (Prod. IAMSU)
Before Guapdad4000 was the scamboy of our dreams, he was calling us broke on a slept on IAMSU produced single. On the TJ Bridges assisted “You Broke”, the rapper formerly known as YB Keem displays the characteristics that make him such an entertaining musical act and social media follow. It’s his humorously exaggerated love of excess combined with his relatable adoration of anime and head. If you can’t get behind a guy like that, you just might be broke…in spirit.
7. Project Poppa x ALLBLACK – All Black (Prod. RJ Lamont)
Project Poppa made a song called “All Black” and did the only thing that makes sense, he put ALLBLACK on it. Poppa’s releases can often be heavy, dark, and contemplative. The RJ Lamont produced slap only finds the East Oakland rapper talking his shit. It’s fun, light, and simple. Project Poppa even pronounces his affection for his lady, who is as you may have guessed, all black. The record is uncomplicated. The only thing that could have improved it is an actual verse from ALLBLACK, who appears solely on the intro and outro to share his isms. Despite the absence of a 16 from the Rookie Of The Year nominee, the collaboration stokes our imagination of how these two might sound on record together. Hopefully we’ll hear more from the two in 2018.
6. Rayana Jay – Sunkissed (Prod. The Kount)
Rayana Jay’s Morning After EP was one of 2017’s best projects. However, “Sunkissed”, its third single was very slept on compared to its star-making ROMderful laced second single, “Magic”. Produced by The Kount, “Sunkissed” provided much welcome and needed commentary in a year that often found race at the center of conversation. Black men and women at times found themselves at odds on social media, intermittently feeling a lack of love, protection, and solidarity from the other. “Sunkissed” is a soulful ode to black love. On it Rayana acknowledges that though she chastises the black men in her life, that chastening is but a result of her deep love and adoration for them. This duality is present in lyrics like, “may never know how much I love you/police you and judge you/but don’t take my sunshine away”. Echoing the sentiment of black women everywhere, Rayana assures “I got ya. If nobody else got ya, I got ya.”
5. Bby Laana ft. Lul G – Lies (Prod. Jay Cornell)
San Francisco has done a dope job birthing energetic and exciting new acts in the past couple of years with Lil Yase, Prezi, Lil Pete and Lil Yee all calling The City home. 2017 brought us Bby Laana, a welcomed new face. Garnering most of her fanbase from freestyle videos posted on Twitter, she’s pretty new to releasing studio quality tracks. On “Lies” featuring SOB x RBE’s Lul G, Laana describes the frustration with dealing with dishonest and unfaithful men. We get to hear the ladies’ perspective via an eloquent and relatable verse and hook from Bby Laana, while Lul G comes on later in an attempt to bring the fellas some redemption.
4. LulBearRubberBand – Game Changer (Prod. SpencerxStevens)
LulBear is slept on right now, but a few of us here at Thizzler believe he’s one of the Bay’s best kept secrets. The East Oakland rapper whose vocal style owes a debt to Juvenile, might have one of the most intriguing public personas, with his most striking attribute being a perplexing Southern accent. We’ve yet to figure out if it’s real or where it comes from, but on records like the SpencerxStevens produced “Game Changer”, it’s the special sauce that heightens the flavors of its other ingredients. He speaks like a streetwise player who knows that he’s the coolest guy in the room. He uses expressions whose meaning is lost on us far less interesting humans. You may shrug in confusion at bars like “I dropped my nuts for them freebands”, but you’ll listen not only because the song is great, but because Lul Bear’s a charismatic alien you’ll feel compelled to observe closely. He’s been busy recording all 2017. We’re hoping the translucent lavender liger will experience a breakout year in 2018.
3. Odie – Trance Dance (Prod. Unité)
Odie’s a super talented kid that relocated from Toronto, Canada to Tracy, CA. While the promising upstart’s music has been able to find an audience on the internet, it is still criminally slept on in the Bay Area. Odie names Fela Kuti, Kid Cudi, and Coldplay amongst his greatest inspirations. With a spacey intro that recalls Kid Cudi’s debut Man On The Moon: The End Of Day, its Kuti-esque chants enlivening the background, and its meditative lyricism reminiscent of both Cudi and Chris Martin, August’s “Trance Dance” embodies the sum of those influences. The record was in part self-produced. He and Yaqob make up Unité. The duo crafted an atmospheric and worldly soundbed for Odie’s thoughtful musings. The record feels like Odie’s staring in a mirror, giving himself a pep talk. “It’s okay/It’s all right/You won’t be waiting for long/Everybody wants the light/but no one’s ready like you.” He seeks within himself the motivation to keep grinding, despite the slow advance of the process. If he succeeds in finding it, he’ll undoubtedly accomplish amazing things.
2. Lil Tae – Aye Brother (Prod. Paupa)
Lil Tae’s crowning achievement in 2017 might’ve been the release of the joint Splash Brothers mixtape with his GII brethren Lil Slugg. While that project birthed a number of great records including “All I Ever Wanted”, none were as immediately infectious and fun as Lil Tae’s “Aye Brother”. The bouncy Paupa crafted beat leans toward G-Funk and is a great match for Lil Tae’s understated, half-trying delivery. With simple rhymes like brother/mother, undercover/lovers, the hook is sure to cause ear worm inducing side effects. It’s a perfect record for late-night smoke sessions,
1. Benny – Dangerous (Prod. XSlapz)
Benny is another Vallejo artist who has had a huge year. Almost everything he dropped touched hundreds of thousands of plays and views on YouTube. That wasn’t true for “Dangerous”, a lo-fi street ballad produced by XSlapz. The piano chords and snare drums on the track are reminiscent of something 40 Shebib would’ve put together when he and Drake were defining what would become the influential OVO sound. When I first met Benny, he explained that his favorite artists at the time were Drake and Bandgang Paid Will. Benny sings his verse in a Drake inspired vocal style, but his lyrics are gritty and street. Drake wouldn’t know much about the kind of world Benny comes from.