The Tastys III

The Year of the Rooster

words by Empire Taste

The Top 10 of 2017


10. American Teen by Khalid

What can be said about Khalid that doesn’t include the phrase “the voice of the next generation”? As cliché as it sounds, the 19-year-old Georgia-born singer gives me hope that the future of R&B is secure. Khalid’s message on American Teen, though aimed at the 14 to 18-year-old demographic, is one that still resonates with all ages. Luckily, starting a 401(k) hasn’t changed my ideas of youth, love, and loss. Featuring his biggest hit “Location” and complemented by tracks like “Saved” and “Another Sad Love Song”, American Teen takes me back to the awkward high school days. It became a vehicle for me to reflect on my own mistakes as a teenager and work towards a brighter future. He’s since released an upbeat and moving single with Marshmello, and is quickly defining himself as a leader in the next generation of R&B. While I’m not big on trends, if featuring Khalid on a track is “in” then I don’t want to be out. – Sunny Pruthi


9. Freudian by Daniel Caesar 

“And yes, I’m a mess but I’m blessed to be stuck with you,” Caesar lovingly croons on standout track “Blessed”, off his debut album, Freudian. These words serve as the basic framework of an album by a young man with a firm understanding of soul, who’s simultaneously lovesick and sick of love. The end result is what would happen if Brandy and D’Angelo had a child who was raised in the social media age but was punished by his grandmother if he was on the phone during Sunday morning gospel. – Omar Tun


8. Luv is Rage 2 by Lil Uzi Vert

It’s hard to say what the best album of 2017 might be, the various projects of the year encompass such a wide range of sounds, themes and moods that the answer might change at any time, but there’s no question on what was my most listened to album of the year. Just as “XO Tour Llif3” burrowed its way into our collective subconscious with its simple, infectious productions, Luv is Rage 2 embraces a similar mentality–a focused vision dressed in the best designer fashion. It’s a project of effortless flow and palpable attitude. The quirks and eccentricities that has made Lil Uzi Vert such an entertaining presence as a celebrity–the shoulder roll to the Hot Topic aesthetic–are directly translated into the sound of Rage 2, for a stylish sequel that solidifies Uzi’s position as a superstar. – Alex Wen


7. More Life by Drake

Over nine months after its release, classifying Aubrey’s latest project, More Life, is still fairly challenging. What other artist with this large of a fandom would call a 22-track original project a playlist? Drake typically strives for specific concepts, moods, or tones in each of his projects, while More Life felt random, scattered, and disorderly. But at the same time it’s the project fans always wanted from Views, a more intimate line into the star’s preferences and feelings. Drake captures the various sounds that have influenced him–island rhythms, U.K. grime, pop, and today’s contemporary rap. He features artists he wants to bring to light, the soothing soul of Sampha and Jorja Smith, to the U.K. brethren Giggs and Skepta. The less Drake wants to make a statement from his work, the more he goes back to making the music that shapes him; More Life, more Drake. – Mitch B.



If Odd Future was the counterculture to the “clean” new acts circa 2011 such as Diggy, Mac Miller, and Big K.R.I.T., BROCKHAMPTON serves as the new counter-counterculture to a genre recently wholly taken by grimy trap beats and one upping one another in terms of not giving a fuck. Their second of three albums this year, SATURATION II,  is an album for the kids…See what I’m trying to say is like rap used to be on some normal shit and then Odd Future came in and turned it upside down, like they were the counterculture. But now rap is all about fucked up shit, so now BROCKHAMPTON serves as the counter-counterculture, which would just be the culture. But, they’re not the culture. Migos is the culture. – Omar Tun


5. 4:44 by Jay-Z

Long before we got the album, our emotions toggled between confusion and excitement. From the cryptic peach-beige 4:44 ads popping up online and across NYC to the NBA finals spot hinting at a blockbuster film, we were left waiting for answers to the mysterious project. That’s archetypal Jay, forever setting the stage for an epic release–another holy grail to add to rap’s pantheon. However grand the entrance, the man that walked through the door greeted us with humility. Moonlighting as the sequential response to Lemonade, 4:44 humanizes our royalty and tackles love in all forms; gay love, black love, self love, family. Jay’s perspective stands out as a stakeholder for longevity, especially amongst today’s youth-emphasized hip-hop expansion that often celebrates the temporary. All of this works because Jay is able to acknowledge the new and defer to his own truths. It’s through his own confessions where Jay is able to reach the soul and remind us it’s okay to look inside yourself. – Thomas Duh


4. Flower Boy by Tyler, the Creator

After the mixed reactions to Cherry Bomb (which I still enjoyed), the California native’s latest release is a refreshing return to form. Tyler’s albums tend to give me a window into his mental health, and in turn allow me to reflect on my own. With Flower Boy, Tyler paints an introspective daydream into his loneliness and psyche that’s engaging from start to finish. Featuring brilliant standout tracks like “911/Mr. Lonely” (shout out to Frank Ocean) and “See You Again”, Tyler constructs a powerful narrative into his mind that’s got me questioning my own life, while remaining enjoyable. – Sunny Pruthi


3. Ctrl by SZA

From the push of the play button, Ctrl forces you into the seat of a confessional booth. Immediately commanding the listeners attention with a vindictive intro track that starts with a declaration of desperation: “that is my greatest fear / that if, if I lost control / or did not have control, things would just, you know / I would be …fatal.” SZA wastes no time introducing herself to her audience, but rather sings to them as if they were a long lost friend. Ctrl serves as an impetus for women’s empowerment, a timeless, living, breathing opus that can be appreciated by men and women alike. SZA’s angelic vocal performance entrances you, lacing soulful productions that sonically mold the female figure with emotive lyrics that shape the complexities of a woman’s emotional experience with love. Flirting between juxtapositions throughout the album like “Doves in the Wind’, where she exhibits bravado, and the vulnerable yearning for attention and validation in “Normal Girl,” SZA explores the many personal mountains and valleys of what all “20 Something”’s experience. She has created a timeless classic with its refreshing interpretation on the embattled journey of looking for love and finding yourself–the ever elusive…Ctrl. – Quinneil Simmons


2. Process by Sampha

In 2017, we saw a juggernaut of beautiful R&B debuts, and Sampha’s Process led the pack. The album is simply powerful; Sampha bears his emotions, challenges, and triumphs over his chest for the world to bear. From the first time you’re introduced to Sampha, you immediately experience the command of his voice. Whether over saddened piano keys, synths, or heavy percussion–you never lose focus of the man conquering the storm. – Mitch B.


1. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

Whether its front to back or in reverse, DAMN. comes across as a potent and timely project no matter how you play it. The flexibility to its form (as illustrated by the Collector’s Edition version and from the standalone impact of its singles) points to a versatility that demonstrates the layers present in Kendrick’s music. The themes operate on multiple levels, the narrative contains multitudes, and the sound is dynamic as it shifts and morphs from song to song. In a time when so many things are uncertain, Kendrick brings some comfort with the clarity in his music, and the consistency of his sound. – Alex Wen


Hustler of the Year

  1. Cardi B
  2. Lavar Ball


Song of the Year

  1. Magnolia – Playboi Carti
  3. Chanel – Frank Ocean


When [blank] Said [blank], I Felt That Award

  1. When SZA said “I been secretly banging your homeboy,” I felt that
  2. When Kevin Abstract said “He gave me good head, peepin’ out while the windows tinted,” I felt that
  3. When 21 Savage said “Sweeter than a pop tart, you know you are not hard,” I felt that



  1. JUNKY
  2. JUNKY
  3. JUNKY
  4. JUNKY
  5. JUNKY
  6. FACE
  7. QUEER
  9. SWEET
  10. ALASKA


Best Music Video

  1. Icon – Jaden Smith
  3. HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
  4. Wyclef Jean – Young Thug
  5. Mans Not Hot – Big Shaq


Best Migo

  1. Offset
  2. Quavo
  3. Quavo


Joe Budden Old Head Award

  1. Sunny Pruthi


Best Metro Boomin Tape

  1. Without Warning with 21 Savage x Offset
  2. DropTopWop with Gucci Mane
  3. Double or Nothing with Big Sean


Best Live Moment

  1. Lil Uzi Vert flying through the air at Rolling Loud in Miami
  2. Frank Ocean making us cry at Panorama in NYC


Best NPR Tiny Desk

  1. Tyler, the Creator
  2. Noname
  3. Sampha
  4. Moses Sumney


Artists we want more music from in 2018

  1. Jorja Smith
  2. Brent Faiyaz
  3. J.I.D.
  4. Smino
  5. Steve Lacy