It’s almost the halfway mark of 2017. Which albums would you consider top-tier releases of the year?
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(Artwork credit: https://twitter.com/thewrightar/status/866822071149633536)

DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
This list would have no credibility if it didn’t include the latest from Kung Fu Kenny. It’s a great album– thought-provoking, introspective, and intimate. There’s really not a definitive summer hit on it (don’t play yourself and argue HUMBLE. is a summer hit), but it definitely isn’t lacking.
Standout tracks: GOD., ROYALTY. ft. Rihanna, LOVE. ft. Zacari

Process by Sampha
If all you know about Sampha is that Drake sampled him on NWTS, you’re missing out. This Londoner has the range and a way with words. If you don’t reach nirvana while listening to Plastic 100°C, you’re lying.
Standout tracks: Incomplete Kisses, Plastic 100°C

Harry Styles by Harry Styles
When I discovered Jeff Buckley in high school, I was immediately distraught because he was dead and his discography was set in stone. So thank you, Harry Styles, for bringing his style of soulful rock back to the forefront. Sign of the Times might command attention, but From the Dining Table will hold you down through the melancholy, rainy summer days.
Standout tracks: Kiwi, From the Dining Table

Beautiful Thugger Girls by Young Thug
Thugger Vandross is keen on proving he has all the range, and while this album dabbles in a few genres, Jeffrey is still true to what made him the star of the new class of Atlanta rappers. There’s the perfect amount of mumble and harmonizing, especially on Me or Us.
Standout tracks: She Wanna Party ft. Millie Go Lightly, Me or Us, Family Don’t Matter ft. Millie Go Lightly

Ctrl by SZA
Small booties matter, and SZA’s debut studio album is a nod to all the sexually liberated girls with the devil-may-care attitudes. While no song stands out as particularly amazing vocally, the album is a gem as she successfully toes the line between having every song sound the same (*cough, cough* Bryson Tiller) and creating a consistent mood. There’s no throwaway tracks, and Solána isn’t outshone by the featured artists (yes, that includes K.Dot). So go ‘head sis, speak you truth.
Standout tracks: Doves in the Windft. Kendrick Lamar, The Weekend, Love Galore ft. Travis Scott
Culture by Migos
When they’re not being problematic and anti-intersectional on SNL, Migos is making bangers. For every hour you’re in the club, you’ve probably heard at least three tracks off Culture, and even that might not be enough of the Atlanta trio. They’re making sure trap music doesn’t return to the periphery.
Standout tracks: Bad and Boujee ft. Gucci Mane, Kelly Price

Whatever Makes You Happy by JMSN
I really don’t understand why JMSN is still on the fringes. He’s a star, okay? As a whole, WMYH is not as strong an album as It Is., but Patiently alone reinforces that JMSN does this singing thing, and he does it well. His songwriting is also incredible. He lost the Samson locks but not the talent, stay woke.

Standout tracks: Patiently, Angel

At What Cost by GoldLink
GoldLink’s debut studio album features quality storytelling and a handful of big names as featured artists. The tracks are as colorful as the cover art, and the go-go influence of the nation’s Capitol is evident in the production. He’s putting on for D.C. so get hip.
Standout tracks: Crew ft. Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy, Herside Story, Meditation ft. Jazmine Sullivan

Grateful by DJ Khaled
Just off the strength of the singles this album is in the top tier of 2017’s releases. I mean, how can a Beyoncé and Jay Z collab not make this list? What’s more impressive is that Rihanna’s Wild Thoughts might– I said MIGHT– be better than the original Maria, Maria it samples. So thank you, Asahd, for the great production thus far.
Standout tracks: Wild Thoughts ft. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, Winning ft. Beyonce and Jay Z

Honorable Mention:
I Decided. by Big Sean
I’m a fan of Big Sean, but he’s yet to make an album without throwaway tracks. However, the singles off his fourth studio album don’t disappoint, and a new Jeremih x Big Sean song is always welcome.
Standout tracks: Jump Out the Window, Bounce Back, Lights ft. Jeremih

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