Top 10 Hip-Hop Collaborative Albums of 2017, Ranked: Critic's Picks
2017 was a notable year for hip-hop collaborative albums. There have been 20-plus joint rap albums that have dropped this year featuring the likes of mainstream artists, underground favorites and mixtape heavyweights.
A collaboration between two artists or an artist and a producer is nothing new in hip-hop. We’ve seen the greatness that comes from it (Watch the Throne, Madvillany) and the downright disappointments (The Firm’s The Album, Face Off). Either way, the collaborative hip-hop album is a cornerstone of the genre.
Most of the collaborative projects that were unleashed in 2017 have been favorable. It should come as no surprise that we saw so many, given the fact that music production and file-sharing technology make it easier for artists to work together on a project.
As we get ready to say goodbye to 2017, let’s take a look at some of the top collaborative releases and see where Billboard ranks each one, from good to great.
10. Future & Young Thug — Super Slimey
Future and Young Thug are the leading men in hip-hop today who can give you a surefire hit at the snap of their fingers. Fans have been wanting the two to collaborate for some time now, and they got their wish with their collaborative album Super Slimey.
The album turned heads as it dropped unexpectedly and quickly garnered high expectations. Right from the start, you can tell what type of album this will be, a project filled with booming production and menacing Auto-Tune lyrics.
Thugger and Hndrxx sound good together, and they keep listeners tuned in to the album. But that’s all this album is: booming production with average performances by both men. The bass-heavy bangers offer a landscape for Future and Young Thug to graze the fields, but the duo doesn’t do much with what’s presented to them. If it weren’t for the excellent beats, this project would be an easy pass. The production brings Future and Young Thug’s rhymes just above average.
9. Big Sean & Metro Boomin — Double or Nothing
At this point, anyone who teams up with Metro Boomin is sure to drop something special. 21 Savage, Nav, Gucci Mane — to name a few — all have projects with Metro Boomin that really took off. Big Sean was the next artist to partner up with Metro and they released their joint project Double or Nothing.
It’s fun and at times political. Sean gets amusingly intimate on “So Good” and reflective on the issues in society on “Savage Time.” Metro Boomin’s evolution as a producer shines bright on this album. It’s needed as Metro becomes more popular and heavily replicated. His sound on the album takes influences from all over the world, like on “Who’s Stopping Me” and “No Hearts, No Love.”
The only reason this album isn’t placed higher on this list is because of Sean Don’s often mediocre attempts at being witty and the content of his rhymes. Sean’s critics have never let go of the gas pedal on the criticism they give him in regards to his fun but often corny verses. And the topics that Sean raps about are inconsistent. He goes from rapping about being great to mental growth to talking about God. Big Sean puts in the effort, there’s just no direction.
8. Kodak Black & Plies — F.E.M.A. Finesse. Elevate. Motivate. Achieve
To add on to an already hot 2017, the Project BabyKodak Black continued his streak by pairing up with fellow Florida rapper Plies to release their collaborative mixtape F.E.M.A Finesse. Elevate. Motivate. Achieve. It’s the third release for Kodak in 2017, the first two being Painting Pictures and Project Baby 2 along with a gang of features and singles. Plies and Kodak’s chemistry on the project remains the same and both artists give their best.
It makes sense for two of the most entertaining figures in hip-hop today to join forces and release a joint project like F.E.M.A. Both artists are in fine form, sounding composed but having fun at the same time. “Too Much Money,” “No English,” and “Real Hittas” are just some of the gems on this project that’ll have you vibing throughout its entirety. Despite being overshadowed by the more high profile releases on this list, F.E.M.A. is an enjoyable and worthy listen.
7. Travis Scott & Quavo — Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho
When word got out that Travis Scott and Quavo were making a project together, the Internet lost its mind. The duo teamed up on “Quintana (Remix),” “Oh My Dis Side” and “Pick Up the Phone,” showing there’s success whenever they join forces. They are two very different artists yet very similar in style, they know what works and what doesn’t.
Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho details the near perfect chemistry between Travis and Quavo. It’s incredible how harmonious these two sound together. Both Travis and Quavo do a perfect job not overlapping each other and sticking to their own strengths. But that’s what keeps this album from being better than what it actually is.
There were no risks taken on this album. It’s essentially an album that was built for their fans. It’s an album that’s expected of them but doesn’t quite fit in to what they can really do with their artistry. Is it influential? No. But it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, a great idea that finally came to fruition.
6. Talib Kweli and Styles P — The Seven
Two of hip-hop’s most celebrated MCs joined forces on the highly anticipated The Seven album. Talib Kweli and Styles P are no strangers to collaborations. Both their careers started as being a part of a duo or group with Talib arriving on the scene with Mos Def on Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star and Styles P cementing his place as a member of The LOX. Talib and Styles are two of the more outspoken elders in hip-hop today so when word got out about their collaborative project, the idea of it was a given.
The Seven lives up to the hype and is exactly what people expected out both veterans. The content is sociopolitical with the retro boom-baps serving as the backdrop. The two rhyme connoisseurs leave nothing on the table as each track hits listeners’ ears with a force that’s rarely scene in this day and age of hip-hop.
Talib displays his signature witty one-liners while Styles ditches his gritty street tales in favor of a more conscious look on society that aims to disrupt the powers that be who keep the underprivileged down. The project is the exact social commentary that’s needed to shake up the culture and make those aware of what’s going on right in our own backyards.
5. DJ Quik & Problem — Rosecrans
Problem and the legendary DJ Quik give a moving tribute to their hometown of Los Angeles on the 12-track album Rosecrans. The project features Problem following in the footsteps of other notable Compton rappers like Kendrick Lamar and The Game who received admiration for their own tributes to their hometown.
Rosecrans is the full-length follow-up to their excellent 2016 EP that shares the same name. The album is pure West Coast from beginning to the end with ’90s G Funk influences and instrumental solos that’ll fit right in to any of the classic West Coast albums of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
DJ Quik’s entertaining production complements Problem’s lethal lyrical proficiency throughout the album. Tracks like “You Are Everything,” “A New Nite/Rosecrans Groove,” and “Central Ave” puts you right in the heart of Compton.
4. Fabolous & Jadakiss — Friday on Elm Street
The joint project between Fabolous and Jadakiss has been teased for several years now. It was officially announced at the beginning of the year but the conflicting schedules of the two rappers kept the project on hold for months. Once they found the time to do the project, the result was well worth the hype.
The chemistry between the two veteran rappers is great as they go bar for bar effortlessly trading their signature punchlines. The album shows exactly why these two are revered icons on the New York hip-hop scene. The horror theme is present on the album as tracks like “F vs. J Intro,” “Stand Up,” “Ice Pick,” and “I Pray” would all fit on revamped soundtracks to the famous horror movies of the ’80s.
The best moments of the album however come from the introspective tracks like “Theme Music,” “Talk About It,” and “Nightmares Ain’t As Bad.” The only misstep on the project is when it takes on southern influences on the tracks “Stand Up” and “All About It.” The bars are on point; it just doesn’t feel natural given the tone the album takes on.
3. Blu & Exile — In the Beginning: Before the Heavens
In 2007, Blu & Exile joined forces to release what is now considered a classic underground album, Below the Heavens. Fast forward 10 years and the duo released In the Beginning: Before the Heavens, a collection of unreleased material from the recording sessions that birthed the classic Below the Heavens.
In an interview with Billboard, Blu states, “Below the Heavens was about being underground, while comparing mainstream success to living in heaven. This is before that. The only thing that happened before God made the heavens and Earth [is God] says, ‘In The Beginning,’ so this is like the training wheels.”
All the songs on the project were chosen by Blu & Exile to serve as the proper prequel to Below the Heavens. Guest features include several of their Dirty Science crew including Aloe Blacc, Cashus King, Donel Smokes, Lyric Jones and more. Given the current landscape that hip-hop is in, In the Beginning: Before the Heavens is a much needed breath of fresh air from the past.
You can’t go wrong with the braggadocious “Soul Provider” or the romanticism of “Party for 2.” It’s an intriguing project as you can feel the evolution Blu went through as he began finding his voice and Exile’s production is just as soulful as the original release. Both artists’ raw talent is on display here much like it was on Below the Heavens.
2. Gucci Mane & Metro Boomin — Droptopwop
No one has had quite the resurgence like Gucci Mane has since his return from prison in May 2016. From a stunning physical transformation, to becoming a married man, to releasing multiple projects, it’s easy to forget that Gucci was gone for two years. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of his release from prison, Gucci teamed up with Metro Boomin to release their collaborative project, Droptopwop.
The album is arguably the best entry out of all the projects he’s released since leaving prison. Guwop is at his best here. Just because he’s turned a new leaf doesn’t mean his music did the same. Droptopwop features the content that defined Gucci’s career, but this time, after kicking his drug habit and losing weight, Guwop’s voice sounds clearer than ever. It adds a whole other level to his artistry that we never heard from him before.
“Helpless,” “Met Gala,” and “Tho Freestyle” are just some of the gems that features Gucci ripping through the dark brooding production of Metro Boomin. Although Metro isn’t the only producer who contributed to the album, his curation and maestro skills shine here.
1. Offset & 21 Savage & Metro Boomin — Without Warning
As the title suggests, the collaborative project between Offset and 21 Savage came without warning. It was announced the day before Halloween and dropped the next day. Nearly everyone scrambled to get a hold of what was going on as 21 and Offset delivered a short but cohesive project.
Rapping along the backdrop of Metro Boomin’s haunting, horror themed production, 21 and Offset took listeners on an exhilarating, fun ride from beginning to end. The Halloween aesthetic of the project couldn’t be any better as 21, Offset and Metro provide the hip-hop equivalent of a horror movie.
Once again, Metro proves why he’s the most popular and highly replicated producer in the game. He’s unpredictable behind the boards on Without Warning and he’s able to polish the already impressive flows of 21 and Offset. Nothing feels forced and the chemistry between the three is perfect.
While staying true to their art, all three of these artists are making their claim as the leading men in the current landscape of hip-hop. They all have had a wildly successful 2017 and Without Warning is a fitting cap to close out the year.