The Best Rap Songs of 2017 So Far

The despondent cover image of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. may reveal more about the unsettled nature of 2017 than the music itself. Yes, its lyrics contain references to far-right demagogues as well as his usual spiritual crises. But at heart, Lamar is an optimist, and he’s more likely to find strength in his self-lacerating critique than despair. The same could be said of the rap music we’ve heard so far: increasingly aware that something is wrong with the state of the world, but unclear as to how to respond. Life goes on. Future continues to issue his sepulchral takes on Southern trap; Migos fuels their rising fame with insatiably hooky memes; Drake cannibalizes trendspotter styles (and uses too many laptop filters in the process); Rick Ross regurgitates his luxury rap sound to pleasing but diminishing returns. There aren’t many new storylines, though the revival of Detroit street rap (via Tee Grizzley) may be a trend to watch. But the rap scene continues to unfold as it always has. If you’re waiting for the end of the world, what else can you do?