Exclaim!'s Top 29 Albums of 2017 So Far

1. Kendrick Lamar
(Interscope/Top Dawg Entertainment)

Given music's subjectivity, and Exclaim!'s long-standing policy of allowing writers to freely express their opinions, our original review of Kendrick Lamar's latest caused some expected consternation. It's an album that was praised by some, and fell short for others. After polling the Exclaim! writer's pool, the overwhelming consensus was that DAMN. is the most beloved album released in 2017 so far.

Over sonically skeletal production, Lamar bares his truths and insecurities, fleshing out the songs with new layers and textures as he dramatizes the various characters he uses to speak on his behalf. He balances societal heartache and ferocious resilience, serving as a mouthpiece to tell the stories of his generation, as well as those before him and after us — and unapologetically, at that. The war chants of "DNA." and the introspective depth of "DUCKWORTH." offer jolting insights into the lives of young black Americans, while the animated "HUMBLE." and daunting "PRIDE." explore the waves of fear and acceptance that come with that day-to-day existence.

Whether you love DAMN. or not, for all that it stands for thematically, you have to admire Lamar for laying it all out on the table.
Erin Lowers