The Music You Can’t Leave 2017 Without

Every year, the music industry goes through a series of progressive changes. Whether it presents new ways to discover, consume, or evaluate music, one thing remains the constant, and that is THE MUSIC!! Without fail, every year, content creators throughout varying countries and genres release music. Amid the thousands of releases, there are always songs and albums that rise to the top and become memorable bodies of work that will transcend the year of their release.

As lovers of multiple genres of music here at Bonnerfide Radio, this year we decided to tackle our musical year in review in a different manner. We reached out to the hosts of our popular series The Remix to give us their Top 10 albums that we could NOT leave 2017 without.

Back in June of 2017, during an episode of The Remix, co-host V. George Smith, a gifted songwriter and artist in his own right, predicted that 2017 would go down as a HUGE year in terms of musical content. Here we are at year’s end and indeed that statement was prophetic in nature.

Consequently, hosts V. George Smith, Patrick Shaffer, James White, and Gerard Bonner are coming together to compile a Top 10 list of albums that you cannot leave 2017 without.

Each host came up with a separate Top 10 list. The group list will feature the albums that appeared the most often on their lists. We’ll also share some of the submissions that were exclusive to each host.

With that said, let’s enjoy this list of the Top 10 Albums you can’t leave 2017 without.


PJ Morton | Gumbo

This gifted singer, songwriter, producer, instrumentalist, and label owner has been heralded as our generation’s Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye. The son of Bishop Paul S. Morton, Morton has blazed his own musical trail as a solo artist and as part of the pop sensation Maroon 5. For lovers of independent urban music, Morton is dubbed the “Live Show Killer”. The news of the release of his sixth solo project titled Gumbo was met with great fanfare within his fan base. However, the power of iconic singles such as “First Began”, “Go Thru Your Phone”, and his cover of the Bee Gees classic “How Deep Is Your Love” caught the attention of mainstream R&B lovers. As a result, Gumbo enters 2018 with two Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Album.

“This is PJ’s best work of his career. It’s the perfect combination of everything we love about PJ. From love to religion, PJ covers it all.” (V. George Smith)

“PJ innovates by reminding us of our souls.  The writing is excellent and PJ’s lush, gritty and clean productions are pristine.  This is my album of the year.” (Patrick Shaffer)

“Perfectly named. Every time I eat a bowl of gumbo, I immediately want some more. This album is 29 consecutive minutes of some real good food. Put it on repeat until you get full.” (James White)


CeCe Winans | Let Them Fall In Love

In February of this year, one of Gospel music’s most decorated artists returned with her first solo project in nearly a decade. CeCe Winans made an incredible impression with this project, producing the Top 10 single “Never Have To Be Alone” and debuting atop Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. The industry welcomed her return in a big way, earning her two GMA Dove Awards, including the nod for Gospel Artist of the Year. Billboard named the album one of the Top 10 Gospel Albums of the Year and one of the Top 10 Gospel Artists of 2017. In addition, the project goes into 2018 with 2 Grammy nominations, including a nod for Best Gospel Album. The team unanimously agrees with this assertion.

“My favorite album of 2017. There was no other album that committed to an all-out vintage concept, from the packaging to the throwback musical arrangements to the analog-style mixes. Add impeccable writing and production with CeCe’s masterful delivery, and you have a classic.” (James White)

“The best Gospel album I’ve heard since Andrae Crouch’s The Journey. CeCe delivers the album of the year & effortlessly gives us a timeless project.” (V. George Smith)

“A wonderful album from a perfect vocalist.  Blending styles this is a 1960’s Motown-styled Gospel album.  Detroit’s finest!” (Patrick Shaffer)


The Walls Group | The Other Side

The Houston-based family quartet known as The Walls Group has become one of gospel music’s most exciting groups of this decade. As the first signees to Kirk Franklin’s Fo Yo Soul imprint, the anticipation level for their content has always been high. Their sophomore effort titled Fast Forward, served as their national debut in 2014, producing singles such as “Love On The Radio” and “Satisfied”. This year, the group returned with their best work to date! With production from Warryn Campbell, the group has released arguably the most complete release of 2017. The album’s lead single “My Life” has earned the group its second Grammy nomination as Best Gospel Performance/Song.

“There aren’t many singing groups where every last member can flat out saaang, but this family foursome fits the bill. To be this young and this versatile is impressive. The production by Warryn Campbell combined with these incredible voices makes for one tremendous body of work.” (James White)

“The family quartet from Houston navigates through so many genres & styles of music with excellence on their third album. This one will make noise well into 2018.” (V. George Smith)


Cheryl Fortune | Simply Cheryl

In a year that many defined as “The Year of the Woman”, Cheryl Fortune emerged as a breakout artist who made a strong impact on the industry with the release of her debut album titled Simply Cheryl. The gifted singer and songwriter was behind many of the biggest hits from James Fortune & FIYA. This two-time Grammy nominated songwriter stepped into the forefront with a project that channeled the sound of the 90s with a message of strength, hope, and courage. Led by the Top 10 single “Fighters”, Fortune is riding into 2018 with great momentum and a timeless project.

“Incredible debut from the Houston native with the angelic voice. This is a standout debut project that’s a must have!!!” (V. George Smith)

“This album was like Songwriting 101, which is apropos given that Cheryl has long been an excellent songwriter. From the 80’s/90’s R&B vibes to deeply personal songs of perseverance and triumph, this album is as strong of a debut as they come.” (James White)


H.E.R. | H.E.R. 

The ever-evolving scale used to measure success has caused record labels and artists alike to give unprecedented access to artists and entertainers alike. Consequently, the most avid fans can rattle off facts about their favorite singer much like a rabid sports fanatic could about their favorite team. This is where 2017 gets interesting, as it gives us the mysterious R&B sensation simply titled H.E.R.. After releasing two self-titled EPs, this year, she brought us a full length project. The gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist, who keeps her identity a complete mystery, gave us a 21 track release that’s highlighted by a duet with breakout singer Daniel Caesar titled “Best Part”. With her incredibly smooth vocals and arrangements, her mystery and musical stock continues to rise.

“Since we have never seen her face, she forces us to listen to the music and words.  She delivers in both areas. There is no mystery to her talent.” (Patrick Shaffer)

“The faceless voice that is H.E.R. has given us a collection of songs about love & relationships that is head & shoulders above so many R&B projects that dropped this year. It’s just amazing.” (V. George Smith)


Ricky Dillard & New G | 10

For nearly three decades, Ricky Dillard & New G have been one of Gospel music’s elite choirs. Fusing incredible vocals with funky arrangements and energetic presentations has been the calling card for this aggregation which began in Chicago. Now with Dillard centered in Washington, DC, the choir converged in the Nation’s capital to record their tenth project. Aptly titled 10, this effort arguably presents the best of this legendary choir. With appearances from Le’Andria Johnson, BeBe Winans, Tina Campbell, and more, the star-studded effort is one of the most complete projects in this storied catalog that will keep church choirs singing for years.

“As much as Gospel music has changed and church Music has evolved, “The Choirmaster” and his legendary choir New G remind us on how impactful choir music can be. Armed with catchy songs, a tremendous band an All-Star list of great featured singers, Ricky Dillard has given Gospel music and choir a much needed recharge.” (James White)

“This is New G’s most complete album in years. From start to finish the album goes hard and ministers at the same time. Plenty of guests are on this album but the star is New G themselves, they just flat out sing!!!” (Patrick Shaffer)

Jay-Z | 4:44

Hip-Hop has evolved and undergone innumerable changes since its inception some forty years ago. In that time frame, it’s become an indisputable fact that one of the pioneers and leaders of the genre is Jay-Z. As a lyricist, producer, label owner, and entrepreneur, the New York native has established The Blueprint for success and longevity in a genre that has seen its share of one-hit wonders. It’s been four years since Holy Grail and he returns this year with the critically acclaimed release 4:44. For many, this record demonstrated the maturation of the genre with honest perspectives that spanned the gamut of subject matter with samples and hidden features that made this one of the most discussed hip-hop offerings in recent memory. The 21-time Grammy winner goes into 2018 with eight additional nominations for this project, including Album of The Year, taking his lifetime recognition total to 74 nominations!

“One artist. One producer. One concept. These things equal a Hip-Hop record for the ages.” (Patrick Shaffer)

“The first ever adult hip-hop album & possibly the Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards this year. With life lessons, financial advice & personal life testimonies, Shawn Carter delivers one of the greatest projects of his phenomenal career.” (V. George Smith)


Kendrick Lamar | DAMN

One of the most influential rappers of this decade is easily Kendrick Lamar. The seven-time Grammy Award winner had the unenviable task of following up his epic opus To Pimp A Butterfly, which earned him five Grammy Awards. He did so with another artistic masterpiece simply titled DAMN. Taking a more aggressive approach to this set of music, Lamar scored two HUGE hits with “Humble”, “DNA”, and “Loyalty”. The album went on to critical acclaim, topping this year’s Billboard Top 200 Chart as the #1 album of 2017. Couple that with seven nominations for this body and it could leave you describing his year with one adjective…an aptly named album title.

“Although more commercial than his previous works, K Dot’s latest work was both a reflection of his newfound status and of human dichotomy. And he’s rapping something serious.” (James White)

“Kendrick is the foremost MC of his generation. Skill, mind and songs are perfectly met together and there is no fall off from his last offering. He delivers!” (Patrick Shaffer)


Imagine Dragons | Evolve

The continually evolving face of mainstream music got a new wrinkle back in 2012 with the introduction of Alternative band Imagine Dragons. The Las Vegas band combines everything we love about rock, techno pop, and majestic music to give us huge hits such as “Radioactive”, “Warriors”, and “On Top of the World”. With their junior project titled Evolve, the band gave us two soaring anthems that lit up radio charts and became quick favorites around the world. “Believer” and “Thunder” were simply HUGE songs, with “Believer” charting at #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs of 2017. The Grammy Award winning group picked up two nominations for this new release, including Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

“They get it. Imagine Dragons know how to embed a chorus into your brain, use a mix of writing styles, and create a sound all their own. Excellent album.” (James White)


Musiq Soulchild | Feel The Real

Philadelphia isn’t only dubbed the “City of Brotherly Love”, but it’s known for its incredible contribution to urban music. Whether hip-hop, R&B, or gospel, the city has produced a distinct sound carried by several amazing artists. Proudly carrying that banner since 2000 is Musiq Soulchild. Over nine albums, he’s given us hits such as “Love”, “So Beautiful”, “Buddy”, and more. This year, he released a double-CD titled Feel The Real. A total of 24 tracks strong, this project reminded us of the consistent relevance of this 13-time Grammy nominee. Led on the strength of the single “Simple Things”, the project features appearances from Marsha Ambrosius, Doobie Powell, and Soulchild’s hip-hop alter-ego The Husel. This project is simply flawless and has earned Soulchild his 13th Grammy nomination, this time for Best R&B Album.

“This Grammy nominated album is classic Musiq!! Boasting over 20 tracks of music, it’s a must have for die hard Musiq & music fans period.” (V. George Smith)

Honorable Mention:
James White

Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed | Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Presents Magic & Bird
“I like my Hip-Hop fun. I like punchlines in my rap songs. I like concept albums that are original and profound. This album meets all of my criteria.”

Moonchild | Voyager
“Vibes. Vibes for days. A breath of fresh, blue-eyed soulful air.”

Brik.Liam | The Ascension LP
“I love smart harmonies. I love unique metaphors. I love music that doesn’t sound like current trends, nor address redundant subject matter. This album is full of what I love.”


Patrick Shaffer

A Tribe Called Quest | We Got it From Here
“It’s fine to be emotional over the loss of Phife Dog, but this album makes us happy and reminds of how complete, innovative and beastly ATCQ has always been.”

Sam Smith | The Thrill of It All
“He came back with a monster record. Sam’s voice captures personal vulnerabilities which are married to amazing song writing, making this album a journey.”

“Black girls rock and SZA blesses us with a narrative in song that the sisters can relate to and the brothers marvel at.”

Anita WilsonSunday Song
“Anita gives us a vocal offering that serves as a blueprint for the modern day vocalist. Her voice, married to incredible songs make this album one of the best gospel offerings of the year.”


V. George Smith

Marvin Sapp | Close
“Take one listen to “Kind God” it’ll change your life!!! Pastor Sapp gives us one of the best projects of his career with this latest effort.”

Daniel Caesar | Freudian
“Smooth. Haunting. Eclectic. It’s just really good! Caesar delivers a phenomenal project with Freudian.  You have to check out the single “Blessed”. It’s a MUST.”

Le’Andria Johnson | Bigger Than Me
“Another Grammy nominated project, which I believe is Leandria’s best work of her career. You’ll enjoy the project fully. Her voice plus those songs make it amazing.”

Gerard Bonner

Ledisi | Let Love Rule
“Ledisi is one of music’s most CONSISTENT voices. For over a decade, she has been the walking carrier of the R&B sound and gave us a gem of an album with Let Love Rule. Led by the infectious single “High”, she’s entering 2018 with three more Grammy nominations and hopefully, her first Grammy win!”

Lecrae | All Things Work Together
“This may have been the gutsiest body of work from the Reach Records owner and Grammy Award winner. Exhibiting a renewed boldness, this record reflects his ability to be both Christian and conscious. With appearances from Ty Dolla $ign, Tori Kelly, Kierra Sheard, and Aha Gazelle, this is Lecrae’s most diverse and poignant body of work.”

Deitrick Haddon | Deitrick Haddon & The Hill City Worship Camp
“Deitrick has found his groove with the urban group/choir. He did it with the Voices of Unity, The League of Xtraordinary Worshippers, and now does it again with the Hill City Worship Camp. Dig into tracks like “Firework”, “Glory”, and “He’s The Keeper”.”

Micki Miller | Micki Miller Live
“This year, Questlove of The Roots and Taraji P. Henson came to discover what the underground world has known for years. Micki Miller is NO joke! The creator of Summertime Chi dropped TWO records this year. Micki Miller Live showcases her in a live setting which is nothing short of incredible! It’s the smoothest live album I’ve heard in YEARS!”

So, what did we miss?! Let us know in the comments below!

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