In honor of the conclusion of Black Music Month, I compiled a list of 10 albums that changed my life.
Brown Sugar- D’Angelo
When this album dropped in 1995, I had no clue about how it would later affect the way I appreciated and listened to music. I didn’t come to fully appreciate what this album did not only for R&B music, but for music in general until 2005. My aunt had a few old CD’s lying around the house and Brown Sugar was one of them. After one listen, I immediately wondered why it took me so long to sit with this project. After that first listen, I knew my appreciation for D’Angelo would live forever.
Favorite Track: Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine
2. A Seat at the Table- Solange
I don’t feel I need to go into much detail about this project and what it meant for black women. Solange gave us an honest and authentic look into not just the black experience, but the black woman experience. As a black woman and as a creative, I felt Solange was singing pages directly from my diary. She also reminded us that her pen game has always been top tier and vocally showed us how much she’s grown as an artist. From the Master P interludes, to the visuals that followed, I think everyone can agree that this album is perfect.
Favorite Track: Cranes in the Sky
3. Aijuswanaseing- Musiq Soulchild
If you can’t sing the intro to Just Friends (Sunny) with me then we can’t be friends! When the singer from Philly dropped his debut album in 2000, it felt new and refreshing. If you can’t tell by now, I’m a R&B snob and I take this genre really seriously and I’ll always appreciate Musiq for the role he played at that time with the “neo-soul” movement . I mean, if “Love” isn’t in your top R&B songs, are you even human?
Favorite Track: Just Friends (Sunny)
4.2014 Forest Hills Drive- J.Cole
Jermaine. Cole. It takes a lot for rap albums to move me the same way albums of other genres do, but FHD wasn’t just an album, it was a moment. It was apparent that Cole was in a much different space than his previous album, Born Sinner, which seemed to be much darker. From the rollout, to the behind the scenes content, the HBO special and the tour, Cole and Dreamville created an experience that would leave a long lasting mark on both fans new and old.
Favorite Track: January 28th
Now ya’ll know this list wouldn’t be complete without the queen. Bey literally made the world and our hearts stop when she dropped her surprise visual album in December of 2013. I remember having a fit in my living room the next day listening to this album and watching the visuals and thinking “yea this is why she’s the queen”. Not only was this a special moment for Bey fans, but she dropped this album on her terms, on her own label and it took her to a new level as a businesswoman and artist. Also, who doesn’t wanna hear Beyoncé sing “Let me sit this ass on you”. I stan, forever.
Favorite Track: Yoncé/Partition
Favorite Visual: Blow
6. The Black Album- Jay-Z
The Black Album will always hold a special place in my heart for a number reasons. This is the first rap album I asked my mom to buy me as a gift. I liked rap music but not enough to listen to entire albums. Second, this was allegedly Hov’s last album and in that moment I realized I was a bigger Jay-Z fan than I thought. I remember hearing December 4th on the radio and bawling because at the time I thought he was retiring. I was devastated. 14 years and 6 albums later, I know my panic was in vain since he didn’t actually retire but in the moment it made me appreciate Hov’s impact on music. Sidebar: You can’t out rap me when it comes to Lucifer or PSA.
Favorite Track: What More Can I Say
7. Self Titled- Donny Hathaway
I always tell people that if you can’t discuss Donny, you don’t have the range to talk music with me. Donny Hathaway is one of the best vocalist and musicians of all time and I will state this until I’m blue in the face. If you consider yourself a student or lover of music, I beg you, PLEASE go and get your life to this album. Donny gives you vocals, musicianship, arrangements, lyrics, literally everything! Donny is your favorite’s favorite. Get into it!
Favorite Track: Giving Up
8. Butterfly- Mariah Carey
The legend known as Mariah Carey did what she needed to do on this album! Mariah was fresh off a divorce from music exec Tommy Mottola, who had control over her career since its early days, so in true diva fashion, she teamed up with some of Hip Hop’s greatest and gave us a masterpiece. This would be the beginning of Mariah’s long standing relationship with Hip Hop with collaborations from Puff Daddy, The Lox, Jermaine Dupri,Q-Tip and more. Many say that Mariah created this album as revenge on her ex-husband. Well if so, I’m forever thankful.
Favorite Track: Breakdown ft. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
9. Confessions - Usher
On March 23, 2004, Usher Raymond IV laid his burdens down on behalf of all ain’t shit men across the world and gave us “Confessions”, the best R&B album of the 2000’s ( don’t debate me, go debate your auntie with the thick sideburns). Vocals? Flawless. Production? Flawless. Songwriting? Flawless. Even today, this album makes makes me so damn happy. There aren't too many albums as cohesive and well put together as Confessions. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during this recording process. After the success of 8701, Confessions was Usher's reminder that he was not to be second guessed. With this album being so perfect, some can argue that it ultimately hurt Usher since everything he's released after has been compared to Confessions. I'll write a piece later about Usher's"post-Confessions" gems, but for now we'll sing Throwback and rejoice.
Favorite Track: Tie: Superstar & Do It To Me
10. Supa Dupa Fly-Missy Elliott
Songs like “Sock it 2 Me” shouldn’t have been coming out of my second grade mouth, yet I thought the song was fun and catchy. Revisiting this album as an adult makes me appreciate Missy and her major impact on music. Missy never played by the rules and never allowed the industry to put her in a box. Listening to this album now makes me strive to be fearless and embrace every part of myself in the same ways Missy did. She made it cool to be a "weird", dark-skinned woman who was not ashamed of her sexuality or talent. Missy is solely responsible for some of the greatest music moments of the 90's and 2000's and she deserves more.
Favorite Track: Beep Me 911
What are some of your favorite albums? Leave a comment or tweet me at @AshleighCreativ!