We have reached the halfway point of the year. Meaning that we have had six months to consume all the music possible. This year has been chockfull of great albums already, and we’re only 50% of the way done. It is shaping up to be a great year musically, not as good as 2016, but great nonetheless. In this here article, I’m gonna share my favorite albums of the year so far. The keyword is favorite (not best, very important distinction).
SiR – November
There is something about being a part of TDE that puts you on a different echelon compared to the rest of your peers. The Inglewood native was the latest signing to the collective. With November, he brought his talent to the forefront of R&B. His smooth, tantalizing voice combined with a solid production makes him a major player in the new era of R&B. What was fun about this album was that it strayed away from the normal constructs of an emotional R&B album and decided to incorporate heavy west coast hip hop influences. His rapping chops made this album a fun combination of love and grit.
Cozz – Effected
We have seen less of a focus on lyricism in this new wave of rap. LA native Cozz is making it his goal to keep the talent of lyrical dexterity alive. On Effected, Cozz displays the ability to tell a story over a beat in a way that has been unseen since the early 2000s. His introspective lyrical nature is best shown over aggressive beats that matches his intensity. His collected, concise rhymes made for an enjoyable with top-notch produced songs.
Various Artists – Black Panther: The Album
When Kendrick Lamar was named the executive producer for the “Black Panther” soundtrack, music fans everywhere began to salivate. He surpassed our expectations, fully capturing the essence of the movie. Lamar called upon many African influences found in the actual score of the movie to deliver an eclectic mix of hip hop, R&B, and afrobeat. There wasn’t one, boring sound on the album. Each track seemed to correspond with different scenes from the movie, with some being fast paced and hectic, and others being slower and somber. It was the perfect companion to the culture shifting movie that “Black Panther” was.
Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap
The West Coast legend understands what it takes to succeed in the rap game. He has found a distinct flow that has allowed him to achieve success in the underground circuit. On Victory Lap, he brought his flow to the forefront of rap with gripping, real stories from growing up in Crenshaw. The album acts more like an autobiography of his life, making it apparent that reality sells. He did not have to lie on his name or project an image to sell. Nipsey’s effortless, relentless flow beautifully brings his hard-nosed style of rap a greater level of popularity.
Saba – CARE FOR ME
The Chicago native’s second album was special because it played like a love letter to his city, his friends, and his family. It was an emotional project, where Saba paid tribute to his cousin, Walter Long Jr. aka dinnerwithjohn. The raps are grief-stricken and emotional. In the midst of this sadness, Saba finds his best sound. The album is meditative and introspective: it acts as a conversation with the self, causing you to settle down and think about your own insecurities and tragedies. Musically, it was his most cohesive and beautiful piece of work, hitting the listener right in the soul.
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Cardi B was determined not be a one-hit wonder. However, it is unbelievably difficult to live up to the monster success that “Bodak Yellow” was. Invasion of Privacy lived up to the hype that she created. The album was ridiculously fun, allowing Cardi to show off her personality. That is what has made her such a pop culture icon. If you allow her to get on some solid beats, she displays an aggressive, bouncy flow that allows you to bop and bounce to it. The album is full of anthems that will carry Cardi B for a while.
Ravyn Lenae – Crush
This album may be the birth of a new dynamic duo in music. With the Internet’s Steve Lacy, Ravyn Lenae used this EP to allow her sound to mature and grow. With Lacy producing the EP, her soothing voice flows beautifully over his guitar riffs. The project displays Lenae’s versatility as she was able to croon peacefully and soulfully. It serves as an exciting next step in her career as she continues to carve out her own sound among R&B’s great singers.
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
When you look up the definition of supreme artistry in the dictionary, Janelle Monáe shows up. As a modern day renaissance woman, she has left her imprint on movie and music. Her album comes equipped with a full visual experience, giving the listener a double dosage of her genius. Musically, the album has a wide variation of funk and R&B influences. The clear inspiration from her friend and mentor Prince is noticeable throughout the album. It is a lush, well-connected masterpiece on which Monáe takes full ownership of her blackness, her sexuality, and her womanhood.
Rae Sremmurd – SR3MM
If you were awaiting the revival of the triple album, Rae Sremmurd delivered right on cue. The duo captured their signature aura of fun, confidence, and infectious energy. They reminded everyone why once they do the fusion dance, they are capable of creating bangers. The “solo” works that came from this album gave everyone the chance to get to know the Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi as individuals with their own styles and sounds. Their third album somehow served as an introduction to the two, and we are all better for it.
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
Leon Bridges is a special talent. He has been able to capture an old, 60’s blues sound that has brought on great feelings of nostalgia. On Good Thing, bridges is able to retain his signature sound will also making his music more palatable for a greater audience. As he riffs on love, both lost and found, he is able to tranquilize the listener into reminiscing about their own love. Trust me, I did it.
Tobe Nwigwe – THE ORIGINALS.
Tobe Nwigwe might be one of the most interesting artists out here right now. Here is what you need to know: he is from Houston, he played college football at the University of North Texas until he was injured, he grew up with Mike and Martellus Bennett, two NFL stars, and his married to a woman named Fat. Those are the essentials. When you listen, you need to recognize the talent that is held in the production and the rap. HIs deep voice allows him to come off as soothing and captivating at the same time. The album utilizes futuristic and synth beats that are foreboding and attention grabbing. His album is an announcement that an other worldly talent has arrived.
Tierra Whack – Whack World
How does one make themselves standout in an industry full of like minded rappers. By attempting something that probably has not been done before: an album that is 15 tracks long, but only lasts 15 minutes. The Philly native somehow figured out a way to satisfy a full song structure in only minute. The issue is is that she left us wanting more. Her lyrical dexterity and melodic voice satisfied rap purists. Her weirdness and unique style of filming intrigues the casual rap fan, causing them to check her out even further.
Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1
What do you get when you put together one of the most talented rappers of all time, who is the frontman of one of the greatest music acts of all time, and one of hip hop’s most influential producers. Art. That is what you get. Rap perfection. When Black Thought of the Roots and 9th Wonder collaborated for Black Thought’s first solo work, we all became fully accustomed to what could be accomplished when talent is able to grow and mature throughout an entire career. Black Thought’s flow and rhyme skill is unparalleled, and he displayed it in only 17 minutes. Hopefully this means that we got more from the rap legend, as the short EP was seemingly only a taste.
Jay Rock – Redemption
A lot of people don’t recognize that Jay Rock was the cornerstone of TDE. He has been a part of Top Dawg since the beginning, attempting to find his voice throughout his career. On Redemption, Jay Rock taps into his past struggles with gang life and a motorcycle accident that almost cost him his life to create an album that is representative of his life. He has been searching for a win at all costs. On this album, he finds his footing, chronicling his journey to the successes that he now enjoys. With Redemption, we are seeing the fruit of all his labor.
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
Jorja Smith really came into her own on this album. The singer-songwriter who had wow’d us with her debut single “Blue Lights,” who had found her way onto Drake’s More Life, made this throwback album her own. In a sound reminiscent to the great Lauryn Hill, Smith sweetly sings in a sound very similar to the best of the 90’s. Her future will continue to bright as along as she continues to grow in terms of writing and voice.
THE CARTERS – EVERYTHING IS LOVE
This album felt like a victory lap. A honest celebration of being rich and in love while also venturing into realistic territory about Jay Z’s cheating. It doesn’t come off as preachy or angry. It balances the honesty by celebrating the resilient nature of their marriage, and how that should be a cause for celebration. The album is an outward showing of black extravagance, as we hear Beyoncé rapping about people “on her dick,” and Jay-Z telling everyone that he is “good on any MLK boulevard.” The culmination of Lemonade and 4:44 was confidence exemplified.