Top 10 R&B Albums of this decade? I got:
1. D’Angelo – Black Messiah (2014)
Black Messiah was released during a seeming hiatus by D’Angelo. His first album, Brown Sugar was released in 1995 and it took 5 years for the release of his sophomore follow-up Voodoo in 2000. It would take nearly 15 full years for the release of his 3rd album, the immaculate Black Messiah.
Black Messiah features heavy Pro-Black themes and was even released ahead of schedule due to the Eric Garner & Ferguson police brutality riots. The only other album released around the same time as Black Messiah that is able to combine pro-Black themes with stellar songwriting, and supreme production, is Kendrick Lamar’s March 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly. Songs like “Betray My Heart” and “Really Love” are intimate, while songs like “Ain’t That Easy” remind us of D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar past.
Although Black Messiah didn’t produce any mega-hit songs, it has become one of the most revered R&B releases of this generation, with one of the highest collective ratings in Metacritic history. But despite critic ratings, the instrumentation and lyrical content on this album appear immovable, and are quality enough to live on for years – even decades from now.
2. Sampha – Process (2017)
Fans waited upwards to 2 years for the release of Process. When Timmy’s Prayer leaked in 2015, it drew thousands of new listeners to Sampha, including myself. But it would be 2 years until fans could enjoy Sampha’s first full-length LP. Between his EPs, Sampha would appear on Drake’s 2013 Nothing Was the Same album on the songs “Too Much” and “The Motion“. The success of Process would catapult Sampha to appearances on Drake’s 2017 More Life and Solange Knowles’ 2019 release When I Get Home.
Process featured tactical, intimate vocals over left-field, alternative production. Sampha displayed vocal depth and gripping voice control. The album was so good, I named it the #1 Best Album of 2017 (all genres).
3. The Weeknd – Trilogy (2012)
Trilogy consists of three mixtapes released by The Weeknd in 2011 that accelerated his ascension: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. Today, it’s difficult to understand how quickly The Weeknd ascended in 2011. His first mixtape House of Balloons was released on popular blogs and the rest his history. Within a year, he was contributing vibes and writing to Drake’s 2012 Take Care album. Trilogy was unique due to The Weeknd’s mystique, he hadn’t shown his face in artwork or interviews during his releases and his lyrical content contributed to his mystique; his lyrical content often revolved around heavy drug use and solitude. The mystique was matched by chilling production via illangelo and Doc McKinney. Trilogy is the foundation for The Weeknd’s current success.
4. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (2010)
ArchAndroid was the first album I witnessed trend massively on Twitter. Released by Diddy’s Bad Boy records, the album’s release was followed by a sweeping social media campaign. It felt impossible to escape the album’s artwork on my timeline. The ArchAndroid is a complexly layered concept album about space travel and new worlds. The LP is divided into Suite II & Suite III, signifying it as the 2nd and 3rd parts of Janelle Monae’s Metropolis series. The album was influential, especially amongst songwriters and lyricists and has been sampled numerous times in Hip-Hop, including by J. Cole & Lil B.
5. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE (2012)
Frank Ocean had a lot of expectations to meet with channel ORANGE. Weeks before the album’s release, Frank “came out of the closet”, revealing to the world that he is homosexual. On top of that, he released a major fan favorite project, nostalgia, ULTRA in February 2011. Fans became uneasy in the wait for channel ORANGE, with some people beginning to doubt Frank Ocean’s ability to release a full LP. When channel ORANGE dropped in July 2012, it felt like an instant classic moment. The LP featured OFWGKTA affiliates Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, the Creator. Songs like “Thinkin Bout You“, “Sweet Life” and “Pyramids” are already embedded in our nostalgic history.
6. Anderson .Paak – Malibu (2016)
It’s hard to convey the anticipation people felt for Anderson .Paak’s Malibu. If you weren’t there, it’s hard to grasp. Paak picked up loads of steam in 2015 and many expected great music from him going into 2016. Anderson .Paak delivered on that anticipation ten times over with Malibu. The LP featured soulful, intimate serenades such as “Carry Me” and “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance“. The album was so good, I placed it as #1 on my Best Albums of 2016 (all genres) list. Magical.
7. NxWorries – YesLawd! (2016)
2016 was a magical year for Anderson .Paak. He enjoyed numerous features on Dr. Dre’s 2015 LP Compton which saw a spike in interest in his music. Anderson dropped the soothing, melodic R&B serenade joint Malibu in January 2016, and in legendary fashion, followed it up with YesLawd! in October of that same year. In contrast to Malibu, YesLawd! is funky, a benefit of being produced by Knxwledge, and features slick pimp-talk as opposed to women-friendly serenades. Arguably, the only 2016 album that rivaled YesLawd! is Anderson’s other 2016 album, Malibu.
8. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream (2012)
Kaleidoscope Dream’s lead single was “Adorn“, arguably the most recognizable hit song of the past decade. Miguel followed up this mega-hit with “Do You…” and “How Many Drinks?” and track #10 “Pussy Is Mine” took the Internet by storm, warranting hundreds of thousands of acoustic covers.
9. Solange – A Seat At The Table (2016)
I‘m not sure if anyone expected this METEOR from Solange in 2016. It had been 4 years since her previous release True EP and 8 years since her previous LP Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. Her sister Beyonce was known as the artistic and visual lead of the family. This all changed after A Seat At The Table. Solange delivered a deeply conscious neo-soul album, coupled with strong visuals. Many today herald A Seat At The Table as the strongest, most quality musical release from the Knowles family.
10. SZA – CTRL (2017)
SZA took the Internet, and Summer by storm with the June 2017 release of CTRL. It wouldn’t be long before every other girl’s Instagram and Twitter feeds were filled with her empowering lyrics. CTRL was the formal TDE debut from SZA. Her first project, Z, featured spacey production and minimalist vocals. But CTRL was the opposite. With grandiose production and a fully annunciated SZA, CTRL took summer of 2017 by storm. She influenced many of her peers by way of her accented delivery.
*The Internet – Ego Death (2015)
*Frank Ocean – nostalgia, ULTRA (2011)
*Maxwell – blackSUMMERS’night (2016)
What’s your top 10? Comment below!