Disclaimer: Albums are not listed in any particular order. Also, this is Sierra's opinion, but if you have more faves, comment them below!
1. Telefone, Noname
Honestly, who else can make death sound like how a sweet Halls cough drop tastes in the dead of winter as you sit in your parents’ bed waiting for your mom’s homemade soup? That’s right, only Noname. The wordplay, musicality, everything on this tape is beautiful. It’s comfort, it’s dissonance, it’s nostalgia - it is everything 2016 was in 10 song project.
2. Bucket List Project, Saba
If there’s any underrated artist that took 2016 by storm, it is Saba. From Get Comfortable to Comfort Zone and now Bucket List Project, there is clear progression in his lyrical content, production, and overall confidence in himself that shines through.
3. The Healing Component, Mick Jenkins
Whenever healthy discussions of love are brought into a collective dialogue, how could it be anything other than greatness? Mick touches on love in so many different contexts - love of self, love of others, love of work/career - that it’s nearly impossible for everyone to not connect to at least one aspect of this album.
4. For All We Know, NAO
This album reminds me so much of 90s Brandy/Moesha with NAO’s own twist. It’s free and reflexive and reminds me of springtime afternoons alone in my room planning all the good things to come in the upcoming summer while shedding all the fears I harbored in the winter. This is an album of freedom and self-discovery.
5. The Divine Feminine, Mac Miller
I’ve slept on Mac Miller for so long that I can’t even lie I checked out his latest album because Anderson .Paak was featured. After hearing it though, I was pleasantly surprised. 1. Positively and genuinely paying homage to feminine energy is always a win in my book and 2. Knowing a bit of the dark points with drugs and alcohol in Mac Miller’s life, this tape is a breath of fresh air to hear him be able to regain control and continue to better himself. Also, he has some of the most strong vocalist features on this how could I not include this?
6. 99.9%, Kaytranada
New aged House, soul, funk, and electronic music is back and all in one! It’s always so refreshing to hear tapes by producers, to truly hear music from their perspective. This tape is perfect for cardio workouts and quiet walks beside the water alike!
7. Anti, Rihanna
Rih Rih really killed this. Like, really. She gave us crazy vocals on “Love on the Brain” and had us all acknowledging our worth in “Needed Me,” she even brought (bae) Sza along on “Consideration.” So many gems on this project.
8. A Seat at the Table, Solange
This was a blessing from the musical gods. Solo took four years off to craft a timely and timeless piece of art. Not only is this a project for Black narratives, this project also allowed us to witness Black performance art and fashion on late night television. A Seat at the Table is such an important work that validates young Black people, creative and not, in all sorts of ways - many I can only imagine.
9. Stoney, Post Malone
Surprise, surprise. Post really did his thing on this one. I’m sure many thought “White Iverson” would have been his only hit, I kind of did, but no this project has so many hits. It’s much more soulful than I expected. There is rock and hip - hop, a little bit of pop - this tape is wondrous and has some phenomenal features.
10. Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
On Ultralight Beam, Chance said he’d make an album where there’s “not one gosh darn part you can’t tweet.” He succeeded. Coloring Book is full of old Black church hymnals with contemporary young adult narratives. This tape oozes the Great Migration blues and Black Chicago soul. Nodding to Grand Crossing, a Chicago Park District, and the Rink, a well known rollerskating rink on the Southside, two places I know well, Coloring Book is a for Chicago by Chicago project…that’s also nominated for 7 Grammy’s and the first of its streaming history to do so.
11. Blonde, Frank Ocean
It’s Frank Ocean.
12. “Awaken, My Love!”, Childish Gambino
Ohhhhmyyyygodddd!!! Donald Glover/Childish Gambino impresses me as a creative and his ability to successfully exist as both people, simultaneously! This album, in particular, is my fav by him and I’m not sure if it’s because he sampled Bootsy and The Spinners both on the intro alone or if the cover art is insanely hypnotizing and kept me in a trance listening to the album, but my soul was happy all the way through.
13. Freetown Sound, Blood Orange
Dev Hynes said this album was for all the Black kids that had ever been “too” anything, too Black, too shy, too queer, too happy. Freetown Sound opens so powerfully with a poem by Ashlee Haze titled “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot poem)” that beautifully articulates feminism of the everyday person, the kind that doesn’t need fancy words or huge lecture halls to validate only the will to see beauty within one’s self.
14. HEAVN, Jamila Woods
“Black girl be in a bubble, bubble…” it’s almost as if you can hear the bubble Jamila chooses to keep herself in, a bubble of protection and comfort not of fear and distance. This project is an ode to Black Girl joy, validates our desires, and whispers lullabies of love and light to all the Black Girls around the world.
15. The Sun's Tirade, Isaiah Rashad
This album is honest and reminds us all of the everyday struggles many of us are inundated with. “If I could pay my bills, I’m good…” yes, Isaiah. That is a real thing, something so many of us focus on and can relate to. Relating to a very long, very hot day with its title, it’s fascinating how each song maintains its composure despite the likelihood of losing one’s mind via the heat.
16. iiiDrops, Joey Purp
This is Chicago. This is a melting pot of N.E.R.D-like production, rock, early 2000s 50 Cent-In Da Club-esque rap, and “I’m going to make my city proud” Chicago energy. Purp went from in the studio fun with the guys “Photobooth” to lyrically poignant “Cornerstore” one after the other without anything feeling forced. This was definitely a gem of SoundCloud projects.
17. Lemonade, Beyonce
Chile, Aunty Yonce had everyone talking about grabbing some Hot Sauce and brewing a fresh batch of lemonade for those “wild” moments. Complete with a visual aid at the release of the album, everything from the aesthetics to the acknowledgment of Black mothers who have lost their children at the hands of the State to beautiful images of Black southern life, Lemonade was, in short, a masterpiece.
18. The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
We can (and rightfully so) critique Kanye and his way of going about many things, but we cannot deny him as a creative musical genius. Production wise and its existence as a living album proves his ability to consistently innovate his way into the pantheon of musical artists.
19. Escape Velocity, Theo Croker
It’s like Kamasi Washington’s musical younger brother who can obviously hold his own. Croker is not new to the seen, but if it’s your first introduction to him that would be the best description. It’s really just beautiful music.
20. Aviary: Act II, Eryn Allen Kane
So. Much. Soul. This 5 song EP will have you, your parents, and your grandparents feeling every note Eryn sings, hanging on to every word, and have you talking like you’ve gone through the depths of despair at the basin of every inch south of the Mississippi River.