2021 happened, or so we think? The music came every week, giving us a way to distill the dark and prepare to start anew. Below is a playlist of the best 25 albums of the year and some words on the musical artists who captured my attention.
Musical Highlights of 2021: Cassandra Jenkins majestic swirls, as they weaved across dynamic words. Weather Station’s thought provoking lyrics and the world that she brought to us. Genesis Owusu’s splash of rhythm and ability to make us sit down and dance. Squid’s sci-fi avalanche, that angst and post-punk movement. Tyler, the Creator’s inventive ways of expressing honesty and prowess. Snail Mail’s decidedly raw ability to rock.
These artists almost made the cut: Parannoul, Hand Habits, Wolf Alice, Xenia Rubinos, and Ada Lea. Don’t let these inspiring people go unheard!
Hello everybody! Happy New Year! It has been a while. School and work kept me very busy this year. It prevented me from writing a lot of blogs this year. With that said, nothing will stop me from telling you all my top 50 albums of the year. Even though no one asked. This year has been an amazing year for music. In my list, I have a mix of the biggest releases and some underground gems. Every album here is great in my opinion. Check out these albums if you haven’t done so already.
Without further ado here are my top 50 albums of the year for 2021!
50) Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
49) Mach-Hommy – Pray For Haiti
48) CHAI – WINK
47) Chief Keef – 4 NEM
46) J. Cole – The Off-Season
45) Shelley FKA DRAM – Shelley FKA DRAM
44) Boldy James & The Alchemist – Bo Jackson
43) Vince Staples – Vince Staples
42) Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
41) Tony Allen – There Is No End
40) Adele – 30
39) EXUM – Xardinal Coffee
38) Zack Fox – shut the fuck up talking to me
37) IDK – USEE4YOURSELF
36) Kota The Friend & Statik Selektah – To Kill A Sunrise
35) Rejjie Snow – Baw Baw Black Sheep
34) Pink Siifu – GUMBO’!
33) serpentwithfeet – DEACON
32) Bo Burnham – Inside (The Songs)
31) St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
30) Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
29) Clairo – Sling
28) Nas – King’s Disease II
27) Conway The Machine – La Maquina
26) Paris Texas – BOY ANONYMOUS
25) Your Old Droog – Time
24) Porter Robinson – Nurture
23) Lil Nas X – MONTERO
22) Blu – The Color Blu(e)
21) CZARFACE & MF DOOM – Super What?
20) James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart
19) GRIP – I Died For This!?
18) Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram
17) Turnstile- GLOW ON
16) Weezer – OK Human
15) slowthai – TYRON
14) McKinely Dixon – For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her
13) JPEGMAFIA – LP!
12) Black Country, New Road – For the first time
11) Tyler, the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
10) Genesis Owusu – Smiling with No Teeth
9) Magdelena Bay – Mercurial World
8) BROCKHAMPTON – ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW ROAD
7) Kanye West – DONDA
6) Injury Reserve – By the Time I Get to Phoenix
5) Backxwash – I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES
4) C. Tangana – El Madrileño
3) Spellling – The Turning Wheel
2) Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
1) Silk Sonic – An Even with Silk Sonic
Let me know what you think?
P.S. Just like last year, I have a Spotify playlist for my top 50 songs of 2021. Check it out! I also started list week on my YouTube channel (FancyMemo), if you are interested.
2021 is taking us through the Summer with pulsing music. Here is a playlist with some of the best songs of the year so far, as we ask ourselves, “Are we there yet?” The musical highlights from 2021 (so far) include Genesis Owusu, Cassandra Jenkins, and Squid.
Genesis Owusu’s groundbreaking debut album, Smiling With No Teeth is the hip-hop, techno, video game music you need to dance to. The standout songs include, “The Other Black Dog,” “Don’t Need You,” and “Smiling with No Teeth.” He relates the concept of the ‘black dog’ as a euphemism for depression to his experience with being subjected to racism. The lyrics are both liberating and contemplative. He was heavily influenced by the video game, Jet Set Radio Future and will be touring in the US for the first time in 2022.
Cassandra Jenkins’ poetic, impressionistic album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature is a reflection on life, that ebbs and flows with the magical sounds of the saxophone. It only becomes more fulfilling on repeat listens. She took a lot of voice memos from strangers and recorded everything as inspiration to make sense of the change around her. The album title was taken from something a security guard told her at an art exhibit at the Met Breuer in New York. She explains in an interview with Stereogum, “There’s a lot of humor in that for me- the idea of offering some objective truth, when we’re really sharing something about our completely subjective point of view.” Cassandra Jenkins was recruited by David Berman to play as the guitarist with his album for Purple Mountains. Berman tragically died by suicide, just days before the tour would begin. Though she only knew him a short while, her memory and grief around this loss are articulated in the songs, “New Bikini” and “Ambiguous Norway.”
Bright Green Field is Squid’s debut rock album and it sounds both urgent and scary. The five musicians (Ollie Judge, Anton Pearson, Louis Borlase, Arthur Leadbetter, and Laurie Nankivell) write all of their music together and jam it out in a collaborative way. The song, “Narrator” was in part influenced from Bi Gan’s dystopian film, A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. The song gives us an unreliable narrator to question and meditate on. The whole album is experimental in the right way and denotes the feeling of a medieval, dystopian environment. The anxiety riddled throughout this music is a cathartic escape, strange enough to leave you coming back for more and more.
Hello everybody! Happy April! Somehow we are already one quarter done with 2021. How did that happen? This past month was jam-packed with great music. Although I did struggle finding a lot of good albums to write about, there were a lot of great singles and even EP’s released in March. There’s a lot of music I want to point in your direction, so let’s just jump into my monthly favorites!
Song Honorable Mentions:
Osay – How Many Licks: If you are a boring person who gets offended over songs like WAP, then you might want to sit this one out. Chicago-born rapper, Osay, dropped a short track about sex. With a song title like that, what else would this song be about? When listening to this expect some hot bars and impressive rapping. Although the beat isn’t amazing, Osay’s charisma is able to carry this song. Although it is easy to dismiss a short sexual trap song like this, I do admire Osay’s talent. After listening to this track, and some of her other singles like “Bad Girl”, “Off Brand”, and “Shimmy Season”, you can tell that she is passionate about her craft and hip hop in general. I can’t wait to see what Osay does in the future. Give her songs a listen.
Mello Music Group, The Lasso, & Open Mike Eagle – Gold Gloves: The independent music label Mello Music Group has been churning out tracks with several different artists and producer’s for an album called Bushido. It is out now! They’ve dropped several singles for this project, but “Gold Gloves” is probably my favorite. I just love how suffocating The Lasso’s production is at the beginning, but it quickly smooths out when Open Mike Eagle hops on. Both Mike and the track itself are pretty chill for the most part. The magical outro is really cool. It’s a hypnotic experience. Check out “Gold Gloves” and Bushido.
Aesop Rock – Long Legged Larry: Aesop Rock rapping about a frog named Larry saving the day is something I didn’t think I needed, but I am glad it exists. It’s such a cute song. I just love the innocence and child-like whimsy in the lyrics. If I had a kid, you best believe my kid and I will be bumping “Long Legged Larry” in the whip. Fuck “Baby Shark”! My kid will be bumping Aesop Rock thank you very much. Seriously though, the rapping and production are top-notch even though the lyrics are very playful. Aesop Rock has always been good at being a descriptive storyteller when he raps, so seeing this skill set being implemented in a song that is basically a nursery rhyme honestly makes sense. Out of all the rappers out there, he is probably the guy you would want making nursery rhymes. I genuinely wouldn’t mind more songs like this.
ZillaKami – Chains: For some reason, I don’t talk about ZillaKami as much as I should. He does have one of my favorite voices in hip hop. It is so rugged and animalistic. It pairs well with the trap metal fusion he has been doing on not only his material, but also with SosMula on City Morgue. “Chains” is a perfect example of the type of music City Morgue and ZillaKami are known for. On this track, ZillaKami is shouting and rapping over trap beats and energetic electric guitars. It’s abrasive and kind of catchy. I recommend checking this song out if you are curious about this weird trap metal fusion. If you do enjoy it check out City Morgue.
AG Club – TRUTH (feat. Sam Truth and redveil): I wasn’t really familiar with this rap group, but AG Club impressed me a lot. I love the rebellious energy in this track. This track starts off with a bang. Jody Fontaine sounds so focus while the beat sounds so hard-hitting. Jody’s pre-chorus is catchy and it segues nicely into the sung chores from Sam Truth. I love how the production transitions into a beat switch. I think the new beat fits well with redveils rapping style. I think everybody kills it on this track. It’s a great posse cut. Give it a listen.
Laura Les – Haunted: One-half of 100 Gecs, Laura Les, dropped “Haunted House” this past month. 100 Gecs is a guilty pleasure of mine, so you know I was excited when this song dropped. Like many 100 Gecs tracks, this song does a great job at blending cuteness with insanity. The beat starts off pleasant, but as soon as that inaudible chorus hits you get reminded its a hyper pop song. I absolutely love the crazy energy on the chorus even though I have no idea what she is saying. I think her verse was pretty good. The monotone delivery contrasts nicely with the crazy chorus. The only bad part about this song is that it is too short. I want more!
BROCKHAMPTON – BUZZCUT (feat. Danny Brown): BROCKHAMPTON, the best boyband since One Direction, are back with a FUCKING BANGER! I absolutely love this song. The instrumental sounds like something off Iridescence, but on crack. It is insane! Weirdly, Kevin Abstract is the only member rapping on this track besides the feature Danny Brown. They both brought in a chaotic, yet infectious energy to the track. For some reason, Kevin sounded like Denzel Curry to me. Danny sounded like he was in his prime form again. I also really love the outro. Joba’s beautiful singing and Merlyn’s adlibs finish off the song nicely. I can’t wait for their new album. I’M SO HYPED!
EP Honorable Mentions:
S. Reidy – I Started Grieving Today: Oklahoma rapper, S. Reidy just dropped an EP this past month. It is very short with it being only four tracks and it is barely over 7 minutes long. He comes across as a pretty angry, moody, and passionate rapper. His lyrical content are basically passionate rants half of the time. You can feel the passion on tracks like “Pity Party”. His voice sounds so bold on that track. I believe Die Cute is the producer. If he did produce the EP, I think he did a great job at making a very moody aesthetic for S. Reidy. Not a bad EP. I just wished the songs were longer. Check out this short gem.
JAHMED – ARMANI: This is such a fun and addicting EP. JAHMED is such an entertaining rapper. I love the different flows and vocal inflections he does on this EP. He reminds me a lot of rappers like Vince Staples, Baby Keem, ScHoolboy Q, and Ski Mask the Slump God. Like those rappers, JAHMED is good at being an expressive rapper. The hard-hitting trap beats suit his voice nicely. It’s hard not to be pumped up after listening to a lot of these tracks. Freddie Gibbs has a great feature on “GLIMPSE”. The skits are entertaining. JAHMED has a lot of potential. He is definitely a rapper you should keep an eye on.
Moore Kismet – Vendetta For Cupid: Moore Kismet is a very talented young individual. At only 16 years old, Moore Kismet is producing insane electronic dance music. The production on this EP can be harsh and abrasive, but at the same time, it can be very pretty. The hard-hitting beat drops are chaotic. The features are great as well. They add a lot to the music, but Moore Kismets’ production always shines through. I hope we get more music from them soon. If Moore keeps up the great work, I can see them becoming one of my favorite producers right now.
Michigander – Everything Will Be Ok Eventually: This one for my indie rock fans out there. This EP is my first introduction to Michiganders music. After giving this EP a listen, I instantly became a fan. Michiganders music is very relatable. This EP is about being heartbroken and trying your best to be better again. This man is in his feels big time. Although the subject matter is pretty sad, the music itself sounds pretty uplifting. The instrumentals are pleasant to the ear. Lead singer, Jason Singer, singing is filled with so much emotion. I can’t get enough of this EP. Pretty please with a cherry on top, give this EP a listen.
Benny The Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2: If you have listened to Benny The Butcher or Griselda in general, then you should know what you are getting into before listening to this EP. If you have never listened to a Benny project you should expect great drug rap and grimy beats on every project. This EP is no exception. Benny is dropping fire bars. Harry Fraud kills it on production. It sounds very classy. This is some high-class drug talk. Chinx, 2 Chainz, and Jim Jones were great features. I don’t know if I like this more than the first one, but The Plugs I Met 2 is a great rap EP.
Album Honorable Mentions:
Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram: Legendary rap duo, Armand Hammer, teaming up with legendary producer, The Alchemist, is a match made in heaven. Just like past Armand Hammer projects, Billy Woods and E L U C I D delivers great cryptic rapping, but this time it is paired with classy yet grimy production from The Alchemist. It is hard to decode what Armand Hammer is rapping about, but when a bar finally clicks your mind will be blown. I am actually surprised at how well The Alchemist is able to make Armand Hammer-like production, but it still has that elegant feel you expect from an Alchemist beat. You can tell this album was a team effort. This is no high school group project. Everybody put in the work. This includes the features as well. This is definitely one of the best rap albums of the year.
serpentwithfeet – DEACON: What a beautiful album. This is the first time I listened to serpentwithfeet and I am impressed. He reminds me a lot of Frank Ocean. They both have a similar chill and laid-back delivery. Serpentwithfeet sings with a bit more vibrato, but other than that I think they have a similar style. As the album’s description says, this album is about black gay love. Serpentwithfeet is in love and he is not afraid to show it. This album is very romantic. I love how pretty and heavenly the instrumentals are. If you want to listen to a good R&B album, then check this album out.
Kota the Friend & Statik Selektah – To Kill A Sunrise: Kota is back once again with another album. I was nervous before going into this album because I was afraid it was going to be more of the same chill raps. Although it is very chill, Statik Selektah comes through with lushes jazzy boom-bap instrumentals. The change in production helps spice up what Kota has been doing, but at the same time keep the chill aesthetic his fans love. I also like how Kota sounds more focused on this album. He is laid back for the most part, but he does sound energized in tracks like “Wolves”. I really hope Kota and Statik keep working together because this album is great. I would love to see more albums released from this duo.
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED 1.5: Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats ARE BACK BABY! Earlier this month, they dropped a remix album based on their 2020 album UNLOCKED. They had an assortment of guests to provide their own spin on UNLOCKED. Artists like Smino, Joey Bada$$, Benny The Butcher, Kenny Mason, and Arlo Parks, just to name a few, came through with great features. Most of the beats were remixed by other producers like Robert Glasper, Charlie Heat, The Alchemist, and Jay Versace. With all these people helping on the album, this remix album ends unbecoming a totally different experience. Although I do like the original album even more, if you are a Denzel Curry fan this is a must-listen.
Favorite Song of The Month:
Silk Sonic – Leave The Door Open: Although there were a lot of great songs this month, nothing was able to top this masterpiece. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak came through with probably the best song of the year and we still got nine more months left. They really took aspects from 70’s neo-soul music and modernized it. Doing this makes the song sound nostalgic, timeless, and forward-thinking at the same time. I am surprised with how well these two sound together. Even though they are similar in many ways, they do still find ways to compliment each other. Anderson comes through with some smooth and charismatic bars, while Bruno kills it on the chorus. His singing sounds so powerful and grand. I’m expecting big things from these two. I’m on the Silk Sonic hype train. We might be hearing a classic pretty soon.
Favorite EP of The Month:
CHIKA – ONCE UPON A TIME: CHIKA IS AMAZING! She really is such a brilliant lyricist. This conceptual EP has a very creative fairy tale theme going for it. I absolutely love how she is rapping about serious topics while constantly making fairy tale references. Before this EP, I preferred CHIKA’s singing over her rapping, but that has changed. She is an amazing rapper! The flow switches on the first track alone is mind-blowing. Her rapping is flawless. She makes it seem so easy. If she is putting all of this work in a short EP like this, it makes me wonder what a CHIKA album would sound like.
Favorite Album of The Month:
Genesis Owusu – Smiling with No Teeth: Last month I said that Genesis Owusu was my favorite discovery of the year. I gushed all over “Gold Chains”. Now that he dropped his debut album, I can now gush all over more of his music. This album is fantastic even though it was not what I expected. “Gold Chains” was such a smooth and cool track, so I didn’t expect a track like “On the Move!”. This track sounds like a Death Grips song for some reason. I like it, but I just didn’t expect it. Surprises like that happens a lot on this album. Genesis can come across as smooth, chill, aggressive, cartoony, serious, and even sensual. Genesis is such an entertaining and diverse performer. Each song on this album sounds different yet the album is still cohesive. I am absolutely in love with this album. I can’t wait to see how his career unfolds. I expect big things from Genesis.
These are my monthly favorites! Let me know what you have been listening to!
Hello everybody! Happy March! Even though February is the shortest month of the year, this past month was packed with a lot of great music. Especially in the singles department. I added more singles than usual in the honorable mentions, but I did leave two tracks. I did this because Daw has already written two great articles about them. I really recommend reading Daw’s articles on “Gang Signs” by Freddie Gibbs featuring ScHoolboy Q and “So.Incredible.pkg [Robert Glasper Version]” by Denzel Curry, Kenny Beats, Smino, and Robert Glasper. Those two tracks are amazing. Give it a listen. With that being said let’s dive into my monthly favorites.
Song Honorable Mentions:
Cakes Da Killer & Proper Villain – What’s The Word: Let’s start off with some straight-up fire. This hip-house track is very energetic. Cakes Da Killer is coming at you with these speedy flows. I really like how expressive he is when he delivers each bar. Proper Villain kills it on production. It has everything you want from a good hip-house beat. What’s not to love?
Big Freedia – Platinum: This song is by far one of the most fun and entertaining songs I have listened to this month. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I can totally see this song pumping people up at a club. I love how powerful and bold Big Freedia’s voice is. It pairs well with this fast-paced southern hip hop beat. I guarantee this song will have you on your feet, so if you want to have a mini dance party give this song a listen.
Genesis Owusu – Gold Chains: Genesis Owusu is probably my favorite discovery so far this year. This song was so close to becoming my favorite song of the month. This is mostly because of his singing. The chill lowkey production is great, but his voice is incredible. He doesn’t have a crazy singing performance, but everything he says sounds smooth as fuck. Especially when he is melodically rapping. This track is a must-listen.
Tkay Maidza – Kim (with Yung Baby Tate): After releasing my favorite EP of 2020, I became a giant fan of Tkay. So you better believe I am hyped for her upcoming EP. Especially after listening to “Kim”. That shit is crazy. This track is an aggressive, unapologetic, attitude-filled ride. Both Tkay Maidza and Yung Baby Tate sound so badass. They have amazing chemistry. I really love how this song references famous Kim’s including Kim Possible. I genuinely don’t know how someone can hate this song.
Noname – Rainforest: Noname is back with another impressive single. She just continues to amaze me. Her poetic lyricism is packed with a lot, and I mean a lot, of deep content. In the hoof alone she talks about depression, exploitive billionaires, and deforestation. “Because, because a rainforest cries, Everybody dies a little”, is one of my favorite lines I have heard all year. I can’t emphasize enough how well written this song is. Plus the jazzy calm instrumental makes for a perfect backdrop for this song. For crying out loud, NONAME DROP AN ALBUM! I NEED IT!
JID – Skegee: JID really did something special with this track. Like other JID tracks, he goes in a conscious direction. As always his lyrics are well written. What makes this song special in my opinion is what JID actually raps about. He shines a light on the Tuskegee experiments. Before this track, I didn’t know those disgusting and dehumanizing experiments actually happened. I appreciate JID for spreading more awareness to historical moments like these because I for sure did not learn about this in my public high school.
EP Honorable Mentions:
MAVI – END OF THE EARTH: Although I am not absolutely in love with this EP, I do see its appeal. Mavi shows flashes of potential throughout this entire EP. On the first track, he is rapping with so much emotion. He truly sounds like he in a lot of pain. I love how Mavi raps when the trap drums come through on “METHODS”. His depressing lyricism is on point. I just hope he continues to improve and finds his own sound.
Luna Li – jams EP: There’s no clickbait here. This EP is filled with jams. In this 10 minute and 10 track EP, Luna Li soothes the listener with her talent. It’s crazy how Luna produced every single one of these lushes beats on her own. Every instrument played was done by her. The guitar, bass, violin, keys, and even the fucking harp were all her. What instrument can’t she play? If you want to relax I highly suggest putting this EP on.
Album Honorable Mention:
Luke Banter – Pucker Up: In this album, Luke provides several love-sick, yet upbeat pop tracks that are perfect for this past Valentine’s day. Luke does an impressive job at making catchy hooks. With tracks like “Nelly Bly”, “Pucker Up”, “Allergic”, and “Witchcraft” I can see the potential in what Luke is doing. This album is far from perfect. There are definitely several flaws and duds in the tracklist. With that said I am genuinely excited to see what Luke does moving forward.
Conway The Machine & Big Ghost Ltd – If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed: Man, Conway continues to amaze me. Conway has single-handedly turned me into a bigger Griselda fan. Don’t get me wrong Benny and Westside Gunn are cool, but Conway is on another level. Just like From King to a God, If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed differentiate himself from his contemporaries with his pen game. I absolutely love how badass Conway can be, but he can also be very vulnerable. Big Ghost Ltd kills it with the gritty production. Although this is not my favorite Conway album, I think this album is awesome. Don’t sleep on this album!
slowthai – TYRON: It was a tough choice putting TYRON on the honorable mentions list. Although this isn’t my favorite album of the month, so far this is definitely my favorite hip hop album of the year. Slowthai really impressed me with this album. The reason why I am a fan of slowthai is because of his aggressive bangers. In the first disc, we get those bangers, but the second disc is depressing and moody. Again I love those bangers, but slowthai really shined like he never has before on the second disc. Slowthai proves once again why he is one of the best rappers in the UK.
Favorite Song of The Month:
Kero Kero Bonito – The Princess and the Clock: As mentioned earlier, there were a lot of great singles released this month. It was honestly very hard to choose my favorite song of the month. I ended up picking this song because of how extravagant it is. This song sounds like an evolution of a track from Bonito Generation. It’s cute and upbeat, but they experiment a bit more on the production. This track has several different phases. It can be explosive and crazy, but then turn soothing in a blink of an eye. I am so hyped for the upcoming EP!
Favorite EP of the Month:
JPEGMAFIA – EP2!: In a short time span, JPEGMAFIA drops another installment of his EP series. Last year, he dropped an EP filled with entertaining experimental mostly rap songs. In this EP he is going into it with a different approach. This EP is darker. It is moodier. Peggy is a lot angrier than he was in EP!. Peggy has been angry in past projects, but he is usually rapping and shouting. In EP2!, he goes into a melodic approach. I wouldn’t even consider this rap. This is an angry experimental R&B project. Even though he is singing, his lyrics is still unapologetically cutthroat. I am not disappointed.
Favorite Album of the Month:
Black Country, New Road – For the first time: I did not expect to like this album as much as I did. I consider myself a hip-hop fan. Although I do give other genres a chance, hip hop is my bread and butter. This experimental rock album is not something I usually would gravitate to, but I am in love with it. The biggest reason why is because of the production. This album has some of the best production I have listened to in a while. I also really love the dramatic singing performances throughout the album. This album has a lot of great qualities that help keep the listener’s attention. This is good because this album has a risky tracklist. It is only 6 songs with each song spanning from 5 to 10 minutes long. Black Country, New Road does an excellent job at keeping the listener engage even with a funky tracklist. If this album is just the beginning, then I can’t wait to see what they do next!
These are my monthly favorites! Let me know what you have been listening to!