The following will be what I consider to be the top albums of 2013 thru the first 6 months or so. We all may have different reasons behind why we listen to certain albums, and there may be some overlap between our individual lists. Regardless of that, you will still be able to find some recommendations that may not have been on your radar and discover your new favorite artist all at the same time.
– Supreme Soul
My criteria for “must have albums” are simple: 1) have amazing music, 2) the album must be able to played in its entirety with little to no skipping of tracks, 3) you should be able to name at least 2 or 3 tracks from it without having to be reminded or hear them, and 4) when in doubt, see numbers 1 thru 3.
1) J. Cole – Born Sinner: I wasn’t surprised that this album was good, but to see it was on the level it has been on since being released was quite surprising to me. I’m a fan of J. Cole and if you read some of our earlier posts you can tell I appreciate his lyricism. On this album he teams that lyricism with amazing production which I believe took him to another level. In the production of this album he uses quite a bit of samples, and I think he uses them well enough to keep the flow of the album from track to track consistent yet, not too overpowering. He keeps his tracks free from being overly commercialized and stays true to things that seem very close to his current state. I always appreciate hip hop that is not about being overly flashy or extremely ignorant so for that I can definitely listen to each song on repeat without feeling like my brain cells have been decimated. Some of my favorite tracks from the album are Let Nas Down, Power Trip, and Forbidden Fruit (which features a sample by one of my all time favorite hip hop groups).
2) The-Dream – IV Play: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of The-Dream. I’ve rarely listened to his music except for the singles on the radio and a few other songs on his album here and there. I mention this because I’m almost sure that most of this album has similarities to his other albums, but for some reason I was drawn to this one more than his earlier music. The majority of his songs are for adult audiences only if you catch my drift. If this doesn’t bother you and you also don’t mind vulgarity being sung in a very blunt manner then you can listen in past the first few tracks and be entertained thoroughly. I will say that despite the above being a regular occurrence on multiple tracks, he has some songs that come from a genuine place that apparently is filled with pain and other emotions from relationship issues. This is what actually drew me to this album. More specifically, his live performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon which I featured in an earlier post. If interested, you should check that one out here, otherwise tracks I suggest are Turnt, Equestrian, IV Play, Too Early, and Michael.
3) Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll: I’m behind on being a fan of Fall Out Boy. So much that I didn’t even know they had a new album out, but was glad to see they didn’t miss a beat on this album. They have great song writing and a wide range of styles from track to track. I was not bored one bit when listening to the album and was even impressed at how they used features from a few artists on this album. They are a favorite band of mine and I would recommend you check out the album if you’re trying to get into some type of rock and roll, but don’t know where to start. I’m not a guru of rock music at all, and would never claim to be. Yet, this group has done well in my book and could easily be liked for those of us that are not the biggest fans of rock and roll. Either way, some songs from the album I thought were worthy to mention were The Phoenix, The Mighty Fall, and My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark.
4) Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious: Kweli albums may come a bit sporadically, but they are usually filled with supreme lyricism and masterful storytelling. The only thing that sometimes doesn’t hit the mark is the production that comes along with these other strengths. Well this time, it was spot on. From the beginning to the end, production compliments style and delivery. In fact, the style and production went so well I bet even those that aren’t die-hard Kweli fans could enjoy this album and all it encompasses. He also brings in some very soulful R&B artists (Miguel and Melanie Fiona) for features on select songs which further elevated the albums appeal to me. For fear of sounding like a broken record I will stop there with the praises for this album. Some songs that speak to what I was saying include Turnt Up, Come Here, Push Thru, and Ready Set Go.
5) Fantasia – Side Effects of You: I was told about this album initially by a coworker, and me being a person that has never listened to any full Fantasia album I didn’t think much of it. Yet, as I checked my Instagram account on several occasions in the following days and weeks I kept seeing people talking about how good it was. So I finally took a listen for myself and could easily see why they were making these comments. She captured a lot of emotion in this album and found a unique and appealing way to deliver that emotion to the listener. She has songs that are relate-able on many levels, from the songs about love and admiration to songs about resentment and disgust for a former flame. I think it is an album that won’t lose its place with listeners regardless of time, which is quite difficult to do when it comes to R&B music these days. Songs I recommend to listeners are Supernatural Love, If I Was A Bird, Change Your Mind, and End of Me.
6) Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail: I’m sure by now most have formed some opinion of this album for one reason or another. Perhaps on the way it was introduced to the general public. The way it was marketed to a select group of smart phone users. The title of it or the musical heavyweights used for its production. Whatever the reason, Jay-Z keeps finding new ways to stay on top of the hip hop game. I happen to think he could have done that by just releasing the album in traditional fashion simply because the music on this album is just that good. It also has a wide variety of songs and features which makes it different from some artists in the hip hop world that seemingly have their tracks on repeat since each song is damn near a mirror image of its counterparts. Jay-Z brought his A game with the lyrics more than likely creating new phrases that will undoubtedly become social media hash tags and catch phrases. Add that to the seemingly endless features with just about all the big names of R&B and hip hop, including wife Beyonce, and you have yet another classic album from Mr. Sean Carter. Love it or hate it, Jay-Z is an icon in the hip hop world, and I think that this album just adds to that legacy. Some songs that stood out to me were Holy Grail, Tom Ford, F.U.T.W., Somewhere In America, and Part II (On The Run).
7) Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience: I could say a lot about this album, but I think I will go with the less is more approach for this joint. So to put it plainly, an amazing amazing amazing amazing amazing album. The hiatus that was taken to release his 3rd studio album can definitely be forgiven in my book since it was just that damn good. 2 songs in 1, pretty much creating an instant remix within the album is something he brought to the last album, but this one takes that concept to another level. I’ll leave it at that, but know that it’s another classic album from JT. Songs I would check out are Don’t Hold The Wall, Body Count, Suit and Tie, Mirrors, and Tunnel Vision.
There are a few other albums that could make my list, but I will say that those aren’t as good as the ones I just mentioned. That doesn’t mean that they are not a top album. Just means that I’ll save those for another time seeing that there are 7 albums above that will keep your ears busy for some time. Thanks for reading along and keep reading for some more top albums from the rest of the 3GW crew.
Well that’s it for this post. Thanks for stopping by and reading along with all of us here at 3GW. If we missed any albums or there are any recommendations for us to check out please let us know in the comment section.