TheHipHopDemocrat’s Fourth Annual Best Albums of the Year List, Who Makes The Cut?

Back for a fourth straight year, we at TheHipHopDemocrat once again despite being a mostly Hip-Hop based website, decided to include not only Hip-Hop, but a few of the other genres we cover a lot of, such as R&B and Soul, as part of our latest best albums of the year list for last year (2019).  Counting down from 10 to one, we cover a bunch of the variety of different artists and albums we covered throughout the year and came up with the following for our best of 2019 albums.  A few honorable mentions were even thrown in as well, as well as perhaps some of the albums being apart of the most definitive albums of the past decade that we may or may not do another piece on in the future.  So without further ado here is TheHipHopDemocrat’s fourth Best Albums of the Year list.

10. SiR – Chasing Summer: Top Dawg Entertainment singer and songwriter previously made our Top Albums of the Year list last year as an honorable mention for his debut full-length album with the Westcoast Hip-Hop powerhouse label.  That over the past several years has become not only a powerhouse Hip-Hop label, but even brought great R&B/Soul, as well as even some Pop with the likes of SZA, SiR himself and one of the labels more recent additions, Zacari.  While on his newest album and major label debut through Top Dawg Entertainment and RCA Records in a deal similar to the one that allowed the two labels to release in partnership SZA’s critically-acclaimed debut album, Ctrl, back in 2017.  SiR delivers what’s not only easily his best album to date and one of the best of 2019, but easily one of the most definitive albums of the last half decade, Chasing Summer.  That also helps the Inglewood, CA native graduate from our honorable mentions to the actual very top albums of the year on our Top Albums of the Year list.

9. Nicole Bus – KAIROS: For any of those who miss R&B/Soul music that has a very nostalgic, yet still refreshing sound they can look no further than breakout Dutch R&B/Soul artist, Nicole Bus’ debut album with Roc Nation, KAIROS.  A very phenomenal album that’s not only a true breath of fresh air in R&B.  But a truly timeless, yet underappreciated album that’s among not only the best albums in R&B, but of the year period in music.  Also among the better debut albums to come out over the past several years.  Bus shows with her very nostalgic and old-school, yet refreshing sound that she has a very promising career and will be here for several years to come.  A true hidden gem talent that this album will hopefully even break her from.

8. Sinéad Harnett – Lessons in Love: An artist that had to wait to wait several years before finally releasing her full-length debut album, Lessons in Love.  U.K. singer and songwriter, Sinéad Harnett, is one of the more underappreciated artists from a great group of R&B/Soul artists that has truly emerged over the past several years to show what great talent there truly is in the genre.  Delivering an album that’s well worth the wait.  Harnett over 12 tracks gives you lessons in love that helps create such a timeless amazing masterpiece album that will be remembered for years and generations to come as one of the better debut albums of all-time.  With this just the beginning stages of a very promising and amazing career for Harnett.

7. KXNG CROOKED & Bronze Nazareth – Gravitas: For a second straight year, a former member of Slaughterhouse teams with a revered Detroit producer.  As a year after Joell Ortiz and Apollo Brown gave us such a timeless piece of art album with Mona Lisa.  Westcoast emcee, and former Slaughterhouse member, KXNG CROOKED teams with great Detroit producer and emcee, Bronze Nazareth to deliver us, Gravitas.  A collaboration album between two of the most skilled emcees and producers in the history of Hip-Hop, which results in a truly classic masterpiece album that’s easily among not only the best albums of 2019 period, but of the last decade.  Which also truly sets Crook among the greatest of all-time to ever touch a mic.  It just being purely coincidence that Crooked and Nazareth land at No. 7 on our list for this year just like Ortiz and Brown did for our last Top Albums of the Year list.

6. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana: Continuing the tradition of great emcee and producer team up collaboration albums there has been over the past 5-8 or so years.  Ranging from Royce Da 5’9″ and DJ Premier forming PRhyme, Killer Mike & P forming, Run the Jewels, the just previously mentioned Crooked and Nazareth, as well as Ortiz and Brown.  Not to mention the legendary DJ Muggs teaming up with several more underground emcees, one of the originators to bring that team up back, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib team up for their second album, Bandana.  Which comes five years after their amazing critically-acclaimed debut, Piñata.  The duo delivers an album that’s just as great if not better with the audio crack masterpiece, Bandana.

5. HARRIETT (Damani Nkosi & iLL Camille)  Self-titled debut: Los Angeles emcees, lyricists and poets, Damani Nkosi and iLL Camille are two of the dopest and most conscious emcees not only on the Westcoast, but period right now.  Over the past year plus joining forces to create the very amazingly talented and dope new group, HARRIETT.  The two emcees teamed up to deliver a little over a couple of months ago, their very consciously aware and thought-provoking self-titled debut album.  That’s not only one of the best Hip-Hop albums of the year, but one of the best albums of the year period across all of music.

4. Emeli Sandé – Real Life: You want some powerfully inspiring, uplifting, soulfully honest and hopeful music.  Then you need look no further than very talented singer and songwriter, Emeli Sandé’s latest album, Real Life.  A very gut-wrenching and truly authentic to her life album that maybe arguably her best work to date.  It is an album that finds Sandé giving hope and inspiration to the forgotten ones in humanity.  Those who are marginalised, going through difficult times and fighting like a phoenix to rise through the ashes to emerge out on top, stronger than ever before.  Teaming up with Troy Miller, who produced the whole album, he gives Sandé the perfect production throughout to help her bring an encouraging and uplifting album many of us need in the times we live in today.  Albums like this truly setting artists like Sandé among the best of their generation.

3. Add-2 – Jim Crow The Musical: 2019 seen some pretty incredibly amazing dope Hip-Hop albums released.  Chicago emcee, writer and youth mentor, Add-2, put out by far the best body of work though with, Jim Crow: The Musical.  A very timely and socially conscious concept album that’s not only the best Hip-Hop album of 2019, but one of the best albums of 2019 across music period.  Not to mention one of the top albums of the past decade.  It couldn’t have come at any better of a time with how the subject matter on the album, which is narrated by world-renowned American actor, Kadeem Hardison, who plays Yoanne Cesters, throughout the 19-track, 57-minutes audio adventure is brought about in such a theatrical way that’s actually divided into four parts like a play.  Which hasn’t really been matched or done in a similar since Kendrick Lamar’s classic, To Pimp a Butterfly, and you have to really be locked in to catch every little bar, lyric and note, Add touches on.  For listeners about subjects relevant to Black people in America, both now in the present, as well as in the past.

2. Free Nationals – Self-titled debut: The Free Nationals, who were first introduced to the world as Anderson .Paak’s backing band, show on their self-titled debut album that they’re more than just a backing band.  Delivering an album that’s not only very sharp, smooth and soulful, but funky, futuristic and fun as well.  Blending so well together such timeless sounds through 13 tracks that shows their wide-range of influences that can’t be defined by one single genre.  Even if it’s categorized as R&B/Soul on iTunes and all other ISP.  The band flexing their ability to work with virtually anybody and make it work.  Of  course having not only .Paak on Gidget, but other features ranging from T.I. to Daniel Caesar, Syd, the late great Mac Miller, Kali Uchis, and J.I.D.  Not to mention some features you would never think would work, but they’re able to with Dancehall star Chronixx on one of the albums most standout records, Eternal Light.  As well as current Buffalo, New York street mafioso rap traditionalists Conway the Machine and Westside Gunn with Joyce Wrice on closing track, The Rivington.  A very soulfully smooth record that’s the perfect one to close out such a timeless masterpiece album, which is not only among the best debut albums, but possibly one of the best albums you will ever hear.  It would be the top album of the year on our lists most years, but falls at No. 2 even despite that.

1. Snoh Aalegra – Ugh, those feels again: Every generation there’s once in a lifetime artists that come around that become the voice of heartbreak, vulnerability, honesty and soul, which everyone can relate to and are really able to standout amongst their peers.  Whether it be your Sadé, Mary J. Blige, Prince or Amy Winehouse, as examples.  Artists that are authentic to the very soulful art, their timeless classic vocals, lyrics, production, growth, arrangements and raw feelings that they’re able to channel.  Which help describe the many ups and downs one goes through in the tumultuous journey of falling in and out of love.  Artists that are timeless like their music and can really fit in almost any musically great era.  While Snoh Aalegra is that artist for this generation.  The Swedish singer and songwriter, who was born in Sweden, but has now resided in Los Angeles for a few years artists, proving so on her very timeless and classic debut album, FEELS, which she released nearly two years ago.  As well as now again on its just as great, if not better followup sophomore album, -Ugh, those feels again.  An album that was robbed and should have been nominated for a Grammy.  It’s easily the best album to not only drop in all of music this year, but among the best and most definitive to of this decade.  That’s the third time she’s also either been apart our Top Albums of the Year list or an honorable mention.  This time helping her nab that No. 1 spot as the best album of the year after her previous album, FEELS, came up just short at No. 2 only the couple of years ago.

Honorable mentions: Skooda Chose – The Wonder Year$: A cinematic vivid masterpiece in audio form of what it was like growing up on the Westside of Chicago.  That takes you on a journey through those mean K-Town streets Chicago emcee Skooda Chose grew up in and you can hear throughout all 12 tracks.  That’s how the Chicago emcee and one-time former Twista protégé’s long-awaited debut album, The Wonder Year$, can best described.  Released just a few months ago, Chose journey is in a lot of ways similar to that of the late great Nipsey Hu$$le.  Releasing several mixtapes and street albums for nearly a decade or longer before finally releasing their debut album.  Both albums well worth their long wait and not only two of the best pure Hip-Hop albums of the decade, but across all music period.

Eto & Flee Lord – RocAmeriKKKa: When it comes to the best and most consistent emcees in all of Hip-Hop right now, Rochester, New York native, Eto, is easily right near the top.  His grind and consistency to deliver such dope audio crack not really matched by many.  Such is the case with Eto’s newest album, RocAmeriKKKa, which he dropped nearly two and a half months ago.  Already the New Crack Era reps third album of 2019 and fourth release of that calendar year.  It’s yet another collaborative album, but unlike his previous releases this year that finds Eto teaming with a producer to produce the whole project.  This new album is more of an actual collaboration that finds Eto teaming with fellow upstate New York emcee, Flee Lord.  As two of the most venom spitters in not only New York, but period right now, really light the streets on fire with this one.  Resulting in a 10-track extremely ill and dope effort from two of the most gutter, grimey and gritty street emcees there’s in all of Hip-Hop right now.  Almost any of Eto’s other releases could have made this list any other year and only didn’t cause of how much quality Hip-Hop was released in 2019.  With this album just standing out a slight hair above his collaborative album with producer, Superior.  In Long Story Short.

EARTHGANG – Mirrorland: A very cinematically musical trip and experience out of this planet and realm.  That’s a true genre-defying piece of art that takes you on a journey though Atlanta, it’s rich musical history and the under represented Westside underbelly of the city that raised them.  EARTHGANG’s third album and major label debut with Dreamville/Interscope Records, Mirrorland, is all of those things and more.  It’s a very colorful, trippy and creatively brilliant album that fans of the group waited long for and was well worth it for.  As the duo of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot deliver a very timeless masterpiece album that’s not only one of the best Hip-Hop albums of the year, but across all music period.  Which would have been higher most other years, but cause of the am of quality music and especially released in 2019, only falls to being an honorable mention.

Skyzoo & Pete Rock – Retropolitan: In yet another great example of a great emcee and producer to team up this past year.  One of New York cities most revered lyricists and emcees, Skyzoo teams up with one of the greatest producers not only from N.Y., but of all-time in Pete Rock to deliver one of the most New York sounding records you will ever hear that truly pays homage to the birthplace of Hip-Hop in the perfect way.  The two delivering such a timeless and classic masterpiece album that gives retrospective context (and sonic second life) to the culture of old New York in an accessible way that doesn’t make anyone feel left out and sound like it’s old.  A nostalgic and old-school feel that still feels fresh throughout the albums 12-tracks and just barely over 46-minutes run time.  Skyzoo shows he can hold his own and that he doesn’t need much features.  Which is limited to just fellow New York natives Styles P, and the Griselda Records label/crew of Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine.  As well as non New Yorkers Raheem DeVaughn and Elzhi.

Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby: In a year that yet again seen a lot of great R&B/Soul releases and artists releasing such critically-acclaimed debut albums.  Very talented singer and songwriter, Ari Lennox, like her Dreamville Records labelmates, EARTHGANG, released her very own highly-anticipated debut album.  Coming in the form of the sensually smooth and soulful masterpiece that’s really beautiful, honest, innocent and refreshing album, Shea Butter Baby.  Dipped in the rich sounds of the classic soulful R&B that’s very reminiscent of the early 2000’s.  With the likes of Erykah Budu, India.Arie and early Alicia Keys, Lennox provides an honest coming-of-age piece that’s both refreshing and fills a void that’s long been missing in the Neo-Soul genre.  Which will be remembered for years to come as one of the best and top not only R&B and Soul releases, but best albums across all of music in 2019.

BJ the Chicago Kid – 1123: In a year that seen yet again a lot of great R&B/Soul artists release such amazing and soul-bearing albums that show the genre is still very alive and well.  Chicago-bred, but now residing in L.A. for the last several years singer and songwriter, BJ the Chicago Kid delivered what was one of the most soulfully amazing and soul-bearing albums of the year with his third album and second major label album with the historic, Motown Records, 1123.  One of the best albums to drop in 2019, regardless of genre that like fellow great singer and songwriter, Ari Lennox’s recent critically-acclaimed album, Shea Butter Baby, shows that the Neo-Soul genre is also very alive and well with a big resurgence thanks to artists like BJ and Ari.  Which is why it’s just coincidental I had both BJ and Ari’s albums tied as my last honorable mention albums on the Top Albums of the Year list.  With as great as BJ’s recent album is, it should be no surprise it earned him a few more Grammy nominations yet again for the music’s biggest awards show of the year, which airs and takes place at the end of the month.