Back for a sixth 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, Jazz and Soul, as part of our latest best albums of the year list. 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 2021 albums. A few honorable mentions were even thrown in as well. So without further ado here is TheHipHopDemocrat’s sixth Best Albums of the Year list.
10. Nas – King’s Disease II: A sequel to Nas & Hit-Boy’s mostly critically-acclaimed previous solo album, King’s Disease. That earned Nas his long overdue first ever Grammy. King’s Disease II, is a rare sequel to an album. That is actually better than its predecessor and shows the undeniably great chemistry between both, Nas and producer, Hit-Boy. While also helping usher in a whole new inspiring and completely confident chapter of his career. KDII, is also one of the best album’s of Nas’ illustrious and stellar career. So it should be no surprise that it not only has earned Nas & Hit-Boy. Yet another GRAMMYs nomination, but also land on our top albums of the year list.
9. Eric Bellinger – New Light: Eric Bellinger, is one of the best singers and songwriters in not only R&B and Soul. But all of music, who virtually always puts out consistently great music. Yet is still somehow underrated and underappreciated by many. Despite that and his virtuoso for great songwriting and hit making. Bellinger shows on his latest solo album, New Light. That he may finally get some of that recognition. As he was recently nominated for his first GRAMMY as a solo artist for the album. A very well deserved nomination for Bellinger too. As the album as not only a definitive classic. That’s one of the best R&B and Soul album’s that was released in 2021. But one of the best album’s released across all of music last year.
8. AZ – Doe or Die II: On his latest solo album, Doe or Die II. Legendary Brooklyn-bred emcee, AZ. Delivers a long overdue predecessor to his classic and critically-acclaimed debut album, Doe or Die. That is well worth the wait and though not as good as the original. Is still a pretty solid album in its own right. That is another stone-cold classic album from, AZ. Which is also among the best Hip-Hop album’s that was released in 2021.
7. Mach-Homey – Pray For Haiti: Easily one of the best albums of 2021. Which also maybe among the albums I constantly continued to go back to play over and over again. Throughout the year, was veteran emcee Mach-Hommy’s very eccentric and raw, Pray for Haiti. Executive produced by powerhouse Griselda Records founder and friend turned enemy turned friend again of Mach, Westside Gunn. Pray for Haiti, is a very masterful work from front to back. Nothing short of a masterpiece. That finds the Newark rapper dazzling throughout with not only his lyrics, but the tone and timing of his vocalizations. As well as of course the very stellar production we have come to expect from most Mach and Griselda releases. That includes production from the likes of in-house Griselda producers, Conductor Williams, Camoflauge Monk and Denny LAflare. As well as frequent collaborators, Nicholas Craven and DJ Green Lantern. Mostly Mach solo throughout the album. With Gunn, Keisha Plum, longtime collaborator, Tha God Fahim and singer Melanie Charles. As the lone features. This album really lets Mach-Hommy shine throughout. Whether it be his great and triumphant vocals, as well as storytelling of rearranging the Hip-Hop game on the triumphant trumpet-laced opener, The 26th Letter. That really sets the tone for how great of an album. You are about to be in for or the way he so masterfully rhymes on, No Blood No Sweat. To the way that both, Mach and Westside Gunn, over Williams very psychedelic instrumental on, Folie A Deux. Really go crazy and let the fvckboys know they are finished. Plum, adding a nice touch with spoken word in between Mach and WSG verses. While, Stellar Ray Theory, with its smooth sax-heavy production and fly lyrics was the perfect choice for lead single. With, Cee Gee, with his slowed out instrumental-like production. Providing the perfect backdrop for Mach’s great, yet underrated storytelling on, standout record, Marie. Mach-Hommy, showing off his Haitian background with lyrics in Creole, on the Craven-produced, Kriminel. One of the several different styles he shows throughout the album that makes it so great too. Such as his very melodic singing that’s very reminiscent of Yasiin Bey. On one of the back end of the albums most standout records, Murder Czn. That features Westside Gunn. The back and forth chemistry between Mach and Westside over the very piano-laden, Rami. Yet another highlight. But by far the best track on the album is the DJ Green Lantern-produced, Au Revoir. A very Rock-heavy influenced record. That sees Mach with lyrics going at , “pussy n****s.” Melanie Charles providing the soulfully perfect hook. That perfectly compliments Mach-Hommy on the record. As, the Newark native, shows throughout the album, why despite being here for years. It is not till now that is the truly perfect time for the masses to get to know Mach-Hommy, even more. As a rapper, emcee and artist, whose talent should keep him around for plenty more years and possibly even decades to come.
6. Robin Thicke – On Earth and In Heaven: Multi award winning singer and songwriter, Robin Thicke. Maybe known by most for his 2013 hit single and album, Blurred Lines. But, Thicke, truly is one of the more beautifully soulful amazing voices in not only R&B/Soul, but all of music. His signature falsetto and mid range tenors among the most beautiful you will hear too. Which is on full display on the singer’s most recent solo album, On Earth, and In Heaven. That he released back in February of last year. Coming in at 11 tracks and nearly 35 and a half minutes run time. The album is easily Thicke’s most personal and self-reflictive to date. An examination of self-love and all the experiences he has gone through over the past five years. That included losing his legendary father, Alan Thicke, and his mentor, Andre Harrell. As well as falling in love again, his family and the birth of three more children. It’s no wonder it is his most personal work to date. Helping deliver such standout tracks as the beautiful piano-driven Pro-Jay-produced opener, Lucky Star. A very loving record where, Thicke, so beautifully sings about how his wife and family are like the, “lucky star.” That continues to help make his dreams come true and save his heart. It really sets the very beautiful and loving tone the rest of the album takes. Such as the very groovy and Bosa Nova type syncopation with beautiful piano chords and percussive finger snaps infused on, Lola Mia. Not to mention such beautiful records as, the very beautifully smooth and classic mellow doo-wop backing. On the absolutely beautiful and appropriately titled, Beautiful. About building such a beautiful love with your lady. There’s also such standout records as the very beautifully smooth Dashwn “Happie” White and Chaz Jackson co-produced previously released single, Look Easy. To even the very upbeat Pharrell-produced, Take Me Higher. As well as the very soulfully smooth, That’s What Love Can Do. Such a beautifully heart-touching and sensually romantic record about love. That everyone can relate too and is the perfect record to close out such a timeless masterpiece album. Which maybe arguably even Thicke’s best solo work to date and is easily not only one of the top R&B/Soul albums of 2021. But one of the best albums of 2021, across all of music.
5. Philmore Greene – Knowledge & Power: Over the past three plus years. There have not been that many emcees in Chicago or Hip-Hop period. Who have been as consistently great as Chicago emcee, Philmore Greene, has been. Making honorable mention in our top albums of the year list. Two of those three years. With his albums, The Survival Scroll and Chicago: A Third World City. Greene returned in April of 2021 with his third solo album and second album within a four months time frame. With the very socially conscious and thought-provoking, Knowledge & Power. An album that finds Greene delivering plenty of knowledge and power through his rhymes to his ever-growing audience. Starting with the very soulful opening track, Live from the Hideout. With such standout lines as, “I’m the best. Facts, face it.” Also adding, “This is Biggie and Hov at the Palladium. Silk shirts and Salmon colored slacks. When I’m gracing them.” Greene continues to show like with his first two albums. Why he’s not only easily one of the best emcees in all of Chicago, but Hip-Hop right now. Even standing virtually toe-to-toe with one of the best emcees in all of Hip-Hop right now, Skyzoo. Who delivers a very stellar guest verse on the soulful standout, What’s Ya Motivation. The undeniable chemistry between Greene and producer, Rasid Hadee. Shown on that track and a lot throughout the album too. By far one of the best Hip-Hop albums to drop in all of 2021. Is it a classic or another timeless masterpiece album from Greene? Find out by reading my full review of the album here, if you have not already.
4. Evidence – The Unlearning Vol. 1: Venice Beach native, Evidence. Is among the top, when it comes to some of the best producer emcees to ever touch a mic. As well as one of the most consistent as far as the quality of material he releases too. His solo album’s almost always virtually land at the top or at the very least. In the discussion for not only top Hip-Hop album’s, but top album’s of the year across all music. End of the year lists for whatever year they are released. With Evidence’s latest solo album, Unlearning Vol. 1. Yet another album of his. That is not only arguably the best Hip-Hop album released in 2021. But among the top album’s released across all of music.
3. Raheem DeVaughn & Apollo Brown – Lovesick: Soul crooner, Raheem DeVaughn, has been one of the most consistent R&B/Soul artists since debuting 16 and a half years ago. His themes of love mixed with seductively passionate crooning, baby making jams and soulfully rhythmic production to back it. Helping DeVaughn continue to drop classic album after classic album. While also keeping the mostly old-school jams that most grown folks yearn for alive as well. DeVaughn’s ninth album, Lovesick. Which he collaborated with producer, Apollo Brown on. Is no different. As over the 12 tracks, DeVaughn covers the themes of infidelity, drunk nights and raunchy passionate sex. We have mostly come accustomed to hearing on most every release from DeVaughn. With some more mature topics sprinkled in as well.
Brown’s sultry and at times jazzy productions providing the perfect backdrop for DeVaughn to really flourish over. While also showing that both, DeVaughn and Brown, can step somewhat out of their own respective comfort zones to create such a masterpiece album with each other. As this is the first time that Brown, who has only done collaboration albums with Hip-Hop artists. Done one with a R&B/Soul artist. While this is the first time that DeVaughn has worked with a producer the likes of, Brown.
While there is many standout records. Ranging from the Skyzoo featured opening record, If You’re the One, the very Neo-Soul inspired, One Time featuring Becky Cane or even the WESTSIDE BOOGIE featured, Just Fall in Love. To even the very slow-burning, 3D Na’Tee featured, Zaddy. It’s on solo records such as the very upbeat, When a Man and the very jazzy, If I Made Love to You. As well as very vulnerable records like, Broken Pieces. Plus emotionally soulful records like, Everything Baby. Where, DeVaughn, shines the most. When a Man, with the Motown flare it posseses. Showing, the veteran crooner, giving his best James Brown impersonation over the subtle horns and booming percussion. As, DeVaughn, so passionately sings about how a man is supposed to truly treat a woman. While, Everything Baby. Finds, DeVaughn, over the subtle mostly piano-laden backdrop, singing in a more subtle tone than we are used to. About everything a man should do for his lady. The latter two mentioned records showing how much that, DeVaughn, has truly matured and growed as an artist too. For what is easily one not only one of the best R&B/Soul albums released in 2021. But also one of the top three albums released last year as well.
2. Snoh Aalegra – TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES: A fan favorite of ours here at TheHipHopDemocrat. Snoh Aalegra, is one of those once in a lifetime artists. That are also able to standout amongst their peers. Artists who are as timeless as their music and virtually almost always deliver such timeless music. As well as can really fit in almost any musically great era. Aalegra, has always delivered such timeless and classic music. Even despite sometimes not always getting the true just due she really deserves. Whether it be her very timeless and classic debut album, FEELS or her just as timeless masterpiece sophomore album, – Ugh, those feels again. With the latter being released in August of 2019 and by far Aalegra’s best work to date. It lead to her current joint venture deal between Roc Nation and her mentor, No I.D’s, ARTium Recordings. Though it was not nominated for any GRAMMYs like it should have been. It did land on many top albums of the year lists. Including landing as our No. 1 spot best album of the year back in 2019. For our Top Albums of the Year list. Aalegra’s most recent album, TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES. Though not as great as her last album. Is still a very remarkably great album. That is her most mature and expansive to date. Which shows even in experimenting with some Pop and other sounds. R&B/Soul will always be at the forefront of Aalegra’s sound. No matter how much it grows and expands. It is also yet another timeless masterpiece album from her as well. So it should be no surprise that it finally landed Aalegra her first ever GRAMMYs nominations. As well as landing her at No. 2 on our Top Albums of the Year list. Marking the fourth time. Aalegra’s either made our list or been an honorable mention for it. Landing the No. 1 or No. 2 spot three of those times.
1. Terrace Martin – DRONES: Known more for his work as a producer, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. Than his actual solo work. Los Angeles native, Terrace Martin. Has put out some pretty solid solo work over the years and his newest solo album, DRONES. Is no different. As it is not only another very timeless masterpiece album from Martin. But it is also his most ambitious record to date and arguably even his best work to date too. Which is a very triumphant statement by Martin as a solo artist. In his a little over a decade he has been putting out material as a solo artist. That already includes such classic projects as Locke High, 3ChordFold, Here, My Dear EP, Velvet Portraits and Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1. With, DRONES, easily one of the best albums of 2021 and to us arguably even the best album released. Regardless of genre in all of 2021.
Honorable mentions: Tinashe – 333: World-renowned R&B/Soul and Pop singer and songwriter, Tinashe. Is at the peak of her creativity. Both, mentally and spiritually. As well as physically. On her creatively daring & innovative, genre-defying latest solo album, 333. Which is also by far Tinashe’s most cohesive and complete album to date. So it should be no surprise that her album makes it as honorable mention on our Top Albums of the Year list. As great as the album was. It just barely missed making our Top Albums list and just goes to show what another great year it was for great music releases in 2021.
Sevyn Streeter – Drunken Wordz Sober Thoughtz: Very talented singer and songwriter, Sevyn Streeter. Had many stumbles before finally putting out her long-awaited and highly-anticipated sophomore album, Drunken Wordz Sober Thoughtz. Back in September of last year and it was definitely well worth the wait. As the 15-track effort is by far Streeter’s most authentic and emotionally honest work to date. Drunken Wordz Sober Thoughtz, is definitely not only one of the best R&B/Soul albums of 2021, but one of the best albums released last year and why it is no surprise. That Streeter makes it as an honorable mention. On our Top Albums of the Year list.
Skyzoo – All the Brilliant Things: Skyzoo, is easily one of the best emcees and lyricists in all of Hip-Hop right now. Really, if we are being truthful. He low key has been among the best for almost the last decade plus. Skyzoo’s very smooth and lyrically conscious rhymes always keeping everyone on their feet. Whether it be on his own singles such as, the Eastcoast centered posse cut, Eastern Conference All-Stars or as a guest feature on tracks such as, Statik Selektah’s, The Trophy Room. To even more recently as a guest feature standout on Chicago emcee Philmore Greene’s, What’s Ya Motivation. To even within the past year on, the Rashid Hadee-produced, Bed-Stuy Is Burning. Skyzoo, is always showing his lyrically superb emceeing. That has transferred many times to many of the Brooklyn-bred emcees albums and EP’s as well. His latest solo album, All the Brilliant Things, is no different. A really solid album. That finds, Skyzoo, throughout a lot of the album touching on themes of gentrification and how it has effected many normally poor neighborhood’s. Like his hometown of Brooklyn. Skyzoo with strong lyricism and flows throughout the album. Whether it be on tracks like the already aforementioned, Bed-Stuy Is Burning. To even tracks like, Soft Eyes and Something to Believe In. Shows a great ability to convey his album’s overall message and themes. In a way that really stands out and helps him deliver one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2020. That is a true must-listen album. Which is why it should be no surprise. That Skyzoo’s latest solo album lands as an honorable mention in our Top Albums of the Year list.
Agallah Don Bishop – Agstalgia: Legendary emcee and producer, Agallah Don Bishop, is one of the best and most legendary figures in Hip-Hop history. You unfortunately probably never heard of before. Working with everyone from E.P.M.D. to The Diplomats. As well as legends that are no longer with us, like, Sean Price. Agallah with his rhymes and production. Has built a very soulful New York boom-bap sound. That is very reminiscent of the Brooklyn Brownsville neighborhood he grew up in. Which you can hear throughout a lot of his solo album, Agstalgia. Whether it be on the albums opening and title track or one of the more standout tracks from the album. With the Eto featured, Propain Crack Era. Overall, Agstalgia, is not only one of the top Hip-Hop albums of 2021. But one of the better albums released across all of music. So it should be no surprise that it lands as an honorable mention in our Top Albums of the Year list.
Alicia Keys – KEYS: It has been some time since legendary and iconic living legend. As well as global superstar, Alicia Keys, has delivered a project I have throughouly enjoyed from almost beginning to end. But the 15-time GRAMMY-award winning singer and songwriter’s latest solo album, KEYS. Is easily some of Keys best work in over a decade. Despite being her first double album. There was not that many misses and quite a lot of standout records throughout. Whether it be previously released singles, Best of Me and Only You. To records like, Love When You Call My Name, Skydive, Is It Insane, Daffodils and Come for Me. Among the records I really enjoyed and connected with a lot. KEYS, is a very brilliantly put together concept album. With how Alicia is able to put together much more traditional and melodic piano-laden records with the, Original, songs. Than is able to do more upbeat and stronger type beats. That Mike WiLL Made-It sampled for his production on the, Unlocked, version of the songs. Mostly, Keys, by herself throughout a lot of the album. There is some standout guest spots from Pusha T, Lil Wayne, Khalid and Lucky Daye. As well as Brandi Carlile. On each of their records they are featured on the album. With The Truth sampled, production from Swizz Beatz and standout guest verse from Pusha on the opening track of the album, Plentiful. Really setting the tone for what a great album it is. While Wayne’s guest spot on, the Nat King Cole inspired, Nat King Cole. NContinues his current torrid guest feature run he has been on. I love how Alicia is able to channel certain iconic artists on different records too. Whether it be Nina Simone on, Is It Insane or to a certain degree, Nat King Cole. On the already mentioned, Nat King Cole. Overall, KEYS, is a truly remarkable album. That in many other years would have made to the top 10 portion of our Top Albums of the Year list. But there’s also no shame in it making it as an honorable mention for our current list.
Sinéad Harnett – Ready Is Always Too Late: 2021 was yet another year that seen plenty of great R&B/Soul releases. Whether it be from veterans such as Alicia Keys, Anthony Hamilton and Raheem DeVaughn. To a little bit still somewhat newer artists such as Snoh Aalegra, VanJess and Sinéad Harnett. With the latter releasing her sophomore followup album to her timeless masterpiece debut album, Lessons in Love. With, Ready Is Always Too Late. A very worthy follow-up to Harnett’s debut album. That though it isn’t as timeless of a masterpiece album as her first album. Is still a pretty solid album. That finds the U.K.-bred singer, who’s most known for her soulfully and soothingly smooth vocals. Singing about her soulfully emotional tale. In her very crazy and unpredictable journey of both love and self-love in her life. Throughout all 11 tracks. It is an album that also allows Harnett to show her ability to experiment successfully. While showing her great versatility beyond just soul-searching R&B ballads and alluring. As well as lush melodies, bops and funky grooves. To truly capture her best self. In her crazy and unpredictable journey of both self-love and hopelessly romantic love that we all yearn for. While also showing that she will be around for plenty of years and generations to come.