We have to do a bit of housekeeping first before we get into it. Now, can you pick a better ten albums? Hell no. You’re not me. But I’m pretty sure you could try, and honestly it’s all subjective. Honorable mention goes to Legend by the great Bob Marley, and To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, which I consider to be possibly the most sonically superior rap album ever. Let’s delve into this, shall we?
10. Continuum: Until you hear differently, it’s John’s definitive album. By far. Mayer in his blues/vintage R&B phase. Waiting On The World To Change, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, and of course Gravity. He continues to be the writer that’s singing as if he’s looking over your shoulder during your weakest moments. Nothing says that more than this album.
9. Illmatic: If an alien came to me and told me to show rap in its purest form and all its glory, Nas’ debut album would be it. Yes, there’s others worthy, but you can’t go five deep in the “Best Rap albums ever” debate without citing Illmatic. If you do, you’re someone’s child and late for class. Not saying that Nas hasn’t sounded better since, and I’m not even saying that this is his best overall album. What I am saying is that this album along with Ready To Die, Get Rich Or Die Trying, Reasonable Doubt, and Enter The 36 Chambers are top of the mountain, no doubt, best debut albums in the genre. Illmatic being chief among them. Fight me.
8. What’s Goin’ On?: The year is 1971. While your parents were partying, dancing and smoking the reefers, Marvin Gaye, to the objection of Barry Gordy decided to put out what went on to become the most heavy and socially conscious album rhythm and blues has ever heard before or since. Still stands up today which could be considered both good and bad. As a matter of fact, “don’t punish me with brutality” rings more true than ever.
7. Hotel California: 32 million sold. Thirty. Two. Million. Sold. Soft rock/acoustic/electric masterpiece. It may not be your thing, but just listen to the title song “Hotel California.” Even the most contrary person is gonna nod their head a little bit.
6. Thriller: Listen, I already know. I’m more of a fan of Off The Wall too, but Thriller is where it all came together. Quincey Jones, Rod Temperton. Greg Philliganes. On a 750K budget, they made pop music gold and crowned a king. First album to be certified 33x’s platinum, and at 65 million sold and counting. The music video that changed videos forever more. Lady In My Life, Beat It, Billie Jean, PYT, and of yeah, two songs with the last loving Beatle. This album is a force of nature.
5. 21: When this kind of album crosses over into urban radio, you KNOW you’ve got a hit. Rolling In The Deep sews it up and makes it a no brainer.
4. Kind Of Blue: Simply put, the highest selling jazz album of all time, and Miles at or nearing his peak of creativity. Paul Chambers on bass. John Coltrane on sax. Miles on trumpet. Bill Evans on keys. Cannonball Adderly on sax. Did you mouth the words “holy shit” while reading that murderer’s row of band members? You should have. It’s been known as “Jazz Music’s Bible” or “The Blueprint.” Either way, it is the standard that all others should be judged against.
3. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill: it’s not a rhythm and blues album, and it’s not a hip hop album. It’s just a great album, period beginning to end, and covering the gamut of emotions, this album put Lauryn Hill and her genius on full display.
2. Back To Black: Close your eyes for a second. Imagine if you will every single Mary J Blige album she ever made. Can you picture them? Can you see them? Now open your eyes. All of those albums are Back To Black. The difference? B2B has better writing, production, singing, well, basically everything. Yeah, everything’s better. Mark Ronson at the head of the revivalist movement and the tortured soulful voice of Amy. Goon far too soon and with too much great music left in the booth.
1. Songs In The Key Of Life: Not a lot can be said about this one. Simply put, in the history of R&B music, there hasn’t been a better recorded album. Past, present or future. The greatest mind in that genre completely flexed on this double album something serious.
Another great album get omitted? Let me know in the comments, but I know one damn thing…it better not be an album by Jodeci or NEXT. I’ll delete you from my life.