By Jordannah Elizabeth
2021 has been a trying year as the pandemic continues to affect the lives of human beings across the planet. It could be said that the saving grace of this year has been the incredible releases of Black new music across every genre and many generations.
With historical albums from Alice and John Coltrane and new studio albums from the world’s most powerful artists (for better or for worse (Kanye West and Drake), music lovers have had many choices and opportunities to engage with many of their favorite artists’ new collections of music.
Here are 10 Notable Black Albums of 2021. May the new year continue to bring us music and inspire, invigorate and entertain us as much as the passing year.
Alice Coltrane, “Kirtan: Turiya Sings”
In 2004 Alice Coltrane’s son came across mixes of this music that he had never heard before where she was just singing and playing the Wurlitzer organ. Ravi, the producer of “Kirtan: Turiya Sings,” felt that this music needed to be shared with the world. The album is not considered to be jazz or improvisational music, but a solo effort of true love that highlights her spirituality, grace and wisdom. All of the lyrics are performed in Sanskrit and reveal how deeply connected Alice was to history and traditional spiritual songs.
John Coltrane, “Live in Seattle”
John Coltrane fans have a fresh opportunity to hear “A Love Supreme” live performance as Impulse! a record label that has uncovered and released a 1965 full performance of the album which was recorded by a close friend of Coltrane’s, Joe Brazil, during a weeklong series of shows at the Penthouse in Seattle in 1965. “A Love Supreme” is the pinnacle of Coltrane’s spiritual search for musical inspiration and unwieldy deep expression. The album finds Coltrane at his finest, refined, self-reflective and tightly connected to his band and to the experience of deep artistic exploration.
Brandee Younger, “Somewhere Different”
For jazz harpist, Brandee Younger’s Blue Note debut, she offers lush musical landscapes that are ethereal and doused with hip hop sensibilities. Her fusion of beautiful strums from her harp with post-modern drumbeats makes the album unique and a joy to listen to.
Nas, “King’s Disease II”
1990s hip hop pioneer, Nasir Jones, better known as Nas, is known for his gritty, empathetic storytelling of street life. This follow-up to last year’s Grammy-winning “King’s Disease,” follows Nas on his journey as a powerful, wise and experienced leader, lyricist and entrepreneur.
Esperanza Spalding, “Songwrights Apothecary Lab”
Jazz bassist aficionado, Esperanza Spalding has been able to combine neuroscience, music therapy, psychology, and ethnomusicology to engage music lovers in ways and practices that they may never be exposed to otherwise. Listeners will be able to engage, interact and learn from the music. The music on the album is sensual and viscerally experiential.
Summer Walker, “Still Over It”
The premier R&B artist, Summer Walker explores tumultuous relationships and experiences in the follow-up to her 2019 debut, “Over It.” Walker’s beats are smooth and her voice silhouettes sound like milk and honey glazing over a silky surface. In her music, her life may be messy but her delivery makes her turmoil easy to digest.
Doja Cat, “Planet Her”
Hip hop, R&B maven, Doja Cat’s third album, “Planet Her” is a futuristic collection of music that connects to the new generation’s thirst for unapologetic femme voices. The album can be considered marred by her collaboration with producer, Dr. Luke, who has been accused of sexual assault by pop star Kesha, but Doja Cat delivers an album that satisfies listener’s enthusiasm for new talent. The album’s pop sound infuses beat structures from around the world and is eclectic and bold. There are no apologies for Dr. Luke. It’s about Black women rising within the ranks of popular music and contributing to a new sound.
H.E.R., “Back of my Mind”
The ultra-talented singer/songwriter H.E.R’s studio album debut, “Back of My Mind” creates a 21 track album, full of romantic and complex ballads that reflect her life’s highs and lows, losses, regrets and triumphs. H.E.R is a great musician who has had a hand in molding R&B’s modern sound. The album pulses and flows, and is just the beginning of the artist’s studio recording journey.
Drake, “Certified Lover Boy”
CLB is not going to go down in history as one of Drake’s all-time best albums, but it was a highlight of 2021, as his 6th studio album broke records for most streams. This 20+ song album covers much of the same ground as Drake has musically and lyrically explored over the years; but, the album has glimmers of enjoyable tunes that wet the palette of his global following. In this follow-up to 2020’s “Dark Lane Demo Tapes” and 2018’s full studio album “Scorpion Drake,” he has proven himself to be consistent and generous with his output.
Kanye West, “Donda”
The controversial rapper and producer chose 2021 to be the year to release an ambitious 27 track album that continues to explore his relationship with God and Christianity, along with being an homage to his mother who passed away in 2007. Donda breathes life into Ye’s inner thoughts and frustrations and features lyrical appearances by Jay Z and Lil Baby, who also contributed rhymes on Drake’s most recent release. “Donda” is a good album, but not the best in the storied catalog of the life that this artist has lived so far.