By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez
2021 was a wild ride. As the world tried to move on from the turbulent 2020, shifts in everyday life seemed to happen on a dime. From politics, to economies, to Twitter topics and movie releases, 2021 was at the very least interesting…and the music was great. There was a lot of great music that came out this year we weren’t able to cover, so here’s a list of the best albums we heard this year, and why you should keep them in your rotation as we go into the new year!
BadBadNotGood – Talk Memory
Ever since I heard of the odd Canadian jazz group covering Zelda songs and 90s rap beats, I’ve loved BadBadNotGood. In their first album since 2016, the band collected their sound and made it much more elegant. The music became lengthy and measured as opposed to punchy and immediate. As the 8 minute opener “Signal from the Noise” demonstrates, the group is willing to take some great risks in order to make their sound evolve, even if it’s in a style that is more subtle. Much like the title suggests, the album is dreamlike and introspective, each song a suite that takes you to another world, peaking with the fantastic jams of “Timid, Intimidating.” This record is a testament not only to how far the group has come in terms of skill and orchestration, but how far they can go in their creativity. A great jazz record all around!
Black Midi – Cavalcade
Imagine a typical rock band: now flip whatever you think that band should be doing on a song, and you have Black Midi. The experimental rock band came back with a new album that is as bonkers as it is genius. At just eight tracks, Cavalcade packs enough creative and skillful ideas to satisfy two albums of content. Opener “John L” is a spoken-word noise-piece that makes a repetitive guitar loop, random pianos and high-pitched riffs coalesce into an equally unsettling and thrilling listen. “Marlene Dietrich” is a decidedly more straightforward track, but the lyrics here are as powerful as the rising strings are majestic. The contrast between these two songs is felt again and again every subsequent track, but it all loops together in a fantastic way. These are songs that SHOULDN’T work, and yet they do. “Chondromalacia Patella” has numerous changes in its tone and instrumental pattern but it comes together to make a jazz-rock epic, “Slow” is anything but slow, what with it’s tense drums and quick guitars licks. I wish I could go in-depth for every song here, but since this is a quickie I’ll say this: it’s an unforgettable experience
Blu – The Color Blu(e)
Few albums in 2021 have wowed me like Blu’s The Color Blu(e). An 11-track deep dive into the concept of “blue”, this project cranks all of the West Coast lyricist’s strengths to max: clever rhymes, funny and emotional writing, outstanding beat selection, and a heart of gold (blue?). One of Blu’s greatest strengths is just being himself, marching to the beat of his own drum regardless of how it pans out. I don’t know a single MC who would be willing to take on a “Mr. Blue Sky” sample, but Blu soars over the soulful production with incredible charisma and wit. But the color blue isn’t just happy as a clear summer day: Blu opens up about family, his mental health, and his own skills throughout the album. Both an incredibly unique and hard-hitting listen, The Color Blu(e) is damn near essential for anyone that claims to be a hip-hop fan.
Boldy James & The Alchemist – Bo Jackson/Super Tecmo Bo
Boldy James & The Alchemist have proven to be one of the most formidable forces in hip-hop, a duo whose interlocking styles are a yin and yang of drug talk and dusty samples. Boldy James’ cold-blooded rhymes are both frightening and memorable, with tracks like “Steel Wool” and “Illegal Search & Seizure” demonstrating his songwriting talent and storytelling ability. Boldy’s rhyming is technically impressive as well, with internal rhymes and unique word choice sounding as natural as breathing. Uncle Alc has already proven that he has one of the best ears for beats in hip-hop history, but the instrumentals here are damn-near perfect: “3rd Person” has a hypnotic guitar line that accentuates the song’s high-stakes themes, “Brickmile to Montana” is the soundtrack to hell freezing over and closer “Drug Zone” has a groove that is one of the weirdest I’ve heard this year. Couple these two’s excellent contributions with some great features by the likes of Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, Benny the Butcher, Curren$y and Roc Marciano, and you have one of this year’s best hip-hop releases.
And they weren’t even done!
Super Tecmo Bo is very much a softer, jazzy accompaniment to Bo Jackson, diving more into the paranoia and darkness surrounding Boldy’s persona and street activity. “Bumps and Bruises” is an easy top 5 hip-hop song of the year, featuring a gorgeous sax sample and slow pace that matches the brooding mentality Bo displays. “No Laughing Matter” is a funky number, featuring verses that intersperse vignettes of violence with cautionary instructions. Boldy and Alc truly outdid themselves this year, showcasing to the grumpy oldheads that yes, hip-hop is still offering stellar wordplay and creative beats.
Clairo – Sling
On the opposite end of the subject spectrum, Clairo’s latest album is a somber, piano-driven and emotional love album. It feels almost like a winter-album, but I can’t deny that the album radiates “sad sunset” vibes out the gate with the heavenly “Bambi.” Clairo’s songwriting here is as gorgeous as the vocals are sweet, a common thread between the album’s 12 tracks. It feels like you’re sitting in a small woodland cabin with Clairo, sipping tea and exchanging life advice as she taps the keys. “Amoeba” is a wonderfully structured jam, the tempo rising and falling along her voice to match the weight of the lyrics, while “Blouse” is a track that hits my very soul with its strings and devastating lyrics. This is an album that hits most when you’re, for lack of a better phrase, in your feelings. While it’s sad, it’s also rather beautiful as it’ narrative reaches a conclusion with “Management,” a lush goodbye that acknowledges the problems one may face in life are inevitable, but everything will be okay.
Driptones – Sleeptalker EP
Easily my most listened to EP, Sleeptalker is what I love about music: creative, catchy, and conceptual. The Driptones dabble with elements of pop and indie, crafting an EP that dives into the very conscious and where our emotions drift as we sleep. It’s a beautiful listen that only grows more and more as you listen to it. Check out our full review on it if you aren’t convinced!
Flying Lotus – Yasuke
An incredible soundtrack featuring elements of funk, jazz, electronics, and hip-hop, Yasuke is a great listen for anyone who is into instrumental albums. Flying Lotus already has a track record of putting out great music with interesting textures and samples, and this is only another notch in his very notched belt. Whether you’re experiencing the majestic tones and Thundercat vocals on “Black and Gold” or the sinister drumming and guitar licks on “Crust,” the soundtrack will transport you to an era long gone. One of samurai, honor, and epic adventure. Even if the album lacks an inherent narrative and is more of a display of Flying Lotus’s brilliance…sometimes its nice to see a master work at his craft!
GF Anon – Inshallah XXVII: Finding Self
Jersey poet Graceful Anon was absolutely huge in 2021, coming through with numerous releases that satisfy anyone who loves great underground production and wordplay that refuses to let up. His final release, the fantastic Inshallah XXVII: Finding Self, is easily one of his most unique and tight records to date. Featuring one heartfelt and fiery verse after the next, as well as some truly interesting production, this is one we were glad to cover and hope you check out! Need more proof? We analyzed the intricate themes and incredible run of tracks here!
Injury Reserve – By the Time I Get to Phoenix
This one hurt.
With the all too recent and painful passing of Injury Reserve member Jordan Groggs, many thought that the Arizona hip-hop group would seemingly stop their run of incredibly unique, cutting-edge, and personal hip-hop. I don’t think any fans were ready for the maelstrom of emotions that the group would deliver on the dark, personal, and downright chaotic By The Time I Get to Phoenix…
This album, for full disclosure, is heavy on the heart and wildly experimental. Even the most accessible track, “Knees,” is full of odd grooves, depressing lyrics, and sardonic moods that tackle death, growth and addiction in a way that feels all too real. This record very much captures what it’s like to be trapped in sadness, but the music never becomes uninteresting because of it. Rather, the glitchy production and hard-hitting verses on a track like “Superman That” makes it an enthralling listen. It’s a fantastic look into the concept of loss and misfortune, one that reminds you of all the losses and hardships humanity has faced both individually and holistically in 2020-2021…but it’s also the most human LP on this list. Throughout the album, hints of positivity and optimism battle the darkness, only to climax on the fantastic “Bye Storm,” an optimistic look on the future we may face as a species and as individuals.
It’s a harsh listen, full of abstract and gritty production and even darker lyrics…but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. One that paints a beautiful memorial of MC Groggs, as well as one of humanity as a whole. We’ve been through a lot of shit, but the sun continues to rise on us.
Isaiah Rashad – The House is Burning
One part comeback, one part reinvention, The House is Burning was easily my most anticipated and played album this year. Isaiah Rashad is a master at mixing incredible songwriting, nostalgic throwbacks, and interesting production in a way that feels perfect for a midnight drive, and this album was the soundtrack to many late night adventures. Zay sticks to his southern roots throughout this album, re-contextualizing Three 6 Mafia samples into banger love songs like “Lay Wit Ya” and reprising UGK classics into trunk-knocking bangers like “Chad.”
What Zay does most on this album, however, is be consistently dynamic. This is easily his most accessible yet personal album, where the hooks pop and Zay’s demons dance around his own burning conscience. “Headshots” is an addictively smooth song when the chorus drops in, but the lyrics paint a much sadder, almost bleak picture of Zay’s environment, “Score” is a sexy R&B jam that wavers between lustful and heartbroken, and “RIP Young” is a song that seems to be hyper detailed and abstract at the same time. It’s great to see Zay bounce back from his troubles with addiction, especially as he becomes a reborn artist on a song like the GORGEOUS “HB2U.” Couple a fantastic run of Southern rap with a great selection of deluxe tracks, and you have one of the best rap records in the Top Dawg Catalog.
J Balvin – Jose
Easily one of Latino music’s most ambitious records in 2021, Jose is an album that seemingly has an answer for every musical need you’ll ever have. Need a sexy club track to dance (or cry) the night away in a Miami club? Play “Que Mas Pues.” Need a rap-flavored banger to get an absolutely monstrous pump in the gym? Play “Billetes de 100.” Need an absolutely batshit song to rave to? Bump “In Da Getto,” a surprisingly great collab between Mr. Balvin and Skrillex. This is the kind of album that deserves its 24-track runtime: fantastic hooks, great beats, a multi-colored palette of beats, influences and features…even if it may be a marathon listen, you’re sure to come away from it with some great additions to your playlist.
John Wells – Have You Seen My Fish?
Everyone meet John Wells, a Baltimore-based MC that I discovered while scrolling through Twitter and was blown away by. Mr. Wells’ 2021 project is honest, soulful and hard-hitting on every front. Wells has a distinct voice and pen that bring humor and darkness in a way that sounds entirely natural. “Smoove Criminal” is a lyrical tour-de-force as he establishes his position and skill, which is explored in the album’s brisk 10 tracks. Wells displays his emotional and storytelling depth on cuts like the standout “It A Be Alright” and flexes his hunger on “Heavy Is The Head.” The man has a great choice in beats in general: jazzy, steady and oftentimes gorgeous like on the loving “Paint You Shordy.” The album is a perfect example of why you should look below the surface for music: this is a great listen that I don’t want to spoil too much, so give it a try!
Jon Batiste – We Are
An awe-inspiring fusion of jazz, soul, pop, funk, hip-hop, and every other genre under the sun, this was a great record that proves Batiste is an artist in EVERY sense of the word. We Are is more than just a collection of wonderfully composed music: it’s a statement on life, from childhood to adulthood. Need more proof? Check out our review of it here.
Lea Thomas – Mirrors to the Sun
One part indie songstress and one part folk balladeer, Lea Thomas stole MY heart this year with one of the most beautiful and peaceful records of the year in Mirrors to the Sun. The album, both personal in its writing and pristine in its instrumentation, is a great listen for serene settings and when you need to reflect on yourself. “Hummingbird” is a gorgeous, almost country-like romp that matches its swagger with soft vocals and poignant writing. “What Did the Music Sound Like” is an INCREDIBLE track, one that is full of both powerful sadness and hope all at once, capturing the state of confusion and nostalgia one can feel as life slowly begins to change. Change, a common theme of the record, seems to bleed through the very music itself and into your heart. This is one album you shouldn’t miss.
Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
If there was an award for the most “epic” hip-hop album to be released this year, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert would be the unquestioned winner. The UK rapper tackles themes of femininity, ancestry, success, anxiety, and so much more in an album that’s truly operatic in tone and progression. “Introvert,” the horn-backed intro to this album, slaps you in the face and wakes you up for the greatness to come from Simz’ bars and storytelling. Several interludes and tracks very much match this glorious, dramatic sound, including the genius sampled-backed “I Love You, I Hate You,” the African-inspired “Point and Kill” and the marching banger “Standing Ovation”…but Simz doesn’t just rely on volume and her attitude to get her point across!
The quiet moments are just as effective.
“Woman” is a beautiful and smooth ode to women around the world, the “Little Q” suite is a wonderful nostalgia trip through Simz’ past, and the sadly triumphant “How Did You Get Here” is a realistic-yet-beautiful look at the path she took to achieve her status as an artist. The album is perfectly balanced and produced, a great compliment to Simz’ lyrical and technical abilities. What more could you want from an album?
Lorde – Solar Power
DAMN THE HATERS, I LIKE THIS ALBUM! After hearing New Zealand alt-queen step away from the moody moonlight of Melodrama into the happy sunlight of Solar Power, I was very much confused. As I spent this semester stressing over different projects and obligations, however, I found this album strangely comforting and relaxing, much like a trip to the beach. It’s an album that, while I understand the criticisms it receives, I wholeheartedly love. The buildup of a song like “The Path” is genuinely beautiful: as the higher pitched vocals harmonize with banging drums, I can’t help but smile the goofiest grin. The album has a potent vibe, one that can (probably) be found in Lorde’s home country in the summer season. As the guitars ring out in “Mood Ring,” Lorde taps into her emotional side, but here she feels balanced: she has her ups and downs, but she maintains her emotional equilibrium and maturity. The album taught me that it’s okay to smile and laugh at the stupid shit, even if it’s for a brief moment.
Shoutout to cicadas.
Mach-Hommy – Pray For Haiti
Mach-Hommy was a hip-hop artist I was never truly “big” on, but Pray For Haiti instantly made me fall in love with his monotone voice, sinister imagery, incredible wordplay, and abstract beat selection. From the moment “The 26th Letter” starts, you’re introduced into a world of glitz and glamor, underscored by one of the weirdest beats I’ve heard all year. The album is highly conceptual taking the listener in a joyride through the world Hommy lives in, spitting equally abstract and confident lines about fashion, his day-to-day living, and the challenges he faces. It’s a grimy album that is chock-full of incredible production, courtesy of Conductor Williams. It’s an album that I genuinely think cannot be described, but experienced. How could I describe the chilly tones ringing out as Hommy raps in relentless detail in “Folie A Deux?” How can I even begin to write about the conceptuality of “The Stellar-Ray Theory?” It’s a bold, spine-tingling listen that rewards you for paying attention to every syllable.
Maxo Kream – Weight of the World
Maxo Kream is one of modern rap game’s most underappreciated gems, and this album proves that as he grows larger in popularity, he’s willing to stay true to himself. While not as personal as his previous album, Brandon Banks, this album feels like the quintessential Maxo Kream project. His dizzying flows are like quick paintbrush strokes, creating an image of incredible success at the cost of great loss. “Local Joker,” a lead single for the record, creates a narrative of drug dealing and paranoia amidst material success in a succinct, moody package. “Mama’s Purse” demonstrates that Maxo is great at not just telling a story, but making you feel it. “They Say” makes you feel the criticisms and growth Maxo has experienced, “Big Persona” makes you feel the weight of his wealth, “Trips” makes you feel the grief he experienced when a loved one was shot. The album is a whirlwind of emotions: you’ll go from ripping the best set you’ve ever had at the gym to crying by the squat rack.
Mick Jenkins – Elephant In the Room
Mick Jenkins is the kind of rapper that hangs just below the radar of mainstream popularity, but his words carry more weight than any mainstream wordsmith. Elephant In the Room is that kind of album: while I haven’t seen to many people talk about it, those that have heard it agree that its philosophy, production, and lyricism is top-tier. “Valley in the Shadow of Death” is an incredible opener to an album, a powerful statement on Jenkins’ place in the world as a black man with the determination to move planets. “Things You Could Die For If Doing While Black” is a harrowing depiction of paranoia and fear of persecution from corrupt individuals, “Gucci Told Me” is a track about getting lost in the chaos of love, and “Rug Burn” is about Mick’s own struggles as an artist and a man supporting his family and friends. Elephant in the Room is more than just a conscious rap album: it’s a character portrait that is incredibly vivid and detailed, willing to take risks to show you the depths of Jenkins’ struggles, triumphs, fears and hopes. With consistently great mixes of jazz rap and bass heavy bangers, its an album that any conscious rap fan should download and listen to.
Nas – King’s Disease II/Magic
You’ve heard it before: sequel albums in rap rarely ever surpass the original. The Queensbridge Wordsmith broke that stereotype with what might just be his best album in a while: as he says himself on the excellent banger “Rare,” he’s in rare form. Teaming up with producer Hit Boy was the best decision Nas has made, amassing a collection of sleek modern beats that match his emphasis on storytelling and “big” sounding music. Beats like those found on the tense sub-bass of “The Pressure” and the bounce of “YKTV” embrace the strengths of the present. On the other end, there’s a classiness to the album that old-heads will love. The subtle keys and turntables of the standout story of “Death Row East” bring to mind an image of a well-aged veteran telling history, the dramatic soul chops of “Store Run” helps evoke Nas’s wealth and the luxurious pianos bring to mind a wealthy brunch out with family on “Brunch on Sundays”. Nas’s lyrics were on point throughout: he sounds both mature and hungry at the same time.
And he followed it up with another album just before Christmas. Magic is arguably even better than KD2, boasting a more old-school, soulful sound that reflects Nas’s more passionate and tight delivery. “Wave Gods” and “Ugly” might just be the perfection of modern New York storytelling and sleek boom bap production. The presentation on Magic truly accentuates Nas’s lyrics, which are the best they have been since his resurgence in the early 2000s. It’s been a treat to see Nas completely blow everyone’s expectations out of the water, and I can’t wait to run these two records back.
Pap Chanel – Pretty and Paid 2.0
If I could dance, I would be going absolutely crazy with this album. In a time where I very much needed a smile on my face (i.e finals season), Pap Chanel came through with an album that not just showed why she is an artist to be watched, but celebrated. You might remember as the star on “Gucci Bucket Hat,” the infectious single featuring Future and Herion Young, but she has so many more tools at her disposal. Chanel bobs and weaves between bombastic rap bangers like “Apple Jacks” to pretty pop bops like “Bipolar,” which should be a goddamn HIT RIGHT ABOUT NOW…
Anywho, this album really offers all that a music fan should want. The songs are concise in both their writing and runtime, with no room left for filler and every second filled with a blistering hook, a funny punchline, or a great beat. Even when Pap Chanel passes the test as a rapper, singer, and songwriter, there’s a tangible sense of earnest confidence that oozes through the presentation of the record. It’s somehow grimy and elegant at the same time: “Big Way” is one of my favorite rap songs of the year, with its string samples, distorted bass and Chanel’s confident posturing quickly proving that she is a name to be remembered…
Silk Sonic – An Evening With Silk Sonic
This album is like that one friend, the one who can make best friends with someone in the span of five minutes. Pop prince Bruno Mars and the multi-talented R&B/hip-hop MVP Anderson Paak team up for a short, crispy collection of 70s soul and funk throwbacks here, and there are literally no skips. The album is perfectly balanced in both its tone and subject matter: “Leave the Door Open” is a perfectly steamy R&B slow jam that deserved to be the hit it was, “Skate” is one of the most infectiously happy songs I’ve heard since Pharrel’s “Happy,” and “Fly as Me” packs one of the nastiest and confident flows I’ve heard on a record. While the album doesn’t opt to explore outside of its nostalgic wheelhouse, I really don’t mind. The duo came in with a goal: make some hits, and leave the listener happy. I think the results speak for themselves…
Slowthai – Tyron
Another contender for one of the best records out of the UK, Tyron is a gritty, concise double LP that is all about being human…which is to be flawed. Easily one of Slowthai’s most emotionally resonant and electrifying albums, it’s one that we absolutely LOVED here. Feel free to check out our review for a more detailed analysis of its themes here!
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
St. Vincent takes the chaos of the 70s and love to 2021…a perfect soundtrack to the year if I’d ever heard one. Her eclectic performance shines right out the gate on the ear-grabbing “Pay Your Way In Pain” and it only gets better from there. The title track tells a tale of family/lovers coming home from prison over a wild beat, “Live In The Dream” is one of this year’s most beautiful ballads and. Aesthetically, the album is a gorgeous mix of 70’s and modern production, with the smooth acoustics of “Down and Downtown” and “Somebody Like Me” contrasting beautifully with the dangerous “Down” and sensual blues of “Candy Darling”. St. Vincent’s lyrics hit harder than a bunch to the ribs, with standouts (beyond those already mentioned) being the takedown on abuse in “Down” and the love song “The Laughing Man.” It’s a concept album that truly deserves numerous listens and replays to fully appreciate, an audio experience that is sure to make you wince, cry, smile and press “save.”
Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost
I firmly believe Tyler, the Creator can do no wrong, and his 2021 epic’s success proved that. Call Me If You Get Lost is Tyler’s grand return to full-time rapping, but carries the finesse and success he has earned over the years within every second of pristine production and incredible wordplay. It’s a summertime mixtape hosted by DJ Drama, featuring bass heavy bangers on “Lemonhead” and “Lumberjack” that are rivaled by genuinely beautiful R&B on “Wusyaname” and “Sweet/I Thought You Wanted to Dance.”
CMIYGL is Tyler at his absolute peak of confidence. The man has gained commercial, critical, and personal success from his humble beginnings in Odd Future, and the growth is apparent in every step of the album. He looks forward to luxurious vacations alongside Lil Wayne on “Hot Wind Blows,” sure, but he still takes time to reflect on both his artistry on “Massa” and his own love life on “Wilshire.” Even on his most braggadocios record, Tyler still finds time to introspect on who he is and lay his character to bare. It’s an amazing listen that’ll make you want to get your passport and head somewhere you’ve never seen before, because why the hell not?
Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side A/B
Westside Gunn is the gift that keeps on giving. In a year where the Griselda camp very much blew out the competition in terms of release volume and critical acclaim, it’s only righ that the de-facto figurehead of the group curated an absolutely filthy and luxurious blend of coke rap on Hitler Wears Hermes 8. The best part? He dropped two projects for it!
Side A, while much shorter and more concise, came out of the gates to show that Gunn is best as both a recognizable voice and a recruiter for fantastic features. Crunchy drums and keys play out in a nocturnal hypnosis as Stove God Cooks, Rome Streetz and Gunn flex in perfect synergy, a team effort that displays Gunn is a team player until the absolute end. Lil Wayne drops one of this year’s best verses on “Bash Money,” a ludicrously nasty banger that shows Gunn is capable of working with people across the spectrum of hip-hop…
And that’s just the first disc! Side B takes even more risks, has more odd grooves, and packs more unique features that somehow continue to just work. “Hell on Earth, Pt. 2” is a 90s throwback featuring Benny the Butcher and Conway working with Gunn in a beautiful three man weave, “The Fly who couldn’t Fly straight” contains a hidden and oddly cinematic Tyler, the Creator verse, and “TV Boy” contains one of Gunn’s best solo songs period. Combined, it’s a 30-track epic that never overstays its welcome with great beats, great features, and some of Gunn’s best work period.
WILLOW – lately I feel EVERYTHING
This was an unexpected surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Willow Smith embraces the past of pop punk and released one of my surprise favorites of the year. Her performance is a unique blend of angsty and self-aware, taking the edge of pop-punk and channeling it through her unique persona. “Transparentsoul” and “Gaslight” are absolute bangers, loaded with crazy drum fills (courtesy of frequent collaborator Travis Barker) and soaring hooks. The album mainly deals with typical pop-punk themes: breakups, frustration and growing up, but Willow’s take on these topics have some nice curveballs. “don’t SAVE ME” is a fuzzed-out guitar romp dealing in denial and “Lipstick” is a surprisingly dense ballad packed with interesting imagery and emotion. Even when Willow reaches a bit too far into the genre playbook, she manages to make it entertaining, with the longing of “Come Home” really coming home with its monstrous chorus. “4ever” is the most beautiful track, using backing vocals and a hypnotic guitar line to bring way more emotion out of my heart than I thought would be possible. If Willow continues down this line of music, expanding her sound and ideas, she could pull off some incredible things.
Ye – Donda
In all seriousness, the actions and general nature of the illustrious Kanye West (now legally Ye) have been interesting for discussion. Some people love him, some people hate him, some people have just given up. It’s fitting that his latest album is very much loaded with some of his darkest and most positive content to date. While I do agree that Donda (titled after his late mother, Donda West), may be a bit too bloated in places, I think that the good material here far outshines the bad. THIS is a gospel-rap album I can get behind, wherein Ye doesn’t sacrifice great production, features, concepts, and songwriting for a more theological focus. Songs like “Off the Grid” are a great example of this: a futuristic drill beat, outstanding features from Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign, some great one-liners from Ye and a hook that remains in your head.
Donda feels like the closest and farthest Kanye has come to his roots. On one hand, you’ll have a wonderful Lauryn Hill sample over a hip-house groove on “Believe What I Say,” a College Dropout-esque jam. On the other, you hold “No Child Left Behind,” an awe-inspiring finish of heavenly organ keys and lyrics coursing with faith-driven blood. Sure, Donda may be a bit all over the place, but much like Ye himself, it has the fundamental greatness to keep fans pushing through the bad times.
2022 has some great music and some great moves coming from the site soon…thank you so much for reading and we’ll see you soon!