It’s Black Music Month, and it’s no secret Black people have contributed to both American and world history beyond February (Black History Month) as well as June (the same month as Juneteenth). So we should all celebrate Black excellence year-round.
We've featured some of the most revered albums by Black artists of the last five years (2015-present) in this bracket. Thanks to you all, we have a winner and ranking based on how you voted, in order from the bottom spot to the top. Check out our user-voted ranking below on the most respected albums by Black artists of this era!
8. ‘Awaken, My Love!’
Donald Glover/Childish Gambino built a name for himself as a comedic actor (“Community”) and a hip-hop artist (“Camp” in 2011 and “Because the Internet” in 2013). But it was Bino’s exploration into funk, R&B and psychedelic soul with his third album “Awaken, My Love!” (2016) that was highly praised and reminiscent of the legendary Black artists behind ’70s funk. Unfortunately, this album ranks in last place here with only 10 percent of the vote against heavyweight Rihanna’s “Anti” in the first round. Still, “Awaken, My Love!” is going to go down in history as an iconic funk and soul album from the multi-talented Donald Glover. Take a listen via Spotify now!
SZA’s “Ctrl” (2017) definitely helped push alternative R&B’s renaissance, giving you vibe after vibe. The R&B/soul superstar’s musical storytelling centers around the struggles and beauty of love through the lens of a young Black woman. Like Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” SZA created something that other Black women continue to relate to. But facing-off with Queen Bey left “Ctrl” in 7th place with 34 percent of the vote in the first round. Again, “Ctrl” is a vibe though, and you should take a listen via Spotify right now.
6. ‘A Seat at the Table’
Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” (2016) quintessentially celebrates the magic of being unapologetically Black. Her third studio album details Black experiences and our navigation in a world not built for us, but by us—like on “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “F.U.B.U.” and “Where Do We Go." But this fan-favorite critically acclaimed LP faced-off with another popular, highly praised project—Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”—in the first round and got only 37 percent of the vote. Still, we love Solange and this album that cemented her as a Black icon as well as a pop icon. Take a listen via Spotify now!
5. ‘Dirty Computer’
Janelle Monáe is no stranger to experimentation herself. In fact, her music has been described as Afrofuturistic from the jump, and her debut album, “The ArchAndroid” (2010), is revered for it. Her third LP “Dirty Computer” (2018)—nodded at the 2019 Grammys for Album of the Year—continues her journey into Afrofuturism and Black feminism, while she, too, proclaims her queerness. In round one, she went up against Frank Ocean’s “Blonde,” and in that tight race scored 49 percent of the vote. It was a slight loss, but “Dirty Computer” is still a winner. So, do yourself a favor and take a listen via Spotify at this very moment.
Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” (2016) is regarded by many as her magnum opus—introspectively detailing her marriage life, her husband’s infidelities, her vulnerabilities and her strength. All the while Queen Bey celebrates Black womanhood with this empowering holistic anthem of an album. But Kendrick’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” won yet again in their face-off! “Lemonade” scored 37 percent of the vote in the semifinal, and this loss might be reminiscent of Bey not winning Album of the Year at the 2017 Grammys. Still, “Lemonade” will go down in the history books as one of the greatest albums ever. You probably already have this one on repeat, but listen some more via Spotify.
Rihanna has been the ultimate example of a carefree and unapologetic Black girl in the ‘10s. RiRi has become known for creating eclectic-sounding, perfectly pop-crafted albums. But she sonically reached new heights of pushing her experimentation, creativity and versatility with her arguably magnum opus “Anti” (2016). “Anti” scored so many votes in the first round and semifinal, but in the end, Ocean’s “Blonde” pulled an upset against RiRi’s possibly most revered album. Take a listen via Spotify now.
Coming in at no. 2, “Blonde” (2016) is the follow-up to another Frank Ocean alternative R&B classic, “Channel Orange.” The sophomore LP made its way onto many Best of 2016 and Best of the Decade lists—even topping some of them. The sophomore effort—sometimes stylized as “Blond” and originally intended to be called “Boys Don’t Cry”—is revered as an experimental LP with elements of alternative R&B, psychedelic pop and avant-garde soul. On the album, Ocean details his struggles with his own celebrity while uplifting his queerness. In the final, “Blonde” pulled in 39 percent of the vote—making “To Pimp a Butterfly” unbeatable. Take a listen to “Blonde” via Spotify.
1. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’
And the winner is….
Many critics argue that Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” (2015) should have won Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammys. Regardless, the hip-hop masterpiece is revered for how Black it truly is—having given us politically empowering anthems like “The Blacker The Berry,” “King Kunta” and “Alright.” Though this praised LP did not win Album of the Year, it has won this title for Most Respected Album by a Black Artist of This Era, and that speaks volumes! Take a listen to Kendrick’s masterful LP via Spotify now.
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Check out this episode of Fiercely Fandom with Deron. where host Deron Dalton talks with three of his brilliant Black colleagues—Social Media Manager Aasha Collins, Associate Marketing Manager Zaahira DeBoise and Entertainment Editor Keydra Manns—about celebrating Black Music Month, Black excellence in music today, and ranking the most respected albums by Black artists of the last five years.