Kyle Morgan |Reporter
“Blonde” by Frank Ocean
Making its debut in 2016, R&B maestro Frank Ocean’s sophomore album “Blonde” was labeled as one of the best albums from the past decade. Released after a four-year hiatus from his first album “Channel Orange”, “Blonde” is a daring project where Ocean openly explores the circumstances of love, depression, and the stress in juggling his newfound fame. Taking influence from notable classics such as David Bowie, “Blonde” was Ocean’s endgame in his chess match with Interscope Records. Feeling limited by the record label, Ocean released a decoy visual album called “Endless” to satisfy his superiors. The next day, on Aug. 20, Ocean dropped “Blonde” as both an Apple Music Exclusive and as a final departure from Interscope. Songs such as “Pink + White” with its dreamy piano melody and “White Ferrari” with its polished drift set “Blonde” up to be a rollercoaster of emotions for the listener.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West
After the success of his 2008 release “808’s and Heartbreak”, Kanye West continued his dominance in the rap game with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Taking inspiration from his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, West took a different approach when creating the album by talking about the previously unexplored “darkside” of being a celebrity. Tracks from the album, such as “Power” and “All of the Lights”, have topped the charts in popularity; however, “Gorgeous”, “Monster”, “Devil in a New Dress”, and “Runaway” boast intricate production values and extravagant melodies. The album went on to win the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
“IGOR” by Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator’s “IGOR” was released in 2019, and is distinguished with its daring experimentation of softer flows and hardcore melodies. With features from popular artists Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Kanye West, and CeeLo Green, “IGOR” tells the turbulent story of one of the singer’s past romances. As described perfectly by Genius: “the album’s arc describes the feeling of falling into love with someone and starting a relationship with them, becoming somewhat obsessed with them, the relationship failing, falling out of love and attempting to remain friends.” With mesmerizing tracks such as “EARFQUAKE” and “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”, “IGOR” earned Tyler his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2019.
“Take Care” by Drake
The breakout success of Drake’s 2010 rookie album “Thank Me Later” made him push for more. On Nov. 15 the following year, he released his second studio album “Take Care”, a collection of songs that laid the groundwork for many artists to be dually labeled as both rappers and singers. Drake’s classic tendency to take daring melodic leaps shines through in “Take Care” — “Headlines” and “Crew Love” highlight his unique rapping ability, while title track “Take Care” and “Marvin’s Room” showcase his dreamy vocals. Drake’s dynamic style also rises to prominence on “Shot for Me”, a song that describes the hurt of past relationships. “Take Care” went on to win the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, certifying Drake’s king position in the rap game.
“Ctrl” by SZA
Solána Rowe, popularly known by her stage name “SZA”, released her first studio album in 2017. “Ctrl”, with features from the likes of Travis Scott on “Love Galore”, Kendrick Lamar on “Doves in the Wind”, and Isaiah Rashad on “Pretty Little Birds”, debuted at No. 3 on the US Billboard 200. Rowe’s dreamy rasp takes centerstage in the slow burn melodies of “Anything” and “Drew Barrymore”, where the songstress wrestles with regret, apologies, and insecurities over a previous romance. “Ctrl” serves as a doleful expression of the past, with the track “Prom” forcing listeners to relish in the nostalgia of their first love. Since entering the music industry with RCA Records in 2017, Rowe has garnered an impressive collection of 18 awards and over 60 nominations throughout her career as SZA.