My top 10 favorite albums that I can’t live without. These albums have helped shaped my ears and have inspired me to expand my library.
Day 1: So Far Gone, Drake - 2009
If you know me, you know I have mad love for Drizzy. But, truth is, that’s only because of his mixtapes. I grew up listening to Drizzy Drake Rogers before there was even a Drake.
On it’s 10th anniversary, this record is still everything. It brings me back to a time where I thought I knew everything about life, but knew nothing— including music. Drake was honestly my introduction to Hip-Hop. And from Drizzy I found my way to Wayne, then NAS and Common and Jay and Dr. Dre.
So Far Gone’s become a true classic and I’m happy to come from an era that experienced its impact and witnessed it do something for an artist. The production is sick, the beats are completely on point, and it’s one of those records I vibe to word for word.
BOPS: Uptown***, Best I Ever Had*, Successful (feat. Trey Songz & Lil Wayne), Say What’s Real
Day 2: The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack, Whitney Houston- 1996
What many people might not know about me was that I was raised in Church, surrounded by Gospel. I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything other than it for a really long time. So that consisted of me finding ways to sneak music into my life. I’d have secret iPod playlists and hella cd’s with mixes I’d just make off the fly.
But, when you think of albums that serve as the soundtrack to certain parts of your life, this takes me back to me and mama when I was a kid and our much simpler times. So this is to my mama: the lady who taught me to take life step by step, bit by bit and introduced me to one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.
Whitney and Mervyn Warren compiled this thing with so many genres and sounds… and it’s damn near perfect. There’s Gospel, R&B, Hip Hop, Pop. And then you have Whitney just singing so you’re already in Heaven.
BOPS: I Believe In You And Me, My Heart Is Calling***, Joy, I Love The Lord***
Day 3: Butterfly, Mariah Carey- 1997
I can’t even know what to say. Of course, a Mariah album. lol. All jokes aside, Hey, Draughter wouldn’t be a thing without this album. One of my first pieces of poetry that won a Scholastic award was inspired by one of these songs.
Lyrically, this is one of the smoothest records ever and I think that’s why I’m so drawn to it. Mariah sometimes feels like a poet— and this album is proof because it’s just stories inwoven in melodies. That’s honestly how I vibe and bond with her. I honestly think that if she didn’t write any of her music, I wouldn’t listen to it…
Butterfly has always been there for me, even when I didn’t even know I needed it. It’s a masterpiece that can make you feel almost every emotion at once. And, it was a huge turning point for MC’s career. It’s a classic that makes my R&B heart very happy. 🖤
BOPS: The Roof***, Honey*, Outside***, Babydoll***, Breakdown*
Day 4: The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake- 2013
Firm believer in the notion that albums should be experiences. And, if you’ve ever heard this album, it’s literally a full blown sensational experience from start to finish.
The tracks are long and hella groovy. And JT just shines with the production. Each of the tracks feels like a story crafted for this epic world of sounds. It’s pretty rad. I wish Pt. 2 kept the same energy, but it just doesn’t live up to Pt. 1.
I had this album on rotation from the end of high school and even through college. It’s one of those albums you just drive to. So many crazy driving stories to some of these tracks. Still holds as a solid record… Oh, and the concert was pretty epic too. 😜
BOPS: Mirrors**, Spaceship Coupe***, That Girl***, Don’t Hold the Wall***, Strawberry Bubblegum
Day 5: Destiny Fulfilled, Destiny’s Child- 2004
The summer of 2005 was one of the most memorable summers of my life. I was ten, I had just discovered Mariah Carey because “We Belong Together” was the only song everyone sang, and the end of that summer was earth-shattering for many New Orleanians because of Katrina. The early part of that summer was spent in Atlanta with my aunt and my cousin, who were my music muses. And in my auntie’s 6-disc CD player, this was one of the albums that stayed in one of the slots for almost the whole year.
My R&B heart can’t take this. It’s literally my favorite project they’ve ever done because it’s so collaborative. Their voices were so evenly balanced across the album, which is really what made me gravitate towards it. But, as you listen to the songs you can really tell they came together as sisters and friends to create a record that has soul and tells the story of sisterhood.
Destiny Fulfilled trumps any singular project these three have, and that’s not shade. But when I think of the DC I love, this is the era of greatness that I turn to. Shoutout to Kelly for being an amazing song writer.
BOPS: Lose My Breath, Cater 2 U***, Girl, Bad Habit***, If***
Day 6: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West- 2010
If you don’t know, I actually love Kanye West. One of my dear friends formally introduced me to Kanye’s music during my time at a writing program, as I was really getting into listening to Hip Hop. But, when I think of records that hit in a very real way, this is the album that left a damp signature on my loss of innocence papers. When I heard this album and loved it. And when I was 16, I spent that Fall deeply inside my head, often going on walks and runs to this work.
Sonically, I think this is one of West’s best productions. The production is incredible and the lyrics are deep, clever. There are a number of all star features and Ye’s confidence and honesty in his bars is insurmountable. This album carried me through high school, but was also one of those records that helped me reset myself over time.
This was one of the first times I was able to understand Ye’s creativity, even when it was off the wall and sometimes hard to get. The man’s genius shines throughout this whole project. So, truly, a notion to the Old Kanye, you’re genius in works like this will be greatly missed.
BOPS: So Appalled***, Runaway*, Blame Game, Power*, All of the Lights***
Day 7: Christmas, Kirk Franklin & The Family- 1995
Christmas is my favorite holiday next to Mardi Gras, so it only makes sense that a Christmas album would be in the mix. Growing up in the church, one of the names you always hear is Kirk’s. And I would remember wrapping up Thanksgiving as a kid, and the very next day moms would bump this in the car.
There are so many beautiful tracks on Christmas. Kirk arranged the sounds and the harmonies in a way only he can, but it’s literally straight fire. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, but most importantly it makes you reflect on the true meaning of life beyond the holiday season. 🎄
BOPS: There’s No Christmas Without You***, Now Behold the Lamb*, Jesus Is the Reason for the Season*, The Night That Christ Was Born***
Day 8: Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number, Aaliyah- 1990
I’ve never felt my age, partially because I’ve always had older friends and dated older people. When you grow up in a place like New Orleans, life can happen to you very fast. But, one day, this New Orleans boy got to live in Paris.
When I lived in the City of Love, I took the Metro everywhere— a perfect time to listen to music and read. I’m not exactly sure how Age Ain’t Nothin But a Number fell into my musical rotation, but I remember hearing it my first time in Europe, so naturally when I moved to Paris, I bumped this hella hard on Lis 6.
You could literally feel love and nostalgia all around. So it made sense, being where I’m from that Classic R&B was the tip I was really on. I remember always feeling good when I’d head this joint because the songs spoke to me. And overtime, this album really helped me understand the age really is just a number. What Aaliyah didn’t tell me was that that rule also doesn’t apply to everyone… That takes some leg work 🙃
BOPS: Down With The Clique, I’m Down***, The Think I Like***, At Your Best (You Are Love)
Day 9: The Greatest Hits of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Maze & Frankie Beverly- 1989
Maze and Frankie Beverly sometimes feel like one of New Orleans’ heartbeats. I won’t go deep into this one, but if you know, you know. ⚜
This album has been woven into all of the family reunions and sibling events that I can think of. From bus stopping in the mud at Jazz Fest with my sister to second lining with my best friends in college, Maze and Frankie Beverly have been the soundtrack for Black families across the country for generations.
This one is for my sister, my favorite '“Southern Girl” and one of the best partners in crime I could task for.
BOPS: Joy and Pain*, Back In Stride, Before I Let Go**, Happy Feelin’s***
Day 10: Caution, Mariah Carey- 2018
Sometimes you get hurt and you forget who you are in the process of life. During the 2018 BBMA’s Mariah said,"And if you’ve ever told me that I wrote a song that saved your life, I thank you because you saved mine.” So this is to the record that taught me to let love be my Runway.
November 16th will forever be the day that Caution saved my life. 30 years later and she proves she’s still making bops. The production of this album is damn near supreme. Without a single track wasted, Mimi wrote the hell out of this. Lots of the songs are simple, but they’re also deep as hell. Caution often feels lyrically on-par to Butterfly and The Emancipation Of Mimi.
Seeing a person go through a number of obstacles and produce magic is one of thee most beautiful things about art. I’m happy she was able to channel everything she needed to and put it into this beauty. Caution has been noted as “progressive R&B,” and though I am biased, if you’ve heard it I’m sure you’ll get what Melissa was talking about… Which is why it’s been in consistent rotation for this past year.
BOPS: Giving Me Life (feat. Slick Rick and Blood Orange)***, Stay Long Love You (feat. Gunna)***, A No No**, With You, Runway*