MMM Staff Picks: Carlton Rolle’s Top Ten Favorite Albums of the 2010s

Music has changed so much over the last 10 years. Many have heard and watched the degradation of genres fade away while other artists breathe new life in an overstuffed industry. Great albums come rarely, especially ones that became statements for the era or for the people living through that time. These are all albums that were released in the last decade that provided a significant influence to culture, or were just too damn good!


#10. Frank Ocean – ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ (2011)

Frank Ocean.jpgFrank Ocean has seemingly done what he wanted to when he was moved to do so. The frustration or desire that fans build while waiting for a record from the artist is tantalizing. With Nostalgia, Ultra, Ocean pulled from deep emotions felt during experiences and worked on them until they reached a level of perfection. While raw in thoughts and context, the production and execution of the album felt incredible polished. Nostalgia, Ultra set a standard for a genuine expression of the vulnerable self.

#9. Kanye West – ‘Yeezus’ (2013)

YeezusYeezus was a surprise to listeners as it brought some of Kanye’s old music intensity. The album contains controversy through his style of avant-rap. The aggression felt through music that encapsulated the “black experience” was felt by many fans. Yeezus may be the darkest music that Kanye has released thus far. The beat and rhythm of tracks fell very intentful while the lyrics are focused on the message Kanye is sharing. In Yeezus, West talks about his experiences regarding the lifestyle of the rich and black.

#8. Rihanna – ‘Anti’ (2016)

Anti RihannaRihanna has made a lot of chart toppers that gained her millions of streams and fans. Anti brought the artist to another plateau of musical fame with an album that was a masterpiece from her heart. Released tracks emphasize her ability to be carefree, sexy, and intelligent. Rihanna didn’t step outside of songs that worked for her, she bodied them. Anti is the album of empowering influence.

#7. David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’ (2016)


As a final chapter in music for the decade spanning artist, Blackstar represents the emotions of a person that knows that time shouldn’t be wasted. Releasing the album on his 69th birthday and dying shortly afterwards furthers hits home for listeners as they travel through Bowie’s works of rock and jazz. Blackstar is a heavy-hitting jazz album of instinctive adversity.

#6. Drake – ‘Take Care’ (2011)

Take Care Drake.jpgMany tracks from Drake’s Take Care give fans a sense of attraction and longing. Well equipped with moody altering beats, Drake’s lyrics dig into his past experiences. Drake uses his poetic flow to engage lost lovers and reflect on what was. In a time that male vulnerability took a greater stage with less backlash, Drake openly exposes his emotions and losses while hoping for the better.

#5. Actress – ‘Splazsh’ (2010)

Actress.jpgActress created a beat-heavy album of songs that work beautifully with one another. The time dilation changes the perception of how long a song feels present. In some areas, time slows down and drags the listener with it. In other areas, listeners race to stay with the rhythm. While there isn’t a defining track or sound that brings tracks together, the overall ambience of the tracks make the listing intriguing. Splazsh brings dubstep, club, and hip-hop together in ways that many artists have not experimented with.

#4. Beyonce – ‘Lemonade’ (2016)

lemonade.jpgShocking the world with a visual album and world tour, Lemonade became a defining mood for many people. The artist captured an even more perfect, Earthly version of her creative self. Beyonce bought subjects of infidelity, love, struggle, race, and more through the album. Listeners turned into raging fans of the Beehive. With the power of asserting herself in unapologetic statements, Lemonade grew into the cultural album of anthems.

#3. D’Angelo – ‘Black Messiah’ (2014)

d'angeloD’Angelos’ Black Messiah is one of the most organic R&B albums made in the last two decades. The funk and flair that is felt throughout the album feels so casual and planned at the same time. D’Angelo brings soul, funk, hip-hop, to the R&B realm. Black Messiah feels like a controlled level of wildness. While the album took well over a decade to finish and release, every song on it is worth the wait.

#2. Solange – ‘A Seat at the Table’ (2016)

Solange A Seat At The TableThis album changed the landscape for R&B, soul music. Many artists and listeners were motivated by the intensity of the songs on the album. The album brought Solange a large amount of fans by tapping her creativity. Solange provided a cultural experience of blackness and womanhood. In an unapologetic tone and attitude, A Seat At The Table brought the suave aesthetic to the forefront. Solange’s A Seat At The Table exemplifies black excellence.

#1. Kendrick Lamar – ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ (2015)

Kendrick Lamar.pngTo Pimp a Butterfly is something like the state of the union for the hip-hop during the decade. This album’s influence touched so much more then hip-hop. Kendrick’s beats, dynamic rhythm, and deep lyrics helped to give birth to a new era of music as he worked with main prevalent creators in jazz. Kendrick’s rhyme style is fast and direct; connecting people to the depth of his thoughts on life. Each track merges into each other and when collective together, the tell a rich, endearing story. The artist saw a new level of stardom with heavy-hitting singles that emphasized feelings in a lot of listeners.

Written by: Carlton Rolle

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