If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that for as long as I can remember music has always been that perfect something to keep me sane. In my happiest moments, you can find me blasting a fire playlist I put together, just dancing without a care in the world or during my lows, being teary-eyed in bed with a pint of ice cream listening to a song feels as if it was written just for me. Either way, music has and always will be there throughout the peaks and valleys. 2021 was a very interesting year, much like 2020, but we were blessed with some really amazing albums/EP’s from artists that may be relatively new to us or who we’ve been vibing with for years. In true Lookinthemirah fashion, I have created a list (in no particular order besides the first two) of my favorite projects of this year. Each and every one of these albums/EP’s gave me life and added something special to my world. After reading this article and taking some time out to listen to these projects, please let me know what your favorite projects of 2021 are and what artists you hope to hear from in 2022!
I can say without hesitation, Tyler gave me my favorite hip-hop album of the year! I remember hearing “Lumberjack” and sending a voice note to my best friend screaming “DJ Drama and Tyler are on a song together! You gotta hear this!”. Tyler is such a weirdo and I’ve been a huge fan for years now. His “Cherry Bomb” album is what really drew me into his music. Don’t let his crazy sense of humor fool you because he has bars and has a deeply-rooted passion for music that can be seen and felt. From start to finish, “Call Me If You Get Lost” is a perfect album and further proves that this man is extremely talented and well-respected within the hip-hop community. He has fire features from Lil’ Wayne (who you’ll always find somewhere on a Tyler album), 42 Dugg, Lil’ Uzi Vert, Ty Dolla $ign, Teezo Touchdown (who I’m now fascinated with), and obviously DJ Drama who is a hip-hop legend and is from the best city in the world, Philly! I hope Tyler wins many awards for this album next year. He is so deserving!
Favorite Song: “SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” feat. Brent Faiyaz & Fana Hues
With me having a favorite hip-hop album, of course I have a favorite R&B album of the year and it had no choice but to be “Heaux Tales”. Jazmine came into 2021 with her foot on our necks, all gas no breaks! This is probably the most relatable project I’ve ever listened to. Every thing about this EP made me feel so seen and heard as a woman. Each of the tales speaks to a different woman or a woman throughout different stages of her life. Being a Black woman has never been easy but what I love most is that we are so versatile and come in a variety of ways. This EP shows just that and I’m forever thankful that Jazmine Sullivan found such a beautiful way to express and dedicate this theme to us all. My girls and I have talked about “Heaux Tales” more times than I can count because it’s so raw and real!
Favorite Song: “On It” feat. Ari Lennox
I found out about Tems after hearing her beautifully authentic voice on WizKid’s hit song “Essence”. When she dropped this EP, I was so happy and it’s been in constant rotation since. From the beats to her voice, it’s just automatic that my body wants to get up and dance around my room to every song. Her music is definitely filed under “Good Energy” music. I even went back to her project “For Broken Ears”, which dropped in 2020 and has bangers too! I’m super excited to see what’s on the horizon for Tems; I know amazing things only! She’s for sure an artist I would love to go see in concert!
Favorite Song: “Found” feat. Brent Faiyaz
My first introduction to Joyce Wrice’s music was on Insecure and then on Westside Gunn’s track “French Toast”, which I still play every single day. Joyce is another artist who’s voice and whole energy just makes me feel so good! It didn’t take long, at all, for this beautifully crafted debut album to stick with me. Along with the lyrics, the features from Freddie Gibbs, Masego, KAYTRANADA, and more are *chefs kiss* perfection! This entire album creates this super airy feeling in my spirit whenever I listen and if I play one song, I usually end up listening to the whole thing.
Favorite Song: “Falling In Love” feat. Lucky Daye
If you’ve ever listened to any of Nate’s music, you know he’s always going to give us realness, fly shit, and substance, only! Nate is another Philly native who’s artistry I have so much love and respect for. To chillin’ in the crib or taking a long ride in the car with the windows and sunroof down, whenever I put on this EP it makes me want to continue to boss up. This is the kinda of music that makes you want to get your life in order for yourself, your family, your close friends and to just manifest beautiful things. Nate’s delivery is super calm, cool, and collective and I can guarantee you, in each song you’ll hear at least two lines and think, “damn, I really feel that!” He’s so personable and hasn’t missed yet with any of his music projects!
Favorite Song: “Bbygrl”
J. Cole really blew my mind with this album! For the longest, being the Aquarius (gang, gang) that he is, J. Cole was making a lot of fire music by himself with no features on his albums. He had a long run in 2019-2020 being featured on other artists tracks and absolutely bodying any song he was on, with ease. To know me is to know that Cole is my second favorite rapper of all time, so I was happy with whatever music he was putting out but this album was different and very special. You can tell he stepped outside of his usual bubble and got very cozy with other artists and producers and went crazy! He had all types of artists from Cam’Ron, to Lil’ Baby, 21 Savage, and Bas on “The Off-Season”.
Favorite Song: “9 5 . s o u t h”
The way Cleo Sol’s music has had me in a chokehold ever since her “Rose in the Dark” album last year is something serious! I listen to her music multiple times a day because it’s just so soothing for my heart! The best way for me to describe this album is beautifully SOLful. Whenever I listen to it, I get the feeling that I’m being given a super warm hug that my hopeful romantic self needs. As someone in their late 20s, I’ve been thinking about motherhood and a partnership more and more lately and Cleo sings about love, in its many forms, in such a way that brings me such immense joy.
Favorite Song: “Sunshine”
Wale has been consistently dropping fire albums, EPs, and mixtapes for over a decade now. When I think of a poet whose words really speak directly to my soul, he instantly comes to mind. It’s not often that we hear a rapper/singer really dig into the nitty-gritty of love but Wale does it with ease and talks about it from such an authentically vulnerable place. One of the things I loved most about this particular album of his was that he sampled a lot of classic R&B songs from the ’90s and early 2000’s like “Caramel Kisses” by Faith Evans and “Vivrant Thang” by Q-Tip. Wale is an emotional man and has no problems showing up and showing out for the ladies; love that for him!
Favorite Song: “Dearly Beloved” feat. Jamie Foxx
I honestly I found out about Amaria by doing my usual browse on Friday mornings of what artists dropped a new project and I thought to myself, “hmmm never heard of her, let me give this a spin”. The first song I played was “Running Away” and I was sold right then and there! I listen to this album every day. Amaria is another R&B artist whose voice and entire flow is just super relaxing, soothing, and a breath of fresh air! I often play “Bittersweet” in the morning before I start my day or on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when I’m cleaning my apartment.
Favorite Song: “Running Away”
All the artists who are signed to T.D.E. are unique in their own right but also have something about them that compliments one another. I knew who Isaiah Rashad was before this album but didn’t listen to him heavily, unless he was featured on a song like SZA’s “Pretty Little Birds”. Before this album was released I kept seeing people, especially Black Twitter, talk about how fire they just knew this album would be and they didn’t lie! After the first listen, I was locked in! Isaiah has so many good tracks on here with amazing features. There’s a little dance I have to do when some of the songs come on because it’s only right to do a lil’ bop. I felt so crazy for sleeping on this man’s music and had to revisit his two other projects!
Favorite Song: “Headshots (4r Da Locals)”