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"Call Me If You Get Lost," "Donda" and "The House is Burning" take the top three spots on the list. 

As 2021 began, hopes were high in the music industry. After a year which saw the pandemic completely decimate the industry, the COVID-19 vaccine was a beacon of hope for music-lovers across the globe. That hope wasn’t misplaced, as 2021 has produced some of the most stunning bodies of musicality in recent memory. With that being said, let’s take a look at ten projects that completely stole the show.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Haram - Armand Hammer & The Alchemist (underground hip-hop, avant-garde rap)

The elusive rap duo of Billy Woods and Elucid’s team-up with ever-consistent Alchemist produced a project as desolate and drab as a cold gust of wind in the night. 

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Vince Staples - Vince Staples (hip-hop)

One word summates Vince Staples’ eponymous fourth studio album: focused. 

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Pray For Haiti - Mach-Hommy (avant-garde rap)

Mach-Hommy’s razor-edge pen collides with Griselda boss Westside Gunn’s eclectic beat selection to produce an album adored by rap purists. 

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THE LIST: 

10. LP! - JPEGMAFIA (industrial hip-hop, Punk, Hyperpop)

A delightfully unpredictable artist, JPEGMAFIA continues to make some of the most needle-pushing, uninhibited music in rap. With his third studio album, JPEGMAFIA defies boundaries and redefines new ones. “LP!” mixes elements of punk, hyper-pop and hip-hop to create a patchwork quilt of abrasive, yet harmonic sounds.

Rating: 7/10

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9. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert - Little Simz (UK Hip-Hop, Jazz Rap) 

Meaningful introspection is something that can be a confusingly-difficult learned skill for artists. This is not the case for the UK’s rising rap star Little Simz and her fourth studio album. Production and unmitigated honesty are the strong points here, as Simz contemplates her journey of self discovery under the limelight. 

Rating: 7.5/10

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8. Sling - Clairo (Acoustic Folk, Alternative)

Looking for an example of how someone used quarantine effectively? Look no further than Clairo. Maturity is hyper-evident both sonically and lyrically in her second studio album, which ditches the pop sounds of her prior works for a toned-down folk aesthetic, suiting her elegantly. 

Rating: 7.5/10

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7. An Evening With Silk Sonic - Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak (R&B, Soul)

An album which was teased for almost the whole year, expectations were exorbitantly high for this record. After listening to a track like “Smokin Out the Window,” there’s really only one valid conclusion a listener can come to: Silk Sonic is a duo sent to us by the music gods. 

Rating: 8/10

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Read the full review here.

6. Navy’s Reprise - Navy Blue (Underground Hip-Hop) 

The budding voice of the underground, Navy Blue’s consistent output of refreshingly personal raps over avant-garde production continues with “Navy’s Reprise.” Behind the boards or using his pen, Navy puts his oozing talent on full-display here. 

Rating: 8/10

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5. Whole Lotta Red - Playboi Carti (Experimental Trap)

It’s hard to deny the hypothesis that this record will influence the forthcoming generation of trap artists, because it already has. While not everything sticks here, Carti’s innovation of a traditionally bland genre excites. 

Rating: 8/10

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Read the full review here.

4. Untourable Album - Men I Trust (Sophisti-Pop)

The decidedly murky, fuzzy sound of Men I Trust never seems to miss. Here, the indie band experiments with their sound a bit, pushing more toward a lofi-esque sonic palette. A diverse soundscape is presented by the group, from the upbeat and warm “Sugar” to the dreary “Beluga,” there’s something for everyone on “Untourable Album.”

Rating: 8.5/10

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3. The House is Burning - Isaiah Rashad (Hip-hop)

The five year wait on Isaiah Rashad’s newest project was well-worth it. After battling personal demons during his time away from music, Zay is back, just as determined and thoughtful as before. “The House is Burning” leans more into melodic rap and R&B than previous Zay albums, producing brilliance throughout. 

Rating: 9/10

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Read the full review here.

2. Donda - The artist formerly known as Kanye West (Hip-hop)

Unsurprisingly, Ye has continued his near 20-year run of boundless artistic brilliance with his tenth LP. Concretely pivoting from the religiously-centered “JESUS IS KING,” Ye takes center stage as he struggles with the absence of his mother, divorce and passing of close friends. A whopping 32 songs over 2 hours, Ye’s makes yet another solid entry to his already stacked catalogue of classic records. 

Rating: 9/10

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Read the full review here.

1. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST - Tyler, The Creator (Hip-hop)

Seldom is an album completely devoid of flaws. As intent listeners, we often can poke and prod at a record's minor shortcomings. With Tyler, The Creator’s 2021 effort, this is entirely impossible. “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” is a comprehensive compilation of Tyler’s successful sonic ventures, which happen to be plentiful. All the components and intricacies of an unblemished project are here, which sets this record apart from the rest of the pack in 2021.

Rating: 10/10

Highlight Track:

Read the full review here.

Luke Modugno is the digital editor. Follow him on Twitter: @lmodugno5.