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  • Diego "Prince Mula" Rios

My Top 10 Albums of 2021


2021 has continued its predecessor's run of solid albums. Despite juggling the tribulations brought along by the pandemic, many artists have also found the time to release some of the best music of their careers. Whether they're a veteran like J. Cole or a rookie in the game like Lil Nas X, it seems clear that dropping quality music in 2021 is a standard.


At the end of every December, it has been a tradition of mine to look back at my favorite albums of the year and share them. Here are my top 10 albums of 2021.

 

10. Paloma Mami - Sueños de Dalí

After releasing a steady wave of singles since 2018, Paloma Mami came into 2021 with a bang by releasing her debut studio album Sueños de Dalí. This album finds Paloma Mami exploring the themes of love, relationships, and life, all while paying homage to her musical inspirations, as well as her New York and Chilean roots. With notable production from hitmakers like Hit-Boy, Paloma Mami delivers a strong debut album with hints of Reggaeton and R&B.


Stand Out Moments

  • Frenesí [Prod. Hit-Boy]

  • Religiosa

  • Dreams (Interlude)

  • Mami

 

9. Berner - Gotti

The Cookies head honcho is no stranger to frequent album releases. Following his first 2021 release Paulie Cicero, Berner is back with another mafia-inspired album titled Gotti. Teaming up with frequent collaborator and producer Cozmo, Berner uses Gotti to boast about his marijuana empire Cookies, business deals with the Canadian government, and even taps in with Hip-Hop legends like Nas, Rick Ross, and Styles P for some unforgettable verses. The San Francisco native also tapped in with John Gotti's family and received permission to sample unreleased federal trial tapes that allow for a smooth narration throughout the entire album.


Stand Out Moments

  • Draped Up (feat. Future)

  • Too Many Goats (feat. Jadakiss, Rick Ross, Nas & Kevin Cossom)

  • Pound For Pound (feat. John Gotti, Mozzy, Conway the Machine, Styles P & Benny the Butcher)

  • Slow Down (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

 

8. Birdman & NBA Youngboy - From The Bayou

NBA Youngboy is another artist who is no stranger to frequent releases. Following his third album, Sincerely, Kentrell Youngboy teams up with the Cash Money Records mogul Birdman to release their highly anticipated mixtape From The Bayou. Upon being granted house arrest a few months ago, Youngboy went straight to work with this project by showcasing his signature style of melodic and aggressive rapping, paired with Birdman’s slick verses of game spitting (Stunna previously stated that he is a “game spitter” not a rapper). This isn’t the first time these two have collaborated. Birdman has been an avid fan of Youngboy and was even one of the first to co-sign him before his rise to fame. The only difference this time around is that Youngboy rocks an iced-out Rich Gang chain in every music video.


Stand Out Moments

  • Heart & Soul

  • Alligator Walk

  • We Ride

  • Safe Than Sorry

 

7. Snoop Dogg Presents Algorithm

On June 7, 2021, Snoop Dogg announced that he would be the new executive creative and strategic consultant for Def Jam Recordings, with a focus on A&R. After just five months, Snoop’s new position has proven that the Dogg isn’t just all bark no bite. Back in November, Snoop Dogg curated Def Jam’s latest compilation album Algorithm, gathering features from new artists like YK Osiris, JANE HANDCOCK, and Malaya and some guest appearances from Hip-Hop OG’s like Method Man, Fabolous, and Ice Cube. Overall, Algorithm has proven Snoop Dogg to be the perfect captain to steer the Def Jam ship in the right direction.


Stand Out Moments

  • "Alright" by Redman & Method Man (feat. Nefertitti Avani)

  • "Like My Weed" by JANE HANDCOCK

  • "Go To War" by Snoop Dogg (feat. Blxst)

  • "GYU" by AUGUST 08 (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Bino Rideaux)

  • "Big Subwoofer" by MOUNT WESTMORE (E-40, Snoop Dogg, Too $hort & Ice Cube)

  • "Murder Music" by Snoop Dogg (feat. Benny the Butcher, Jadakiss & Busta Rhymes)

 

6. Drake - Certified Lover Boy

Okay, aside from the corny album cover, Certified Lover Boy may be one of the more vital albums in Drake’s discography. One of the album’s strong points is Drake flaunting his versatile beat selection, paired with strong features. Once you get past a few generic-sounding Drake songs, you’ll find Certified Lover Boy’s albums cuts to be more hidden gems than most past Drake albums. What makes this album such a top contender in all AOTY discussions is the timing of its release. Dropping in the midst of Donda’s rollout, the timeframe between late August and early September played a huge role in the 12-year-old Drake vs. Kanye West beef (which also ended a few weeks later). When comparing both albums, I felt that Certified Lover Boy was drastically better than Donda because it felt more cohesive, had fewer skips, better production, better features, and in retrospect, had more memorable moments.


Side Note: If you change the album cover, it makes the album much more enjoyable.


Stand Out Moments

  • In The Bible (feat. Lil Durk & GIVĒON)

  • Fair Trade (feat. Travis Scott)

  • Pipe Down

  • Race My Mind

  • Get Along Better (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

  • You Only Live Twice (feat. Rick Ross & Lil Wayne)

 

5. Silk Sonic - An Evening With Silk Sonic

Believe it or not, there was once a time where I hated Bruno Mars’ music. It wasn’t until 24k Magic that I learned to appreciate Bruno Mars’ artistic ability to truly create moments and experiences through nostalgic-sounding elements. Anderson .Paak on the other hand, has been most people’s secret weapon. That was until he dropped a collab album with Bruno Mars and instantly became a household name. Regardless, these two names on an album together are the definition of the dynamic duo. An Evening with Silk Sonic is a short, sweet, and cohesive piece of art that instantly transports you into Silk Sonic’s world with some help from Bootsy Collins and Thundercat. By the end of the album, you may agree with me on the fact that “Smokin' Out The Window” is the best song of 2021 (“Off the Grid” might give it a run for its money, though), despite being bombarded all over TikTok.


Stand Out Moments

  • Smokin' Out The Window

  • Put On A Smile

  • 777

  • Skate

 

4. ALLBLACK - TY4FWM

Keeping TY4FWM outside of my top three was pretty tough. I enjoyed this album a lot since its release and have probably gone back to it the most compared to the majority of albums on this list. TY4FWM showcases ALLBLACK’s ability to destroy Bay Area beats and keep up with his features (Mozzy, Vince Staples, Drakeo the Ruler, etc.) as well. However, my favorite moment on this album is Shootergang Kony’s verse on “How I Feel,” which samples 2pac and Snoop Dogg’s “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” Overall, TY4FWM is a fun, consistent, upbeat album that has definitely been a highlight of my year.


Stand Out Moments

  • Life of A P (feat. Kossisko)

  • How I Feel (feat. P-Lo & Shootergang Kony)

  • Anejo

  • Cleat Check (feat. Rexx Life Raj & Guapdad 4000)

  • Do Or Die (feat. Sada Baby & Carrie.)

 

3. J. Cole - The Off-Season

I’m not gonna lie; I was nervous for this one. Over the past few years, I’ve felt like J. Cole has given us a slightly inconsistent discography, and having no features made them all boring. However, after KOD, Cole started to do a lot more features and even had one of the best feature runs of his career. When the rollout for The Off-Season began, Cole dropped a short documentary about his creative process and how he was inspired by his old mixtapes, basketball drills, and his love for rap as a sport. Right away, I was excited for this, and without getting my hopes too high, I can definitely say I was blown away. The Off-Season is very much “game time” for J. Cole as he gives us an album that showcases his best rapping ability to date. Through each track, the beat selection is never boring, the bars are always on point, and there aren’t any bad features. The album even kicks off with a timeless intro, featuring an introduction by Cam'ron and a Lil Jon sample. In my personal opinion, this may be J. Cole’s best album, but Sideline Story will always have a special place in my heart to compete for the top spot.


Stand Out Moments

  • 9 5 . s o u t h

  • a m a r i

  • m y . l i f e (feat. 21 Savage & Morray)

  • p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l (feat. Lil Baby)

  • i n t e r l u d e

 

2. Guapdad 4000 & !llmind - 1176

Guapdad 4000 and !llmind’s 1176 is another album that highlighted 2021 for me, and if it wasn’t for the next album, this one definitely deserves number one. 1176 shows a much more personal, calm, and introspective side of the Ferragamo Falcon than what we got on Dior Deposits. Aside from the out-of-place party song “She Wanna (feat. P-Lo),” Guapdad delivers a calm album filled with striking bars, silky melodies, and tranquil beats that compliment his voice. When it comes to being introspective, the entire album is inspired by Guapdad’s upbringing in West Oakland, his Filipino culture, and obviously his love for scamming. Guapdad, if you’re reading this, “thank you scammy much” for releasing this gem.


Stand Out Moments

  • Big Shot

  • Catching Bodies

  • Touch Dough

  • Downgrade

  • Chicken Adobo

  • How Many (Remix) [feat. Rick Ross]

 

1. Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost

As a long-time Tyler, the Creator fan, I’ve very much enjoyed the trajectory of his career, and through every album release (except Flower Boy), I’ve always felt like Tyler has topped his previous albums. After IGOR, I was curious to see where Tyler’s career would go, and I’m very glad he felt inspired to go back to his rap roots. Upon the first listen (and every listen since then), my only reaction has been, “wow, Tyler Okonma, you’ve truly outdone yourself.” Call Me If You Get Lost is the best album in Tyler’s discography and feels like the mature version of Wolf (my previous favorite Tyler album). Written and produced entirely by Tyler, you will rarely press skip during your listen, as T delivers some of his most personal, fun, and energetic lyrics. Filled with amazing features, ear-catching bars, Tyler’s signature production style, and being hosted by the iconic DJ Drama, Call Me If You Get Lost is easily one of the best rap albums of this year. Whether you're an OG Odd Future fan or an artsy-Tyler fan, this album is a must-listen. Honestly, it will be very difficult for me not to list the entire tracklist as a stand-out moment.


Stand Out Moments

  • CORSO

  • LEMONHEAD (feat. 42 Dugg)

  • LUMBERJACK

  • MANIFESTO (feat. Domo Genesis)

  • RISE! (feat. DAISY WORLD)

  • JUGGERNAUT (feat. Lil Uzi Vert & Pharrell Williams)

  • WILSHIRE

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