The most meaningful albums of the 2010’s to a young Black man

The 2010’s was the first decade that I actually got to experience music and not just hear it by chance. It was the beginning for my love of music and beginning of something that would be synonymous with the theme of my life forever. 

In 2010 I was 13 years old, now in 2019 I’m a 22 year old man so you can imagine the shifts in my taste and the artists that I adored over the past ten years. From 2010 to 2012 I digested way more pop & soft rock than I care to admit to today. Artists like Katy Perry, 3OH!3, One Republic, and The Fray flooded my adolescent ears.

I even had phases, and I want to emphasize phases, where i was obsessed with country music. Maybe I was just a product of the environment I lived in during the time but country stars like Luke Bryan, Tim Mcgraw, and Sam Hunt flooded my MP3 player that i carried with me everywhere. The country phase ended for me in a hurry when I learned that Black people created the genre, and of course like everything else, it became whitewashed, but that’s a article for another day.

Now of course, country, pop, and soft rock wasn’t the only music i adored at the time, they just took way more of my listening time than they should’ve. 2010 debuted one of my favorite rap albums of all time with  Thank Me Later.

thank me later

I will always be quick to say that it’s a DAMN shame that this album isn’t higher on people’s ranking of Drake’s discography. I’ve seen people rank Scorpion & Views higher than this masterpiece and it always leaves me confused, what are you people hearing that I’m not? This was Drake’s coming out party, the album that solidified that Wheelchair Jimmy was going to be around for a long time.

I would liken this album to Lebron winning his first MVP in 2009. When Lebron was on top of the world and he followed up his MVP season with another award winning season in 2010, similar to how Drake followed Thank Me Later with Take Care in 2011.. (Don’t you love how synonymous sports and rap is?). This was the first Hip Hop album i fell in love with, and i guess you could also say the first R&B album i adored as well, considering this was one of the first rap/r&b hybrid albums that 808’s & Heartbreaks influenced.

I think this album resonates with me so much because, as previously stated, it was one of the first albums I remember falling in love with. One of the first albums that I would play on repeat for hours while I wasted my teenage years away playing 2k.

Two years after Thank Me Later in the summer of 2012 Channel Orange would catapult me into alternative R&B, a genre that would grow to be the genre that defined my early 20’s. Channel Orange was a landmark, a staple, a icon in a sub-genre that’s grown to be one of the most popular in the world. Without Frank gifting us with Channel Orange, there is no SZA, there is no there is no Steve Lacy, there is no Daniel Caesar. Most of the alternative R&B artist we admire today were influenced by one of the originators of the genre.

channel orange

Channel Orange wasn’t just a album, it was a moment. It defined what it meant to be a black adolescent in white suburbs, what it meant to grow into everything you’re meant to be, and what means to delve deep into your passions and grab hold of them with a vice grip.

Channel Orange was Frank’s Purple Rain, his What’s Going On, his Brown Sugar, his staple on R&B and so much more. To me, Channel Orange was the album of the decade and the album that still defines my journey through the world period.

Fast forward four years into the decade, I’m a freshmen in college at the peak of my vulnerability and we’ve arrived  to the album I think I shed more tears to than I would like to admit (I needed therapy give me a break) and we’ve reached…. Blonde.

blonde

Blonde was widely anticipated by 2016, it had been four years since Channel Orange released and I was clamoring for some new Frank. But 18 year old me wasn’t prepared for what this album what do to my psyche, at all.

What often gets lost during Frank’s hiatus from 2013-2016, and what still gets lost to this day regarding Frank (and damn near every artist) is that Frank genuinely wasn’t in the right place to make music and as fans, we need to be more aware that these are people first and artist second. We get so selfish, we love our favorite artists and we beg for new music under every tweet, every instagram upload but we forget these aren’t robots, they’re people who experience death, illness, loss, and pain just like we do.

So who are we, as selfish fans to beg artists to drop music whenever we need new music? Blonde taught me this lesson. That entertainers need to drop music not only when they’ve prepared something new but when they can actually feel their work. I think that’s whats led to the over saturation of soulless work in music today. Artists don’t take their time to drop new projects, they just give us anything cause they think they have to drop as often as possible.

 frank ocean

Blonde reminded me of all of this because of how personal it sounded. Blonde didn’t sound like something that Frank made for the fans, it sounded like something he made for himself, like a diary. It was vulnerable, it was personal, it was relatable, and it was beautiful.

Blonde released during a time that i desperately needed it. It released when i was fighting my own vulnerability like a thief in the night. It forced me to view myself, and understand that to be Black and a man means that you don’t have to fight the emotions you go through. They’re normal and they’re validated.

The following year, I’m in my first and only year at USC (LOL) and here came the worst possible thing I needed…. HNDRXX.

hndrxx

So you remember all that stuff I just said about being vulnerable and it’s okay to be an emotional black man??? Yeahhhhhh scratch all of that, It was time to be toxic. HNDRXX was what I thought I wanted to be, it’s what I seeked to be. Why? I can’t tell you. Of course, since then I’ve learned the “lessons” taught in HNDRXX  were… I’ll just say they were a bit misplaced..

Regardless, HNDRXX defined my first time away at a major university trying to balance an heavy workload, situationships, a toxic relationship, and depression at the time. I spent a lot of time in codeine laced hazes until 2 AM at HQ listening to Que & TopFlight tell me how to navigate a world I was never exposed to and I didn’t truly realize what they were teaching me until a few years later.

HNDRXX was a moment for me cause not only did it expose me to who I thought I wanted to be but It forced me to acknowledge my own faults and realize there’s only one constant in all my situations… and that’s me.

Last but not least came my second favorite album of the decade, and I have yet to hear an album since that forced me to feel the way this album did. This album is CTRL.

 

ctrl i love it

CTRL reminded me soooooo much of channel orange.. and Blonde. CTRL was a combination of everything Blonde and HNDRXX (to a lesser extinct) made me feel. It was a affirmation of everything I was feeling emotionally during this time. I was begging to be heard, begging to be seen, begging for validation in all the wrong places. CTRL felt like a dialogue of my life.

A dialogue of mistakes I made, of choices I made that ultimately did me in. Whether that was in the classroom, in my relationship, or in anybody I dealt with at the time. It was the beginning of my long, hard journey of self love and understanding that the love other people can give me would never equal the love I can build for myself.

CTRL was beautifully crafted and If I ever get the opportunity to meet SZA, I’m just going to humbly thank her for creating something so passionate and beautiful.

The 2010’s weren’t easy, at all. They forced me to grow, to see myself and to understand who I am emotionally, mentally, and physically. It forced a lot of self reflection, a lot of releasing of emotional baggage, and it forced me to understand that I am a constantly evolving figure and that I’m just getting started, and I’m so thankful this music helped me discover that.

Music made me understand that my possibilities are endless and that I am destined for greatness in everything i put my hand in. It may require me to constantly evolve, but would I really be living if I wasn’t willing to change?

So to Thank Me Later, Channel Orange, Blonde, HNDRXX, and CTRL. I just want to humbly say, thank you. Here’s to the roaring 20’s.

 

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