I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

Tigger’s 25 Best Albums of the Aughts (00s), Part 1

The thing that is interesting to me about all the lists I’ve read about music in the Aughts is how little the lists reflect the impact of the internet.  Reading most lists, you wouldn’t think that the industry changed as much as it did.  You’d also think that, reading other lists, that the industry figured out the internet immediately and it became just another promotional tool for them to give you whatever it is they’ve decided is hot music.

Napster started in June 1999, just six months before the new millennium and the music industry has never been the same.  Illegal downloading meant that people could hear an artist’s work before it was done.  They could hear songs that artists never intended for them to hear.  And they could hear multiple versions of a song that ultimately went to another artist (how many people downloaded Posh Spice’s version of Beyonce’s Resentment?).

What this meant is that the single had even less meaning than it did in the past, though the industry and your favorite artist will never tell you that.  Indeed, the minute that iTunes and other online music services offered you the ability to pick which song you want to own, singles just became different animals.  Oh sure, we still had huge singles in the decade that everyone bought and then couldn’t escape for years – Yeah!, Crazy In Love, and Hey Ya come to mind – but the point is, how the consumer interacts with an artist shifted completely.  Many artists began to release as singles album tracks that were buzzworthy on the internet in hopes of increasing sales (Mariah Carey seems to live and die by her message boards, which explains the yo-yoing of her career of late).

It also meant that the industry’s devaluation of the album was complete.  Oh sure, people still buy albums, but with the ability to pick and choose what you want, there was even less incentive for the biggest artists to make albums a complete experience.  More then ever, what we got from corporate artists were three or four “radio singles” and a bunch of lamentable album tracks (you know, the ones that artists like Britney, Rihanna and nem point to as evidence of their “growth” because the songs might have an actual bridge or something).

For me, as a music lover, it was a wonderful time to discover music online I might not otherwise have heard.  I was able to follow the rise of homo hop, get copies of shelved albums by artists like Joi Gilliam and Nicole Wray, get obscure albums by Ricky Bell, LaTocha Scott, and Mark Middleton, and find artists who had been discarded by the industry but were making music on their own terms (Shanice, Smoke E. Digglera and Digital Black from Playa).  And let’s not forget how R&B artists have embraced the “mixtape” concept as a way to put out music that perhaps the label didn’t want you to hear or just to keep their names in your mind (Teedra Moses, Trey Songz, Amerie).

What this meant was that I had something else to compare to whatever it was the industry was throwing at me.  It meant that I didn’t have to fall for the othering of British “phenoms” who were ripping off American Black music unconvincingly.  It meant that I didn’t have to be mired in the industry’s mistaken belief that artists were only as good as the song Rich Harrison, Timbaland, Pharrell, Rodney Jerkins, or whoever gave them.  It meant that what I listened to was more driven by me than the industry.  Great as the 90s were, I was largely at the mercy of the industry.  That is simply not the case anymore – even for consumers (and artists) who live and die by the Billboard charts.

I say all this to say that my list reflects very much my experience with black music in the Aughts.  It is not a list that is designed to rank the biggest commercial albums of the decade and then find creative ways of equating art and commerce.  Which is not to say that there aren’t some obvious choices on here.  But this is my list, not a list that necessarily reflects the perspective of the average music consumer.

You been warned.

NOTE – The list is long, so its broken into two parts.  This post has the first 13 albums.

Read All »

Posted on January 5th, 2010 - Filed under Music
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new albums you need to own

I’ve done your shopping this week, kids.  Check it out:

Donnie, The Daily News

Donnie’s makes what I like to call political soul.  Along with Lyfe Jennings, he actively tries to defy your assumptions about black men, black people, and black culture.  Unlike the Jills, Musiqs and Indias though, he is strikingly unpretentious and thrilling.

Adina Howard, Private Show419KKCr6cIL

When we talk about sexuality and black women in public discourse, we are usually working with half the text, so to speak.  People (black and white alike) rarely get to hear the black women who create sophisticated, complicated sexual personas and therefore never truly understand how black women manage to actually own their sex in ways we could never have imagined.  Artists like Joi Gilliam and Truth Hurts are uncompromising women who make passionate, insurgent music.  But when it comes to thrilling, captivating sexuality, no one compares to Adina Howard.  And what’s more, homegirl can sing her ass off.  Adina is my generation’s Millie Jackson, destined to be revered, copied, and adored forever.  Every moment of this, her third album, manages to flip conventions in ways you didn’t think possible.


I_Am_(Chrisette_Michele_album)_cover_artChrisette Michele, I Am

Chrisette has a thick gutter soul voice, but employs a refined pop music lyricism that creates a fascinating tension.  At first listen, it will make you think that you are hearing Leela James again.  But she quickly dashes that when she funks up two Babyface midtempos right in the middle of the album on her way to a killer Salaam Remi joint called In This For You that is easily the best song on the album.

Kelly Rowland, Ms. Kelly220px-Ms_Kelly

This is a purely political choice.  I am determined to make the world see that Kelly Rowland is the best thing pop music is currently wasting.  That said, the album is better than her first, but still nowhere near a good indication of what Kelly is truly capable of.  And it is worth having, if only for the masterful last 4 songs.  As I’ve said a bunch of times, Kelly is not really a pop vocalist.  I hope that this album does well enough that she’ll get the courage to dump Daddy Matthew and call Mike City, Raphael Saadiq and DJ Quik to lace her with some original, passionate soul that will finally get her out from behind Beyonce’s weave.

Pharoahe Monche, Desire

It’s about damn time, Troy!  Shit!  Been waiting for you to come back and reignite my love of hip-hop, release my inner b-boy.  Thank you thank you thank you!  Listening to this album reminds you why you suffer through Jay’s mediocrity, Nas’ overreaching, maddening brilliance, and Method Man’s preposterous funk – the pure love of hip-hop.  That’s what is here on Desire.  It’s just fun, deep yet light, complex yet so accessible.  I haven’t really heard anything this wondrous since Kweli’s Reflection Eternal.  Bravo!

Posted on July 5th, 2007 - Filed under Music
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