Best albums of all time by Black artists – Grand Island Independent

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Best albums of all time by Black artists

There would be no American music as we know it without the contributions of Black artists. Since the first African music was brought over by people in bondage as early as the 15th century, Black singers and musicians have had a hand in every aspect of American musics evolution. From country-western, the foundation of which was banjo music from Africa, to rock n roll, first played by a Black woman on electric guitar in 1938, each genre of American music has a Black artist (or many) who helped create it.

In addition to establishing new sounds, Black musicians worked to advance civic life, as well. They helped bring about an end to segregation, with the likes of Josephine Baker, Ray Charles, and dozens more refusing to play to segregated crowds, with white allies like The Beatles taking similar stands. They also used their music to advance messages; from Billie Holidays Strange Fruit to Sam Cookes A Change is Gonna Come.

To celebrate some of the greatest American music of all time, Stacker compiled data on the top 100 albums by Black artists according to data from Best Ever Albums, which ranks albums according to their appearance and performance on 40,000 editorial and data-based charts including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Billboard. The Best Ever Albums score is derived from a formula that weighs how many charts an album has appeared on and how high it was on each of those charts and awards points accordingly. For more background on how Best Ever Albums determines its rankings, click here.

As with any ranking, no best of list can be fully representativeparticularly when dealing with such a wide range of time, talent, and musical style. The fact that Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Whitney Houston, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgeraldamong dozens of othersdont appear here underscores that shortcoming. Still, this iteration of the best albums of all time by Black artists offers an insightful look at a significant cross-section of American music that ranges from jazz to soul to hip-hop and back again, with household names like Jimi Hendrix and less obvious monikers like Love and Flying Lotus.

In conjunction with this piece, be sure to check out our Spotify playlist featuring a track from each of these albums.

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- Best Ever Albums score: 2,547

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79

- Rank in decade: #103

- Rank all-time: #742

- Year: 2016

Childish Gambino has proven there is little he cant do. The actor, producer, writer, director, comedian, and rapper (who is also known as Donald Glover) went heavy on the singing when he released his third studio album, Awaken, My Love! The album, which contains soulful, funky chart-toppers like "Me and Your Mama, was produced and written by Gambino (with the exception of the track Zombies).

Must-listen: Me and Your Mama

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,591

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79

- Rank in decade: #77

- Rank all-time: #735

- Year: 1968

It was obvious that 14-year-old Aretha Franklin was going to be a star when she was recorded live in 1956 by J-V-B records singing You Grow Closer at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit (the complete recordings were released in 1965 by Checker Recordings).

Just six years later, she was laying down blues and big-band tracks that would set her inevitable ascendancy to a cultural icon with a seven-decade career spanning gospel, soul, R&B, pop, rock, and virtually everything in between. In 1987, Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Lady Soul features some of Franklins most famous songs of her storied career, including (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman and (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since Youve Been Gone.

Must-listen: (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since Youve Been Gone

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,609

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81

- Rank in decade: #166

- Rank all-time: #728

- Year: 1973

A hallmark in soul music, Marvin Gayes eight-track Lets Get It On album went platinum in three weeks flatand propelled the artist to icon status. In many ways, the album marked a return to Gayes 1960s heartthrob status and stood in stark contrast to his more introspective persona on the 1971 album Whats Going On.

Must-listen: Keep Gettin It On

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,646

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80

- Rank in decade: #130

- Rank all-time: #716

- Year: 1995

Mobb Deeps sophomore album came about during an iconic and unforgettable era in hip-hop. From Wu-Tang to Nas, there was no shortage of talent. The album featured members Havoc and Prodigy, along with appearances by Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Q-Tip, and Nas. The album showed up at #15 on the Billboard charts and had four singles, of which "Shook Ones (Part II)" was the most popular. The album went on to be a defining feature of the East Coast hardcore hip-hop scene.

Must-listen: Shook Ones, Pt. II

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,663

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81

- Rank in decade: #76

- Rank all-time: #709

- Year: 1961

Historys most important tenor saxophonist John Coltrane did more than turn jazz on its head: He created a whole new musical genre called psychedelic rock. Almost 60 years later, My Favorite Things, is still relevant and revolutionary, showing one of many gifts Coltrane gave to the historic story of jazz in America.

Must-listen: My Favorite Things

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- Best Ever Albums score: 2,665

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80

- Rank in decade: #98

- Rank all-time: #708

- Year: 2011

Kendrick Lamar could be seen as a direct descendant of the West Coast Hip-Hop style created in Southern California during the 1990s. Section.80 flows like a long drive up the coast. But his insightfulness is what sets him apart from the generations past. Lamar shows a thoughtful self-awareness that makes him relatable to a wide array of audiences.

Must-listen: Rigamortis

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,720

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82

- Rank in decade: #96

- Rank all-time: #698

- Year: 2015

Youve probably already heard his saxophone playing in the background of a Kendrick Lamar track, or maybe you saw him touring with Snoop Dogg, but Kamasi Washington went even bigger than all that with his first album The Epic. The album is almost three hours long and features more than 60 musicians.

Must-listen: Clair de Lune

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,740

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 82

- Rank in decade: #14

- Rank all-time: #693

- Year: 1957

Made up of only five tracks, Saxophone Colossus might be Sonny Rollins most defining album. He made it less than a year after kicking his addiction to heroin. That year he recorded a handful of other albums, as well as being featured on records of other artists. Rollins, who had recordings with Art Blakey and Bud Powell under his belt by the time he was 20, is still alive and performing at 90 years old.

Must-listen: Strode Rode

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,741

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 79

- Rank in decade: #125

- Rank all-time: #692

- Year: 1990

Chuck D.prolific producer, activist, and rapperonce famously called Public Enemy, the rap group he formed, the CNN for Black people. Thats because, in the late 80s, the masses had to look to hip-hop to cover racial disparities in American culture, the prison-industrial complex, poverty, profiling, and police brutality. Chuck D. helped to strengthen a culture of hip-hop that worked for social change and inspired a generation of artists.

Must-listen: Brothers Gonna Work It Out

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,749

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81

- Rank in decade: #124

- Rank all-time: #690

- Year: 1996

Atlanta-based hip-hop duo Outkast released its sophomore album ATLiens in 1996 when Andre 3000 and Big Boi were going through some big changes in life. Andre was sober, celibate, and vegan while working on it. Big Boi suffered the loss of a family member and welcomed his first child. Those factors may have influenced their work on this profound album which nearly topped the Billboard charts and remains relevant to this day.

Must-listen: ATLiens

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- Best Ever Albums score: 2,805

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 83

- Rank in decade: #158

- Rank all-time: #674

- Year: 1974

The title of Jorge Bens 1974 release translates to The Emerald Tablet, which was a stone containing ancient writings popular with European alchemists. A traditional Brazillian Samba musician who is highly regarded as a master of the craft, Ben filled this album with references to Egyptian texts along with upbeat melodies. Ben released more than 30 albums throughout his career.

Must-listen: O namorado da viva

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,825

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 80

- Rank in decade: #13

- Rank all-time: #671

- Year: 1959

Chuck Berrywho once said famously said he saw his career as one long Sister Rosetta Tharpe impersonation (see if the opening measures of her 1947 track The Lord Followed Me sounds familiar)personified the adage third times a charm with his junior studio album that is widely considered to be his best. Chuck Berry Is On Top features his classics Johnny B Goode, Maybellene, and Roll Over Beethoven (just for starters) that were not just high-performing tracks of their time but have survived as rock n roll standards for more than 70 years.

Must-listen: Maybellene

- Best Ever Albums score: 2,836

- Best Ever Albums user rating: 81

- Rank in decade: #12

- Rank all-time: #668

- Year: 1957

It wasnt easy being Thelonious Monk at first, existing on the fringes as he did of New York Citys mid-20th-century jazz scene. But at 39 years old, with the release of his junior effort Brilliant Corners, Monk took his rightful, recognized place as one of the greatest pianists and composers of all time.

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Best albums of all time by Black artists - Grand Island Independent

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