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Spotify CLASSICS: 30 Classic Hip-Hop and R&B Albums From the Streaming Era


Streaming has transformed not only the way fans listen to music, but also the way artists release music to the world. And while music has become a more song-driven culture in recent years, that doesn't mean albums have lost their impact. With the introduction of Spotify CLASSICS: Hip-Hop & RNB Albums of the Streaming Era, we're celebrating the classic albums that have stood the test of time, no matter the era.

Available in North America, Spotify CLASSICS is our first-ever program to celebrate catalog music. For the first iteration, we're looking at albums from the streaming era, 2015 to the present day. Through a selection process examining an album's holistic impact, our North American editorial team has put a spotlight on the ones that helped define the streaming era.

To inaugurate this new series, our editors have immersed themselves in the world of hip-hop and R&B, picking the 30 classic albums from the likes of Beyonc , Tyler, The Creator, Solange, Kendrick Lamar, JAY-Z, SZA, Travis Scott, and Future.

Anderson .Paak Malibu Steel Wool/Empire, 2016

After years of honing his craft in L.A.'s underground scene, Anderson .Paak finally had a breakthrough with his second studio album, Malibu. A true hybrid, Anderson collages pieces of funk, R&B, dance, and rap into a cohesive puzzle. Released independently, the album earned a Grammy nomination and served as a springboard for AP to become one of music's most multifaceted artists.

Beyonc Lemonade Columbia, 2016

Beyonc took the idea of the blockbuster album to new heights with her self-titled surprise in 2013, but less than three years later, she somehow managed to outdo herself on her sixth album, Lemonade. A reckoning with infidelity, the album is a visual and sonic tour de force that effectively lifted the star's otherwise impenetrable veil through a stunning display of vulnerability and catharsis. From its melding of genres to its incorporation of visual and fashion cues to its marketing, Lemonade has become a multidisciplinary blueprint in its own right.

Beyonc RENAISSANCE Columbia, 2022

Beyonc 's ability to outdo herself was already unparalleled, but then RENAISSANCE arrived. The full scope of its impact can't be known so soon, but already, it's clear that this album is truly special. It's conceptual like its predecessor, but beyond that, there's little in her catalog to point to for reference; this is Bey like we've never heard her before. Atop a soundscape of Chicago house, Detroit techno, bounce, ballroom, and their numerous derivatives, she sings, raps, and sing-raps, mightily proclaiming that dance music is Black music-then, now, and forever.

Bryson Tiller T R A P S O U L RCA, 2015

A product of 2010s post Drake R&B, Bryson Tiller's T R A P S O U L represented an evolutionary step in the merging of hip-hop and R&B. Stylistically, he covers the spectrum between rapping and singing, at times on the same verse. Combining vintage songwriting with futuristic production, T R A P S O U L offers up relatable love songs that strike a chord with a generation enamored by toxicity. While countless pop stars and R&B upstarts would go on to adopt Bryson's blueprint, T R A P S O U L remains the standard.

Cleo Sol Mother FLO/Tunecore, 2021

Becoming a parent permanently alters a woman's world, and when Cleo Sol arrived at that crossroads in her own life, she created a monument. Her aptly titled second album, Mother, is a beautiful and emotional project that reflects on her personal transformation and her complicated relationship with her own mom. There's a profundity to the songs-many of them recorded with her newborn son in her arms-that still feels like a rare gift.

Daniel Caesar Freudian Golden Child, 2017

Daniel Caesar went against the grain as trap soul was becoming the norm. The Toronto balladeer merges his gospel, soul, pop, and indie sensibilities into Freudian, a 10-track masterpiece that's unmistakably R&B. Released on the singer's label, Golden Child Recordings, the album features hits like Get You, as well as the Grammy-winning Best Part with H.E.R., which has earned over 1 billion streams on Spotify to date. Freudian is a testament to R&B's enduring appeal and the genre's capacity to reference the past, present, and future in its purest form.

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib Bandana Keep Cool/RCA, 2019

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib released their first collaborative album, Pi ata, in 2014 during a transitional time in music. By the time they delivered the 2019 follow-up, Bandana, streaming had become the world's top medium for music discovery and melodies had all but replaced traditional rapping. Despite this, Bandana established the duo as leaders of a more vintage sound centered around lyricism and lo-fi beats-a counter-culture movement that's still inching toward the mainstream today.

Frank Ocean Blonde Boys Don't Cry, 2016 A critical darling since his 2011 breakout mixtape, Nostalgia, ULTRA, Frank Ocean stepped into a class all his own with his second album, Blonde. More sparse and atmospheric than previous releases, Blonde leans into his most endearing and enigmatic qualities. Emotions are high, but neatly contained narratives are few, which is fitting for an album that makes deconstruction-sonic and otherwise-its guiding principle.

Future DS2 Epic, 2015

At the time of DS2's release, Future had come off of a five-month, three-mixtape run that included Monster, Beast Mode, and 56 Nights. Still, questions remained about whether he could conjure the same magic on a proper album. DS2 quickly silenced doubters as the Atlanta rapper elevated his signature brooding to new levels. A refined and focused album, DS2 both cemented an iconic run from the artist and forged a new way for trap-and popular-
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