It’s been a fruitful year for music. Drake and Kanye finally dropped. Normani hopped back onto the scene and Billie Eilish released her “favorite thing” ever with "Happier Than Ever." Some seniors in the game proliferated, and others took breathers. Fans continue to beg for new music from Rihanna and Frank Ocean, while their lingerie and jewelry businesses thrive on the side.
Hours spent in isolation meant people were listening to more, and up-and-coming artists were creating more. Budding musicians, like Greentea Peng and Still Woozy, flowered, dropping their debut albums in 2021.
Here’s to adding to the growing list of new projects music lovers encounter around every corner this year. These are 5 recently released albums to listen to right now.
- “MONTERO” - Lil Nas X
It’s hard to believe "Montero" is Lil Nas X’s first album when his name finds a way into the headlines nearly every week. Known for using sensationalism and shock factor to become one of the greatest self-marketers of his generation, Lil Nas has been making a name for himself since the release of his country-rap hit, “Old Town Road,” in 2019. He’s forced the music industry to confront racism and homophobia, pushed boundaries with daring visuals, and been unapologetically himself throughout his musical journey. Representative of what Nas calls a “continuous cycle,” "Montero" belts tales about love, family, and self-discovery. Big names like Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion, and Miley Cyrus bolster the project X is calling his “baby.”
- “Untreated Trauma” - Mozzy
Praised for his story-telling abilities, Mozzy was dubbed “the closest thing to Pac,” by YG in a recent Rolling Stone interview. The Sacramento rapper’s lyricism doesn’t disappoint on his latest album "Untreated Trauma," as he manages to put listeners in his shoes, stirring up empathy with passionate oral history, odes to love, and frank testimonies indicative of his NorCal origins. Fans of Michigan rap will enjoy Mozzy’s collaboration with EST Gee and Babyface Ray on “Beat the Case,” which accelerates the rapper’s usual slow-paced but action-packed flow. He stands alone, seemingly speaking directly to the listener on “My Life Different,” rapping, "My life different/ Cell’d up with a killer that’s fightin’ a life sentence and/ He’ll do anything to come home aside of snitchin." Every track uniquely holds its own, joining the rapper’s impressive decade-old discography of unabashedly west coast hip-hop.
- “If Orange Was A Place” (EP) - Tems
Many were introduced to Tems’ raspy vocals on arguably one of the summer's biggest songs — Wizkid's "Essence" feat. Tems. Her freshman album "For Broken Ears" dropped last year, but now, with a growing fan base behind her, the Nigerian singer is truly breaking out with her recent EP, If Orange Was A Place. The 5-track project boasts only one feature, found in Brent Faiyaz, whose effortlessly silky voice blends with Tems’ outstanding range. On "If Orange Was A Place," Tems, whose real name, is Temilade Openiyi, gets creative, delving into neo-soul and alternative R&B, while afro-beats tag along like a taste of home.
- “DOG BOY” - ZillaKami
Some are calling it rock. Some are calling it alternative rap. The beauty of ZillaKami is that he blends the two, and with face tattoos and piercings, dyed dreadlocks, and chained+distressed black jeans, he looks like he could make either. As part of City Morgue, a music duo made up of ZillaKami and SosMula, the New York-born musician has been releasing music since 2017; however, DOG BOY (Sep 17, 2021) is the 22-year-old’s first solo project. Featuring Denzel Curry and Lil Uzi Vert, ZillaKami yells, sings, and raps emotional lyrics over electric guitar and drum beats, nodding to famously rebellious musicians like Nirvana and Tay-K across 15 tracks of addictive anarchy.
- “Hues.” - Unusual Demont
Unusual Demont, whose real name is Demontcea Howard, has been dropping mixtapes since he was in high school, but Hues. (Sep 17, 2021) is his debut EP. Each track is named after a different shade, or hue, (ie. “Vanta”, “Amber”, “Blush”, etc.), and each one distinguishes itself from the last, showcasing Demont’s ‘colorful’ versatility. With its own stand-apart flare, his pop approach to alternative R&B is just as reminiscent of Ne-yo and Omarion of the 2000s as it is comparable to bLAck pARty and Daniel Caesar of the more recent neo-soul movements. In an announcement on his Instagram page, the singer said the project “only took a few months to create” and was catalyzed when he discovered “a love for the colors in print magazines” after going through a depressive period. “Before I knew it I had a set of songs I recorded that held 2 meanings. One is just heartbreak songs to vibe to lmao, but the other is the intention to bring the same comfort and warmth I felt looking at those color hues to other people sonically.”
All projects are available on Spotify and Apple Music.