Here are Raskal's picks of our favorite albums of 2023
Lil Yachty - Let's Start Here
Lil Yachty's latest release, "Let’s Start Here," aligns with the trend of unexpected shifts seen in recent rap albums such as Playboi Carti's "Whole Lotta Red" and Tyler, the Creator’s "Igor." Lil Yachty kicked off the year with the boldest and most ambitious decision of his career yet, venturing into experimental rock and jazz, signaling his desire to be taken more seriously as an artist. This album stands out as a genuinely fresh and thrilling evolution in his musical journey.
The transformation in Yachty's sound, his dedicated approach to production, and his collaborations throughout the album showcase a fusion of funk, soul, disco, old-school hip-hop, and even touches of industrial/prog rock. Tracks like the disco-infused “drive ME crazy!” and the intense journey of “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” demonstrate his versatility, while the spoken word elements add a thoughtful dimension to the project.
He took the 'Wock' to Poland and returned with newfound confidence on "Let’s Start Here," all while retaining the charm that made him a beloved voice in the industry from the start. Although the album is described as beautiful, there is acknowledgment that there is still room for improvement. Overall, there is a collective hope that "Let’s Start Here" marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Lil Yachty's artistic journey.
Travis Scott - Utopia
Travis Scott's latest album, 'UTOPIA,' is an absolute masterpiece that delivers a breathtaking musical experience from start to finish. Demonstrating unparalleled creativity, unbridled passion, and seamless production, Scott solidifies his position as a true visionary in the world of contemporary hip-hop. 'UTOPIA' is an auditory delight that takes listeners on an unforgettable journey through the rapper's mind, offering a refreshing and innovative take on the genre.
One of the album's most commendable aspects is its ability to combine a diverse range of musical influences, resulting in a sound that is simultaneously familiar and groundbreaking. Travis Scott's signature hypnotic beats and captivating ad-libs remain present, yet he fearlessly ventures into uncharted territory, experimenting with new rhythms, melodies, and textures that keep listeners on their toes throughout the entire album.
'UTOPIA' is also a testament to Scott's growth as an artist and lyricist. The introspective and emotionally charged verses showcase a newfound depth and vulnerability, offering glimpses into the rapper's personal struggles, triumphs, and aspirations.
Jordan Ward - Forward
FORWARD is a sonic journey that defies traditional genre constraints, presenting a captivating fusion of introspection and irresistible rhythms. With a unique voice and a knack for storytelling, Ward shapes an album that strikes a balance between personal intimacy and widespread relatability.
Ward delves into the complexities of life, relationships, and self-discovery. His storytelling ability shines through as he spins tales that resonate with genuine authenticity, all while staying true to his dance and funk influences. Whether he's reflecting on personal experiences or offering social commentary, there's a depth to the lyrics that invites listeners to connect on a deeper level.
Dominic Fike - Sunburn
Dominic Fike's "Sunburn" represents a striking evolution in the artist's musical journey, offering a radiant exploration of sound and emotion. The album envelops the listener in a warm, hazy glow, seamlessly blending Fike's distinctive genre-defying style with introspective lyricism.
Fike consistently draws inspiration from his hometown of Naples, Florida, vividly depicting a blend of deprivation and sentimentality. However, in this latest release, he approaches Naples with a fresh perspective, almost like a tourist, focusing more on its beaches than its familiar street corners. In this way, he also looks at his past with more separated, fonder reflections.
Almost all of the songs are fun, bouncy, and imbued with a 90s-pop sound with manicured hooks and sonic sweetening that feel tailored for commercial blockbuster status. His sophomore album stands as a testament to his journey. It's an album that invites repeated listens, each time revealing new nuances and layers.
Kali Uchis - Red Moon In Venus
In astrology, the presence of a red moon is often associated with triggering intense emotional reactions. "Red Moon In Venus" is a rich and expressive R&B album that explores these emotional upheavals, specifically focusing on their impact on the artist's romantic relationships.
This album hits different when you’re in love. It’s hot, heavy, and lustful as it traverses the euphoria of love and sex, as well as the lows marked by breakups and imbalances in relationships.
Uchis’ 360-degree view of love and versatile voice make Red Moon in Venus a wholly satisfying examination of emotionalism in its many forms — romantic, carnal, and self-preserving. The album's inclusive approach to songwriting mirrors the way love has the power to not only open up hearts but also reshape one's perception of the world.