I originally posted a version of this on Facebook several months ago. The No. 1 shouldn’t come as a shock. It was originally 15 albums. But here are 12 albums that had such a profound effect on me that they changed my life or the way I looked at it. They sucked me in and took me over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that I can use to identify time, places, people, emotions.
1. Michael Jackson’s Bad: It was the first time I ever got comfortable saying the word “butt.” (Lyric: “Your butt is mine.”) I was 8 and refused to say “butt” the first six months I had the vinyl. … and I used to sing “Man In The Mirror” in the mirror incessantly not knowing how powerful the song really was. I get it now. It’s not his best album, but it’s the one the drug me into the magnetic field of Michael. We still miss you.
2. Boyz II Men’s Cooleyhighharmony: “Motownphilly’s back again” … I looked at the album art recently and realized that my sense of style comes from an AlexVanderpool catalog. I’m apparently a biter. Great album, though.
3. R. Kelly’s 12 Play: Yeah. I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I used to sing “12 Play” the song in the mirror with my brush when no one was in the house. One day my dad came home early. I hadn’t done the dishes and was spinning his 12 Play album. I turned and saw him laughing at me with a belt in tow. It was the only whooping I ever got where I laughed and cried at the same time. Suffice it to say, it “affected” me.
4. Brian McKnight’s I Remember You: My favorite R&B artist. This is his best effort. “You” is a good wedding song that no one ever uses.
5. The Love Jones Soundtrack: Got me through a 1997 summer journalism camp in Evanston, Ill. with about 90 non-black students, who were cool people, and what seemed like three other black faces within five miles. I can quote “A Blues for Nina” word for word. But still don’t know exactly how to interpret “Nina’s Poem.”
6. Eric Benet’s A Day in the Life: Arguably the best R&B lyricist there is in the game, IMHO. Just listen to That’s Just My Way,” “Love of My Own” and “Come As You Are,” from that album. Or listen to any of his albums. Still can’t understand why he cheated on Halle, though. SMH.
7. The What Women Want Soundtrack: Good movie. Great soundtrack. I’m just naming names: Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra (thrice), Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett, Lou Rawls, The Temptations and Bobby Darin (“Mack The Knife,” a brilliant, but crazy tune). Enough said.
8. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: If you haven’t listened to final track “Tell Him,” and understood it … smh … it’s amazing. I heard it when I was 18. Understood it at 21. And I’m still trying to live it.
9. Musiq Soulchild’s Aijuswannaseng(sp): I procured a burned copy of this album from my boy Dash’s car before it came out. Never gave it back. Didn’t tell him for a year or two. Lol. Great album. Best track not about God: “Mary-Go-Round.”
10. Jay-Z’s The Black Album: The second verse from “Moment of Clarity” about Kweli and ComSense is murderous wordplay, and the most brilliant excuse for dumbing down music I’ve ever heard. The chorus forced me to go back and listen to Reasonable Doubt, which is now one of my favs of all time.
11. Gavin DeGraw’s Chariot: Great album that’s forcing me to open my mind to some music that I previously haven’t given the time of day. Strong voice with stronger lyrics and stories. Favorite song is “Follow Through.”
12. Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite: I left this off the original list by accident. It is undeniable. “The Proposal Jam” is my fav song that’s wasn’t a hit. But you must have some “Ascension,” “Til The Cops” and “Sumthin, Sumthin” in your life or else you’re not living. Also cop that new album.
What album has most affected you and why?