For most of 2021 I vacillated between anxiety and despair, and most things in my life are going great. I can only imagine how other people are doing. Stay strong, stay compassionate, keep your head up. Here are some albums that made this past year bearable.

Aesop Rock x Blockhead, “Garbology.” Like peanut butter and chocolate, Aes’s intricate rhymes with Blockhead’s cinematic beats is solid gold.

Bronx Slang, “Substance.” Boom-bap protest rap.

Bruiser Wolf, “Dope Game Stupid.” Funky, funny, soulful, and deep all at the same time.

Little Simz, “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.” The album I listened to the most this year.

McKinley Dixon, “For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her.” Like healing medicine for your ears.

Sa-Roc, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter (Deluxe Edition).” While this came out in 2020, the deluxe version came out this year, and bonus track “Dusty Roads” is my favorite song of 2021.

Sault, “Nine” and serpentwithfeet, “Deacon.” Technically these are a soul/dance album and an R&B album, but their beauty and celebration of joy and love kept me going this year

Skyzoo, “All the Brilliant Things.” Meat and potatoes rap from a rapper who never disappoints.

Vince Staples, “Vince Staples.” A more muted effort from one of the better rappers out there.

The Watershed, “Don’t Forget You’re Welcome.” Bay Area group offering an antidote to mainstream hip-hop.