As my time at Stanford comes to an end, so does my time with The Stanford Daily. I wanted to use my final article to reflect on my time writing about music over the last four years.
Shan Reddy ’23, one of my best friends at Stanford, encouraged me in my freshman year to put my endless rants about music into writing for The Daily. As soon as I realized how fun and fulfilling it was, I never really looked back. Since then, I’ve published eighty-four different reviews.
It all started with my eleven-part series where I ranked the “Top 100 hip-hop/rap albums of the 2010s.” I spent an exorbitant amount of time (hundreds of hours, honestly maybe even thousands) finalizing my list of the albums I had grown up with and loved.
Looking back, there are definitely some changes that I would make to that list. I would put “good kid, m.A.A.d city” in its rightful place at number two. (I think I just didn’t want to have Kendrick taking up the top two spots.) I also should have put Lupe Fiasco’s “Tetsuo & Youth” much lower, but I just wanted to show love to one of my all-time favorite artists and one of the most underrated rappers ever. Moreover, Benny The Butcher’s “Tana Talk 3” easily deserved a spot in the top 20.
I could easily write another article just about the changes I would make to that list, but that’s the beauty of music journalism in some ways. Each article serves as a timestamp for what I believed at that time.
Once I finished my egregiously invested “Top 100” list, I began to reduce the time frame over which I would analyze. I reviewed top Hip-Hop and R&B albums of each quarter of the year in 2020, culminating in best albums of the year lists. I closed out 2020 with my “Top 25 R&B albums of 2020” and “Top 50 hip-hop albums of 2020” lists, with The Weeknd’s “After Hours” and Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist’s “Alfredo” earning the top spot in those respective lists.
2021 saw me dive into reviews of new album releases. Some favorite reviews from that year include Tyler, The Creator’s “Call Me If You Get Lost,” Topaz Jones’ “Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma” and Boldy James and The Alchemist’s “Bo Jackson.”
2021 was a fantastic and highly underrated year for music, highlighted in my “Top 25 hip-hop/rap albums of 2021” list. Taking the top spot was one of the best hip-hop albums of all time: Little Simz’ “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.” Coming in at number two was Tyler, The Creator’s magnum opus “Call Me If You Get Lost,” and the number three spot went to the extremely overlooked “Weight of the World.” Other spots in the top 10 contained a mixture of underground and blockbuster releases. Navy Blue’s “Navy’s Reprise” and Topaz Jones’ “Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma” held down for the underground while albums like Kanye West’s “Donda” and J. Cole’s “The Off-Season” saw commercial powerhouses remaining relevant.
2022 saw continued individual album reviews and year-end rankings as a part of my column “New Music with Nick.” It was an even better year for hip-hop (and genuinely one of the better years of music in recent memory). As the pandemic’s effects began to fade, many artists jumped at the opportunity to start touring again, leading to an influx of wonderful album releases.
My individual album reviews ranged from Smino to Ari Lennox to Drake to SZA, with two albums highlighting the year and becoming what I believe to be cornerstone albums in modern hip-hop music: JID’s “The Forever Story” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.” Those two held the top two spots on my end-of-year “Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums of the Year” list. Little Simz again found herself in the top three with “No Thank You,” and Denzel Curry and Black Thought rounded out the top five with “Melt My Eyez See Your Future” and “Cheat Codes.” In such an extraordinary year, the elite ones extended way beyond just the top five. Saba’s “Few Good Things” and Smino’s “Luv 4 Rent” were two more great albums that I highlighted in individual reviews.
Along the way, I also tried to take the time to be reflective on cultural and societal moments.
For Women’s History Month, I created a four-part series on wonderful contributions that women made to hip-hop throughout the 2010s, celebrating modern legends like Rapsody, Noname, Nicki Minaj and Little Simz.
For Arts & Life’s 2021 two-part series “Important 2010s albums by Black musicians,” I praised three different albums that had massive generational impact: The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons,” Isaiah Rashad’s “Cilvia Demo” and Jay-Z’s “4:44.” In the following year, I looked at the music and cultural impact of The Weeknd, Kanye West, Tyler, The Creator and Pharrell Williams in our section’s two-part series “Most influential Black musicians since 2000.”
For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I looked at the eclectic Anderson .Paak and the massively important Chad Hugo, two figures who have had often overlooked impacts on modern popular music.
For Mental Health Awareness Month, I dove into Isaiah Rashad’s “Cilvia Demo” — its personal meaning in my life and its cultural significance. Not only is it one of my favorite albums ever created, but it is one of the most powerful collections of music that I’ve ever heard. I can only hope that the album touches others in the future in the same way that it has touched me ever since it came out. To me, this album and this review are the epitome of what makes music beautiful and how I found meaning from reviewing music.
Even if there were just a few people reading my column, I hope someone found something new that they loved from my writing. Whether it’s coming across a fun new album, discovering an emotionally profound listen or finding something that changes our life perspectives, music is deeply important to our lives.
If any of my reviews or the music they referenced moved even one person, then I consider the thousands of hours all worthwhile. Regardless, it has still been a noble pursuit just to reflect on and express what I love.
Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.