1st up, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989). Janet's fourth studio album having been released in 1989 is a cluster a fun, love, and social awareness with breakout singles "Miss You Much" and "Escapade". You'll more than likely be doing a lot of dancing to this album. Chock full of interludes that keep the story going Rhythm Nation is just that. "Escapade" having already been one of my favorite songs by Miss Jackson, and of all time, I first listened to this album a little over two years ago after my best friend bought me a copy she found at a thrift store. I've been hooked ever since. Her unforgettable dance tracks like "Alright" and "Love Will Never Do(Without You)", her social awareness tracks like "The Knowledge" and "Living in a World (They Didn't Make)" as well as her ballads like "Come Back to Me" and "Lonely" all represent the versatility of what Janet has to say and to offer listeners. She still performs a few of these songs, to this day. Rhythm Nation is a classic.
Next up, Hard Core(1996), our favorite Bad Girl's debut album. Lil Miss Kim. The raunchy no-fucks-to-give protégé of the late Biggie Smalls does not hold back on this one, as if she could. The introduction is... well... nasty, you'd have to listen to it. Anyway, she carries on the declarative "Big Momma Thang" on which she proclaims "I used to be scared of the Dick, now I throw lips to the shit, handle it, like a real bitch". Lil Kim's entire image represents exactly what society does not want a woman to be, comfortable in her sexuality. They can make us pose naked for their pleasure and their capital but when a woman makes her own decision to embrace who she is as a sexual being it is unacceptable. She is the epitome of carefree as she is not worried about what others think of her pertaining to her sexual expression. Also, she gets a bit thuggish throughout this album, it's not all about how deep her throat is, she will kill you. To sum it all up Lil Kim's Hard Core is a funky, straight forward, raunchy body of work. Are a few of her flows similar to Biggie's? Maybe. However Kim has gone on to produce a few great follow-ups and wear the nickname "Queen Bee" well.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998). A gospel album if I have ever heard one. A journey of love, faith, and uncertainty. This album represents #BlackGirlMagic at it's finest. Ms. Hill, a soulful songstress known for her deep voice and never ending riffs is also know for rocking the mic. 1/3 members of The Fugees upon her debut solo album L. Boogie was already a household name, a respected one at that, she got bars. Having faced criticism for flaws in her social views, Miseducation is what self-reflection should look like in all of us. She's got a song for someone she once called a friend, for her newborn son, for people in the industry, for the man she loves, for the man she used to love, for God, and ultimately for herself. The singles off of this album "Ex-Factor", "Doo-Wop (That Thing)", and "Everything is Everything" never get old; other classics include "To Zion" and "Tell Him". One element I feel no one ever discusses are Ms. Hill's ad-libs. She must've recorded at least 5 different times for each track, she is her own back-up vocalist, she is harmonizing with herself, and she often has little ad-libs in the background throughout this album. Work was certainly put in, and is greatly appreciated.
Mama's Gun (2000). The queen of the Ankh and opening the 3rd eyes of brothers and sisters everywhere, Erykah Badu's soulful trip through mind, body, and soul is one not to overlook. This album is probably not the first that comes to mind when thinking of Ms. Badu but it oughta be. This album gave us, what I consider a top 3 of Erykah's, "Bag Lady"; the 'pick yourself up and persevere' feminist anthem for every girl with a little baggage; I myself am the self-proclaimed "backpack lady". This album gave us "A.D. 2000" an ode to Amadou Diallo a man who was shot and killed by the police for no reason; as well as "Didn't Cha Know" a song of self discovery. Erykah preaches self-love as something that can certainly be learned and shared. My personal favorites include "In Love With You"and "Green Eyes" for when I am n my deepest of feelings. Blast this album on a sunday afternoon while you clean the house and burn incense. Mama's Gun is staple in Erykah's career and a must-listen.
Ultimately music may the largest way to reach the masses. We need these women and all of this music to represent #BlackGirlMagic for those who do not know it exists and for us Black Girls who too often encounter people trying to take it away from us. We must learn to be carefree, we must learn love that comes from within, and sometimes we do not learn that from our mommas or grandma's but from an old Janet Jackson CD in a crate at GoodWill or from Beyoncé's Super Bowl performance.