Over the past year, the music industry has pivoted tremendously in the midst of these uncertain times. With the rise of at-home concerts, digital rollouts, and DIY music videos, 2021 is set to be another intriguing year for music.
This year’s highly anticipated albums range from mainstream favorites such as Drake and Cardi B to beloved newcomers Saweetie and Doja Cat. Fans are also speculating when (and if) Kendrick Lamar will release his long-awaited project. And of course, the question on everyone’s mind, will Rihanna (finally) drop a new album?
ESSENCE compiled an exclusive list of 2021’s most anticipated music releases.
Drake, Certified Lover Boy
Recognized as one of the top artists of the last decade, Drake continues to dominate the music scene. Recently, he’s had a plethora of chart-topping hits, including “Laugh Now Cry Later” featuring Lil Durk and TikTok anthem “Tootsie Slide.” But it’s been a while since the rapper delivered an official album (Scorpion, 2018). His latest release “Dark Lane Demo Tapes,” a 14-track mixtape, was well received by fans last year. And his upcoming studio album Certified Lover Boy (which was teased with a visual back in August) is scheduled to release later this month.
Rihanna is undeniably one of the most successful artists of this generation, with a brand that transcends beyond music. The pop star hinted at her forthcoming album titled “R9” in late 2019 (and fans have been patiently waiting ever since). As of late, her primary focus has been running her beauty and fashion empire: Fenty Beauty, Savage X Fenty, and FENTY. Aside from her feature on PartyNextDoor’s “Believe It” last Spring, Rihanna hasn’t released a new project since 2016. Ironically, this year (Jan. 28) marks the fifth anniversary of her most recent album “ANTI.”
Kendrick Lamar, TBD
Almost three years ago, Kendrick Lamar served as the executive producer of the Black Panther soundtrack. Respectively, it’s been quite some time since he dropped a full-length project of his own. His most recent studio album DAMN was released back in 2017. Kendrick Lamar’s music, however, has stood the test of time. According to MRC Data, his 2012 project Good Kid, M.A.A.D City recently entered Billboard’s Top 10 Album Sales chart ––eight years later.
Cardi B, TBD
Cardi B has been on a winning-streak ever since her breakout hit “Bodak Yellow”. The braggadocious track appeared on her 2018 debut Invasion of Privacy. Late last year, Cardi revealed that she’s putting the finishing touches on her second studio album, alluding to a February release date. Cardi broke the internet last year with “WAP” alongside Megan Thee Stallion –– which landed on Billboard’s 100 Best Songs of 2020 list.
J. Cole, The Fall Off
J. Cole is gearing up for The Fall Off Era: a series of projects that apparently concludes with an album. Appropriately titled The Fall Off, the highly anticipated project will most likely arrive sometime this year (and will probably go platinum with no features). Previously, J.Cole appeared on the Dreamville compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers III and released a solo project titled KOD.
SZA’s Grammy-nominated debut has aged gracefully. The coming of age album CTRL, released in 2017, unintentionally became a cultural phenomenon. Nearly four years later, SZA has sparingly dropped solo music. Conversely, her roster of high-profile features includes Kendrick Lamar, Justin Timberlake, The Weeknd, DJ Khaled, and Post Malone. SZA returned in September with “Hit Different” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. The R&B songstress followed up in December with another track titled “Good Days.”
Travis Scott, Utopia
Travis Scott is a hip-hop mogul in the making. In 2020, he joined forces with Fortnite, McDonalds, and Nike. His latest venture, CACTI, is a signature spiked seltzer with brewing company Anheuser-Busch. Scott’s fourth studio album “Utopia’ is the follow up to his critically acclaimed Astroworld, released in 2018. Following his third album, Scott released “Highest in the Room” and “Franchise.” Utopia is scheduled to drop this year.
Doja Cat, Planet Her
In December, Doja Cat revealed her third studio album “Planet Her” will arrive in 2021. The “Say So” rapper’s upcoming project has a list of star-studded collaborations. Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug, Saweetie, French Montana, A$AP Ferg, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, and SZA are reportedly featured on the album.
Kane Brown, TBD
Kane Brown has blossomed into one of country music’s biggest stars. Earlier this month, the “Be Like That” singer confirmed he’s working on new music. Brown shared a snippet of a new song via Instagram titled “Nothing Bout Loving You I’d Change.” The sneak-peak was captioned: “blow this up I’ll preview another one tomorrow. we ready for 2021.”
Saweetie, Pretty B–ch Music
Saweetie rose to fame shortly after her 2017 freestyle “Icy Girl.” Since then, she’s dropped a series of EPs, singles, and collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry. Her debut album, Pretty B–ch Music, is scheduled to release this Spring. PBM’s first single is a melodic duo featuring Jhene Aiko titled “Back to the Streets.” Most recently, Saweetie teamed up with Doja Cat on “Best Friend.” The viral collaboration sky-rocketed to #1 on YouTube’s Music chart last week.