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Top 10 Important R&B Albums

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Sean Harris These are key essentials that any fan of rhythm and blues must have in their collection at all times. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Important Albums in R&B. For this list, we'll be exclusively focusing on albums that are completely identifiable in the R&B genre and not those with a major pop influence, such as Michael Jackson's classic Thriller album. Special thanks to our user MikeyP for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Sean Harris

Top 10 Important R&B Albums

These are key essentials that any fan of rhythm and blues must have in their collection at all times. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Important Albums in R&B.
For this list, we’ll be exclusively focusing on albums that are completely identifiable in the R&B genre and not those with a major pop influence, such as Michael Jackson’s classic Thriller album.

#10: “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (1998)
Lauryn Hill

Being the lead female vocalist for the critically acclaimed hip-hop group the Fugees may have gained her fame, but none were able to predict her ability to come into her own upon her own debut masterpiece. Lauryn Hill attributes her pregnancy at the time to have been her ultimate muse for the album, as it, among many other themes, were illustrated within her lyrics. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is heralded for masterfully blending R&B with hip-hop, soul and even reggae, and simultaneously demonstrates the recording artist’s versatile musical talent.

#9: “II” (1994)
Boyz II Men

If you, or anyone you knew got married in the 1990s, chances are you've heard this from start to finish more than once. The boys-turned-men from Philly hooked their fan base with their Motown Records debut, however it wasn’t until this sophomore effort that the band hit international success. “II” took the music world by storm with record-breaking singles such as “I’ll Make Love to You,” “On Bended Knee,” and thanks to the record, they became only the third artist after Elvis Presley and The Beatles to replace themselves at number one on the top of the Billboard chart.

#8: “My Life” (1994)
Mary J. Blige

There are plenty of artists that can sing a soulful song, but there are only a select few that exhibit the ability to evoke authentic pain and emotion with their voices. The overarching theme in “My Life” dealt with clinical depression and heartbreak, both issues that Mary J. Blige admitted to be battling during the time of recording. The conception of the sophomore album not only provided a coping mechanism for her condition, but ended up being Blige’s breakthrough to mega stardom following the success of her debut album, “What’s the 411?”

#7: “CrazySexyCool” (1994)

You’d be hard-pressed to find an American female group anywhere near as influential in R&B than this crazy sexy cool trio. With their second studio album, TLC quickly rose to superstar status thanks to their worldwide hit singles, such as “Waterfalls” and “Creep.” Due to rapper Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ rehab confinement, her inclusion in “CrazySexyCool” was cut significantly compared how much she appeared on their debut album, which may or may not have attributed to the group finding smoother soulful sound here. “CrazySexyCool” also went on to be awarded diamond status and became the best-selling album by an American girl group.

#6: “Control” (1986)
Janet Jackson

This pop diva’s record not only broke her into the mainstream R&B genre, but solidified the severed ties with her old management while she took control of her own business affairs. Despite the Jackson family’s heavy influence in the music world, Janet Jackson hadn’t yet received critical and worldwide success until her third studio album. Apart from establishing herself as an independent artist, “Control” was praised for focusing on issues related to breaking free, love, and sexual responsibility, with her acclaimed single, “Let’s Wait Awhile.”

#5: “Purple Rain” (1984)
Prince and The Revolution

When one speaks on revolutionizing the music world, one doesn’t leave out this influential artist. Prince may have singlehandedly redefined the R&B genre with his sixth studio album, as it is acclaimed for setting the precedence of hits to follow in the decade. Unlike the musician’s previous bodies of work, “Purple Rain” featured the accompaniment of his band, The Revolution, and featured a number of live recordings from a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theater. The experimental sound of the album resonated with fans all over the world and arguably pushed Prince into legendary status, as well as serving as the soundtrack for the film of the same name.

#4: “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” (1967)

Aretha Franklin

It would be a crime not to give this monumental artist her respect. And respect Ms. Franklin got it, with this, her eleventh studio album. Many attribute Aretha Franklin’s delayed success due to her lack of representation on her previous label, however after joining Atlantic records, the soulful artist was finally able to come into her own. Aretha’s powerful vocals set forth female empowering anthems that would outlast generations and gained her the title of “The Queen of Soul.”

#3: “I’m Still in Love with You” (1972)

Al Green

This artist made the ‘70s a great time to be in love. Coming off the success of his last album, “Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green pioneered the sub-genre of Smooth R&B with his fifth studio effort and may have also became one of the genre’s first sex symbols. The world found it hard to resist Green’s silky and soulful vocals over romantic singles such as “Love and Happiness,” “ Look What You Done for Me,” and his title track, “I’m Still in Love With You.” While being often imitated, but never duplicated, Green has certainly gone down in history as "The Last of the Great Soul Singers".

#2: “Songs in the Key of Life” (1976)

Stevie Wonder

There are some artists that fade into obscurity after releasing a defining body of work, and then there are some that continue the craft for decades to come. Seventeen albums into his career and established as one of the genre’s most multi-talented musicians, Stevie Wonder very nearly decided to retire while at the peak of his career. Instead, Wonder released his masterpiece. “Songs in the Key of Life” is most likely your favorite R&B artist’s favorite R&B album, and gave fans the most intimate look into Stevie’s childhood, love life, and personal views on social issues.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- “Confessions” (2004)


- “Brown Sugar” (1995)


- “One in a Million” (1996)


- “Butterfly” (1997)

Mariah Carey

- “Love Deluxe” (1992)


- “The Diary of Alicia Keys” (2003)

Alicia Keys

#1: “What’s Going On” (1971)

Marvin Gaye

Singing is a talent, but getting a whole generation to open their minds and hearts takes a true gift. Inspired by the horrific events his brother described to him of the Vietnam War, Marvin Gaye took to the studio to record his most socially conscious album ever. “What’s Going On” marked the switch in the Motown artist’s outlook on music, as he now sought to use it as a vessel to publicize his message. Awakening people to the ills that were occurring around the world not only brought Gaye to critical success, but carried his words to prominent political and social circles.

Do you agree with our list? What R&B album do you think is the most important? For more rhythmic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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