High school and college are unique periods in many people's lives. From prom to welcome week at your dream college or university, these periods of time mark many coming-of-age moments in a person's life. These moments can be marked by old groups of friends, hangouts that breed nothing but nostalgia or eventful road trips. These periods of time can also be marked by key events in history and pop culture. From the movies that were released to the elections that happened, our high school and college experiences are very much shaped by our own communities, but they are also shaped by the world around us. In celebration of National African-American Music Appreciation Month, let's take a look back at the music that played throughout your favorite high school party or your most memorable kickback in college. More specifically, we're going to rank the best semesters in college by the music that was released at different points in time.
Time Period: It is impossible to go through every year in music history, so it is important to narrow down the time period. Much like the ranking of recent movie soundtracks, this list will hone in on the last decade. Therefore, we're going to be looking at music released between 2010-2019. This list is for your Gen-Z and Millenial students.
Artists: June is National African-American Music Appreciation Month. As a result, these rankings will be primarily determined by music released by Black artists over the last decade. However, chart-topping hits released by other artists will be considered to a degree.
Semesters: Different schools break down their academic calendars in different ways. For the purpose of this list, rankings will be broken down into spring and fall semesters. Songs released between August 1 and December 31 will be considered for the fall semester and songs released between January 1 and June 30 will be considered for spring semesters. Music released in July will be considered if it continued to have success into August.
Every list has its limits. It's impossible to rank every moment, song, album or mixtape. Therefore, some artists, names and moments will be left off. However, that doesn't mean those time periods weren't memorable. In fact, many of them were. There's just a limit to how much can be included.
Honorable Mention: Fall 2019
It was a simpler time. Just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged much of society, people were free to move about without a care in the world. Roddy Ricch was gearing up for his major coming-out party, Lil' Baby was preparing the release of his breakthrough album and Summer Walker was busy delivering hits. The world's biggest acts like Rihanna, Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, etc. didn't release music during this time period, but it was a solid run.
Moments: Lizzo earns her first #1 hit with "Truth Hurts"
Songs: "The Box" by Roddy Ricch, "Come Thru" by Summer Walker, "On Chill" by Wale, "Woah" by Lil' Baby
Albums: Over It by Summer Walker, Wow...That's Crazy by Wale, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial by Roddy Ricch
Honorable Mention: Fall 2012
Some artists have the ability to make time stand still. Kendrick Lamar is certainly one of those artists. When his debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, arrived, it marked a shift in music. He was officially one of "those guys" that would land himself on the Mount Rushmore of his generation right alongside Drake and J. Cole. This period of time also marked the celebration of Frank Ocean's debut album, Channel Orange, and Miguel's classic project, Kaleidoscope Dream. Not to mention, Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience was well developed at this point. Arguably, three classic R&B albums were all released in the span of about nine months. Lurking in the background, G.O.O.D Music was busy giving us hit after hit from the Cruel Summer compilation.
Moments: Kendrick Lamar arrives
Songs: "m.A.A.d City" by Kendrick Lamar, F***** Problems by A$AP Rocky,
Albums: good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar, Kaleidoscope Dream by Miguel, Long. Live. A$AP. by A$AP Rocky, Cruel Summer by G.O.O.D Music
5. Spring 2019
Moments: A new generation arrives
Songs: "Suge" by DaBaby, "Old Town Road" by Lil' Nas X, "Big Ole Freak" by Megan The Stallion
Albums: Baby On Baby by DaBaby, Cuz I Love You by Lizzo, Fever by Megan Thee Stallion, Bandana by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Death Race For Love by Juice WRLD
4. Fall 2010
Moments: J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar first tease a joint album
Songs: "What's My Name" by Rihanna, "Moment For Life" by Nicki Minaj, "Runaway" by Kanye West
Albums: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, Friday Night Lights by J. Cole, Hunger For More II by Lloyd Banks, Loud by Rihanna, Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj
3. Fall 2015
Moments: Meek Mill-Drake beef, Fetty Wap arrives
Songs: "679" by Fetty Wap, "Hotline Bling" by Drake, "Jumpman" by Drake & Future
Albums: Trapsoul by Bryson Tiller, What A Time To Be Alive by Drake & Future, Free TC by Ty Dolla $ign, Fetty Wap by Fetty Wap
2. Fall 2016
The world was in a strange place in fall 2016. Coming off of a summer when Chance The Rapper dominated the charts with Coloring Book, the nation was in a bit of discord. Colin Kaepernick's national anthem dominated headlines while Donald Trump ascended to the presidency. Not to mention, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals and the Cubs were to poised to win their first World Series title in more than a century.
In the world of music, things were changing as well. Frank Ocean made his long-awaited return by releasing not one, but two albums. The Weeknd stepped into a new level of stardom bu delivering his sophomore album and a new artist by the name of 6LACK broke on to the scene with his project, Free 6LACK. Most importantly, rap was breaking through as the number one genre in the world. Things had been steadily trending in that direction for a few years prior, but Rae Sreummurd and Migos earning number one hits cemented that rap was the world's leading music genre.
Moments: Frank Ocean returns
Songs: "Bad & Boujee" by Migos, "Black Beatles" by Rae Sremmurd
Albums: A Seat At The Table by Solange, Blonde by Frank Ocean, Starboy by The Weeknd, Beibs In The Trap by Travis Scott, PND3 by PartyNextDoor, Free 6LACK by 6LACK, Awaken! My Love by Childish Gambino
1. Spring 2016
Moments: Beyoncé returns
Songs: "Controlla" by Drake, "One Dance" by Drake, "Work" by Rihanna, "No Problems" by Chance The Rapper
Albums: Views by Drake, Lemonade by Beyoncé, Anti by Rihanna, Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper, The Life Of Pablo by Kanye West