As our greatest unifier and language, music is once again the real winner here. This year’s albums granted us the gift of saying so much with no words at all—or as many as the track would allow. Its best offering this year was healing and joy. Fun was had in the making of artists’ foundational projects like the carefree energy on Sexyy Red’s Hood Hottest Princess, and we saw a successful, elevated return to one’s roots exemplified by Bad Bunny’s Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana. Freedom—of expression and thought—was sought and found in the Complex-knighted best album of 2023. It was in the aforementioned and more that a year filled with strife found a way to soothe us, move us, and even give us hope. Cleo Sol took us to heaven, Jorja Smith taught us to fly on our own terms, Drake made a case for the admiration of scary hours, and the young and promising Lil Tecca showed us the fruit of a planted dream.
There was a lot of great work to parse through in the hip-hop, R&B, reggaeton and Latin trap spaces this year. But still, something felt lacking. Projects released after our 2022 Best Albums of the Year list (namely SZA’s SOS, Little Simz’s No Thank You and Metro Boomin’s Heroes & villains) were mainstays on the Complex Music Staff’s playlists but didn’t have a home in any of our lists. Their offerings, immediate strong contenders that surpassed a lot of projects released over 10 months after them, were admittedly so good they justified a new approach. In this year and hereafter you’ll see us assess, praise, and rank a few albums from the year prior, too—specifically, those released after December, when our list of that year goes out. We hope this allows for more conversation. And, as a reminder, that EOD deadline on your albums does not mean End of December, dears. Here are the best albums of 2023, passionately and thoughtfully discussed and selected, respectively, by our Complex Music staff. —Editor Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo