We've said it before, and we'll say it again: There's something special about '90s R&B. It's difficult to pinpoint why, exactly. It's not like it was new. The genre, which was given a name in 1948 by Jerry Wexler, who wanted to call it something other than "race music," has been in practice since at least the '30s. So what made the stuff of '90s so noteworthy? Perhaps it was the collision of rap, new jack swing, gospel, and soul that stretched the genre wide open. Or maybe it's because it felt like R&B ruled the world back then.
It's the decade in which megastars like Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, and Mariah Carey all came into their own. It was a time when label rosters overflowed with talented artists from every corner of the country. It was when groups were not only plentiful but successful. Movie soundtracks were buoyed by R&B. But most importantly, it was when we got a great number of modern-day classics released from everyone, from legends like Sade to rookies like Faith Evans. While Johnny Gill was reinventing himself, Tevin Campbell was just getting started.
Now that we're far enough removed from the decade, it's time to look back and decide which albums were good, great, and best. On this list you'll find albums that were life soundtracks, from road trips and gradutions, to first loves and breakups. From Aaliyah to Xscape, these are the best R&B albums of the '90s.